Backpacking in Europe!

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    Sep 12, 2011 4:54 PM GMT
    I'm thinking of backpacking around europe for a low-budget, flexible kind of trip. I haven't mapped out any route yet (not sure when/if i'm going to either!). It's really kind of an independence thing, for me to get out of my cloistered environment. Of course I'll be going with a few others (2-3).

    Would love to hear any practical advice, must-see places, or just any experiences from those of you who are more experienced in travelling or have backpacked before.

    Appreciate it, thanks!
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    Sep 12, 2011 9:01 PM GMT
    1. Rick Steves does the best guides. For Europe, I like his stuff better than Lonely Planet. If you buy a railpass through him, you get some nice freebies.

    2. A budget is good. You have more fun and zany adventures when you aren't just checking into the choicest hotel right off the bat. Plus, hostels mix you up with a lot of interesting folks.

    3. Let a lot of people know you're going. When I backpacked, we ended up staying with a lot of friends of friends along the way, which made for better cultural experiences. Saw a lot though locals that we would have missed on our own.

    4. Not sure what exists now, but search for flexible flights. We got a killer deal on standby tix from the east coast.

    5. Costs go down generally as you move south.

    6. Cinque Terre is hard to beat for a first trip. The lodging and hikes makes it an awesome way to see the Mediterranean.

    7. Depending on how long you're there, a railpass is a good investment. Let's you explore and shift gears without the pressure of adding costs for every train ride.

    8. I would save when it comes to lodging and spend more for the museums and tours and stuff. The good ones are really worth it and add a lot to a trip. Example: the splurge on the audio tour at the Van Gogh museum adds way more to the experience. Do some digging beforehand on what's most recommended (rick steves is good for this).

    I have more thoughts but need to run off to work.
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    Sep 12, 2011 11:30 PM GMT
    Generally, Europe =/= cheap.

    When Americans say "Europe", they typically mean Western Europe and the EU countries.

    For a more genuine and cheaper experience, go to Eastern Europe. Way more challenging, way more interesting, way more unusual.

    If you go to Paris you'll end up standing in the middle of a group of overweight tourists from Kansas in their Walmart jeans and fanny packs snapping pictures of the Eiffel tower.
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    Sep 12, 2011 11:30 PM GMT
    Generally, Europe =/= cheap.

    When Americans say "Europe", they typically mean Western Europe and the EU countries.

    For a more genuine and cheaper experience, go to Eastern Europe. Way more challenging, way more interesting, way more unusual.

    If you go to Paris you'll end up standing in the middle of a group of overweight tourists from Kansas in their Walmart jeans and fanny packs snapping pictures of the Eiffel tower.
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    Sep 14, 2011 2:05 AM GMT

    I see that you're planning on travelling with others.

    My advice is to be very clear about the things all of you want to see and do and be ready for compromises. Be prepared for tantrums, spats and falling outs.

    Expect to queue and to pay a lot for all of the very famous stuff however as Tazo said Europe doesn't have to be expensive or crowded. Eastern Europe is a great place to explore and to be suprised in.

    I can recommend :

    Bosnia - Muslim/Christian, bombed out, up and coming and stunning to boot!

    Albania - The country that Europe forgot with a very interesting history.

    Bulgaria - Fun and very beautiful

    Poland - Great people, great sights and great booze!


    www.hostelworld.com is a convienent place to look for cheap accommodation. Once you arrive in your hostel, ask other guests and staff for their recommendations - not everywhere is in a guidebook.

    Enjoy your trip!!

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    Sep 14, 2011 3:53 AM GMT
    Thanks so much guys, all your advice has been great and very helpful icon_smile.gif
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    Sep 14, 2011 3:57 AM GMT
    I definitely recommend traveling to Eastern Europe. You'll get an experience there that you can't get from Western Europe or other EU countries. Frankly, Western Europe isn't really much different from North America. However, considering what Eastern Europe has gone through in its history, you get to see how events shaped what society is there today. The region is slowly westernizing, but decades of authoritarian socialism don't die over night.

    It's worth mentioning that, yes, Eastern Europe is cheaper than most of the EU. However, some things there are more expensive than in the US. For example, when I went to Russia, I found things like clothes, coffee, and electronics to be way more expensive than in America. I mean, the prices would be considered really high for a middle class American! I can't imagine how they are for a Russian.
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    Sep 14, 2011 4:23 AM GMT
    TheChrisGuy saidThanks so much guys, all your advice has been great and very helpful icon_smile.gif



    Also like was alluded earlier, certain coutnries tend to be more expensive than others. so if you are concerned about costs, you may wish to spend less time in places like France and more in Spain or other coutnries where costs are generlly lower.
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    Sep 14, 2011 4:42 AM GMT
    Check out these low fares air companies www.ryanair.com www.easyjet.com www.vueling.com but ryanair is the cheapest one. I flew milan-Madrid for €1 tax Inc icon_lol.gif
  • kew1

    Posts: 1595

    Sep 14, 2011 10:11 AM GMT
    JJLeon saidCheck out these low fares air companies www.ryanair.com www.easyjet.com www.vueling.com but ryanair is the cheapest one. I flew milan-Madrid for €1 tax Inc icon_lol.gif


    Ryan Air
    You can only do that if you've got the right card & are only taking carry-on luggage. Every card except one will incur a charge, any luggage that goes in the hold will be charged (& make sure you you arrange & pay for that online first or it gets very expensive).
    You also have to book those flights at the right time, the prices go up the closer to the flight you get.
    Buy any food/drink you want in the airport, not the plane, it's cheaper.
    Also check where the airport really is, not what they call it - a lot of budget airlines use airports that aren't that close to the target city (Barcelona (Girona) is 100km from Barcelona.)
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    Sep 14, 2011 3:26 PM GMT
    Consider taking trains when moving from one city/country to another. Europe has excellent rail system. Not only will it be cheaper but it can also be time efficient. Central train stations are usually at the city center so that means you'd save all the time traveling to the airport (which is usually away from the city), checking in, and waiting for boarding.

    So you get to enjoy the European landscape while catching on some rest. Plus, it's better for the environment. ;-)

    Oh and I agree with the others who suggest that you visit the Eastern European countries. Prague is definitely a must see.

    I'm so excited for you. Good luck on your plans!
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    Sep 14, 2011 3:29 PM GMT
    Just don't 'accidentally' backpack into the middle east.. you might be sorry. icon_wink.gif
  • jim_sf

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    Sep 14, 2011 3:51 PM GMT
    What they've all said about Eastern Europe. I found Tallinn surprisingly beautiful, with friendly people and delicious food, and I'd love to go back sometime. Next time I'm in Estonia, though, I'm sticking to either the city center or the countryside; the outskirts of Tallinn were built up by the Soviets, and brutalist Soviet architecture is depressing as fuck.
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    Sep 14, 2011 3:55 PM GMT
    There definitely are plenty of remnants and reminders of the communist times throughout much of Eastern Europe. But hey, that's part of their history. It wasn't completely bad in some countries (like former Yugoslavia), while it was absolutely terrible in others (Romania).

    People in those countries are interesting. Of course, many old people (retirement age) are nostalgic for the communist times. Middle age people are divided - some miss the old days, others are happier now. Meanwhile most young people think of the communist times as oppressive, old fashioned, and backwards. Most usually have no interest in those times, though they often make of fun of that part of their country's history and the people who grew up then. You'll find that young people (born since the mid '80s) there are surprisingly westernized/globalized because they have no memory of what it was like to live during the those days. Don't be afraid of them icon_cool.gif
  • janu88

    Posts: 346

    Sep 14, 2011 4:05 PM GMT
    i would def. get interail ticket.
    and accomodate yourself at locals. Makes the trip much more worth.

    www.couchsurfing.com
    for example?

    and dont forget to visit Prague , Vienna, Bratislava icon_smile.gif
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    Sep 14, 2011 4:26 PM GMT
    I agree with most of these posts. I have traveled extensively from the western coast of France all the way to the Slovak/Ukraine border, and lived in France for a year. Western Europe is fun to see and easy to travel in. However you will get a better education in Eastern Europe, although it is a little more difficult because trains and buses aren't as efficient and you will have a harder time finding people who can speak English. If you travel east, try to bring someone in your group who speaks German.

    The basic point is that if you want something safe and easy, do the major western cities. If this is the first time to Europe for everyone in your group, that will be enough. If you have some seasoned international travelers with you who understand things like "urban camouflage" and who can quietly slip through a crowd in any country (looking like a flashy American will make you a target for theft) then you should definitely go east. Also if you travel in a group, you may reach a consensus about how and whether you need to always travel in a group, or if you can split and then rendezvous. Chaining everyone together for a month can brew trouble. When you get there, you can easily get pre-paid cell phones to call eachother.

    Always watch your wallet in crowded places like subways and train stations. I have seen entire trains cleaned out on overnight routes, even in France. In Czech, I even heard a story of a guy on a train, where a pickpocket used a razor blade to cut through his shirt to access a money belt underneath, and then cut and removed the money belt while he was standing right there. He lost his passport and everything. Consider the "two wallet" system. Be creative. At night in dorm rooms, I had a way to put my wallet inside of my pillow and I slept with it that way. Never, ever, get into a situation where you have to access a hidden wallet in public, thereby giving up its location.

    Some of the cities I enjoyed most were: Berlin, Krakow, Prague and Copenhagen. I had my most rewarding (though most difficult) traveling experience in Slovakia. Czech has some awesome smaller towns and cities outside of Prague. Prague is simply awesome, but with all the tourists and being in central Europe, it must be the pick-pocketing capital of the continent. Next time I go back, I want to travel to Hungary and Croatia.

    Have fun icon_smile.gif
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    Sep 14, 2011 4:28 PM GMT
    Also, I would not recommend an interrail ticket for every person. The problem with those is that they are like "punch passes." In this case, you will be inclined to take long-hauls between major cities, to get the most miles out of your ticket. This seems like the best bang for the buck, but many of the "inter-railers" I have met ended up doing exhausting tours through only the major capitals, and they really miss out on the smaller stops and towns that can hold so much of a country's identity. Think about combining an interrail ticket with the willingness to purchase smaller trips when necessary.
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    Sep 14, 2011 4:29 PM GMT
    Maybe you'll get lucky and land yourself a hot time with a Bel-Ami boy or some other hot Czech, Slovakian, or Hungarian boy who probably did porn at some point icon_cool.gif
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    Sep 14, 2011 4:33 PM GMT
    I've done it several times for months at a time. I could write a book on the subject. If you have any specific questions, feel free to email me. I'd love to help!
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    Sep 14, 2011 4:36 PM GMT
    jim_stl saidWhat they've all said about Eastern Europe. I found Tallinn surprisingly beautiful, with friendly people and delicious food, and I'd love to go back sometime. Next time I'm in Estonia, though, I'm sticking to either the city center or the countryside; the outskirts of Tallinn were built up by the Soviets, and brutalist Soviet architecture is depressing as fuck.


    Yes! Tallinn is amazing, and it's also the most far ahead country of all the former USSR. It never really was part of Russia, it's culturally, ethnically and linguistically a Nordic country. The city is beautiful - the entire city center is a UNESCO site - and very good for tourists, pretty much everybody speaks English and the booze is a lot cheaper than in Western Europe.

    I found the Soviet-built outskirts of Tallinn way less grungy than some of the other suburbs in other ex-USSR countries, but I guess that depends on what you're used to ;)
  • jim_sf

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    Sep 14, 2011 4:55 PM GMT
    Tazo995 said
    jim_stl saidWhat they've all said about Eastern Europe. I found Tallinn surprisingly beautiful, with friendly people and delicious food, and I'd love to go back sometime. Next time I'm in Estonia, though, I'm sticking to either the city center or the countryside; the outskirts of Tallinn were built up by the Soviets, and brutalist Soviet architecture is depressing as fuck.


    Yes! Tallinn is amazing, and it's also the most far ahead country of all the former USSR. It never really was part of Russia, it's culturally, ethnically and linguistically a Nordic country. The city is beautiful - the entire city center is a UNESCO site - and very good for tourists, pretty much everybody speaks English and the booze is a lot cheaper than in Western Europe.

    I found the Soviet-built outskirts of Tallinn way less grungy than some of the other suburbs in other ex-USSR countries, but I guess that depends on what you're used to ;)


    True. I have yet to hit the rest of the former USSR, so I don't have much of a frame of reference on Soviet-built grubbiness. It was kind of a shock after leaving that city center, though, and again after coming back in from the countryside (which, BTW, is also lovely).
  • janu88

    Posts: 346

    Sep 14, 2011 4:59 PM GMT
    ahh Tallinn, my birth city. icon_smile.gif
    now i kinda started missing it for a second. icon_smile.gif

    I'm glad that you guys loved it there.icon_wink.gif
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    Sep 14, 2011 5:23 PM GMT
    pocketnico saidI definitely recommend traveling to Eastern Europe. You'll get an experience there that you can't get from Western Europe or other EU countries. Frankly, Western Europe isn't really much different from North America.


    I am not sure I agree with this. Western Europe is as different and diverse as you make it. The urban landscape in Western Europe is completely different from that of most of North America. Remember that cities in Europe are built for people, not cars. There's a feeling that you're part of the citiy, not just navigating it.

    If you've spent your entire life in suburban USA, a rustic village in Southern Spain with it's Moorish influences, siestas and plazas is pretty exotic.
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    Sep 14, 2011 5:27 PM GMT
    tanlejos said
    pocketnico saidI definitely recommend traveling to Eastern Europe. You'll get an experience there that you can't get from Western Europe or other EU countries. Frankly, Western Europe isn't really much different from North America.


    I am not sure I agree with this. Western Europe is as different and diverse as you make it. The urban landscape in Western Europe is completely different from that of most of North America. Remember that cities in Europe are built for people, not cars. There's a feeling that you're part of the citiy, not just navigating it.

    If you've spent your entire life in suburban USA, a rustic village in Southern Spain with it's Moorish influences, siestas and plazas is pretty exotic.


    It's worth mentioning that I'm gaditano by origin icon_cool.gif

    I mean the people, not the scenery ;) Generally I feel there aren't a whole lot of cultural and lifestyle differences between North Americans and Western Europeans. Eastern Europeans are definitely different though. Even then, those differences are becoming fewer and fewer with time as young people there become 'globalized'.
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    Sep 14, 2011 5:45 PM GMT
    check out http://www.airbnb.com/ for cheap places to stay. You rent a room from families so its awesome since they can give you good advice on local things to try out. Hostels are also a great way to meet other travelers and exchange stories. Obviously invest in a good camera and maybe a tablet to share pics along the way.