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First trip to Western Europe, help please!
coppch
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Hey, everyone. I’m looking to plan a backpacking trip to Western Europe for next summer. I’ve been doing a lot of research and realized there’s too many cities/countries/areas to visit during a 1 month period. I will be going with one of my close friends and we are able to go anytime between mid May – late August, with a budget of up to $4000 USD, although we would like to cut that down as much as possible.
I realize that the West is a lot more expensive, but I don’t know when I am going to get this opportunity again and I’ve been saving up for this for a few years. We want to visit London, Amsterdam, Berlin and some places in Italy for sure. If possible (finances, time permitting) may Paris too?

Some basic questions:

  • When is the best time to travel based on our availability?
  • What do you think is a reasonable budget based on a 30 day trip? Is a rail pass the best idea for us?
  • Should we visit some more/less/other countries?
  • Can you recommend some cities to visit within those countries? We’re looking for a mix of great sightseeing (beyond the basic museums, things you have to see firsthand, that pictures don’t do justice), cheap and unique food&drinks and parties of course.

Open to any ideas as we’ve never been outside of North America! If I’m asking too much or I’m in the wrong section, can you maybe point me in the right direction with some websites? Thanks in advance.

oldlady
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While I understand the idea of “West first” I do not think it’s a good strategy. Paris, Rome, Venice, Zurich, London, etc. aren’t all that different from a tourist point of view than they were 40 years ago and won’t be a whole lot different in the future. Eastern Europe is turning into Western Europe as we speak. See at least some of it NOW while it’s still cheaper, friendlier, prettier, more interesting and at least a shade different.

Your questions…
1. If you can’t wait until September, go as early in the summer as you can. Avoid August (when almost all Europeans go on vacation) if you can. May would definitely be best.
2. Impossible to know without a very detailed itinerary. Impossible to guess without a fairly detailed itinerary. However, if you intend to do a lot of travel in France, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Benelux and Scandinavia some sort of rail pass will probably save money. Don’t try to guess WHICH rail pass until you have an itinerary.
3. Rules of thumb: 3 days average per city, 1 week average per country — although you can visit more countries if you pick small ones that are close together and/or only intend to hit the capital cities. For a month, I’d figure a max of 10 cities plus 2 smaller towns/more rural areas.

Ravidel
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Hey coppch, Western Europe is AWESOME. The #1 thing that makes an epic trip is doing what YOU want to do — do what excites you. Traveling is not about making smart investments or good long term decisions, it’s about escaping and following your own way of doing things. So really, I think you should stick to your Western Europe plan if that’s what appeals to you.

On to what you’re asking…

1. The best time to go is anytime. Know that if you go in July/August, things will be hotter, more expensive and way more crowded. BUT, that doesn’t always mean a bad thing — it depends on your style. I traveled to the biggest Western Europe tourist destinations in peak season, but I have no regrets for 2 reason: (1) meant for a better party; (2) I was willing to get up at 5am in the morning so I could see some of the things before flocks of tourists arrived. I have a picture of me, by myself, at Trevi fountain in late July. If you hate crowds, then certainly go in May or September and avoid July/August. But speaking from personal experience, it’s no where near as bad as the books make it out to be.

2. Budget is a tough one, and a big part of it has to do with how you want to spend your money there. When I went, I spent the minimal amount on food. I cooked pasta in my hostels almost everyday, made sandwiches for lunch, and ate at maybe 3 cheap restaurants in 2.5 months of traveling. Why? Because I don’t care about experiencing the cuisine. That said, I dropped over $1000 in a week in Interlaken on adventure sports. Don’t have a single regret about that.

To give you a rough idea, I’d say you’re looking at around $1000 on hostels and probably around $700 in transportation (not including flight to/from Europe). But like oldlady says, you really need to get some sort of itinerary together first!

3. You should visit what you want to visit. That said, the trip “works” way better if you’re not trying to hit all 4 corners of Europe. In 30 days, I think you could do London, Paris, Amsterdam, Berlin and then some of Italy (say Rome, Venice and Cinque Terre or something). If other countries interest you and they’re in the middle of your route, consider adding them to your trip. For instance, if you wanted to visit somewhere in Switzerland, that would be pretty convenient (although expensive). Spain, on the other hand, is way too far out of the way.

4. I recommend doing Google searches like “top 10 places in France” or “top 10 things to do in Berlin” and seeing what interests you (and then check if its doable, or plan your itinerary around it). Dig around a little and you’ll find a wealth of information and get some really cool ideas. My one piece of advice… if you go to Italy, spend some time in Cinque Terre.

funkmonk_10
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oldlady wrote:
While I understand the idea of “West first” I do not think it’s a good strategy. Paris, Rome, Venice, Zurich, London, etc. aren’t all that different from a tourist point of view than they were 40 years ago and won’t be a whole lot different in the future. Eastern Europe is turning into Western Europe as we speak. See at least some of it NOW while it’s still cheaper, friendlier, prettier, more interesting and at least a shade different.

Hi Oldlady! that’s an excellent point you make. A close friend of mine just got back after 6 months in the Balkans. He was totally overawed by the experience and hasnt stopped raving about it. Almost every photograph i saw looked unreal, and the history is second to none

My buddies and i had almost finalised our eurotrip for May this year, but we’re having serious thoughts of changing the itinerary so as to visit the balkans instead! A few problems i foresee is arranging separate visas for each country and commuting between countries. Not a lot of information was available online as far as train schedules go. Any suggestions? and if possible please share your experience if you have been there beforeSmile

I am leaving from new delhi with $3600 for 30 days
Paris, Barcelona, Rome, Naples, Budapest, Vienna, Prague, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Delft, Antwerp, Brussels, Bruges
Requesting help with Transport, Hostels, Budget, Itinerary, Sights
I am leaving from New Delhi with $3600 for 29 days
Budapest, Rome, Barcelona, Paris, Bruges, Amsterdam, Berlin, Prague
Requesting help with Transport, Hostels, Itinerary, Nightlife
oldlady
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I know the visa thing can be difficult. We wanted to visit Russia on the same trip as a work assignment in Ukraine. It was so difficult, expensive and time consuming to work out getting the two separate visas that we went to Romania (where we didn’t need a visa) instead. Visas for a stay of less than 90 days that doesn’t involve Russia are now pretty much “no problem” for US citizens, but I have no idea of your situation. There’s a visa checking tool pinned to the top of the “cheap flights” forum that will help you figure out the requirements for each different country.

Commuting between countries is generally no problem. There’s good international train service in most of Europe and good international bus service in areas (like Balkans and Baltic states) where train service isn’t as extensive. Passport/visa checks at the borders (when they occur at all) are usually done on the train — generally while it’s moving. It’s not a big deal if you have what’s required.

I’ve been to Slovenia and Croatia and loved them both. Bosnia and Herzegovina is on the wish list and I’ve heard good things about Montenegro. If you’re interested in the Balkans you might start a new thread with specific questions.

funkmonk_10
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Russia is beautiful, i hope you’re able to visit on another occasion.

Good idea, i think i will start a thread for my queries about the Balkans

I am leaving from new delhi with $3600 for 30 days
Paris, Barcelona, Rome, Naples, Budapest, Vienna, Prague, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Delft, Antwerp, Brussels, Bruges
Requesting help with Transport, Hostels, Budget, Itinerary, Sights
I am leaving from New Delhi with $3600 for 29 days
Budapest, Rome, Barcelona, Paris, Bruges, Amsterdam, Berlin, Prague
Requesting help with Transport, Hostels, Itinerary, Nightlife