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8 replies
Too Ambitious?
59sound
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Hello everyone. I am in the midst of planning my first extensive backpacking trip in Europe. I lived in Prague and did some travel for a few months last winter, but this is the first time I’ll be traveling through Europe entirely on my own, with no “home base.” I’ve been planning extensively and have figured out my ideal itinerary. I’ve even been able to set an approximate budget and figure out my travel needs (mostly buses and trains). However, one thing I haven’t given enough thought is if I’m trying to do too much. I’m so excited for this, and can’t imagine cutting a single place out, but I’m afraid trying to do too much will take a way from the trip as a whole. Right now, my travel plan is:

Helsinki, Finland (1 night) (flying in here, would love to stay longer, but it’s too expensive.
St. Petersburg, Russia (3 nights)
Tallinn, Estonia (3 nights)
Riga, Latvia (3 nights)
Vilnius, Lithuania (2 nights)
Curonian Spit, Lithuania (1 night)
Krakow, Poland (3 nights)
Prague, Czech Republic (3 nights)
Budapest, Hungary (3 nights)
Vienna, Austria (2 nights)
Ljubljana, Slovenia (+ day trips, 3 nights)
Plitvice Lakes, Croatia (1 night)
Dubrovnik, Croatia (2 nights)
Bar/Budva, Montenegro (3 nights)
Mostar/Sarajevo, BiH (3 nights)
Kosovo (2 nights)
Ohrid, Macedonia (2 nights)
Plovdiv, Bulgaria (2 nights)
Istanbul, Turkey (3-4 nights)

That’s about 46 days, without including transportation time. I’m thinking it could go up to about 60 days or so with that factored in. I’m looking to start around mid-July. So, my question is: is two months, approximately, enough time to fit all of this in? Or am I trying to do too much? I’m hoping since I’m not traveling too far from any one destination to the next that it will be manageable. But please, let me know if you think this is too much. I’d say 2 1/2 months is the most my budget will allow, so I can’t stray too far from what I have planned.

I am leaving from Newark, New Jersey with $5000 for 63 days
Reykjavik, Helsinki, Tallinn, Riga, Vilnius, Klaipėda, Warsaw, Kraków, Prague, Budapest, Vienna, Ljubljana, Bled, Zagreb, Korenica, Split, Dubrovnik, Mostar, Sarajevo, Belgrade, Priština, Sofia, Plovdiv, Istanbul
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oldlady
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I think this looks OK, but you’ll want to do some research on transportation. Getting around the Baltics is no where near as easy as it looks on a map. There is a rail system but it is not set up for “international” travel. As an example, Riga to Vilnius should only be about 4 hours by train, but it ends up being 2 hour one afternoon and the other 2 hours the next afternoon. Bus is about 5 hours and fairly uncomfortable. Tallinn to Riga is another exercise in “it shouldn’t be this hard.” I’m not sure about train service from St. Petersburg to Tallinn. There used to be an overnight train, but I’m not sure it still runs. Lithuania to Poland takes many hours longer than you’d think. Air Baltic connect all these cities, but often with a connection in Riga. There’s fast ferry service from Tallinn to Helsinki and I think there’s a ferry from Helsinki to Riga.

Don’t know where you’re from, but if it’s the US, check the visa requirements for your trek to St. Petersburg. If you have to get a visa and letter of invitation it could be a real budget buster. Helsinki will be lots cheaper.

59sound
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Thanks so much for the reply. I’m aware of the hassles of traveling both in the Baltics and Balkans. I’m a bit disappointed that trains aren’t practical for much of this trip, but I think I can survive taking buses if that will help with my budget and time. Regarding Lithuania – Poland, I’m thinking about flying for this part, but I’m not too sure yet. The other option is taking a train to Warsaw, staying there for a night, and then from Warsaw to Krakow. Lastly, I have looked in to the Russian visa. St. Petersburg is a city I very much want to go to, but if it weren’t, I’d probably skip it for this reason. It’s a shame they would charge so much, I think it’s $180 USD, but I could be wrong. It just seems this would drive so many tourists away that are eager to spend some money there. Not sure what they’re thinking.

But thank you again for the advice. I’m a little more confident now. I was beginning to worry I was out of my mind for trying this.

I am leaving from Newark, New Jersey with $5000 for 63 days
Reykjavik, Helsinki, Tallinn, Riga, Vilnius, Klaipėda, Warsaw, Kraków, Prague, Budapest, Vienna, Ljubljana, Bled, Zagreb, Korenica, Split, Dubrovnik, Mostar, Sarajevo, Belgrade, Priština, Sofia, Plovdiv, Istanbul
Requesting help with Transport, Budget, Itinerary
oldlady
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When I went to Russia (2008) you needed a letter of invitation with your visa application. Hotels and travel agencies issue these, but they generally charge. As I recall, the going rate was $25 for the letter. I think there are still visa processing fees (hopefully just $30, but the embassy site says $140 in one place?) in addition to the $180 fee for the visa. If you don’t live near a Russian consulate, you may want to use a visa expediting agency — expensive, but sometimes worth it. Everything about Russia was outrageously expensive when we were there, looks like hotels at least are much cheaper now.

We took the train from Helsinki to St. Petersburg, then train to Moscow and overnight train to Tallinn. You can buy the ticket to St. Petersburg at the station in Helsinki. Buying the ticket to Tallinn may require using a travel agency which about doubles the price of the ticket, although it doesn’t look all that expensive on the gotorussia travel agency site I checked. Many trains sell out within hours of tickets going on sale,( 6 weeks in advance)and there’s only one train a day on this route. Hopefully by the time you go you’ll be able to buy on-line from the Russian rail company, but it doesn’t look like that part of the website is operational now… http://eng.rzd.ru/ma…

clevelandbrown
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We flew to St Petersburg, and had to go through the expense and hassle of getting a visa, but we really wanted to visit the Hermitage, one of the great art museums of the world. I seem to recall that if one arrived by ship, and used the ship for one’s lodging, one could avoid the expense and hassle of the visa, but since we didn’t do that, I’m not really sure. You might investigate that possibility.

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59sound
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Thanks for the help everyone. I’ve decided to take St. Petersburg out of my itinerary. It pains me to do this, but I guess certain sacrifices have to be made. It was one of the cities I most wanted to see, but the cost just doesn’t seem worth it. I hope to get there at some point in my life, but I guess this isn’t the right time. My revised itinerary is now in my profile. It’s mostly the same, with a little more detail. Does anyone have an idea as to how I can start planning my transportation? Or at least get an estimate as to how much it’s going to cost? Thanks again so much.

I am leaving from Newark, New Jersey with $5000 for 63 days
Reykjavik, Helsinki, Tallinn, Riga, Vilnius, Klaipėda, Warsaw, Kraków, Prague, Budapest, Vienna, Ljubljana, Bled, Zagreb, Korenica, Split, Dubrovnik, Mostar, Sarajevo, Belgrade, Priština, Sofia, Plovdiv, Istanbul
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Don
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Just noticing your itinerary the first time. Even without St. Petersburg, looks like fun to me! How did you know about Ohrid?! I was there in ’09. I look forward to your trip report afterwards. Wouldn’t mind doing a similar trip myself! Smile

59sound
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I’ll be sure to do a trip report and share it here. I’m very much looking forward to doing some writing, it’s one of the many reasons I’m doing this trip. Regarding Ohrid, I’ve had an interest in the Balkans for quite a while. For someone my age (21), it’s an interesting area because so much has changed in the course of my lifetime. Of course this is true of much of Europe, but this region in particular seems to have had a turbulent time in the 90’s and 00’s. I did a lot of research, and come across some lesser known destinations, like Ohrid and Berat. So I figured I should check them out before they become saturated with tourism. Just looking at Ohrid online has gotten me so excited to get there.

I am leaving from Newark, New Jersey with $5000 for 63 days
Reykjavik, Helsinki, Tallinn, Riga, Vilnius, Klaipėda, Warsaw, Kraków, Prague, Budapest, Vienna, Ljubljana, Bled, Zagreb, Korenica, Split, Dubrovnik, Mostar, Sarajevo, Belgrade, Priština, Sofia, Plovdiv, Istanbul
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Cil
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59, please do a trip report, I too am interested in your itinerary, our trip is for summer 2013 (maybe we’d cross paths) and would not include all of your destinations, but Ohrid is certainly eye-catching.

The Bay of Kotor is beautiful, and we have spent time in Budva. It was interesting to see the Venetian influence.