3-4 months around Europe in winter.
Replies: 12 - Last Post: Oct 4, 2012 2:57 AM Last Post By: gawkabout
Oct 2, 2012 8:25 PM
3-4 months around Europe in winter.Hi Guys
New to TT so I apologise for any amateur mistakes, I have taken a bit of time reading other forums and doing my research but if I ask any dumb questions I apologise in advance.
Me and my partner are 23, from New Zealand but live in Australia. We have recently returned from a few weeks in Thailand and am now eager to travel some more. As many young travellers start out, we thought why not give backpacking Europe a go! I started off looking at doing 5-6 months but budget wise narrowed it down to 3-4. I know we could dip over the 90 out of 180 days Schengen scheme but with over half the countries I will be visiting on the NZ Bilateral agreement list we shall be fine. I have also decided to start this trip mid-late October 2013, which I understand we will be travelling right through the heart of winter, I have scheduled my trip accordingly(I think). I don’t mind this as it would mean less crowds, less exhausting heat and well I’m from NZ so I should be able to handle it, also apparently much cheaper! Our trip will be based on more seeing than doing, taking in the outside architecture rather than the art inside. Saying that we would like to go in the odd attraction but limit it to 1 per day. We will be staying in hostels and eating from food stands, supermarkets etc. Though maybe a cheap dinner out once a week. We will be travelling mostly by train, from which according to the official sites of each of the 11 countries we will be visiting, the price has come to €1213(give or take €100) for both or us which I believe would rule out any railpass. We also plan to return to London after Spain to work on Tier 5 youth visas.
Our itinerary looks like this: Country-City, Days. (Travel time is not included).
Belgium-Ghent, 3days. Antwerp, 3days.
Germany-Cologne, 4days. Dresden, 4days.
Czech Republic-Prague, 5days.
Croatia-Zagreb, 2days. Zadar, 3days. Split, 3days.
Italy-Rome, 7days. Florence, 4days. Venice, 4days. Genoa, 3days.
France-Nice, 5days. Toulon, 3days.
So question time!
1. I have tried to plan our trip so we are in southern Europe around mid-winter, I’m guessing there would be warmer than my other destinations around the same time?
2. I have budgeted for around €60 per day each, all expenses included. Will this roughly be enough considering it is off-season?
3. Are there any flaws in my itinerary? Any places you would not recommend during this time?
4. Have I allowed enough days to get a good feel of each city?
5. Will there be any major restrictions, anytime or anywhere during off-season?
6. Am I trying to fit too much/to less in?
7. Any places you think would be good visiting along the way?
Any help or suggestions would be great!
Cheers for your time :)
Oct 2, 2012 10:32 PM
1Its good, you startin out on a UK first iten. So you won't start your Schengen restriction till you're ready.
Southern Europe is also cheaper.
Don't rush through places. You won't need to book ahead, that time of year. There are tons of mom and pop hostAls, with five or ten rooms. So don't worry about digs.
I like hostels most. I travel partly for the "foreigners" I get to hang out with. Especially older ones, for the experiences they' had. Different perspective on life's great frigging padgent.
Just ask a question and sit back. Hear 'em out. The zinger is in the "Oh by the way." at the end.
We travel to learn, (he pontificated) and partially more about ourselves. Hostels have comunity kitchens. If somebody eats some of your stuff, he needed it.
As I kept hearing in my oz days (1965-67), "We're all in this together, mayte. One hand washes the other."
Oct 3, 2012 12:20 AM
2First of all congrats for having done your homework first. No major flaws in your plan I think.
Maybe just some thoughts:
60 € pppd is on the low budget end, but doable. You won't be able to splurge though.
Paris imo is worth more than 3 days (unless you are really allergic to musea...)
Ghent and Antwerp sound good - you'll probably want to do daytrips to Bruges and Brussels.
Germany: I would somehow include Berlin as well. 2 days each for Cologne and Dresden would be sufficient for me unless you plan to do sidetrips.
Croatia and Nice/Toulon will be dead in mid-Winter. If it were me, I would skip them and allow extra days in Italy (southern Italy, Sicily ?) and southern Spain (Sevilla, Andalucia). The weather will also be more pleasant there.
Have fun !
Oct 3, 2012 1:51 AM
3Any flaws? Aside from equal time in Paris and Ghent (I could have spent 2 weeks in Paris whereas I was bored after a day and a half in Ghent), I would say the itinerary is too focused on big cities. After a while they'll start to blend into each other. One of the biggest joys of Europe for me is small towns and the countryside. Are you into skiing? Trekking? Cycling? Any of these can be done in winter, depending where you are.
Oct 3, 2012 2:26 AM
4+less exhausting heat and well I’m from NZ so I should be able to handle it, also apparently much cheaper! +
Less exhausting heat: well...I like your optimism but be prepared for potentially miserable weather, rain, darkness, snow and ice... None of the places on your original itinerary will be 'warm' in mid-winter: I have experienced snow in Florence in November and you'll need a warm jacket in Barcelona in January. The warmest place in continental Europe in winter is probably Andalucia, but unless you get lucky it won't be beach weather there either.
Apparently much cheaper: it will be cheaper, yes, but don't expect massive differences. And because of the cold and short daylight hours, you'll probably spend more time inside (pubs, restaurants, attractions) which will also add to your bill.
But hey, do come and have fun !
Oct 3, 2012 6:33 AM
5It sounds like one of the main reasons you have for coming in winter is that it will be cheaper, however as the above poster mentioned there won't be much difference in price.
The European winter is colder and harsher than NZ - I strongly suggest bringing your trip back a couple of months.
Edited by: wadef
Oct 3, 2012 7:38 AM
6Expect a lot of dark, grey and low overcast short days. A good, freezing, snowy and sunny day is a lot more pleasant, but it's a bit rare on average november and december. Plan yourself early for a nice little place to spend Chrismas and New Year time, because many areas (like mountains and heavily touristy citie) can be busy.
Oct 3, 2012 7:54 AM
7I too don't see what would be cheaper in winter. Museum & exhhibition entrances are the same price all year round. There is less choice of fruit & veggies to buy at markets and stores and fewer possibilities of picknicking because it's not nice outside.
Other than a possible discount on some hotel rooms, I don't see winter as an opportunity to save money. On the contrary, as #4 says, you'll spend more time indoors trying to dry off or warm up.
Oct 3, 2012 8:14 AM
8less exhausting heat
Indeed. Problem is that instead October-January in most of Europe means a lot of overcast days, rain, drizzle, fog, windchill, snow, ice, freezing snow, hail and short daylight hours. It's not all bad, but be realistic about what you want to see and do - if visiting Europe means walking around soaking up the atmosphere, keep in mind that it's not necessarily pleasant to be walking around e.g. Amsterdam in a seemingly never-ending drizzle and a windchill that makes +5°C feel like -5°C.
Also keep in mind that every autumn and winter public transportation gets disrupted at least once by stormy weather or snow.
So should you avoid Europe at that time of the year? Not necessarily; the Christmas markets in Germany are on from late November, sipping hot chocolate in a cosy café in Amsterdam on a rainy afternoon isn't a bad way to spend your time and if you like winter sports this is the best time to head to the Alps.
also apparently much cheaper!
That seems to be one of the most common misconceptions about travel in Europe, and I wonder what that's based on. Millions of people live in Europe and they too use trains and buses, go to museums, buy food in supermarkets, eat out and so on throughout the year. You may be able to get a discount in some hotels - don't count on it, though - and perhaps the cheapest train/plane tickets sell out a little bit less fast, but that's about it.
And as bjd already pointed out above, in fact you'll need to factor in rest stops at cafés as it's often too cold or rainy to be outside.
Other than that, kudos for allowing plenty of time to most cities, though at the same time that's also your major flaw - too many one-city-per-country stops and too many big cities.
Oct 3, 2012 1:39 PM
9A few thoughts:
- Prices won't be drastically different in the winter vs. the summer. Accommodation prices might be a bit lower in some locations, but that's about it.
- Weather will not be "warm" anywhere in Europe during that time. Southern Italy, Greece and Turkey are probably your best bets, but even there it can be chilly and rainy. Weather averages can be found here:
- 60 euros per person, per day is definitely possible. But watch out for your transportation costs, because they can start adding up, especially on international trains.
- You shouldn't have any need to book in advance during the winter. Although if you plan to be in a popular city on New Year's Eve, start booking early.
Oct 3, 2012 7:03 PM
10Thanks for all the feedback guys, must appreciated.
So taking all advice into consideration its obvious now I would not be saving to much money travelling in off season, so I'm thinking going mid-March to mid-June(I'm guessing that's around spring?) with the extra months saving covering for the hike in hostel prices. I really want to avoid the tourist crowds as much as possible. I know it will still get cold but Christchurch in winter averages 10°C and shorts and t-shirt is fine attire for me during the day. One question I have is precipitation. Does it rain often around this time?
As for to many big cities, being my 1st trip I want to knock out the major places and attractions then return at a later date to explore the outer regions. Will I need to book much in advance around this time?
In the end I would love to spend all 4 seasons in some part of Europe, so whether it be hot cold raining or sunny I don't really mind. I will come prepared for 4 seasons in 1 day, and enjoy all of it.
Oct 4, 2012 1:13 AM
11I'm thinking going mid-March to mid-June(I'm guessing that's around spring?)
Correct. Also, summer time starts in the last weekend of March, meaning gradually longer daylight hours.
I really want to avoid the tourist crowds as much as possible
Spring is generally not a bad time at all (in fact it's one of the best times, particularly if you start in the south and make your way up north), but do keep in mind that all cities on your list are popular with tourists and there are some major national holidays and festivals celebrated locally (e.g. Semana Santa is particularly big in Spain) or throughout Europe (Easter is a long weekend holiday in many countries). Book accommodation in advance if you plan to travel to a popular city during these periods, other than those you should generally be fine if you call ahead a day or two in advance.
One question I have is precipitation. Does it rain often around this time?
That entirely depends on where you go to; Europe has a lot of different microclimates. Generally speaking though, the Mediterrenean tends to be much sunnier and drier than the north/northwest, where you can expect any type of weather throughout the year.
(Example: I live in the Netherlands, close to the very popular tulip fields that are in bloom in April/May, which is one of the peak tourist seasons. In 2011, spring came very early and most of April and May was sunny. This year, however, both months were very rainy and the fields were not anywhere as beautiful as they normally are)
As for to many big cities, being my 1st trip I want to knock out the major places and attractions then return at a later date to explore the outer regions
I see where you're coming from, but since I suppose you came here to get information from more experienced travellers, I still recommend you try to mix in a few smaller towns (there are several interesting day trip options from the cities on your list). These are often of similar historical and architectural importance as the big names, yet offer a more authentic experience than going from one cosmopolitan capital to another tourist magnet full of English-speaking waiters, overpriced food and endless queues to get into some attraction.
Besides that, there is in fact a limit to how many monuments, museums and cathedrals you can enjoyably visit in a certain amount of time. Every city on your list is worth visiting in its own right, but by the time you've seen the 5th famous church in a week, you start wondering what the fuss is all about.
Oct 4, 2012 2:57 AM
(5 star Hotel)
From US$212.78 per night
(1 star Hotel)
From US$79.70 per night
(4 star Hotel)
From US$170.04 per night