EUROPE 2013 (2months) - Need Advice :)
Replies: 36 - Last Post: Nov 19, 2012 1:09 PM Last Post By: Maestro
Nov 17, 2012 2:02 PM
EUROPE 2013 (2months) - Need Advice :)Hey guys!!! So my plan is to head to Europe in 2013 for about 2 months and before the crazy summer. I am a 32 y.o. single female traveler and have about $6000 to spend <--the goal is less. I've never been to Europe before so im trying to figure out the best way to get the most bang for my buck. Here are a few things I need help on:
1.) Deciding which option is better:
A. Contiki has a 47 day tour http://www.contiki.com/destinations/europe/tours/161-ultimate-european-plus-greek-islands for about $6,200 after all is said and done w/ excursions. I would get there mid May and be gone by late June. I've never traveled with a tour company but it seems like a good deal since you visit so many places, have a guide, worry free transportation, and some meals are included.
B. Taking that same $6,200 (or hopefully much less!!!!) and booking hostels, eurorail, individual tours, etc. on my own and staying from late april to late june (about 2 weeks longer than above). I guess my only concern with this option is the fact that I would not having anyone to socialize with, lol, and the fact that there is so much to do/see in Europe that I might waste time figuring it out or missing it than just enjoying it.
So, if anyone has backpacked through Europe or done a tour id appreciate feedback...especially on the following:
2.) Which of the above seems like the best value. Why?
3.) I've only backpacked through costa rica. Europe is much more dense (and expensive) is it easy to navigate through?
4.) How is the weather during late April - late June? Crowd? <--my goal is to Juuuuuust miss it getting crazy but still enjoy swimable weather.
5.) Any suggestions for an itinerary (and affordable hostels/campsites) if you choose option B?
Nov 17, 2012 2:22 PM
1So, I just came back from a trip that is exactly like what you're about to do. 2 months solo (I'm a 24 y.o. male).
First...$6000 is about correct, that's pretty much what I spent, plus flight into/out of Europe. This was Western Europe. You didn't mention where in Europe you are going (maybe you don't know yet?) but the further East you go, the cheaper things will be. Budget will depend largely on you and how cheap you are willing to go on food and accomodation.
As far as Contiki tour vs. self guided - I've never done a guided tour and never plan on it so keep that in mind that this is just my opinion and how I like to travel. The benefit of guided tours is not having to worry about planning anything, but at the price of losing a lot of flexibility - what if you want to stay somewhere longer/shorter, etc. You're locked in.
I planned everything myself, and it was a lot of work and stressful at times, but it was a huge learning experience and confidence builder and I'm glad I did it that way. I was completely free to do what I want when I wanted. It comes down to preference. There are tons of "free" (pay tips) guided tours in major cities that are good for a half day, and you can always pay and do longer ones if you want to try it out.
3.) Europe's rail system is cake. If you've got a smartphone, download "DB Bahn" app and it'll give you train times and you can pick the best one. If you don't, it's still easy.
4.) I was there in the Fall, but I think you'll be in shoulder season so may not be crowded. Again, Europe ranges wildly in temperatures and nobody can answer what the weather will be like if you don't specify where in Europe you will be.
5.) You have no idea where you want to go in Europe? Nobody is going to make an itinerary for you out of the blue. Read some threads on this forum to see what others have done and put together what interests you then come back and we can help you. For Spring, maybe head South to North so the weather isn't on either extreme as it gets more towards summer.
Last point - do not be worried about "not having anybody to socialize with" if you plan on staying in hostels. That will take care of itself, just find the common room or strike up a conversation with a roommate and I promise you'll be good to go.
Nov 17, 2012 2:33 PM
2First of all, you will miss out on a lot of interesting places unless you have several years to travel Europe. There's nothing to do about that, don't lose any sleep over it - if it comforts you, most regulars of this forum are well-travelled but almost every one of us has yet to visit at least one of the 10 most popular places in Europe; on the other hand, every one of us can suggest tens if not hundreds of interesting towns and scenic areas most non-Europeans have never even heard about.
This thread is full of useful hints to avoid the most common pitfalls for first time travellers to Europe: http://www.lonelyplanet.com/thorntree/thread.jspa?threadID=2153476
Tour vs independent travel - that's a no-brainer.
I guess my only concern with this option is the fact that I would not having anyone to socialize with
It's really easy to meet other solo travellers when you stay in hostels; if you want to meet up with locals, consider signing up on Couchsurfing or Hospitality Club.
there is so much to do/see in Europe that I might waste time figuring it out or missing it than just enjoying it
Look at it this way: as said above, you can't see it all anyway. Do your research before you arrive to make sure you won't miss anything you really want to see, and then play it by ear - there's not much point (or fun) in making detailed plans for a 2-month trip, because you will inevitably wake up one morning hating the idea of having to move on, or a train will be delayed, or you'll meet other travellers who invite you to join them etc.
it seems like a good deal since you visit so many places, have a guide, worry free transportation, and some meals are included
The key word is seems: on a tour you don't chose which places you visit and how long you stay there. When meals are included, you also don't chose where you eat. Most importantly, many tour companies seem to select accommodation based on the availability of parking space for their buses, which means you'll often stay way out of town - staying at a hotel in the middle of nowhere, being forced to eat in the hotel restaurant and spending the night in your room is never a better deal than chosing a ho(s)tel yourself and being able to walk around a town center at night, looking for a place to eat yourself.
Weather, most convenient transportation options etc depend on where in Europe you go to.
Nov 17, 2012 2:42 PM
3I agree with pretty much everything #1 said and I'd second going yourself over a tour. Also, I wouldn't plan too much. You have two months, that's a good amount of time, but you don't want to plane all of it in advance. Choose a big city like Paris to fly into (cheap, more direct flights), maybe have a general direction in mind (AKA, "I'd like to go North through the Belgium, the Netherlands, and Germany for a bit"), and let the people you meet and the things you see/do inform the rest. Maybe you'll find a place you'll want to stay for a week, maybe you'll get somewhere you thought you'd love but that turns out to be a real bummer. Not having everything planned out and booked makes you much more flexible.
Personally, I'd fly into Paris, head south through Burgundy, the Alps, and Provence, ferry over to Corsica and Sardinia, and then make my way up through Italy to Switzerland, Austria and Germany, maybe fly out of Munich. Beaches, mountains, food, wine, beer, cheese, farms, countryside, cities, and a lot of different culture in that trip. Or do it backwards, and you'll be in Burgundy in time for the cherries to ripen (mid-June, and they're absolutely delicious straight from the tree). Or, if you'd rather travel less, skip the islands and go from Provence through Northern Italy to Switzerland and Austria. As Jacen says, no one can make your itinerary for you, so I'm just projecting my own tastes on you, but I certainly wish I had the time and money to do what you're doing!
Nov 17, 2012 5:56 PM
4Thanks for the replies everyone. Sorry I wasn't clear on my personal itinerary, but I would like it to resemble something like in the link I provided. In regards to your suggestions, a few more questions:
1.) How would you amend the contiki itinerary? Which places would you stay more/less days in? Which places would you add? Does this look like a good itinerary?
2.) Just how expensive is Europe? Right now the exchange rate is .78 to $1 which is good for me. How much should a hostel run me? How much should B/L/D meals run me?
3.) How much should I budget for transportation? How much would taxis buses run? How much for a eurorail for all 2 mo?
Nov 17, 2012 9:08 PM
51) Contiki - no comment
2) Expensive or not depend where you go. Have a look at hostelworld.com and about B/L/D it depend if you will eat in a 3* Restaurant on Champs Elysees or in a fast food in Ukraine or from a snack on a market place in Istanbul.
3) Transport by train, busses, plane, ferries...?? A Taxi from where to where? Prices for trains depend also for the level of train, the distances and the countries.
Nov 17, 2012 9:11 PM
6Simyas in #4,
Please read the link provided by Aribo in #2 BEFORE asking anymore budget questions. Then translate your budget int € because we have no idea what $ refers to (there are more than 20 currencies that use that symbol).
Anyway, you can't say an exchange rate is 'good for you' without taking into account the cost of living.
Regarding question #1- it's a pointless question. There is no perfect itinerary. The good people at Contiki designed that itinerary because it's good for THEM. You need to figure out what's good for YOU. Randomly adding or removing destinations without knowing what your interests are is pointless.
In general, package tours move too fast. You could do the same itinerary in double the mount of time and still you wouldn't run out of things to do/see.
Again, read the link provided by Aribo. As a rule of thumb, divide the number of days you have by 3 1/2 to get to the number of places you can meaningfully visit.
Nov 17, 2012 9:56 PM
7You can do a lot more with your $6000 (whatever currency that is) by doing independent travel rather than a tour.
Use a Contiki tour itinerary as a starting point if the places they go to interest you. Research on what things interest you in each place and make rough guide (not a day by day/ hour by hour itinerary!) Then make your way from place to place and enjoy it!
Things to consider: get an open jaw ticket (arrives in one city and departs from another city) to minimise backtracking. Alternatively, travel in a circular fashion to get you back to where you started from (arrive/departs from same city)
Nov 17, 2012 10:37 PM
you'll hardly ever find acclaim for an organised tour on this board :-) - and if you've backpacked before, I cannot fathom a reason why you should do differently in Europe.
just to run that contiki itinerary down for you: apart from being a loop (good, but not essential, see phil's remark on open-jaw), it shows all the flaws already mentioned, e.g. "Spain" = 2 nights in Barcelona = 1 full day, Troy is most convenient for the loop, yet there are definitely more interesting excavations in Turkey and elsewhere, the route up the Balkan again is the quickest for the bus, nothing more, all in all, very few smaller towns and nature (...2x1 full day in the Alps, whoopee!). the Ruhr valley, on the other hand, is a real unusual choice - yet as much as I like it, it's among the places I wouldn't deem that important for a first time visit. further, there are loads of places 'missing' from a popular point of view, e.g. Prague, Berlin, Bruges, the rest of Spain, Croatia, vast spaces of Eastern & Northern Europe etc.
an honest recommendation: get hold of a decent guidebook, e.g. from a library (lonelyplanet, roughguide, ...), work out what interests you most and start compiling an itinerary, bearing in mind some basic rules (e.g. MTL's rule of a minimal three nights in larger places = i.e. 60 nights equals roughly 20 places at most!). return to this board starting a new thread (however linking to this one) posting your itinerary and we'll trim it. it helps if you can be as specific about your interests as possible: no need to put an emphasis on the Alps if you're living in the Rockies. so tell us about your expectations regarding this trip. do you take an interest in: medieval topics, excavations, art, contemporary architecture, hiking, history? or what else? the preciser you can word it, the more helpful this board will turn out for you.
aribo mentioned couchsurfing and hospitalityclub - a very good idea, though I understand it helps if you sign up early and start working on a reputation...
transport is a topic that can be discussed best once you've an itinerary. Eurail passes are expensive and have their pitfalls (see http://www.seat61.com/Railpass.htm for more), often it can be a combination of rail/bus/ride-sharing/budget flight that may turn out 'best' - impossible to tell at this stage.
looking forward to your input, regards
Nov 17, 2012 11:25 PM
9Ok, read the links and came up with a rough draft itinerary. I am DEF open to recommendations for adding/subtracting nights and/or cities. My goal is to sample europe. I can always come back, but I would like to do a BIG BANG my first time around by visiting a lot of places in this one 61 day trip. I budgeted $60/day food ($3580), $35/nt for hostel accomodations ($2135), $600 activities = $6315 US dollars x 0.785 euro rate = $4957 US dollars spent if the cost of living is about the same i.e. $3.5 pizza slice in US = 2.75Euro (is all this correct)? Only transportation is missing.
P.S. I used this forum once before when I went to Costa Rica and everyone suggested that I NOT do so much (i.e. the whole country in 2 weeks) due to too much travel time, you should rest longer, etc. but I did anyway and spent 2-3nts in each location and had a PERFECT trip; now when I go back this winter, I plan on staying 2 weeks only in 2 spots. My goal is going to be same this time in Europe--to expore and pin down my favorites--so please keep that in mind when suggesting how long to stay. Now don't get me wrong, if due to budget constraints because too much travel will be costly, or the fact that the food is absolutely to die for somewhere (lol) then ok, tell me to stay longer. But aside from that, I really only need to hit the "major" spots, eat some really good meals then move on.
Fly out LAX
UK - arrive 11am
Cannes, St. Tropez, Monaco, Nice 3
Sorrento/ Island of Capri 1
Brindisi Overnight Ferry 1
Santorini Island 3
Mykonos Island 3
Overnight ferry/ to Istanbul 0
Frankfurt or Munich or Berlin 2
Total Nights 61nts
Nov 17, 2012 11:43 PM
10Here’s a list of cities where that ConTiki tours allows you to stay a little more than one full day--arrive in the evening, spend one full day, depart the next morning: Barcelona, Venice, Florence, Rome, Istanbul, Budapest, Amsterdam.
Paris gets two full days and change. Athens, Sofia, Vienna and Munich get less than one full day. I don’t really see the point.
At 32, you may well be the the “old lady” of the group. You’ll probably also be the sober lady of the group.
Assuming you decide to DIY: Transport can either be one of the most expensive items in your budget or one of the cheapest--depending on if you traverse the whole of the continent or stick to one region. It also depends on how long you stay in each specific destination.
Just remember that with travel--as with the Method School of acting--less is more. The more destinations you have, the less time you have in them, the more time you spend between them, and the more money you’ll spend getting to them. Although the “3 1/2 day” figure is a good touchstone, most travelers also agree that major cities (Paris, Rome) require that length of time as a minimum just to barely scratch the surface.
DIY certainly requires a lot more research than sending off your money to people who will bus you about the continent. In theory, your research should be fun and engaging and will allow you to prioritize based on your own personal preferences and interests--not on where it’s easiest to park a bus.
Just saw OP's latest, and sorry, but emulating a bus trip creates all the problems you're trying to avoid. Be honest: have you researched any of these places to get a sense of how long a stay you're likely to find worthwhile? Or are you just listing every city in Europe you've ever heard of? How excited you must be when you consider visiting your 26th most anticipated destination--even if it means shortchanging your 5 most anticipated destinations.
You have a lot of work to do. But again, it should be fun work, and should equip you to make informed decisions, not lists.
Edited by: clementis_fur_cap
Nov 17, 2012 11:46 PM
your itinerary makes all the classic mistakes listed here: http://www.lonelyplanet.com/thorntree/thread.jspa?threadID=2153476
Too much moving about, only capitals, forgetting about travel time.
Scrap everything where you plan to spend one night. It's pointless to spend half a day travelling somewhere, eat some fast food, sleep, have 3 hrs to look around and then leave again.
and 2 nights for Rome and Naples or 3 nights for Madrd and Valencia is just nonsense.
Nov 18, 2012 12:11 AM
12Only transportation is missing
At this pace, it may be your most expensive budget item.
Maybe this barnstorming approach is okay for 2 weeks in one country, as you did in Costa Rica. It's simply unrealistic to spend 2 months this way on an entire continent. It's physically impossible once you take travel times into account.
Take a deep breath, relax, and take some time to think about what you really hope to accomplish and how much time it will take to accomplish.
First impressions can be misleading. That's the only impression you'll have time to register. Anywhere. At this pace, your main impression will be of train carriages and stations.
Do you have any laundry days penciled in? Any days to nothing except recharge the batteries? You'll need them. Tourism is hard work over the long haul.
Nov 18, 2012 12:17 AM
1) As others have said, please restate your numbers in € please, not including your flight over.
2) I decided to find out how much $60 USD is though as per your daily rate, it's €47. That's insufficient for anyone backpacking in dorm beds in hostels and self catering, but especially for you because you're visiting some very expensive parts of Europe (Paris, Italy, Switzerland, Munich) and you're covering an enormous distance and moving around costs money. Example: You're gonna struggle to find a dorm bed in Paris for under 25 euros a night, although you should be able to just break the €20/night barrier in Italy.
3) Following on from my point above, I reckon 70 euros a day is more realistic once you throw in accom, the very high level of transport you've thrown in, fees to enter attractions, food, alcohol, laundry and having the odd coffee or pastry as you go.
4) Istanbul to Sofia by bus is circa 9 hrs. You'd need to do it at night otherwise there's no point going to Sofia for a few hrs.
5) Sofia to Belgrade - there's one train a day - it's a sleeper train but it dumps you in Belgrade at 4:17 in the morning (assuming it's on time, which is not often the case with sleeper trains). It's 9 hrs.
6) Belgrade to Budapest is 7:40, and there's only like 3 trains a day.
7) Germany: Skip Frankfurt. Given you're next off to the Swiss Alps, skip Berlin too and by default head for Munich.
8) Just cos you can technically do this itinerary, doesn't mean you should. You'll probably end up ill by the end of it, due to the sheer speed you'll be moving at. Sleeping on overnight trains and buses is tough.
9) You'll spend nearly 2 whole weeks on trains and buses I reckon. That's a lot of lost sightseeing time out of 8 weeks, given you'll lose another 4 or so to sleeping, eating, showering, laundry etc.
Answers are still coming in of course and you'll get more now you've posted an itinerary, but seriously, if every Europe based contributor says you need to slow down and get more money before arriving, I'd slow down and acquire more money.
Personally I'd chop 7 destinations from your list and shorten the trip by 20 days if it were me because 61 days isn't enough for the itinerary listed above (more like 90 is required) and your budget won't cover 61 days anyway unless you spend far more time in E Europe and far less time in W Europe.
Nov 18, 2012 12:53 AM
14Fwoggie, as MTL pointed out, she has approx 4957 euro, not usd.
All your other points are valid and I'm sure the specific travel times you mention will give OP pause for thought. Now it's up to her now to find all her travel times and figure out how she'll cram them in--which is to say, she'll see it's impossible to do so if she wants to get even the merest glimpse of some destinations--certainly not enough info to determine if they merit exploring in detail at a later date.
Hell, I live in Europe and haven't been to 30 different continental destinations.
(0 star Hotel)
From US$15.36 per night
(3 star Hotel)
From US$63.96 per night
(3 star Hotel)
From US$124.61 per night