Help please! BIG European adventure before med school!
Replies: 38 - Last Post: Dec 18, 2012 4:21 PM Last Post By: Chuckerbocker
Dec 2, 2012 4:10 PM
15There is really no need to be nervous; you are heading to Western Europe, one of the safest and most travel-friendly places on Earth. It's a bonus for you that you're heading there in the low season, meaning that there is next to no chance that at any point you'll be unable to find accommodation in your price range or a seat on a train or bus to your next destination.
If it helps to set your mind at rest, I travelled to Israel in my early 20s to volunteer on a kibbutz, at the height of the Second Intifada and not knowing a word of Hebrew. I managed to find my way around Tel Aviv and get from there to Afula without a guidebook or a map, as thousands had done before me. I'm no sort of travel guru, just a regular guy like you, so stop worrying and relax!
On a related point, you have 2 months to drift around so don't get too hung up on an itinerary. Certainly don't plan things as minutely as you appear to have done for your trip to Greece. Time after time, people plan their trips down to the very last detail - sometimes even down to which cafe or restaurant they're going to have lunch in. It'll probably be a long time until you get such an extended period of freedom again, maybe not until you retire. So once again: relax!
Finally, don't fall into the trap of ticking off sights just because you feel like you should. Do what you want to do. To use another personal example, I have been to Prague many times but have never been to Kutna Hora. Some people find that incredible but that's never bothered me. Why trudge around somewhere just to say that you have? Follow your own path, explore at your own pace and you'll discover places that 90% of tourists miss.
If you really must have something of a plan to cling to, make it as rough and loose as possible. Perhaps book your return flight from London in advance so that you know you have to be there on that date. After that, there's no need to worry; you can get to London easily (and often directly) from literally anywhere in Europe.
Dec 2, 2012 11:18 PM
Dec 3, 2012 4:21 AM
17I'm with all the others here: since you are travelling off-season and have plenty of time, no need to start booking in advance.
There is also no need to book a flight ticket between Greece and Italy: a ferry will give you more flexibility.
Take your time in taly - and if you end up staying there much longer than you originally planned, you can always skip Spain.
Have fun !
Dec 3, 2012 4:22 AM
your length of stay will be determined by your resources (money and time) ands Immigration (who've set the limit at 90 days for Schengenland)
Dec 3, 2012 1:38 PM
Dec 13, 2012 9:56 AM
20Well it's getting closer and I've thought of a few more questions.
From what I've been reading, it seems that it would not be in my best interest to buy a Eurail pass and I should instead just buy place-to-place tickets. Would I be fine walking into a station the day I want to travel and purchasing a ticket for the train of my choice? Would I be better off booking the ticket the night before?
My schedule is starting to come together.
3 days in Istanbul,
3 days in Athens,
about 2 weeks in Italy,
3 days in Munich,
5-6 days in Paris,
6 days taking a train south through France to Barcelona, stopping for a night or 2 along the way,
2-3 days in Barcelona,
2-3 days in Madrid,
5 days in London and
3 days in Dublin
Italy through Spain is stil flexible because I will be taking trains. I've left extra days in between cities for travel. I know I could easily spend all that time in one country. I'm considering cutting out Istanbul and Athens And giving myself more time in Western Europe. I don't feel any pressing need to go to Athens or Istanbul although I would certainly enjoy both cities. Should I cut them out to give myself more time in fewer countries/cities?
Dec 13, 2012 11:51 PM
The nature and price of your ticket depends on what the 'train of choice' is. Regional trains on shorter routes most likely have fixed price (standard) fares. It's like buying a metro or suburban bus ticket - same idea. The price is always the same. You can buy it the day of departure, an undated ticket a week in advance - when you buy is irrelevant. There tickets are usually not for a specific train but for a route, which means you buy your ticket and take any egular train going to where you want to go.
Then there are trains which have (i) advance booking fare reductions/promotions and/or (ii) required seat reservations.
For the first, such as on high-speed trains, the more in advance you buy your ticket, the better chance of getting one of the price deals. As with airlines, the cheap seats sell out first.
Any train which requires a reservation probably means that, in practice, the earlier you buy your ticket the better. It's possible on the day of departure, but the difference between day of departure and night before is too short to be relevant. If a seat is avalable in principle a day one way or the other won't matter. If availability is an issue, then the night before won't be getting you a tiome advantage.
Perhaps the best argument for dropping thenm is that, to be honest, you're still struggling with how many days to allocate to cities (a hopeless endeavour, but these sorts of short multipl-stop trips almost force the issue). Comparing Istanbul with Athens it would be more accurate to give 4 days to the first and 2 to the second. It would be easier if you have more time to actually improvise the trip as it unfolds, rather than trying now in the absence of any experience to try and figure out how long to stay somewhere.
Dec 13, 2012 11:57 PM
Dec 13, 2012 11:59 PM
23On the first two stops....they are very detached from the rest of your trip,so if you feel 'no pressing need' to go there then I would leave them out.
Having said that,Istanbul is one of my favourite cities (in the world,not just in Europe).
It will still be there in the future though......
Dec 14, 2012 12:23 AM
Dec 14, 2012 4:25 AM
25I don't feel any pressing need to go to Athens or Istanbul although I would certainly enjoy both cities
In that case I think you'd better use your precious time to visit cities you're more interested in. Having said that, Istanbul is one of my favourite cities and deserves at least 4-5 days to explore.
In general, your itinerary is too much focussed on big cities, if you ask me. I'd personally enjoy a trip that shows me a decent balance of bigger cities, smaller towns and scenic areas and allows me plenty of time to soak up the atmosphere, enjoy local food and so on; that means not crossing the length and width of the continent looking for "Europe" (which is a geopolitical term and nothing else), but picking a few regions I'm particularly interested in.
3 days in Dublin
Much as I liked Dublin, I think it'd be a shame to travel to Ireland and spend all your time in the capital. It's the beautiful scenery that sets Ireland apart, if you ask me.
But as usual, in the end what matters is that you chose the places that you find most appealing.
Dec 14, 2012 5:00 AM
26PS I still persist in asking how much money you have for this trip after buying the flights, cos most people underestimate the cost of Europe.
Dec 14, 2012 1:51 PM
27Would I be ok booking "fast" trains since it's the off season?
Fwoggie, what is your reasoning behind switching France and Spain? And I have a couple thousand dollars at my disposal after flights. Money is not a limiting factor.
As for Dublin Aribo, whenever I was looking for flights from London to Chicago, every single one went through Dublin. I absolutely would love to roam the countryside in Ireland ( and most of these countries) but it will be winter and my time is not unlimited. I decided since I was going to be stopping in Dublin anyways that I might as well spend a few days.
I am leaning toward cutting out Istanbul and Athens. What about the 6 days traveling south through France and stopping for a night or two along the train?
Another question. Should I be figuring out which hostels I plan on staying in prior to going?
Dec 14, 2012 3:23 PM
28#27 - it cuts back on total distance travelled without removing any stops, which increases available time for sight seeing and stuff. There's no point spending more on travel than you have to, innit.
Otherwise you'd hoof it from Munich all the way up to Paris (just 2.25 hrs from London by train), then drop all the way back down to Madrid (over 2 hrs flying time from London by plane) to then jump back up to London. See Google Maps to see what I mean.
Dec 14, 2012 4:01 PM
(4 star Hotel)
From US$134.33 per night
(3 star Hotel)
From US$101.20 per night
(4 star Hotel)
From US$171.47 per night