Author Topic: Travelling solo through Europe  (Read 20176 times)

Strawberrykiwi75

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Travelling solo through Europe
« on: February 21, 2015, 05:09:41 PM »
Hi everyone, I'm looking at taking a trip for 6 weeks through Europe in late August/September. I know that's not the cheapest time but it's when my boss says I can go! I'll be travelling solo and I'm weighing up all the different ways of doing it. I'd really appreciate some advice from people who have done it before- obviously I want to do it as cheaply as possible but without missing out on experiences.

I'm thinking of flying into London as I have friends and family there, and then go from there. The places I want to visit (still flexible at this point but I think I have the highlights covered) are: Paris, Belgium, Amsterdam, Berlin, possibly Munich, Prague, Italy (Venice, Naples/Pompeii, Rome & Cinque Terre), Barcelona, and then back up through France stopping at heritage/cultural sights (such as Carcassone) along the way. I'll then fly out from Paris or London. So I'm basically trying to do a bit of a loop. I know I'll be missing some pretty awesome places but I will go again in a few years.

So- how should I do it? I looked into tours such as Contiki & Topdeck (I'm 25)- I haven't ruled them out but I suspect I could do it cheaper and also have more flexibility on my own. So then I looked into Busabout as well, but I don't want to waste huge amounts of time on a bus if I can avoid it. I looked into renting a car but it's hugely expensive for one person.

My instinct is to get a Eurrail pass, taking night trains when available. For the big trip between Prague & Italy I'd probably get a budget flight such as Ryanair.

For accommodation, I plan to stay in hostels. And I'll buy food at markets as much as possible for picnic lunches etc. But I probably won't skimp on passes to museums etc and if I get the chance to do something awesome like paragliding, I want to have the money available to do that.

Is this the best way to do it? Or should I do it a different way? And how much do you think I would need to cover everything? Thanks for your help in advance! :-)

SnpKraklePhyz

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Re: Travelling solo through Europe
« Reply #1 on: February 21, 2015, 05:40:28 PM »
So excited for you!!! My daughter is planning the same thing about a month or two earlier than you.  We are looking at Eurail passes - they have a special going on a 15 day global pass that expires March 31st so look at that soon.  I was on the Ryanair website for a while and enjoyed the way they have it set up.  You could essentially search for the cheapest flight from anywhere to anywhere.  I thought that might narrow down what she could do flying and what she could do by train.  I also just found a website called Student Universe that specializes in flights for students.  I'm not sure the age cutoff - but it is something to check.

Enjoy!!!

nanu

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Re: Travelling solo through Europe
« Reply #2 on: February 21, 2015, 05:45:35 PM »
Posting to follow in hopes of doing the same in the future

Argyle

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Re: Travelling solo through Europe
« Reply #3 on: February 21, 2015, 05:55:33 PM »
The last time I looked, Eurail passes were for first-class travel, and therefore they're actually a rip-off.  What you want is an Interrail pass, if you're going to spend a ton of time on trains.  Sometimes you come out ahead, sometimes not, even with an Interrail.  You may need to book hostels well in advance for August, which is a peak time.  If so, so you know exactly when you're going to be where, you can also book rail tickets ahead, when they're considerably cheaper, and that may well save you money over an Interrail pass.  But for flexibility Interrail is the way to go.

Flying into London will also be more expensive than many airports.  Since you're going all over the place, compare London to some other destinations and make sure it's the cheapest.

Tours will almost certainly be more expensive than doing it yourself.  The advantage is that you automatically have folks to hang out with, and you can let someone else do the planning for a while.

If I were in your shoes, I think I'd find some "experiences" to sign up for that weren't tours - maybe a weekend cooking class, or a two-day class in a castle, or a pony-trekking expedition, or your paragliding, something, which would give you an interesting group to hang out with for a bit, allow for a little bit of settling-in time, and not hamper your flexibility for the rest of the time.

It's hard to estimate how much money you'd need — could vary widely.

julez916

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Re: Travelling solo through Europe
« Reply #4 on: February 21, 2015, 05:58:03 PM »
I've only used Ryanair and megabus for traveling in Europe, but my longest stay was two weeks, so a eurail pass wasn't really worth it for me and I can't speak to that. Ryanair was great for getting from Scotland to Germany, though, and it was really cheap.
My biggest tip is to sign up for couchsurfing if you haven't ahead. It's a great way to find places to stay, meet new people, and get a local's perspective on the city you're visiting. Even if you aren't comfortable actually couchsurfing with someone you've never met, it's still worth it. It can be a good way to meet other travelers.
I have definitely met me petiole staying in hostels, but at 25, you may be a bit older than many of the other hostelers and it can be nice to have a backup plan. Just look for people tour after who have lots of good references.

Capsu78

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Re: Travelling solo through Europe
« Reply #5 on: February 21, 2015, 05:58:33 PM »
Its a wonderful time to travel Europe...  I would try to focus on a route plan first.
First off, August is the highest of high seasons for when the locals vacation.  I have heard the Lake region in Italy is a bit less travelled in August as its not where the Italians vacation.
Early September the kids go back to school so lots of places are much less crowded.

I would consider looking for when the "circus is in town" in the various areas and try to be in areas in the days starting big events.  Going to the opening of Octoberfest in Munich is awesome.  Strasbourg France on the France/German border is an awesome place to spend a couple days between Paris and Munich.  The Italian Grand Prix takes place outside of Milan the second weekend in September means that Milan has all kinds of cool events going on.  Venice has the Venice Film Festival the same weekend which simply means the place is just fun to be at.

johnny847

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Re: Travelling solo through Europe
« Reply #6 on: February 21, 2015, 06:41:06 PM »
I have a couple pieces of advice on the finance side of things:

1) Use a no foreign transaction fee credit card. If you don't already have one, consider getting one.
2) Consider getting the Barclaycard Arrival Plus credit card for its 40,000 point signup bonus, which is good for $444.44 in travel charges. Travel charges include flights, train travel, hotels (hostels should be included too, etc.). It also gets 2.2% cash back and has no foreign transaction fee. Finally, it is a chip and PIN card, which is prevalent in Europe.
One caveat - travel charges need to be at least $25 for you to use your points against them.
3) Consider opening a Charles Schwab bank account if you don't already have one. It is an online only bank that reimburses ATM fees incurred at bank ATMs worldwide (it won't reimburse all fees incurred at those weird free standing ATMs). It also has no foreign exchange fees, so it is the best fee free way that I know of of getting foreign cash abroad.
4) Consider getting an airline card or two to use miles for your flights.


I wouldn't do tours. When I travel alone, I highly value my ability to just do whatever I want, whenever I want.

While I encourage you to save money on food, make sure to taste some good cuisine every so often =P. Part of the travel experience is the cuisine!


Enjoy your trip!

MrsCoolCat

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Re: Travelling solo through Europe
« Reply #7 on: February 21, 2015, 06:52:07 PM »
First, search on NorwegianLongHaul for flights. I found the cheapest were into Copenhagen, Oslo and Stockholm but they have cheap flights into southern France and other cities/countries, too. You just have to look. I had 3 single one way flights through Oslo, Barcelona and London for a bit less than $1k for my honeymoon. I went in September because it was cheaper than August.

Second, if you can apply for the Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card. Zero foreign transaction fees. On that note when in Barcelona make sure you tell them to charge you in Euros and not USD. It has to do with conversion rates and additional fees; trust me. God, I regret all my USD conversions now, but the dollar is also stronger now, too!

I live in South Florida, so I thought Berlin and Barcelona were not really expensive food, transport and entertainment wise. God London's like $28 one way just to take the train from Gatwick into the city and the ride is like 45minutes! It was like $28 in Oslo but you're not going there, and then I found out there was train that was 15min slower for $14! :-( And you can always eat German hotdogs for like $3 or Turkish kebobs for $6 in Berlin, LOL!

I never did tours but that's because I'm a foodie and prefer to walk a lot so I can eat more. :-) Plus in Europe they speak English so I don't think tours are necessary. Barcelona is a good walking city. London and Berlin not so much. Though I did hear that if you're white American and go to France they pretend like they don't know English because they want to know you're at least TRYING to make an effort to speak French in their country. I consider that pretty slick!

I love food but in London in particular I found Tesco and those chains pretty good and cheap with their $6 sandwich, drink and snack combo. Esp considering those friggin pounds and how much everything costs! Though off topic, they refunded our admission into Buckingham Palace on my credit card. To this day I still do not know why! London also has a lot of free museums! Try to go on a non-weekend!

Let me know if there are any other questions that I may be able to help with! Have fun and be safe. I am 30 now but I traveled alone through Berlin, Bangkok, Phuket and Seoul when I was 26. :-)
« Last Edit: February 21, 2015, 06:58:34 PM by MrsCoolCat »

fa

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Re: Travelling solo through Europe
« Reply #8 on: February 21, 2015, 07:17:00 PM »
Great trip!  I would definitely skip the tours and plan things alone.  The Eurail Pass is the best deal, especially with the many cities you want to visit.  Remember that Eurail is not valid in the UK.  So if you fly into London, I would get a cheap airline ticket to Paris or Brussels and then start the Eurail.

Have you considered coachsurfing for free lodging?  Just wondering if anyone has done that.  Europe is very expensive, and cutting out the cost of hostels would be huge.

LLCoolDave

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Re: Travelling solo through Europe
« Reply #9 on: February 21, 2015, 08:08:36 PM »
Sounds like a great trip. I took a similar trip in 2005. I think I paid $1000 for the plane ticket and another $1000 for a two month eurail pass. Back then the eurail pass was cheaper if you were under 27 yo. There will be additional surcharge for high speed trains and overnight trains. Hostels usually cost 20-25 euros and there were a few hostel booking websites where you could book a day or two in advance. Also a few times you got off a train and locals were offering extra bedrooms for the cost of a hostel.

daverobev

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Re: Travelling solo through Europe
« Reply #10 on: February 21, 2015, 08:24:03 PM »
You probably don't want to fly out of London (maybe UK generally, I forget) as there are surcharges. Paris is fine.

Eurostar takes a couple of hours from London to Paris. You will ideally have a chip + PIN credit or debit card... Not sure if the "kiwi" is NZ or just a nickname, but if US then there are very few cards that will work. Here is one https://www.sdfcu.org/emv-creditcards

"Europe is expensive!" - no it isn't. The Euro is weak at the moment. Compared to "bum fuck nowhere" (love that phrase) US then yeah, central London and Paris are going to be equivalent to.. Los Angeles and New York, Vancouver, Sydney, whatever. You can get fantastic food in rural France on the cheap. Baguettes, red wine, all that good stuff... all cheap.

I would suggest not trying to do too much as you'll just rubberneck, but of course you have to figure what works best for you. Do you just want to say "TICK leaning tower of Pisa" or "I spent a few days in a little French village looking at the architecture and sampling the wine and markets and..."

Strawberrykiwi75

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Re: Travelling solo through Europe
« Reply #11 on: February 22, 2015, 03:44:39 AM »
So excited for you!!! My daughter is planning the same thing about a month or two earlier than you.  We are looking at Eurail passes - they have a special going on a 15 day global pass that expires March 31st so look at that soon.  I was on the Ryanair website for a while and enjoyed the way they have it set up.  You could essentially search for the cheapest flight from anywhere to anywhere.  I thought that might narrow down what she could do flying and what she could do by train.  I also just found a website called Student Universe that specializes in flights for students.  I'm not sure the age cutoff - but it is something to check.

Enjoy!!!

Hope your daughter enjoys it! Please let me know if she has any tips from her journey :-)

Strawberrykiwi75

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Re: Travelling solo through Europe
« Reply #12 on: February 22, 2015, 03:49:25 AM »

While I encourage you to save money on food, make sure to taste some good cuisine every so often =P. Part of the travel experience is the cuisine!

Enjoy your trip!

oh don't worry I will definitely be eating the local food! I think in some places it can be very affordable too. I'll be aiming for the restaurants the locals go to, rather than the over-priced tourist traps! :-)

MsPeacock

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Re: Travelling solo through Europe
« Reply #13 on: February 22, 2015, 04:52:48 AM »
Sounds like a great trip. However, way too ambitious in terms of the number of places you hope to see with 6 weeks travel time . You will spend all your time schlepping to/from various train stations and hostels (or what have you) then you will spend actually seeing the places you want to go . I suggest cutting your list of possible destinations in half, if not reducing it even further than that. Six weeks just isn't long enough to cover all that ground. Europe will be there for you on another trip,  which you will definitely get to take. The more frequently you change locations the greater your transportation costs and more time lost to logistics. I suggest getting a book like fodors or lonely Planet t Europe and prioritize the places you really most want to see. You could spend a week in Paris and just scratch the surface, not including day trips to outlying areas .

Eurailused to be cheaper for those under age 26 and covered second class travel (which is more than adequate). It has been many years since I used a Eurail pass, so I have no idea what the current set up is . Depending on how much moving around you intend to do it may be cheaper to purchase individual tickets . The pass also required supplemental  fees for sleepers, etc.  You can't spend too many nights on the train without ending up absolutely ragged and exhausted . 

Foods has a pretty good and active forum that you may find helpful in planning your trip.

Albert

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Re: Travelling solo through Europe
« Reply #14 on: February 22, 2015, 06:04:22 AM »
Some comments from a native European :)

- Six weeks is a lot but not forever so be careful not trying to do too much. If you fly to London and want to go to Italy as well then I'd skip Berlin and perhaps Munich as well. They are really out of the way for that route.
- Some suggested flying Norwegian to Scandinavian cities. You might save on the fare, but then lose double on local prices. Those countries + Switzerland are the most expensive places to be in Europe. Plus a long way from Italy.
- I suggest combining train tickets bought beforehand and internal flights (could be cheaper)
- Italy is very hot in August and locals are all on vacation. Better to go there in September
- If you want to see Italian countryside rent a car. Should be no problem if you are already 25, just don't try to use it in Rome or Naples…
- There is now a HS train between Paris and Barcelona (takes ca 6 h) albeit flying might be cheaper. For my taste Barcelona is more interesting than Paris itself.

Have fun! :)

SnpKraklePhyz

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Re: Travelling solo through Europe
« Reply #15 on: February 22, 2015, 07:48:42 AM »
I was curious so I investigated Interrail.  Interrail is only available to European Union citizens (and a few others not in the EU but nearby).  An American would need to buy a Eurail pass (which is available in 2nd class as well as 1st class).  Interrail is cheaper but not an option for me.

thedayisbrave

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Re: Travelling solo through Europe
« Reply #16 on: February 22, 2015, 08:52:34 AM »
Don't have much time for a lengthy response but replying now and I'll follow up later. 

Be careful with RyanAir.  Super cheap but they have baggage restrictions and you can't bring on board more than a small carry-on or backpack.  I mean, you can, but they'll charge you up the butt so much so that you'd have been better off taking a normal airline that allows a checked bag. 

Hostels are definitely a great option, make sure you read online reviews.  I've used Hostelworld with great success.  If you're lucky, you can find some great places that are more like penthouse apartments than a hostel.. I did once in Budapest, it felt like living the lap of luxury :) Also AirBnB is decent too.  I was never much of a couch surfer but have friends who've done it and had good experiences.

Albert

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Re: Travelling solo through Europe
« Reply #17 on: February 22, 2015, 09:53:58 AM »
Ryanair is cheap as long as you can travel with a hand baggage which you probably can't coming from US for six weeks.

By the way if your budget is really tight the cheapest way to get from London to Paris is a bus (as little as 25 euros one way). That would waste the whole day, though.

mginwa

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Re: Travelling solo through Europe
« Reply #18 on: February 22, 2015, 10:18:26 AM »
I travel this way quite a bit. I'd recommend finding a flight in, a flight out, a starting point, and that's it. Don't buy or plan anything much in advance. If you're traveling on a budget, it may not be worth it to bother with a no-foreign-transaction fee credit card. Lots of places in Europe are still cash-only, so reimbursal of ATM fees is more worthwhile than 3% on a couple grand. Go to your starting city, go to your hostel, and start making friends. Wander about at will. Your new friends will also be travelers, and since they will probably be European, they will know of some beach somewhere they are going to next and wouldn't you like to come along? Of course you would! That sounds awesome!

Bring a backpack, don't bring a bunch of luggage. It will just slow you down. You don't need much, just a sense of adventure. Don't buy train tickets in advance. They are more expensive that way, oddly, and it's just unnecessary and it locks you in.

I like traveling in and out of Heathrow (cheapest for me, see friends in London) or Charles de Gaulle (get right on a train), but it doesn't matter much, just do whatever is best for getting back and forth to your home city. It might be worth it to have a flexible ticket if you have flexibility about your return date, but naturally those are more expensive. If you buy with miles you *can* have more flexibility. RyanAir sucks, I prefer EasyJet. But beware of the insane fees the discounters like to pile on for everything.

GET TRAVEL INSURANCE. It's super cheap and it's worth it.

Traveling this way, you probably won't get the whirlwind tour of capitol cities experience, but so what? You'll have a great time, a unique experience, and at another point in life you can easily pick a city, spend a week there, go home, rinse and repeat. I wouldn't bother with packaged tours. You can always get a day tour in a city if you want. Or you could just go with one of your new friends to get lunch and then check out that museum over there. Friends are key to the solo traveler, and then you have a friend to visit next time you head over!

Bon voyage!

Genevieve

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Re: Travelling solo through Europe
« Reply #19 on: February 22, 2015, 10:27:45 AM »
My husband and I went to Europe in the last half of September for twenty five days. We did a loop from Paris, flew to Berlin, visited Dresden to see a national park, back to Berlin, Amsterdam, and then down through Brussels to go back to Paris. We moved every 3-6 days.

There's a lot of overlap between your list and ours.

You have way too many places on your list, even for six weeks! Italy is large - that's like 2-3 weeks alone! What do you want to spend your time doing? Our priorities were art, history, cool cities, some nature for variety, and some small cities for variety.

Quote
Paris, Belgium, Amsterdam, Berlin, possibly Munich, Prague, Italy (Venice, Naples/Pompeii, Rome & Cinque Terre), Barcelona, and then back up through France stopping at heritage/cultural sights (such as Carcassone) along the way. I'll then fly out from Paris or London

Some considerations:
- London can be expensive to fly into. Check for other cities. They will probably be cheaper.
-I'd eliminate Barcelona and Prague. They're far out and you only mentioned one city in each country.
- You'll probably want to fly to Italy with a discount airline. It's quite a long train ride.
- Carcassone is in the south of France. It's quite far out if that's the only appeal of the area.
- Don't just do a big city tour! It gets boring to see the same thing in every city for six weeks.
- Check out Nomadic Matt for great tips.
- I like having a rough outline with major flights booked but not scheduling everything in advance.

You could spend a few days in London, do a 3 week loop in France, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, then about two weeks in Italy. It will mean moving every 3-4 days.

Tick-Tock

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Re: Travelling solo through Europe
« Reply #20 on: February 22, 2015, 10:28:55 AM »
Sounds like a great trip. However, way too ambitious in terms of the number of places you hope to see with 6 weeks travel time . You will spend all your time schlepping to/from various train stations and hostels (or what have you) then you will spend actually seeing the places you want to go . I suggest cutting your list of possible destinations in half, if not reducing it even further than that.

This is exactly what I was going to say.  With the number of places you have listed, it looks like you only have 3 or 4 days per city/area, and a lot of that time will be chewed up by traveling.  Cities like London, Paris, and Rome can keep you busy for a week just seeing the basics.  And the more you try to cram in, the less you're really experiencing. 

LRM

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Re: Travelling solo through Europe
« Reply #21 on: February 22, 2015, 10:29:33 AM »
Following, hope to travel more in the future

johnny847

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Re: Travelling solo through Europe
« Reply #22 on: February 22, 2015, 10:30:41 AM »
Lots of places in Europe are still cash-only, so reimbursal of ATM fees is more worthwhile than 3% on a couple grand.
I respectfully disagree. The forex fees on a couple grand is on the order of $60-$100. Remember how MMM said a millionaire is made 10 bucks at a time?
Also, more problematic IMO is that attitude. If the OP were to take that attitude for every single trip abroad, then the OP would never get a 0% forex fee card. The OP has expressed interest in returning to Europe later in life (and I assume that the OP also has other travel aspirations as well, typically people who travel like this can't stop traveling).
And finally, Europe is where chip and PIN is most prevalent in the world, so of all foreign countries or region of countries to get a no forex chip and PIN card for, Europe is the top.

GET TRAVEL INSURANCE. It's super cheap and it's worth it.
How cheap are we talking?


For more haphazard traveling as mginwa suggested, I think BlaBlaCar may suit you well http://millionmilesecrets.com/2015/02/22/will-using-blablacar-in-europe-save-you-money-time/

Genevieve

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Re: Travelling solo through Europe
« Reply #23 on: February 22, 2015, 10:38:47 AM »
Other tips:
Travel light. It's so nice to be able to just go. It was so easy to take a bit of time to do laundry or wash in the sink. With a six week trip you want down days anyways. (We have http://www.ospreypacks.com/en/product/backpacking/farpoint_40). There are often weight limits on budget airlines so be careful.

I agree with getting travel insurance. It's very expensive to get sick overseas. Travel insurance for one person for six weeks is somewhere around $100.

Also, I would recommend NOT getting a Eurorail pass. It's like $1,000 for a pass and you can only do the long haul trips that way. There are also booking fees on top of that! Just do a mix of buying in advance for cheap and buying the day of. The man in seat 61 is a great resource for figuring out the rail system in Europe.

Have fun!
« Last Edit: February 22, 2015, 10:43:39 AM by Genevieve »

SnpKraklePhyz

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Re: Travelling solo through Europe
« Reply #24 on: February 22, 2015, 11:04:45 AM »
I was just about to mention the man in seat 61.  Check it out!  Tons of information. http://www.seat61.com/

Albert

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Re: Travelling solo through Europe
« Reply #25 on: February 22, 2015, 11:31:23 AM »
- You'll probably want to fly to Italy with a discount airline. It's quite a long train ride.

Not if you want to stop in Cote d'Azur which I highly recommend on the way to Genoa and Cinque Terre.

NinetyFour

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Re: Travelling solo through Europe
« Reply #26 on: February 22, 2015, 01:11:52 PM »
Following...

train_writer

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Re: Travelling solo through Europe
« Reply #27 on: February 22, 2015, 01:35:18 PM »
I would second couchsurfing but not as your only option, always look for Airbnb or booking.com places to stay as an option! It doesn't HAVE to be expensive and couchsurfing only will be costing you a lot of time, both in preparation and last minute (what if your host doesn't answer at the last moment? will leave the house at 5:30am and expects you to leave as well, et cetera. Though I mostly have good experiences, this happens).
If you are very tight on budget, you can also try and contact organisations to eg. give a class about American history or smth, in exchange for lodging. I knew a guy who did that succesfully, but that does not bring you to the more famous cities like Amsterdam and Barcelona.

Also, busses are always cheaper than trains, but I don't know what kind of deal you can get on the eurail pass. Eurolines, the bigger mainland Europe bus company, also provides some passes and can be very cheap when booked in advance.
Wizzair is a good option besides Ryanair if you want to fly.

Supermarkets and markets are indeed a good option. In many countries, a microwave is provided in either a convenient store or super market -meant for warming baby milk, but also good to warm meals-.

Also, I would recommend not only visiting capitals, but you plan some stops in France like Carcassone so that is covered.

Have fun planning and try not to squeeze in too many places at a time.

Edit: As your title is 'travelling solo' and for some reason you have a day feeling alone, I could recommend looking for meetup.com in the bigger cities or to a nearby Irish pub. Also, ask for local events at the info or local paper that seem smallish or geared towards local people -ask help for translation if needed-.
« Last Edit: February 22, 2015, 01:38:39 PM by train_writer »

beee

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Re: Travelling solo through Europe
« Reply #28 on: February 22, 2015, 10:28:03 PM »
I traveled solo in Europe when I was 22, for 20+ days.
Here're my tips:

- Travel light! Bring just a backpack, you'll be truly free.
- Don't make much plans. Just let it go as it goes.
- In my travel, trains were always more expensive than Ryanair.
- Try hitchhiking at least once. It's hard to plan things if you hitchhike, but it's a lot of fun.
- Amsterdam: try everything :)
- Italy: eat, live, smile.
- Venice: google "venice crowded", leave it for next off-season time.


The most important one:
Places are nothing, people are everything. Speak with locals, with travelers, stay at hostels or couchsurf.

shadowmoss

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Re: Travelling solo through Europe
« Reply #29 on: February 23, 2015, 01:32:04 AM »
http://www.onebag.com/

A good start, or a refresher, on how to travel light, with just a carry on. 

http://www.ricksteves.com/

He also has a lot to say about traveling light.

Dexterous

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Re: Travelling solo through Europe
« Reply #30 on: February 23, 2015, 04:06:17 AM »
I've travelled to all of the places on your list, and certainly recommend you use ryanair.  Travel LIGHT, get a chip&pin credit card, and keep a copy of your passport/IDs somewhere separate from the originals.  The trains for the places you want to visit are not cheap.  Italy will be baddd in August/September.  It's very hot then and all the Italians are on holiday.  I'm not suggesting you cut Italy from the trip, but I'd consider less touristy places to visit... or at least reduce your planned time in the tourist spots there.

I suggest using Munich as a hub to visit the alps nearby (within Germany & Italy).  Then, I'd add Budapest to your list because it's my favorite European city (with Barcelona a close #2).

I lived in Northern Italy for 3 years, and traveled throughout Europe on a monthly basis... so let me know if you want detailed info for anything!  I'm actually headed back to Europe in 3 weeks from now for a month of travelling!

mginwa

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Re: Travelling solo through Europe
« Reply #31 on: February 23, 2015, 06:53:41 AM »
Lots of places in Europe are still cash-only, so reimbursal of ATM fees is more worthwhile than 3% on a couple grand.
I respectfully disagree. The forex fees on a couple grand is on the order of $60-$100. Remember how MMM said a millionaire is made 10 bucks at a time?
Also, more problematic IMO is that attitude. If the OP were to take that attitude for every single trip abroad, then the OP would never get a 0% forex fee card. The OP has expressed interest in returning to Europe later in life (and I assume that the OP also has other travel aspirations as well, typically people who travel like this can't stop traveling).
And finally, Europe is where chip and PIN is most prevalent in the world, so of all foreign countries or region of countries to get a no forex chip and PIN card for, Europe is the top.

GET TRAVEL INSURANCE. It's super cheap and it's worth it.
How cheap are we talking?

Well, exactly. $60 savings isn't great against a $100 annual credit card fee. It certainly depends, but my point is that the savings may or may not be worth it. If, like mine, your existing credit card already gives you great cash back benefits and has no fees, it might not be worthwhile to get an additional one. It's unwise to assume the 3% on a frugal travel budget is going to be worth an additional credit card; like everything it deserves a cost/benefit analysis. Applying for a credit card has a cost after all, in the form of a hard inquiry on your credit report. That may or may not be a good idea, depending on your situation. It just depends. I travel overseas a lot and in my own cost/benefit analysis, it hasn't been a good idea, but I travel on a low cost per day and pay mostly in cash. Your mileage may vary. However, my credit union checking account has no annual fee and reimburses ATM fees at home or abroad, so that has been the better bet for me.

My most recent Europe trip was $22.50 to insure. I paid for extra coverage because I was skiing, used insuremytrip.com. Having health insurance when you head overseas is reassuring and sometimes useful, and it allows you to change flights, etc. if you find yourself ill and unable to travel. I got a very bad flu at the end of my last trip and while I recovered sufficiently to keep my itinerary home, I was very unsure I was going to be able to do so. The insurance I had would have taken care of medical bills and changes to travel, had I needed it.

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Re: Travelling solo through Europe
« Reply #32 on: February 23, 2015, 07:09:59 AM »
+1 On traveling extremely light. Such a great feeling not having a second bag to worry about, and not having much weight in your only one.

+1 On hitchhiking. Western and central Europe are relatively safe places to do so. I've hitched through most of Europe during the course of 2 2-month trips and never had an incident. I've never even had to turn down a ride.

+1 On a card with chip+pin and no foreign transaction fee. If you can't find one with no annual fee, get something like the Chase Sapphire Preferred and close it before the annual fee kicks in.

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Re: Travelling solo through Europe
« Reply #33 on: February 23, 2015, 07:16:49 AM »
Don't buy train tickets in advance. They are more expensive that way, oddly, and it's just unnecessary and it locks you in.
Actually, the bargain tickets are often only available well in advance, at least in Germany and France. But they do come with restrictions so that you are tied to travelling on exactly the train you booked and can't usually transfer to a different one if you miss it. The man in seat 61 is a great resource, definitely check that out.

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Re: Travelling solo through Europe
« Reply #34 on: February 23, 2015, 09:42:33 AM »
Lots of places in Europe are still cash-only, so reimbursal of ATM fees is more worthwhile than 3% on a couple grand.
I respectfully disagree. The forex fees on a couple grand is on the order of $60-$100. Remember how MMM said a millionaire is made 10 bucks at a time?
Also, more problematic IMO is that attitude. If the OP were to take that attitude for every single trip abroad, then the OP would never get a 0% forex fee card. The OP has expressed interest in returning to Europe later in life (and I assume that the OP also has other travel aspirations as well, typically people who travel like this can't stop traveling).
And finally, Europe is where chip and PIN is most prevalent in the world, so of all foreign countries or region of countries to get a no forex chip and PIN card for, Europe is the top.

GET TRAVEL INSURANCE. It's super cheap and it's worth it.
How cheap are we talking?

Well, exactly. $60 savings isn't great against a $100 annual credit card fee. It certainly depends, but my point is that the savings may or may not be worth it. If, like mine, your existing credit card already gives you great cash back benefits and has no fees, it might not be worthwhile to get an additional one. It's unwise to assume the 3% on a frugal travel budget is going to be worth an additional credit card; like everything it deserves a cost/benefit analysis. Applying for a credit card has a cost after all, in the form of a hard inquiry on your credit report. That may or may not be a good idea, depending on your situation. It just depends. I travel overseas a lot and in my own cost/benefit analysis, it hasn't been a good idea, but I travel on a low cost per day and pay mostly in cash. Your mileage may vary. However, my credit union checking account has no annual fee and reimburses ATM fees at home or abroad, so that has been the better bet for me.

My most recent Europe trip was $22.50 to insure. I paid for extra coverage because I was skiing, used insuremytrip.com. Having health insurance when you head overseas is reassuring and sometimes useful, and it allows you to change flights, etc. if you find yourself ill and unable to travel. I got a very bad flu at the end of my last trip and while I recovered sufficiently to keep my itinerary home, I was very unsure I was going to be able to do so. The insurance I had would have taken care of medical bills and changes to travel, had I needed it.

Your first statement assumes that you need to pay an annual fee to get a no forex fee credit card, which is false. For example, all credit cards from Capital One have no forex fee, and some of their cards have no annual fee. There are also forex fee free credit cards that have an annual fee waived for the first year.

And I never said absolutely the OP should get a forex fee free credit card:
Quote from: johnny847
1) Use a no foreign transaction fee credit card. If you don't already have one, consider getting one.
You on the other hand initially said it's something to consider:
Quote from: mginwa
If you're traveling on a budget, it may not be worth it to bother with a no-foreign-transaction fee credit card.
But then later you later claim that reimbursal of ATM fees is more worthwhile than forex fees on a couple grand. You made this absolute claim when you just said it requires a cost/benefit analysis. You have no idea how much money the OP will actually spend with cash versus credit cards, if the OP already has many inquiries on his or her credit report making another credit inquiry undesirable, etc. You should let the OP do the cost/benefit analysis him or herself, not make assumptions. I too wouldn't recommend getting a new credit card if the OP already has a forex fee and annual fee free credit card, unless the OP really wants a chip+PIN card. I just said it's something to consider.


Hmm I've never considered travel insurance before, I need to look into that more...

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Re: Travelling solo through Europe
« Reply #35 on: February 23, 2015, 12:55:49 PM »
Big traveler here.  I haven't spent alot of time in Europe lately, except Paris & Amsterdam last year.   Some of these have already been touched on:
* for your age, hostels are perfect.  It's super easy to meet fellow travelers there.  I've found them to be very safe but bring a paddlock as many of them have lockers.
* between paris & amsterdam I found euroline bus ticket for $40 for an overnight ride.  Super easy and saved on a night's accommodation.
* safety - be wary of people that walk up to you on the street & try to give you something, sign a petition, tie a string on your arm, etc.  These are all scams or pickpockets.  Watch your things closely on public transportation.  I put my daypack on my front and wrap my arms around it.
* Packing - invest in a good travel size (checked baggage) backpack.  I spent $200 on an Eagle Creek 10 years ago and it was my best investment ever (have spent about 30+ months of my life living out of that backpack!)
* Some cities have city passes that allow you into loads of attractions for a fixed price per 1, 2, etc days.  These are a good value if you plan on doing alot of stuff in a given city.



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Re: Travelling solo through Europe
« Reply #36 on: February 23, 2015, 09:41:10 PM »
I did a bit of solo travelling in Europe at a 20-something woman. Fantastic experience, totally loved it. Previous posters are dead on with *too many places*, definitely cut down drastically, then consider cutting down further. I spent a month in Spain alone and only saw 2 major cities and 3 smaller towns, and that was a good perfect pace.
Stuff I learnt -
  • hostels are fabulous for meeting other young people who also want to go out and explore and have fun
  • European trains are fantastic. SO much better than flying. Use wherever possible.
  • do more homework than you think you need to - there will always be something unexpected but if you have planned well you will have contingencies
  • get travel insurance - actually I already knew this, but it should be reiterated any time someone asks about travel
  • sleeper trains are great IF you get a bunk. Sleeper seats (called couchettes I think) are horrible - you can recline fairly comfortably but you are basically sitting in an open carriage with dozens of others, and you don't feel safe to actually sleep (well, I didn't). A bunk in a room with a couple of other people and a locking door is a totally different experience, and very pleasant
  • find out about public holidays, when trains don't run and shops don't open. I ended up eating street food for Christmas lunch because we didn't plan ahead.
  • pack well. I used packing cells in my backpack and have since converted my whole extended family to them. Basically a fabric cube with a zipped side, so you can divide clothes into outfits, or one for tops, one for pants, one for undies. Makes packing SUPER quick and always neat, and if you have to unpack at the airport it doesn't phase you at all.
  • separate your money options. You should have at least two ways of getting money - and not traveller's checks or US$ - because you will be a target for pickpockets and they are extremely good. Like, beyond belief good. For example, one friend had a wallet stolen from his pants pocket while wearing a knee length coat over the top, and didn't even notice it happen.


Argh, too many things to say in a single lunch hour. Just visit Lonely Planet's Thorn Tree forum and you'll be sweet. They know everything over there. Though they are pretty condescending and critical - especially of your sort of itinerary!

Edited cause I'm not good at this formatting thing!
« Last Edit: February 23, 2015, 09:43:25 PM by Southern Saver »

zoltani

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Re: Travelling solo through Europe
« Reply #37 on: February 24, 2015, 12:28:54 PM »
Sounds like a great trip. However, way too ambitious in terms of the number of places you hope to see with 6 weeks travel time . You will spend all your time schlepping to/from various train stations and hostels (or what have you) then you will spend actually seeing the places you want to go . I suggest cutting your list of possible destinations in half, if not reducing it even further than that. Six weeks just isn't long enough to cover all that ground. Europe will be there for you on another trip,  which you will definitely get to take. The more frequently you change locations the greater your transportation costs and more time lost to logistics. I suggest getting a book like fodors or lonely Planet t Europe and prioritize the places you really most want to see. You could spend a week in Paris and just scratch the surface, not including day trips to outlying areas .

+1 to too many places for 6 weeks. Hell, I spent 18 days in the center of france alone!

You sure do have a lot of big cities on the list, why not visit more of the countryside? Maybe it is just me, but cities are boring after awhile, especially coming from another western city. I would reduce time in cities and increase time in countryside to see the real life of the people.

Albert

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Re: Travelling solo through Europe
« Reply #38 on: February 24, 2015, 12:51:18 PM »
Six weeks is a long time. It would be possible to cover France, Italy plus 2-3 smaller countries quite extensively in that time span even without being in a rush much of the time.

Sleeper train is a slowly dying breed across the continent. In just 5 years I've been living here we've lost all but one of them. Internal flight are considerably cheaper here than in US (for popular routes).

zoltani

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Re: Travelling solo through Europe
« Reply #39 on: February 24, 2015, 01:19:47 PM »
6 weeks is a great amount of time for a bike tour across europe! Cheaper than other forms of travel and you will see WAY more of the country and people.

intirb

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Re: Travelling solo through Europe
« Reply #40 on: February 24, 2015, 02:19:13 PM »
+1 to couchsurfing - I've done this, and I've always had a fantastic time!
+1 to hostels, if you can't find a couchsurfing host.  You can meet a bunch of great people that way, and the staff can point you in the direction of interesting walking tours etc.

-1 to skipping Berlin - Berlin is the greatest city ever!

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Re: Travelling solo through Europe
« Reply #41 on: February 24, 2015, 02:28:14 PM »
Don't have much time for a lengthy response but replying now and I'll follow up later. 

Be careful with RyanAir.  Super cheap but they have baggage restrictions and you can't bring on board more than a small carry-on or backpack.  I mean, you can, but they'll charge you up the butt so much so that you'd have been better off taking a normal airline that allows a checked bag. 

Hostels are definitely a great option, make sure you read online reviews.  I've used Hostelworld with great success.  If you're lucky, you can find some great places that are more like penthouse apartments than a hostel.. I did once in Budapest, it felt like living the lap of luxury :) Also AirBnB is decent too.  I was never much of a couch surfer but have friends who've done it and had good experiences.

With Ryanair, as long as you add your checked bag during your original purchase, it isn't expensive.  Showing up at the airport with an unpaid for bag will be insanely expensive, but if you plan ahead, it isn't.  Ryanair can be great.

I wouldn't even consider tours.  Check out Rick Steves.  He is amazing as a starting point.

I think that while you may not have too many cities for a 6 week trip, I think they are too spread out.  If you want to fly in to London, focus on England, Scotland, Ireland (Republic and Northern), a few stops in France, and either Spain or Germany.  Save anything further west for another trip, when you can to Italy and Prague and Budapest and Lake Bled Slovenia and Croatia and Greece and Austria. 

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Re: Travelling solo through Europe
« Reply #42 on: February 24, 2015, 02:33:54 PM »
Hostels are a great way to make new friends, especially if you're travelling alone.
Always be sure to have some cash on you -- a lot of places don't take credit. Some credit cards offer no foreign transaction fees and have travel insurance, and those can be really useful for booking your trip.

Someone mentioned to me that they used bla bla car to get around in Europe. It's a ridesharing program and it's supposed to be super cheap. I've never used it, but I've heard good things. It could be a really good way to get from city to city.

Nothlit

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Re: Travelling solo through Europe
« Reply #43 on: February 24, 2015, 03:33:49 PM »
I can't speak from past experience, but I will be traveling solo to Europe for 2 weeks later this spring and thought I'd share what I have decided to do (so far):

  • Total time in Europe: 14 days
  • Cities to visit: London (7 days), Brussels (half day, just passing through), Bruges (2 days), Antwerp (half day), Amsterdam (4 days)
  • Airfare: Flying Icelandair into London, out of Amsterdam. Layover in Keflavik. About $850 roundtrip from Boston.
  • Transportation: Eurostar train London-Brussels ($59), Thalys train Antwerp-Amsterdam (not booked yet)
  • Lodging: Hostels all the way. Shared dorm room in London, private rooms in Bruges and Amsterdam (avg. $35-40 per night)
  • Sightseeing: Free self-guided walking tours. Possibly "city pass" type deals for museums and other attractions if they are cost effective. Rent a bike and go for a ride through the countryside. Go on a canal ride.

I signed up for the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Mastercard back in December. I just reached the spending threshold this month and the 40,000 bonus points have already been credited to my account. I'll redeem for cash back in a few weeks (travel purchases can be redeemed against for up to 120 days).

I'm limiting myself to a single backpack for luggage. Bought a nice one from eBags for ~$60 around Christmastime.

I discovered a neat trick when buying my Eurostar ticket: If you go to their web site and tell it you are in the United States, it tries to add a $7 credit card fee (in addition to a lousy exchange rate on the actual fare in dollars). If you instead tell it you are in Belgium, there is no credit card fee, and your credit card will be charged in euros, resulting in a much cheaper fare, especially if you have a no-foreign-transaction-fee credit card. The web site doesn't seem to care where you really are. I think it just means they bill your credit card from a Belgian location rather than a stateside location, which must be cheaper for them.

The same holds true for booking hostels via Hostelworld and probably lots of other things. Always tell the web site to bill you in the native currency. You'll generally get a better exchange rate from your credit card than you would from the web site or merchant.

I originally started planning my trip wanting to see many more cities, but quickly realized how hectic and tiring that would be. So I limited myself to just a handful (only 3 of which will involve overnight stays; the other two will be for a few hours while passing through on the way to my next destination). A week in London will allow me to acclimate in a more familiar cultural context (no language barrier!), do some side trips to places like Cambridge, and get over the jet lag before moving on to the continent. I have already purchased a 6-day London Pass, which allows free admission into many museums and other sights. With a holiday discount they were running, it was about $150, which will break even after just a few attractions.

Maybe I'll follow up here with some lessons learned after my trip. :-)
« Last Edit: February 24, 2015, 03:39:35 PM by Nothlit »

Villanelle

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Re: Travelling solo through Europe
« Reply #44 on: February 24, 2015, 03:40:53 PM »
I can't speak from past experience, but I will be traveling solo to Europe for 2 weeks later this spring and thought I'd share what I have decided to do (so far):

  • Total time in Europe: 14 days
  • Cities to visit: London (7 days), Brussels (half day, just passing through), Bruges (2 days), Antwerp (half day), Amsterdam (3 days)
  • Airfare: Flying Icelandair into London, out of Amsterdam. Layover in Keflavik. About $850 roundtrip from Boston.
  • Transportation: Eurostar train London-Brussels ($59), Thalys train Antwerp-Amsterdam (not booked yet)
  • Lodging: Hostels all the way. Shared dorm room in London, private rooms in Bruges and Amsterdam (avg. $35-40 per night)
  • Sightseeing: Free self-guided walking tours. Possibly "city pass" type deals for museums and other attractions if they are cost effective. Rent a bike and go for a ride through the countryside. Go on a canal ride.

I signed up for the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Mastercard back in December. I just reached the spending threshold this month and the 40,000 bonus points have already been credited to my account. I'll redeem for cash back in a few weeks (travel purchases can be redeemed against for up to 120 days).

I'm limiting myself to a single backpack for luggage. Bought a nice one from eBags for ~$60 around Christmastime.

I discovered a neat trick when buying my Eurostar ticket: If you go to their web site and tell it you are in the United States, it tries to add a $7 credit card fee (in addition to a lousy exchange rate on the actual fare in dollars). If you instead tell it you are in Belgium, there is no credit card fee, and your credit card will be charged in euros, resulting in a much cheaper fare, especially if you have a no-foreign-transaction-fee credit card. The web site doesn't seem to care where you really are. I think it just means they bill your credit card from a Belgian location rather than a stateside location, which must be cheaper for them.

I originally started planning my trip wanting to see many more cities, but quickly realized how hectic and tiring that would be. So I limited myself to just a handful (only 3 of which will involve overnight stays; the other two will be for a few hours while passing through on the way to my next destination). A week in London will allow me to acclimate in a more familiar cultural context (no language barrier!), do some side trips to places like Cambridge, and get over the jet lag before moving on to the continent. I have already purchased a 6-day London Pass, which allows free admission into many museums and other sights. With a holiday discount they were running, it was about $150, which will break even after just a few attractions.

Maybe I'll follow up here with some lessons learned after my trip. :-)

Most museums in London are free without a pass, I believe, so for most people, the expense of the pass isn't worth it.

I highly recommend the London Walks tours. They have dozens of tours at all rimes of day and days of the week.  We did two--a pub crawl/historical, and one that started near the Tower of London and focused on Greenwich.  Both were superb, and IIRC, they were fairly cheap.  And I loved that you don't have to pre-book.  Just show up at the designated time and place.  I hate having a strict schedule when I travel, so I liked being able to go only if it fit my time and mood. 

Check out their website and see if they have tours that interest you. 

NathanP

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Re: Travelling solo through Europe
« Reply #45 on: February 24, 2015, 03:51:12 PM »
I can't speak from past experience, but I will be traveling solo to Europe for 2 weeks later this spring and thought I'd share what I have decided to do (so far):

  • Total time in Europe: 14 days
  • Cities to visit: London (7 days), Brussels (half day, just passing through), Bruges (2 days), Antwerp (half day), Amsterdam (4 days)
  • Airfare: Flying Icelandair into London, out of Amsterdam. Layover in Keflavik. About $850 roundtrip from Boston.
  • Transportation: Eurostar train London-Brussels ($59), Thalys train Antwerp-Amsterdam (not booked yet)
  • Lodging: Hostels all the way. Shared dorm room in London, private rooms in Bruges and Amsterdam (avg. $35-40 per night)
  • Sightseeing: Free self-guided walking tours. Possibly "city pass" type deals for museums and other attractions if they are cost effective. Rent a bike and go for a ride through the countryside. Go on a canal ride.

I signed up for the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Mastercard back in December. I just reached the spending threshold this month and the 40,000 bonus points have already been credited to my account. I'll redeem for cash back in a few weeks (travel purchases can be redeemed against for up to 120 days).

I'm limiting myself to a single backpack for luggage. Bought a nice one from eBags for ~$60 around Christmastime.

I discovered a neat trick when buying my Eurostar ticket: If you go to their web site and tell it you are in the United States, it tries to add a $7 credit card fee (in addition to a lousy exchange rate on the actual fare in dollars). If you instead tell it you are in Belgium, there is no credit card fee, and your credit card will be charged in euros, resulting in a much cheaper fare, especially if you have a no-foreign-transaction-fee credit card. The web site doesn't seem to care where you really are. I think it just means they bill your credit card from a Belgian location rather than a stateside location, which must be cheaper for them.

The same holds true for booking hostels via Hostelworld and probably lots of other things. Always tell the web site to bill you in the native currency. You'll generally get a better exchange rate from your credit card than you would from the web site or merchant.

I originally started planning my trip wanting to see many more cities, but quickly realized how hectic and tiring that would be. So I limited myself to just a handful (only 3 of which will involve overnight stays; the other two will be for a few hours while passing through on the way to my next destination). A week in London will allow me to acclimate in a more familiar cultural context (no language barrier!), do some side trips to places like Cambridge, and get over the jet lag before moving on to the continent. I have already purchased a 6-day London Pass, which allows free admission into many museums and other sights. With a holiday discount they were running, it was about $150, which will break even after just a few attractions.

Maybe I'll follow up here with some lessons learned after my trip. :-)

Nothlit looks like a good plan and smart move on booking the open-jaw (into London and back from Amsterdam). Many times travelers waste time and money backtracking to their original arrival city. The only suggestion that I would make for your next trip would be to use airline miles to book your flight instead of (or in addition to) getting a cash back card. For example, if you avoid peak summer dates, you can get a round trip on American Airlines for 40,000 miles plus a few bucks in taxes. Citi has an AA card that usually yields a 50k bonus and American Express has the SPG card where you can convert the SPG points to AA miles. Tip, avoid booking flights on partner British Airways as they add fuel surcharges to the award bookings.

Making the leap from simple cash back to airlines miles can be very rewarding if you can plan ahead and know your options. Frequently I can book travel where my airline miles are valued at 2+ cents each. If you take cash, typically you are getting 1 cent/point.
« Last Edit: February 24, 2015, 03:55:02 PM by NathanP »

mandy_2002

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Re: Travelling solo through Europe
« Reply #46 on: February 24, 2015, 05:00:50 PM »
I go on solo trips a lot, and have been to Europe solo 3 times in the last 3 years. 
1) Travel with a single bag.  If you have a shoulder bag or other carry on, try to pack so that it fits in the other bag.  This is for convenience and cheap airlines.  I use a CabinMax "guaranteed to fit" bag, that has worked wonderfully with my trips. 
a) Pack enough clothes for 6-8 day max.  I've done clothes in the sink, and gone to a laundromat.  You can meet some great people in the laundromats.  I pack a few Purex all in one sheets (with soap, softener and anti-static on a cloth).  They are compact and don't take up your liquids limit.  I believe that they are discontinued now, but I found a bag on ebay or Amazon, and have just been using them for travel. 
b) You don't need to go this far, but I have a couple pair of ExOfficio underwear.  They are easy to wash, and dry in under an hour.  In the past, I had a small packing cube just for undies, so I no longer tote that one around. 
c) If you're worried about your liquids stash, don't be.  You can always find shampoo, toothpaste, and lotion in other countries.  If you can't find a small size of something, you can buy a normal bottle, refill your small bottle, and offer your roommates or other hostelers a refill as well. 
2)  I'm a planner.  I know that people say planning stops you from seeing the best things, I think it keeps me on track to see and experience what I want to.  I give myself x days in an area (between my major flights), and try to plan my lodging ahead of time.  Not everyone does that.  The planning ahead has worked tremendously in my favor, though.  The discount airlines can give some pretty great fares for one way trips.  I did a triangle from Amsterdam to Rome to Madrid and back to Amsterdam (3 flights) for less than $250 total.  My flight from Madrid to Amsterdam was on Air Iberia, and cost $54 ($20 fare with 27$ taxes/fees). 

Exhale

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Re: Travelling solo through Europe
« Reply #47 on: February 24, 2015, 09:30:07 PM »
Read When Wanderers Cease to Roam by Vivian Swift for an ode to wonderful ways to travel...

Your most value resource is time. Time to slow down, savor where you are and connect. When I've left myself open, am respectfully curious, ask questions and really listen - wonderful things happen, I get invited to dinner, meet families, go to classes/weddings/picnics, learn to cook a local dish, share a car with new friends and taking a road trip someplace wonderful, etc.

My best travel moments were found off the beaten path:
- Staying at a farmhouse in Normandy, making butter by hand, seeing the Bayeux Tapestry
- Stumbling on a Walloon-language puppet show for local kids in Liege (Belgium)
- Watching flamingos at sunset in the Camargue (France)
- Walking along the Nile or the Seine in the early morning as the city wakes
- Eating at a bar in Valencia along with all the other Spaniards on their lunch hour
- Walking along the top of a hidden Roman wall in the midst of Paris

You could do your proposed itinerary in 6 weeks, but will probably miss out on a lot due to constantly moving. I suggest thinking something along of the lines of:
1) Paris/Normandy, Brussels/Antwerp, Amsterdam/country bike ride = one trip
2) Berlin, possibly Munich, Prague = one trip
3) Italy (Venice, Naples/Pompeii, Rome & Cinque Terre) = one trip
4) Barcelona and then back up through France = one trip

- Pack very very light
- Get travel insurance
- Bring a little photo album - people love to see your life, helps make you more real
- Bring postcards to give as gifts
- Rick Steves has great info. Airbnb, etc. are good options

Have fun!
« Last Edit: February 24, 2015, 09:33:42 PM by Exhale »

Dexterous

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  • Age: 33
  • Location: Italy
Re: Travelling solo through Europe
« Reply #48 on: February 25, 2015, 02:41:12 AM »
I go on solo trips a lot, and have been to Europe solo 3 times in the last 3 years. 
1) Travel with a single bag.

b) You don't need to go this far, but I have a couple pair of ExOfficio underwear.  They are easy to wash, and dry in under an hour.

^^ Good stuff...
I travel with a single bag also, and wear the same underwear...hah.  :)

NykkiC

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  • Location: Australian in Tbilisi, Georgia
Re: Travelling solo through Europe
« Reply #49 on: February 25, 2015, 04:17:43 AM »
I solo'ed around Europe on my own for a month just over a year ago (UK, Norway, Sweden, Poland, Denmark), so these are the things that I wish I had known before I left or that I figured out along the way

On the travel side:
1) I didn't find the rail pass useful (I got one for the couple of days I was traveling the most). After that, I took buses (I was very impressed with Polskibus). Yes, it takes time but you do get to see a lot of scenery and use it as downtime so you can pack more into the time you have once you arrive
2) Backpack rather than suitcase (I was coming off a previous trip then a semester abroad so I couldn't do it myself but boy do I wish I could've) plus a small backpack
3) Check which airport you fly into, particularly if you are flying budget. That goes double for Ryanair
4) Try to only plan so half your time is visiting tourist attractions. Spend the rest of the time walking around, enjoying things that are off the beaten track
5) Google maps + screenshots FTW. Before each leg of the trip, try to find wifi and take lots and lots of screenshots of any route/area you might need to know before the next place you're likely to get wifi (most places in Western Europe, can't speak for Eastern Europe)
6) Free or cheap doesn't mean bad, but then you're a Mustachian so you already know that
7) Book hostels through hostelworld.com or the like. I start by sorting by lowest price, opening the one that I would be prepared to pay for with ratings over 70% or equivalent then reading the reviews until I found one I'm happy with
8) Look at the attractions tab on Tripadvisor for the place you're visiting and sort by most popular. I've found a lot of interesting things to do that didn't appear in my guidebooks
9) Moneybelt under clothes with back-up money options are a necessity. Its not confortable, its not fashionable but its a godsend
10) Don't take anything you can afford to lose/damage/have stolen

On the solo side:
1) Keep in touch with one person consistantly throughout the whole trip. They need to know at least what city you're in at all times but preferably also what you intend to do that day. The moment your plans change, they need to know. I get that this can seem restrictive and hopefully nothing will happen that makes it necessary but that way there's someone who can sound the alarm if you don't check in
2) Have at least two ways of contacting your check-in person. If you're likely to be going somewhere where neither will work, warn them and check-in the moment you can
3) Remember that you have no reliable personal back-up so avoid situations where you're likely to be vulnerable. I know that traveling through Europe is meant to be a party but I thin I had a total of two beers the whole time, both times while with friends I had made at hostels and felt comfortable around (then again, as a 19 year old girl traveling alone, I was probably more paranoid than you need to be)
4) Over, over plan and have all emergency information clearly written down and on you at all times (eg. travel insurance info) because you just won't think about it at the time
5) Make friends at hostels all along the way, and try to see at least some attractions with company. It makes some things more fun and its that little bit safer

TL;DR
Be frugal in your travel, diligent in your planning and sensible with your safety and you will have a blast :D