Author Topic: Travelling solo through Europe  (Read 20485 times)

Nothlit

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 398
Re: Travelling solo through Europe
« Reply #50 on: February 25, 2015, 08:55:45 AM »
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.

This is definitely something I plan to investigate next time. For this trip, though, I wanted to go ahead and book rather than have to wait to earn the points. I realize it's possible to do better, but I'm still pleased with what will be, after cash back, a ~$400 roundtrip ticket.

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

Understood. I went through the list of (non-free) attractions which are covered by the pass and added up the total cost of the ones I'm interested in seeing, and it was cheaper to get the pass. But I agree that may not be true for everyone, especially for shorter visits. I figure with a week I'll have time to use the pass to its fullest extent. And even if I just barely break even, the pass offers line-skipping benefits at some attractions, which may be worthwhile. I'm fully prepared to admit after the trip if the pass turned out to not be worth it, but for now I still think it makes sense for me.
« Last Edit: February 25, 2015, 08:58:13 AM by Nothlit »

YoungAndWise

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 49
Re: Travelling solo through Europe
« Reply #51 on: February 25, 2015, 09:21:44 AM »
As someone living and studying in Europe atm, it is a great idea.  Definitely visit the major cities for your first visit, even though you might want to visit more.

(Which is understandable.  I have travel out at least one time per month and still have not seen all the places I want to. And probably not when I get back.)

Strawberrykiwi75

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 108
  • Location: New Zealand
Re: Travelling solo through Europe
« Reply #52 on: February 26, 2015, 03:03:50 AM »
So much advice!! Lol. Thanks everyone so far for your contributions! I'm actually finding it quite hard to plan this trip.

I'll get the more utilitarian stuff out the way first :-)
*I'm an experienced back packer, but I've only done Asia (backpacking). So I have all the gear, like an awesome pack with detachable lighter backpack
*I'm a Kiwi and also have a UK passport. I think this may make some things cheaper for me (as I can claim to be a citizen of the EU I guess, so long as they don't ask for proof of address), but still researching how much actual benefit I will have from this...
*I work in a bank, so I get subsidized travel insurance, a no-transaction-fees ATM card & credit card (with PIN & chip, we only have these in NZ)- WAHOO for work perks!
*I've heard couchsurfing can be awesome but I've also heard of near-literal horror stories... especially as a woman, I'm a little nervous about this... any ladies about there have any thoughts about this? I am very capable of defending myself (hurrah for self-defence in NZ girls schools, a few boxing lessons and older brothers lol) if needed but don't really want to be in the position where I need to if I can avoid it...
*I'm not that fussed about flying versus trains so long as I'm not wasting a lot of time. Does sitting in an airport awaiting to clear customs count as wasting time? To me, it does. I hate these periods. At least with a train I'm still technically moving and I can watch the scenery right? And trains are faster than buses, plus I think more comfortable? (correct me if I am wrong about the comfort, I live in the South Island of NZ and our trains are only for tourists here, so I am NOT speaking from experience) But maybe I should get individual tickets rather than a rail pass...
*I LOVE the atmosphere of a hostel :-) I have never failed to make lots of friends while staying at a hostel, and I think that's a big part of the fun on an awesome trip like this!
*I used to speak fluent French and although rusty, I believe languages are like riding a bike... you never forget. Last time I was in a French-speaking country I was speaking reasonably OK after 2 days. So I hope that this will be a useful skill!
*Since a few people have mentioned it- I said Carcassonne because I spent 6 weeks every summer in the South of France when I was a teenager. It's an area filled with memories :-) But it was just an example, there are lots of towns/villages/areas I will visit but haven't mentioned because to most people they won't mean anything. The leg from Barcelona to Paris is one where I will take my time if I can. 

What I want to do:
*I'm still young enough that I want to go out and 'party' and drink and bar-hop. But I'm old enough that I don't want to do it every night- or even every second!
* I love immersing myself in the local culture. So for me, this means sitting and having a glass of wine on a street corner and watching the world go by. It means walking around looking at the architecture and going to the markets and listening to everyday life. It means that if I am in a park and there's an aerobics or dance class or whatever going on, I join in.
*I love museums, castles, churches, art galleries and other places of historical note. I can't get enough of them. I was the child who you couldn't get to leave until they had done every interactive activity and read every plaque. I still am!
*I have a sense of adventure, so I like going off the beaten track, trying new activities and I'm not too scared to try anything adrenaline filled either...
So I need to incorporate a bit of all of the above in this trip!

Where to go
Awwwww this is the really hard bit- trimming the fat, as it were. I really want to fit them all in! Even this list cuts out HUGE chunks of where I want to go. But I know I may need to. Still looking at this, but if needed I will look to cut out the Eastern side as it is the logical step.
I still want to do the full itinerary but considering this:
Amsterdam, Brussels, fly to Naples, travel from there via train up to Rome, Cinque Terre, around the Cote d'Azure down to Barcelona, back up to Carcassonne, and then on up through France stopping off here and there. A couple days in Paris (I have been maybe 6 times so don't need a very long time there, perhaps just 2-3 full days), and then Eurostar to London and finish there instead of start? I looked into it and it would be cheaper for me to fly into Amsterdam too.

Thanks to the people as well who mentioned the main in seat 61...

Polaria

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 224
  • Age: 41
  • Location: Brussels - Belgium
Re: Travelling solo through Europe
« Reply #53 on: February 26, 2015, 06:10:35 AM »
Out of curiosity, what do you intend to visit in Belgium? Personally I would just visit Bruges, maybe the Grand-Place of Brussels if you really want to see it.
« Last Edit: February 26, 2015, 06:13:16 AM by Polaria »

Albert

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1254
  • Location: Switzerland
Re: Travelling solo through Europe
« Reply #54 on: February 26, 2015, 11:31:33 AM »
Out of curiosity, what do you intend to visit in Belgium? Personally I would just visit Bruges, maybe the Grand-Place of Brussels if you really want to see it.

Lot's to see in Belgium, certainly not just Bruges. I was there for 4 days three years ago and it wasn't enough...

Albert

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1254
  • Location: Switzerland
Re: Travelling solo through Europe
« Reply #55 on: February 26, 2015, 11:33:20 AM »
To original poster: you are very experienced traveler for such a young age. From your original post I think most of us got an impression that it will be your first time traveling around Europe...

Strawberrykiwi75

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 108
  • Location: New Zealand
Re: Travelling solo through Europe
« Reply #56 on: February 26, 2015, 11:47:49 AM »
To original poster: you are very experienced traveler for such a young age. From your original post I think most of us got an impression that it will be your first time traveling around Europe...

Sorry I didn't mean to give a false impression at all- BUT it is my first time travelling Europe really. I know France well because I have family there and acted as an au pair for my niece & nephew in return for the free trip! This started when I was 14, and ended when I was 17 but then I also did a school trip
when I was 18. So I know the towns around where I was, but wasn't able to travel as I will now. I speak French from studying it in school & university, and it is something I used to speak with my mother before she died.

This is effectively my first Europe trip, which is why I have asked for advice. I know Asia very well but I feel that is very different to backpacking Europe

MrSal

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 881
Re: Travelling solo through Europe
« Reply #57 on: February 26, 2015, 04:54:42 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! :-)

Ive done this inumerous times.

Last time was this summer with my wife, for 6 weeks. We spent total about 1500 hundred dollars per person for 6 weeks including accomodation, food, travel, and so forth. And thats because we splurged a little bit in the end.

If you can, dont go the planned tours way. Its wayyy more expensive.

Since you're not European I assume, getting a Eurorail pass is really expensive as well, not worth it in my opinion since it can get way more expensive than just buying point to point tickets outright.

If you do a little planning, you can find great deals on train rides as little as 30 bucks from London to Paris for example.

In a lot of countries actually, such as Germany, Portugal, Spain, Austria you dont even need to buy the tickets too far ahead. If you buy them 2 days in advance you get 50% discount outright on the price. If you go towards the eastern side of europe, theres actually no need to buy them before hand since the tickets are fixed prices, and even if you buy a Eurorail you still have to pay the reservation fees and so on, which if you buy the ticket outright is already included.

For example my itinerary this summer was:

Lisbon --> Berlin --> Dresden --> Prague --> Krakow --> Budapest --> Vienna --> Bratislava --> Bled --> Ljubljana  --> Hallstatt --> Innsbruck --> Zurich --> Basel --> Milhouse-ville --> Marseille --> Perpignan --> Barcelona --> Madrid --> Seville --> Algarve

Here's our map:



Download the app from D Bahn and it has ALL the train schedules of all europe pretty much!

Hostels will cost you from 10-17 dollars a night depending where you are... food is rather cheap especially if most of it is supermarket. We usually went out to dinner on a fancy restaraunt each city... then the rest we'd mostly cook ourselves and to other people in the hostel - a good way to make lots of friends :D

You cant buy an interrail pass since youre not european as someone else said. You can only buy eurorail and they are first class, and a total ripoff.

You dont need to book hostels that far ahead either. Usually, Id book a city in advance... so for example on my itinerary, during my trip to Dresden Id start looking and researching for Prague and so on. Leave the research part when you are traveling. 3-4-5-6-7-8-or even 10 hours in a train will give you plenty of time to research train schedules, and other info.
« Last Edit: February 26, 2015, 04:58:42 PM by MrSal »

Capsu78

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 708
  • Location: Chicagoland
Re: Travelling solo through Europe
« Reply #58 on: February 26, 2015, 05:23:22 PM »

"You dont need to book hostels that far ahead either. Usually, Id book a city in advance... so for example on my itinerary, during my trip to Dresden Id start looking and researching for Prague and so on. Leave the research part when you are traveling. 3-4-5-6-7-8-or even 10 hours in a train will give you plenty of time to research train schedules, and other info."

As a trip planner, I had difficulty "letting go" of pre arrangement, but last September I did an Octoberfest to Paris route.  I only had a room in Munich and started talking to other travelers and some EU FB connects asking for recommendations.  I found people along the way who said "oh you should go here, or here.  In one restaurant I was talking to the bartender and a stranger chimed in, jumped in his smart phone and confirmed there was a bunch of reasonable hotels options within blocks of the train station in my next town.  I ended up liking every place I went.

MrSal

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 881
Re: Travelling solo through Europe
« Reply #59 on: February 26, 2015, 07:58:23 PM »

"You dont need to book hostels that far ahead either. Usually, Id book a city in advance... so for example on my itinerary, during my trip to Dresden Id start looking and researching for Prague and so on. Leave the research part when you are traveling. 3-4-5-6-7-8-or even 10 hours in a train will give you plenty of time to research train schedules, and other info."

As a trip planner, I had difficulty "letting go" of pre arrangement, but last September I did an Octoberfest to Paris route.  I only had a room in Munich and started talking to other travelers and some EU FB connects asking for recommendations.  I found people along the way who said "oh you should go here, or here.  In one restaurant I was talking to the bartender and a stranger chimed in, jumped in his smart phone and confirmed there was a bunch of reasonable hotels options within blocks of the train station in my next town.  I ended up liking every place I went.

Yup that's why we wanted to keep flexible. For example in dresden we were going to stay only for two nights... We ended up staying four nights because the group in the hostel was amazing... We all had so much fun and we all stayed extra... Another was  a guy told us about Halstatt so we went there. I like to be flexible and we didn't have a route planned per se...  We had a general idea of direction but nothing too specific...

Villanelle

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3132
Re: Travelling solo through Europe
« Reply #60 on: March 03, 2015, 12:57:02 PM »
Don't worry about time wasted in customs.  I believe all those countries are part of the Schengen agreement, which means no customs or immigration.  The most you'll do is pick the "nothing to declare" door when you exit.  You'll do customs when you first enter the Schengen zone, but even that, IME, is far, far more efficient than I've ever experiences in the States and many other places.

But once you are in and just bouncing from Barcelona to France, for example, it is essentially like domestic travel. 

intirb

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 80
Re: Travelling solo through Europe
« Reply #61 on: March 04, 2015, 04:34:01 PM »
*I've heard couchsurfing can be awesome but I've also heard of near-literal horror stories... especially as a woman, I'm a little nervous about this... any ladies about there have any thoughts about this? I am very capable of defending myself (hurrah for self-defence in NZ girls schools, a few boxing lessons and older brothers lol) if needed but don't really want to be in the position where I need to if I can avoid it...

I'm one of the people who mentioned couchsurfing, and I'm a woman.  I've never had anything horrible happen to me - stick with highly-rated hosts, preferably a group of people of mixed gender.  Trust your instincts.  Be sensible, and I think you'll be fine.  There is truly no better way to experience a foreign country than through the eyes of a local.  The worst that's ever happened to me was a last-minute cancellation, and you can book a hostel or find another host in those rare cases.

That said...

*I LOVE the atmosphere of a hostel :-) I have never failed to make lots of friends while staying at a hostel, and I think that's a big part of the fun on an awesome trip like this!

...

*I'm still young enough that I want to go out and 'party' and drink and bar-hop. But I'm old enough that I don't want to do it every night- or even every second!

Hostels aren't a bad option either.  I've had a lot of fun at hostels too and met some great people to spend time with. 

Lian

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 141
Re: Travelling solo through Europe
« Reply #62 on: March 04, 2015, 04:37:41 PM »
This sounds like a wonderful trip!. Following the post so I can learn from the many useful tips, and in hopes of a followup post on your trip.

kvaruni

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 92
  • Location: Northern Ireland, UK
Re: Travelling solo through Europe
« Reply #63 on: March 05, 2015, 09:23:08 AM »
Out of curiosity, what do you intend to visit in Belgium? Personally I would just visit Bruges, maybe the Grand-Place of Brussels if you really want to see it.

Lot's to see in Belgium, certainly not just Bruges. I was there for 4 days three years ago and it wasn't enough...

I would agree. In fact, I would avoid Bruges. I have been all over Europe and lived in plenty of cities in Belgium, and Bruges definitely isn't on the top of my list. Just go off the beaten track and avoid provincial capitals cities like Bruges, Ghent or Antwerp. Same goes for The Netherlands. Places like Kortrijk, Oudenaarde, Mechelen, Tienen, Spa, Huy, Ath ... are so much more interesting and you avoid the typical tourist traps. Anyway, your trip is so long, and tries to cover so many places that you really need to sketch things out a bit more for us to give any solid advice :). Europe is very diverse with a rich history, so everyone town and city has something awesome to offer!

Just a few more words of advice: how about Ireland and Northern Ireland? Beautiful, sometimes cheap, and very different from England. How about flying from Paris to Dublin, move up to Belfast, and then fly to Manchester? or Glasgow? Easy enough to get from any of these cities to London whenever you want. Ow, and try to avoid Ryanair if you can use Aer Lingus. Might be a bit more expensive, but if you run into any problems you will be glad you went for Aer Lingus ... . It should also be cheaper than Eurostar. Finally, places like Slovenia, Poland, Iceland ... will take your breath away yet aren't on your itinerary, so think carefully what you want to get out of this trip. That being said, small places like Slovenia will make you pay through your nose to visit their castles, as it is one of the few sources of tourist income they have.

I will keep an eye on this topic, so just fire away if you have any specific questions. Especially Ireland/Belgium/south of The Netherlands/north of France are my speciality, but I know plenty of people all over Europe as well.

zoltani

  • Guest
Re: Travelling solo through Europe
« Reply #64 on: March 05, 2015, 10:41:29 AM »
I'm surprised as so many Moustachians only going to the stereotypical places in Europe. 

If you want a good return from your money, go to Poland and east/south (Poland, Czech Republic, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Macedonia, Hungary, Slovakia, etc.).

These countries will make your dollar go much farther (it's like choosing between two equally risky investment with estimates of 3% or 7% returns...) and they have the same pluses that all the more popular destinations have:
- People speak English in these countries too
- These countries are mostly in the EU (which equals security as an American citizen and no hassle when travelling there)
- Great history (you like WWI? Churches? Buildings from the 12th century? Castles? Art? It's all there too...)
- Less tourists (because everyone and their mother prefer to waste $$ in Paris and London and have no problem spending $16 for a $2 baguette)

So...bottom line, if you knew you could see/explore an equally rich culture but pay less for food and pay the same amount for lodging (but get a hostel in one and a hotel room in another)...why would you pay more?
-

Yes! I've spent a lot of time in Hungary, and Budapest is a great city. Last time I was there I thought it was nicer than Paris, a lot changed in 5 years it is crazy!

My favorite destination so far was Bosnia. Lovely people, culture, and history. Mostar is an amazing town, and not far from the Croatian coast.

I honestly think that most Americans idea of Paris is from the days of Hemingway, turn of the 20th century. That Paris does not exist! There is a false romanticized idea of Paris. It would be like going to San Francisco with an idea of the beat generation or hippies, that time is OVER.

Albert

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1254
  • Location: Switzerland
Re: Travelling solo through Europe
« Reply #65 on: March 05, 2015, 12:29:13 PM »
I'm surprised as so many Moustachians only going to the stereotypical places in Europe. 

If you want a good return from your money, go to Poland and east/south (Poland, Czech Republic, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Macedonia, Hungary, Slovakia, etc.).

These countries will make your dollar go much farther (it's like choosing between two equally risky investment with estimates of 3% or 7% returns...) and they have the same pluses that all the more popular destinations have:
- People speak English in these countries too
- These countries are mostly in the EU (which equals security as an American citizen and no hassle when travelling there)
- Great history (you like WWI? Churches? Buildings from the 12th century? Castles? Art? It's all there too...)
- Less tourists (because everyone and their mother prefer to waste $$ in Paris and London and have no problem spending $16 for a $2 baguette)

So...bottom line, if you knew you could see/explore an equally rich culture but pay less for food and pay the same amount for lodging (but get a hostel in one and a hotel room in another)...why would you pay more?
-

I see this advice from time to time, but if your dream is to see Rome and swim in Mediterranean Poland will be a poor substitute. Let's not kid ourselves, there is a lot more to see in Italy than in Bulgaria or Lithuania. Not that the latter are unworthy of a visit, but I wouldn't start there.

Bicycle_B

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1821
  • Mustachian-ish in Live Music Capital of the World
Re: Travelling solo through Europe
« Reply #66 on: March 05, 2015, 05:18:48 PM »
Along with hostels, you could check out couchsurfing.com.

My housemate is planning to use this on a trip to Istanbul next month.

Re traveling light, here's a fun link to a couple who went 21 days in Europe with nothing but one change of clothes and a tiny purse:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2503328/Craziest-OkCupid-date-Couple-21-day-European-trip.html

Villanelle

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3132
Re: Travelling solo through Europe
« Reply #67 on: March 06, 2015, 12:31:28 PM »

That sounds a bit like hipster "I shun anything other people like because it makes me look interesting".  I'd wager I've seen more of Europe than most posters.  And while I've been to some great smaller cities and towns (Rothenburg Ob Der Tauber comes to mind as one example) and enjoyed them tremendously, Venice and Rome were head and shoulders above.  I didn't love some of the big-ticket cities (Paris, for example).  But by and large, there is a reason the most famous cities are the most famous. 

I'm heading to Slovenia next month.  So again, I'm not opposed to the out of the way locations, nor am I immune to their charms.  But I think it smacks of snobbery to judge people if they want to prioritize the cities they've grown up hearing about. 

Also, given that millions of people live and work in Paris and London, it's ridiculous to say you can't get authentic Europe there.  Perhaps if you are a shitty traveler who can't move beyond a guidebook that might be the case.  But it's just as easy to seek out some out of the way pub in London, and to chat with the locals there, as it is to do so in Bulgaria.  Just because it is London doesn't mean you have to spend all your time ogling Big Ben and touring the Tower.  In fact, I've been there twice and never gone into the Tower.  But I have wondered a wonderful market in Greenwich and eaten amazing local food there.  And I have sat at a pub and chatted with the locals. 

You prefer out of the way places.  Cool.  That's not inherently superior to someone who wants to see the Colosseum or the Parthenon or Buckingham Palace.   

Kaspian

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1536
  • Location: Canada
    • My Necronomicon of Badassity
Re: Travelling solo through Europe
« Reply #68 on: March 06, 2015, 01:13:43 PM »
^^ Well, that was a good scolding!

I was just browsing this thread and found it nice how a few of my favourite off the path places were mentioned.  The big cities aren't usually as much fun because of the throngs of tourists.  When you visit some off-the-beaten path place, you often get treated insanely well because people find you to be a very cool novelty.  Some of my favourites are Manchester, Riga (Latvia), Inverness, Yorkshire, and Karlsruhe.  I did enjoy Paris, but didn't do any of the tourist stuff at all, just hung out with friends in small neighbourhoods.  I also enjoyed Venice but was very glad I booked my hotel on Murano Island.  And I liked Santorini Island (over Athens any day of the week.)  Last year I went to Latvia and Estonia.  I wasn't too excited about Riga but once I got there I fell in love with the city!!  And $2.50 a beer?  :)   

Anyway, I don't think it's snobbery (well, sometimes it is) but people often like to point out alternatives to what the mainstream knows about because they're often a lot more fun and people may not have heard of them.  Errr...  All Mustachians sort of go against the mainstream crowd's grain by definition, I guess?

Albert

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1254
  • Location: Switzerland
Re: Travelling solo through Europe
« Reply #69 on: March 06, 2015, 01:42:13 PM »

Are you implying that it is most American traveler's "dreams" to see these top cities?  I would argue that they don't know their options so they automatically think of them.  And to be honest, I feel that the dream is to see and explore what an authentic Europe is - you don't get that in tourist traps...

No idea about America dreams, as you might have noticed I'm not one. The thing with "tourist traps" is that most of the time they are not random. Yes, there are a lot of tourists Rome and Florence, but it's for a very good reason as there is a lot more to see there than in, for example, Kaunas or Varna. Plus those places are not Disney lands, there are plenty of local people (particularly in a large metropolis like Rome) who live completely normal "authentic" (whatever that means) lives.

If you mean that there is more to see in Italy because there is more land mass, then I agree, but I don't agree with the implication that the other countries have less to offer.

I have to admit here of having never been to Bulgaria, but I'm very familiar with Lithuania. Been there about ten times both for pleasure and business. About four days is a all you need to see the most memorable places there. After that you'll have to be a bit inventive. Yes, people are friendly, many speak English and it's cheaper than in the West but there are limitations too. It's like going to America for the first or second time and choosing Nebraska and Kansas.

Americans usually choose these "top cities" because most Americans haven't heard of the smaller countries.  The lack of education on other cultures makes them want to go to traditional sites (Rome, Paris, London, Madrid, Berlin, Venice) that are, "let's not kid ourselves", not much more than tourist traps today.

I'll give you Venice, but it those other places are tourist traps then so is NYC and San Francisco. 

[/quote]

Villanelle

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3132
Re: Travelling solo through Europe
« Reply #70 on: March 06, 2015, 01:59:21 PM »
^^ Well, that was a good scolding!

I was just browsing this thread and found it nice how a few of my favourite off the path places were mentioned.  The big cities aren't usually as much fun because of the throngs of tourists.  When you visit some off-the-beaten path place, you often get treated insanely well because people find you to be a very cool novelty.  Some of my favourites are Manchester, Riga (Latvia), Inverness, Yorkshire, and Karlsruhe.  I did enjoy Paris, but didn't do any of the tourist stuff at all, just hung out with friends in small neighbourhoods.  I also enjoyed Venice but was very glad I booked my hotel on Murano Island.  And I liked Santorini Island (over Athens any day of the week.)  Last year I went to Latvia and Estonia.  I wasn't too excited about Riga but once I got there I fell in love with the city!!  And $2.50 a beer?  :)   

Anyway, I don't think it's snobbery (well, sometimes it is) but people often like to point out alternatives to what the mainstream knows about because they're often a lot more fun and people may not have heard of them.  Errr...  All Mustachians sort of go against the mainstream crowd's grain by definition, I guess?

It's not snobbery to like and point out smaller places.  But to boil many great cities down to "tourist traps" and suggest that a preference for the famous cities is based on lack of cultural education?  That's when it become snobbery.  And that's with what I took umbrage.  "I didn't like Paris" or "Rome is too crowded for me" or "check out Herculaneum instead of Pompeii" is all just sharing of opinions, and exchanging ideas. 

You are right, there are other great places, and perhaps more importantly, different people are going to love, like, or dislike different things.  You like Paris, I didn't.  I preferred Skye (Paradise!) and Oban/Mull to Inverness.  Several here have cited Venice as the king of the tourist traps apparently.  I found that simply going 3 streets over from the main drags and wandering got me to places that felt not at all touristy. And that was the very best part of Venice.  Others clearly disagree.  It takes all kinds.  But those who adore London, even if that means Big Ben and the London Eye, aren't necessarily uneducated sheeple.

As I said, there are ways to do the big cities without succumbing to the tourist trap (through frankly, if someone wants to do the "trappy" things, after exploring alternatives, what's wrong with that?).  There are ways to avoid crowds--carefully choosing options and traveling off-season chief among them, as well as careful research.


zoltani

  • Guest
Re: Travelling solo through Europe
« Reply #71 on: March 06, 2015, 02:10:28 PM »

That sounds a bit like hipster "I shun anything other people like because it makes me look interesting".  I'd wager I've seen more of Europe than most posters.  And while I've been to some great smaller cities and towns (Rothenburg Ob Der Tauber comes to mind as one example) and enjoyed them tremendously, Venice and Rome were head and shoulders above.  I didn't love some of the big-ticket cities (Paris, for example).  But by and large, there is a reason the most famous cities are the most famous. 

I'm heading to Slovenia next month.  So again, I'm not opposed to the out of the way locations, nor am I immune to their charms.  But I think it smacks of snobbery to judge people if they want to prioritize the cities they've grown up hearing about. 

Also, given that millions of people live and work in Paris and London, it's ridiculous to say you can't get authentic Europe there.  Perhaps if you are a shitty traveler who can't move beyond a guidebook that might be the case.  But it's just as easy to seek out some out of the way pub in London, and to chat with the locals there, as it is to do so in Bulgaria.  Just because it is London doesn't mean you have to spend all your time ogling Big Ben and touring the Tower.  In fact, I've been there twice and never gone into the Tower.  But I have wondered a wonderful market in Greenwich and eaten amazing local food there.  And I have sat at a pub and chatted with the locals. 

You prefer out of the way places.  Cool.  That's not inherently superior to someone who wants to see the Colosseum or the Parthenon or Buckingham Palace.

Slovenia is a nice country, be sure to check out Lake Bled and the Julian Alps!

BTW if you were so well traveled you would know the the term "hipster" has very little meaning nowadays and can usually be replaced by "yuppie". 

zoltani

  • Guest
Re: Travelling solo through Europe
« Reply #72 on: March 06, 2015, 02:15:00 PM »

I'd wager I've seen more of Europe than most posters. 

If snobbery has a smell what is it?

Villanelle

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3132
Re: Travelling solo through Europe
« Reply #73 on: March 06, 2015, 02:24:41 PM »

That sounds a bit like hipster "I shun anything other people like because it makes me look interesting".  I'd wager I've seen more of Europe than most posters.  And while I've been to some great smaller cities and towns (Rothenburg Ob Der Tauber comes to mind as one example) and enjoyed them tremendously, Venice and Rome were head and shoulders above.  I didn't love some of the big-ticket cities (Paris, for example).  But by and large, there is a reason the most famous cities are the most famous. 

I'm heading to Slovenia next month.  So again, I'm not opposed to the out of the way locations, nor am I immune to their charms.  But I think it smacks of snobbery to judge people if they want to prioritize the cities they've grown up hearing about. 

Also, given that millions of people live and work in Paris and London, it's ridiculous to say you can't get authentic Europe there.  Perhaps if you are a shitty traveler who can't move beyond a guidebook that might be the case.  But it's just as easy to seek out some out of the way pub in London, and to chat with the locals there, as it is to do so in Bulgaria.  Just because it is London doesn't mean you have to spend all your time ogling Big Ben and touring the Tower.  In fact, I've been there twice and never gone into the Tower.  But I have wondered a wonderful market in Greenwich and eaten amazing local food there.  And I have sat at a pub and chatted with the locals. 

You prefer out of the way places.  Cool.  That's not inherently superior to someone who wants to see the Colosseum or the Parthenon or Buckingham Palace.

Slovenia is a nice country, be sure to check out Lake Bled and the Julian Alps!

BTW if you were so well traveled you would know the the term "hipster" has very little meaning nowadays and can usually be replaced by "yuppie".

Lake Bled is our primary destination!

I'm not sure what being well-traveled has to do with that terminology, but I'll take your word for it. 

Strawberrykiwi75

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 108
  • Location: New Zealand
Re: Travelling solo through Europe
« Reply #74 on: March 06, 2015, 02:44:12 PM »
For the debate about 'off the beaten tourist trap/track' in Eastern Europe: I agree these are most definitely undervalued places- and I fully intend to travel them. But time constraints meant that I need to prioritise a few select places on this trip. I'm young, I'll go again in the future!

Why have I chosen the places that I have for this trip? Because I CAN. These are places I grew up hearing about. There are photos of me in many of these places when I was a very small girl (I can't remember the trips). As a history and classics buff they are places I have read about countless times. I dated an Italian for years- so naturally talked about Italy with him. I have friends and relatives in London, Paris, South of France, Berlin & in Scandanavia (which you will note I have also missed out since I had to prioritise).

I don't think you should judge people for choosing 'tourist traps'- in many of them I have no intention of doing anything particularly touristy. And even if I was- this is my trip. And many others will look at similar trips to my choices. We all have different reasons for wanting to go somewhere.

Dexterous

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 206
  • Age: 33
  • Location: Italy
Re: Travelling solo through Europe
« Reply #75 on: March 10, 2015, 04:26:58 AM »
When I visit the big tourist locations, I typically just walk a half mile or more away from those areas and find myself in a more culturally authentic location every time it seems.  Someone else mentioned that above, and it's very accurate.  Within some areas of Barcelona, you can walk just a few blocks from the expensive restaurants and find yourself in residential areas that have 2-3x less costly items.

Once you're done with this trip, definitely go to Eastern Europe as you stated.  That's where I'm headed in 4 days... we'll be travelling all over Romania for extremely cheap, followed by a few days in Budapest and London.  I'll make sure to find a cheap beer in the latter places for all the haters.  :P

zoltani

  • Guest
Re: Travelling solo through Europe
« Reply #76 on: March 10, 2015, 11:57:02 AM »
I really enjoyed my road trip through Romania, beautiful country. It was helpful to have a rental car.

Do take the roaming bands of kids begging for change seriously! They will crowd around you pulling at your pants/pockets with their sad faces. A group of 4 of us were surrounded and when we didn't give them anything they kicked my wife and ran off!


HenryDavid

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 445
Re: Travelling solo through Europe
« Reply #77 on: March 10, 2015, 12:38:48 PM »
The #1 thing you can do to make your trip WAY FUNNER: learn at least a few phrases in French, Italian, and maybe German.
If you can say "excuse me, do you speak English?, please, thank you, where is . . .?, I am from . . ., how much, I'd like that one . . ."
YOU WILL BE REWARDED.

Many, many Europeans speak English. They're multilingual people. Their expectation is that North American are unilingual.
The slightest effort to speak the local language will pay off big time. Even if people revert to speaking English instantly, they will note your politeness. They're so jaded by tourists who just start speaking English as if it were the world's only language.
Italians will love you the most. French people will shrug, but will be secretly happy.
Also, learn to count in a couple of languages! It helps. It's fun, and you can do it for free via your library.
Finally--small businesses in Europe are very personal. Greet the people, say "bonjour" before you start your business,  and when you leave, say "merci, au revoir." That's the way they do it. It's still more formal over there.

Also: +1 to reducing the number of cities on the list!
Remember that a major city, which is new to you, and has an unfamiliar language/transit system/culture, will take some getting used to. I always plan to have a crap day on the first day in a new city. Doesn't always happen, but it's easy to get lost, fail to find the good local restaurants, feel ripped off, get exhausted  . . .. You need time to get your feet under you. So plan for that. 3-4 nights per city seems like a minimum, to me anyway. Maybe I'm slow  . . ..

Leave at least 20% of your itinerary unplanned. You meet people, they suggest stuff. That's how you find the cool places. Leave space for that.
Travel much, much lighter than you think possible. Be scared by how little stuff you have! Every single thing you need, you can buy once you're there. But you don't need it. (If you pack for one week, you're done--there's this thing called "laundry . . ..")
Above all, keep an open mind. Stay relaxed. Go with whatever comes up.
Have a great time.

gluskap

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 169
  • Age: 40
  • Location: Los Angeles, CA
    • Money Savvy Mommy
Re: Travelling solo through Europe
« Reply #78 on: March 10, 2015, 05:26:53 PM »
I backpacked Europe for 2 months and I found the cheapest way to travel was getting a bus pass from Eurolines.com.  You try to travel using the overnight buses so you don't waste travel time and you save on a night's hotel. 

Mother Fussbudget

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 832
  • Age: 57
  • Location: Indianapolis, IN
Re: Travelling solo through Europe
« Reply #79 on: March 10, 2015, 06:19:47 PM »
+1 on the above...

I did the 2+ month European "grand tour" several years ago... SEVERAL years.  But I learned travel lessons I still use today.
* Travelled solo, but was never alone - always found fellow travelers / friends at all stops.
* Eurail Youth Pass - 35% cheaper than adult, good for unlimited 2nd-class train travel.
* Sleep on the train - pick cities with 6 hour overnight trips between.
* Use a good travel guide - back in the day, it was "Lets Go Europe" (written by Harvard student travelers)
* When in a new city arrange 3 things as early in the day as possible:
     -Sleeping arrangements for the night (might include a train trip), backpack storage for the day, & meals (in that order)
* Spend your days with your eyes UP - look at the people and things around you (not your phone)
* Spend your nights with your eyes DOWN - read up on the next day's destination(s), social networks, email etc.
* Set up time to visit friends in destination countries - if you're in Mensa, or other organizations, find other members who open their homes to travelers, and make new connections.
* Have FUN!  Don't spend all your time in museums - you'll burn out quickly.