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Advice needed: Single female backpacking Europe

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A feel as though this topic has been touched on here and there but I need real answers from experienced travelers, locals, as well as fellow women who have traveled abroad alone.

~Backstory~
I'm approaching my 21st birthday and dying to see England before settling entirely into my career. I don't want to spend an arm and a leg and am not looking to spend anything over $3,000. I plan to take a month- early December to early January- to check out a few choice places (specifically London, Manchester, Bath, Norwich, Cambridge and Colchester. Also a possible flight over to Paris for New Years, not sure yet though) mostly to visit friends and sightsee. Nothing overly extravagant, just want to check stuff out and mark it off my bucket list.


1. Does anyone have a relatively similar trip that they can give me an average budget? I'm going to fly into London and am not opposed to long overnight bus or train rides and am quite frankly looking for the cheapest of the cheap. I don't have a particular order for seeing these places just as long as I start and end in London. I'm also not overly interested in the expensive tours of churches or castles with the exception of the Buckingham Palace. I plan to spend most of my time just wandering around and checking out the local scenery. I want to budget for lodging every night since I haven't set anything in stone about staying with various friends in Colchester, Manchester and Norwich. That way if I do stay with friends, I'll have that budgeted money available for nights out or dinners or tours.
P.S. I found my flight for $500 so don't worry about adding that into the budget. I've basically estimated about $2,500 including my flight. Reasonable? I have a pretty good packing list written out with everything I think I might need so I'm not expecting any pre-travel expenses.

2. This might sound stupid but I'm also pretty confused as to how I'll travel from the airport to a hostel- American's don't have a 'tube' or regular bus route or even taxis (at least where I'm from). So if someone could give me some insight on that.

3. I know that hostels are the better choice for those who plan to backpack and don't mind sharing space (which I don't) but I've also heard that Couchsurfing is a pretty good idea. Anyone have any experiences or tips for the single traveling lady?

4. Since I'll be traveling around Christmas and New Years Eve, does anyone have some suggestions for where to spend the holidays? Or events to look into such as parades or parties. (Heard Paris was nice around this time, is this a smart idea based on keeping budget low?)

5. How cold can I expect the winter months? I'm from Alaska originally so cold for me is nothing but what temps or rain levels can I expect? This will help me decide if a bulky coat is really worth making space for in my bag.

6. Any tips as far as 'blending in' to European lifestyle so I don't stick out like a sore thumb as an independent female traveler with absolutely no idea what I'm doing.

7. Recommendations for a backpack, I'm 5'6 if it helps.

8. Key things to check out in each place I listed above?

Also, I'm one for lists so if there's anything you might've found to be absolutely essential for your travels, let me know so I can add it to my packing list.
Any other additional information is always greatly appreciated.
~Dayzee

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