16 days, 4 guys, 1 car and 6 countries

Jul 31st, 2010, 09:41 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jul 2010
Posts: 19
Thanks to all again! and based on some suggestions we have decided to get rid of the car early (Nice or Barcelona) and fly to Amsterdam.

And I didn't realize that I would spark a debate talking about honing my Spanish. I am aware of Catalonia and the issues they have with Spain/Spanish (We will be more aware when and if we speak our mexican spanish)

Since our tickets are locked to and from Paris, we now are thinking of renting the car from Paris to Munich to Milan to Nice and dropping it off at Barcelona. We don't mind starting the car drive from Munich if we can find some sort of cheap transport from Paris to Munich (flights and train are close to $150 a head)

Like we mentioned before, this is more of a trip around Europe and we chose the countries based on our thinking/liking. But we would really appreciate if you could help us cut off/include other places.

As for the drive, we are more excited about it than gambling in Monte Carlo. Also, whats the best and quickest way of getting to Paris(CDG) from Amsterdam?

We're redoing our itinerary and shall post it here again. Thank you all for the comments and advice.
4almost30 is offline  
Jul 31st, 2010, 10:33 PM
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Rental car companies usually charge a (substantial) penalty from dropping off the car in another country.
If you rent in France you should return in France to avoid that. Or check if that penalty fee is within reasonable limits.

One way to avoid that could be to take the TGV from Paris to Strasbourg. Pick up rental car.

Drop off car anywhere along the Cote d'Azur, closest to the Spanish border should be Perpignan. Train/bus from there to Barcelona.

The best way from Amsterdam to Paris should be the train.

Or check whichbudget.com for availability of low cost airlines.
Cowboy1968 is offline  
Jul 31st, 2010, 11:03 PM
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keeping in line with your advice, what kind of buses should I look for around Europe? is there a network like the euro rail?

we're looking for buses/trains between Amsterdam and Paris, and Perpignan(since you mentioned it) and Barcelona.

4almost30 is offline  
Jul 31st, 2010, 11:09 PM
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Yes Catalans love their language and culture BUT they do also speak/read/write Spanish and tourists are welcome to converse in Spanish.

It's very similar to the attitude Welsh language speakers have - extremely proud but if you want to do business with someone who doesn't speak Welsh you do it in English.

In Barcelona if you want to do business with non catalan speakers you do it in Spansh. And few tourists speak Catalan.

My first visit to Catalonia was in 1978, my last visit was 2005.


Sounds like a fun trip - I would add, agree with each other that that plans may change. Everyone will have something they really rally want to do/see/visit/drink.

I suggest you get a jar or hat.

Get everyone to write down all of their wish list on seperate bits of paper.

Everyone get one non negotiable - that doesn't go in the hat.

The pieces of paper get pulled out one by one - everyone rates them 1-4, 1 being not really bothered and 4 being I really want to do this. Then add up the scores.

You can either drop the lowest scoring things now, or make a list in order of most popular and drop things as you go.

When you are actally on your trip, have 1 day where you do not drive on motorway/highways/autoroutes - stickto the small roads and stop at anything you find interesting.

In france if you see a sign for 'degustation' - or something, my French spelling is craap - it is a wine tasting - on a farm, often out in the middle of nowhere, - but a good place to pick up some wine.
sashh is offline  
Aug 1st, 2010, 12:36 AM
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something we ought to tell you all, 2 of us are booked in/out of Paris, the other two are still flexible. So we are thinking of getting them to land in Frankfurt (Unfortunately Munich does not have good Int'l connections) and get the (bus/train/flight) to Munich (Need help here).

We're not sure how the other two of us will get from Paris to Munich either(Hoping to get a cheap train/flight)

We then rent the car from Munich and continue through our planned itinerary all the way to Barcelona(Cost of dropping the car in another country should cancel out the fuel price, time and reduced number of rental days)

Fly from Barcelona to Amsterdam (Found tickets as cheap as 80 Euros, thanks Zeppole)

Whats left is the return journey; from Amsterdam to Frankfurt (Two of us will be flying out of Frankfurt, presumably) and from Amsterdam to Paris(Two of us will be flying out of Paris since our tickets out of Paris are already booked)

Again, Since we are cutting down on our driving time/distance, do any of you recommend anything else? Spain(Barcelona) is planned because we think its going to be one of the cheaper places to spend more time.

The drive through the Alps is confirmed and we hope the drive through the French riviera is just as good or better than California's Highway 1

4almost30 is offline  
Aug 1st, 2010, 01:17 AM
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<< Spain(Barcelona) is planned because we think its going to be one of the cheaper places to spend more time.

What on earth gave you that idea?
sashh is offline  
Aug 1st, 2010, 02:59 AM
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Can't the two flying into Frankfurt fly open jaw back out of Paris?

Most of the French coast is no match for Highway 1 imho.
hetismij is offline  
Aug 1st, 2010, 03:00 AM
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Correction: most of the French Mediterranean coast is no match for Highway 1.
hetismij is offline  
Aug 1st, 2010, 04:45 AM
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You are getting good advice here as your first idea was a total nightmare. Driving around Europe is a fantastic and very cheap way to see and experience it, but 16 days is not much time. We've been traveling Europe non-stop by small RV since 2006 on just 23 dollars a day per person, but we planned well before leaving. The shorter the trip, the more you have to plan.

There is a LOT of information on our site that might help you with your planning:


I would go for campgrounds instead of hostals as they are much cheaper and also a great way to meet other Europeans.

You'd be surprised at how annoying a GPS can be and I'd have some kind of map as a back up. We adore our top of the line GPS, but can not tell you how many very scary mountain roads it has led us on ( sometimes in the dark) usually when there is a much easier way to get there.

If you are not on the hotel circuit and especially visiting more rural areas, you will run into many areas where no one speaks English ....in many countries. This and just doing everything ( getting food, place to sleep etc) will slow things down.

Less is more and simplicity rules.

I'm in southern France now & I think the French coast is great in October with much less crowds. There is a fantastic campsite in Nice ( also St Tropez) that make great bases for exploring the area and many spend all winter there.

We've been to our fave luxury campsite in Barcelona 10 times on our world tour and yes, Barcelona can be cheap if planned well.


Keep working and refining on your plan! Off to enjoy the beach now.
WTnow is offline  
Aug 1st, 2010, 04:54 AM
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The drive from the French coast to Spain is really boring and unrewarding. It is NOT PCH, unless your favorite part of PCH is Orange County. I highly recommend you get rid of the car after Monaco, either returning it in Genoa or Nice. From Genoa you can take an overnight ferry to Spain or fly to Spain. From Nice, you can fly to Spain. From either, you can take a coastal train, but that is as boring as driving. You don't need a car in Spain, as you already know.

As for the issue of speaking Spanish, forget about what the Spanish or the Catalans think of you. Think of yourselves! You said two things about yourselves and this trip: You want to talk to local people and you want to hone your Spanish. Of all the things you are doing on this trip, those are the two aspects that have the potential to be of the most lasting value to YOUR lives. If any of you an actually improve your foreign language skills, if any of you can actually get to converse with Europeans about the world and their country, that's more than the fleeting thrill of a mountain pass or eating French cheese in France or visiting a coffee shop in Amsterdam.

If you immerse yourself in Spanish for a few days -- meaning, every menu you read, every street sign you see, every newspaper you pick up, listen to the radio, watch TV in the bar, and talk as much as you can WITH THE LOCALS in Spanish, it will improve your grip on Spanish. I"m sorry people feel a need to argue with me, but the fact is that you will experience far less of this in Catalonia. That is just a fact.

Barcelona is not cheaper than Madrid. Spain is not cheaper than the rest of Europe unless you go into a smaller town -- which is actually a great idea if you'd be willing. But I think Spain has the potential to be the most rewarding part of your trip, and I urge you to become bilingual or multilingual Americans. It's a great asset to your lives.

Yes, the Catalans won't "bother" you with their politics and feelings if you politely speak Spanish with them. But don't you want to talk with the locals freely about what they care about? Wouldn't you like the experience of breaking through the language barrier completely? You already speak Spanish -- not Catalan -- so why not go to a part of Spain where that means you are more than just the typical American tourist? Spaniards in other parts of Spain will be thrilled to talk to you instead of the hordes of British and Americans who can't speak Spanish who tromp all over their country.

I hope i've made a dent.

If you are sold on the idea Barcelona is some kind of fab destination even though I presume you care as little about the Sagrada Familia as you do the Eiffel Tower, at least consider cutting the amount of time it takes to get there, and sticking your heads and tongues into Spanish speaking Spain. (Colorful enough for you?) Fly into Madrid and spend some time there before taking a fast train or cheap flight to Barcelona, then you can head on to . If you are looking to spend spare days, spend them in Madrid. (Despite what Aduchamp says, the nightlife is better in Madrid, and so is the food, wine and beer.)
zeppole is offline  
Aug 1st, 2010, 05:49 AM
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Somehow this trip has become more and more complicated.

A few days less car rental often don't make such a big difference. Costs for gas and tolls and the drop off penalty in another country can indeed be a factor.
I think you simply have to do your math to see which option is cheaper.

To get from Frankfurt airport to Munich you can check German Rail for fares and specials
Long-distance inter-city buses are almost non-existing in Germany (except to/from Berlin) so you can forget that option.
Even if your city of departure has no non-stop flights to Munich, it usually is cheaper or not much more expensive to get a flight with one connection to Munich than pay extra for a flight to Frankfurt plus train ticket.
Cowboy1968 is offline  
Aug 1st, 2010, 05:59 AM
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Barcelona is one of the unique cities. The art is the streets in the architecture and the sense of design that fills the city. The Catalans have a joie de vivre that also permeates the city. (I also think the food is better there than in Madrid.)

And if you go to Barcelona, be sure to bring home some caganers. These are little figues that show people defecating including political and religious leaders. It is Catalan tradiiton. The following are not photoshopped or made up.



Aduchamp1 is offline  
Aug 1st, 2010, 06:51 AM
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To dislike Barcelona is almost a capital crime

If it weren't (unfortunatly) for a few hours the guys will spend in Spain, I'd understand the discussion.

I think you are both right:

As much as I love Barcelona and Catalunya, I'd never ever suggest to anyone to go there to learn Castilian (despite the massive number of language school). I'd also not suggest to anyone to go to Lisbon to learn Castilian. Or to Antwerpen to learn French.

Though, as a tourist, you are likely to hear a fair amount of Castilian in hotels, restaurants, or taxis in Barcelona as many jobs in tourist-oriented industries are filled with people from Castilian-speaking parts of Spain.
If you deal with (30/40 or younger) Catalans in Barcelona, I found English as helpful as Castilian (actually a bit more helpful) but that was just a subjective impression.

If you take a look at the billboards and other "commercial communication", you will see 90% Catalan, and those companies don't do that for reason of folklore.

But as soon as you leave the greater Barcelona area the amount of Castilian you hear decreases dramatically (while the ability to speak and understand Castilian remains near 100% of the Catalans you meet).

The rivalry between BCN and MAD will probably exist forever, and any preference will eventually boil down to personal preferences. I like both cities, but Madrid will always be a very distinct Spanish metropolis for me while Barcelona has a more Central European flavor.
Cowboy1968 is offline  
Aug 1st, 2010, 07:04 AM
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On the practicalities of the car rental.
As pointed out before, many visitors find HUGE drop off fees between countries. You will need specific quotes to see how large.

Also, be sure the rental agreement is for 4 unrelated people as drivers. Each company has its own rules, but often it is that the licensed driver on the contract is the only legal driver. One plan we use automatically includes a spouse at no extra cost or special notification, but many do not include 4 unrelated people as approved drivers, rather charging more for each additional driver. Be sure to ask to get an accurate quote.

It looks like a train from Frankfurt airport to Munich takes about 3.5 hours and non-discount 2nd class fare is 89e. If you search on this site, there are some very good guides provided about the various discount Bahncards for traveling on German rail. Two people together can often do it much cheaper.

In revising your itinerary and giving your reasons for wanting to visit various places, you don't mention Amsterdam. Is this the lowest priority destination? Perhaps you'd like to replace it with more countryside, small towns where you'd have the opportunity to eat the local food, taste the local wine and talk to local people? It would simplify your itinerary and give you more time to either see a little of the French or Spanish countryside or at least small town.

I think you'll enjoy the loop from Munich through Italy to Monaco, even southern France. I haven't been to Barcelona, so cannot comment on that.
Kay2 is offline  
Aug 1st, 2010, 07:16 AM
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www.eurolines.com for European buses.

I do hope that you realize that Monaco is worth about 2 hours of your time at most. American media often pump it up into something that might be interesting, but that is an illusion.
kerouac is offline  
Aug 1st, 2010, 07:25 AM
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4almost30 - to get from CDG to Amsterdam you can hop the RER from CDG to Gare du Nord and from there pick up the high speed Thalys train. With four of you, you could also hop in a minivan taxi from CDG to GdN for about the same or not a lot more than train fare (€8.40 each.)
Travel time GdN-AMS Centraal is a little over 3 hours. Advance purchase gets you cheapo fares, though with the cheapest fares changes are not permitted so you would have to consider this a fixed item on your itinerary. I just did a quick check on thalys.com for random October dates and there were seats at €140 for all four of you - €35 apiece - each way in second class. We did the AMS-Paris route a couple weeks ago and it was quite pleasant; especially like arriving in the city itself rather than at an airport. When planning, note that there are scheduled engineering works October 8-10 that will cause delays.
Seamus is offline  
Aug 1st, 2010, 07:49 AM
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I won't comment on your plans since it's not my style of travel. BUT - Kay2 brought up one of my thoughts on your car rental. Do make sure you know what the charges will be for additional drivers! It will add considerable $$$ to your rental regardless of how many days, stick or not, pick up and drop locations. You might want to have just 2 drivers.

Buon viaggio!
Dayle is online now  
Aug 1st, 2010, 08:57 AM
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My experience with Auto Europe has been that it costs $25 for each additional driver.
StCirq is offline  
Aug 8th, 2010, 08:22 AM
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So here is the updated itinerary:
30th Sep - 2 people land in Paris, take the train to Strasbourg, pick up the car and drive to Munich. The other 2 land in Munich directly.
1st Oct - Oktoberfest
2nd Oct - Drive to Lucerne.Overnight stay in Lucerne.
3rd Oct - Drive to Milan. Overnight at Milan
4th Oct - Go to Monza.Overnight at Milan.
5th Oct - Drive to Nice. Overnight at Nice.
6th Oct - Return car at Nice, Fly from Nice to Lisbon via Geneva by EasyJet. Land in Lisbon by afternoon. Hire a car or take the train to Faro.
6th,7th, 8th - Overnight in and around Faro.
9th - Back to Lisbon. Spend night at Lisbon.
10th - Early morning flight to Madrid. One person flies to Amsterdam on the 10th for a return flight. 3 people stay on for the night in Madrid.
11th - Remaining 3 stay in Madrid. Overnight at Madrid.
12th - Fly to Amsterdam.
12th, 13th,14th - Amsterdam

We have to return the car at Nice get a reasonable rate.
We chose Portugal over Barcelona since it is considered cheaper and the beaches are supposed to be good.

We are putting Madrid in the itinerary because we could not find cheap flights from Lisbon to Amsterdam.

The cost of the trip has gone up a bit for us, but we will be doing less driving during the second part of out trip.

As before please feel send your comments.Some specific questions:

We are in dire need of info on places to see and non-touristy place we should be looking at in Southern Portugal.

Please advise on whether to hire a car at Lisbon to move around in Southern Portugal or is it a good idea to hire scooters.

We are kind of confused by EasyJets's baggage policies, each one of us will have one carry on and one bag big enough for a check in any comments in this regard would be helpful.
4almost30 is offline  
Aug 8th, 2010, 09:17 AM
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Three things specific to your questions:

a car will be cheaper than scooter rental for all of you.

Double check the weather if you are intent on beachgoing in Portugal. It may be a bit more fridgid than you are anticipating. I could be wrong though as my experience is not with Faro, but Cascais which was more fridgid than expected and definately not beach season then. Again, someone here could correct me on Faro.

I really don't think you will be sad with your Madrid choice.
cherrybomb is offline  

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