1st time in Europe - need help

Jul 6th, 2015, 01:54 AM
  #1  
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1st time in Europe - need help

Hi all,
My boyfriend and I are trying to plan a 1-1.5 month Europe trip as cheaply as possible for November/ December. We are both students who want to travel, and hopefully after we get to see a bit of Europe, we can plan a longer, more expensive trip in a few years when the funds are there.We would be flying out of Vancouver, Canada.
I know we want to see:
London
Amsterdam
Paris
Barcelona
Venice
Budapest
Prague
and Berlin
ANY tips would be super helpful!! We want to know how to budget, cheapest ways to get around, order of countries that would cut down travel time, cool attractions, etc.
Also, I know 1.5 months isn't enough time to soak up all the culture of everywhere, but this is all the time we have, and we will be back.
Thanks so much everyone!
oliviaa14 is offline  
Jul 6th, 2015, 02:52 AM
  #2  
 
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You have chosen some of the most expensive destinations in Europe for at least half your destinations, and if you include the Christmas holidays in your travels, even some of the cheap ones get expensive. Also, bear in mind that in cold weather destinations in cold weather, a tourist often spends more because of the need to be indoors more often, and pay for wheeled transportation rather than walk.

Some destinations that are much cheaper than London, Amsterdam, Paris, Venice are Lisbon, Athens, Dubrovnik and Naples. Any interesting in seeing cheaper rather than expensive destinations? Some of them also have warmer weather at that time of year.

That said, if the cities you listed are the ones you want to see but not others, then it is a complete waste of money to go to Europe and not see what means the most to you. You can make a low-cost trip work to the more expensive cities work if you do lots of research and take advantage of discount cards and free museum nights and learn how to eat well but cheaply.
sandralist is offline  
Jul 6th, 2015, 03:23 AM
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Have you looked at ANY of the myriad threads here for ideas that fit your desires? Have you looked at a Lonely Planet guide book to see things that are recommended there?
Planning can be the MOST fun part of a trip--you might consider doing some of it for yourself.
Gretchen is online now  
Jul 6th, 2015, 03:58 AM
  #4  
 
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Have a look at the Let's Go Student Guides, which provide a lot of information on how to stretch your budget in europe. This will help guide you inputting together a budget - so you can determine how long you will be able to stay - unless you have quite a large budget.

Agree that these are not the cheapest places - but neither are they the most expensive (Switz, Scandinavia) and you should go where you really want to.

In terms of detailed info on sights and how kong it takes to see them look at the Michelin green guides - which has more info than most others (but only for sightseeing).

The cities you have listed are doable in a reasonable way if you have 6 weeks. If you have only 4 you will be pushing it - and might consider dropping one or two.

Remember that that 4 nights in a city is really only 3 days of sightseeing and that when you travel from one city to another it will take from 1/2 to a whole day - depending on distance, method, weather, etc.

To get an idea of travel times - and help build an itinerary - look at bahn.de which has train schedules for all of europe. It may pay for you to get a rail pass but also look at the option of point to point tickets - which can be very cheap if bought far in advance (usually go on sale abut 90 days out and also are usually fixed to a specific train and not changeable without significant cost).

Finally remember that it will be chilly and quite possible rainy, sleety and even snowy (not so much of a change for you) but also that days are often grey and daylight hours are very short.

I think that your list of cities makes some sense - being sure you get flights into London and out of Berlin (multi-destination flights).

I would start now building a zero based budget to see what the trip will cost so you can determine how much time you will have in europe, can finalize your list of cities and come back here with specific questions either on cities or transport or whatever.

Remember, the book store is your friend!
nytraveler is offline  
Jul 6th, 2015, 04:18 AM
  #5  
 
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Realizing that you're just getting started, here are a few ideas:

Best way to get around:
Train, especially since your proposed itinerary consists mostly of big cities with excellent train service. Do some research to figure out the cheapest train-travel options that fit your plans.

How to budget:
There is no best answer, since everyone's ideas are different, but to save money: If you figure you're going to spend 4-5 days in each city, look into renting an apartments instead of hotels. There are some cheap B&B options in the cities, but often an apartment is a good deal. Pluses: You can save by preparing some of your own meals, you'll live like a local, and you can stretch out (45 days of hotel rooms can get old). Minuses: You won't have the help of a hotel staff for tips on seeing the city, so you'll have to do more planning yourself.
Familiarize yourself with each city's public transportation system. Yes, you'll want to do a lot of walking, but sometimes you'll need to cover distance, and public trans is usually cheapest and best.

Order of countries:
A look at a map should provide the answer. Look into open-jaw airline tix, where you arrive in the first city you want to visit and depart from the last city you visit, so there's no backtracking waste of travel time. I would make booking flights a priority. That's usually the most difficult part of the trip, getting the flights you want at the price you want to pay. Once that's done, you can almost always find accommodations that'll suit your needs and budget.

Good luck and have fun.
vincenzo32951 is offline  
Jul 6th, 2015, 06:51 AM
  #6  
 
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Are you under 26 - if so think about a Global Eurail Youthpass - for a wide-ranging trip with lots of train travel this could be a real bargain and in most countries let you just hop on any train anytime - taking overnight trains can save daytime travel time and avoid the cost of a hotel or hostel that night.

Anyway for lots of great info on European trains and passes check these informative sites: www.budgeteuropetravel.com; www.ricksteves.com and www.seat61.com.
PalenQ is offline  
Jul 10th, 2015, 01:07 AM
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Personally i think 1.5 months is enough to cover all your destinations. Do not be quick to jump into the conclusion that you need a eurail. check for flights and buses and work out how much do they cost in total. Sometimes they can be cheaper than an eurail. stay in hostels. you can check out this blog post on tips to travel on a budget and there are a lot of experienced budget travelers giving their advice and experience which i found to be quite useful when i was travelling in europe last year. https://www.bonappetour.com/blog/5-b...ope-travellers
SJesN is offline  
Jul 10th, 2015, 03:45 AM
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Good advice above, a few things that does tend to keep costs down are

1) eat and drink like the locals. So, you will find that French business lunches comes in at E12 to 14 for 3 courses including wine which will be way better value that evening restaurant deals.
2) get off US based fizzy-pop before you leave Canada. The stuff is everywhere and is more expensive than most drinks in Europe. But some countries vary on booze. Generally you pay more the further north you travel
3) Appartments are cheaper, but do join the International Hostel association and use those facilities, you'll find that you get great deals, often with cooking/internet access etc in very central places with lots of contact info for things to do.
4) Generally meat costs more than other proteins. You'll find vegetarian restaurants all over especially ethinic, if you want to eat out these can keep costs down.
bilboburgler is offline  
Jul 10th, 2015, 06:00 AM
  #9  
 
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Other cost-saving tips:

1. Fewer big cities, more villages. Small towns are much cheaper and very rewarding. For example, when most Americans visit Italy all they see are Rome-Florence-Venice. Italian hill towns are a delight, much less crowded (with a few exceptions), and far cheaper.

2. More southern Europe, less northern Europe. Spain, Portugal, Italy, and Greece are a lot cheaper than France, UK, or Germany. Likewise, by most accounts eastern Europe is cheaper than western Europe.

3. Lodging is your biggest daily expense. Hostels, B&Bs, and pensions are much less expensive than hotels.

4. Take a break! You're going to need a couple of 3-4 day stretches in your trip to relax and do nothing. Find a nice beach or a mountain hideaway and take a break.

5. Allow for time away from each other without getting bent out of shape. There is no way you can travel with someone without getting on each other's nerves. Take a day now and then to do your own thing separately from your partner.
Edward2005 is offline  
Jul 10th, 2015, 06:28 AM
  #10  
 
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>>>"2. More southern Europe, less northern Europe. Spain, Portugal, Italy, and Greece are a lot cheaper than France, UK, or Germany."<<<

I wish that were true of Italy, but I find it much cheaper to eat and drink well in Berlin (or Munich) than I do in Venice (or Rome or Florence or Milan, and much of the Italian coast).
sandralist is offline  
Jul 10th, 2015, 06:47 AM
  #11  
 
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A couple of suggestions on travel planning:

Before committing to a rail pass, do some research on what you really think your itinerary might look like. A rail pass is great if you really think you're going to hop on and off trains frequently (and go long distance), especially if you want flexibility.

But I have often found that it's a better deal to book point-to-point tickets, especially if I've planned my itinerary in advance and therefore can be advance purchase tickets at a discount.

Also, with the proliferation of low-cost airlines, some journeys may be cheaper by air - although you need to make sure you price in the cost of getting to and from the airports (and they're often at some distance from the "official" city they're associated with), and the cheapest flights often are at uncivilized hours when public transit might not be available.

Iceland stopover

Having just come back from Iceland, I can highly recommend an Iceland stopover on your trip - so look into prices on IcelandAir from Vancouver to Europe (including free stopovers on the way there or back).

Language holidays

If you want to add a little something to your skills and c.v. (or just have fun), consider including some language study weeks in some of the countries you'll be visiting. I have done this in Spain, France and Latin America, and it's a great way to learn about the culture, meet people from all over the world (including, potentially, new travel companions or roommates), and the cost is often relatively low (because you may get access to inexpensive homestays with families or dorm accommodation). Also, once you pick up a bit of the language, you can explore the country and engage more with the locals, even if all you've got under your belt is a week's worth of classes. Typically, courses are structured with 3-5 hours of class per day (morning or afternoon), and then there are sightseeing activities and weekend excursions available (usually for a fee).

Many language schools have a 2-week minimum course requirement but some offer 1-week courses, and many schools have special Christmas/New Years courses. In Spain, I have taken courses with a network of schools called Don Quijote and am impressed with their curriculum. Otherwise, have a look at Cactus Language Holidays (which covers a number of different languages and holidays), and that might lead you to some other schools.

If you'd like a cheap language-teaching holiday and are extroverted, you could also look into the program offered by Diverbo (www.diverbo.com). Diverbo runs English language courses in Spain and near Munich, Germany, and they "hire" native English speakers to come to their resort-like camps and be facilitators/speakers for a week at a time. You get free accommodation/meals and an opportunity to interact with locals (often professionals) who want to improve their English. The downside is that the courses are run away from major cities (to limit diversions), so you will be based in a small town or in the countryside for a week, with limited opportunities to explore away from the school. And you will be "working" - talking all day and into the evening. But it's a free week's accommodation (plus transport to and from a major city in Spain), it's a great opportunity to meet people, and it's a boost for your cv.
frogoutofwater is offline  
Jul 10th, 2015, 12:02 PM
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most of these folks aren't gonna know what you mean when you say "cheaply as possibly..." i did this a lot when i was younger... "cheaply as possible" are dangerous words, but if you're truly traveling europe on a tight budget, consider these:

learn to speak the language... it always saves you money... if you can't speak the language, carry a phrase book and always have it in your hand... even if you mess it up, they'll respect you for trying and treat you better...

watch currency exchange and buy your euro ahead of time when it hits bottom... with whats going on now, it'll probably happen before november... i'd look for 96 - 99 cents and then buy...

if you do go with eurorail passes, do ALL your traveling overnight, and sleep on the trains, as opposed to hotels... you'll save both time and money!!! (bring a cable lock and secure your luggage... seriously)... sounds like you're young & you want to see a lot... get on a train every night and you'll have no hotel bills... find the older rail cars with the compartments with "pull-out lay-flat" seats...

Convent hotels - some are very nice, and most all are cheaper then anything but a hostel... you'll find lists on the net

picnics!!! buy most of your meals at the supermarket... it's like "eating wholesale" !!! you'd be hard pressed to find cheaper food... it's all first quality and if chosen wisely, very nutritious... and most all markets today have plenty of nicely prepared hot foods... a rotisserie chicken, a baguette & a bottle of french wine for 10 euro!!! in december, put half of it outside your window for next days lunch!!!

when you do splurge, do it for a nice late afternoon lunch, not dinner, once or twice a week and make it count!!! in most of europe, you'll get a really nice 3 course hot lunch (equivalent to N.A. dinners) for half the price of the same food for dinners...

save money in europe by avoiding any restaurants with any english menus posted outside...

for the price of a cheap metro tix, you'll find fabulous restaurants in the suburbs that offer much, much greater value... most have never seen a tourist... they'll be intrigued, and they'll treat you well...

Find bars in the cities that offer free appetizers with a drink at "happy hours..." it's very common thru-out europe...

if you're broke & you do need to eat dinner in a restaurant, get out of the tourist district, go very late (after 10pm) and ask specifically for what you can get at a good price... if you're sincerely broke, be sincere, and tell them... most people love to help others who are down & out...

always be gracious and always be grateful... only kindness matters!!! have fun!!!
cosmikcowboy is offline  
Jul 11th, 2015, 03:56 PM
  #13  
 
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Where is the OP ?
CharlotteAmalie is offline  
Jul 11th, 2015, 05:20 PM
  #14  
 
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Overwhelmed and probably planning a cruise instead.
Edward2005 is offline  
Jul 12th, 2015, 09:04 AM
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if you do go with eurorail passes, do ALL your traveling overnight, and sleep on the trains, as opposed to hotels... you'll save both time and money!!! get on a train every night and you'll have no hotel bills... find the older rail cars with the compartments with "pull-out lay-flat" seats...>

I did that for one month about 30 years ago but it is no longer possible - night trains are being slashed so that there is not one available every night and hotel trains are the norm with no regular cars where seats pull out and you can sleep for free - I think this info meant to be helpful is seriously dated in today's Europe.
PalenQ is offline  
Jul 12th, 2015, 01:26 PM
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The OP ain't coming back (unless she realizes she won't get an e-mail telling her about the activity on her thread. ) Probably gone for good.
janisj is offline  
Jul 13th, 2015, 10:48 AM
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maybe she's gone to Europe and is constantly on night trains and can't sleep and sleeps all day and travels all night?
PalenQ is offline  
Jul 13th, 2015, 11:04 AM
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Over on Lonely Planet's Thorn Tree?
suze is offline  
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