30 day trip central Europe advice needed

Sep 18th, 2015, 07:56 AM
  #1  
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30 day trip central Europe advice needed

Hello! I am brand new to Fodors and new to planning a trip like this. I have been wanting to backpack Europe for ages and and finally going to do it. I have several questions and would appreciate any advice or pro tips anyone can offer! Thanks in advance!
I am aiming for 30(ish) days total including flights from Boston, MA.

Destinations: Prague, Austria (*Vienna), Switzerland (*Geneva, Interlaken area, Bern), Germany (Bavaria and Black Forrest to visit my ancestry roots, and Munich are priorities), Belgium ( Bruges or Brussels?) then to Amsterdam for a week to meet my family and Scotland via plane for a few more days. I think I have The Netherlands and Scotland legs sorted out.

At this point I am getting bogged down by the easiest path to these locations. I plan to go in the Spring (April or May) so I was thinking either start south (Switzerland) and move north, or possibly start East and move West ie: Prague, Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Germany again, Belgium and finally Netherlands etc.
Deciding the path is obviously huge, any advice would be great!

Secondly what makes the most sense in terms of budget and ease for transportation? I am very confused by the train system- I think I am overloaded on info and it's probably very simple. It seems there are government run trains and then local systems- seemingly the same routes but a vast difference in $$? Does a *Swiss Pass make sense? I am open to short plane trips as well if it makes the most sense.

I am planning on staying in Hostels so any suggestions there which align with possible destinations would be great!

Lastly- I am only bringing a backpack and would like to hike in the aAlps- possibly Gimmelwald area (there is a recommended hostel there) do I actually need hiking shoes specifically? That may be a bit of an odd question- I just want to be properly prepared since I'll have so little room to pack.

Anything I need to omit from the itinerary or anything I must not miss- please advise.
thank you!!
ILG9281 is offline  
Sep 18th, 2015, 08:22 AM
  #2  
 
Join Date: Apr 2003
Posts: 1,322
The best place to look at the train vs. pass issue is Rick Steve's site: https://www.ricksteves.com/travel-ti...rtation/trains. If you are under 25, a youth pass might be the best bet for you, considering the amount of travel you're looking at.

The rail map on the Rick Steves site might help you plan your itinerary.
happytourist is offline  
Sep 18th, 2015, 08:58 AM
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OK - there are long-distance trains - between cities - and then there is a local transit system within each city - just as in the US. There is a different long-distance train system in each country (again, just as you would find in the US and Canada). If you are doing a LOT of intercity train travel a student pass might make sense. We have never done this so I don;t know the details - you need to look at how many trains you will take and what passes they have to see if this makes sense for you. These passes have NOTHING to do with the local transit inside each city - for which you may be able to buy some sort of local multi-day pass - or individual tickets if you will be mostly walking.

I would not do Switz in April since you may still have snow at higher elevations or a lot of mud elsewhere. May would be better.

For hostels look at the various student guides and sites (Let's Go Europe) to get ratings of which are good and which awful (some have drug and theft issues). Hosteling International are usually well regarded but are not the cheapest.

To get an idea of routes look at bahn.de, the site for the German rail system, which lists all of the intercity trains in europe. Look at this for schedules only - not buying tickets (for that it's good only for German trains).
nytraveler is offline  
Sep 18th, 2015, 09:15 AM
  #4  
 
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I've been in most of those countries but not all and really don't know what you are reading about how there are multiple train systems in each country, running the same routes, some government and some private. Train infrastructure is extremely expensive, you won't find multiple train tracks next to each other, one for govt trains and one for private. The only truly private trains I've hard of are very small local lines, usually scenic. Almost all trains are government in some sense (outright if not highly subsidized, or with the govt being majority shareholder), even local ones which may be run by the city or urban area.

So maybe you can give some reference to what you mean about seeing govt versus private trains running the same routes and costing vastly different amounts. The Swiss Travel System is public, for example. Deutschbahn in Germany is owned by the govt. Belgian Rail is state-owned.

Maybe you'd just seen various website selling tickets on these railways, that's all. The national railway website will sell them, some travel agents will (like Raileurope, a major North American vendor owned by some railways, actually), and some 3rd party vendors are allowed to sell them in some countries. But they are selling tickets on the same trains (I'm guessing that's what you're seeing but am not sure). And rail passes are usually sold by travel agents (Eurailpass, etc.).

They may be a couple of choices of rail routes close to urban areas (both usually govt), such as a regular train and a small, commuter suburban type rail system, as a way to get to a few cities.
Christina is offline  
Sep 18th, 2015, 09:16 AM
  #5  
 
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For all you need to know about Europen trains, see seat61.com.

What do you mean by "backpack Europe"? There is nothing special about the luggage you choose to take. Packing light is always good, but you might find a rolling case easier.

You may be trying to see too much. Get a blank calendar and lay your trip out day by day, indicating where you ar spending the night, and how much time tracel will take. Generally you need two nights in a town to get one full day there, unless you are using night trains, which are becoming rare.
thursdaysd is offline  
Sep 18th, 2015, 09:19 AM
  #6  
 
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Start in Prague. Train to Vienna (4:11). Train to München (~4 hours). Train to Black Forest. Train to Switzerland. Plane from Switzerland to Belgium. Train from Belgium to Amsterdam. Plane to Scotland.

Any more questions? (I have a condo in the Black Forest, so I know the region pretty well.)
traveller1959 is offline  
Sep 18th, 2015, 10:06 AM
  #7  
 
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If you do evern half of your goal a railpass of some type would probably be a good idea - especially if you are under 26 and can get the Youthpass - over 25 and it's the first-class Eurailpass and first class has definite benefits - you can still hop on just about any train in all those countries and in first class find empty seats - not always so in 2nd class.

Consider taking overnight trains to save daytime travel time and the cost of a hostel (30-40$/night in large tourist cities).

anyway for great info on European trains and passes check yes www.seat61.com; www.budgeteuropetravel.com and www.ricksteves.com.

You need no special shoes besides atheltic shoes to walk on many trails in the Jungfrau Region (Gimmelwald area) - but for rugged ones you do.
PalenQ is offline  
Sep 18th, 2015, 01:42 PM
  #8  
 
Join Date: Jan 2007
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I am planning on staying in Hostels so any suggestions there which align with possible destinations would be great!>

Grab a copy of Let's Go Europe as it is the bible IMO on low-cost accommodations - cheap hotels, hostels, youth hotels, etc and critiques them too - really a wealth of info on lots of things but especially keen on accommodations on the low end. Amazon.com has it as do libraries and the dwindling number of large bookstores.
PalenQ is offline  
Sep 21st, 2015, 09:20 AM
  #9  
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Thank you all so much for the great suggestions and info!
@traveller1959 that is exactly what I was seeking! Yes, I'd love more tips on the Black Forrest area if you would like to share!

Thank you @nytraveler, I have decided on April 30-May 31st to avoid the snow(hopefully) and think I have a better grasp of the train system or at least how it is managed. I am still anxious about booking each trip and making sure i'm in the right place at the right time etc. I don't qualify for a youth rail pass sadly, but will research more if a bulk pass is a good investment.

Does anyone have a list of must see stops in Switzerland the would like to share? I'm still narrowing that one down.
thanks again!
ILG9281 is offline  
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