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kyotos Jun 9th, 2014 07:20 AM

60-day Solo Budget Travel
Dear all,

I'm planning for a 2-month trip to Europe from November to December, in the hope to enjoy snowy season, scenic nature, good local food, art and culture Meanwhile I will be visiting friends and relatives in UK, France and Germany. I will be carrying a 60L rucksack, a small daypack and probably a sling bag.

The countries in my plan include Switzerland, Italy, France, UK, Belgium, The Netherlands and Germany, though I wish to add Czech Republic and Greece into the already busy list.

With only USD6000 for budget, I expect plenty of overnight train journeys, walking, own cooking or packed food.

Am I squeezing too many destinations given the limited budget?

Next, I hear that budget traveler should start from the destination where price of cost is the highest to the lowest. Is that true? I am not sure where should I start from?

If I begin from Switzerland and end at Germany, I would have to carry the bulky winter clothes throughout the journey.

If I begin from Italy and ends at Switzerland, I guess I could adapt to the temperature well, as I come from hot and humid Malaysia. However, I may face the problem of overspending.

What do you reckon?

Thank you for your assistance and advice.

PalenQ Jun 9th, 2014 07:32 AM

Are you going by train? If so check out some kind of Eurailpass if even going to half those places - the more travel days you have the better deal a pass is - here are some great sites for checking out European trains and passes, etc:; and - download the latter's free online European Planning & Rail Guide for lots of suggested rail itineraries in various countries.

Are you under 26 years old - if so check the bargain Eurail Youthpasses.

You can take overnight trains to cover long distances and also save on the cost of a night's accommodation.

PalenQ Jun 9th, 2014 09:38 AM

Switzerland, Italy, France, UK, Belgium, The Netherlands and Germany, though I wish to add Czech Republic and Greece into the already busy list.>

as for traveling from the cheapest countries to least expensive except for Switzerland your other original countries are all about the same IME cost wise - cheaper than Switzerland but pretty much all the same - Czech Republic (and Eastern Europe save Austria in general) and Greece can be much cheaper.

for weather reasons I would start in the north and go south - Greece in December could be very nice weather but up north those months can be dark, rainy and just generally less than spectacular.

2 months is a long time and with the speedy trains and overnight trains you can see all those countries but if trip funds are dwindling yes head to Greece.

Christina Jun 9th, 2014 10:04 AM

I can understand the logic of starting in the most expensive, sort of. But in reality, it doesn't make any sense if you spend all your money there and don't have any left. IN fact, one could argue it makes less sense because at the beginning of the trip, you'll have plenty of money so might overspend in expensive countries when you could have been more frugal there.

Either way doesn't matter if you don't have any way of going home if you run out of money or getting more. If you do, then I'd just do whichever itinerary makes more sense to you logistically and in terms of weather. You mention having to carry heavy clothes with your for winter -- what does that mean? Does it mean that if you start in a warmer climate, you aren't going to have all your clothes with you, and are going to buy them later on? It's not going to be blamy anywhere in NOvember to begin with, so I'm not sure it matters that much. Sure, it should be warmer in Italy than Germany, though.

I would plan the trip based on which makes most sense rather than the idea of the money, which as I said, doesn't necessarily even make sense. Furthermore, you can budget and spend as you wish, no one is going to force you to overspend except yourself.

kyotos Jun 12th, 2014 07:04 AM

Thank you for the great suggestions, PalenQ (especially on the route)!

Those websites are useful. I will be taking train mostly meanwhile I am also checking Eurolines rate. Are there routes where traveling by bus is cheaper and advisable?

Unfortunately, I'm too "wise" to be entitled Eurail Youthpass.

I have also found out that Eurail pass-holders are entitled to discount on ferry fare from Italy to Greece too! It's a good news, though I haven't checked the fare ticket yet. Hopefully it doesn't burn a hole in my pocket.

kyotos Jun 12th, 2014 07:22 AM

Thank you, Christina for clearing up my confusion. I was just worried about spending on unavoidable things (eg. impulsive interesting sightseeing trip) that I may have overlooked during the trip.

Sorry that I have not clarified in the beginning. If I am to travel clockwise from Italy, UK, Germany to Switzerland, I would be able to borrow winter clothes from friends living in Germany, and return to them after Switzerland trip.

After gathering opinions from you guys and friends, most probably, I will be traveling from UK...Germany...Switzerland...France. Then, if I am able to extend holiday, yeah, will head to Greece.

Thank you once again!

PalenQ Jun 12th, 2014 09:10 AM

I have also found out that Eurail pass-holders are entitled to discount on ferry fare from Italy to Greece too! It's a good news, though I haven't checked the fare ticket yet. Hopefully it doesn't burn a hole in my pocket>

Not a discount but free deck passage - you do have to pay in high season a small supplement and always a small fee for port taxes - but free deck passage and some boats may even give free berths to Eurailpass holders - your pass much be valid in both Italy and Greece to qualify for free passage - and you can sleep on the deck or in the bar/lounge IME - but for a small extra fee can get a berth in a bunk room and there are a variety of more expensive digs like private cabins which however can cost a fortune!

You do save on the cost of a night in a hotel however.

nytraveler Jun 12th, 2014 10:13 AM

How tight your budget will be depends on a couple of factors.

First - I assume your air fare is separate and not part of the $6K - which is only about 70 euros per day.

I assume you will be staying with family and friends for free for many nights - which will make your limited budget go further.

Granted you will be in europe in low season - so should be able to find some bargains -but at that budget you will either need to use hostels or couchsurf - since travel between cities, food and sightseeing will take almost all of your budget.

I would start in the south to get the best of the weather and avoid the most expensive places - Switz is lovely - but shockingly expensive - even compared to New York.

adrienne Jun 12th, 2014 11:55 AM

<< I hear that budget traveler should start from the destination where price of cost is the highest to the lowest. >>

I've never read this and never heard this. It doesn't make sense as you may be criss-crossing and back tracking in your travels to make this work. That will result in more money spent. I have found on long trips that my spending naturally diminished during the trip. Initially I spend more money per day but learned how to spend less.

Normally I would suggest traveling from north to south to align yourself with better weather. want snow so you should begin in the south and end in the north to take advance of the likelihood of snow in December in Germany and the Czech Republic.

Overnight train journeys don't necessarily save you money. The chant I read is that it saves you the cost of a hotel/hostel room. It doesn't. If you're paying for a couchette you need to consider this amount in your expense. If you stay in hostels you'll probably come out even.

Your itinerary has a lot of moving around and little time in each country. The more long-distance traveling you do the more money you spend.

You have less than 7 days in each country and you need to deduct the time to get from one place to another. That's about enough time to experience a large city or 2 small ones but not to experience a country.

kybourbon Jun 12th, 2014 02:01 PM

>>>With only USD6000 for budget, I expect plenty of overnight train journeys<<<

Some overnight trains are not included on passes at all and none include sleeping arrangements (you have to pay extra for those). Ferry passage doesn't include any sleeping arrangements either.

PalenQ Jun 12th, 2014 04:28 PM

Ferry passage doesn't include any sleeping arrangements either>

Actually some do give free berths - in the cheapest category to railpass holders - I believe the Stockholm to Helsinki boats do this and some Italy-Greece ones I have seen do too.

and there are still some overnight trains that have regular cars where you can sleep without any extra fee - those these are becoming fewer and fewer and the Hotel Train concept is taking over - very few overnight trains are not included in passes for the basic train fare - nearly all are - one notable exception is Venice to Paris Thello trains - no discount even but I cannot think of any others - maybe Trellborg to Berlin.

kja Jun 12th, 2014 05:00 PM

I, too, would discourage you from intentionally ordering your trip from what you anticipate will be more expensive to what you anticipate will be less expensive destinations. That will give you little or no wiggle room if you spend more than you anticipate, for whatever reason -- emergencies included. If you start with less expensive places, you would still have some options to substitute lower cost places for places like (very) expensive Switzerland if necessary toward the end of your travels.

PalenQ Jun 13th, 2014 02:22 PM

A key thing about railpasses and overnight trains is the 7 pm rule, where you can, if you board an overnight train after 7pm you put the next day in as your unlimited travel day - thus traveling from 7 pm one day until the following midnight - literally being able to go from one end of Europe to another and use just one day on a pass.

Like Munich to Rome - go onto to Naples the same day

Berlin to Vienna - go onto Venice the same day, etc

All on one day on your pass - now many will not want to do this but if taking a flight you could do the same with an overnight train and the 7pm rule and not take any more time and perhaps be cheaper.

Again not a common thing many will want to do but an aspect of night trains I think few know - even if just taking an overnight train say Paris to Munich, your pass is valid the whole next day - to day tripping or just traveling to Fussen and Mad Ludwig's Castles, Salzburg, Rothenburg, etc.

kyotos Jun 16th, 2014 07:13 AM

Great tips and advice! Thank you, PalenQ, nytraveler, adrienne, kybourbon and kja. That's a lot to digest.

I shall take some time to review my plan. Seems that I seriously need to reduce the destinations, so that I can spend more quality time in each, also to save cost. In some countries, I will stay with friends and relatives for several nights, hopefully that helps to stretch my budget a little.

From the discussion above, Eurail doesn't seem to be the cheapest option. Should I have a mix of bus/flight/train trip, or getting a Eurail will do? Eurail is quite expensive.

Thank you once again! You guys have been very helpful!

adrienne Jun 16th, 2014 07:32 AM

In many countries it's cheaper to buy train tickets 60 to 90 days ahead. I recently bought a ticket in Germany which cost E19 rather than the full fare of E44. But these are non refundable tickets so if you're certain of your itinerary you can save lots of money. You need to make a definite decision on your itinerary and then check the price of train or bus tickets to make a determination. The Eurostar tickets from London to Brussels or Paris are definitely cheaper if you book in advance.

Trains in the Czech Republic are very cheap so it's not so important to buy those well ahead. Budapest has a long distance bus system that may help you - Orangeways bus - which is very cheap.

Switzerland and Bavaria have passes that make train travel economical and there may be other passes but you need to read the information on the sites provided above.

If you choose fewer countries and explore more of them you will definitely save money. I would choose UK, France, Germany, and Belgium for your trip since you have family and friends in those places. There's more than enough to see and do in 60 days and you will reduce your travel expenses. Also you'll want some time to visit with the people you're staying with so you won't be sightseeing every day.

kyotos Jul 2nd, 2014 03:50 AM

Thank you, adrienne for the suggestion. And I'm sorry for the delay in response. I have been busy doing calculation and researching for more travel info.

In order to hit the low season, I'll be traveling from mid November to end December. In addition, I shall also reduce my travel period to a month plus only.

My cousin in UK has just informed me that she will be going globetrotting as well after October. Therefore, I'm now sticking with France, Germany, Switzerland and Italy only. Here's the plan:

Paris - 4 days
Bordeaux -3
Flenburg - 3
Berlin - 4
Munich - 3
Italy (Taormina, Pompeii, Capri, Naples, Rome, Marche, Umbria, Florence, Tuscany, Turin, Milan and Venice) - tentatively 18 days, but, I can stretch to about 22 days.
Interlaken (or a better place to base at) - 3
Zurich - 2

The main purpose of traveling to Bordeaux, Flensburg, Berlin, Munich and Zurich is to visit friends. I understand it may be a waste to travel to these countries without sightseeing much. But, these are the friends that I have made during my previous travel and work and might not be meeting again.

As for transportation, I'm contemplating which rail pass to purchase, either Eurail selected pass or a combination of Swiss Pass, Germany Pass and point-to-point passes or a mixture of all.

I will fly from France to Germany, as well as Munich to Catania.

Please wake me up if I'm too ambitious with the above plan. Thank you.

kyotos Jul 2nd, 2014 03:59 AM

I have done some calculation and comparison between Eurail Selected Pass and point-to-point pass.

10-day Eurail Selected Pass (Euro 504) seems more practical and cheaper, but I'm afraid I may have underestimated the supplement, reservation fee as well as other hidden costs etc.

PalenQ Jul 2nd, 2014 07:13 AM

I may have underestimated the supplement, reservation fee as well as other hidden costs etc.>

Well in France you'll pay 3 euros for the total fee on TGVs - many other trains you can just hop on

In Germany, Switzerland and Austria no fees - just hop on.

In Italy 10 euros for high-speed trains total and I believe 5 euros for slower IC trains - none for regional trains and in many of your areas you will be taking regional trains or buses in Italy.

So supplements in your case are not that significant - plus the railpass is first-class if you are over 25 - another perk - there is a significant difference - especially in just hopping on trains - IME of decades of European train travel I rarely see any really full first-class cars but not unusual to be SRO at times in 2nd class - plus getting the mandated seat reservations are easier in first class as there is less demand.

kybourbon Jul 2nd, 2014 07:30 AM

>>>Please wake me up if I'm too ambitious with the above plan. Thank you.<<<

Wake up! Even with 18 days for Italy, adding Sicily is just too much for an already full list of cities/areas (even 22 days is not enough to add to your long Italy list). It's too far and needs a week or two on it's own. Otherwise, you need to drop a big chunk of your Italy list.

For much of your Italy list (Tuscany/Amalfi/Le Marche/Umbria), you won't have much train service, but it depends on where you actually plan to go (many towns simply don't have train lines). Your pass would not cover the local train that runs from Naples to Sorrento at all or any transport within cities/towns. Many areas are better served by bus (even if there is a train line, they can be as fast and drop you in the center instead of outskirts). Local or regional bus lines, not what you would get with Eurolines which is long distance buses mostly between countries.

Any of the faster trains in Italy, you will have to pay 10€ seat reservation with a pass (mandatory).

As for any overnight trains, unless you are willing to share a cabin with 5 other people (6 person couchettes), your pass won't get you much.

dwdvagamundo Jul 2nd, 2014 11:27 AM

As kybourbon says, I'd drop Sicily, The Marche, Torino and Milano from your Italy itinerary. You'll see plenty of beautiful scenery around Naples and the AC.

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