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Advice needed: Single female backpacking Europe

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Aug 11th, 2015, 01:01 PM
  #1
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Advice needed: Single female backpacking Europe

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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Aug 11th, 2015, 01:11 PM
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You might want to read the solo travels thread on the Tips forum here, but you should really start by reading Lonely Planet and Rough Guide guidebooks. Do bear in mind the winter is the worst time of year for England. It will get dark early, and while it won't be as cold as Alaska it is very likely to be damp. Take the train to Paris - see seat61.com.
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Aug 11th, 2015, 01:25 PM
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ekc
 
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No need to take up space in your luggage with a bulky coat - wear it on the plane and stuff it in the overhead compartment once you are seated.
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Aug 11th, 2015, 01:33 PM
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Agreeing with the posts above, a guidebook really is a better place to start to make your initial plans. It can be overwhelming trying to do it only on the internet.

That said for online, on The Thorn Tree, Lonely Planet's forum you will find more backpackers. Fodor's generally tends towards an older, less budget crowd really.

Yes you need a winter coat in London and Paris in Dec/Jan.

Personally I prefer a small rolling suitcase instead of a backpack, even for "backpack" style travels. Don't pack too much stuff.

As far as 'blending in' basically you won't since you'll be walking around alone with your backpack, or at least as you move place to place. It's OK for people to know you are a visitor.

As far as learning about public transportation since you don't have that where you live, again a guidebook will be your best resource.
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Aug 11th, 2015, 01:37 PM
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If I'm understanding correctly your trip budget is $2000 (after you subtract $500 for airfare)?

If you stay for one month that is only $66.66USD/day or 60 euro or 42.80 GBP... which is *extremely* tight!

I'm not sure if that's doable unless you couchsurf or find ways to sleep for free. Even a hostel would take up more than 1/2 your daily budget. Plus subtract transportation moving city to city and you have even less left to eat & sleep.
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Aug 11th, 2015, 01:54 PM
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check out the various BritRail Youthpasses - let you hop any train anytime at a great price - full serendipity! Or look at National Express bus pass but IME trains are infinitely more comfy than buses especially if crowded as is oft the case.

For lots of train info: www.seat61.com; www.budgeteuropetravel.com and www.ricksteves.com - for buses check http://www.nationalexpress.com/offers/brit-xplorer.aspx - note the 79 pound weekly pass covering thousands of buses you just hop on.
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Aug 11th, 2015, 02:55 PM
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Dayzeere, My god daughter just returned from a three month tour of most of Europe on a limited budget as well. She stayed in Hostels because the price was super cheap and she met a lot of fellow travelers her own age. She just bought snack type foods from local super markets and used a lot of public transport.
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Aug 11th, 2015, 03:01 PM
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Many of our trips to England, even in the summer, included a lot of rain. We often had to deal with buying more rain gear as we traveled and our boots and shoes never seemed to dry out even when left next to a heater.
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Aug 11th, 2015, 03:02 PM
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nanabee, Do you happen to know the price? When you say "super cheap". I ask only because I had read that hostel beds in major European cities were running about $30/night these days.
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Aug 11th, 2015, 03:24 PM
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Get a copy of Let's Go Europe or in your case Let's Go Britain - invaluable on coverage of cheaper places to stay - critical rundowns on zillions of hostels - amazon.com or the few remaining large bookstores. Or go to your library and check one out.
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Aug 11th, 2015, 06:21 PM
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Your budget is incredibly tight - even for hostels. Not sure where you are from but it sounds like a small town (if no buses or cabs never mind subways) and you can expect prices in both London and Paris (for everything from tube/Metro to anything to eat or drink) to cost way more than you are used to.

Would look at the Let's Go Student Guide to get an idea of prices - but I think your budget is below even what they will recommend.

And be aware that on entering the UK the immigration officers are likely to ask a number of questions of a young american who appears to be coming with limited resources. You have to be able to show them:

Your return ticket to the US
Your financial resources for the trip
Where you will be staying - specific name and address for at least the first stop
That you are covered by health insurance (so you don't become a charge on their public health system)

They may also ask for proof you will be returning to the US in the form of an apartment lease, a job or registration for college

There was a young woman here a couple of months ago who was turned away by UK immigration since they feared she would be an illegal immigrant (said she was going to stay with her boyfriend and did not have a lot of the above apparently). In that case the airline just has to fly you home immediately.

This is nothing to be afraid of - but you do need to be prepared to avoid any potential issues and expect to get several questions at Immigration.

As for how to get around - long-distance buses are often student focused and you may want to check the student sites for info.

How to get into London depends on what airport you land at and where your hostel is. You wil need to provide info.
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Aug 12th, 2015, 11:26 AM
  #12
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*Update*

This has all helped tremendously. Especially the various links people have posted, so thank you for that.

About my budget, I'm definitely planning on budgeting at the very least $5,000 but I figured if I could make it on $2,500 -flight included- then the other $2,500 would be spending money or for emergencies. I'm not apposed to roughing it.

Also, thank you for the advise on making sure I have all of my paperwork together. I'd heard about having the return ticket available for officials but not about the other documents so I'll definitely be adding that to my packing list.

I'll be flying into Gatwick and want to immediately head from the airport to London. Then I'm looking to do a big circle.
Gatwick airport to London
London to Colchester
Colchester to Norwich
Norwich to Cambridge
Cambridge to Manchester
Manchester to Bath
Bath to London
London to depart from Gatwick Airport

*Also considering taking out the day trip to Cambridge in exchange for a day trip to Birmingham; thoughts anyone? I'm mostly interested in the architecture and various sights that they both offer.

Each of these places with a day or two to sightsee, visit friends and soak it all in. Sprinkle in an overnight bus or train ride, possibly a day trip to Paris, a few overnight stays with friends in Manchester, Norwich and Colchester.

It's looking like transportation by bus might be my best option and I'm throwing out the idea of Paris since flights to and from are pretty expensive around the holidays.

Also, what are the standards for adapters? I know they're shaped differently but what about this whole voltage thing? Do I really need the converter to charge things like my iPhone and little external battery? I don't plan on bringing any more electronics than that since my phone takes better photos than my old digital camera.
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Aug 12th, 2015, 01:53 PM
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The Eurostar train from London to Paris takes but a tad over 2 hours - you can get some really low fares at www.eurostar.com if you book months in advance - cheaper than flying as it takes you city center to city center - but walk up fares are sky high.
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Aug 12th, 2015, 03:22 PM
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There are also cheap Youth Fares for your age on the Eurostar trains.
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Aug 12th, 2015, 05:17 PM
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In terms of speed he best way to get form London to Paris is train - much faster than flying. If you buy tickets far in advance the rates can be decent.

There are also buses that are very cheap but can take forever.
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Aug 13th, 2015, 02:41 PM
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Yes nearly no one flies between London and Paris anymore but if in other parts of the U K then yes a flight makes sense - places removed from London.
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Aug 14th, 2015, 11:08 AM
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If you fly London - Paris then it will take you a lot longer - getting out to the airport - an hour before your flight - waiting for customs, etc and getting into Paris - also add those costs into any price equation.
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Aug 14th, 2015, 01:45 PM
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I may have missed your exact dates or where someone pointed this out above, but London in particular basically shuts down on Christmas Day and the day after (Boxing Day). So if your travel dates include those days, you may want to schedule them to be with your friends or in another city.

Ditto on the train to Paris: before you rule it out completely, check Eurostar fares. It's also much easier than flying - you go city center to city center.

You might check into flying home from Birmingham or Manchester instead of London - prices may be the same, but worth looking at just in case it saves you money.

There are lots of options to get from Gatwick into London; which one is best depends on where you'll be staying.

You almost surely don't need a converter, just plug adapters (which are very cheap). My iPhone, laptop, and camera batteries all just require the adapter. If you need any hair implements (hair dryer, flat iron, etc), just buy inexpensive ones at Boots or somewhere when you arrive.
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Aug 14th, 2015, 04:49 PM
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Hi, dayzeerae. My 23 year old daughter and another young woman are just finishing six weeks of short hostel stay then mostly Couchsurfing in London, Amsterdam, Brussels, Budapest, and Barcelona. Their last few days were at an airbnb room in Porto, Portugal, which was fortunate since they both started to get a cold towards the end, when couchsurfing would have been difficult.

They have had a great time, as much as she's willing to tell her parents anyway, great CS hosts who have showed them around, taken them to birthday parties and flamenco clubs, cooked dinner with them using local seafood, etc.

I think the key is careful vetting of the hosts' references. As the summer has gone on they've gotten more good references, too, and so more invitations.
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Aug 14th, 2015, 04:59 PM
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They took an overnight bus from London to Amsterdam, paid I think 17 GBP or so. It worked out fine, besides the drivers getting lost in the morning. (Probably by now they've learned the route.) That's how I'd go if young and budgeting, unless I could get the cheaper Eurostar rates maybe.
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