Backpacking Europe 2016

Jan 24th, 2016, 12:00 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Mar 2015
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Backpacking Europe 2016

Two friends and I are planning to backpack across Europe during the summer of 2016 for 3 weeks.
We will be traveling on a budget of roughly 3000-4000 USD each.
We have a number of cities we would like to visit, including:

Is it realistic to expect to visit all of these cities?
If not, which cities do you recommend cutting?
Is there a specific route you would reccomend?
Should we purchase a Eurail pass?

scotlem7 is offline  
Jan 24th, 2016, 12:09 PM
Join Date: Oct 2005
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three weeks really isn't long enough for all that if you r actually want to see much. You lose more than half a day w/ each move so w/ 21 days and deducting the 2.5 days you'll use getting to/from Europe -- w/ 5 moves you are down to about 15 days free for seeing/doing.

>>which cities do you recommend cutting? <<

That is up to you -- you picked the list so presumably know which are most important to you.

>>Is there a specific route you would reccomend? <<

Depends on where you fly into and home from (hopefully you fly open jaw in to one city and home from another -- otherwise you'll lose another day traveling back to your departure airport)

Does your budget include your airfares? Hope not since that will likely eat up 1/3 to 1/2 of your $$$
janisj is offline  
Jan 24th, 2016, 12:38 PM
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As-is you have an average of 3 1/3 days in each city (20/6). This is lower after deducting travel time between cities - about 1/2 day - which you will have to do 5 times. To get more time in your cities and less on the train, you should eliminate one or two cities.

I would eliminate Nice for sure since it is geographically isolated from all the others. I'd also eliminate either London or Prague. Having 4 cities on your itinerary will give you an average of 5 days per city.
Edward2005 is offline  
Jan 24th, 2016, 01:05 PM
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Personally I would prefer 4 cities, or even less, but 5 cities (excluding Nice) is not terrible. I'd arrange it so as to travel by train in the order you've listed, buying the train tickets well in advance from,, and so as to get the cheapest prices. Arrange the travel for first thing in the morning, and you minimize the loss of time. For the flights, I'd book an open jaw, which with this plan would be into London and out of Prague.

That said, 4 cities would definitely allow you a better chance to explore, and if took Paris, Amsterdam, Berlin, Prague, you'd skip expensive London.

Eurail passes are rarely useful from what I've read, given you have to reserve high-speed trains well in advance and pay quite a bit to do so. They are rarely cost-effective. Just buy these tickets something like 88 or 90 days in advance as mentioned. You will have to commit to a schedule, but that's not a big deal on a relatively short trip.

For expenses, I'd figure out what type of accommodation you want, and how much you want to spend on food, alcohol, entertainment, tours, local transport, etc. I'd consider 100 Euros per day per person to be a generous backpacker's budget (I've often done less). Does your $3-4K USD include your flights?

For accommodation, you may want to book triple rooms, but keep in mind many triple rooms will be a smallish double bed plus a single. So unless you have rooms with three separate beds, personally I'd suggest hostel dorms. Some hostels will have triple rooms like that also. I'd plan 30 Euros per day per person for accommodation (cheaper may be possible, but give yourself a bit of a margin), 5-10 Euros per person per day for local transport, and so on.
WillTravel is offline  
Jan 25th, 2016, 10:00 AM
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I think many people on this forum grossly overestimate the amount of time that is lost in traveling from one city to another. Your travel day begins each day somewhere between 6 and 8 a.m. and lasts until 10 p.m. to 1 a.m., depending on your love of nightlife and/or sleeping in. That gives you 16 hours a day to enjoy your trip.

Obviously you can't be going 90 miles an hour for 16 hours a day, and that's the beauty of train travel. You spend a few hours in a nice, comfortable train, napping, reading, and relaxing. With thoughtful planning you can enjoy a nice picnic lunch on board, thus saving money and freeing up a couple of hours that won't be spent in a restaurant.

For this reason the amount of time spent on medium-length train trips is simply of no consequence. It will not take away from your touring time at all. The packing, unpacking, checking-in, and checking-out process, along with the journey to and from the train station, really have the potential to eat up more time than the train trip itself. But you can ameliorate this problem by traveling light and choosing hotels near the train stations you will be using. A lot of people who post on these boards are quite elderly, and getting to and from a hotel is quite an ordeal. You are young and should be able to do things quickly.

Now, as for the cities you've mentioned, only Nice presents a problem, simply because there it is more than five hours by train from Paris and is in the opposite direction from the other cities you are visiting. With that said, you could take the TGV to Nice and then take advantage of a $50 KLM flight to Amsterdam. But overall I think this just adds a lot of expense for a city that could be put on a future trip list.

You asked about buying a rail pass. They are a terrible deal if you are willing to purchase your tickets in advance, particularly those going in and out of Germany. For example, an advance purchase ticket from Amsterdam to Berlin can be had for as little as 39 euros. How is a rail pass going to be that?

The order that you have the cities listed makes perfect sense from a logistical standpoint. I would not eliminate London from the list because of the expense, but I think it is perfectly okay to only stay two nights on the first visit.

If you can do so economically you should try to arrange about a five hour stopover in Brussels while traveling from Paris to Amsterdam. This is enough time to visit the Grand Place, look around, eat a meal or have a waffle and some frites, and so forth. Just check your luggage at the train station.

Likewise, if you can arrange it economically you should plan on a 2.5 hour stopover in Cologne while traveling between Amsterdam and Berlin. It might add a few euros to your trip cost, but I think the Cologne Cathedral is a sight worth seeing.

Also, although I've never been to Dresden it's said to be a beautiful place. Since you travel through it on your way to Prague you might consider an 18- to 20-hour stopover and spend the night. I think it's important to have one or two one-night stays on a trip like this and not limit oneself to just visiting national capitols.

Suppose you start with the following plan: London (2 nights), Paris (3), Amsterdam (3), Berlin (3), Dresden (1), Prague (2). This is only 14 nights. On a three-week trip you should have about 20 nights, so you have six nights to do with what you will. You can add them to any of these cities, or choose to see something else. Personally I would advise training from Paris to Trier and then spending three or four nights in a couple of the villages on the Mosel or Rhine.

One final note. You should monitor airfares very closely, not only from your own city, but from any city that you can get to relatively cheaply. I think there are going to be some $650 round-trip tickets to various cities in Europe this summer; they are likely to be offered in March. If you can save $800 on airfare it's worth rearranging your schedule, and perhaps adding or dropping a city.

The availability of cheap flights almost always determines where I will travel in Europe. So my family has driven 12 hours to take advantage of $260 r/t fares to Cologne, for example. This March I'm taking my son and a friend on a trip; we'll drive 10 hours to take advantage of a $625 fare that flies us into Vienna and out of Prague. These really aren't the cities we were traveling to see, so we're only given them a half-day of sightseeing and then we will be on our way. Just find the cheap fare and go where it takes you, and then build your schedule around that.

There are often cheap flights available in Europe, so if you can fly into Lisbon really cheaply, do so, and then take a $50 flight to paris. Use Google Flights to do your research on this. (Lisbon's a great city, BTW).

Have fun.
FHurdle is offline  
Jan 25th, 2016, 10:19 AM
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Fhurdle -

I can;t imagine most people's vacation days stat at 6 am and go to 1 am. In my experience It's more like 8 or 9 am until 11 or midnight. And I know some kids that go to europe and want to sleep until 11 or 12 every day (the idea of an 8 am train would have them in a state of shock).

I agree that they would be better off with 1 or 2 fewer cities. They must remember that each city mean a different culture, a different language, a different transit system, different meal habits/times and just getting used to a new locale.

As for the budget $4K if it includes transatlantic air fare at about $1 K they have about 120 euros per day, which is certainly doable - as long as they get discounted train tickets in advance and live frugally (esp avoiding shopping and nightlife - which can be uber expensive unless they stick to student pubs and cafes with cheap wine or beer).
nytraveler is offline  
Jan 25th, 2016, 10:24 AM
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"I think many people on this forum grossly overestimate the amount of time that is lost in traveling from one city to another."

I would say 1/2 day is about right as an *average* amount of time it takes to switch cities.

Last summer I took high speed rail between Amsterdam and Paris. The train left Amsterdam at 9:17 and arrived at Gare du Nord at 12:38. Tack on an hour to get to Amsterdam Centraal and an hour to get from Gare du Nord to our hotel in the 7th, and you're looking at 5 hours of transit time -- about 1/2 a day which would otherwise be spent seeing/doing touristy stuff.
Edward2005 is offline  
Jan 25th, 2016, 10:27 AM
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One way to cut back on the relocation time in the type of itinerary being discussed is to use a night train where feasible. You'd also save money as a sleeper is probably cheaper than a hotel.
Edward2005 is offline  
Jan 25th, 2016, 11:26 AM
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FHurdle: If you want to get up and out by 0600 every morning (well before most B&Bs serve breakfast), be on a train by 0700 and in your next city maybe 1000 or 1100 - and then party til 0100 . . . great.

But for MOST people they will be lucky to be packed/fed/and checked out before 0930 or 10AM, In the next city by 1 or 2PM, checked into the new hotel by 2 or 2:30 PM . . . so yes, it does eat up half a day or more.
janisj is offline  
Jan 25th, 2016, 11:33 AM
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2 nights somewhere means 1 full day of me that's not worth the effort to get somewhere like London! It's the largest city in Europe by a long way and has tonnes to see. You barely get your bearings in large cities with 2 nights...I would plan st least 4 nights in places like London and Paris if the sites there interest you...
jamikins is offline  
Jan 25th, 2016, 04:49 PM
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For the record, I was not suggesting that anyone get up at 6 a.m. and go to bed at 1 a.m. Rather I was suggesting that someone who arose at 6 a.m. might go to bed at 10 p.m., and someone who stayed up until 1 a.m. would likely sleep until 8 or 9 a.m.

I'm certainly not an early bird, and I am rarely out of the hotel before 9 a.m.

I just don't agree that checking out of one hotel at 10 a.m. and checking into a new one four or five hours later eats up half a day. The day lasts until midnight, and a few relaxing hours on a train just don't do any harm. Being able to rest is nice. Being able to eat lunch on the train is nice.

Different people like a different trip pace. I am among those who like to move a bit more quickly and see more places. I certainly understand the other view, though.
FHurdle is offline  
Jan 25th, 2016, 05:24 PM
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The point is that the SIGHTSEEING day does not generally last til late at night. Most sites are open fron 9 or 10AM til 5PM, 6PM at the latest. So for a tourist the 'day' is pretty short. Of course we go out at night - dinner, clubs, the theatre. But if one is in transit til even just 2pm, much more than half of their sightseeing day is gone, pfft, down the drain.

If you mean 6AM-2AM, then sure, I'll give it to you, half the day isn't shot.
janisj is offline  
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