Backpacking Europe without a clue

Nov 17th, 2005, 04:15 AM
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Backpacking Europe without a clue

Someone suggested that I retitled my post, so I did
OK, I just booked a ticket for a 14 night mid-life crisis backpacking tour of Europe. I will start in Amsterdam, and I am thinking 3 days then on the train I go. I did paris earlier this year so i dont have to worry about that. I will be traveling alone, and staying in cheap hotels or hostels. (I am also a female 39) So is 3 days enough for Amsterdam? and where do i go from there?
Lostmymind is offline  
Nov 17th, 2005, 04:22 AM
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europe is a big place. we have no idea of your interests. when are you going? why amsterdam? just wondering as it will help us see what you are looking for on this trip.
walkinaround is offline  
Nov 17th, 2005, 04:25 AM
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Hi lost,

When you are going is important.

Is this a walking tour or is your backpack just your luggage while you travel by train?

Have you been to Copenhagen?

ira is offline  
Nov 17th, 2005, 05:44 AM
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I will be arriving on Dec 15 (I know its cold, but i did paris in march and it was so cold but I was able to enjoy everything) My goal is to see the following cities: Zurich, Frankfurt, Praag, Vienna and Milan. I will have a Eurorail pass. Any other suggestions?
Lostmymind is offline  
Nov 17th, 2005, 07:22 AM
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Are you flying in and out of Amsterdam? or flying home from Milan? You're covering a lot of ground and an open-jaw flight would save you the time to get back to Amsterdam. You might want to consider sticking to just a couple of countries to save the traveling time. You could base yourself in one of the cities you mention and then hop on trains to nearby towns - thus saving the packing and unpacking time.

I would suggest you check out the German rail site. I use it for planning so I have an idea of how long the train rides are, how frequent the trains, etc. I also print out my routes so I know what my options are if I want to be flexible. Some of the trains will require a reservation even with the pass, so be aware of that. Here's the website:

I did a quick check for you - for example Amsterdam to Frankfurt is about 4 hours and Frankfurt to Zurich is about 4 hours. Frankfurt to either Prague or Vienna is 7-8 hours. Milan back to Amsterdam is 16 hours.

One other thing to keep in mind is that you lose several hours on top of the travel time on those train days. Factor in getting to the train station and then finding a hotel when you get to the next place. My experience is that these things take longer than I expected. Have fun!
cls2paris is offline  
Nov 17th, 2005, 07:31 AM
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Wait! Firm up your itinerary before you buy a rail pass. When you know when and where you're traveling, type your itinerary into, and select the "only if it saves me money" option to find out if point-to-point tickets will be a less expensive option for you.
Betsy is online now  
Nov 17th, 2005, 07:33 AM
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I believe 6 cities in only 14 days is WAY overly ambitious. Certainly it can be done but you will spend a disproportionate amount of time on trains moving from place to place (instead of being in each city to see the sights).

I don't think 3 days is enough for Amsterdam (5 seemed about right to me) but with only 14 to work with if you stay longer you will need to eliminate at least one other destination.

Since you specifically say "without a clue" I suggest the many resources available that support "backpacking" and hostel-staying style of travel. Lonely Planet's website forum The Thorn Tree is excellent. Also the guidebook series such as Rough Guides, Let's Go, Lonely Planet, even Rick Steves.

I assume you are flying out of Milan? Or do you have to return to Amsterdam? I don't mean to sound flip but get a map, use the websites for train routing, and go in the path that makes most sense.

On train rides of more than 7-8 hours you might look into using an overnight train with a couchette (bunk) to "save" some time.
suze is offline  
Nov 17th, 2005, 07:35 AM
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Hi L,

You have 14 nights. 2-3 are in Amsterdam.

You then want to visit "Zurich, Frankfurt, Praag, Vienna and Milan" in 10-11 nights.

That is a major expedition.

I did something similar when I was in my twenties. When I got home, I was utterly exhausted.

Have you entered your itinerary at and clicked "only if it saves money" to see if you should buy a railpass?

ira is offline  
Nov 17th, 2005, 08:10 AM
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Let's see - 14 days, 6 cities, with train travel in between. Sounds like the makings of a mid-life crisis to me
StCirq is online now  
Nov 17th, 2005, 09:40 AM
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Can we talk you into 3-4 cities 3-4 days each?

suze is offline  
Nov 17th, 2005, 09:48 AM
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I wasn't that crazy about Amsterdam myself, so I personally think 3 days there could be enough. However, I think you are forgetting the concept behind the go-with-the-flow backpacking through Europe with a railpass idea -- you are not supposed to be tied to schedules, but move around as you like. So, if you are in Amsterdam and love it and want to stay longer, you do, but if you are tired of it or want to move on, you do that.
Christina is online now  
Nov 17th, 2005, 09:55 AM
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I would try to get into Eastern Europe. Give Berlin, Krakow, Prague, Budapest and Vienna a try on the way to Italy.

Check out the hot springs in Budapest.
wally34949 is offline  
Nov 17th, 2005, 09:57 AM
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yeah, but the "go with the flow" concept usually works for trips longer than 2 weeks.
ssachida is offline  
Nov 17th, 2005, 10:13 AM
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Other posters have given good advice about sitting down with a map and figuring out the most time efficient travel route. This is a big area to cover in 14 days.

But I am wondering why you chose these particular cities. Amsterdam is interesting, and I've heard Prague is too, though I've never been there. I have been to the other cities you mention, and IMHO none are the most interesting cities in their respective countries. Vienna is interesting, but it can be so bitterly cold that I wouldn't recommend it in December. (This coming from someone who loves cold weather and was there earlier in Dec. than you are going.)

I have done 2 Eurail trips in winter. Given that you have not chosen to go south, it is preferable to be in an area near mountains in winter. Cities and towns in the Alps are in valleys and the mountains protect you from bitter winds. It can be Xmas postcard beautiful to be riding a train through the Alps in December. Nice places to visit/stay in that region in winter would be Venice or Lugano.

Again, I don't know why you have chosen the cities you mention, but I would rethink after reading the guidebooks suggested by Suze. If cost is a big factor, you might need to stay away from some areas that are more desirable in winter, but I would really not recommend Frankfurt or Vienna.
cylueth is offline  
Nov 17th, 2005, 10:40 AM
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This sounds like fun (although not in winter, but that's me). Three days in Amsterdam is good to get you in the Europe mid-life crisis backpacking kind of vibe. I would grab a Thomas Rail Guide and go to the international section in the front and plot out the time between cities. What I did in the "old" days was go from city to city where there was about 7 or 8 hours between the two and a night train where you didn't have to get off. Then sleep by rail to the next destination.
Surfergirl is offline  
Nov 17th, 2005, 10:57 AM
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Thanks for all your replies! I could cut down on the number of cities. I just decided to go last night when i bought my plane ticket. Why Amsterdam? It was $350.00 round trip and I thought it was as good a place as any to find myself. So i am open to anything right now.
Lostmymind is offline  
Nov 17th, 2005, 11:18 AM
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Read Bill Bryson!
GSteed is offline  
Nov 17th, 2005, 11:25 AM
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OK, since you say round-trip you'll need to return to Amsterdam to fly home then.

You could plan your interary and try for a big loop to include most of what you mention, or head in a somewhat straight line and then catch a low-cost european airline back to A'dam from your furthest away city at the end of the trip.

Amsterdam/Frankfurt/Prague seem reasonable for a two week trip with a quick look at the map. Vienna and Zurich a bit more out of the way. And Milan much further, I would suggest to eliminate Milan from your list unless you have a strong desire to see something specific there.

I also change my vote, 3 days in enough for Amsterdam if you only chose it because of a good deal on the flight, and since you're total trip time is only 2 weeks.
suze is offline  
Nov 17th, 2005, 11:33 AM
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Frankfurt is not terribly interesting, except that it's near more interesting towns like Heidelberg. Perhaps Munich and the surrounding areas would offer more.
flsd is offline  
Nov 17th, 2005, 11:54 AM
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As a 22 year old I bummed around Europe for 6 weeks in pretty much the same condition Lost Mind seems to describe. My mistakes were legion. However, I learned so that when I finally returned after many years of not visiting Europe, I was much better prepared.

Now when I go, I have read the guides, read the forum and decided where I want to go and what I want to see.

I suggest that aimless wandering can be fun if you have no cares or money concerns. I had to be frugal, and ate a lot of bread and cheese for my lunches and in cheap restaurants in the evenings.

I suggest that the number of days of travel be curtailed. It is a long train ride from Amsterdam to Prague.
And from Amsterdam to Vienna.

The trip to Vienna is 11 and a half hours.
Prague is about the same length of time with a change in Berlin.

Given the time and the objectives stated so far, why not Amsterdam, Berlin, Prague, and Vienna? Fly open jawed to Amsterdam and return from Vienna.

My only suggestion there is that when returning from Vienna, try to schedule a flight that does NOT take you through CDG. I try to avoid that airport even at extra cost.
brookwood is offline  

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