Backpacking Europe without a clue

Nov 17th, 2005, 11:29 AM
  #21  
 
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Now we know you have bought a round trip ticket to Amsterdam, so you need to make a circular trip. First pick the easternmost city you want to see, then plan a circle, so you don't backtrack through the same area heading back to Amsterdam.

I hope you haven't bought the Eurail pass yet because the full pass covers 17 countries and you can only do a few. I think someone else has already posted the website to check whether and which railpasses save money.

Go to the library and check out all the travel books covering this area. Skim through them all, then pick out the ONE you like best and buy it to take with you.(Preferably one, definitely take no more than 2 guidebooks -too confusing for a short trip.)

Once you have decided more or less where you want to go and bought railpass accordingly, do NOT make specific plans or reservations. That's the beauty of traveling solo with a railpass. Other than a more or less circular route and deciding you will go no further east than x, you want to be free to go wherever you want whenever you feel like it. Where you end up depends on what train is leaving at the time you feel like going, and who you meet along the way. Nothing more satisfying for a midlife crisis - or any other time in life.
cylueth is offline  
Nov 17th, 2005, 11:38 AM
  #22  
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Should I order a pass now or wait untill i get there? Also I was going to reserve a room only in Amsterdam for now. Does that sound wise?
Lostmymind is offline  
Nov 17th, 2005, 11:41 AM
  #23  
 
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I'm no expert on railpasses, but I thought you HAD to buy them in the USA. I'm sure someone who knows for sure will chime in.

Yes, it would be wise to book at least your first (and probably last) night's accommodation before leaving. You're not going to want to wander around Amsterdam in the cold with jetlag looking for a hotel room. If you know you're going to stay there three nights, book for three nights.
StCirq is online now  
Nov 17th, 2005, 11:43 AM
  #24  
 
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If you want to buy a rail pass you order that while you are in the U.S. they are not available once you are in Europe.

That said, you need to figure out how much you will use the train to determine which pass, if any, is a value for you. That is impossible to do until you make you at least some sample possible itineraries you might follow. If you end up visiting say 3 cities in 2 countries point-to-point tickets purchased at the train station may end up your better option.

Since you only know your first city at this point (right?) I don't see how you can reserve rooms until your plan is a bit further developed.
suze is online now  
Nov 17th, 2005, 11:46 AM
  #25  
 
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I mean -yes- you should reserve Amsterdam for 3 nights now. No sense wandering around an entire city when you're fresh off the plane for want of a place to stay, as mentioned by someone else above.
suze is online now  
Nov 17th, 2005, 12:15 PM
  #26  
 
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As you can tell from my previous post, I'm not big on reservations. Once had a 3 day reservation for a B&B in Wales, made by phone from US. Spoke to the owner who seemed really nice on the phone, but turned out to be a b*tch! Why such a person would run a B&B is a mystery. There was a musty smell and it turned out that the attraction we had planned to see in this town was closed. But I had paid in advance for 3 days for 3 people.

Anyway, the important reservation is your last night, close enough to the airport that you are sure of making your flight home. I would not reserve more than one night on arrival, for the reasons mentioned above. Reservations are important for people who are picky about deluxe accommodations, but you said you are willing to stay in hostels, so I would not worry about Amsterdam.
cylueth is offline  
Nov 17th, 2005, 12:35 PM
  #27  
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You guys and girls are great!! This trip should be very interesting. I travel for a living 95% within the U.S. and all my plans are made for me at 5 star hotels I never have to worry about anything, this should be a humbling experience. My co-workers are having a great laugh at me.
Lostmymind is offline  
Nov 17th, 2005, 12:48 PM
  #28  
 
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Lost:

I've nothing to add but I really wanted to say, YOU GO GIRL!
lucygirl is offline  
Nov 17th, 2005, 01:12 PM
  #29  
 
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Fun to help... But Lost, if you are used to staying in 5-star hotels are you sure you might not like to book a little better than hostels, especially in Amsterdam? I'm only talking 2 or 3-star hotels even with shared baths, but at your age (no offense) and with what you mentioned (traveling what some of us would consider 1st class) are you sure you might not like a tiny bit nicer? Or at least spend some time reading hostel reviews on the internet to have an idea what you're in for.

I think your trip sounds grand and I am definitely not raining on this parade, but I know for myself traveling solo I really appreciate having a decent and more importantly private place to rest.
suze is online now  
Nov 17th, 2005, 03:59 PM
  #30  
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I am looking to humble myself and get back to basics and at this moment thats staying in a cheap hotel, and carrying a backpack.
But let me tell you everyone in the office pool is betting that I will be hunting for a Ritz Carlton within two days. I say bet on me, I know i could do this!
Lostmymind is offline  
Nov 17th, 2005, 04:16 PM
  #31  
 
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Without a doubt if you have the desire to stay in youth hostels and carry a backpack, I'm darn sure you can do it with success!

I am someone who has never stayed in a 5-star hotel but do travel solo at the 2/3-star budget route, and believe me that was plenty humbling in a few locations. The point I was trying to make is should you find it overwhelming or feel unsafe maybe you could bump it up a tiny notch but not run for the Ritz like your clearly unimaginative co-workers are predicting. Warm regards, suze
suze is online now  
Nov 17th, 2005, 04:22 PM
  #32  
 
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You can often get moderately nice hotels for the same price as cheap, nasty hotels. That's been my strategy for the past few trips, rather than staying in hostels or 1* hotels. But that method tends to take more planning and research.

If you stay at hostels, you are definitely more likely to meet more people.
WillTravel is offline  
Nov 17th, 2005, 06:01 PM
  #33  
 
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Hi Lostmymind...

You haven't lost your mind at all. I think traveling, for whatever reason is always a great idea.

I had a bit of a crisis when I turned 30...didn't want to work anymore. I quit and decided to backpack Europe for 2 months. I had never worn a backpack before and didn't know what it felt like to carry all your worldly travel possessions on my back. Like you, I did a ton of domestic traveling, but didn't have too much European experience outside London, Paris and Ireland.

2 months turned into 4 because I decided I wasn't ready to come home. I was very regimented at first in my planning (being a avid fodorite!). But I learned to go by the seat of my pants and hung out in lots of hostels. Sometimes it was frustrating...like meeting the 19 year old who told me she wants to look like me when she got to me my age. I was only 30!!! And other times, it was downright magical...like meeting a wonderful Australian man who I just fell hard for. Now, nearly 3 years later, we are still together, and he has moved to the U.S.

You'll be going in the winter which is normally slow, but it will be the holidays. I agree that booking for your first few nights (and last night) accommodation is a good idea. But leave room to go wherever your nose leads you. Still, book ahead a day or two online or by phone...you don't want to be stuck in the cold without a room! (but then, I guess you can always use your backup plan to find a ritzy hotel...the joys of actually having income!) I had no problems in the winter, but the holidays are a different story, I am sure. If you stay in hostels, you will definitely have a better chance to meet people. Just keep an open mind. I decided on a whim to follow a 17 year old girl who was overly giggly (and very sweet) to some remote random destination. She is the direct reason why I ended up meeting my boyfriend. Go figure!

I did a lot of hostel research on eurotrip.com before I went. There are some crappy hostels out there. Also, since you are going in the winter, I would recommend going to some places which just look magical during the season (especially with some snow). Prague was beautiful. Prague is also still very reasonably priced! I would recommend going to some smaller places, like Cesky Krumlov. There is a hostel there called Krumlov House. It's a cozy place, and the "fun" largely depends on who is actually there. But the town is lovely. I met my Aussie there.

In Vienna, there is the backpacker hotel. It's clean and nice, but it's kind of big. I liked the smaller hostels that I found in the Czech Republic because it was so much easier to make friends. And believe me, when you travel alone, it's nice to talk to someone once in a while.

Good luck on your trip. And the advice often given here really applies to you...PACK LIGHT! All my clothes fit in two 2-gallon ziploc bags. It was the best thing I did, because backpacking with a heavy backpack SUCKS!!!!

crazymina is offline  
Nov 18th, 2005, 06:35 AM
  #34  
 
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crazymina, what a beautiful post and wonderful story!
suze is online now  
Nov 18th, 2005, 12:36 PM
  #35  
 
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Lol Suze, thanks. I try to remind myself of that everytime my boyfriend gets on my nerves (and I, his!)
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Nov 18th, 2005, 12:53 PM
  #36  
 
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>>>>
but turned out to be a b*tch! Why such a person would run a B&B is a mystery. There was a musty smell and it turned out that the attraction we had planned to see in this town was closed. But I had paid in advance for 3 days for 3 people.
>>>>>

typical...welcome to great britain.
walkinaround is offline  
Nov 18th, 2005, 06:48 PM
  #37  
 
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Walkinaround, the Welsh B&B b*tch was a gracious hostess compared to the proprietor of a B&B we found in Liverpool, but she was an evil old German woman. I believe she received her hospitality training while a member of Hitler Youth.

Mmm. Didn't I see somewhere that the parent company of Fodor's/Random House is Bertelsmann, a German Company? No doubt the operators of this board trained in customer service right along with said Liverpool B&B proprietor.
cylueth is offline  
Nov 18th, 2005, 08:46 PM
  #38  
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Today I flew from NYC to Houston and back in a 14 hour period, so excuse my typos.
crazymina what a an inspiring post and great insights suze. So i am going to book my first two nights and my last night. But my question now is do the B&B's and hostels take credit cards or will i need cash?
Lostmymind is offline  
Nov 18th, 2005, 09:19 PM
  #39  
 
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The policy of each establishment varies. Many offer a discount for cash, even if they do take cards.
WillTravel is offline  
Nov 19th, 2005, 08:20 AM
  #40  
 
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like WillTravel says no single policy applies.

Some places are cash only, some accept credit cards but add a surcharge to the bed/room price for doing so, to the same effect some who accept credit cards give a discount if you pay cash, at some either is OK.

Since you're starting and ending in Amsterdam I highly recommend the Let's Go Amsterdam guidebook. You can read it on the plane ride over. I am not a big researcher or guidebook fanatic but Amsterdam is a bit tricky and Let's Go covered it nicely. Including great maps, the normal touristy stuff, but thoroughly covering "Only in Amsterdam" special topics. I found it extremely accurate and helpful.
suze is online now  

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