Backpacking through the UK and Europe

Feb 2nd, 2010, 09:57 AM
  #1  
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Backpacking through the UK and Europe

Hi guys!
I am planning to backpack through France, Germany, Ireland and the UK in the spring and I need all the help I can get! I am planning on doing the hostel thing, and other than that I don't have any solid plans.
Do you guys have any tips, or have found any hidden gems that are off the beaten track that I could keep in mind on my tour? I am very new at this and I would be super grateful if you could help in any way.

Thanks!
wowthisisfun is offline  
Feb 2nd, 2010, 10:51 AM
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My first suggestion - though you'll find helpful advice here, the Thorntree forum over at Lonely Planet (http://www.lonelyplanet.com/thorntree/index.jspa) has a much higher percentage of posters doing this kind of traveling, so you may find that one even more useful.

Some questions: Do you know how long you'll be traveling? Planning on rail passes, air travel? How much of a budget, specifically?

My experience is somewhat dated, as I did this sort of thing ten years ago, but I think a lot of it would still hold. Besides packing light, getting a good backpack and shoes, I'd plan a route. Some people like to just fly by the seat of their pants, and if you have six months or so to do it, that can be fine. But my trip was only two weeks, so I really had to figure out what there was to see in each place, how to get there and some places to stay. (I'm of the mind that I'd rather make reservations or at least narrow down my options than wander around for precious hours figuring out where I'll sleep. Not everyone agrees with me, but I think especially if you only have a few weeks, that's a good way to go.)

Also, think of your trip as cities/towns, not countries. Seeing the UK is different than seeing London. Seeing Dublin is quite different than visiting the southwest of Ireland. You get the idea. Think about what mix of cities, towns, countryside you want. Why did you pick these countries?

Do your research on transportation. If you're thinking about rail passes, come up with a plan and see how much point-to-point tickets would cost you (or decide how much you're willing to pay for flexibility). Rail tickets in the UK get more expensive if you buy them last-minute, but that's not quite as true for France or Germany. Rural Ireland can be seen by public transit, but a car would give you a lot of flexibility, if you're old enough to rent one. Look into inexpensive air tickets to get from the UK to Ireland, or Ireland to the continent (though if you're going from London to France/Germany, the Eurail might be a good option).

Do fly open-jaw, meaning into one city and home from another (into Dublin or London and home from Paris or Munich, for example).
jent103 is offline  
Feb 2nd, 2010, 12:05 PM
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That is a wonderful start! And I will definitely try the LP forum.
I plan to be travelling for 5-6 weeks, with no schedule for each area. I am hoping to fly into Heathrow and tour the island first, then off to France then up to Germany. I definitely do not have much of a budget, but still wanting to make the most of it all.
I will definitely look into "open-jaw" flying, which is a great idea and one that would be economic time-wise.
I could do the car rental thing, which is another good point.

Thank you so much!
wowthisisfun is offline  
Feb 2nd, 2010, 12:08 PM
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If you are under 26 then the Eurail Youthpass is often the best ticket IMO for such a wide raning train trip - gives you flexiblity to change course at will -say if you meet others you want to travel with -there are zillions of young folks using European trains -young folk from all over the world. (And with a Eurail Youthpass you get 50% off BritRail Passes!) Anyway for loads of info on European trains check out these fine info-laden sites - www.seat61.com; www.ricksteves.com (this one also has info on discount airlines - you may want to say end up in Greece and then fly back to London, etc); www.budgeteuropetravel.com - this one has an excellent IMO European Planning & Rail Guide you can download free - it has rail itinerary possibilities for each country with rail maps,etc. Anyway IMO for anyone backpacking extensively i think some kind of Eurail Youthpass is a no brainer. I've had over 100 various railpasses and have loved the flexibility, etc they provide and always have found them a great deal for me -but if youdo not travel to more than a few countries or cities then investiage other options apart from a pass.
Palenque is offline  
Feb 2nd, 2010, 12:20 PM
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www.yha.co.uk go membership
bilboburgler is online now  
Feb 2nd, 2010, 12:23 PM
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sorry www.yha.org.uk
bilboburgler is online now  
Feb 2nd, 2010, 12:31 PM
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Another very good forum for what you are doing is www.eurotrip.com I like it better than thorntree, or used to, I haven't been on it in a while
Christina is offline  
Feb 2nd, 2010, 12:51 PM
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The YHA organization that bilboburgler pointed you to is an association of youth hostels. You can buy a membership and then get discounted nightly rates, so if you'll be traveling for awhile they can save you some money. The downsides are that you're limited to that organization's hostels, and some of them have rules (curfews, age limits) that might not fit your style. So just do your research. You can stay in a YHA hostel without being a member, though, and some independent hostels also have age limits.

For London, I've stayed in a couple of the Astor hostels (astorhostels.co.uk ) and been very pleased. The Museum location is perfect for me, but they have several.

With 5-6 weeks, you can afford some more flexibility, but I would still make at least a rough plan. That sounds like a lot of time, but I could easily spend two weeks just in the UK. If you get rail passes you'll have flexibility there, but the Eurail is not covered by a rail pass (though it's possible that they may have some discounts tied in, I'm not sure), and you'll want to buy plane tickets early if you use them. And if you go to Ireland, I would fly. You could take a ferry, but it takes much longer, it's harder to get to/from the ports than to the airports, and the novelty wears off quickly!
jent103 is offline  
Feb 3rd, 2010, 08:25 AM
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To me Let's Go Europe is the best resource book for youth accommodations - or hostels for any ages.

Yes you have the HI (Hostelling International) hostels - called YHA in Britain) that require a membership card to use but you also have zillions of non-HI hostels that are in many ways better located, more fun - lively pubs on the premises - and require no card. Let's Go Europe -the book - covers dozens of hostels and youth hotels in hundreds of cities as well as the HI hostels. HI hostels tend to be more institutional and often are full of younger teen groups - the youth hotels -like the Flying Pig ones in Amsterdam are full of college-age folks traveling around.
Palenque is offline  
Feb 3rd, 2010, 12:34 PM
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I could do the car rental thing, which is another good point.>

It is if you want to spend most of your time in the countryside but if, like most folks who go to Europe for the first time you want to visit the famous cities you've heard about your whole life then going by car IMO is foolish - many cities now restrict car travel -many city centers are pedestrianized - even many hotels do not offer parking and to park in a city may mean charges of $30 a day or more. The train however will take you right to the city center and then the superb public transit system to any hostel or hotel.

Cars in european cities are a complete hassle IMO
Palenque is offline  
Feb 3rd, 2010, 01:24 PM
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My advice:

Get an open-jaw ticket so that you don't need to return to London. Plan your route in a way that you don't need to backtrack. Otherwise, you'll spend quite alot of time and money for travel that itsn't neccessary.

If you haven't got too much of a budget, mkaybe think about cheaper places as Berlin and Prague, if your destinations aren't fixed for sure (though I'm not sure whether the prices in Dublin have gone down since the begin of the crises).

If you plan an itnerary, always add two days more than you think neccesary. And don't forget to figure in travel times.
Hans is offline  
Feb 4th, 2010, 09:25 AM
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Hans makes a great point about budgets - if on a limited budget then beware that certain countries are much much more expensive than others - the most outrageously expensive ones IME are all of Scandinavia, except Denmark- Switzerland is IME the very worst - and even in countries the largest cities like London can be much more expensive than cities outside London.

Cheaper climes are Eastern Europe - Portugal - Greece
Palenque is offline  
Feb 4th, 2010, 10:11 AM
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Just in terms of hostels, I really enjoyed hostelworld.com
Because I'm a bit of a sticklier for cleanliness, hostels concerned me for my first backpacking trip this summer (they were totally fine by the way). I kind of figured out which places I thought I was going to be staying (the actual cities/towns) and then looked up about two hostels that had the best reviews for each of them. Of course plans changed throughout my trip, but I used that website frequently to look hostels. ALthough a tip is that it is actually cheaper to call and book if possible, rather than book online and easier to cancel.
tayjamarie is offline  
Feb 5th, 2010, 08:40 AM
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Young rail travelers often hop overnight trains to relocated long distances without traveling on trains all day and to save a night's lodging (hostels now typically cost $30 a night or more)- even on the so-called hotel trains where you must purchase some kind of sleeping accommodation at a cost your railpass won't cover (pass covers the train fare on night trains -not optional sleeping accommodations or mandatory sleeping accommodations such as on hotel trains, which do not have regular seated cars like many night trains still do where you pay nothing extra and sleep in your seat. These night trains can be fun for youths who may tend to create a party atmosphere at times. Even on hotel trains there are often reclinging seats that cost just a few euros supplement.
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