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First Europe Trip--advice/critiques please!

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Hi! My girlfriend and I are tentatively planning a full two week trip to europe( atleast 14, if not hopefully 15/16 days in Europe, this is not counting the travel flights to and from the U.S.). We are hoping to go in March or April, as although it is fairly soon, this fits into our work schedule.

Here's our plan so far:

1) Fly from Phoenix, AZ to Venice, Italy. Stay a max of 2 nights. We've heard Venice is small and expensive, but my girlfriend wants to go to Venice and it seems fairly close to our next destination, Munich. Although its expensive, we figured that this would be the one place on our list where we get a hotel room instead of staying at a hostel.

2)After one to two nights in Venice, take the night train(correct me if there isnt a night train) to Munich. Stay with our college friend at his apartment in Munich for 3 to 4 days. The only for sure things we would like to do in Munich is to visit Dachau and obviously see where Oktoberfest is held. Any advice on things to see and do in Munich?

3)After several days in Prague, take the night train to Prague. Stay in Prague for 3 days or so in a hostel.

4)After 3 to 4 days in Prague, take the night train to Budapest. Visit the famous bath houses, tour something called the House of Terror? Stay in Budapest for 3 or 4 days in a hostel, or hotel if it is fairly inexpensive. Fly home to the U.S. from Budapest.

Any advice for this plan is appreciated. Like I said, neither of us has been to Europe before but we love to travel and see and try new things. We are both in our 20s and are active, we don't mind a lot of walking. I will admit that I could see myself having some trouble sleeping on the trains at night, but I would be willing to try some over the counter sleep aids. If you have any input on our city selection of Venice, Munich, Prague, and Budapest, feel free to say whether or not you think thats a good selection or if you would leave one off or substitue one for a different city--we contemplated maybe doing Paris instead of Venice, or maybe trying to do London or Dublin for a couple of days if we could make it work if we would have to have a connecting flight through there anyway.

We figured 4 countries was reasonable but maybe not? We are in a bind between wanting to see and experience a few different places, but also just not having as much time as we would like. If we are lucky we will have maybe 16 full days in Europe, but we might only have 14 depending on the time off from work that we are able to get.

Thanks for any responses!

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    4 countries in 14 days is way to much like a tour for me. So it's hard for me to comment. It's doable, enjoyable...hmmm.
    You've already mentioned your not sure about sleeping on a train.

    You've also mentioned budget concerns so cutting down on the amount of cities/borders is a good way to save money.

    You didn't mention what you like to do. So tell us that.

    You could do Munich, Prague and Budapest in 14 days (16 would be better). You can always return to Venice some other time.

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    Good point, I didn't explain what we really like to do. We both like to really see and experience culture, but we aren't hardcore into cliche tourists spots. As in, if we were to go to New York City, seeing the empire state building and the statue of liberty wouldn't be on the top of our list. That's not to say that we don't like anything that's tourist oriented, just at some point I want to see how the normal citizens of some of these citiess live. I realize Venice is probably not very indicative of your normal Italian citizens, but maybe I'm wrong there.

    We like to drink good beer, but we won't feel the need to stay out at the clubs til 5am. We enjoy trying foods that are new to us, or that just taste much better in Europe. I enjoy war history, hence my interest in dachau, and seeing some more war ruins, barracks, etc would interest me. The bath houses seem interesting in Budapest. I would like to see a castle at some point. Maybe a museum or two, but my Our interest in art is minimal. I'm doing as much research as I can about these places, but to be honest it's a little hard at this point as we have never been there and know very little about Europe. What I can say is that both of us are very open to new places and cultures. I'm not worried about being bored or disliking a place, as I'm sure it will all be so new to us that in and of itself will make it interesting.

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    I agree with LSky that this itinerary is too scattered; it needs more focus. The best advice that I can give you is to assume that you will be able to return to Europe many times in your life. Given what you have said I will make a couple of suggestions. Munich might be a good starting point because you have a friend there who will help get you started. Given the time of year I might be inclined to head south for nicer weather. Fly into Munich (I am assuming this a priority because of your friend), then train through the Alps (very scenic) to Venice. Verona (on the way to Venice) would make a pleasant introduction to Italy without the crowds of the big tourism destinations. From Venice carry on to elsewhere in Italy then fly home from Rome, or somewhere else.

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    You're moving around a lot, but IMO not unreasonably so, particularly if you can get 16 days off. That would give you a minimum of 3-4 nights in each place. I suggest, however, that you spend at least 3 nights in Venice, not 1 or 2.

    Since you have not been to Europe before, you don't don't know how you will feel upon arrival. You may feel quite tired and jetlagged coming all the way from Phoenix, and not up to doing a lot of sightseeing when you first get there. Besides, Venice is a long way to go just to spend a half-day or so. Definitely not enough time.

    For many people a European vacation is a trip of a lifetime, and it may be years before they get back, if ever. I think you should see what you can while you're there, within reason, of course. IMO 4 cities in 16 days is not an overly aggressive itinerary.

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    Before you plan all this night train stuff you need to be looking at schedules. Use for all schedules although you can only book German trains from this site.

    For instance, you will quickly note that most night trains from Munich to Prague have many changes and take 14 to 15 hours. The only train with no changes leaves at 5:00 AM and arrives at 11:00 AM. The reason for this is that Munich and Prague are not far apart.

    Please do some basic research before leaving for your trip.

    As much as I love Venice I would remove it from this trip. You have an overpacked itinerary. Munich, Prague, and Budapest is enough for 2 weeks plus travel time between cities.

    Get a couple of good guide books from the library and read the introductions as well as the part on the sightseeing. I recommend the Let's Go series which is a very good budget guide and has lots of historical information. The other guide that is good is Lonely Planet.

    << at some point I want to see how the normal citizens of some of these citiess live >>

    Normal people do not live in the city center as it's too expensive. In Prague you can get on a tram and take a ride through Prague 6 and Prague 7. These are areas where people live. When I visited Prague I stayed in Prague 6 twice - it's a nice residential area. The last time I stayed in a family owned pension where the owners live. The first time in Prague I stayed with a family who rented rooms.

    To see something of a normal life in cities you need time to be able to get into outlying areas. To use your example of visiting NYC you would need to get out of Manhattan and see something of the other 4 boroughs which is where the majority of people who work in Manhattan live.

    << Maybe a museum or two, but my Our interest in art is minimal >>

    Not all museums are art museums. This is true in the US as well. Don't discount museums because you think they're full of paintings.

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    I don't like overnight trains. They seem too much like flights to/from Europe, so my comments come from a biased viewpoint.

    The Venice-Munich O/N stops 8 times. I'd be wide awake after stop #3.

    I don't think there's a good Munich-Prague O/N. Check your options, but I think you'd have to make at least 3 changes during the journey, and the wait between trains in at least one connection is multiple hours. I wouldn't get any sleep at all that night, between worrying about missing a connection and sitting on a train bench at 2 in the morning. adrienne has pointed out the no-change option.

    There is a Prague-Budapest O/N train, but like Venice-Munich it stops many times.

    Munich, Prague and Budapest for beer, yes. Venice, not so much.

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    In my younger days, I took trips that aren't unlike this one - moving from country to country every few days, sometimes via overnight trains. I found much to savor in those experiences! Doesn't mean it will work for you, but I can easily imagine that it could.

    I must admit, though, that I'm not really sure why you want to actually visit most of these places. I hear you imagining yourselves at some very specific places; I don't hear much to indicate why it would be worth spending all the time and energy it will take to get to those few very specific places. To be clear: I'm not saying you don't have that vision; I'm just saying that I don't find it in your words. And there's no particular reason why you would have provided that context! But it makes it hard to respond in a constructive way.

    If you haven't already done so and if you have time, I would urge you and your girlfriend to get 2 very different travel guides (maybe either the Rough Guide or Lonely Planet, both of which offer fairly detailed info about sites with attention to the interests of young, active, budget travelers AND either the Eyewitness Guide or National Geographic Traveller or another book that offer lots of super-high quality pictures along with info about a limited set of destinations. Go through them separately, gather your thoughts individually, swap books, go through on your own, and then compare notes. I think that would help the two of you come up with a more detailed mutually satisfying plan.

    Just my 2 cents worth....

    Happy travels!

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    Just going to jump straight in here and of course everything is only my advice and experience so you know do whats good for you...

    Ive taken 2 "interrailing trips" in the past few years. First and foremost i have to agree on what has been said so far about the night trains sometimes its not possibly as they may be booked out or non existent (spent 14 hours traveling amsterdam - berlin :( ) this means the possibilities of losing days in some cases, there are also reservations that can be made or bookings that have to be paid so i would strongly advise going straight to the train station/ ticket desk at each destination straight away and figuring out.

    Some night trains have beds - these are obviously extra, some have nice enough seats that can fold out and some have wooden benches - shudder :(

    venice is very "meh" in my opinion over rated but thats my opinion!! prague is sensational and 3/4 days needed, prague plus great hostel just outside the city underground train right too it.

    Budapest i would honestly recommend about 2 days if the baths & house of terror are what you are interested in because they could be done both in one day, house of terror is extremely creepy & weird but worth a visit all the same. prague & budapest cheap enough, venice would be classed expensive and munich is far from cheap!

    Also the jet lag factor is i would say an issue I flew vancouver - dublin and nearly needed a good 24 hours recovery :(

    Best of luck on your endeavors and enjoy Europe :)

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    I live in Munich and did my honeymoon trip to Venice. I've been to Prague a couple of times, yet more than 10 years ago. Budapest I have never visited.
    I think, it is a very good idea to get a hotel room in Venice proper. When we did our honeymoon trip there, we made up our mind before about Venice: Yes, it is overpriced. Yes, it is crammed with tourists and less and less people actually live there but Yes, it is a unique city and we want to see it. So, we came to the conclusion that the best way to do so is to accept the given facts and make the best out of it, which was for us: Don't try saving money on lodging in venice, but get yourself a room in a hotel in the very centre, although it seems ridiculously expensive (think about that you pay no money on lodging in munich, so you could spend double the money in venice). We stayed at Hotel Niccolo Priuli behind San Marco Place, it cost us sth. like 200€ per person and night but it was worth it. (Don't get me wrong, this is a decent hotel that could normally not charge this price if located in a different place). Advantage: Most tourists arrive in Venice for a day trip only, i.e. the masses arrive around 9-10 a.m. and leave between 5-7 p.m. Make use of the time before and after, when Venice is surprisingly empty of tourist. Be the first in line at the major spots in the morning, book museum tickets with specified entry times in advance, then do long walks through the entire city avoiding the major tourist thoroughfares. Make reservations for a restaurant table in advance (while you're strolling around), you won't get a table in the evening by just "showing up", or at least, it can be a hassle. Make use of the really cheap public transport boats (vaporetti), hop on and off the boats and explore the city from all perspectives.
    Don't look at your trip as a trip to four countries, you rather visit 4 cities and that's just fine, if you want to do so.
    As with night-trains, I'm not a big fan either. Although the connection Venice-Munich is not so bad, a day ride would provide you with spectacular views of the Alpes. Mostly, there are no direct trains Venice-Munich, but you have to change in Verona. As suggested before, Verona is a great city with great architecture and scenery (already on the foot of the Alps, you can see the white peaks already). I did a weekend-trip from Munich to Verona last autumn and we really liked the train connection (Eurocity train), 5:30 from Munich to Verona with stops in (among some minor ones) Innsbruch, Bolzano/Bozen and finally Verona. The train runs every 2h in daytime, so you could also (depending on your ticket), stay in one of the cities for a couple of hours and take a later train to continue your trip.
    Bed and breakfast is quite popular in Italy, you can stay at family homes, often in the city centre, at competitive prices:
    We did so in Verona and really liked it. Also, you get really good restaurant advice from your landlord.

    Munich: It is ok to have a look at the Oktoberfest grounds, but don't expect too much: it is simply a vast open space covered with gravel within the city-that's it.

    There isn't really a good (i.e. fast) railway connection from Munich to Prague (still due to the former iron curtain), no modern railroad track such as a high-speed-line. However, there are some good Bus-connections, leaving from Munich bus-terminal:
    There is, however, a very scenic and cheapway of getting from Munich to Prague by train, but it takes time: Take the regional train from Munich to Passau (nice), then take the small regional train or the bus into the hills of the Bavarian/Bohemian Forest to reach the chech border by the small village of haidmühle. There, the chech railroad starts (the rails on the german side unfortunately were dismantled during the cold war on a distance of about 10km, therefor you need to take the bus for that strip). From Haidmühle you reach Cesky Krumlov, one major sight of czech republic. Then the train ride continues via the beautiful Budweis/Budvar to Prague. I did that once, it is really cheap, I doesn't really fit your actual plans but I thought you might be interested in the idea.
    I can't really tell anything about Prague or Budapest apart from that I liked the former and want to see the latter.
    Enjoy your trip

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    I love your plan and for some reason I am assuming you are young, but maybe not. We had 16 nights on our first European trip and we moved (stayed)7 different places. Only two countries, but we were still moving. And we were nearly 50.

    I would add one more day in Venice, however. While it is a tourist spot, you can get out in some of the "setstieres" other than San Marco and see how Venecians live. We stayed in a centrally located apartment that was on the canal in San Marco and we loved it. You can save on meals in this way, and I believe it is still 160 euros per night.

    We also took a night train from Florence to Munich and would do it again. It was an experience and we saved the cost of a hotel room. We didn't get the best nights sleep, but we did sleep and I wouldn't trade the experience for anything.

    I can't comment on Budapest or Prague as I have not been there, but I say go for it.

    In Munich I am sure your friend can tell you what to see and do.

    Don't let people here discourage you from going where you want to go.

    I would as someone else suggested get a couple travel guides. Rick Steve's has good ones that give you practical advice on how to do things, costs, reservations, hours, etc. he may not cover hostels as much as some others, but I find them helpful.

    Good Luck!

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    I'm going to comment on the choice of arrival and departure cities. I haven't looked but I will bet that the air fare to these are more than other major hubs.
    Munich would probably be a better entry.
    You might give us a clue as to how much you are alloting for this trip also.
    I like the idea given of both getting guide books and doing some research.
    Unfortunately Venice is probably the outlier here.
    As for Munich and Oktoberfest, DO go to the Hofbrau Haus.

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