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First time backpacking in Europe - Need help!!!

First time backpacking in Europe - Need help!!!

Mar 3rd, 2005, 03:29 PM
  #1  
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First time backpacking in Europe - Need help!!!

Hi,

My friends and I are backpacking through Europe from late April to end of May. We will be purchasing the Eurail Youth Select Pass (4 country - Austria/Germany/Italy/Switzerland, 8 days/2 mths) I just want to ask a few questions, and hopefully somebody can help me out.

1. Is there a list available for specifically which trains are covered under the Eurail pass? I can't seem to find a complete list, and the list on www.eurail.com is somewhat ambiguous as it doesn't specifically state which trains are covered, and which aren't.

2. To continue on the question above, are RegionalBahn, InterCity, EuroCity trains (in Switzerland) covered by the Eurail pass mentioned above?

3. The Eurail website says that the Czech Republic is covered under the pass, but I seem to find a lot of contradicting information online. Can you please verify?

4. I went to the a website, www.railsaver.com, put in my iterinary and they suggested a combination of passes/tickets that would result in the lowest cost. We plan to travel from Vienna to Prague, and Prague to Heidelberg. Since our pass does not cover the Czech, would that mean we would have to get on a train in Vienna, and get off at a bordering city (in Austria) and purchase a ticket to Prague?

Thank you for all your help!
Michelle_L is offline  
Mar 3rd, 2005, 03:49 PM
  #2  
 
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1. Thomas Cook rail timetable is sold in most bookstores in the travel section. It has a comprehensive time table of darn near every train in Europe. Don't worry about what the Eurail Pass covers. 99.99% of the trains you will want to ride in the Eurail countries will be covered by the pass.

2. Eurail covers boat travel on Switzerland's lakes. Since Switzerland is a Eurail country its national rail lines will be covered, but not its private rail lines. This is one country where you might ride the private lines for the scenery.

3. I do not believe Czech Republic is covered.

4. I haven't experience that scenario, but I think what would happen is that you would need to buy a ticket in Vienna that would cover the Czech segment of the journey.
Edward2005 is offline  
Mar 3rd, 2005, 05:11 PM
  #3  
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Thanks for the info! That really helps! =)
Michelle_L is offline  
Mar 4th, 2005, 06:46 AM
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Michelle, You might also want to read and/or post on the Lonely Planet's BB called the Thorn Tree. I don't know for your specific questions, but there are lots of folks who travel budget and backpack style on that board.
suze is online now  
Mar 4th, 2005, 07:24 AM
  #5  
 
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Czech Republic was not covered back in 2002 when I used the Eurail Youth Select Pass.

STA travel should eb able to give you a good rail map and train schedule for each country.
TexasAggie is offline  
Mar 4th, 2005, 08:51 AM
  #6  
rex
 
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Your two rail passes will cost $746. I can design a good itinerary that spans a lot of the places you apparently want to visit for a lot less than that. Train travel in Italy, in particular, is incredibly cheap if you make the right purchases. See www.railsaver.com - - the key is having a plan. A "rail pass" is a good way to spend several hundred dollars more than necessary, for not having a plan. They're also good for just riding trains a lot (see the movie "Before Sunrise" - - for people who aren't all that interested, or don't have any good idea about what they would like to see in Europe).

A Thomas Cook guide would still likely be a good investment. Or maybe someone here (or on lonelyplanet) would "sell theirs forward" to you, if it's less than a year or two old. The Ferguson guide (which is NOT as good as a Thomas Cook) is available on eBay for less than 2 dollars. Alternatively, you can get a lot of the timetables you need from the internet for free (but not all, and not as handy) - - or of course, detailed guides of where you are are available for free at any train station.

Best wishes,

Rex
rex is offline  
Mar 4th, 2005, 01:32 PM
  #7  
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Our iterinary is like this, the number in the parentheses is the number of nights we are staying in that city/town:

London(3) > Paris(3) > Barcelona(3) > Rome(3) > Pisa (1) > Florence (2) > Venice(2) > Verona (1) > Lauterbrunnen(2) > Salzburg(2) > Vienna(2) > Prague(3) > Heidelberg(2) > Frankfurt(2)

We plan on flying from Paris to Barcelona, and Barcelona to Rome, since these two legs of the trip is quite long by rail, and the plane tickets offered by ryanair is very reasonable. I'd really appreciate if anyone can give me suggestions/comments!

One more thing, I seem to find conflicing views on this, but would it be preferable to bring traveller's cheques to Europe, or withdraw money directly from an ATM over there? My mom works at the bank, so she can get a good exchange rate for the traveller's cheques.

Thanks so much!
Michelle_L is offline  
Mar 4th, 2005, 01:33 PM
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I just wanted to point out that some places could probably be a day trip, but we don't want to arrive in the next city at night, we want to arrive during the day, so that's why we're staying over night in cities like Pisa and Verona.
Michelle_L is offline  
Mar 4th, 2005, 01:35 PM
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Withdrawing from ATM is easier and cheaper (i.e. you get a better transaction rate). I recommend this route. You can take traveller's checks if you like just in case.
JoeTro is offline  
Mar 4th, 2005, 01:43 PM
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Do NOT use T checks - such a waste of money and a monumental headache trying to find someone who will accept them.

ATMs are fast and super easy, AND much much cheaper.

Also, just a thought, but you might want to consider getting only a 3 country pass (eliminate Austria). This is what I did on my backpacking trip and it saved me money. I just paid with my mastercard for the couple of train tickets in Austria that I took and got the cheaper 3 country pass.

One other thing - do NOT under ANY circumstance alter your pass once you have it. You will see that basically what you do is write in the date you are traveling in a little box. You must write it in BEFORE you get on the train (if the train official catches you without it written in he will assume you were trying to "cheat" and get a free ride - you will be fined and your pass will be confiscated). About the no altering - if you write the wrong date in - too bad - you cannot cross it out and alter it. You have just lost a day but there isnt' anything you can do about it (hint - keep track of the date). The train officials are incredibly strict about this and I saw firsthand someone get fined 100 € and lose their pass (worht a few hundred dollars) on a train from Venice to Florence.
TexasAggie is offline  
Mar 4th, 2005, 01:50 PM
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Hi Michelle...

I don't think many people on this board will be encouraging you to speed up your itinerary.

Is this your first time in Europe? If so, I can certainly understand you want to see a lot in a month. However, hopefully you are leaving your itinerary open...I think you may find you are derailed (so to speak) along the way when you decide you want to stay because you fell in love with a place, etc. It definitely helps you are planning to fly from Paris to Barcelona and from there to Rome. Otherwise I'd be telling you that you are going way too far too fast.

It's also probably good that you are doing Prague close to the end...so many backpackers fall in love with the C.R. and end up staying there for way longer than planned. I'd also recommend Cesky Krumlov in the C.R. There are three hostels there, but Krumlov House is my favorite for a cozy home feel. It's where I met my boyfriend over two years ago, and we are still together. In Prague, Sir Toby's seems to be a favorite. I thought it was fine, but only stayed there two nights on two different occasions just passing through (my actual stint in Prague, I stayed at a hotel). Prague will be a welcome change to your wallet after Vienna.

I'd recommend that you stay in Lucca instead of Pisa. It's a very cool little town - stay within the walls. There is a huge HI hostel in Lucca (not my favorite hostel...I found it cold. But it's clean and serviceable). Pisa is neat to see, but if you do a search here, you'll find that many people don't think it's the best place to stay.

I backpacked for 4 months, and did move fast...but not as fast as you will be moving. For me, the Thomas Cook was invaluable. Ben Haines (a much respected member of this forum) taught me how to use it and even gave me a "test". I used it a lot because on any given day, I had no idea where I'd be tomorrow, so it helped. If you have a pretty set itinerary, you probably won't need it as much.

I haven't been on it on a long time, but when I was planning, I found eurotrip a great resource for backpackers.

http://www.eurotrip.com/index.html

Have fun!

crazymina is offline  
Mar 4th, 2005, 02:50 PM
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A couple things I can contribute: I think Travelers Checks are an OK idea as a back up to using an ATM card. I would never travel with only one source of money.

Is this your first trip to Europe (I see you say first time backpacking)? If yes, I want to point out something about your itinerary. I'm sure you can do the math but that's 14 cities 31 days!

First off, the arrival day and departure day at the beginning and end of the trip is basically lost to airport stuff. So now you've got 29 days for 14 cities.

Secondly, what you need to take into account when you say City(2) with a train ride and then City(2). The actual logistics necessarily involve: you must check out of your hostel/hotel, walk or take transpo to the train station, wait for the train & make the train journey to the next city, walk or take public transpo and find and check into your next hostel/hotel. Point being there goes at least 1/2 if not 1 of your 2 days.

My suggestion is to re-think the itinerary taking into consideration and better allowing for travel days, at the beginning and end of your trip, and between each city (even the ones when you take a flight you still have to leave hotel, get to airport, etc. etc.)
suze is online now  
Mar 5th, 2005, 10:28 AM
  #13  
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Thanks for the advice! Yes, it is my first time to Europe and first time backpacking. I know the schedule is a bit tight, but there's so much to do and so little time! LOL. We have a day or so at the end just in case things don't go according as plan. It's probably not enough, but if worse comes to worse, we can cut out one or two of the cities at the end. We did take into account the travelling time, and how long it takes to get to the train, etc, but of course, these assumptions were based on a perfect schedule, which more than likely, would not happen. The problem is, I'm going with a group of people (total 6), and everyone wants to go to different cities, thus, the tight itinerary.
Michelle_L is offline  
Mar 5th, 2005, 12:00 PM
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Michelle, here is a crazy idea since you are travelling with 6 people. Rent a station wagon or a van! Dividing the cost between 6 people will be super-affordable and much, much cheaper than 6 Eurail passes. I did a quick search on AutoEurope and you can rent a Passat Wagon for a month for $1800 (including CDW), which works out to $300 per person (plus gas). Pick up in Frankfurt Germany, drop off in Orvieto Italy.

Even if you don't want to do the whole trip by car, having one for a week here and a week there will help you explore the countryside very well. That's important in Germany and Italy because there are lots of great nooks and crannies inaccessible to people restricted to rail or bus.

Also, I have traveled with a group of friends before on a trip like yours. Let me suggest that you have an agreement beforehand NOT to get offended if a few of you want to break from the group for a few days here and there. At some point you will really need a brief vacation from them. Plus, everyone will have different sightseeing priorities. If a few want to skip the group's next destination and go somewhere else, they can meet you at the next place.
Edward2005 is offline  
Mar 5th, 2005, 12:04 PM
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Let me add that if you were to rent a wagon for, say, 2 weeks and did trains the rest of the time, then you could forget the Eurail passes and just buy point-to-point tickets as you go. You'd probably save gobs of money.
Edward2005 is offline  
Mar 5th, 2005, 12:07 PM
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I could not agree with Edward more.

You are traveling so fast and furious that you are bound to get tired and more susceptible to get on each other nerves. Taking a break from one another would be a nice mental refresher . Of course, I don't know you or your friends...it could be that you all are inseparable and will love every minute with each other. But laying out that agreement in the first place may help should tensions mount.

My first trip to Europe in 2000 was with 4 other girls...my two cousins (who are my best friends) and two other galpals. While it was fun, it made me realize that I would much prefer to travel alone. Every trip since then I have gone solo, and have loved it.
crazymina is offline  
Mar 5th, 2005, 12:16 PM
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One other itinerary tip while it's on my mind. Since you're doing GASI (Germany-Austria-Switzerland-Italy), I suggest starting in Italy. In late April Italy's climate will still be good, with highs in the 70s and low 80s. Meanwhile, GAS can still be chilly that time of year. Then as you travel north, GAS will be warming up and Italy start to broil.

On the other hand, if you start in Germany, by the time you get to Italy in late May, temperatures will be well into the 80s and low 90s.
Edward2005 is offline  
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