First time overseas, I need help!

Nov 11th, 2006, 05:32 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Nov 2006
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First time overseas, I need help!

I am going overseas for the first time to do a summer abroad program with my school. We are going to Greece, Italy and Spain. Our time within these countries is pretty well guided but we do have a few weekends off while in Barcelona. I was hoping to travel one weekend to Paris and another weekend maybe to Amsterdam and Belgium.

For Paris, is two days going to be enough to see the major sites? I want to be able to experience a majority of things without trying to cram everything into an unrealistic time frame. Also, are there any suggestions for hotels in the city?

For Amsterdam and Brussels, is it best to get a rail pass? Is a trip between these cities manageable within three days? What are the best places to visit in these places?

If anyone has suggestions for airfare that would also be appreciated. I know that the flights are going to be pricier since I am travelling over the summer and I would need a few one-way flights.

Finally, and this may be a really stupid question, but if I travel by rail, is my passport checked or stamped at every country I go to or through? I am not used to travelling outside of the country so I am extremely worried about passport issues.

Nicole2123 is offline  
Nov 11th, 2006, 06:48 AM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 439
Yes you can see quite a lot with two days in Paris, but I would recommend you do your home work before you go. Have a plan of what you want to see and try to stay in the city center, it will save you travel time on the metro. Most of the important sites are in the center of the city. If you attempt the Louvre, be sure to keep an eye on your watch -- before you know it the day could be spent there.

My passport has not been checked while traveling by train from one country to another, but that does not mean that they will not ask. Just be prepared and carry it with you. Two years ago while traveling from Italy to France, the train stopped just after it got into France and about 15 police came aboard and checked many peoples passports.

Give us a price range for hotels and you will get more recommendations that will be of help to you.
Randy is offline  
Nov 11th, 2006, 06:54 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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Nicole - congratulations, you will have some wonderful and memorable experiences!
Barcelona to Paris is not something that would be much fun by rail if all you have is a weekend - It's about a 12 hour train trip. To Amsterdam or Brussels you are talking even longer transit time. If you can turn it into a three day weekend it may be borderline tolerable.
Of course, that's from my old fart bias, and as a younger person you may be able to tolerate that, especially if you take overnight trains. To tell the truth, when I was student age this is exactly something I would have done, reasoning that I could not predict when I would get back to Europe.

Another option would be to fly. In the past intraeuropean flights were prohibitively expensive but that has changed in recent years with the emergence of several low cost carriers. Take a look at to see some options. Flight schedules are often built around a business rather than tourist schedule so you may not be able to get the exact departue you want but it is a heck of a lot quicker than the train.
And now, of course, you are obligated to come back here and post a trip report afterward. ;-)

In terms of railpasses, unless you plan to do some really heavy duty traveling in most cases it is not a cost savings over just buying point to point tickets. Do a search here on "rail pass" or "eurail" and you'll get some good pointers.
Seamus is offline  
Nov 11th, 2006, 06:55 AM
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Try, which specializes in offering deals to students who study abroad. And for lodging, look at, etc. A rail pass isn't always a good buy. Do some research first. Or call and ask them.
Enjoy your summer abroad!
Nov 11th, 2006, 07:08 AM
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 3,801
First of all, congratulations.

I agree with the advice to look for good airfares.

I disagree with the advice to "look at your watch" while in the Louvre. If you are fascinated, it's worth two days in itself.

You are not going to be able to see everything or even a fraction of the most famous sites in Paris. You are going to need to pick according to your strongest interest (and perhaps take a bus tour if you want a glimpse of all the sights. ) For instance, If I were a student, I would not go out of my way to see the Eiffel Tower (you'll see it as you move about Paris) or the Moulin Rouge. I'd rather visit the most important artworks and churches (St. Chappelle and St Denis are the greatest).

Anyway, someday you will go back to Paris.

Another possibility if you would like to see something of France is to go to Nice, which has wonderful museums and is very French indeed.

For Belgium, I would give a strong preference to Antwerp. A trip between Amsterdman and Antwerp is very manageable in 3 days (2 Amsterdam, 1 Antwerp).

Look for student discounts everywhere you go. Have a great time discovering the EU. Open borders mean no passport checks, but airlines will want to see your passport.
nessundorma is offline  
Nov 11th, 2006, 08:04 AM
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I think two days is enough to see the major sights in any city, including Paris. I wouldn't say it is enough to see the majority of sights, as you want, though. It depends what you want to see most, though. But plenty of people only spend a couple days there and enjoy it. I'd say it is worth the trip, in any case. Paris is pretty far from Barcelona, though (and Amsterdam a lot farther, of course), so I do think you should fly if you only have a couple days. I think Air France and Iberia have pretty reasonable fares between those cities at many times, at least when I've looked, but you just have to check.

As for passports, it sounds like you have some real problem with yours or you wouldn't be concerned about it, as you say you are. Are you some nationality that has concerns about stamps from certain countries or something? I just don't know what that would be in Europe, but if you have passport problems or there is something fishy about yours, you had better get that addressed. I think it depends on the countries as to whether they are checked on trains. I can't recall if they checked mine between France and Belgium on the train, but if they did, it wasn't stamped. I know they checked it when I went between Germany and Poland a few months ago, and between Czech Republic and Germany, and it was stamped both times.
Christina is offline  
Nov 11th, 2006, 08:21 AM
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Why are you so worried about your passport? It is your identification, is all.

You might want to get a money belt or neck pouch so you can carry it securely under your clothing when you travel by train.
suze is offline  
Nov 11th, 2006, 09:24 AM
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Are you really "extremely worried" about passport issues?

As a rule, permission to enter any one of the countries you mention gives you permission to enter the others in your list, as long as your total stay in the six countries you cite does not exceed 90 days in any 180.

If you're of a nationality that needs a visa to enter one, it'll almost always be valid for the others. If your programme is longer than 90 days, you need a visa unless you have a passport from an EU/EEA country. Your passport is unlikely to be inspected when travelling between these countries, though there are all sorts of reasons why it might (and not just at borders), so it's not a good idea to overstay.

If you're American or Canadian, and your total stay in the mainland Europe countries you mention adds up to less than 91 days, there's absolutely no reason to be worried bout passports. As suze says, they're just a form of id. If your a visa national, or your stay exceeds 90 days, work on the assumption you will be inspected.
flanneruk is offline  
Nov 11th, 2006, 10:59 AM
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"I am extremely worried about passport issues." What sorts of things are you worried about??

If you explain what is extremely worrying, we can tell you what you can do to feel better . . . .
janisj is online now  
Nov 11th, 2006, 01:15 PM
Join Date: Jul 2004
Posts: 497
On a train from Budapest to Vienna, the Austrian agents boarded the train and stamped our passports. They gave us a brochure with information on services avaialble when arriving in Vienna as well. You will not have any problems at all.
SuQue is offline  
Nov 11th, 2006, 06:18 PM
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Merseyheart is offline  
Nov 11th, 2006, 07:52 PM
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Nicole2123- look into most flights are $99. anywhere. Also, check out losts of specials. There is another called All have english you can click on, unless you read Spanish etc. Great deals
lbruns01 is offline  
Nov 12th, 2006, 04:22 AM
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try gives all the cheap eu flights.

All countries mentiones require every one to carry ID all the of the time so you carry passport. France, Belgium , Holland will not ask to see your passport at the border (the train will not even slow down) unless you get into any srious problems like theft, terrorist activity, crash etc. Other countries eg Greece may need to see stuff but they are not physicaly linked to any other EU country.

2 days to Paris. If you list what you want to see then ask again or look in a book, it is a big thing to 2 in two days.

Belgium, no idea why anyone ever wants to go to Belgium (apart from the chips cooked in horse fat Yummy :-0

If you go to Amsterdam you can also go to Haarlam which is pretty old and only a bit bombed flat anyway and only 30 minutes by bus from Amsterdam airport. Wath out for Dutch apple cake which will take any need hunger away
bilboburgler is offline  
Nov 12th, 2006, 08:05 AM
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hopefully some of this is helpful, Nicole?

With two days in Paris, understand you will not be able to "experience a majority of things". There is just too much to see and do. I would suggest using one of the guided tour busses for a few hours to get an overview of the city in the shortest period of time.
suze is offline  
Nov 12th, 2006, 09:05 AM
Join Date: Aug 2005
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Hi, Nicole

Vueling has a pretty standard 40E fare one way for June from Barcelona to Paris and 65E for the return. Same from Madrid. I took it last June. Nice and efficient.

They also have a nice policy that for a 10E penalty you can use your ticket value within a year anywhere else vueling flies, if for some reason you are unable to go at reserved time.

Enjoy your summer,

enroute is offline  
Nov 12th, 2006, 09:06 AM
Join Date: Aug 2005
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PS. Don't worry about the passport. Just don't lose it, please.
enroute is offline  

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