First-time trip to Europe

Old Jun 28th, 2002, 07:03 AM
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First-time trip to Europe

Hi! so far we're a group of 4 female friends 25yrs-old planning a trip to Europe in May 2003. And we don't know anything! Here's the situation in a few phrases: Not a lot of money, 2 Americans, 2 Haitians (immigration posts are going to love us!), thinking France-Spain-Portugal, Rail pass or point-to-point, budget?, Youth Hostels?, what cities and/or sites to see in 21 days (unrealistic time frame?), what shoes to ware, clothes to pack? Recommanded books/sites? We know it's a lot but we hope you can help in any way. Thanks a million.
Old Jun 28th, 2002, 07:09 AM
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I think 3 countries in 3 weeks is OK, just don't try to do too many separate locations in each country.

You can get lots of good ideas just reading the old Fodors posts for those countries, plus there are a few really long threads about clothing and packing LIGHT. Shoes should be comfortable, sturdy, and have thick bouncy soles.

With 4 people, you might be better-off renting a room together rather than staying in a hostel.
Old Jun 28th, 2002, 08:40 AM
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I might get slammed for this, but the thorn tree at has been a goldmine of information on hostels, cheap travel and general advice. They tend to have a more question/answer destination specific format than here. Don't get me wrong, there's plenty of info here, but I've had better luck there with younger travelers who seem to know alot of the peculiarities and nuances of even remote places. Don't forget about possible visa need for your friends if they've Haitian passports. Also, try the site for hostel locations around europe and I would suggest booking them as far in advance as they'll allow you to as they tend to fill up during the warmer months quickly. Good Luck
Old Jun 28th, 2002, 09:29 AM
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Good for you! You'll have the time of your life. I agree with previous posts about not trying to see to much to fast. Pick 2-4 countries (preferably bordering one another) and research each country on their individual tourist web sites and also on the travel site chats on each country. You can narrow down what the four of you want to see and do. Lots of inexpensive places you can stay. I always book a place once I'm at my destination. The train stations have tourist information with rooms/hotels, etc. That's the fun of by the sat of your pants. You're young so you will have lots of great memories doing it that way. Plus, you can leave when you want if you aren't locked into hotel reservations. Get a rail pass and go-go-go! My favorite places? Prague, Florence, Paris, all of Germany. You will LOVE Europe and the people. Have fun.
Old Jun 28th, 2002, 09:38 AM
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You'll get no slam from me, Rusty - - in fact, I agree with you that the ThornTree on will be at least as valuable as info obtained here - - and maybe more so.

Best wishes,

Old Jun 28th, 2002, 12:59 PM
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to the top, or to TheThornTree
Old Jun 28th, 2002, 01:38 PM
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This got me interested in the cost of hostels; found this really interesting site:

Use and Rick Steves' sight to figure out the cost comparison between railpasses (look at the 3-country pass and/or "buddy passes").

The best budget is: how much money do I have; subtract fixed costs (transportation, accommodations) and whatever is left will cover food and entertainment.

Footwear and clothing follows the vacation: no point in bringing hiking boots if you plan to spend all your time in cities; no point in bringing a skirt if you plan to hike mountains and stay in huts. SOP: fewer clothes than more; layers; clothes that can do double duty.

Spend a couple of Saturdays in the library going through the various guidebooks; cull information from all of them. You'll find one or two that stand out as suiting you; buy them.

21 days: 5 Portugal, 8 Spain, 8 France.
Old Jun 29th, 2002, 11:36 AM
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You will have a blast. It is best to stay in youth hostels unless you go to Spain, in which case you might want to check out pensiones ( a room with a shared bathroom) that can sometimes be cheaper. Portugal has a few pousadas that are reasonably priced, but again, I recommend youth hostels. You meet so many other cool people there and exchange e-mails and stories with people around the world.

What to pack: comfy walking/hiking shoes. (But no running shoes unless you actually plan to wear them for running. They look tacky, trust me). Flip-flops for the beach and sometimes scuzzy hostel bathrooms. Athletes foot and plantar warts are a real downer. A pair of dressy/strappy heels is optional but recommended, especially if you are going out dancing in Spain (crazy nightlife!) or to the opera (ah! Italia!). Just make sure you can walk in them over cobblestones without spraining your ankle.

Clothing: two-piece bathing suit, black sleeveless dress in a wrinkle-free fabric, cardigan or zip-up sweater that matches everything, rain jacket, a pair of pants in a sturdy, dark fabric, skirts (but not too short - knee length or longer), capris, a sarong (useful to replace a stolen towel, as a picnic blanket or to lie on the beach), "dressy" t-shirts (don't wear tank tops unless they are made of a good quality fabric and are not strappy). Good moisture wicking socks. A hat. Sunglasses. Sunscreen.

Pack a flashlight, luggage padlocks, a sleep sheet (basically one sheet folded in half and stiched up the side), a swiss army knife with a corkscrew and scissors, half a tennis ball (used as a sink stopper to wash your clothes in the sink), a short length of rope (clothesline), a sportswatch that doubles as an alarm clock, a good book (for long train rides), a day pack and a travel pouch that goes around your waist or neck, UNDERNEATH your clothes.

Ah! 21 days! I agree with everyone else who tells you to pick about two or three countries...The choice of these really depends on your personal interests. Lonely Planet and Let's Go are good places to start. As well, you can go to your local bookstore and browse picture books (it's free!).

Personally, I loved Italy the best and would spend a year travlling there if I could! If you are going to Portugal, don't bother buying a rail pass. Travel there is extremely cheap, and the bus is the best way of getting around, anyhow. I would suggest getting a country pass for France (see SNCF web site for Société nationale des chemins de fer) and pay by the trip in Spain. Don't get too frustrated, trains in Spain are often slow and late.

Reserve ahead if you are going to touristy spots (this counts for trains and accommodation). Even in May, Barcelona, Sevilla, Lisboa, Paris, Roma, Firenze, Venizia, etc. are crowded. Many hostels in big cities do not take reservations. It is on a first-come, first-served basis. So try to arrive early in the morning. BTW, even if you have a rail pass, you still have to reserve a spot on the high-speed trains.

That's all I can think of for now. The rest is on the internet.

Bom viagem; Bon voyage; Buon viaggio; Bueno viajem!!!

Old Jun 29th, 2002, 02:55 PM
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Old Jun 29th, 2002, 10:19 PM
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To save time on your trip(and so that you do not have to "backstep") consider purchasing what is called an "open jaw" ticket. That is where you fly into one city and out of another city. For example American Airlines into Paris and Iberia out of Madrid (Iberia is part of One World Alliance just as an example).
Have fun and good luck planning. Also consider your nationalities and find out Visa requirements..if you do not you could be denied boarding on an International flight if your docs aren't right.
Good luck and have a ball!
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