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Old 01-19-2004, 03:31 PM   #1
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hi. i'm planning on travling through westsern europe from march-june. i've done a lot of research and have read a lot of travel guides, but was hoping to get information from personal travel experiences. i've been planning things out city by city and was hoping if anyone had specific hostel recos, specific restaurants, information like, if you're here you must see this, and if you're running out of time, you can skip this. i'm going to the major cities, but want to take the time and stop in smaller cities to get the more native feel and a stronger sense of the culture and people, so any recos would be great. i'm going to head from paris to madrid, madrid to portugal, back into spain, up to the french riviera and all through italy. my city list in italy is very similar to carisia's, so any information would be great. also, i'm 28, a single female, traveling alone and on a tight budget. any thoughts/information you want to share would be greatly appreciated. thanks. erin
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Old 01-19-2004, 09:03 PM   #2
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Hi Erin! Welcome to the boards! Wow, you're going to the same countries and many of the cities that I just visited! I'm so excited for you! It was one of the best experiences of my life, and I'm sure it will be the same for you! Hmmm... there's so much to tell... I guess it really depends on what you're interested in. Since you've seen some of the places I've been to, do you have some specific questions? I guess when you're in Europe, everywhere you go there will be at least a major palace, cathedral/church and museum that may be on your list of must-sees. It is possible that after a while it all starts looking the same. At some point, I lost my guidebook, and oddly, I was really happy about that! For me, when I travel, it is more fun to get lost (as long as I'm not putting myself in danger). This way I end up winding myself through wonderful paths of unexpected, pleasant discoveries. So I guess, in general, I would say, while you want to have a general idea of what initially appears to interest you the most in each city, just try to not get stuck in the 'must-see' and 'must-do' mind-set, instead, take a step back, slow down your footsteps, relax, breath in the unique air of each place, and let each new environment come to you, through it's surrounding, culture, colors, people and heartbeat - just absorb it!
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Old 01-20-2004, 03:04 AM   #3
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WELCOME TO THE BOARDS, ERIN!

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For me, when I travel, it is more fun to get lost (as long as I'm not putting myself in danger). This way I end up winding myself through wonderful paths of unexpected, pleasant discoveries.
Well, I can't agree with that more, Carisia! This is such a cool thing to do! Traveling alone will alow you to do this and you'll discover many hidden gems as you blaze your own path.
Alll you need to know is what cities that you'll be heading to. On top of that...dealer's choice, baby!

What kind's of things interest you?
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Old 01-20-2004, 05:57 AM   #4
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Seeing as i'm planning on doing basically the same leg, and also germany, nederlands and switzerland. can anyone tell me about how much time to allow for each of the major citites? i wont have a time constraint, but i want to see as much as i can before the money runs out but not feel too rushed (as its my honeymoon/ "i finished my thesis" holiday). I'm thinking of spending 5-6 months altogether.
Also someone has suggested that i hire a car, my mum is convinced it would be cheaper than public transport, and would allow us to get into the country more. But there is no way i could drive in a big city (i dont have a car so i haven't driven that much)
does anyone have any advice on wether to hire a car or go for public transport? i still need to figure out train or plane, i figure with some of the specials out there some legs may be just about cheaper to fly than train.
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Old 01-20-2004, 09:34 AM   #5
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carisia/tony--thanks for the replies. i am so glad i found this forum, it has been so helpful! carisia, i came across your pre&post travel posts, and it sounds very similar to that path that i'm taking and what i'm looking to get out of this experience. i've done a lot of reading and research about the regions i want to go to, so i have a sense of the history, culture and people. i think my approach is going to just be take it slow, let the experience define itself, go with it, explore and observe. city by city, i have written down a list of hostels that have been recommended, but i don’t have reservations, i plan on just tackling it as i get there and think, as long as i have a few to go by, that should be okay. do you think that will be okay? one of my biggest concerns, is being able to navigate once i get off the train or bus, just being able to get my bearings, having a good sense of where i should be heading (even if i don't) and not feeling like a complete tourist/bumblehead….any tips on that …..in general, my interests are in people, the arts (cultural & visual) and learning through experience…so i think meandering, with an idea of where the heart of things are, will get me in the right direction. are there any places or little towns you stumbled upon in your journeys, that aren't on the beaten path you recommend finding? another thing is, and now i'm getting a little concerned about this, i was only planning on bringing a visa debit card and an atm card (i don’t have a credit card), let me know your thoughts on what types of problems this is going to present….also, do you think it's necessary to get international health insurance coverage while i travel. any thoughts/information/tips are welcome and much appreciated. thanks. erin
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Old 01-21-2004, 08:11 PM   #6
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HOLA Erin y Zylah!

i have a sense of the history, culture and people. i think my approach is going to just be take it slow, let the experience define itself, go with it, explore and observe.

That's the way to go, girl!

About hostel reservations, if you plan on being in Europe b/w March-June, that's peak season, you definitely want to make reservations. Just be sure to make them as in advance as possible as you travel along.

In terms of navigating once you get off the train or bus, there is really no reason for concern so long as you use good judgment. In general, the largest cities have good tourism offices at the major stations that can help you with orientation, maps, etc. The smaller cities do not necessarily offer that service. Most tourism offices work business hours, some opening till a bit later, and some of them close on weekends and holidays. So if you're traveling alone, and have no easy directions to your hostel/destination, then plan your arrival for the daytime, so that you can access tourist, lodging, transportation and other information services as well as for security reasons. This is especially true for smaller cities. For instance, when I arrived in Verona in the middle of the night, the bus ticket booth as well as the tobacco shop that sell tickets were closed, so I was at a loss as to how to catch the bus that would take me to the hostel. Luckily, some fine gentlemen gave my friend and I their tickets (even though most Italian buses don't really check the tickets, but sometimes they have officers in the buses checking them to control free riders!...)

If you're backpacking, there is really no way to hide the fact that you're a tourist, especially when you're traveling/en route with your luggage. When you're just walking around/sightseeing/hanging out, it's easier not to be so evidently a tourist, but really... they are so used to tourists in Europe that they have a sixth sense for people who are not from there, with exception of big cosmopolitan cities or places w/ lots of foreign students. SO, in my humble opinion, the trick is not necessarily not to appear like a tourist at all, but rather to appear like a confident tourist!

Hmmm... in terms of experiences and towns, I really only had time to do cities that are well known. But the secret and delight is really to find those aspects of each city that personally appeal to you. Everyone does the tourist attractions in each city, but after that comes the magic of just 'being' in the city and letting it come to you and being drawn to it... Europe is so well visited that there aren't that many unknown cities, but probably less visited ones. For instance, even Cinque Terre in Italy is so touristy now, but it doesn't make it any less magical. I feel the same about Venice, it is so touristy, but there is no other island in the world like it. Even in such touristy places, you can meander and find that quieter, more local, artsy, charming area that will make you feel at home away from home. In Portugal, I was really glad to have visited the Eastern cities from Faro... The best way to experience the off the beaten path, I found, is to meet locals, they will take you around and give you deeper insight into well known places as well as take you to lesser known well-kept secrets! Also see the following post: 'lesser known places in western europe' by 'brent!'

A visa debit/atm card should be fine so long as you have the funds to do what you have to do! For me, I took a credit card to use in case of emergencies.

Regarding international health insurance, it's a personal choice. I met many people who traveled for a long time and didn't have any. It really depends on your concept of cost-benefit. I personally tend to try to balance my adventurous and spontaneous side w/ good judgment. So, I would say that if you can afford it, and you plan to be on the road for more than a month, then you may want to consider it in case of an emergency, and for course, if you do have a medical condition that may require treatment. I got it, never used, but was still happy for it. That's the whole idea of insurance, right? In the unlikely event that you may need it, the whole idea is that HOPEFULLY, you won't need it, but if you do, you'll be happy you have it. Last point on insurance, if you get it, be sure to get a reputable firm, usually the ones sponsored through the STA Travel office, or one supported by your local hospital Travel Clinic should be decent.

Zylah, 5-6 months is sufficient time to do 8 countries. But really, it depends on you and the kind of travel you intend to do. Some people like doing quick hits, others like to hang out for more extended periods of time. All I can say is that once you kick off your travel, you'll have a better idea of what interests you the most (sightseeing, sports, partying, etc.). Then, you can decide on how much time to spend in each city based on what it offers. It may be wise to come up w/ a very rough budget, so you can ensure that your funds will carry you through the planned 5-6 months of travel. Also see 'im goin to italy how much do i save' by 'mad_about_italy'

About transportation, for longer legs (i.e. coast to coast, country to country) cheap last minute flight deals may be best. B/c of the population versus space ratio in Europe, especially in the more developed countries, public transportation is often the best option from a cost and time perspective. If you like to drive, then the Autostrada is pretty good for longer distances, but some of the sights are not that interesting. Driving and parking, especially in big cities is crazy!

Hope this helps guys!
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