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Old 06-14-2005, 09:19 AM   #1
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First of all, AHHHHHH! Secondly, hello everyone!

A while back (two years ago if I recall correctly) I decided to backpack through Europe the summer before I headed off to college. I figure if I don't do it now I'll never do it (or will be too much in debt from college to afford it). A friend joined me and we scraped together savings, got passports, booked flights and hostels, the whole lot, and are now counting down the days until we leave for our European cities tour (Berlin, Paris, Amsterdam, Brussels, London).

So...yeah. I half expected this plan of mine to work. And now it has. As a student I've only dreamed of seeing the great cities of Europe and now I will be in...21 days.

Problems? I'm nervous as hell. I'm not even sure how to check myself in at the airport let alone attempt navigating the Paris metro. Questions? Oh yes.

-Money. Do I get the debit card and pay the surcharges at the atm? I heard those traveller checks are out dated, but my friend thinks they're a good idea (and so do the rest of my family). I'm in desperate need of advice.

-Languages. I can't speak German, French, Dutch, heck, I can barely speak English as it is. Not that I'm unwilling to attempt the languages, I really do want to try not to be one of those "DO YOU SPEAK AMERICAN?!" tourists. So here's the question part - if one is completely dumbfounded by the language, can one still navigate certain cities efficiently?

-I have tons of different questions on time-related subjects, like if I leave Boston at 5:00pm and its a ten hour flight to Berlin what time will it be when I arrive? That's important for checking into hostels and all that jazz. How do I figure that sort of thing out?


Other than that I'm perfectly willing to go out there, get lost in a foreign city, and have an adventure. Right now, however, I want to curl into a ball and stay in my safe little Massachusetts town. Call it stress. I had a graduation party the other day and every single one of my relatives wanted to remind me of how "unsafe" or "dangerous" backpacking is (which I know it isn't if you're not stupid, but damn those unfortunate mishaps to unsuspecting tourists stories). Ugh. I need a nap. Or to get away from my family.

Cheers everyone
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Old 06-14-2005, 09:28 AM   #2
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Welcome!

Quote:
-Money. Do I get the debit card and pay the surcharges at the atm? I heard those traveller checks are out dated, but my friend thinks they're a good idea (and so do the rest of my family). I'm in desperate need of advice
Use an ATM or credit card. Screw traveler's checks. They really are outdated. If it will make your mom feel better to bring a couple hundred worth, well, you can do it but it's kind of a pain to cash them in.

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-Languages. I can't speak German, French, Dutch, heck, I can barely speak English as it is.
You'll be fine. Try to grab a phrase book and learn a couple of key things before you go, like restaurant/bar ordering, train schedules, etc. You'll find that in the cities you're going to a LOT of people speak English and will just address you that way rather than let you stumble along.


Quote:
-I have tons of different questions on time-related subjects, like if I leave Boston at 5:00pm and its a ten hour flight to Berlin what time will it be when I arrive?
The UK is 5 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time. Berlin and the rest of continental Europe are 6 hours ahead. What that means is if you're flying into Berlin you'd be arriving at approximately 8:00am local time. Approximately.


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I want to curl into a ball and stay in my safe little Massachusetts town. Call it stress. I had a graduation party the other day and every single one of my relatives wanted to remind me of how "unsafe" or "dangerous" backpacking is (which I know it isn't if you're not stupid, but damn those unfortunate mishaps to unsuspecting tourists stories). Ugh. I need a nap. Or to get away from my family.
GET AWAY FROM THE FAMILY! Dude. Don't listen to what other people say. This is what YOU want to do and naysayers will only bring you down and create doubts! You could quote statistics all day, for example how it's far more dangerous to get in your car and drive down the freeway than it is to fly overseas and stay in hostels with other travelers. But that may not help. You only have 3 weeks, you're going to have an absolutely incredible, life-changing time! Don't let the bastards grind you down!
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Old 06-14-2005, 09:34 AM   #3
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Thanks a bunch space. You're a good egg. I'm having a meeting with my friend and passing along the advice.

Hablo espanol. E parlo italiano. Too bad I'm not going to Spain or Italy this time around. Heh. Anything to get away from the family though.
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Old 06-14-2005, 10:20 AM   #4
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SV's right, gelise. ATM's are the way to go, nowadays. Make sure your pin is 4 digit, and if you're the type who remembers it by a word it spells out, better remember the numbers! Many foreign ATMs don't put letters on their keypads at all.

And she's right about not listening to your family. Honestly, have any of them actually BEEN backpacking across Europe to tell you of the dangers? Likely, no. As she said, it IS safer than hopping in your car and driving on the freeway. Heck, on Sunday I was almost in two accidents...(we have really stupid drivers here in Columbus...you can fail your drivers license test by being TOO intelligent, I think!).

Oh, and one other thing: I recommend you browse through a guidebook or two and come up with a day trip or two to take out of one those cities you're going to be in. You'll like the break of the countryside and seeing how folks live outside the city (the trains in Holland and England are great for day trips).

Have fun!

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Old 06-14-2005, 10:33 AM   #5
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There's nothing to say that hasn't been said already - so just count this as one more vote of confidence. You're trip's gonna kick ass, everything will go well, and you'll be glad you didn't listen to anyone else but the fine people ot TravelPunk
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Old 06-14-2005, 10:38 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally posted by gelise@Jun 14 2005, 11:18 AM
-I have tons of different questions on time-related subjects, like if I leave Boston at 5:00pm and its a ten hour flight to Berlin what time will it be when I arrive?* That's important for checking into hostels and all that jazz.* How do I figure that sort of thing out?
yeah I always hated that question on tests in High school as well.....
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Old 06-14-2005, 12:52 PM   #7
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Nothing new to add here, but wanted to say, Happy Trails
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Old 06-14-2005, 02:30 PM   #8
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I just left Berlin and i couldn't speak a word of German or much less naviagate a city tram. I'd never stayed in a hostel before either.

when we arrived, my brother and i rode around on the tram and rail system for over an hour trying to get to a hostel only 15 minutes train ride away. We kept going in circles and back and forth. We didn't read a guide book, which would have helped. Finally we figured out the system by trail and error. Its real easy once you figure it out, but part of the fun is the confusion. We know a decent amount of German now and by the end of our stay(3 days) in Berlin a couple of different travelers came up to us and were asking how to get here? how to get there? Where does this go? What does this mean? And we were answering every question.

Being confused is part of the experince and everything always comes together. You'll catch on to the way things go, very fast. The anxiety will make things that much better when everything comes through.

Just a couple of words from another newbie packer on his first trip. Best of luck!
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Old 06-14-2005, 02:37 PM   #9
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personally I prefer having a few hundred dollars in traveller's cheques. I've been in situations where they've come in handy (i.e. atm card didn't work or no atm in sight).

get a phrase book yeah or better yet get something like lonely planets europe on a shoestring. it's good reading on the train, helps you familiarize yourself with the city you're going to and practice a few keys phrases.

get a metro map as soon as you get to the city...print off the map directions to your next hostel so you know where you're going.

backpacking and going to european cities is no more dangerous than any other big city. don't sweat it, keep your wits about you and always be aware of whats happening around you.

last of all have fun exploring!
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Old 06-15-2005, 02:15 AM   #10
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I have also just left berlin and i didnt have that added luxury of having a brother or any knowledge of german...which you really dont need! Are you flying in to Schonenfield airport? There are extremely good connection services and if you are staying at the Meininger hostel you take bus 171 outside of the airport and go to rudow underground station here you travel about 16 stops to Mockenbruke, once your outside of mockenbruke walk about 200 yards to the right and there you will have the hostel.
As you are getting in so early make sure you have some euros on you so that you have enough for the train/metro/bus ticket you can get an all day zone a/b ticket for 4 euros 20 cents

my family were also a little suspicious of my trip im 25 and female and couldnt understand why i didnt want to go with my friends for 2 weeks in Kavos (yawn) instead of going on my own!

as you will be getting in to berlin so early head to the zoo station and wait outside dunkin donuts for 10.30am that way you can join the free walking tour of berlin this will save you about 11 euros if you cant make it at half ten catch them up at Brandenburg gate at 11am they are called the "new berlin tours" they walk you around the city for about 4 hours showing you all the important sights and all they ask is that you tip them so 2-5 euros will be fine!
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Old 06-15-2005, 04:46 AM   #11
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You can also pick up a "pocket translator" at your local travel supplies store. I'm not talking about a machine, this is a credit card sized piece of folding card with pictures of most everything you'd need. I agree, where you're travelling most everyone will speak English to some degree, so you won't need much, but if you're completely lost in some miniscule little town, it might give you peace of mind. For about a buck, it's probably worth it!

Have a great time, and ignore all those stuck-at-homes!
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Old 06-21-2005, 09:58 PM   #12
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Good choices. I've been to all those cities and never had any significant communication problems and don't know any more than a few phrases of each language.
My best advise would probebly just be RELAX! It's vacation right?
You'll have more fun if you can shed your fears and avoid excessive anxiety.
Travelling Europe alone really isn't as scary as people who have never tried it tend to believe it is so don't listen to the nay sayers. For every one horror story that you hear there are 10000 you will never hear. Maybe carry a pepper spray keychain and don't be stupid (I'm sure your not) and you'll be all good I'm sure.
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Old 06-21-2005, 10:02 PM   #13
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"For every one horror story that you hear there are 10000 you will never hear." :greenguy:
oops
I meant
For every one horror story that you hear there are 10000 happy ones you will never hear.
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