European travel advice please....

I’ve been off travelling for 2 months, and just today I got my first chance to read the boards in all that time. It’s been so long since I’ve been round these parts, I was so happy to sit back and look through all the threads (well, as many as I can in the hour the library gave me) and see that you lot are as humerous as always.

In light of my delight in being able to read the boards, and my sad reflection on the days when I was by here daily (although I’m sure my name isn’t known, I lurk quite ferociously), I thought I would solicit a little advice from the masses who know best - the Dope masses.

I have already covered the British Isles pretty well, I think. My original intention was to spend all of my 13 weeks in Britain, but now I am looking to Continental Europe. Trouble is, I don’t know much about it (I’ve been to Italy before and thats it) and the funds are a little low.

So I’m wondering the following:

Do you recommend Continental Europe?

How hard is it to get around knowing only a little French and Italian and no German or anything else?

Is it expensive? If yes, are there ways to save money?

Is it hard to get around by train or bus (no car)?

Which cities would you recommend (I have looked at Amsterdam, Berlin, Brussels, Paris, and Luxemburg, but I’m not set on any in particular)?

Any fabulous places to see or visit in particular?

Anything else you can think of?

Thanks for any advice!

Just as a general tip for travel advice questions – you’ll usually get much better responses if you let people know a little about your interests, age, travel style, and available funds. For starters, what have you liked / not liked about Britain?


Not very hard, but it helps if you can at least manage a few phrases in each language, of the “hello” / “thank you” / “do you speak English” variety.

Depends on your travel style and how you define “expensive.” As a very rough ballpark figure, 50 Euros a day will usually cover a dorm bed in a hostel, local transportation, a reasonable amount of sightseeing, and a couple of meals at a kebab shop with a beer or two. Add a bit more for long-haul train journeys and the occasional nice dinner or evening of club-hopping, and an extra 20 Euros or so if you’re hoping to stay in a private room most of the time; a bit less if you’re planning on preparing your own meals and not drinking (but that wouldn’t be any fun), or if you have friends you can stay with.

Unless you’re planning to spend a lot of time in small villages, no.

Hard to say without knowing your interests (Amsterdam is totally gorgeous, though).

Again – there’s almost no way to answer this unless you tell us more about what you like to do and the type of trip you’re looking for.

Yeah, get yourself a guidebook. Let’s Go is probably the best one for bare-bones budget advice, but Lonely Planet has pretty pictures and better information about destinations and sightseeing, and it sounds like you really need some guidance on where to go. You might also want to check out the boards at and

I’ll second the Lonely Planet recommendation. If you’re not sure yet precisely where you want to go, and you need to save money, go with Europe on a Shoestring. It just got me through a month in Europe (mainly France and Italy, with a quick trip up to Scotland to visit family). Because it’s trying to cover so much, it’s a bit short on detail in some places but I found it was quite good for the most part, except for the section on Rome.

As for the cost, it is fairly expensive, and starting from the Canadian dollar hurts. Fifty euros a day is about right if you’re staying in dorm beds in hostels. Most hostels in the cities I went to were in the range of about 16-22 euros per night, with sheets and/or breakfast costing extra at some places. You can save money by finding hostels with cooking facilities and it also helps if the hostel has its own bar - I made a fair number of friends just sitting around the hostel drinking cheap beer and playing cards.

I had no real language difficulties, but I speak French reasonably fluently so even when my few phrases in Italian weren’t sufficient most people I was dealing with spoke enough of either English or French to be able to communicate.

And as Fretful Porpentine said, it’s hard to recommend cities without knowing your interests, but Paris is a must-see.

Hope that helps, and have a great trip.

Not that I don’t recommend Continental Europe, but have you considered Ireland or my favorite; the Canary Islands? The British go to the Canary Islands a lot. They consider them Europe’s answer to the Caribbean. I was told a round trip ticket is very reasonable.

On the other hand, Paris and Amsterdam can’t be beat. If you are in either one and want to see fabulous places, just open your eyes.

Sorry, but I just thought of something. My wife and I ended up in London on our way to Paris (long story involving flying stand-by). It was very expensive for us to take a train to Paris thru the chunnel. That was because it was a one way ticket. There is a special you can take advamtage of that is very cheap whick takes you over to Paris or Brussels. The catch is that you have to return the same day. It is an experience and might let you decide whether you want to return to Paris/Brussels or opt for somewhere else. :cool: [sup]Again it depends on what you mean by cheap. YMMV[/sup]

I love Barvaria. But I think it was very expensive.

If you fly into London, my friends recommended a couple of super-cheap European budget airlines for onward travel to other European destinations:,, and sometimes I haven’t tried them yet myself, but the fares are insanely cheap. I also highly recommend the Let’s Go books: lots of practical info in there. Also, the Chunnel is not the only way to cross the Channel. Last I checked, there were one-way fares from London to Paris at about 30 euros. You can also take the ferry from Dover to Calais, or Dover to Oostend, Belgium; it’s cheaper, but much slower.

I highly recommend everywhere else I’ve been so far: Paris, Lisbon, Madrid, Rome, Milan, Kiev, Tallinn, Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Irkutsk. OK, I lied: I don’t recommend Novosibirsk. And Krakow is intriguing me at the moment…Eastern Europe, in general, will be significantly cheaper than Western Europe, especially off-the-beaten-path places like the Baltics. How adventurous are you?

So you still have some 4-5 weeks left at this present time?

Seems to me like you should concentrate on the highlights of Old Europe, which largely means the cities. Getting into the countryside takes time and costs money, though Southern Germany is very beautiful (you could try taking a train from Amsterdam to Switzerland or Austria and enjoy the sights, getting of the train in places you like).

I’m not sure whether they still have these European-wide train tickets; these used to be very cheap but I’ve heard that’s a thing of the past. Plane tickets of certain companies are indeed cheap, but don’t forget you still need to pay airport taxes and taxi/bus fare to and from the airport. In total you may end up paying similar prices to train fare, and you won’t have the view of the landscape. Only use the plane for far-away destinations.

I wouldn’t bother about Luxemburg: it’s out of the main route and there is not very much to see (though it is picturesque. You simply must visit Amsterdam and Paris, otherwise you haven’t seen Europe. :wink: I assume you’ve already been to Rome when you visited Italy.

Brussels has nice bits, but actually the smaller cities are much prettier: Brugues, Ghent, Leuven. You can easily reach these by train from Amsterdam (3 hours) or Brussels (1 hour), so you could try traveling by train.

Berlin is worthwhile to visit, but is out of the way. If you’re going that way, you might as well visit Prague (very beautiful) and Vienna too.

If you have a particular interest (art?), tell us and you can get more specific recommendations.
Costs: you’re traveling out of season, so hotels should be fairly cheap. Youth hostels are of course much cheaper still. Food: you can save a lot by not going into lunchrooms and the like and simply buying bread and stuff in a shop, eating it on a bench somewhere (depending on the weather). Restaurants are usually cheaper if you leave the main roads in the centre of cities. You could try asking one of the locals where reasonable restaurants are to be found.

Language: AFAIK most younger people in Northern Europe are fairly fluent in English. I think it may be less so in Southern and Eastern (Middle?) Europe. Anyway, lots of U.S. and Canadian tourists travel to these cities every year and they seem to get by, so I wouldn’t be afraid.

You might look into rail passes that cover several countries. The Czech Repub. is good, price-wise. You must see Cesky Krumlov. They have a web site. For best budget tips, see backpackers have a board there. Topics include places, hostels, transportation, packing, etc. Hope you have fun experiences! :cool:

Thanks for all the advice, people.

I was planning on adding a bit about my interests, etc, but I got on to waxing lyrical about the Dope, and I forgot.

So, I am into Art, Photography and Theatre. When I was in Italy I just loved Rome - couldn’t get enough of the artwork and history - the Sistine, the Bascilica, the fountains. I love those things - took so many pictures my friends couldn’t believe it. I have already been in Britain for 2 months - I have some relatives in the south, but I went off the beaten path and went to Orkney, Shetland, the Hebrides, the Isle of Skye, and assorted tiny little towns. So I have done quite a bit of exploring on my own and I’m used to the hostelling deal. I’m 24 and not exactly loaded, so I’ve been working on a bit of a shoestring.

I got along language-wise in Italy fairly well - I speak a little basic Italian, and most people spoke English. I just wasn’t sure about the rest of Europe.

The advice about the guidebook is good - I knew I needed to get one, but wasn’t sure which name to get.

I looked at the map again and thought about going to Vienna and Prague. It’s interesting that Tusculan mentioned them.

Thanks for the advice - anyone got any more?

Eurail passes are alive and well. The up front price is high, but if you’re going to be moving around a lot, it can save you in the long run. If you’re flexible, physically speaking, get on an overnight run and sleep on the train.


At this time of year, I’d recommend Paris and Rome, in both cases for the sights and the museums. Except you’ve already been to Rome. That leaves Paris. There’s plenty to keep you occupied there.

I can thoroughly recommend a trip combining Vienna, Prague and Budapest. The three cities are relatively close together and are very different and very beautiful - spending 6 fun weeks between them will be easy. It should be possible to get a cheap flight with one of the budget airlines from London to Prague, and then you’re all set. Train links between the cities are, in my experience frequent and reliable.

Prague and Budapest have the extra advantage of being very cheap compared to the UK and Germany, although Vienna is expensive.

Wherever you decide to go a general benefit will be that train travel is faster, more reliable and often cheaper than the UK (I speak as an englishman here :)).

I just got back from Rome - highly recommended. The Italian train service seemed excellent. Portugal’s great too.

Go island hopping round the Greek islands! Beautiful country, lovely, welcoming people, amazing history, culture and architecture, and even at this time of year, great weather. If you take the ferries it’s not too expensive. so long as you avoid the tourist traps like Kavos, Corfu or Falaraki, Rhodes. Trust me, you don’t wanna go there anyway…