Author Topic: Advice for traveling Europe  (Read 2159 times)

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Offline REX

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Advice for traveling Europe
« on: June 13, 2013, 02:51:33 PM »
Hey guys, looking for some advice on where to go/not to go, what to see, what to do, what to eat in europe. I'm leaving on July 27th and coming back August 27th. landing in london, making our way to istanbul and flying from istanbul back to london on the 26th, we'll be backpacking the whole time and staying in hostels. We were planning on going to the following places in order: Brugges, Amsterdam, Munich, Venice, Dubrovnik, Athens, Istanbul. and perhaps some others in between. i'm sure some of you have done a trip like this in the past, so i'm looking for some input on what you would do if you went again.

Offline Jukka

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Re: Advice for traveling Europe
« Reply #1 on: June 18, 2013, 06:05:56 PM »
Best advice I can give from my travels, don't get caught in tourist traps. I've been to France for 2 weeks, and Scandinavia for two weeks (a week in Sweden, a week in Finland), and I think the most time we spent in a touristy place (museums, sight seeing places, etc) was about a day. The rest of the time, we spent just hanging out, exploring, taking in the culture and just blending our selves in with the locals. I find it more like travel than vacation.

For getting around, I'd say look into a Eurorail pass. I've bought them on each trip and they are great. Depending on the one you buy, they allow you to travel X amount of days in X amount of time, and travel within that day is unlimited. There was one day in France where we hopped on a trail heading west and just got off in random towns and villages to explore for a few hours.

Also, sign up for Hosteling International. a lot of hostles have cheaper accomidations if you are a member/registered with them. I think membership is under $50, and you save between $10-35 a night at the hostles.

Offline REX

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Re: Advice for traveling Europe
« Reply #2 on: June 19, 2013, 02:45:26 PM »
i already have my EUrail pass! also, we're using Hostelworld which seems to be great.

our plan is pretty much what you said, spend most of our time just hanging out and learning about the country and culture, little time spent on touristy things. sounds like we're on the right track so far! any recommendations for hostels in the places i'll be traveling to?

Offline bris

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Re: Advice for traveling Europe
« Reply #3 on: June 19, 2013, 02:46:21 PM »
Check out Slovenia... I'd personally stay out of Turkey right now, probably not worth the possibility of getting caught in their civil unrest.

Offline Zaider

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Re: Advice for traveling Europe
« Reply #4 on: June 20, 2013, 12:04:55 PM »
My sister-in-law was just in Turkey. Her experience was that 99.9% of the country is fine. Yes, there can be mass demonstrations in that square, but 2 blocks over, its life as normal. As always, travel smart and you'll travel better.

I've done more than the average amount of travelling and my experience has been that purposefully avoiding the touristy things isn't all its cracked up to be. Sometimes, things are touristy because they're pretty awesome. You learn to live with the vendors selling cheap crap and the people begging for money, but some of those things are amazing.

For instance, the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul can be pretty touristy but you should definitely go. Same with the Western Wall in Jerusalem: tonnes of vendors. Sections of the Berlin Wall are filled with people but there's a good reason for that.

Im just saying there's a good balance to be struck between the touristy stuff and experiencing the culture.

My advice:
- sew a Canadian flag on your backpack. It seems tacky, but we met lots of great people who just came up and asked if we were from Canada. Plus, getting mistaken for an American in the middle east... not fun.
- after 9 weeks backpacking in Europe, we found we didn't stay at that many HI hostels (where you get the discount with the membership). We preferred to stay at one-off smaller, more casual hostels. For us, the HI membership wouldn't have been worth it. YMMV.
- Eurorail is great... but make sure you do your research on which one to buy. We would show up to the train station a day or two before travelling and book our tickets and sometimes that wasn't enough to get the train we wanted. That was in low season.
- Venice is fun but extremely expensive. Locals dont usually live in Venice, they live on the islands surrounding the lagoon and commute in.
- Leave room in your backpack for the things you pick up along the way. We ended up with a mini-pantry in my backpack because we cooked most of our dinners at the hostel to save money. We had olive oil, salt, pepper, ketchup (its hard to find heinz in Europe), etc. That way you dont have to find new food staples in every city.
- You can get away with less than half the clothes you're thinking of bringing. Doing laundry somewhere is a great excuse to chill nearby in a park for a couple hours and relax.
- You don't need a laptop or tablet. A smartphone is great for checking email or loading google maps from a stolen hotspot and most of the hostels have computers you can use.
- Work extra hard at obeying the laws while you're in another country. Trust me. The threat of being thrown into a Portuguese jail kind of ruins the afternoon.
- You're only going for a month right? Pick a weekend somewhere in the middle and book a nice hotel for two nights. Dont do anything. Your muscles and sanity will thank you. Over 9 weeks, we did that twice and it really helped. First time, it was for my girlfriend's birthday and we were in southern Portugal. We got a massage and just lay by the pool for a couple days. Second time we stayed with family friend in Milan and he just cooked us lots of great food and drove us around.

Above all... remember to relax. Try to think of it as a vacation and not stuff too much into the trip.
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Offline idtrav

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Re: Advice for traveling Europe
« Reply #5 on: June 20, 2013, 01:30:35 PM »
Visit the Nurburgring. One of the best things i've ever done in my life.
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Offline REX

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Re: Advice for traveling Europe
« Reply #6 on: June 20, 2013, 02:31:15 PM »
My sister-in-law was just in Turkey. Her experience was that 99.9% of the country is fine. Yes, there can be mass demonstrations in that square, but 2 blocks over, its life as normal. As always, travel smart and you'll travel better. thats what i've heard as well. we're planning on doing some of the big stuff in istanbul (hagia sophia, grand bazaar, blue mosque, etc..), and trying to stay away from the conflict the best we can.

I've done more than the average amount of travelling and my experience has been that purposefully avoiding the touristy things isn't all its cracked up to be. Sometimes, things are touristy because they're pretty awesome. You learn to live with the vendors selling cheap crap and the people begging for money, but some of those things are amazing. we'll definitely be doing a mix of both based on this. I've taken a lot of art history classes so i'm interested in going to the national gallery in london, the van gogh museum in amsterdam etc...

For instance, the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul can be pretty touristy but you should definitely go. Same with the Western Wall in Jerusalem: tonnes of vendors. Sections of the Berlin Wall are filled with people but there's a good reason for that.

Im just saying there's a good balance to be struck between the touristy stuff and experiencing the culture.

My advice:
- sew a Canadian flag on your backpack. It seems tacky, but we met lots of great people who just came up and asked if we were from Canada. Plus, getting mistaken for an American in the middle east... not fun.
already bought one  :)
- after 9 weeks backpacking in Europe, we found we didn't stay at that many HI hostels (where you get the discount with the membership). We preferred to stay at one-off smaller, more casual hostels. For us, the HI membership wouldn't have been worth it. YMMV. we aren't using HI either. we're going through this site which i've used in the past: http://www.hostelworld.com
- Eurorail is great... but make sure you do your research on which one to buy. We would show up to the train station a day or two before travelling and book our tickets and sometimes that wasn't enough to get the train we wanted. That was in low season. this is really good advice and something i've been concerned about. thank you
- Venice is fun but extremely expensive. Locals dont usually live in Venice, they live on the islands surrounding the lagoon and commute in. i think we've decided to cut venice because of both price and logsitics
- Leave room in your backpack for the things you pick up along the way. We ended up with a mini-pantry in my backpack because we cooked most of our dinners at the hostel to save money. We had olive oil, salt, pepper, ketchup (its hard to find heinz in Europe), etc. That way you dont have to find new food staples in every city. good advice, how many litres was your backpack?
- You can get away with less than half the clothes you're thinking of bringing. Doing laundry somewhere is a great excuse to chill nearby in a park for a couple hours and relax.
- You don't need a laptop or tablet. A smartphone is great for checking email or loading google maps from a stolen hotspot and most of the hostels have computers you can use. i plan on just bringing my iphone, i'd rather not get my computer ripped off of something  :-\
- Work extra hard at obeying the laws while you're in another country. Trust me. The threat of being thrown into a Portuguese jail kind of ruins the afternoon. definitely want to avoid getting thrown in jail, thanks for the advice
- You're only going for a month right? Pick a weekend somewhere in the middle and book a nice hotel for two nights. Dont do anything. Your muscles and sanity will thank you. Over 9 weeks, we did that twice and it really helped. First time, it was for my girlfriend's birthday and we were in southern Portugal. We got a massage and just lay by the pool for a couple days. Second time we stayed with family friend in Milan and he just cooked us lots of great food and drove us around. this is good advice too, we're trying to do this fairly inexpensively but we'll definitely consider that

Above all... remember to relax. Try to think of it as a vacation and not stuff too much into the trip.

Visit the Nurburgring. One of the best things i've ever done in my life.
although i would love to do this, i'm going with a couple people who really don't give a itshay about cars so i don't think i'll be able to make it this time  :'(

Offline Zaider

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Re: Advice for traveling Europe
« Reply #7 on: June 20, 2013, 03:23:05 PM »
^^ right on.

My backpack was... 85L I think? But I am a pretty big guy. When packing the night before we left, I filled it too full. Took it for a test-walk around the block and my shoulders got sore so I went home and unpacked, threw away a bunch of stuff, and packed again.

Some more things while I am thinking about it:
- Invest in one of those travel towels from MEC. You don't need a full-size towel and they take forever to dry.
- Bring something to put your dirty laundry in, like a mesh bag. Helpful for trips to do your laundry.
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Offline Prelude

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Re: Advice for traveling Europe
« Reply #8 on: June 20, 2013, 11:43:40 PM »
Bring good shoes. I bought some Aldo shoes that were brand new and the sole collapsed after one night of walking. What a waste. i ended up throwing them in the garbage. Bring a good rain jacket too but try to make it light. Water resistant is not waterproof.

Get a backpack with a good waist strap. if you strap up your bag correctly all the weight goes on your hips and it saves your back and shoulders, and when the time calls you can still run a bit when needed. i bought my bag from MEC and it was 5L for 6 weeks of travel.

when i went to europe discount airlines were a better value than trains in some cases.
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Offline REX

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Re: Advice for traveling Europe
« Reply #9 on: June 20, 2013, 11:59:47 PM »
Bring good shoes. I bought some Aldo shoes that were brand new and the sole collapsed after one night of walking. What a waste. i ended up throwing them in the garbage. Bring a good rain jacket too but try to make it light. Water resistant is not waterproof.

Get a backpack with a good waist strap. if you strap up your bag correctly all the weight goes on your hips and it saves your back and shoulders, and when the time calls you can still run a bit when needed. i bought my bag from MEC and it was 5L for 6 weeks of travel.

when i went to europe discount airlines were a better value than trains in some cases.

i bought a goretex marmot jacket on sale for under $100, and it can be shoved inside of its own pocket and zipped up so its super compact. also have some nike cross-trainer shoes.

i'm borrowing my girlfriends backpack, its moldable so i'm bringing it in to have it fitted to my back and hips.

we're going to be taking planes from dubrovnik to istanbul and from istanbul to london for that exact reason. the train system in western europe seems to be far superior to the east just based on the EUrail map

Offline STI_Crazy

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Re: Advice for traveling Europe
« Reply #10 on: June 21, 2013, 07:34:27 AM »
If you go to Athens don't spend more than two days there. It'll be crazy hot and especially in late July early August a lot of places close and people go to the islands. That's where you should go. It's easy to jump from one island to another with ferries. You'll have a blast!

I recommend go to the acropolis and the museum there. Besides that, go see the old market and the parliament. Everything is downtown and can be done in one day.

Offline khris08

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Re: Advice for traveling Europe
« Reply #11 on: June 21, 2013, 12:14:42 PM »
My girlfriend and I are at Venice right now. Venice is a really nice place to visit. I recommend you to stay on one of the smaller islands outside venice (like lido about 20 mins boat ride to and from venice). It's nice to get away from the crowd. Lido also has a very nice beach.

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