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Old 03-17-2010, 05:12 PM   #1
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European Trip June 2010

I have a bit of a favor to ask of any/all of you with some European background or experience. I'm sorry this has nothing to do w/ASing.

My soon to be 23 yr old is flying into Germany this June on a once (maybe) in a lifetime trip. He has taken a semester off from school, worked very hard to save some money, bought his own ticket and is flying over to see as much as he can in 6-8weeks. He has booked some hostels and wants to also do some camping. Right now I know he will visit Germany, France, Italy, Switzerland. I am trying to get his Eurorail plan and itinerary.

Here is the favor. He has never been outside the US and I would love for him to experience this, not so much as a tourist (altho he will be) but as more of a local. If any of you might be willing to lend your experiences on where to visit, local food he might like (or where he might find it on the cheap as he will have limited funds), fun, inexpensive nightspots for 20somethings, safety issues to be aware of or just anything you think of that I have not, I will print out this thread for him to take. I know many of you will have some great info to share as this is one of my favorites places to be on the web when I need help. Thanks so much for any/all your help. An excited (somewhat concerned) mom



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Old 03-17-2010, 07:06 PM   #2
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What an adventure - wish I would have done that long ago too. Sorry I can't be of any help with those areas. If you'd asked about Scotland, I might have a few ideas.... Hope he has the ball of his life.
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Old 03-17-2010, 07:30 PM   #3
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Leigh,

We've traveled for several projects in Italy over the past several years, the last of which was a two month stay in the Friuli Venezia Giulia region.

Favorite cities would be Verona (aka The Painted City) Firenze (Florence), and maybe Cortina for the fantastic snowboarding.

My top three foods.

Pizza Arugula E Grana
Carpaccio
Zuppa de Pesce

Accomodations:

When we weren't working we booked some stays using Agriturismo.it - Solo Agriturismi di qualità!
which is sort of an Italian version of our bed and breakfast.

Travel tip:

Forget about taking Traveler's Checks...Most places just look at you funny and won't take them. Use a credit card for purchases and debit card to get cash. Most European ATM's readily accept US bank debit cards and you tend to get better exchange rates.

Make sure you notify your bank(s) that you're traveling overseas before you leave the US though or they may shut your card down.

Carry a pocket size translation dictionary.

Don't be in any hurry...They aren't.

One Very Serious Warning...It's easy to become a coffee addict. Let's see...Caffe macchiato with breakfast (Coffee with spots of steamed milk) and Caffe (espresso) for breaks, lunch and supper. Maybe even a caffe doppio (double espresso) for an extra boost when needed..
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Old 03-17-2010, 07:44 PM   #4
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Leigh ... wow! This is quite the opportunity for him.

I've been to Europe long before my awareness about Grumman building those cool Airstreams (early misconception, sorry ). I've been out and around Europe almost as long as Pahaska. Though he was flying and I was only an elementary school student in the late '50s.

Best advice I can give you is only to concern yourself with reservations the first night or few nights after he lands there. (arriving in what city?) Yes, TGV and some 1st class trains require reservations (and Eurailpass generally does pay for 1st class). But he can work around that. We've had locals in 2nd class telling us we could travel in the nicer cars -- as we declined their offer. Sleeping on a long-distance 2nd class will let him change locations well enough.

He's only going to need enough that fits in a backpack. Nobody will see that he's wearing the same duds every few days. Any itinerary y'all might generate should go right out the window once he gets his legs under him.

Best advice? Avoid the big cities (Paris, etc) until he's more used to traveling over there. He'll find internet cafes virtually everywhere. I'd leave laptops and 3G phones at home. U.S. phones tend to have exorbitant costs when traveling overseas. ATM & credit card companies put a 2-3% exchange surcharge on every transaction he makes over there. Last I heard Capital One was standing out from the crowd and not doing this. Student travel agencies could give him an update on that.

I've enjoyed researching via the variety of Rick Steves resources. But honestly, for student budgets the Harvard Student Assn researched (or it was in the old days) "Let's Go" books are hard to beat.

He will move in and out of traveling companions and hear a lot of ideas that totally change his plans.

What not to miss? Anything close to Arles, Avignon or Aix-en-Provence regions will give him an excellent but not too pricey experience of Provence (without the Cannes/Nice high $$$$). He might actually need some sort of reservation for Cinque Terre (Vernazza is marvelous for a hub). Florence cannot be missed -- a beautiful place for strolling, eating well, not too far from the countryside (get reservations online a week or more before for the Uffizi museum). Rome can get very hot in summer (ditto - early reservations if he wants to see the Villa Borghese). At least he's over there before the continent takes vacation in August. Lucerne is a great city for friends to visit -- boat down the lake and cog train up Rigi. The best impressionist museum is Musée d'Orsay in Paris. Is he really into art? Germany? So much to say...

What does he like to see?
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Old 03-17-2010, 08:02 PM   #5
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Interesting how Google Ads tags threads. This one is topped by a RailEurope ad just now...

Wanted to add -- we don't need to say how little can be done with travelers checks any more, do we? If accepted at all (many don't!), banks will add a hefty exchange fee. Best for him just to share info with you and be able to deposit into his accounts from your end. Just like in all U.S. neighborhoods, there are ATMs everwhere. And foreign bank ATMs will accept US cards.

Be sure he uses a moneybelt or neck wallet for his passport. No carrying billfolds in the back pocket! Get used to carrying it in a front. It amazed me a couple years back seeing a young couple in Florence where the guy was wearing his neck wallet outside his shirt. They asked us to take their picture at a particularly memorable restaurant, whereupon I politely asked "Are you kidding?!"

Seriously though, I've got a better youth oriented eats place in Florence anyway...
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Old 03-17-2010, 09:14 PM   #6
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Wonderful for a young person. I graduated High School in June 1958. Didn't feel like going on to school right then, so worked hard for a year. saved everything I could, sold everything I could, and left home the middle of June, 1959. After 23 states and 16 countries, returned home December 24, 1959, Came back across the pond on the old QE. Best thing I ever did for myself.

Lynn and I made a dozen or so trips to Europe from 1985 to 1999. Everything said above is spot on. We travel for extended periods of time with what we carry in one hand.(alla Rick Steves).

When we use a Eurail pass, we travel at night, finding a first class compartment, and scooting clear across Europe. Spend what time we wish, then off to somewhere else. If you travel during the day, you spend expensive time not seeing what you came for. Paris to Florence over night. Florence to Brussels overnight, and so on. Also saves on some room rent.

We stay in one or two star hotels, or go to the tourist information and find a room with a family. You really get the local flavor that way, and save tons of money.
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Old 03-17-2010, 09:38 PM   #7
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When I went at his age I found the Lets Go books very helpful. Let's Go Travel Guides - The Leader in Budget Travel
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Old 03-17-2010, 11:35 PM   #8
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Just some points, I traveled all over Europe recently. (This is my first post on this forum so hopefully it goes well.
1) Buy one of the Euro travel guides ASAP! Barns & Noble has a bunch of them. There are a variety of books depending on how cheap you are, areas you will travel, how you are traveling, camping, RVing, etc.
2) Don’t be afraid or worry about anything, traveling is simple and most people are very helpful (similar to the people on this forum). Even the French are nice if you are respectful and try to speak in French.
3) You have options for traveling…Euro Rail Pass is not the best in most cases because of high cost and limited flexibility.
a. Europe Rail Pass (not my favorite, expensive and limited to areas, etc.)
b. Bus (Very cheap, a little slower but you get to meet lots of local people). You have buses for locals and lines specifically for tourists. Not very flexible but not bad if you are just wondering.
c. The car buyback leases (most be in Europe for over a month, 6 to 8 week is perfect). Make sure you get an updated GPS and have a buddy with you to help pay for Petrol and tolls! Don’t rent in UK, unless you are staying! After 20 minutes of driving, you will be just fine. This is by far the best option for small family or group of friends (2 to 4) as long as they get along! I had a friend who rented a small commercial van and said it was very cheap too.
d. Flights can be purchased from airlines which fly within Europe…I don’t like to follow schedules so I did not do this…but it is cheap if you schedule ahead.
4) For me a car was the best option and I saved big-time. I took a tent, purchased a small stove $40, sleeping bag, etc. and ice box. The car allowed me to buy food in cheaper markets and stored in ice box, stay at cheaper camping sites, stay away for expensive tourist traps, 100% flexible with everything! Get a diesel car, just make sure you put diesel in it!
5) Your international flight…take flights from U.S. major hub (NYC, LA, etc.) to Europe Major Hub (best are London and Dublin). Flying to London and Dublin can save you $$$...and then catching a local Euro flight to your destination. Preferable, get a flight that lands early morning so you have all day to get situated. Personally, I flew into London and took a Bus to France…my bus ticket for about $110 for 5 people also included the ferry to Calais (beautiful), I picked up my car in Calais, France and camped in Cali.
6) Camping in Europe is not like in the U.S.! Camping can be found in middle of all large cities including Paris, Rome, Berlin, etc. Camping grounds have transportation to the big cities and provide detailed info.
I am just giving you some options…there are many of them and everyone is bias. You must combine them to make it work…unless you don’t mind spending.
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Old 03-18-2010, 12:49 AM   #9
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Thumbs up My trip

About 7/8 year ago went on a 6000 mile tour from North Germany thru France, Spain,Holland ,England and back to Hamburg Germany. This took 3mos ths whole summer. My transportion was a 250 CC scooter. I travel only no interstates. Only (state) Hwys. I bought and sold the the bike in Germany with the of a friend (german). I had with me money(credit card) and a tent. When I didnt want sleep on the ground I went B&B. Most time this was NO problem. In germany look for signs "zimmer frei". The rest of the trip was Camping. This was great trip with NO Problems. PS: I speak some german,But NO french,spanish,Dutch. And NO problem in the last 3 counties. Also I was about 58/59 years old.
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Old 03-18-2010, 08:35 AM   #10
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You all are the GREATEST!! Some really good info here - I had NO idea about Travelers Cks not working (1st thing I told him was he would need TCs)

Keep it coming, if you think of more you want to share. He doesn't go until end of May, so there is some time. I know he is flying into Germany, and like I said, I hope to get a better idea of his trip soon.

I told him about the neck wallet (a friend said they are available at Target!?) and we are also looking into something called the "PacSafe", which is a steel mesh bag that will cover his backpack. If anyone can tell me about the grocery stores? and how they might differ/or not? I will look into the books you mentioned also.

Thanks so much.

I know...it is going to be a grand adventure for him, made even better with what you guys are sharing.
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Old 03-18-2010, 08:52 AM   #11
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In Italy most stores and restaurants close in the afternoon and re-open in the evening. This is especially true in the small towns.

The Wal-Mart equivalent there is the IperCoop but there are many small chain stores as well. and don't overlook the local markets.There is usually a great selection of fresh breads, cheeses and fruits to be had at reasonable prices.. The other fare is similar to what we have here. Just some twists here and there.

Oh and one important thing...many bakeries leave the pits in the olives so be careful before biting down on that piece of olive bread!!!

Kevin
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Old 03-19-2010, 08:41 AM   #12
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Make sure his ATM card has a 4 digit PIN. Some US banks still issue 5 digit PINs and they won't work in the UK. As far as I know, only 4 digit PINs work on the Continent as well.
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Old 03-19-2010, 10:18 AM   #13
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Hey Good Morning all! - woke up to snow this morning after a 65 degree day yesterday

Again, you have posted some helpful info. I saw this post a couple days ago and wonder if someone can fill me in on what/where this LIDLS store is? Sounds interesting>

Profile: melbourne Posts: 50


Speaking of food!
Good day Perry- I'm sure you've had this, but think about it for a quick fix for hungry campers. When I was there last, a friend served the most incredible dish, and when I asked him what the recipe was, he handed me a can- Cassoulet au Confit de Canard (duck) and said he got it at LIDLS- you know the place I'm sure, it's a store from Allemagne that has locations all over Europe. Anyway, I went and bought 2 cases- at €1.50 for 850 grams, it feeds 2 hungry adults, and is ready in the micro in 2 minutes! The stuff is like instant gourmet meal for pennies. I lived on it while traveling there, even brought 6 cans home!


I have put a request in at our local library for a copy of the "Lets Go" Europe. I saw it on Amazon and will order a copy, but wanted Brad to see it beforehand. Also, saw one by Rick Steves called "Europe thru the Backdoor 2010" that looked like a possibility.

Oh, also, is there a need for electrical converter if he is mostly going to stay in hostels? He won't be taking computer or phone, but has an electric razor. Guess he could pack in some disposables?
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Old 03-19-2010, 02:24 PM   #14
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What a great experience.

We (husband and I) spent 6 weeks in Europe in May-June 2008. We had a fantastic time. Our favourite places:

Paris
Venice
Florence
Barcelona
The Greek islands - particularly Santorini

We did a lot of our travel via Eurail pass - there are many variations so make sure you talk to a travel agent that is very familiar with these. We found overnight trains to be an excellent way to travel, go to sleep on the train, wake up at your destination - hotel and travel for one price.

As someone mentioned, flights within Europe are cheap so that's another option.

European cities generally have public transit that puts us to shame here in North America so he should not worry about getting around locally while he is there.

If you do some searching, it is very easy and popular to rent an apartment in Europe for a few days in lieu of hotel or hostel. Price was about the same as a higher-end hostel or cheap hotel, but there's a kitchen so you can do some cooking for yourself and save on meals.

He will need a converter for european power, these are easy to buy at travel stores.

If he does not have a credit card with a chip and PIN, try to get one... when we were there, our Canadian credit cards, without chip/PIN, would be accepted anywhere you could sign for it (ie restaurant) but would not work in anything automated. Lots of things are automated in Europe - buying passes for public transit for example - and he'll need a credit card with chip to work them. We sometimes had to accost strangers and give them cash and get them to use their credit cards for us.

Grocery stores are different in that they tend to be smaller and more specialized... ie, a bakery, a butcher shop, a produce shop etc. versus giant supermarket. But he won't have any problem, it will be fine, it's more similar than it is different.

Ooh one more thing that was a big cultural lesson for me... European restaurants generally do not bring you the bill until you ask for it. Part of the culture is to sit at the table and chat and savour that last bit of wine, there is no hurry to get you out the door. Which is great... but if you are in a hurry and you are waiting for the bill so you can leave, you'll be waiting a long time unless you ask for it.
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