Europe itinerary Q & A: Rail passes, flights, hotels, how long to stay and more

Prague CastleWith 50 or so different countries, planning a trip to Europe (especially for the first time) can seem overwhelming. Many people head to London and/or Paris first just to get a feel for the place, but if you are going a long distance to get there it’s worth exploring more if you are able.

Having been fortunate enough to have explored most of Europe’s countries and highlights over the years, I continue to research and write about European travel on this site. I’ve been getting a wide variety of interesting questions on many of those articles, most notably on the article about Europe rail Passes and whom they are right for.

Ask a question and I’ll try to answer it

It turns out that I really enjoy answering questions about European itineraries and transportation, so I’m trying to make the process even easier. I’ve moved a few dozen questions from other articles to the bottom of this page, and many people have mentioned that reading other answers can be helpful in general.

Since the list is already pretty long it might be easier to search for text on the page by doing a Command-F (Mac) or Control-F (Windows) and typing in what you are searching for, like “Paris” or “Eurostar” or “Germany” and you’ll be taken directly to questions and answers on that topic.

And feel free to ask your own new question in the comments at the bottom of this page. I usually answer within 24 hours. I’ll move most of the questions and answers into the body of this article to make them easier for people to search.

Europe rail pass basics

Gare du Nord ParisI cover this topic extensively on the Eurail Pass article so please skim that for answers to most questions. But the short version is: Rail passes can be great for those going mainly between major cities that are 200 to 700 kilometers apart. For shorter journeys it’s almost always cheaper to buy individual tickets (even if you have a rail pass for the rest of your trip) and on longer journeys it’s often better to fly. But most major cities are within this range, so a rail pass is worth considering for many itineraries.

The other key point is that European rail tickets tend to be quite cheap if you buy them at least a month in advance, but they are very expensive if you buy them near the day of travel. With a Eurail Pass you often have to pay for a seat reservation on trains, but those (especially in 1st Class) are usually available on very short notice, and they mostly only cost around €5. Check how far in advance you need to buy Europe train tickets to get low fares.

Here are my best Eurail Pass tips and tricks to save money and get the most use out of a pass.

Classic first itinerary: London, France, and Italy

Nice BeachFrance, Italy, and England are the most common stops for first trips to Europe from elsewhere. An ideal itinerary is to fly into London and stay at least 3 or 4 days there before taking the Eurostar to Paris for at least 3 or 4 days. For those with two or more weeks it’s common to then head to the south of France and then into Italy before flying home.

>>>Germany itinerary suggestions
>>>France and Italy itinerary suggestions

Basic itinerary tips for Europe

Don’t try to move too fast

Compared to the US, Canada, or Australia, Europe is a compact place, but nearly everyone still tries to see too many places in too little time. Including travel days, you should allow for at least three days per destination, and hopefully more. In other words, if you will be in Europe for 21 days then don’t plan more than 7 destinations, and 5 or 6 is better.

Here are quick guidelines to help you decide how long to stay in each European city.

For major cities allow at least 3 nights

ThamesEven if you intend to move very quickly, you should allow a minimum of 3 (or hopefully 4) nights in the following cities:

  • London
  • Paris
  • Rome
  • Berlin
  • Madrid
  • Barcelona
  • Istanbul

For any other city allow at least 2 nights

Again, even on the fastest itineraries you’ll need at least 2 nights in order to see even the basics. And if your train ride is longer than 5 hours, or if you are flying, your travel day doesn’t even really count because from hotel in one city to hotel in the next, you’ll use at least 8 hours and you’ll be too tired to see much until the following morning anyway.

Europe itinerary, rail pass, flights, hotels, hostels questions and answers

QUESTION

Hi Roger,
Me and my friends will be traveling in Europe for about 8 weeks starting in late March. We plan to be in

Italy ~ 2 weeks – Rome, Florence, and 1 other place – suggestions?
France ~ 2 weeks – Paris and maybe 2 other places – once again, suggestions?
Belgium ~ not sure how long, what would you recommend?
Amsterdam ~ 3 days
Germany ~ 2 weeks, suggestions?
Prague ~ 3 days

Since France is not participating in the Select Pass this year, that kind of ruins things. I’m thinking for Italy and France I will just buy some tickets in advance (Rome to Florence is only 19 Euros if I get it now – Paris to Brussels is also very cheap) and buy regional tickets when I get there. Or should I not buy train tickets in advance and just buy everything regional, since the advance tickets are all premier trains and seem like they’d be more expensive? Then I am thinking that a 3-country Select pass will take care of the rest. What do you think?

For Italy and France we will only go to 3 different cities within each max, because we want time to catch our breath and enjoy it. We have a free place to stay in Paris, so we’ll most likely be there at least a week. Do you think within the context of the trip 2 weeks apiece is enough for Italy and France?

Also, do you think we should add Cologne to the mix since it’s included in Benelux?

Thank you for all your help!
Cristobal

ANSWER

Cristobal,
That’s a lot of questions, but I’ll try my best…

For Italy, spend 1 or 2 nights in Venice as well. It’s insanely crowded during the day, but evenings and mornings are amazing there.

For France, you might think about Nice and the coastal cities in that area (Cannes, Monaco), since it will be quite cold inland. But in France there are dozens of great choices so you can’t go wrong.

You can do Belgium in only a few days. Brussels is expensive and the good stuff can be seen in a day. Bruges is definitely worth two days, and Antwerp is also worth a day or two.

In Germany, Munich and Berlin are the two must-see cities for first-time visitors, worth several days each. You might add a side trip to nearby Salzburg, Austria from Munich. You’ll love it. Rothenburg is very touristy but also lovely and worth a day. Skip Frankfurt. From Berlin you can quickly reach a few other interesting cities, but Berlin is huge and you won’t run out of things to do there.

For a trip like this where you have a lot of time and it’s all in the off-season, I’d just buy train tickets once you are there. For pretty much every stop you’ll be making, there are literally trains every 30 to 60 minutes during the day. If you want an express train you might go to the station the day before to buy your ticket, but even if you just show up you should get seats easily. The only thing to avoid is an early-morning express train between two business cities, like 8am from Paris to Lyon. Those are often crowded, but those leaving after 9am are usually half empty.

Bon voyage. -Roger
Reply

QUESTION

Hi Roger,
After reading all of the above (including comments) I’m a little confused. Some parts of my trip some people would call Eastern Europe, but other people (including Lonely Planet) would call it “Central” Europe. I’m 26 and travelling by myself for a month (first big overseas trip!).

I’m starting in Frankfurt (got cheap flights!) then going: Munich, Salzburg, Ljubljana, Split (8 day island hopper cruise), Zagreb, Budapest, Bratislava, maybe Vienna, Krakow, Prague, Cesky Krumlov, Berlin, Frankfurt.. Not necessarily in that order. My question is, are the trains decent enough to get a Eurail pass, or should I go by bus?

Thank you in advance for your help
Caitlin

ANSWER

Caitlin,
Yes, Central Europe is probably a better name for much of that area, geographically. The east vs. west label has more to do with modern vs. trying to catch up.

For a trip like this I wouldn’t recommend a Eurail Pass. The stops are all close enough together that the individual tickets won’t be that much, and parts of it you might want to do by bus anyway. In Croatia the trains are still pretty slow, although they are cheap. For the rest of your stops the trains are very good. The possibility that might make sense is a Eurail Select Pass for 5 days within one month for Germany, which will cost around €200. On the other hand, Germany often has fare sales for weekends and on slow trains, so unless you are in a hurry, don’t bother with a pass.

This looks like a great trip and you should have no trouble getting train tickets on the day, or the day before if you prefer. And buses are also possible for most of all of these, which are cheaper but less comfortable and usually take a bit longer. -Roger

QUESTION

Hello Roger

It seems you are like the “man in the know”. I have looked through your answers above. I am planning to do a trip to Italy. Starting out from Venice or Verona then down to Florence, Rome and Naples. I plan to be away for about 3/4 weeks. Should I get a rail pass (I am a senior citizen) or should I just buy the tickets as I go. I know Venice quite well but this would be the first time heading further south. I will be travelling on my own. Thank you.
Rita

ANSWER

Rita,
Thank you for the kind words. There’s no need or good reason to get a rail pass for a trip like the one you are taking. The individual train tickets between those cities are cheap, and they leave every hour or even more frequently. Those cities are all literally 2 to 4 hours apart by train, so just go to the train station and the next one will probably leave within 30 minutes, and will cost you around €10 to €18 (US$13 to US$25) each. An Italiarail Pass might cost just a bit less, but it’s more hassle, so just wing it and you’ll do great.
-Roger

QUESTION

Hello:

Me and my husband are planning to travel Switzerland and Paris in late May 2013. I would greatly appreciate if you could answer my following questions:

1. We will stay at various places in Switzerland and would like to stay there for 3 days. Could you please list the most attractive and beautiful places that we must visit in Switzerland. These are the places I found online:
• The Grossmunster, Zurich
• Chillon Castle, Montreux
• Interlaken
• The Castles of Bellinzona
• Lugano
• matterhorn
• The Old City of Bern
• The Chapel Bridge, Lucerne
• Mt. Pilatus
• The Gates to the Walled City, Basel
• The Grossmunster, Zurich
• The Zytglogge, Bern
• st moritz
• Palace of Nations, Geneva
Please suggest which places should I must cover within my 3 days stay in Switzerland?

2. We have kept 1 day to visit Paris only. We are planning to by Eurail regional pass from France – Switzerland which is ‘France – Switzerland Pass Saver’ at 390 USD per person. Is it worth to buy these tickets? If I buy those tickets, can we travel in both in between France and Switzerland and also within France and Switzerland itself?

3. Could you please help me in which order should we travel these places (as I already told you we will stay 3 days in Switzerland and 1 day in Paris)?

-Thanks, Tanya

ANSWER

Tanya,
That looks like a good list of highlights in Switzerland, but I can’t really make my own recommendations since I don’t know the country very well and I know nothing about your tastes. The larger cities of Zurich and Basel are interesting, but most people seem to prefer the scenic highlights like Interlaken and Lucerne. You might read Lonely Planet’s top picks for the country, as they are quite reliable for most people.

Also, with 3 total days in the country, you’ll really want to pick one or perhaps two places to visit.

2. With a France-Switzerland Pass Saver you can travel anywhere in or between those two countries, although the fastest Paris trains might cost extra. For a total of 4 days the only way it would be worth buying a pass is if you were taking the train twice per day in Switzerland, for the busiest tour possible.

3. The order to visit should be easy for you to figure out once you decide on your exact destinations. There are fast, direct trains between all the major cities, leaving hourly or thereabouts, so just pick the shortest loop.
-Roger

QUESTION

Roger,
This is a wonderful column! I have a question that needs an honest answer. My partner and I are planning a 21 day European vacation.

We are starting off with four days in Barcelona and stopping in Rome(3 days), Amsterdam(3 days), Paris(3 days) and London(8 days). We are trying to figure out if we should fly between each city or take the train. The flights would serve as a cheaper travel alternative; The trains. although much more expensive, give us a lot more freedom for sightseeing and room to relax.

Which mode of transportation would be the best for us, in your honest opinion? I have heard countless horror stories about European cheapflights. Would love for you to give us some insight!
-Nellie

ANSWER

Nellie, when I first wrote this article I didn’t expect it would lead to so many specific questions like it has, but I do enjoy answering what I can, so I’m happy to do it.

As for your trip, I agree that trains are far more enjoyable than flights, especially in Europe with so much nice scenery along every railway. Also, when comparing the costs of both you have to add in the airport transportation on both ends to the plane ticket.

On the other hand, Barcelona and Rome are more than 12 hours apart by train, which only makes a little bit of sense if you do the Barcelona to Milan part on a night train. Still, I’d fly. Rome to Amsterdam are also at least as far apart, so I’d fly on that one too. But Amsterdam to Paris is only about 3 hours by high speed train, and Paris is under 3 hours to London by Eurostar, so I’d definitely take those trains.

The Eurostar works like airfares in that they are quite low well in advance and then the price keeps going up as it approaches, so I’d buy those ASAP. I actually just got a 20% coupon for the Eurostar.
20% Off Eurostar Tickets Now

By the way, the Eurostar seats are as small as airline seats, and there isn’t much scenery on either side, but it’s still way faster than flying. -Roger

QUESTION

Hi Roger,
Have a question I hope you could help me out with. Thinking about the Benelux Youth Pass (5 days within the month) and was curious if it would be worth it. By reading your article it seems that it may be, but wasn’t sure given the short distances we plan to cover.

Here are the 5 trips we are planning:

Brussels to Antwerp round trip (within 1 day)
Brussels to Ghent round trip (within 1 day)
Brussels to Luxembourg
Luxembourg to Brugge
Brugge to Amsterdam

Any advice? Thanks so much for your help and article!
Andrew

ANSWER

Andrew, you could go either way on this one, but if it were me I’d get the Benelux Youth Pass. It looks like you are going to use the hell out of it, and I mean that in a good way. Doing those round-trips in one day will make this really good value. Also, on those round-trip days it will be extra nice to just show up at the train station and just jump on the next train without having to spend 15 minutes in line for each direction.

Considering that the 5-day Youth Pass is relatively cheap, there isn’t much to lose, and it’s really fun to be able to just go anywhere in the region on those travel days. Have fun. -Roger

QUESTION

I am flying to Frankfurt in July (cheapest flight I find from San Francisco) and going to Gotland for two days and then to Istanbul (and on east to Van Lake area & Mt. Ararat) back to central Turkey and then to Greece (and Crete if time). I will have about 25 days. If any time left I plan on Zermatt in Switzerland on my way back to Frankfurt for return flight.

Would you recommend Eurail to secure a place on train and would I be saving money by just going independent. I know Turkey and Greece are cheap but not sure how much the Gotland and trips from and to Frankfurt would cost. I’d like to include Ireland but will wait for another time as I know that would be too much in too short a time. Definitely I want Gotland and East Turkey. Thanks.

Oh, and do you know if there are ferry boats between Turkey and Greece and if there is about how expensive they are. If train is too expensive for Frankfurt to Gotland and then to Istanbul, are buses much cheaper. Thanks again.

ANSWER

Tom, if you are referring to Gotland in Sweden, I’d fly there from Frankfurt. A train would take a long time and cost quite a bit, but not be a good use of a Eurail Pass. Your itinerary is very unusual with stops in far corners of Europe (or actually well into Asia in Central Turkey). Aside from flying to Sweden, I’d buy tickets once you get there. Buses are generally cheaper, and in Turkey they are pretty much your only choice.

There are many ferries between Turkey and Greece and they are generally quite cheap, though not as cheap as the ones that don’t cross borders. You can buy those on the spot as well, or maybe the day before so they can process your passport. -Roger

QUESTION

Hi Roger: I have decided to edit Gotland from my trip (time & expense) and go straight from Frankfurt to Istanbul. I am going to have about thirty days only so was wondering if you knew about how long it might take by train to Istanbul from Frankfurt and about how long by bus.

And would it be expensive….or would it make better sense to fly from Frankfurt to Istanbul if it isn’t much more expensive. On my schedule I hope it wouldn’t be more than two days. Also on my way back do you know about how long it would take by train or bus from Thessaloniki, Greece to Franfurt from where I fly home. Again, I’m hoping not more than two days. Thanks very much.

ANSWER

Tom, saving Sweden for another trip seems wise. You’ll almost certainly be better off flying on all of your stops, which is advice I rarely give. Europe has loads of low cost airlines, so if you buy tickets well in advance they are usually cheaper than train journeys lasting 6 hours or more. Often they are way cheaper.

Also, for the last year or so, the train service in Greece has been pretty much shut down for budget reasons, and in Turkey it’s shut down for a few years for renovations. So the trains really only go as far south as Sofia, and between Belgrade and Sofia they are very slow and old fashioned anyway.

I normally travel by train or bus whenever I can because I’m rarely in a hurry and I love it. But in that part of the world, flying is best. The buses within Turkey are cheap, comfortable, and pretty fast, so once you get to Istanbul you’ll be able to get anywhere on them easily. Don’t miss Cappadocia if you are anywhere near it. -Roger

QUESTION

Hi Roger,
I need some advice about travel in Germany. My daughter and I are planning a 13 day trip starting and concluding in Paris. Currently, we have reservations in Paris for the first 4 nights ( May 29- June 2).

Initially, we had planned to take the train from Paris to Lucerne and stay there from June 2. – June 5 and then take the train from Lucerne to Stuttgart and stay there from June 5 – June 8. Finally, we would return to Paris for the last 2 nights ( June8-10).

I have begun to question whether a stay in Stuttgart is a good idea as it doesn’t seem nearly as attractive as Munich and the Black Forest , Heidelberg and Rothenburg. So, all that said (or written) do you have a suggested itinerary that would give us a good sampling of Munich, the Black Forest area(Freiburg),Rothenburg and Heidelberg?

Though we are anxious to see Lucerne, we may have to sacrifice a stay there ( or shorten it at least) in order to see these sights in Germany.

Additionally, do you think 6 days in Paris is too much time given our short timeframe? I would appreciate any guidance. I am trying to provide my 18 year old daughter with a wonderful and memorable trip to celebrate her graduation . Thanks!
Allison

ANSWER

Allison, I agree with you about Stuttgart not being an ideal stop for first-time visitors to Germany (unless they are big Mercedes or Porsche fans). Those other places you mention are better options, although Munich is quite large and a bit out of the way for such a quick visit. I’d opt for 2 nights in Heidelberg and 1 night in Rothenburg (which is a magical little place if you spend the night and do the Nightwatchman’s Tour).

As for Paris, I don’t think that 6 days is “too much time” but on the other hand, I think 4 or 5 nights is plenty for a first visit and you might get more benefit from spending that extra day or two somewhere else. Except for Stuttgart (and including Munich), all of these choices are really lovely so no matter how you divide the time you’ll have a great trip. -Roger

QUESTION

Hi Roger,
Thank you for all your help! I ,now, have a question about the appropriate rail pass to purchase. My daughter and I will be taking the train from Paris to Heidelberg, from Heidelberg to Rothenburg, Rothenburg to Munich and finally Munich to Paris. ( we may take a day trip to Freiberg and possibly to Salzburg out of Munich as well )

Do you advise that we purchase a France / Germany Rail Pass? Also, if we do so, do we still have to make reservations for each trip (or just show up at the station)? If so, can reservations be made in advance and online?
Allison

ANSWER

Allison, your best option for a rail pass would be buying two Second Class France-Germany passes, but it might not save much money because you aren’t covering long distances in either country, although the Paris to the German border train is fairly expensive on its own.

On the other hand, the only journeys you’d need reservations for are the ones in and out of France, so it’s quite convenient just being able to hop on the trains within Germany (and to Salzburg). When you do need to reserve a seat for a train it’s best to do it at the station, and you can almost always make it just before you depart. To be safe I usually reserve the day before, but on all of these routes there are hourly trains and as long as you don’t go before 9am or so (when many business people travel for the day) you can get on almost any train after a short wait in the ticket/reservations queue.-Roger

QUESTION

Hi roger! I hope you have the time to answer a few questions.

I’m planning to travel this july for around 3/4 weeks in europe and we are wanting to visit rome (3days), pisa (1day), venice(3 days), 3 days in salzburg or vienna (preferably vienna), Prague(2/3days) and 3 days in berlin.

First off, is this feasible and would it be a good route for a first timers european trip? We’re looking for around 21-25 days in total.

Also we have read elsewhere that point to point tickets would be better than a pass, is this your view as well?
Thanks!
Chris

ANSWER

Chris, That looks like a pretty good itinerary, at least if you are determined to move so quickly. One thing though, Venice is a stunning place, but it’s quite small and it’s insanely crowded (especially in July). I’d recommend no more than 2 nights there, and maybe only one. From 10am until 6pm it’s a zoo, but in the mornings and evenings you can see a lot in a hurry, so I’d book a central hotel on the main island and visit quickly.

Aside from that you are still moving pretty fast. The point to point tickets in Italy will be cheap, and the others still not too expensive, so a pass wouldn’t make sense. If you prefer to make all your hotel reservations in advance, then this itinerary should work out fine. But if you only make them as you go, you might decide to skip one or two cities and stay longer in others. -Roger

QUESTION

For train ticket options, I agree that a pass would not normally be beneficial but I qualify for the youth pass and the 10 days travel in 22 days seems like it could come into the picture as it costs £220. (This would mean £22 for each journey day). As the itinery is tight I would not be buying tickets early and would only get them the day before departure or at the station on the day, just incase the plan changes.

Do you think, from experience, that buying tickets on the day (2nd class) would work out better for such a route? Taking into consideration the price for a youth pass.
Chris

ANSWER

Chris, for that price and considering your route includes some pretty long jumps, I’d definitely get the Youth Pass. Chances are you’d have little trouble getting on trains on the spot, but during July the lines might be long to buy tickets and some trains might get full. So it’s quite a nice little luxury to just go to the train station and jump on the next train out without bothering with tickets. For €22 per ride you can’t go wrong. Buy it and bon voyage. -Roger
Reply

QUESTION

Hi Roger
My husband and I are planning a trip from Rome 3 days Cinque Terra
( how many days do you think) through Venice to Switzerland, 4 days then Austria, Prague and Berlin do you recommend a eurail pass or buying train tickets as we go. We plan to be away for 24 days in total.I find your column very helpful. Thanks
Stephanie

ANSWER

Stephanie, in your case you’d probably spend at least a bit less if you buy the tickets as you go, especially if you travel in Second Class. A Eurail Pass for those over 25 is First Class only, and if you can afford it you might find it’s well worth it.

You could just buy individual tickets until you were ready to leave Venice, and then validate a short Eurail Pass for the rest. Being able to just walk into the train station and jump on the next train is worth a lot on a fast-moving trip like yours. Otherwise you have to get there an hour early or go the day before in order to know which train you’ll have a seat on.

But whichever way you go, don’t use a Eurail Pass for those short stops within Italy because they are cheap and trains leave once or twice an hour at least. -Roger

QUESTION

Hi Roger,
Wow you’re awesome! I think I need some suggestions from you. Me and my friend have a plan to go for Euro Trip this summer (August).

We’re planning to be there for one month. First we will fly to London and spend a couple days there (maybe from 29-31th July), then we’ll start the Euro Trip from August 1st. And the itinerary that we’ve made is like this:

Amsterdam – Berlin (and maybe visit other cities as well in Germany like Frankfurt) – Prague – Warsaw (and also Krakow) – Budapest – Vienna – Milan (and will visit other cities as well as we have a friend that can bring us anywhere while in Italy) – Zurich – Paris – Barcelona (and Madrid as well) – Lisbon, then maybe come back to Madrid for our flight to get back home.

So I wanna ask about the Eurail. Do you think we should buy it? And if yes, which type do you prefer?

And second do you think it’s a good itinerary? We haven’t planned yet for how many days we’ll spend in each city, but we have total 1 month for them. What do you think, Roger? Your advice will be really helpful.
Thanks a lot
Farhan

ANSWER

Farhan,
The way I count it, you are planning on hitting at least 13 continental cities after leaving London, in 30 days. That’s too many. On one hand, I am an advocate for “fast travel” but even then you are trying to fit too much in.

One reasonable way to think about it is that each travel day is a day you won’t be doing any sightseeing. By the time you check out of a hotel, head to the train station, sit on the train for 3 to 6 hours, and get into your next hotel, the day is shot. So with this plan you only allow about 18 sightseeing days mixed with 13 travel days. On the other hand, the scenery between each city can be lovely, so it’s not like wasting a day at airports, but it’s still not a good mix.

Looking at your list, Amsterdam and Berlin are great, but skip Frankfurt. See Prague and skip Warsaw on the way to Krakow. Budapest is nice, as is Vienna, but Milan is Italy’s least interesting tourist city. Zurich is insanely expensive and not worthwhile. Paris deserves a week if you can spare it, but at least 3 days at a minimum. Save Barcelona, Madrid, and Lisbon for another trip. They are all great, but too far apart to appreciate in such a short time.

So if you are down to maybe 7 or 8 cities in a month, then I think a Eurail Pass could be ideal, especially in August which is very busy on European trains. Book a Eurostar train from London to Amsterdam ASAP (for the lowest price) and activate your Eurail Pass when you leave Amsterdam for Berlin.

QUESTION

Hey Roger,
Thank you very very much for the advice!

I read the fast travel article, it was quite interesting. That’s exactly what I’ve been thinking about also. But if it’s too much, I think I’ll follow what you said. I’m ready to cut Frankfurt, Warsaw, and Zurich from the list. But I’m very eager to visit Barcelona or Madrid (I’m ready to cut Lisbon also if it’s too far). Do you think there’s a way to still put them on the list? And do you have an idea how many days to stay for each cities? Cause I still don’t have any idea.

PS: Not to mention that Eastern Europe is also amazing, especially Bucharest, Sofia, and Athens. But I know that I have to be rational for the trip haha.

Thanks for the advice on Eurail and Eurostar. So it should be the 15 days in 2 month? Or do you know which one the best for this trip?

Thank you again. I’m starting to believe this trip will be awesome and unforgettable since I read your articlse and asked for your advices.
Farhan

ANSWER

Farhan, It’s my pleasure to try to help. If you will have only 31 days on the Continent, I’d go with the 10 days out of 2 months Eurail Pass. As I said before, you really should shoot for fewer than 11 cities (10 trips between them), but at least with a First Class Eurail Pass you won’t waste time in ticket queues. Although be aware that on some of the high-speed trains you have to pay a bit (like €5 to €10) for a seat reservation even with a Eurail Pass.

On your list, if you insist on moving at a very fast pace, Amsterdam is quite compact and in 1.5 days you can see the highlights. Berlin is huge and spread out so allow 2 non-travel days there. Prague and Budapest are also fairly compact so they can be quicker stops. Allow at least 3 non-travel days in Paris. Barcelona is quite large and full of highlights so I’d allow at least 2 non-travel days there. Madrid is nice, as is Lisbon, but if I were you I’d save those or only visit them if you are somehow still motivated to move quickly near the end of your trip. -Roger

QUESTION

Hi Roger!
You are great! I need a little help here. My girlfriend and I are planning a little trip through some parts of Europe this summers. We will start from Paris and will have around 10 days.We were thinking of doing Switzerland, Austria, Italy and Greece. Which Eurail pass do you recommend? Also, do you have any idea about the accommodation, details of it and the prices? How do you suggest we go about? Kindly give us any other suggestion you might have regarding the same.
Thanks
Jeff

ANSWER

Jeff, thanks. Ummmm…if I’m reading this correctly, you are going to be in Europe for 10 days and you are thinking about hitting 5 countries? Eurail Passes are really only for longer trips, so point-to-point is the way to go.
From your list I’m going to recommend with spending all 10 days in Paris and Rome, with 1 or 2 days in Venice.

Please have a look at this article I wrote about Europe’s great cities that supports it.

If you choose not to go to Italy then maybe Vienna and Salzburg instead of Rome and Venice. Greece is a bit of a mess right now, and Switzerland is insanely expensive.

As for prices and budgeting, please see my Europe Backpacker Index, which shows almost all of these cities ranked by average daily price.

If I’ve misunderstood your question or timeline, ask again and I’ll take another shot. -Roger

QUESTION

Hi Roger!
Thanks for the reply. We have 10 days excluding Paris. So we were thinking of choosing between Italy, Switzerland, Austria and Greece. Also what do you mean when you say point-to-point? I had heard of the cruise between Italy and Greece

so we were thinking of doing that. Any suggestions are most welcome!
Thanks in advance

ANSWER

Jeff, okay, that makes more sense then. By point-to-point I mean buying train (or plane) tickets as you go from one place to the next rather than using a Eurail Pass. For plane tickets it’s better to buy them ASAP, but for train tickets you can get away with buying them on the day or the day before.
There are ferries between Italy and Greece, which resemble cruise ships, but getting to the right place will take too much time out of the 10 days.
Unless you are a history buff, Greece is ideal for 2 or 3 days in Athens and then a week out on one of the popular holiday islands. On a trip like yours I wouldn’t do it.

Switzerland has a few very expensive big cities but most tourists go to the scenic towns in the Alps, which are also expensive. I love Salzburg, Austria as an alternative, but I think Vienna is too out of the way for your schedule. It’s curious that you didn’t mention Germany. Munich is a wonderful city, not far from Salzburg.

But overall if this is your first trip to Europe (I’m guessing) you’ll get the most bang for your buck in Italy. One way would be to take a train from Paris to Nice (which is interesting and also good for quick side trips to Monaco and Cannes) and then a train to Rome or Venice or Florence. From there you could circle around to the other two and then back to Paris. Another way would be to fly from Paris to Rome and then do that circuit by train. If you book well in advance you can get airfares for less than train fares. Paris, Rome, Venice, and Florence is an amazing itinerary if you can pull it off, and adding Nice makes it even nicer. -Roger

QUESTION

Hi again Roger!
We decided on your advice and would be doing Paris, Nice-Cannes and then move on to Italy from there. I wanted your advice as to how do we do that. We want to do Rome, Venice and Florence for sure. In what order do you suggest we do them so as to minimize the travel. Also, would a regional France-Italy Eurail pass make sense here? Do give any other suggestions that might help us. Thanks in advance

ANSWER

Jeff, very cool. I’m sure you’ll love that group of cities. The France-Italy Eurail Pass might be ideal for that because you’ll be covering quite a bit of ground in a short time.

This is quite a common question and topic, and one I know a lot about, so I’ve decided to write a full article about an ideal France-Italy 2-week itinerary.
-Roger

QUESTION

Hi Roger,
Liked your column very much. I would sincerely appreciate some advice from you on Eurail passes.

I will be in Europe with my teenage daughter. Will be doing these (return) trips for sure:
Brussels-Den Haag-Brussels
Den Haag-Paris_Den Haag
Den Haag-Amsterdam-Den Haag
Maybe Den Haag-Luxenbourg-Den Haag

1. Does it make sense to take a Benelux France Eurail Pass for both of us?

2. I am told that international/faster trains need reservation, how do you do that? Is it an inconvenient/time-consuming process?

3. Can you buy eurail passes from Thomas Cook/other agents in your own country?
Thank you!
Krishna

ANSWER

Krishna,
Thank you.

1. With only one short trip into France on your 4 journeys, the Benelux-France pass isn’t a good deal. It’s quite expensive because France is huge and the longer trips within the country are pricey. You’d be much better off with just a Benelux Pass, and buying the Paris tickets separately. On the other hand, all those trips are pretty short and relatively cheap, especially in 2nd Class (if you are over 25 you have to buy a First Class Pass), so you might just buy tickets as you go. It’s all very easy (in English) in that part of Europe.

2. If you do buy a pass and want to ride on the express trains, it’s pretty easy to make the reservation. You just go into the main train station and get in line in the international tickets area (sometimes it’s a separate room and other times it’s just separate windows in the same room). When your number is called you just tell them that you want to reserve a seat for a specific train and that you have a pass, and they’ll charge you about €5 and print out a ticket for the specific seat. Then when you board you show them that ticket and also your pass, which the conductor will punch. Since you’d be reserving in First Class, there will almost always be a seat, but it might take 30 minutes in line to get it.

3. Only non-European residents can buy and use Eurail Passes, so if you are in the UK then you aren’t eligible. If you are outside of Europe then you can get the passes from travel agents, though they tend to be cheaper bought online. -Roger

QUESTION

Hi Roger
How much are charges for reservation for eurail passes, say Paris-Rotterdam, ballpark?
Thanks again!
Reply

ANSWER

Krishna, As of a few years ago they were generally €5 tp €10 per seat/reservation, so it’ll be close to that. -Roger

QUESTION

Hi Roger! I’m departing next week to Frankfurt and I’m still undecided if I should buy a Eurail Pass (10 days in 2 months) or buying the tickets on the internet. I’ll go to Germany, Netherlands, France,Belgium, Spain, Portugal, Austria, Czech Republic and Hungary and I’ll be in Europe 1 and half month (42 days).

I did my research and buying the tickets in ther internet would save me 25-30% off the price that I would pay if I buy a Eurail pass. I know that I would be tied to a schedule, but I feel the same way with the Eurail pass because most of the trips requires a reservation. It would be great just to hop in the train with nothing to worry and makes any changes, but I feel that the Eurail pass will not give me that feeling. I feel they’re kind of the same. In the other hand buying 10 train tickets in different websites can be tedious and may be risky. I really need your advice.
Rafael

ANSWER

Rafael, The last time I used a (1st Class) Eurail Pass a few years ago I think I only had to make one reservation out of 10 journeys. The normal city to city trains are already quite fast and it’s mostly the night trains and the TGVs in France (plus a few German trains) that require reservations.

Still, if you’ve calculated that you can save that much by buying point to point tickets, it means that you are mostly doing shorter journeys than the Eurail Pass is ideal for. For example, a train from Berlin to Copenhagen can cost maybe €150 each way, so with a few of those a Eurail Pass makes sense. But if your itinerary is mostly one major city to the next, and more in the south than the north, then go for individual tickets.

I’d buy the first one in advance, and maybe a few more on trips that the dates are locked in, but you are probably fine buying most of them once in Europe, and it’ll probably be cheaper as well. -Roger

QUESTION

I am planning to start my euro tour from Zurich in December for two weeks covering Germany, France, Holland, Belgium and return to Zurich before flying home. I rather stay in budget hotel but I want to travel only by trains without hassle. Please suggest whether I should take the rail pass ? Thanks.
Mahen

ANSWER

Mahan, you are going through a very expensive area for train fares so it could make sense to go with a Eurail Pass. If you are over 25 you have to buy a First Class Rail Pass, and that might be especially nice in later December because millions of Europeans use trains to go places for the holidays.

The Rail Pass also cuts down on hassle, although if you are willing to travel in Second Class (which is still pretty nice) it’ll probably be a bit cheaper than the First Class Rail Pass. -Roger

QUESTION

Hi Roger,
I will be traveling in Euro in June for 16 days. We arrive and leave from Munich. I don’t know if it is better to go from Munich to Vienna,Budapest, Cesky Krumlov, Prague, Regensburg Munich or go the opposite direction Munich to Regensburg, Prague, Cesky Krumlov, Budapest, Vienna, Passau, Munich. Should I get a eruo rail pass? We will be 3 nights in Hungary & Czech?
Evelyn

ANSWER

Evelyn, for a trip like yours I wouldn’t recommend a rail pass. Most of your journeys will be quite short so the individual tickets will be relatively cheap. For trips within Germany you can sometimes even get deals for traveling in groups or on weekends, and those tickets can be very inexpensive. As for which order to go in, the logistics are the same in either direction so it’s just personal choice. Either way should be wonderful. -Roger
Reply

QUESTION

Hi Roger, can you tell me what’s easiest way from Brasov to Prague via Bratislava? Train/bus? Haven’t been able to pin down info online. One site said there was no direct train from Brasov to Prague. Thanks much, Alina

ANSWER

Alina, you could take either a train or a bus from Brasov to Prague, but in either case you’ll switch in Budapest along the way. The Romanian train system might not be fully integrated with the rest of Europe for purchasing one ticket all the way, but there are several daily trains from Brasov to Budapest and many more daily trains from Budapest to Prague (including some that might go through Bratislava).

When you are looking for the two train journeys it’s important to leave at least two hours or so (if not more) in between. The trains in that part of Europe are often an hour or more late. Also, be aware that there are two main international train stations in Budapest (connected by Metro) so if you are arriving at one and departing from the other you’ll need to add at least another 30 minutes to be sure you’ll make it. -Roger

QUESTION

Hi Roger, I will be travelling in Europe in June for 2 months. I arrive and leave from Madrid.

I have been reading many articles in this web site and I still have a big doubt: I will travel in “high season” and I don’t know how calculate how much money I will spend in hostels, meals, transportation, etc. All the estimate prices are calculated for low season (i think), so i’m very confused about that. Please help me!

I want to visit countries that Eurail Pass admits: Spain, France, Italy, England, Ireland, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, Czech Republic, Netherlands, Poland. So i’m 80% sure about to use this way to move in Europe.

The big question is: how much money I need to travel in june-july? (aprox).
Thank you very much! and excuse my english, but is not my native language haha.
Pia

ANSWER

Pia, the price ranges I use on this site for these cities are valid all year round. The only thing that is more expensive in high season is accommodation, and most hostels only charge a bit more in high season compared to low season.

So in Madrid for example a hostel might charge €15 in low season and €20 in summer. The easiest way to figure out hostel prices for your dates is to click on the links of those recommended hostels in the article. Each of them is the cheapest of the highly rated and well located hostels in each city, so put in your dates and you’ll have those costs figured out.

On the individual pages for each city you’ll see transport and attraction costs that are valid all year. And for food and drinks, it’s all a matter of where you go and how careful you are. In Madrid it’s easy to get a filling jambon (ham) sandwich for lunch for €3, but if you sit down at a restaurant in a main square you’ll be paying €10 or more for the cheapest item on the menu. If your funds are limited it’s easy to travel well without spending much.

In two months in all of those countries a Eurail Pass might be perfect because you’ll be doing long jumps. Just make sure you read up on it as the UK isn’t included although Ireland is. I’m sure you’ll have the trip of a lifetime. -Roger

QUESTION

I noticed that on some trains there is a Premier Class that is one notch above 1st class.

My first question is — does Premier Class have more legroom or larger, more reclining seats? (I have a handicap and need the extra space if it’s available). With a 1st class Global Eurail Pass, is it possible to upgrade to premier class on trains that have it, or are you required to either go 1st class or buy a separate premier class ticket and forego using the pass altogether? Thank you so much. Your knowledge of the rail systems and advantages is a lifesaver.
Angie

ANSWER

Angie, some of the trains that have Premiere 1st Class do have more legroom, but it’s worth noting that all 1st Class seats on European trains have ample legroom. (I’m very tall and I’m usually fine with legroom even in Second Class.)

The main benefit of Premiere 1st Class is that it comes with free drinks and often a free meal along with magazines and a few other little amenities.
All trains that offer Premiere 1st Class also require reservations for every seat, which are usually €5 to €10 each. With a 1st Class Rail Pass you can at that time pay extra for Premiere Class if it’s available, usually around €25 per journey. So it’s a small add-on and you can use your pass. Bon voyage. -Roger

QUESTION

Hello Roger,
I am traveling in June with my daughter (18) celebrating her graduation. We will fly into Paris and stay for 4 days. We ,then, plan to take a train to Lucerne and stay there 3 days. From Lucerne we plan to take a train to Stuttgart where we will stay 3 days . Finally, we will return to Paris via train for the remaining 2 days.

Do you suggest that we purchase Eurail passes or individual train tickets? Does this itinerary look attractive to you. My daughter has studied German for the last several years and is eager to spend time in the Black Forest and Stuttgart areas.
Thanks for your help
Allison

ANSWER

Allison, your itinerary includes only 3 journeys and they are all relatively short so a rail pass would not be a good idea. Either buy tickets as you go or if you prefer to lock everything in you can buy them in advance online. The city choices sound fantastic so I’m sure you’ll have a wonderful trip. -Roger
Reply

QUESTION

Hi Roger,
My wife and I are spending some time in europe this sept. We will be travelling by train and our itinerary is as follows in order:
London 3 nights, Paris 3 nights, Nice 2 nights, Florence 3 nights,
Rome 4 nights, then fly home. We will be making a day trip to Naples from Rome to see Pompei as well.

We have been concerned that we may be trying to accomplish too much and don’t want to spend all our time travelling on trains. Does this schedule seem too full for the time allotted? Also, what type of train pass would you recommend, if any? We would greatly appreciate any feedback regarding our euro adventure. Thank you
Adam

ANSWER

Adam, you’ve chosen a classic itinerary for this trip, which is almost identical to the suggested France and Italy itinerary I recently wrote about, except you are adding London. You can read a bit more about my recommendations in that article, but overall I’d say you are going quick, though not too quick.

If I were you I’d do Florence in two nights and add that extra night to London or Paris, unless you have something particular in Florence to do.

You will be spending a good chunk of time on trains, but the scenery is quite nice all the way so that should be relaxing and interesting (unlike air travel). As for passes, the Eurostar (train between London and Paris) should be bought as early as possible since the price goes up the closer you get (like most airlines).

You can get a discount on the Eurostar tickets if you buy a France-Italy regional rail pass, which would work pretty well for a trip like yours. Or you could buy tickets as you go. In September the crowds shouldn’t be bad, but a rail pass tends to make the trip easier and a bit nicer. -Roger

QUESTION

Good Morning Roger,
What a great service you offer. I’ll keep this brief as I can see how busy you are. In summary we are a family of 4 travelling from Bordeax to Anitibes (3 nights), Antibes to C.Terre (3 nights), C.Terre to Venice (3 nights) all within a periond of 2 weeks in July this year. The family will then split for a while and we have 1 adult from Milan to florence (August)and then 3 of us from Florence to Avignon mid August.

We are trying to determine the pros and cons associated with car hire versus Eurail pass vs train tickets purchased on the day. It can be rather complicated but from research it appears the Eurail offers more convenience and ease of travel although costly, however I wonder if the additional booking fee’s the agent is quoting $15 per person per leg of the booked journey + the $1318 eurail cost makes it more expensive than it should be if we were to combine some car hire with some instant train bookings? Your thoughts??
Michele

ANSWER

Michele, a France-Italy regional Eurail Pass might be a good choice for you, but still I think you aren’t making long enough jumps to make it worth it. It’ll be incredibly crowded in all of those areas in July and August. I don’t know much about the cost of a car hire in high season, though my understanding is that driving in the area is fairly easy, even if parking isn’t. I’d lean towards buying train tickets as you go. None of those journeys is too long or expensive and you might even find some regional trains (rather than express trains) will work. -Roger

QUESTION

Thanks Roger. So in essence, although a busy time of year, you think it would be okay to book as we go regardless of the fact we could pre-book with the Eurail pass? Can you pre-book 3 days a head at any train station for your next trip?
regards Michele

ANSWER

Michele, yes, you can book train tickets in person at any station in the same country for up to 6 months in advance. To be safe you might even buy the outgoing tickets on arrival, especially if you know the exact date and time you want to travel. I normally buy the day before I want to leave and I’ve never been denied. The worst case scenario, even for busy season, is your first-choice train is sold out so you have to go earlier or later or on a slower regional train (that would also be cheaper). You’ll be fine. -Roger

QUESTION

Hi Roger,
Like everyone who has posted here I too need some advice in regards to Europe train travelling and whether point to point train purchase would be a cheaper option for me rather than a Eurail pass.
OK – I am planning on train travel for the following dates and countries –

23 Aug-Amsterdam-Berlin
27 Aug-Berlin-Prague
26 Sept-Salerno-Rome
1 Oct-Rome-Florence
5 Oct-Florence-Venice
6 Oct-Venice-Salzberg
9 Oct-Salzberg-Milan
20 Oct-Paris-Bruges via Eurostar
23 Oct-Bruge-London via Eurostar
2nd Nov-London-Amsterdam via Eurostar

I understand that getting a Eurail pass will give me a discount with Eurostar travel, but it is not applicable for travel in Italy.

If a Eurail pass is a cheaper option for me, then what pass would you suggest? Would you suggest I purchase an Italy train pass? Also, does Eurostar have a special pass for multi travel as I could not see it on their web site.
What ever advice you can give me would be most appreciated!!
Andrew

ANSWER

Andrew, Italy is part of the Eurail Pass system, but still I’d recommend individual tickets for an itinerary like yours. They only last up to 2 months anyway, and your trip will be longer. Besides, many of your trips are relatively short and in cheaper areas so you’ll save money buying as you go.

I don’t believe the Eurostar has a pass system and even if they did it wouldn’t help for only 3 trips. Also, as of now, the Eurostar only has 2 routes, London to Paris and London to Brussels. So from Paris to Bruges you’ll take a TGV or Thalys train to Brussels and then change to a local one for the Bruges part. For your last two trips you should buy a Eurostar roundtrip from Brussels to London soon and just buy those other legs locally on the day. Eurostar has its best rates for round-trip tickets bought early. -Roger

QUESTION

Leaving in a few days for Germany.
First time.Staying about 12 days.

What must see?

Not sure what will do one say to the next.
What is the best way to get around?

Also,should I buy a travel pass in advance.

What kind and where?
Thanks for your quick response.
Ertha

ANSWER

Roger Wade says:
May 6, 2013 at 7:16 am
Ertha, my favorite places in Germany are Berlin, Munich, Rothenburg ob der Tauber (spend a night there), Koln, and Hamburg, but there are plenty more worthwhile stops.

The trains in Germany are the perfect way to get around and actually a Germany Rail Pass is ideal if you still have time. I used one on my first solo tour of the country and it was amazing. You have to buy them from home though as they are not sold in Europe at all.
German Rail Pass

The trains in Germany are a bit expensive if you buy each journey separately, but at least the trains are fast, frequent, and comfortable. Good luck. -Roger
Reply

QUESTION

Hi Roger,
I’m backpacking for two months (70 days) starting at the end of May. My itinerary may be a little ambitious, but I understand that I’ll most likely have to cut some stuff here and there. I’m landing in Dublin and plan on making my way south and I have some questions regarding the path I take.
I’ve mapped out one possible path I can take.

I ran out of way points (an indication this might be too ambitious), but ideally after Italy, I would go to Greece, then fly to Portugal/Spain before getting back to Dublin for my flight out.

Questions:

1. Would a global rail pass be worth it? Most of the train rides I take in this itinerary would be relatively short (<5 hours) and with the pass, the most I would be able to do is 15 travel days within 2 months. So it would really only be 15 train rides for me, something that seems like it wouldn't be a great deal. 2. Would an S-shaped path be better? That is to say, going from London>Belgium>Netherlands>Germany>France>Switz.>Italy?

3. Does it make a difference whether certain countries are traveled to in June or July? Am I correct to assume that tourism ramps up in July, so anywhere I go in July will be relatively busier than in June?
This is my first time travelling to Europe. Your advice is much appreciated. Cheers!
Gary

ANSWER

Gary, yes, your itinerary is overly ambitious so I’m glad you already realize it. It looks like you plan to travel every other day for 70 days while seeing about two-thirds of Europe’s highlights. It might make for a good reality show but not an ideal first trip to Europe.

Summer tourism patterns in Europe aren’t so simple. In July and August you have enormous numbers of Europeans heading from cities to beaches for a month at a time. So in cities like Munich or Paris or even Rome you’ll have fewer locals in July and August and more tourists. In June few locals are on holiday and early in the month there isn’t a crush of tourists yet either. It’s also worth mentioning that July and August are very hot in the southern countries and air-con isn’t standard in cheaper places so it can get sweaty and miserable.

Hotel and hostel prices are at peaks all summer in beach areas, but not necessarily in the big cities. If you are staying in hostels the timing probably doesn’t matter.

What I’d recommend for you is to do your first part but after Paris I’d head to Nice and then to Italy in early June. If you want to do Greece then take a ferry there from Italy. After Italy (or Greece) start moving north as the locals are coming south. Then you’ll hit the best weather pretty much your whole trip and you’ll miss most of the crowds. By the way, if you go to Greece then you’ll want to fly out because ground transportation is slow and frustrating.

Plan on staying in larger cities for a minimum of 3 nights and smaller ones for 2 nights. Book your onward transportation (don’t forget that buses in Europe are usually cheaper than trains and often take the same amount of time, so they are an option) a day or two before you want to go, and book your next hostel or hotel there at about the same time as well. The best and cheapest hostels in Europe will usually still have beds a couple days out, but they’ll usually be full by noon on the day in summer. So those who don’t reserve in high season end up staying in the remote or expensive or poorly run hostels and hotels. -Roger

QUESTION

Hi Roger,
I have a couple questions I hope you can help me with.

I am doing a Spain/ Italy tour and am on the fence as to whether a eurail spain/italy pass is worth it.
Im travelling with a friend in Spain and we were thinking Madrid (where we land) –> Seville –>Granada –> San Sebatian –> Barcelona. I am then flying to Turin and am going to go to CInque Terra (not sure which village to start in) –> Florence –> Naples –> ROme.

Is the pass worth it? Am I able to use the pass on local trains as well as the Renfe (in spain) and Ferrovie trains (in italy)?
Thanks so much for your help.
Angela

ANSWER

Angela, this is an interesting situation because those journeys you are planning in Italy are relatively short and cheap, while the journeys you are planning in Spain are best done on high-speed lines, which are fairly expensive. So for you I’d seriously consider just a Spain Rail Pass and then do Italy one journey at a time. The Spain-Italy Pass might still be good value, but this gives you more flexibility.

And yes, these passes are good on all the local trains as well as the express trains. In fact, you’ll need to pay a bit for a reserved seat on most of the fast trains, while you can often just hop on the local trains, even as part of one travel day on a pass. -Roger

QUESTION

One more quick question – is the first class ticket worth it over the second class?

ANSWER

Angela, for most people I’d say Second Class is comfortable enough. I’m quite tall and I’m usually fine in Second Class, but I’ve used a First Class pass before and it was wonderful. -Roger

QUESTION

Wow Roger your knowledge is amazing! I am planning our trip to Europe September to October and need advice on train travel.

Train Naples to Florence 17th Sept.
Train Florence to Rome 19th Sept.
Train return daytrip Salzburg to Munich 24th Sept.
Train Salzburg to Lucerne 25th Sept.
Train Lucerne to Locarno 27th Sept.
Train Ascona to Interlarken 29th Sept.
Train Interlarken to Paris 2nd October.

Should we buy the 4 or 5 country 5 day select saver Eurail pass or a Swiss pass and regional passes or Swisspass and point to point tickets ? Your help would be much appreciated . Cheers Lorraine from Australia

ANSWER

Lorraine, I think you’d be best off with a France-Switzerland pass or perhaps a 4-country pass including Austria and Germany as well. Your Italy legs won’t cost too much, but all the rest would be fairly expensive on their own, and a few of them are very expensive. Either of those combinations should work out well for you. -Roger

QUESTION

Hi Roger,
You seem to be a life saver adviser out here!!! i went through most of the comments above and found it very helpful.

I had a slightly different question, and was wondering if you could help… my husband and I are planning to travel to germany in november. We are getting 7 days complimentary stay in “schliersee” It seems to b small town, and there isn’t much info available about it on the internet. Only info I have been able to dig out is that, it does have a rail route passing by it and also has bus connectivity. I dont know how good or bad it is though. Have u heard of this place and have any idea abt local transport network there??

We were thinking of visiting Munich, Salzburg and Innsbruck in Austria by keeping this place as a hub. And later heading towards Switzerland (and getting a local hotel there). Also, if this place works, do u think a 5 day eurorail pass for 3 countries wud be sensible for travel between these places that i mentioned?? or should we buy point to point tickets??
thanks in advance for your help.
-Hiral

ANSWER

Hiral, I’m not familiar with Schliersee but I am familiar with the general area and it’s gorgeous. It appears that the train from Munich central takes only an hour and runs every hour. Those local train tickets aren’t too expensive (maybe €10 or even less), and Salzburg and Innsbruck are both only 2 to 3 hours from Munich by train, with tickets costing around €30, or even less if there’s a promotion running (and Germany has a lot of train promotions). So long story short, you aren’t covering nearly enough ground to justify a rail pass and the individual tickets should be cheap.

Also, both are nice but Salzburg is much more interesting than Innsbruck. Hopefully you can spend at least one night there because it’s beautiful in the evenings.

QUESTION

I’m taking my daughter on a trip to Europe in 2014 for 14 days excluding travel to and from.

She’d like to see Madrid & Barcelona, Rome, part of Germany (foreign exchange friend to visit) & part of Denmark (foreign exchange friend to visit). I’d like to see Paris as this will be our only chance to visit Europe together.
Is this too much in too little time and are night trains worth the cost? Would this be a trip that merits a rail pass?
Thomas

ANSWER

Thomas, thanks for answering my question, it makes sense now.
As for your itinerary, it could work but I wouldn’t recommend trains for the longer jumps. You could do 3 days in Madrid, 3 in Barcelona, and then take the night train (or fly) to Rome for 3 days. From there it will probably be cheaper (and obviously much faster) to fly to Paris.

Depending on where in Germany and Denmark you want to visit, flights are probably best for those legs too, although even flying you won’t have much time in the remaining places.

There are dozens of low-cost airlines in Europe (often flying into secondary airports) and if you book well in advance you can get most places for between US$50 and US$100 each way. Since you can book early, it’s almost certain to be your cheapest way.

So a rail pass wouldn’t be a good choice for a trip like this. Looking more closely at the itinerary, I’d recommend skipping one of the southern cities or skipping the exchange-student visits. Each of those southern cities are large, wonderful, and complex, and you really want 3 nights minimum in each of them. I hope this helps. -Roger

QUESTION

Hi Roger
I am planning a three month trip to Europe starting early in July. My destination list includes starting in Copenhagen then venturing to Berlin, Prague, krakow, Vienna, Zagreb, down to Greece then Turkey. What would be your advice regarding purchasing (or not) a eurorail pass? You are kept very busy on here so I thank you for your time.
-Brianna

ANSWER

Brianna, that’s actually an ideal itinerary to use a Eurail Pass because you will be making longer jumps in some expensive areas. However, you’d only want one to go as far as Zagreb because from there on south there are no trains running to speak of.

From Zagreb into Greece and then Turkey you are best off in buses (which are still quite nice and also cheap) or even flying if you can reserve well in advance. So think about maybe a 5-journeys Eurail Pass for that first part, although if you are making more stops in between those cities you mentioned it could be a different story. -Roger
Reply

QUESTION

Thank you Roger! Your advice is very helpful.
It is possible that I will make more stops in between to explore outside of the cities. How different would the story be if that were the case?
Brianna

ANSWER

Brianna, a Eurail Pass can be a great value for journeys of at least 3 hours and especially for trips of over 5 hours. So for example, your Copenhagen to Berlin leg is very expensive on its own, and using one travel day on a pass is perfect. But if you break that up into 3, spending a night in Hamburg and another night in Rostock along the way, you’d be using 3 travel days on a pass so the individual tickets might be better value.

However, you are free to buy a pass that has, say, 5 travel days, and only use it for the longer legs, buying individual tickets for the cheaper legs in between. So you really just have to figure out how many stops you are likely to make and then see if a pass makes sense for the longer ones. -Roger
Reply

QUESTION

we are a group of 6 Ladies who intended to go overseas around early Dec 2013,we would like to get some advice how to make this trip the best trip ever.We would like to visit more tahn 1 country in one trip.e,g flying from South Africa > London>Paris and other closeby countries like Germany etc we not really sure which countries to combine we have an option of flying straight from SA to London or SA to Germany then visits other countries that are closeby but easily accessible via trains(not expensive one) we want to spend at least 2 nights in every country. pls advice
Nezi

ANSWER

Nezi, one important thing to consider when visiting in December is that it will be cold and days will be short. That said, most European cities are very easy to visit in winter and in December you have the added bonus of Christmas decorations and markets.

London and Paris are obviously must-visits, and both are lovely in winter. From Paris I’d recommend heading to Cologne/Koln Germany, which isn’t too far away and has one of the best and most popular of Germany’s Christmas markets. Even if you don’t plan on buying anything, the sight and atmosphere are magical.

Two more nearby cities to consider are Brussels and Bruges in Belgium. I normally don’t rave about Brussels, but in winter it’s nice, and you can get to Bruges in only a couple hours on a local train from there. Bruges, as you may know, is a gorgeous medieval town that is one of Europe’s highlights. Best of all, you can connect London, Paris, and Brussels on the Eurostar train, and if you buy those tickets well in advance they can be quite cheap. -Roger

QUESTION

I’m travelling 53 days just in Eastern Europe and almost all of the trip will be by train/bus. Do you recommend to buy a Europass?

ANSWER

Rafael, I’m glad you asked this because I should have mentioned Eastern Europe and I will add it. About half of Eastern Europe isn’t part of the Eurail system, so you have to compare your itinerary to the main map. Also, just as bad, the trains in the included parts of Eastern Europe tend to be as slow or slower than buses. Coverage is spotty as well, so probably not a good fit for your trip. -Roger

QUESTION

So I think I have to buy each stretch of my trip separate – always comparing the price and the duration of the trip to choose between train of bus. And is not a problem if I but the tickets one day before, am I right?
Thank you again,
Rafa.

ANSWER

Rafael, exactly right. I spent most of this summer traveling around Eastern Europe (currently in Serbia) and even in high season it was easy to buy tickets even just before departure. But for international trains I think it’s wise to buy the day before because sometimes the lines at those windows are long, and once you have a ticket you can breeze into the station at the last minute. If you buy tickets the day of, you have to get there quite early just to be sure.
And don’t hesitate to take the buses because they tend to be comfortable and pretty fast as long as you get the express ones rather than the ones that stop in each town. Bon voyage. -Roger

I will accept your recommendations.
Actually, my budget is the same as the European Backpacker Index 2012.
Hope it works! =)
Thank you again and as a frequent reader of this website, I have one feedback:
I think you can post more topics about Eastern Europe. I know that is more common go to Western Europe but I guess EE has they beautiful places as well.
Looking forward the next topic,
Rafa.

QUESTION

Im planning on travelling for roughly 12-14 days in Europe where I want to cover Italy 4-5 days(Rome and Florence/Venice),Spain 4 days(Barcelona and Valencia/Seville) , 3-4 days Amsterdam and Brussels (Maybe) and end up in France (Paris)(Base in Europe). I am awfully confused on what to chose as flights seem cheaper. I plan on taking the 3 or 4 Countries pass. Catch a flight from London and go to Benalux-Italy-Spain-France(If I choose the 4 country option)What would you suggest?
> Does the pass cover the local trains in Italy and Spain? eg (Rome-Venice-Florence)?
Note: I am 24, and have no problem with booking in advance whether its trains or flights.
Thank you in advance…

ANSWER

Vikram,
Normally I am the last one to say that people are trying to see too much in too little time, but for you, this is a crazy itinerary.
The train passes definitely cover all the local trains, so going from Venice to Rome would be covered, but really you should think about cutting at least half of your destinations before deciding on trains vs. planes. The thing is, whether you are taking trains or flying, it eats up most of a day whenever you change cities. Even if flying, you’ll have to leave your hotel at 9am to catch a noon flight, and you won’t check into your hotel in the new city until 4pm. Trains can be better and at least you see something on the way. For example, Florence to Rome only takes a couple hours with good scenery, and you don’t waste time going to and from airports.
For you, in 12 to 14 days, I’d recommend Venice (1 day), Florence (2 to 3 days), and Rome (3 to 4 days) as minimums, and then add Paris or Barcelona for the rest. Save the rest for your next trip.
-Roger

QUESTION

Thank you for your reply,
Actually Paris is taken care of as I a relative staying there so I would be spending 3-4 (Either in the beginning or the end of the journey) days in Paris anyway.SO excluding Paris I have 12-14 days left to cover the places I mentioned. So 7 days in Italy, 5 days Spain and 2 days in Amsterdam seems ok? Or am I pushing it too much again? To sum it up I have 18-20 days minimum for all the mentioned places so what would you suggest…
Thanks in Advance

ANSWER

Vikram,
I think 7 days in Italy works okay as a minimum, but longer would be better, of course. Five days in Spain should be good if you stay in and around Barcelona rather than trying to hit multiple cities that are many hours away from each other. You might even take a day or two in Nice, France along the way. It’s interesting and very close to Cannes and Monaco for day trips.
If you want to spend 2 days in Amsterdam then you’ll definitely need to fly. I’d recommend saving it for another trip where you also hit Berlin and Prague and Bruges, but I understand the draw of Amsterdam, and you can have a fun 2 days there if you can work out good flights. -Roger

QUESTION

Hi Roger,
My husband and I are planning a trip to Europe starting from Madrid -3 days, Barcelona 3 days, Ibiza 2 days, París 4 days, Nice 1 day, rome 2 days, Florence, 2 days, Venice 2 days, Athens 2 days, Mykonos 2 days, Bruges 2 days, Amsterdam 3 days, Hamburg 3 days and Berlín 2 days and back to Madrid to catch a plane back home to Perú what Do you think it is better for us to buy the Eurail Pass or should we rather fly from some cities to another? If so, what Eurail Pass do ypu think better suits us? And what do you think about our trip itinerary is it to much to cover within 33 days?

ANSWER

Marisol,
Your last question first, yes, I do think you are attempting way too much for 33 days. Two days is enough for Venice or Bruges, and even for Athens if you stick to the main sites. I’d skip Ibiza and Hamburg on this trip, unless you have specific reasons for those. In fact, I’d save Amsterdam and Bruges for another trip as well.
One way to think about it is that any day you are traveling, you don’t have time for sightseeing. With 14 destinations in 33 days, you’ll only have about 20 days of actually seeing what you are going to see. From the time you check out of your hotel, even if it’s near the train station, it will be probably 6 to 8 hours before you check into the hotel in the next city. Even if you fly it’s about the same amount of time spent going to and from airports. After a day traveling, you won’t want to rush to a museum if you get in at 4pm.
However, if you do include most of these cities, I’d recommend a 30-day Eurail Global Pass or a 10 travel days out of 60 Eurail Global Pass. -Roger

QUESTION

Hi Roger, if you are still monitoring this article, I was hoping I could get your advice. I am travelling to Europe in March for 90 days (27Mar-26Jun) I will be visiting friends I made while studying abroad a few years back. my rough plan at the moment is
Cologne->Siena->Brno->Prague->Hamburg->Lyon spending 1-2 weeks in each place. and possibly trvelling a bit in the area during the stay (ie possibly spend a few days in Rome while in Italy, or hopping over to Krakow from Brno) then possibly a week or 2 in Scotland. its kind of a screwy order, because I have to start in Cologne and I have to be in Prague for the first week of May for a wedding. My plan was to buy cheap flights where possible and do train/bus or even carsharing for the rest. do you think a Eurail pass might be a good idea? I’m guessing I will spend somewhere around 75% of the time sleeping at friends places so lodging costs will be minimal. Travel costs will be my main concern. thanks, adam

ANSWER

Adam,
You are obviously covering some pretty long distances with many of these jumps, and with 2 in Germany and one in France, the individual train tickets would be quite expensive. The problem with a Eurail Pass for this is you’ll only have about 5 or 6 big jumps over a 90-day period. The 90-day Eurail Pass would be way too expensive for this, and the 10 days out of 60 probably won’t work either.
Flights are probably the best option, although since most of these are 2nd-tier cities, it will be tough to find direct flights. You’ll probably have to use nearby airports for many of them. I’d start researching flights now and buy any that you can at low prices (since budget airlines generally get more and more expensive as the flight approaches), and then a couple of train or bus journeys for the ones with no easy flights.
My advice would be to look around at nearby airports to each city and then use whichbudget.com to find the low cost airlines. -Roger

QUESTION

Hi Roger,
Really glad that I come across this article. we are a group of students under 25,traveling to France-> Germany (Munich)->Vienna->Prague->Germany (Berlin). It’s a short tour of less than two weeks. Would you suggest that we take a eurail pass of France-Germany and buy tickets for the rest? Or would it be better for us to buy eurail 3 country pass of Germany-Austria-Czechs plus a eurail pass for France (we will be traveling quite a bit in France)?
Thanks in advance!

ANSWER

Lora, I think the France-Germany Pass is your best option because individual tickets in and between those two countries tend to be quite expensive. Calculate the number of longer trips you’ll be making within those borders and get the 4, 5, 6, 8, or 10 days within 2 months option. And of course if you plan any shorter jumps, like Berlin to Dresden for example, it might be cheaper to just buy those as you go too, and only use the pass for the longer ones. Trains in Czech Republic are fairly cheap on their own. -Roger

QUESTION

Hi Roger, Your advise sounds very good.
My Partner and I are planning a trip to Europe, going:
London – Paris – Lausanne – Milan – Florence – Rome – Venice – Salzburg – Budapest – Prague – Berlin – Brussels – Amsterdam.
Total trip time: 44 nights. We are going in Feb 2014.
Do you think we should look at getting a rail pass for the entire trip? Or should we just book each train seperately? We are not keen to fly anywhere…
Your advise will be greatly appreciated! Sophie

ANSWER

Sophie, your itinerary looks like a really good one for a rail pass because you are doing many medium-length journeys in different countries. The only cheaper ones will be those within Italy, so I’d buy a 10-days in 2-months Global Youth Pass (if you are both under 26) or a First Class Saver Pass if you are 26 or older. The Saver Pass is 2 to 5 people using the same pass so you always have to travel together, but it’s 15% cheaper than 2 individual passes.
Your London to Paris leg will be on the Eurostar, which is a separate system (information near the top of this page) and you’ll want to buy those tickets up to 6 months early for the cheapest fares. With this itinerary it still leaves you 11 journeys, so for either Milan to Florence or Florence to Rome, just buy individual tickets rather than validating the Pass for that day. Most of your other legs would be quite expensive individually (especially in 1st class) so the pass will save you money and hassle. -Roger

Sophie says:
May 19, 2013 at 11:34 am
Thank you so much for the quick reply
You have been very helpful 🙂
Sophie

QUESTION

Your advice has been incredibly helpful! Thank you so much for help us naive first time travelers:)
My girlfriend and I are doing a 14 day trip. Im 24, shes 23.
-Fly Tampa,Fl to London. (cheapest flight I could find into Europe)
-Get in early in the morning, see whatever we can see that day in london, take the Eurostar rail to Paris that by 8pm.
-Spend 3-4 days in Paris (train to Versailles one day?)
-Train to Interlocken, spend 1 night
-Train to Florence, spend 3 nights (Cinque Terre 1 day?)
-Train to Rome, spend 2-3 nights
-Ferry to Athens, spend 1 night
-Ferry to Santorini
-Some how make it back to Tampa from there!
Question:
Railpass worthy?
Do they cover those ferries?
Railpass discount on Eurostar?
Any itenerary suggestions welcome! What can I cut out?

ANSWER

Kerry, to be honest with you, this itinerary is a bit of a mess. Landing in London and getting to St. Pancras train station by 5pm won’t allow you to see much, even if you aren’t in a jet lag daze. I’d spend at least one night in London, if not more.
At least skim through this article about concentrating on the “great” cities for your first Europe trip.
You’ll love Paris. The train to Interlaken takes 5.5 hours, as does the train from Interlaken to Florence, so you won’t be seeing much by staying there only one night. Also, those are both quite expensive train rides so you might think about just flying from Paris to Florence or Rome.
The ferries between Italy and Greece aren’t close to Rome or Athens, and they take around 15 hours on the water, so from Rome to Athens using the ferry it’ll take most of 24 hours. Then to only spend one night in Athens isn’t really worth it, plus it’s another long ferry ride to Santorini. If you really need to go to Santorini I’d just fly there from Rome on Easyjet.
What I’d really recommend for you is fly to London and spend a few days there, take the Eurostar to Paris for a few days there, then a night train (12 hours) or flight down to Barcelona (you’ll love it) for at least a few days. If you want to include an island you could go to Ibiza or Mallorca from there. This way you’ll spend more time sightseeing and almost no time rushing around, and you’ll get cities, beaches, and islands if you like. Italy is great, and Greece has a lot going for it as well, but doing them all on one short trip starting in London means spending 5 of your 14 days in transit. -Roger

QUESTION

Wow thank you so much for your insight!
I would really like for Paris, Rome and Santorini to be in this trip so I have made some changes to the itinerary.
-Fly into Paris, spend 4 nights
-Fly to Florence, spend 2 nights
-Morning train to Rome, spend 3 nights
-Fly to Santorini, spend 3 nights
-Fly home. (expensive and long)
Obviously no rail pass needed.
-Plane for Paris to Florence is ~$100
-Train for Florence to Rome is ~$60
-Plane for Rome to Santorini is ~$400
Is this anywhere closer to reality? Thanks again!

ANSWER

Kerry, it’s my pleasure to help if I can.
This itinerary seems much more enjoyable and focused. There are 3 airlines flying nonstop from Rome to Santorini (Easyjet, Meridiana Fly, and Blue Panorama) so hopefully you can get a better fare than US$400. As far as getting home, you might do best with a round-trip from home to Paris and then flying from Santorini to Paris (Orly) on Transavia, which should be cheap, and then switching over to Paris-Charles de Gaulle for the home flight if you have to. Either way, this is MUCH better than before. -Roger

QUESTION

My last post I swear:)
Final itinerary
– Paris – 4 days
– Rome – 4 days
– Santorini/Athens – 4 days
Thank you so much for your help, you really made my trip:)

ANSWER

Looks great. All highlights and short hops in between. Let me know if you need anymore help. -Roger

QUESTION

Hi Roger, I will be traveling from Paris-Lyon, Lyon-Barcelona, Barcelona-Lleida-Saragossa-Madrid, Madrid to Lisbon and I am 25 and my roommate is 24, would you recommend a Eurail pass? Or is it just better to buy tickets as we go? who know we may even decide to stay in some places longer than expected 🙂

ANSWER

Efrain, you are better off just buying those train tickets as you go. Paris to Lyon isn’t cheap, and Lyon to Barcelona requires a change in Montpelier, and it’s also not cheap, but those others won’t cost much so a pass wouldn’t pay off. Also, Spain and Portugal have good and cheap bus service that is often your best option, so keep that in mind as you go. -Roger

QUESTION

Roger,
Great information here. Thank you for your insights. I have a unique travel opportunity coming up and I would love to read your thoughts about how I should approach it.
I am in the preliminary stages of planning this trip, but here are the basics: I have a friend who is living in Germany (near Frankfurt) for the next three years and I have decided to fulfill a lifelong dream to travel around Europe starting in April/May of 2014. My plan is to stay in Europe for about 6 months and see as much as I possibly can. I am a US Citizen and I am aware of the Schengen Agreement. I am currently communicating with the German Consulate about the possibility of getting a Resident Visa that would allow me to stay in the EU for a period longer than three months. While this isn’t the focus of my question here, any insights you or other readers have on the documentation necessary to stay in Europe for more than three months would be appreciated.
I imagine this trip revolving around the premise that I will be using my friend’s house in Germany as my base of operations. I will take trains out from Germany for approximately two to three week jaunts to various places across Europe and then come back to Germany for a couple of days to rest up, do some laundry and then head back out again. Naturally, these “jaunts” will have basic itineraries to maximize my time, but the beauty of this trip is that I don’t want to feel rushed or limited. If I find a place that I like and want to stay a few more days than I had planned, then so be it.
Finally my question: Should I buy two back-to-back Eurail 3 Month Continuous Global Passes or should I just wing it and buy tickets as I go along the way? Also, will these Global Passes give me access to the train systems I need to “get off the beaten path” if that’s what I want to do? Two Eurail 3 Month Continuous Global Passes would cost me about $4,254 US dollars. While I have saved the money for this dream trip, it is not limitless. I’m intrigued by the obvious flexibility that those Global Passes would afford me, but at the same time, I don’t want to buy something that I won’t be using enough to make it worth the costly expenditure.
I know this is an unusual scenario, but any thoughts you have on the matter would be greatly appreciated. Thank you in advance for your response.

ANSWER

Scott, this sounds like an epic trip you have in mind. I’ve done a few things like this (including spending the last 3.5 years on the road) and it’s the best thing I’ve ever done.
I very much doubt that buying those continuous Global Eurail Passes would pay off for you. However, they do allow you on all trains in all participating countries, so you could get very off the beaten path with them.
Here’s the thing about what you have in mind: The individual train tickets to most of the interesting cities near Germany (Prague, Budapest, Krakow, Salzburg, Vienna, Luxembourg, Amsterdam, and even Copenhagen) can be bought relatively cheaply once in Germany. They have these €29 specials on weekends for any trip within Germany, so you can take that to the border and then get a cheap train into the bordering country. With a very flexible schedule you’ll have some really nice choices that won’t cost too much.
And then for interesting cities that aren’t too close to Frankfurt, flying will be the cheapest and best option. Obviously it’s a bit less flexible than rail-pass travel, but it’ll be way cheaper and those overnight or otherwise super-long train rides would get old quickly. So let’s say you want to see Barcelona and a bit more of Spain. You book a cheap flight to Barcelona a month in advance for maybe US$100 or even less, then you drift around in Spain for a week or two and when you know you want to go back you book the cheapest flight from Madrid or Lisbon or wherever else you are, and it might still be only US$150 a few days before you leave (although it’ll be a very early or late flight). Those long train fares would cost WAY more than that, and take most of a day in each direction.
So you can still do most of your trips by train, plus a few flights here and there, and it’ll be way cheaper than two Global Passes. And after spending a couple weeks in Germany, you’ll figure out the best and cheapest ways of doing everything.
As for the Schengen waiver, I haven’t done it but thousands of Americans hanging around in Berlin these days have, so it doesn’t sound too difficult. Good luck. -Roger

QUESTION

Hello, I’m a 20 year old that is going to backpack around Europe. I’ve been to Europe before but I want to expand where I can go. The global Eurail pass is expensive, almost $1,400–and I think it would be worth it but I’m not exactly sure how it works. I hear from some people that it’s great because you can go where ever you want, whenever you want. But then I hear we do have to pay a 5 euro fee to book a seat on a train no matter what. Can you explain this? I will be mainly in Italy, and I want to go to Greece and Romania for certain, then Germany, Sweden, Denmark, Croatia etc. I read on the website that Greece does not have trains that go in and out of the country so I would have to buy a plane ticket?
If you can explain how the eurail passes work–how to book seats on a train or how to even get on the train with just the pass…that would be great. Because I can’t seem to find my answer. And I am curious about overnight trains as well.
Thanks!

ANSWER

Jasmine, taking your questions in order:
A Global Rail Pass is perfect for some people but not worth it for others, and I try to help people figure out which they are here. The consecutive days version (like 30 straight days) is only good for people who’d want to change cities every other day. The version where it’s like 10 travel days out of 60 days is better in that it’s like buying 10 train vouchers that you can use on more expensive journeys.
For example, that 10 days out of 60 pass is US$591 for people under 25, which means you’d want to use it on rides that average at least US$59 each. So a 2-hour ride from, say, Rome to Florence might only be €32 (US$40), so it wouldn’t make sense to buy a pass to cover that day. But from Copenhagen to Berlin would cost around €140 (US$180), so using a voucher that cost US$59 would be an amazing deal. It’s a bit complicated because the more travel days you buy, the cheaper each becomes, so it can even pay off if you use it on a few cheaper journeys, but overall you mainly want to consider a rail pass to cover your longer rides, and especially those in France and countries to its north.
As for the seat reservations, there are actually loads of trains you don’t need reservations for, but in the past few years more reservation systems have become computerized so now most of the longer express trains (which are the expensive ones rail passes are best for) require a small fee for a seat reservation. They mostly cost around €5, but some are cheaper, and ones for the luxury high speed trains in France are more like €10. Even those expensive ones are good value because the trains themselves are very expensive if you pay as you go. Some reservations can be made over the phone or online, but mostly they are made in person at any train station in the same country. I usually make the reservation the day before I travel, but in most cases you can actually make it just before the train leaves. Most of these trains run hourly, so even if the queue is long and you miss the first one, you can usually just get a reservation on the next one and hop aboard.
For travel within Italy, you might consider an Italy Rail Pass, but only if you are making longer jumps. If you are going from one major city to the next closest one, just buy tickets as you go.
I didn’t even know that any Greece trains were still running (the government loses a fortune on them), but definitely not international for now. Your choices are long-distance buses, which are actually quite nice and quite cheap, or flights, which are also cheap if you buy well in advance or fly at weird times. For Romania, the buses might also be a better option than the trains.
For Germany, Sweden, and Denmark, a Europe Select Pass for 3 countries (seen information and booking link in the main article above) is probably wise because those individual tickets cost a fortune.
Overnight trains are common for routes of between 7 and 12 hours and they all require a seat reservation. A normal seat might be €5 or you can get a couchette (small bunk) for around €20, which is well worth it for most people. They are especially useful in expensive countries since they allow you to save a night in the hostel and maximize sightseeing time.
Hopefully I answered all your questions. Let me know if I didn’t. -Roger

QUESTION

Hi Roger,
My brain hurts from trying to figure out what is most cost effective. My choices are either a regional pass for spain and italy or point to point. I can’t decide. Please help.
I am traveling alone, so convenience is important to me, but so if price. Can you tell me what you would do?
Here’s my schedule for June 2week trip:
Arrive to Barcelona in morning from LAX – cab to hotel – 2 full days
3rd day morning train to Madrid to meet friends – Take trains to Seville, etc… for 3 days
6th day of trip – train to Madrid airport to fly to Milan
Day trips to Verona, Lake Como etc…from Milan for 3-4 days
Day 10 late morning train from Milan to Bologna – Stay over night – Food tour all next day
Day 11 (Food tour) Night train from Bologna to Lerici (La Spezia) – 2 days in Lerici
Day 12 Ferry to Portofino
Day 13 Spend day in Lerici – Night train to Milan airport hotel
Day 14 Fly home
All reservations for flights, hotels and tours are made. The only thing that’s left is the train decision and I have to make it quick so I can get the pass with no rush shipping fee.
Leaving in 1 week.
Would so appreciate your opinion.
Thank you,
Susan

ANSWER

Susan, stress no more because you’ll be best off buying tickets as you go on this itinerary. Pretty much all of your train journeys are 3 hours or less, and in Spain and Italy those are relatively affordable. An itinerary where an Italy Pass might pay off would be Turin to Venice to Milan to Rome to Florence, but not for this.
And by the way, in Europe (and most other places) a “night train” is a journey of between 7 and 12 hours or so with sleeping cars where you arrive in the morning. I believe you mean just an ‘evening train’ because yours are like 2 or 3 hours.
In both Spain and Italy you’ll find getting the individual tickets quite easy. I normally try to buy my ticket the day before I leave so I can just walk from my hotel onto the train with my backpack, but in most cases you can just get there 20 or 30 minutes early and still get a ticket in plenty of time. Better still, on pretty much all of these routes there will be trains leaving every 30 to 60 minutes all day, so you can just head to the station, buy a ticket, and board the next one going. Have fun. -Roger

QUESTION

Hi Roger,
Thanks for such a helpful article! My family and I will be travelling to Europe for a 14 day trip and would love to get any suggestions on our itinerary and transportation.
Day 1 – land in Barcelona, hop on a train to Italy that night
Day 2-4 – Italy. We want to visit Rome, Venice, and Pisa.
Day 5-7 – Switzerland
Day 8-10 – Paris
Day 11-12 – London
Return to Barcelona for day 13 and then flight out on day 14
Do you think that itinerary is too hectic or should that be fine? Also what modes of transportation would you suggest? We’re currently looking into the Eurail global pass.
Thanks for your help!

ANSWER

Rachel,
I do think your itinerary is too hectic. After that long train ride, you’ll be somewhat exhausted when you arrive in Italy. Even if you get decent sleep, those long train rides seem to take something out of most of us.
In Italy, skip Pisa. I haven’t been there myself since I was a child, but most people agree that there isn’t much to see after you’ve photographed the Leaning Tower, at least compared to other major tourist cities in Italy. Rome is overwhelming (mostly in a good way) and two days is quite short to do it any justice. I normally recommend a minimum of 3 days in Rome, although 1 day (and night) in Venice is enough because it’s quite small.
If you were my friends asking for my opinion (and assuming this was your first trip to Europe), I’d recommend saving Switzerland for your next visit. You could then add another day in Italy, another in London, and another in Barcelona itself. Switzerland is lovely (if expensive) but it might not be worth it if you are racing around just to squeeze it in. However, if Switzerland is a high priority, I’d save London for another trip, and 2 days there isn’t really enough anyway.
As far as getting around, Paris to London is best done on the Eurostar, which isn’t part of the main Europe rail system. And depending on what your itinerary ends up being, this could be an ideal trip for a rail pass. Either a Global pass or a Regional pass, depending on what you settle on, because several of your journeys would be quite expensive if purchased individually. I can help you decide once you’ve locked it in. -Roger

QUESTION

Hi Roger,
Thanks for the response! After discussion we’ve decided to skip London and instead focus on Italy, France, and Switzerland. As of now, we are planning to spend 1 night in Barcelona, 4 nights in Rome, 1 night in Venice, 3 nights in Switzerland, 3 nights in Paris, and then the final night in Barcelona.
For the transportation from Barcelona to Rome, we looked into the train but it appears that the Elipsos train between Barcelona and Milan is now cancelled. Do you have any more information about this? We’re looking into flying as an alternative.
The train from Venice to Switzerland is what we’re struggling with. What city would be easiest to get into from Venice? Is our only option to go through Milan?
Thanks!

ANSWER

Rachel,
I’m not sure about the specific trains that could connect Barcelona with Rome, but I do know it would take around 18 hours and probably involve a change or two. I’d fly for sure. Ryanair and Vueling both have cheap nonstop flights between the cities.
The train lines into Venice only go east and west, so you will have to pop back over to Milan to get to Switzerland. I’d recommend Lucerne or Interlaken if you want a good base to see the scenery and all that. -Roger

QUESTION

Hi Rodger…so glad I found this site. Some really useful information. I’m planning a trip in April/May next year with my wife and three kids. We are definitely still in the planning stages. Haven’t booked anything…haven’t even really thought about an itinerary although want to see a fair bit as we are coming from Australia so this will be a one off trip. Will be spending time with family in UK and also have family in Spain that we want to visit.
Rome, Florence, Venice, Paris, Switzerland and Spain/Portugal are definites on the European mainland.
I’m thinking at this stage of flying into Paris then heading to Spain, Italy, Switzerland then back through Paris to UK. Total trip length will be around 5 weeks.
As I said I am very much in the early planning stages which is fun and exciting. We have some accommodation sorted which will help keep costs down but, with 5 of us, minimising costs is important. I like the thought of flexibility and using trains as much as I can and was thinking of a Eurail Global pass initially, however with Spain, Italy and France all having compulsory reservations…some upwards of 20 Euro I’m thinking it may not be worthwhile.
I was also thinking about regional passes for each country perhaps. I was having a look on the Swiss rail site and our kids would travel free. Plus, it seems, that regional passes also include reservation fees.
Any help/ suggestions would be appreciated.
Mike

ANSWER

Michael,
Pretty much all of the reservations for seats in France, Italy, and Spain cost between €6 and €10, and that can still be a great bargain because many of those longer or international routes can cost €100 (for adults) or even more individually. I’m not aware of regional passes covering reservation fees, although there might be some like that.
Fortunately, you’ve got plenty of time to figure this out, as the rail passes and such don’t change price whether you buy them very early or just before you leave. What I’d recommend doing is continuing to research and daydream until you come up with a draft of a full itinerary, and then it might be obvious whether a rail pass or individual tickets or even a flight or two is the best choice. If you still aren’t sure then post what you have and I’ll try to help. -Roger

QUESTION

Roger,
Your travel experience and insight into the whole of Europe is amazing. I’ve learnt so much from just reading the comments above! Well, I do have some questions of my own, I hope you dont mind 🙂 I’m 26, from Singapore.
I just took a period of 6 months of no paid leave from work and plan to travel in Europe (Mostly Eastern Europe) for around 4 months. I’m flying to Stockholm to meet a friend in early July and i’ll spend at most 2 weeks there. After which I want to do Eastern Europe and then Spain (Roughly a month). I have had nothing planned yet – I like to be flexible and I only have one rule when I travel, that is not to rush things. What I really would like to ask is.. for the 2.5 months that I have for Eastern Europe, and starting probably with Estonia, which are the countries that are a must go and are there any countries I could probably skip. ( I know its not a fair question, sorry!)
I have, only on the surface though, thought about visiting these few after i’m done with 2 weeks in sweden : estonia/latvia/lithuania/poland/czech republic/hungary/romania/bulgaria/serbia/montenegro/croatia
And then its on to spain for a month. What do yo think? From what you write above, Eurail passes are probabaly not the best. Any other tips you could give me?
Oh, and I’m travelling alone.
Cheers,
Nikhil

ANSWER

Nikhil, I love Singapore and this sounds like a wonderful trip at a very nice pace.
So, yes, a rail pass would not be a good idea for such a trip. In the Baltic area the buses are better and cheaper than the trains, and that’s true when you get down into the Balkans as well.
The other weird thing about those countries on your list is that most of them lack any “checklist attractions.” So it’s all about being able to appreciate the local architecture and way of life. I wouldn’t skip any of them, but I also wouldn’t linger in any of them for longer than you are really enjoying it. Along your route, the highlights will be Krakow, which is a great place to linger because it’s interesting, gorgeous, and cheap, as well as Prague, Budapest, and the coast of Croatia (not Zagreb). Prague is the most stunning of them, but it’s incredibly crowded and accommodation isn’t cheap.
I think your plan is perfect and you aren’t headed to any real duds. So just go and evaluate the situation day by day. With that much time you won’t risk sacrificing great destinations as long as you keep moving when you feel you’ve seen the best things in each place. -Roger

QUESTION

Hi Roger – You are a wealth of information! So I did a quick run-down of costs of buying train tickets (using OBB, Swiss Rail etc)for 2 for the following itinerary: Vienna–> Salzburg–> Innsbruck –> Zurich –> Lucerne –> Interlaken –>Zurich (to fly out). For 2 people I got a rough estimate of $520. Does that sound right? If that’s so, then it would not make sense to get Eurorail regional pass. It doesn’t look like there are too many additional perks in those countries with Eurorail passes either. This is our first trip! Any suggestions are helpful -thank you!!

ANSWER

Cat,
Yes, that price estimate sounds about right for those journeys, and I agree that a pass wouldn’t make much sense for this. Trains in that part of Europe are quite expensive, but all of your rides are fairly short. I think your itinerary looks quite good, as long as you aren’t trying to do it in less than two weeks. And I wouldn’t plan on spending much time in Zurich unless there are specific things you want to see there. It’s quite expensive and very business oriented. Switzerland’s charms are in or near your other stops there.-Roger

QUESTION

Hello!
I am very excited for my trip to Europe this summer. Part of my trip will be in Hungary. It seems difficult to find information on trains to the rural southern parts of the country. I am wondering if my Eurail Global pass will cover the cost of these trains?
(I’ll be leaving Budapest and heading to Mohacs, Baja & particularly Dàvod)
Thanks for any info you can share.
Kind Regards from Ucluelet, British Columbia, Canada
Nicole

ANSWER

Nicole,
Hungary is indeed one of the 27 countries included with a Eurail Global Pass, so the price will be covered if you are using a travel day or have a consecutive days pass. Reservations are optional on most trains in Hungary, and even when they are needed they range from €0.50 to €2 per seat. -Roger
Here are all 27 countries, by the way.
Austria
Belgium
Bulgaria
Croatia
Czech Republic
Denmark
Finland
France
Germany
Greece
Hungary
Ireland
Italy
Luxembourg
Montenegro
Netherlands
Norway
Poland
Portugal
Romania
Serbia
Slovakia
Slovenia
Spain
Sweden
Switzerland
Turkey

QUESTION

Roger, thanks for all the useful info.
I am going to Lyon for a 4 month exchange program in September. I will have 3 days of classes and 4 days free every week and I am planning to travel regularly,possible every week. I will be under 25 years old. Do you think the three months global pass would be worthwile?

ANSWER

Sangeen,
My advice to you is pretty much identical to the advice I gave to Scott, above, about traveling around using Frankfurt as a base.
The short version is, no, I don’t think a rail pass is wise for such a thing because the shorter trips (within France and to nearby cities like Barcelona and Milan) don’t cost enough to justify a Global Pass, and for longer trips (ones more than 8 hours away by train) it’ll be cheaper to fly. Also, if you do travel around France from Lyon often you’ll get bored with the nearby scenery.
On the other hand, trains within France aren’t cheap, so you might consider just a France rail pass or perhaps a France-Italy pass for maybe 10 days out of 2 months. Those are cheaper than Global passes and could save you money if you use it on some of your longer trips within the country or region. -Roger

QUESTION

Hi Roger,
This is a great site! My boyfriend and I are planning to meet up in Frankfurt and travel to Italy and maybe South France. We are planning to spend 14 days in Europe and trying to cover as much ground as possible while still enjoying a relaxed vacation. We would like to enjoy the beach as well as see the regions history. We are looking at the following stops: (neuschwanstein, south France beach, Venice, pisa, Cinque Terre, Rome, pompeii and Amalfi Coast) but have no idea the best route and if we are making the rookie mistake of trying to cover too much ground in only 14 days. We also thought maybe we should hit each place all the way down to Amalfi Coast and then maybe fly back to Frankfurt? Would you recommend a 3 country train pass? Or maybe Fly from Germany to Italy or France then take the train? I’m just not sure the best route. What would you recommend? -Natasha

ANSWER

Natasha,
I’m happy you are finding the site useful. I do actually think you are trying to cram too much into 14 days, especially if you are going during the summer high season. But with this kind of itinerary you can make it up as you go, which is what I’d recommend.
So take the train from Frankfurt to Neuschwanstein, and from there you are best off booking a cheap flight (as soon as possible) from Munich or Zurich to Nice in France. Spend a few days in Nice and on day trips to other places nearby if you like, and then take a train to Venice for a stay of about 24 hours. It’s small and expensive, so actually 24 hours is pretty much ideal. Then take a train down to Rome, where you’ll spend at least 3 nights. Trying to visit Rome in less than 3 nights is a bit crazy, although it is hectic and you might decide sooner to go somewhere relaxing.
By this time you’ve done the best and most important things, and if you are still in the mood to see Pisa (don’t bother), Cinque Terre, Pompeii/Naples and the Amalfi Coast, you can do it then. I’d guess you might only have the time and energy to do one or two of those side trips, but if you are interested in doing more then go for it.
For transportation, I’d just buy train tickets as you go, starting in Nice. Unless you are sure you’ll be covering long distances within Italy, even an Italy Rail Pass probably isn’t a good idea. I’m sure it’ll be a very fun trip no matter what you end up doing. -Roger

Natasha says:
May 27, 2013 at 2:08 pm
Thanks for the quick response. I may end up leaving out France all together and sticking with Italy! I really appreciate the advice! -Natasha

QUESTION

Hi Roger,
I have a regional (France-Italy) pass and plan to cover a few cities between Paris and Rome in June. However, when I tried to reserve a seat from Paris to Nice on the TGV, I was told that the fee is 90 euros. That can’t be right, or is it possible?

ANSWER

Jeff,
No, that doesn’t sound right at all. The fee should be €9 on the TGV between Paris and Nice, in 1st Class or 2nd Class. However, between Paris and Milan the TGV charges €55 for a seat for pass holders (it’s a premium high-speed service so they don’t want to load it up with Eurail pass people instead of business travelers who pay a fortune for individual seats). You can find all reservation fees for European trains on that page.
Now that I think about it, France only allows a set and relatively small number of rail pass people on the TGVs (the only country to do so), so they are basically asking you to pay full price for a ticket and a seat. This wouldn’t use a travel day on the pass if you did it, but hopefully you can find another train or day where there are still pass-holder seats available.
The problem is that the TGVs in France are pretty much the nicest and fastest trains in Europe, and among the most expensive per distance, so they consider it a premium product and only allow a limited number of rail pass users on each train. Good luck, and let us know how it turns out. -Roger

QUESTION

Hello Roger,
Your website is really helpful, thanks for taking the time to help us all out. I have something I would appreciate your advice on…
I am travelling with someone else (both over 25) from September 2013 to Feb 2014 (5 months). We are not sure which rail pass is best for us. We are thinking the Global Pass. We plan to see the following places:
Italy: Rome, Florence, Naples, Milan
Spain: Barcelona, Seville, Madrid
France: Lyon, Paris
Belgium: Brussels, Brugge, Antwerp
Germany: Hamburg, Berlin, Munich, Frankfurt, Dresden
Czech Republic: Brno, Prague
Also a couple of countries which we were thinking of just visiting one city like Istanbul, Krakow, Transilvania, Budapest
I understand that it might be best to fly between some of the longer distances. What are your thoughts?
Thanks!

ANSWER

Alison,
Yours is an unusual situation in that you have 5 months, so you won’t be in a hurry at all. The longest duration for a Eurail Pass is 3 months, and that only makes sense if you were to be moving quickly during most of that time. So for your trip, I’d just buy tickets as you go, and mix in flights when you can because during the off season you might find good airfares without much notice.
And yes, for Istanbul there are no trains until 2015 or later, so flying is one option, or buses if you coming from Romania or Bulgaria. However, with that much time I think it would be a shame to just see Istanbul and leave again. Think about a few days in Cappadocia and maybe even a couple in Antalya (both accessible by cheap and comfortable long distance buses) and then flying from Antalya to your next destination.
Another thing to consider with so much time is that you’ll want to mix in some small towns just to chill out for a few days in between the large towns. In those cases you can take local trains, which would be quite cheap individually, so a rail pass wouldn’t be good value.
Also, don’t skip Venice (for one day) and make sure you have specific reasons to visit each place on your list. For example, Frankfurt and Lyon and large cities, but of questionable value for tourists.
With so much time, and totally in the low season like this, I’d recommend keeping this itinerary in mind, but pretty much just winging it and making it up as you go. Some stops will be more interesting than you expected, and others less interesting, so being able to play it day by day is nice. And you won’t have any trouble finding hotel rooms or hostels at good prices during this period, with the possible exception of Christmas week. Have fun and feel free to ask follow up questions. -Roger

QUESTION

Hello Roger,
Your website has certainly been helpful in clearing a lot of my doubts in planning for my trip to Europe. However, I still have some questions that I would like to ask.
Currently I am travelling with 2 friends(aged 19 to 22) in June. Our current itinerary plan is:
1) Amsterdam
2) Paris
3) Geneva
4) Rheinfall
5) Stein am rhein
6) Zurich (if transport is free we should make a stop here)
7) Aarge Gorge
8) simme river
9) staubach falls
10) jungfrau
11) Florence
12) Venice
13) Prague
I am wondering if the Eurail Global Youth Pass would include transport within a country between cities (e.g Switzerland). If it doesn’t should I buy Swiss Pass in addition to Eurail Global Pass too?
Thanks!
Best,
Daphne

ANSWER

Daphne,
Yes, the Global Eurail Pass does indeed cover all domestic trains as well as international trains within the 27 included countries. And train tickets within Switzerland are quite expensive, so a pass will save you some money, but I do notice that a couple of your journeys listed here are short, like maybe an hour or so.
So what I’d recommend you do is get the cheapest Global Eurail Youth Pass, which covers 10 days out of 60, and use it for all your international trips as well as the longer ones within Switzerland. Then just pay cash for those two shortest ones, which will only be like US$15 or each anyway. A few of your other Switzerland trips might also be reasonably priced, but when you average in those other really long and expensive trips you are doing at the beginning and end, a Global Youth Pass will pay off for sure. -Roger

QUESTION

hi! I came across your site and it is so incredibly informative and helpful, and I can see that you actually respond to peoples’ inquiries so I figured I should try you with mine. Now I know my plan is very aggressive and very ambitious so just bare with it as it is kind of long and crazy sounding. im going to Israel for an organized trip and then flying out of tel aviv to (im thinking) Istanbul, travelling around Istanbul for a few days then flying to Athens, day trips to santorini and other islands and a few days in Athens proper then going (by train?)to meteora near Thessaloniki, then dubruvnik, split and Zagreb each for a day or two. then im headed to Budapest and possibly Bratislava then Vienna, Prague for four days then zurich for twoish then Strasbourg for my cousins wedding, including a day trip to a german spa with family, then touring around Strasbourg for a few days (including the wedding) train to Brussels, then Antwerp (where my grandparents are both from) and bruges. then im taking the train to paris to stay with family for maybe 5 days then im thinking ill fly to Lisbon for 2/3 days and then train to Madrid, Barcelona, nice/Monaco then to Milan and im not sure where exactly to stay with relative in Italy for 5 days then hopefully I can go to cinque terra (because its so beautiful there!) then fly to messina and somehow get myelf to the island of lipari to stay with friends who live there, then back to Israel.
leaving Israel july 3 or 4th and going back to Israel within the last week of august…is this completely insane? I am 24 and can swing the youth second class global eurail pass (I noticed that the price doesn’t increase with consecutive travel within 2 months, if you put more than 15 days of travel out of 60 ie 15 days out of 60 is $774 but anything from 21 days to 60 days out of 60 days is fixed at 1120 …this may be wrong? idk!) if it makes sense, ive just been having so much trouble with the eurail site lagging and freezing when i put all of my trips into it lol because its like 12 or so countries.
thoughts? advice? suggestions? words of wisdom please and thank you!

ANSWER

Rachel,
This does look like a busy couple of months, but I don’t think it’s insane, so I think you should try it and you’ll be able to adjust as you go.
Between Thessaloniki and Split you’ll want to take the long distance buses because there are no trains. Aegina is the only island you can really do as a day trip from Athens, so you are better off taking a ferry to one a bit farther out and staying for a couple nights.
A Global Youth Pass does sound like a good idea for this because you are mixing in quite a few trips that would be expensive on their own. There is almost no difference in price between a 15 days out of 60 pass and a 30 consecutive days pass, but a 60 consecutive days pass is a couple hundred more. Still, with all your traveling, it’s probably worth it. The great thing about the consecutive days passes is that you can use them for easy day trips. A 2-hour train ride in each direction might cost US$50 or more round-trip, but you can go for the price of a seat reservation, and even those aren’t needed on most local trains. This looks like a great trip. -Roger

QUESTION

I am planing to visit germeny to attend outdooe show – messe friedrichshafen 11-14 july,via frankfrut- also willing to see/ visit places like munich/ -Ausria- salburg/ innsburg- swiss- tourist attraction,itali- arco water sports area – florence etc.
I will be landing at Frankfrut from mumbai – then
pl. suggest after Italy end of the tour I am planing to come back to frankfrut by train – to tale flight if any option to save tavel time or cheap air fare
Pl. let me know euro rail pass I can travel twice on same rote to & fro e.g. Bern-arco/ florance – berns or to florence / arco to frankfrut by train
Thanks
Ashok

ANSWER

Ashok,
With a rail pass you can backtrack as much as you like, and there are no restrictions about having to keep moving in the same direction (like they have on some airfares).
If you want to tour the area just south of Germany then trains are your best option. Frankfurt itself isn’t that interesting, but not far away is a medieval town called Rothenburg Ob der Tauber that is a great stop for one day. Then you could go on to Munich for a couple days on your way to Salzburg for another couple days. Innsbruck isn’t as interesting, but if you want to go into Switzerland then head to Lucerne, which is the central point of the main Alpine sights and attractions.
However, if you are more interested in Italy, then you might just fly from Frankfurt or Munich into Milan, Florence, Venice, or Rome (cheap flights are available into all of them), and tour around Italy before flying back to Frankfurt for your flight home. Or, if you have two total weeks or more, you could do all of it by train. I hope this helps. If you have more questions let us know. -Roger

QUESTION

Hello,
We are a family of 4 (2 adults and 2 kids aged 9 and 6) & we are planning a 17 day trip leaving Dubai on 25th July & arriving back on 10th August.
Plan is as follows :
26-28 July in Rome(3 days)
29 Jul – 1 Aug – Florence / Pisa (4 days)
2-4 Aug – Venice (2.5 days) … leave on 4th evening by flight to Paris (as we don’t want to kill ourselves in the 12 hr train from Venice to Paris)
5-9 Aug – Paris
Leave Paris on 10 aug to head home
Couple of queries :
1. Is this time good enough for these sites ?
2. Is it worth buying a eurorail pass (Italy alone) – comes to 600 USD for 4 of us (family pass).. we will only travel Rome to Florence, Florence-Pisa-Florence, Florence to Venice. Is it cheaper to buy individual tickets ?
3. Options for flight from Dubai to Rome is via Paris or Amsterdam, both with just 1 hr 20 minutes between flights or 20 hr flight gaps. I prefer the 1 hr 20 minutes obviously but I doubt if this time is sufficient to switch flights. 1st time fliers to Europe and do not know if Air France or KLM put you on the next flight to Rome (or) just let you get a refund and not bother. Any pointers would help.
Thanks,
Sri

ANSWER

Sri,
Your itinerary looks good. Three days in Rome is the minimum to do it well. I’m guessing you’ll do Pisa as a day-trip from Florence, which is the way to go. Two and a half days in Venice is actually more than enough, but it’s such a lovely place that it’s great if you can afford it. And flying to Paris seems like the best plan as well.
For your train tickets, you are probably better off buying them as you go. You aren’t covering much ground in Italy, and individual tickets there are fairly cheap, at least compared to rail passes.
As for your return flights, you are probably aware that Air France and KLM are the same airline. If you buy tickets from Rome to Dubai and they suggest a 1 hour 20 minute layover in either airport, I think you are fine. Both airports are fairly compact (unlike Dubai where Terminal 1 and 3 are a long way from Terminal 2) so probably 98% chance you’ll make it with no worries. And that time of year, there are virtually no weather-related delays. Best of all, if the flight arrives too late to make your connection, they will put you on their next flight, or a competitor’s next flight. European laws require them to take care of everything if they are late, though they rarely are in summer.
However, if you are trying to buy individual tickets from Rome to Amsterdam and then on to Dubai, they aren’t obligated in the same way. So as long you are buying tickets from Rome to Dubai, you should be fine. -Roger

QUESTION

Hi Roger,
Thanks for the superfast response – it really helps. Your site is awesome and it helped us fix our plan … so the real credit goes back to you 🙂 Our open jaw tickets are all from KLM / Air France and is a full trip ticket both ways. Your feedback has provided me reassurance to book these flights.
Couple of more queries :
1. Pls. advise about how much roughly it would cost us for the hotels (large room as we are 4 people) … is 150 Euros per night good from a comfort point of view & also from a location perspective. Jul 28-Aug 10 could be high season and am a little concerned about the hotel costs too.
2. Are the large hotel chains in Italy (like Marriott) better than local hotels or B&B places. Don’t want to end up in a hole … trying to figure about based on TripAdvisor inputs for the hotels & your inputs are much valued also.
3. How would you rate renting an apartment in Paris compared to a regular hotel.. apartments seem to be slightly larger & with amenities like washing machines.
4. Is 1 day good enough in Disneyland Paris ?
5. Would you know anything about Schenngen visa processing success rates from Dubai – plan to apply to Italy which is the most days we spend. Someone was suggesting I make dummy travel / hotel bookings & apply for the visa & once they approve it, then I make the actual bookings. I am not 100% comfortable but in one way, it makes sense so if rejected still OK. We have clean records, by the way 🙂
6. Train reservations from Rome to Florence, Florence to Pisa & back, Florence to Venice : is it a long queue usually in late July / August for the bookings or is it better to book online from the Train websites. If booking in advance is better, which is the best train company website to book it from.
Many many thanks in advance for answering these queries too !!
Thanks,
Sri

ANSWER

Sri,
I’m glad I can help.
1 – Yes, €150 per night should get you a pretty nice 3-star hotel room large enough for 2 adults and 2 kids in most European cities, although be prepared for small rooms because only really the 5-star places have larger rooms in Europe. Obviously it depends in each city.
2 – I think the chain hotels in Europe are better for business travelers who need more services, but I think the smaller family-run places are better value. Just look for a hotel with a central location that has many TripAdvisor reviews, and an average of at least 3.5 out of 5 score. That’s what I do and I find that system to work well in Europe.
3 – Renting an apartment in Paris is a wonderful idea because hotel rooms there are unusually small, even for Europe. That also lets you buy food at the markets to prepare for breakfast or even lunch, which will save a lot and mean you aren’t racing around all day. AirBnB is pretty dependable for that, but there are other websites to try as well.
4 – I’ve never been to Disneyland Paris but I’ve been to Disneyland and I think one day is exactly right. You can see everything you want and it would be a shame to miss other things in or around Paris in order to ride more rides.
5 – I don’t know about Schengen for UAE residents. I’m American and for us we just turn up in the first country and get a stamp in our passport rather than an actual visa.
6 – The queues for ticket reservations might be long at that time, but I doubt it would be more than 30 minutes or so. During busy times they have most windows open, and if you go at off hours there might be no queue at all. Also, you should be able to buy tickets or seat reservations for all of your journeys in Italy all at once, as long as you are sure of the dates and times. Personally, I like to pop into the station the day before to buy my ticket or seat reservation, so I can walk right onto the train just before it leaves the following day. -Roger

Sri says:
June 1, 2013 at 7:58 am
Roger,
Many Thanks for the response. Will let you know the outcome of the hotels / trip once we complete the trip, so others can also benefit in the future.
Thanks,
Sri

QUESTION

Hi Roger,
I have finally booked the tickets Dubai-Rome-Venice-Paris-Dubai at some great prices on AirFrance. Booked apartments in Rome, Florence & Venice at some decent locations. Thanks for all the guidance you provided earlier.
I have a dilemma about Paris stay … is air conditioning a must in Paris between aug 4-10 ? How hot does it usually get ?
We prefer apartments for the size … The nicer apartments at abt 400 sq ft size do not have A/c and hence I pre-booked ourselves at a hotel with aircon for 200 euros (Triple room). The room size is just 20 sq meters (abt 200+ sq ft) – felt a little cramped to spend 6 nights with 2 kids.
What is ur suggestion here ? If the weather would be hot (say 30 degrees centigrade) then may be I will stick with the hotel.
Also, which area is better – Sacro Coeur or near Saint Lazare train station. The apartment is near the Sacro couer basilica and the hotel is near Saint Lazare station. Appreciate your feedback to help finalize !!
Many Thanks,
Sri

ANSWER

Sri,
Well, the good news is that Paris almost never gets very hot. In August the average daytime high is 25C and the average low is 17C. There have been famous heatwaves in the past few years, but honestly you’d be quite unlucky to be there during the next one. Personally, I’d not pay more than a tiny amount more for A/C because it’s most likely you won’t use it at all.
As for those specific locations, I must admit that I don’t know them well enough to say. But yet another great thing about Paris is that there is a Metro station literally every few blocks. In most cities having a “central” location is a big plus, but in Paris it’s only a matter of a few extra minutes per day because the transport system covers everything and it’s distributed so widely. Just choose whichever one looks better and you’ll have a great stay. -Roger

QUESTION

Hi Roger,
Great .. thanks for the update. I booked our stay at the apartment (Villa Montmartre near Sacre Coeur basilique). It’s a newly renovated apartment and has 51 reviews on booking.com all with good reviews … 9.2 on 10. The price is about 30 Euros cheaper than the hotel I had booked earlier.
One more query : this came as a suggestion from a friend of mine here. Why not drive in Paris with a GPS-fitted rented car ? Is it a better option or is parking a nightmare ? I am pretty good at directions thanks to my stay in USA and do not want to venture into this if this is going to have issues like bad traffic in August, parking issues etc. Not concerned about spending some extra money if this would be a timesaver. Any pointers here would help please.
Thanks,
Sri

ANSWER

Sri,
Parking is normally terrible in Paris, and very expensive. Actually, during August it might not be quite as busy as normal, but it will still be expensive and the Metro goes everywhere faster than you can drive and park, so I would not recommend driving. -Roger

Sri says:
June 7, 2013 at 6:44 pm
Hi Roger,
Thanks for the inputs.
Regards,
Sri

QUESTION

My girlfriend and I are going to Italy for 14 days in 2 weeks and I’m just trying to make sure I have things straight as far as the trains go. We have a first class 5 day Italy FlexPass. We will be going from Venice to Florence (would like to stop in Bologna along the way); Florence to Rome; Rome to Pompeii; Pompeii to Genoa; Genoa to Milan. We still have not nailed down the exact departure times we would like to use since we have never been before and are not on a specific timetable so would like to remain as flexible as possible. Since I see reservations are required on the majority, if not all, of these stretches, how should we go about getting our reservations? Should we just go to the train station about 20-30 minutes before and make reservations then since most of these routes have frequent trains or is this something we need to do more in advance? If so, do we just go to the normal ticket booth to make these reservations? Thank you in advance for your help!

ANSWER

Josh,
Even in the July and August high season, you should be fine just getting to the train station 30 minutes or so before you plan on leaving to make a reservation. Especially in First Class, there is almost no chance of any of these trains being sold out, as long as you avoid trains the business travelers use, which are leaving before 9am or around 4pm to 5pm. Still, in July or August, there aren’t many business travelers in Italy.
My own preference is to make a seat reservation the day before, which not only allows me to know exactly when I have to leave my hotel and head to the station for my train, but it allows me to know where everything is, like if I want to buy coffee before I get on board and such.
However, during the day there are trains going between all of your destinations no more than 40 minutes apart, so you can literally just go to the train station whenever you want, and jump in the reservations line, asking for a seat on the next train out. Most likely it’ll be for a train leaving in 30 minutes or less, so you can pretty much just wing it. -Roger

QUESTION

Saw your comments regarding the Eurorail in Italy. Friends have told us we could hop on and off with no reservation with Eurorail First Class Flex Pass. Is this correct or is a reservation required even if there are seats available? Thanks

ANSWER

Debbie,
It’s a bit complicated, unfortunately. In Italy, the high speed La Frecce trains and the EuroCity trains (which are part of international routes) require a €10 mandatory seat reservation in either 1st or 2nd Class. But the Intercity trains, which connect most Italian cities at normal speeds, have optional seat reservations at only €3 in either class. So with those you can sit in any unreserved seat without paying a fee, or standing if all seats are taken. In 1st Class you’ll pretty much always get a seat, but if you have a group it still might be worthwhile to reserve so you are sure to be sitting together.
So I do believe you can go between any Italian city without a seat reservation if you have a rail pass, but not on the high-speed trains. -Roger

QUESTION

Hi
Wow what an informative site you have
2x adult
Berlin > Hamburg – buy on the day ticket
Berlin to Prauge ( 4 days)
Prauge to Vienna ( 2 days)
Vienna to salzburg ( 2 days)
Salzburg to Munich (4 days)
Munich to Innsbruck ( stop over at mittenwald for 4/5 hrs)- 2 days
Innsbruck to Heidelberg (2 days)
I was looking at the Eurail Select Pass 3 countries/6 days
1 is this the right pass
2 is it worth it
3 is there different options
Thank you & look forward to your reply
PN these are all day train trips

ANSWER

Carmen,
This is precisely the sort of itinerary that gets good value out of a rail pass since pretty much all of your journeys are over two hours and in countries where individual tickets are fairly expensive.
You really have two choices: One is that 3-country Eurail Select Pass you mentioned, which puts you in 1st Class and with two traveling you qualify for the Saver version that is 15% off. Or, if you don’t mind traveling in 2nd Class you can actually save a bit more money by going with a Austria-Germany Regional Pass. Then, when you are traveling from Berlin to Prague you go to the ticket counter and show them your pass and ask for a ticket for just the part in Czech Republic, which might be €30 or so (but I’m not sure). From Prague to Vienna you do the same thing, asking for a ticket only valid in the Czech Republic (or maybe buying one for the whole journey since the portion in Austria is short).
It sounds complicated, but even in 1st Class you’ll save a bit of money, and in 2nd Class you’d save even more. You might also cover that Berlin to Hamburg day with a pass because that won’t be cheap on its own. Let me know if you have any other questions on this. -Roger

QUESTION

Hi roger! Pls help us plan our tour in europe. Starting point is lisbon (june 27)…..end point heathrow,london(july15). We are getting a eurail pass for 10 days in 2 months. Places we want to visit,, madrid, barcelona, milan, venice, florence, vatican city and rome. How many days do you recommend in each? And where to stay? 😉 we are on a budget tour. And if possible in sched we want to see turin, padova and assisi ;-). What should be our travel order thats best for train route,, and which point do we need to make a reservation? Thanks so much in advance 😉

ANSWER

Marianne,
Okay, here’s what I’d recommend for you:
Stay in Lisbon for 2 nights and then take a night train to Madrid.
Stay in Madrid 2 or 3 nights and then a train to Barcelona.
Barcelona for 2 or 3 nights and then a train (or even a cheap flight because it’s a long way) to Milan.
Milan for 1 night and then to Venice for 1 night. If you want to stop in Padua you can do it just before or after.
After Venice take a train to Florence for 2 or 3 nights, and then another train to Rome for at least 3 nights. Vatican City is within Rome and you can tour the museum (with the Sistine Chapel) and see St. Peter’s in a day.
I’d skip Turin and perhaps Assisi as well, but if they are important you can stop as you pass through them.
If you haven’t already figured out how to get from Rome back to Heathrow, I’d book a flight ASAP on a low cost airline (which might actually fly into a different London airport). Going by train would take a full day and not be fun or interesting.
You’ll need seat reservations on most of those journeys, except some within Italy. Here’s a list, sorted alphabetically by country.
To help with the itinerary details you might read this recent post about how long to stay in each city. For specifics on Italy have a look at the second half of this post on France-Italy itineraries.
As for where to stay, you’ll find cheap hotels in all of those cities except Venice and Rome (and Milan if there is a convention, which I doubt there is this time of year). I’d recommend looking for basic places with central locations rather than nicer places in the suburbs. Hotel rooms are pretty small in most of Europe, and most include breakfast. Especially in summer like this, the cheaper and better places will be full in advance, so if you wait until you arrive you’ll be choosing among more expensive or remote places. In other words, book in advance as soon as you have your itinerary sorted out. I’m sure you’ll have a great time. -Roger

QUESTION

Wow! Thank you so much for the prompt reply. Its such a big help. Last question,,, how can we make seat reservation on eurail? 😉

ANSWER

Marianne,
In those countries the only way to make a seat reservation is at the train station itself. Fortunately, they are all located in the city center, so you are likely to pass them when you are sightseeing, or even book a hotel near them. I prefer to go the day before I leave to make my reservation so I can come back just before the train leaves on my way out, but in most cases you can make a reservation just before the train leaves.
Look for the normal ticket lines and when it’s your turn just tell them you have a rail pass and just need a seat reservation. The queues are usually less than 30 minutes, of often only a few minutes. -Roger

QUESTION

Hi, roger! Is there a train from barcelona to rome? I cant find online. Super thanks

ANSWER

Marianne,
Yes, there are trains that can take you from Barcelona to Rome, but not one train. Leaving Barcelona, you will probably have to change trains on the Spain/France border, and maybe one more time in Nice or Milan. None of them are high-speed yet, so it’s a long journey. When checking online, check Barcelona to Nice and then Nice to Rome and at least you should get schedules and results. -Roger

QUESTION

Thank You for your quick response
You have an amazing talent to know so much info
I think I will stick to The 3countries/6 days $914.00 + maybe reservations costs, as the Austria/Germany pass is $863.00 on the Eurail site and will early pre book Berlin – Hamburg trip for a bit of a discount.
Take care and Thank You again

Hi Roger
I have another Q
Is my Munich ( stopover at Mittenwald) to Innsbruck – 1 journey
Innsbruck(change train at Munich) to Heidelberg – 1 journey
Thank You & have a great day
Carmen

ANSWER

Carmen,
I’m not totally sure what you are asking. When using a rail pass, a “travel day” includes all the travel you do in one calendar day or a night train if it leaves in the evening and goes past midnight. So one example I did was I took a train from Dresden to Munich during Oktoberfest so I got off and went into the event grounds for like 4 hours. Then I came back to the station for a train to Innsbruck where I spent the night. All of that was one “travel day.” Is that what you mean? -Roger

carmen says:
June 2, 2013 at 11:30 pm
Thank You
I know what you mean, you have answered my question
Regards
Carmen

QUESTION

Hi Roger,
I am a university student traveling to Europe on the 26th with my friend. We are going for a total of 58 nights and are starting in Greece and moving our way across Europe to Portugal and then eventually to Ireland. I am wondering if you can help me decide what pass we need with the following itinerary in order of where we are planning to go. I was wondering if it is best to pay our way while in Greece in Italy and then go with a one month continuous (we are both 21).
Also just curious as to how many nights in each you suggest to stay and whether it is worth it to go to Poland or not (worth the time and money).
Thank you so much!
Greece
Italy (Rome, somewhere in Tuscany, Venice)
Austria (Vienna)
Germany (Berlin)
Netherlands (Amsterdam)
France (Paris, Marseille, Nice)
Spain (Barcelona,Madrid, Granada)
Portugal (Algarve, Lisbon)
Then we are finishing in Ireland (flying from Lisbon to Ireland)
Thanks again!

ANSWER

Lindsay,
This looks like a really nice itinerary for the amount of time you have. Since you have 2 months, I’d even think about adding Budapest, Prague, and Krakow in between Vienna and Berlin. All three are very nice and refreshingly cheap as well, so you can even splurge a bit while you are there.
As of now, there are no international trains out of Greece, and you might even think about flying to Italy or taking the ferry.
For this itinerary I think I’d recommend a 10 Days out of 60 Global Youth Pass, rather than 30 consecutive days. With consecutive days you’ll feel rushed, so even if you really like a city you’ll feel the need to push ahead to the next one. With a 10/60 Pass the thing to do is figure out your most likely route in advance, and then use it for the 10 most expensive legs. Those shorter ones within Italy might be the cheapest, but Lisbon to the Algarve is fairly cheap as well (and buses are an even cheaper option there). It would also be good in Ireland, and some of the longer train journeys there are pretty expensive so you might save a day or two for your time there (because Dublin is the least interesting part of Ireland). -Roger

QUESTION

Hi, roger! It’s me again 😉
*With our itinerary,, which eurailpass should we get? is the travel time indicated below is really the travel time?
*you are such a big help. Thank u thank u so much 😉
June 27 depart lisbon.
10 hrs night train.
June 28,29,30 madrid. – leave july 1 am to barcelona
3 hrs train.
July 1,2,3 barcelona. – leave july 4 am to rome
By ferry or 2 hrs flight
july 4,5,6 rome. -leave july 7 am to florence
1 1/2 hrs train
july 7,8 florence. – leave july 9 am to venice
2 hrs train
July 9 venice. -leave july 10 am to milan
2 hrs train
july 10, 11 milan. -leave july 11 pm to BERLIN
NIGHT TRAIN
july 12, 13, 14 BERLIN – leave july 14 pm to LONDON
NIGHT TRAIN
july 15 LONDON…… .

ANSWER

Marianne,
Hmmm…yours is a tricky one if you do it this way because you only have 7 travel days here and you’d be skipping France, which means you couldn’t do a Select Pass because all the countries have to be bordering. And the lowest number of days in a Global Pass is 10, so only using 7 would be a waste.
Your best bet is to get a 15 Consecutive Days Global Pass. Your first “travel day” would actually be June 28 because if you leave on a direct night train after 7pm, only the arrival day counts. The 15th day would be the day you arrive in Berlin on July 12. This means you’d be best off taking the night train between Barcelona and Rome because it would be included, except for the €20 or so to reserve a couchette (bunk). Just research a night train from Barcelona to Nice and then you’ll take a morning train in a normal seat from Nice to Rome. The scenery is lovely on that one.
Then you’d fly from Berlin to London on July 14 or 15 because there are no night trains connecting them anyway. The closest you could get is to take a night train to Paris and then change to the Eurostar to London in the morning, but a flight from Berlin might be cheaper than the Eurostar one-way anyway, and there’s no scenery (obviously) on a night train, or even on the Eurostar. -Roger

QUESTION

Hi Roger,
I will be traveling using France and Germany regional pass. If I decide to travel to Amsterdam using German ICE, how will the ticketing work. Will I have to pay for the portion I travel using ICE in Netherlands? Will I need to pay for it ahead of time or to the conductor?
Thanks,

ANSWER

Stan,
This is a pretty common issue in Europe, with a pass covering part of a journey but not all of it. So what you do is go to the ticket counter in Germany where you’ll need to buy a seat reservation anyway, and tell them you have a pass that covers Germany. They’ll calculate the portion of the trip that covers the Netherlands and issue you (depending on route) a Maastricht to Amsterdam ticket. Keep that together with your pass and the conductor will validate both as they go by. You might be able to buy it on the train itself, but that usually costs quite a bit more. -Roger

QUESTION

Thanks for the great articles!!! You mention that an advantage of having a Eurail pass is that it allows you to skip ticket lines, which is great, but you also say that seat reservations are often necessary. Does that mean getting in line anyway, to purchase a seat reservation? My trip (self and wife, 90 days) looping Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Italy, Switzerland, France, Belgium is on the cheap staying in hostels and budget hotels, so rail is great to put us right in city centers. For my trip, I think buying tickets is slightly cheaper, but not much and I think missing lines would be helpful.

ANSWER

Tom,
I’m always happy to hear that this information is helpful. The seat reservation issue has become a tricky one. Only a few years ago, it was rare that pass holders needed seat reservations, but now they are required on most longer intercity and international routes. Those are also the most desirable routes for rail pass holders because they are the most expensive individually. You can still ride most regional and local trains with no reservation, but those are the cheaper ones that don’t make as much sense for a pass.
So the bottom line is, the computerization of European rail in recent years has meant that skipping ticket queues with passes is only an option in some places. On a slow (90 day) trip like yours, you are almost certainly better off buying tickets as you go. -Roger

QUESTION

Hi Roger,
my friend and I are planning a trip around Europe (UK, Ireland, France, Germany, Czech Republic, Austria, Italy, and Spain; about 17 cities in 2 months). we would be spending a minimum of 2-3 days in each to the maximum of 6 for the bigger cities. we are both under 25 and I was wondering what would b the best choice for us?

ANSWER

El Mkay,
A trip of 2 months where you are visiting 8 or 9 countries like that is ideal for a Global Youth Pass of either 10 out of 60 days or 15 out of 60 days. More than likely the 10-day version will be best, and you can just pay individually for the cheapest 6 legs. That also allows you to fly or even take buses for legs where those might be better options. The shorter legs within Italy (Rome to Florence, for example) will be cheap, as would shorter legs within Ireland. And the longer legs between France, Germany, and Austria, as well as the legs within Spain (on high-speed trains) are expensive.
As you might already know, the UK itself isn’t included in the Eurail system, and Britrail Passes are quite expensive unless you are using them every day. However, some trains in the UK are cheap if you buy them online in advance. Like, London to Edinburgh might be £60 each way if you just walk up before it leaves, but it might only be £9 one-way if you buy online a week or two in advance. Most other European rail pricing doesn’t work that way, except the Eurostar. -Roger

QUESTION

Hey Roger,
I’m going to a 14 days summer trip. My group thought about Amsterdam, Berlin, Prague and Paris (average 3 days for each one). Do you think we should buy a select pass or a global one? Remembering that the Select pass doesn’t cover France anymore. Thank you

ANSWER

Filipe,
For such a short trip with only 3 train journeys, I think you are better off without a pass. Global Passes start at 10 days/legs, and you are doing 4 countries with one stop in each. Honestly, you might find that flying from Amsterdam to Berlin is cheaper if you buy in advance, and same with Prague to Paris. -Roger

QUESTION

Hi Roger,
I will be planning a trip to Europe this Aug with 3 other friends (all below 25) and I was hoping you could give us some travel advice to help us save some costs for transportation.
Itinerary:
Rome 2 days
Venice 1 day
Switzerland 5 days
Paris 3 days
Do you think we should get a Eurail Pass (select pass etc.) and is it cheaper to buy the tickets there or online?
I also wouldn’t mind receiving any recommendation for Switzerland as we are abit overwhelmed in deciding where to go.
Thank you and appreciate your help!
Ezra

ANSWER

Ezra,
Unfortunately, France can’t be included in the Select (3, 4, or 5 countries) Passes, so your best bet would be a France-Switzerland Pass. However, those are relatively expensive so they are really only a good deal for those making several longer trips within France. Switzerland itself is small, so even though rail fares are a bit expensive, they are never too high because nothing is more than a few hours away. The train tickets within Italy aren’t too expensive either, so I’d just buy them as you go.
As for Switzerland, my general advice is this: The big cities like Zurich, Geneva, and Basel aren’t very interesting and they are incredibly expensive. The charms of Switzerland are in the smaller Alpine and lake towns, so I recommend Lucerne and Interlaken as bases for 2 or 3 days each. They are nice on their own, and also close to many really wonderful hikes and sights, and they are very tourist friendly. If you want to see one of the big cities, you might just stop there for a few hours in between other stops. You might also think about staying in Rome for a third day and doing one less in Switzerland. Rome has so much to see that 2 days is kind of quick, but Rome is also somewhat frenzied so the Switzerland thing will be more relaxing. Either way you’ll have a great time. -Roger

Ezra says:
June 8, 2013 at 4:28 pm
Thanks Roger, for the help, it will help us alot in our planning. Might be looking at Italy for another day. Keep up the great work(:

QUESTION

Hi Roger,
Thanks for useful information. Me and my wife (29 years old) are going to travel to Europe 26 July to 10 Aug. Both arrival and departure airport is Dusseldorf.
Please kindly help us to find best pass for our preliminary itinerary:
Berlin: 2 night
Prague: 3 night
Vienna: 2 night
Budapest: 1 night
Salzburg: 1 night
Munich: 2 night
Zurich/Lucerne/Interlaken: 3 night
Thanks & Regards,
Ali

ANSWER

Ali,
For this trip the 5-country Select Pass Saver is perfect, with 8 travel days. It looks like you’ll have 8 longer journeys in exactly 5 different countries, as long as you pay as you go for the shorter trips within Switzerland. With two people always traveling together in First Class, you’ll get great value out of it compared to buying individually, and it’ll be nice to ride in First Class during the high season when you’ll be going.
You are covering a lot of ground in a short time, but each stop looks well planned out and you can get a nice taste of Budapest and Salzburg in one day. Bon voyage. -Roger

QUESTION

Hi Roger!
I’m sorry if you already addressed this, but I am leaving for Europe next Tuesday, and I am frantically trying to figure out if I need to buy a rail pass or just buy individual train tickets. I’m 22 and will be there for about 5 weeks.
I am flying into Frankfurt to begin, and then I will be going to Switzerland, Austria, Prague, then back down to France. I am flying home out of London, so I was going to take the high speed train from Paris. Does it make sense to do a 10 day travel pass, or just buy individual tickets as I go? I was just sticking to trains, except for my flight from prague to somewhere in Paris.
Thank you so much!

ANSWER

Melanie,
I’d need to know more about your planned itinerary to help you decide if a rail pass would be wise. In this comment you’ve only described a journey from Frankfurt to Switzerland then to Austria and then to Prague, plus a flight to Paris and then the Eurostar to London. That is as few as 3 train trips plus a flight and a Eurostar. If that’s what you have in mind just buy as you go, but if you are planning on bouncing around Germany, Switzerland, and Austria then a Regional Pass or Select Pass might be good. If you have a more detailed itinerary let us know and I’ll help you decide right away. -Roger

QUESTION

Roger,
Sorry for the vagueness! I am thinking Frankfurt to Zurich, then Interlaken. I was then thinking of moving towards Austria, so Innsbruck and Vienna, then making my way up to Prague. I would then probably fly from Prague to France. I’m thinking Lyon, Nice, Marseille and Paris. I may shift some places around in Switzerland or visit Prague before Austria, but those are the destinations I am thinking. Thank you so much for your quick reply!

Melanie,
At this point you probably don’t have much choice, but still it’s probably better to just buy as you go. Many of your journeys will be fairly short so a rail pass doesn’t make sense. Bon voyage! -Roger

QUESTION

Hi Roger, my partner and I will reach Paris in early July. We plan to take the Tralys to Amsterdam (2 days) followed by Rotterdam (1 day), Antwerp (1 day), Brussels (6 days for study) and finally back to Paris for our flight back. Is it more worthwhile for us to buy the Euroselect pass (France-Benelux) for 5 days or buy point to point tickets? Is there any other railway operator we can choose other than Thalys (which seems quite pricey). Thanks in advance for your advice.

ANSWER

Sarah,
This is a tough one because your Paris legs will be quite expensive, but the others are relatively short and cheap. I’d say that you are probably a little better off buying individual tickets. For the Paris to Amsterdam leg, the only direct trains are the Thalys, and if you buy those online in advance and choose a less popular time of day those aren’t quite so expensive. Check Thalys.com for that. You might also be able to take a few cheaper local trains, like Paris to Lille to Brussels to Amsterdam, but those still might cost just as much in the end.

QUESTION

Hi Roger!
We’ll be going to europe this coming monday. It’s a fast paced trip since we only have 25 days. Our itinerary will be France (Paris, Marseille, Nice, Lyon) – Switzerland (Geneve) – Austria (Salzburg) – Czech Republic (Prague) – Germany (Berlin, Hamburg, Cologne, Heidelburg) – France (Paris)… Since France is not included in the Eurail select pass, would it still be convenient to get the 4-country 5 day pass? Our would it be cheaper to buy individual train and bus tickets?
Does a Eurail select pass include city to city (Berlin to Hamburg) and intercity travel (Berlin day pass) train transportation?
Thanks,
Leanne 🙂

ANSWER

Leanne,
I’d say a 4-country 5-day Select Pass could be wise if I’m understanding your itinerary correctly. You seem to be doing mostly shorter journeys, but starting in Geneva you’ll be doing at least 5 longer ones where a pass can save you money. I’d recommend that, and buying the others as you go, although the France ones might be better bought online in advance if you know the dates for sure.
All Eurail passes work that same in that they are good on all rail journeys during a designated travel day. So for example if you did Prague to Berlin on a Monday, then you can ride the regional rails for free on that same day, like if you wanted to pop over to Dresden for the afternoon. But they aren’t valid on the “local” transit. In German cities they have two local systems (U-Bahn and S-Bahn), which are basically subway or tram systems, and a Eurail Pass is not valid on those. However, usually an all-day pass on those is like €8 or so, so it’s not a big difference. -Roger

QUESTION

Hi Roger I need your help before I go crazy LOL
Im extremely confused on the trains in Europe
So we are 3 adults traveling and a 18 month old baby. We are thinking on getting the Euro rail Global Pass. The 24 unlimited countries. Also what will be the most adequate the continuous or the flex? Our itinerary is more less like this.
Barcelona to Rome 2 days in Rome.
Rome to Paris 2 paris
On this 2 i would like to take the night train to save on hotel and since we are 3 we can get a closed compartment i think.
Then Paris to Luxembourg just want to spend the day in Luxembourg and then Luxembourg to Paris again if necessary bc after lux im going to brussels. Stay for 3 days there and there Brussels to London.
I know im all over the place but i dont know if the unlimited global pass and worth it im aware for the reservations fees.
Also im traveling in late oct and its a 10 days travel.
Please help me and advice me the best I could do thank you

ANSWER

Jessica,
The shortest Global Pass available is for 10 travel days out of 60, and this looks like only 4 or 5 travel days. Is this a 10-total days trip? If so a rail pass doesn’t make much sense. The only possibility might be the France-Italy Regional Pass, since the Barcelona to the France border portion of your trip is short and cheap. You could do 5 travel days on that one, and it would probably save quite a bit of money with those long night trains. If I’ve misunderstood, let me know and I’ll try again. -Roger

QUESTION

Roger,
Is Jessica & Roberto from previous message
Yes, you are right, total time for this trip is 10 days, My trip starts in Barcelona Spain, because I have business there, and I leave back the USA from London, so from Barcelona to London, and I would like to travel to Italy, Paris, Brussels and end i London, in your opinion what is the best train pass to get or is a train pass even a good idea, i would like to take the train and travel at night if possible, i can spend up to 2 days in each location, so what do you recommend is the best travel plan in your opinion. Thank you in advance.

ANSWER

Jessica,
Those first few are quite long train trips, and in 10 total days to do 3 very long or overnight train trips, you’ll be a wreck. To be honest if I were you I’d fly from Barcelona to Rome and then to Paris. It will be cheaper in the end, especially if you book early. Those 12 or 14-hour train rides are fairly expensive and you won’t be too refreshed upon arrival even if you sleep. From Paris you should take the train to Brussels and then the Eurostar (train) to London. No pass really works for what you are doing. -Roger

QUESTION

Hi Roger,
My family are traveling from London to Paris. With perhaps 5 days in Paris then down to Nice for a few days, then on to Rome with stops along the way at Milan, Venice and Flornece. We’re flying home from Rome. There will be 2 adults and 2 kids15 & 12 as the group always traveling together. We’d like fast trains if possible but are also open to doing a few overnight’ers if needed. I believe the London to Paris TGV is a separate purchase, would you mind suggesting waht would be the best Eurail ticket for us for our Paris-Nice-Milan-Venice-Florence-Rome travel? Thank you for your time. Regards, Ian.

ANSWER

Ian,
It looks like you are doing the classic France-Italy itinerary that I wrote about (and that so many people do). Your best bet by far is the France-Italy Regional Pass. The London to Paris part is actually the Eurostar, which is a separate system from the TGVs in France. Book as early as possible to get the best price. -Roger

QUESTION

Hi Roger!
This sight is so much help 🙂
I have a question regarding getting a Eurail Select pass or not.
I’m under 26 and going to Italy, Austria, Hungary and Czech Republic. My trip starts and ends in Rome. The trip will be 2 months long in August and September.
I don’t whether or not to get a Eurail pass or just do point to point! Whilst I know I want to go to these 4 places I also like to be spontaneous and not be rigid in my schedule aka in case I’m in a city and want to stay longer then I want that kind of flexibility.
I’m not sure whether I should get a Select Pass or get the Eastern Europe pass or just do point by point. Also, potentially dumb question, but the Eastern Europe pass is only for one month but I will need it for more than that, so would I just be able to buy another one once the first month is over?
My itinerary is not 100% secure because I want to be flexible but I’m aiming on being in each country for 2 weeks and going to both the cities and also day excursions.
Thanks! 🙂

ANSWER

Vanessa,
Thanks for the compliment. For a trip like this I’d recommend just buying point to point. Fortunately, train tickets in all 4 of those countries are relatively cheap, and the only way a pass pays for itself is if you used it for the longest trips within them. However, you can be as spontaneous as you like with a Eurail Pass, if not more so.
The reason I don’t think a pass is wise on a trip like yours is that you have enough time that you might decide to cut longer trips in two or three legs by stopping in smaller cities in between. Those shorter legs in Hungary or Czech Republic might only cost €10 or €20 each, so a pass wouldn’t be good value. In fact, you might even discover that a bus is a better option for some of those legs since the buses in that area are often faster and cheaper than trains. Have fun. -Roger

QUESTION

Is it possible to use the eurailpass with this dates of travel?
I’m flying to Paris on the 22th June then same day to Prague
Prague to Berlin: June 24 overnight train
Berlin to Amsterdam: June 25 overnight train
Amsterdam to Bruges: June 26 at night/early morning of June 27 (depends on hotel cost)
Bruges to Paris: June 27 night trip
Paris fly out: June 29
Is this itinerary doable?
How much do eurailpass costs? where to buy it?
Thanks much

ANSWER

Frances,
For a trip with this few stops, and one that includes France, there isn’t really a good rail pass for you. The Global Passes have a minimum of 10 journeys and the Select Passes (where you choose 3, 4, or 5 countries) don’t include France. To be honest, you’d be better off flying to Prague and then from Berlin to Amsterdam if you can buy a flight well in advance. -Roger

QUESTION

Dear Sir,
My Europe trip plan is as follows.We are two persons(myself & wife).
July 30 – arrival at Frankfurt airport in the afternoon from Bahrain.
July 30- Evening travel- from Frankfurt to Hanover
stay at Hanover on 30 & 31st July with Friend
August 01 – Hanover to Amsterdam
August 02 – Amsterdam to Hanover
August 03 – Hanover to Lucerne (switzerland)
August 04 – 06 stay at Lucerne
August 07 – Lucerne to Venice(Italy)
August 08 – Venice to Florence
August 09 – Florence to Rome
August 10 – Rome
August 11 -Rome to Frankfurt
Shall I purchase Eurorail global pass? Please guide me.
Best Regards,
srinivas.

ANSWER

Srinivas,
It looks like you are doing 8 journeys, and most of them would be quite expensive if purchased individually. This is a perfect itinerary for a Eurail Select Pass of 8 journeys within 2 months in 4 countries. Since you’ll be a pair traveling together, you’ll qualify for the Saver Pass, which is 15% less in First Class for two who always travel together on the same pass. You can buy it on the Rail Europe International Site. Just select the 4 countries you’ll be traveling in and through, and then select 8 travel days and you should be set. -Roger

QUESTION

Roger,
After reading your helpful hints I thought I would drop a line for your advice.
I will be traveling arriving in Copenhagen on August 17th at 10:30AM then traveling to Linkoping that day, then returning on August 22nd for a flight out of Copenhagen at 12:25PM. I am 69 and looking for the best way to travel between these two cities. I have never taken any trains in Europe however I have used the JR trains in Japan and I really like their system.
Thank you for your help.
Jeff

ANSWER

Jeff,
Your best option is certainly the train, which will take about 3.5 hours and cost about US$100 each way. The trains in Denmark and Sweden are very nice and all the important signs are in English, plus everyone you’ll meet will speak fluent English, so it couldn’t be easier. -Roger

QUESTION

Roger,
Thanks for your quick reply, I really appreciate the help.
Just one more question. Should I purchase tickets at the train station or prior to my arrival?
Thanks again for your help.
Regards,
Jeff

ANSWER

Jeff,
It looks like you can get cheaper tickets if you book in advance on the Swedish rail site. The Danish national site doesn’t seem to do international tickets. -Roger

QUESTION

Hello there, your page has been very helpfull. But I’m still undecided on which global pass to buy. This is my route within a little over 2 month period: dublin-london-paris-amsterdam-berlin-prague-vienna-budapest-sofia,bulgaria-athens-rome-florence-venice-cinque terre-niza-marseille-barcelona-madrid-porto-lisboa-sevilla-granada-gibraltar-morroco. I will be taking the ferry to london and the train to paris and the bus from sofia to athens and a plain from athens to rome and a ferry from gibraltar to morroco. The rest will be on train but what i’m uncertain about is wether to buy the 10 or 15 day within 2 months because i don’t know if trains would be cheaper to buy individually in the south of france and spain and portugal.

ANSWER

Ana,
It looks like you’ve done your homework and this itinerary looks fantastic. I’d get the 10-days in 2 months pass and use it from Paris all the way to Budapest, which is 5 legs. You might find that a bus from Budapest to Sofia is nicer and faster than the train anyway because trains are slow in that corner of Europe. Then with the 5 remaining legs you’ll use it from Cinque Terra to Nice and to Marseilles and to Barcelona and to Madrid and to Porto.
Starting in Porto and all the way to Gibraltar, the trains are fairly cheap and buses are often a better and faster option. Both Spain and Portugal have decent train service between the largest cities, but for a few of those last legs you might find there is two trains per day that take 5 hours, or 6 buses per day that take 4 hours and cost less.
On the other hand, if you did buy the 15-days version, each ride is cheaper, and those trips within Italy might be worth using a pass on. So I’d go with the 10 to keep more flexibility, and most of the savings will be in those first 5 trips, but the 15 Days one could work well too. -Roger

QUESTION

Hello there, your page has been very helpfull. But I am still undecided about which Global Pass to buy. I would qualify for the youth discount. The following is the route I am covering on a little over a two month period: Dublin-London-Paris-Amsterdam-Berlin-Prague-Vienna-Budapest-Sofia, Bulgaria(this would be my connection to greece)-Greece-Rome-Florence-Venice-Cinque Terre-Niza-Marseille-Barcelona-Madrid-Porto-Lisbon-Sevilla-Granada/Malaga/Gibraltar-Morroco. I’ll be taking a ferry to london and a bus from sofia to greece and flying from athens to rome and taking a ferry from gibraltar to morroco. The rest of the trip would be on train. I wasn’t sure on which package to chose because I don’t know if the train tickets in italy, south of france, spain and portugal would be cheaper to buy individually. Suggestions?

QUESTION

Hey Roger,
My friend and I are spending 8 days in Greece, then flying from Athens to Prague, and then traveling by train from Prague to Paris over 11 days making stops in between- we would love to see the alps and maybe stop in Munich. We are also planning on traveling a little bit within France after reaching Paris for 8 days. We are trying to decide which Euro Pass to purchase- or if we should. We are both 22 years old. Suggestions?
Thanks so much for your help!

ANSWER

Lauren,
Without knowing which stops you intend between Prague and Paris, and possible stops within France, it’s impossible for me to make a recommendation with any confidence. But most likely you’ll be better off buying as you go. France is a tricky one for shorter trips and rail passes because they don’t participate in the Select Passes (3, 4, or 5 countries) and 2 countries won’t help much, while a Global Pass would be too expensive and need too many travel days for your trip. So unless you have something unusual in mind, just buy as you go. -Roger

QUESTION

Hi Roger,
I’m planning to have a trip with my husband to Europe on 24 Oct – 9 Nov 2013(15 days).
Both of us will meet up at Munich on 24 Oct 2013 after i finish my business trip from Regensburg.
I would like to get your advice on which transport that I should choose Global Passes have a minimum of 10 journeys or Select Passes (5 countries).
We are plan to travel at below country:
Netherland(Amsterdam)
Belgium(Brussel)
France(Paris)
Italy(Milan, Pisa, ROME, FLorence, Venice)
Swiss(Interlaken)
Germany(Berlin, Munich)
Prague
Pls advice.
Thanks.

ANSWER

Clarenz,
Does this mean you are planning on visiting all 12 cities in 15 days? Obviously that means that you’d be spending around 4 hours each day on a train, and even though these are scenic journeys, I wouldn’t recommend going nearly that fast. Not that you asked, but I’d skip Brussels (or spend a few hours there on your way from Amsterdam to Paris), skip Milan, skip Pisa (or just spend a few hours there on a day trip from Florence), and probably save Munich or Berlin for another trip.
Unfortunately, you can include France on a 3, 4, or 5-country Select Pass, so if you want to go through the country you’d need a Global Pass. The good news is that you’ll save the most money with a 15-Continuous Day Global Pass with the Saver option (two traveling together). Even if you only take 8 or 9 journeys, it would be cheaper than individual tickets because you are going through mostly expensive areas. And with the Continuous 15-day option, you can change cities every day if you have the energy, at no extra cost. -Roger

QUESTION

Hi Roger
Yes, you are right. Berlin I might not want to include in the trip but for Munich is my last point as the flight ticket that I bought was departure from Munich. Pls feel free to share your point on accomodation, transport & the itinerary looks.
For me, cost is my concern. I would like to plan have a short/day (2-4 hours) trip at Brussels, Milan & Pisa only.
For short day trip, where can I find the temporary luggage locker to keep our luggage?
So I would like to know is it better if I choose Global pass for 10 days or separate Select pass (5 countries within 5 days) + separate pass from Munich to Paris?
I’m not sure whether the individual pass is worth for my trip?
Some of my night would like to overnight in train. Hence how can I bought this ticket? Is it Global pass include the night train?
My option would be:
Option 1(Select pass 5 days 5 countries + Munich to Paris pass(1way):
Munich –> Paris (DB Night train) + 1 day overnight at Paris
Paris–> Belgium (Day trip)
Belgium –> Amsterdam 1 day overnight + ( Night train)
Amsterdam –> Lucern/Interlaken 1 day overnight
Interlaken –> Milano (Day trip)
Milano –>Pisa/ Florence 2 day overnight
Florence –> ROME
ROME –> Venice
Venice –> RBG (Night train) + 1 day overnight
RBG –> Prague (Day Trip)
Prague –> RBG –> Munich
Option 2(Global pass 10 days):
Munich –> Amsterdam ( 1 day overnight) + night train
Amsterdam –> Brussel (Day trip 3 hrs)
Brussel –> Paris (1 day overnight ) + night train
Paris –> Lucern/ Interlaken (1 day overnight) + night train
Lucern –> Florence 2 days overnight
Florence –> ROME (Day trip 8 hrs)
Florence –> PISA (Day trip 2 hrs)
PISA –> Milan (Day Tour 4 hrs)
Milan –> Venice (Day Tour)
Venice –> Munich (Night train)
Munich –> RBG (1 day overnight)
RBG –> Prague (Day trip 8 hrs)
Prague –> RBG –> Munich
Thanks.

ANSWER

Clarenz,
For day trips, you’ll find luggage lockers or Left Luggage desks at every larger European train station. It’s usually only a few euros for like 4 to 6 hours in the lockers, and a bit more at the desks with people working at them.
Are we still talking about you doing all of these stops in 15 days? I normally encourage people to move quickly if they feel motivated to, but this still seems crazy. If you did either of these versions you’d be spending half your waking hours on trains or at train stations or at least disoriented. In 15 days I’d recommend no more than 8 cities, including side trips.
That said, if you are set on one of these then I think they both make very good use of time and the passes you’ve designed them around. Option 1 would obviously be cheaper because the pass is cheaper, but Option 2 looks good as well. You can ride on overnight trains with any kind of rail pass that covers the countries you are riding through, and as long as the train leaves after 7pm (and arrives in the morning) then it only uses the arrival date as a “travel day” on the pass. You need reservations for all overnight trains, and it’s usually only around €5 for a normal seat, or €20 to €30 for a couchette (small bunk). -Roger

QUESTION

Hi Roger,
Very thanks for your valuable inputs.However I still have some doubt.
Does this means that Option 1 & 2 also can ride on any train to the countries I would like to visit?
Actually my wish is visiting 10 city(Amsterdam, Brussels, Paris, Interlaken, Milan, Florence, Pisa, Rome, Venice, Prague). Munich & Regensburg is my departure & arrival destination. Would not be staying there.
Where can I get the train schedule & timetable?
Am I need to purchase the pass online now or I can purchase while I’m at Germany(info: I will be go to Regensburg for business trip for 3 weeks then only start my holiday journey with husband). Which would be better for the ticket purchase from your point of view?
The ride on 7pm means wad? How to calc this?
DOes the pass(global pass/ select pass) entitle to use in the countries i visit or it just allow to use for ride from 1 contry to other country?
Should I purchase the Hop on & Hop off pass for each country i visit or I can just use my pass(global / select pass) to use any transport(public buss/ train) within the ocuntry that I visit(example: when I depart from paris to interlaken, can I use my pass to ride on any train at swiss?)
Thanks for advice.
Clarenz

ANSWER

Clarenz,
With Option 1 on your earlier comment you can take trains through any 5 different countries as long as none of them is France. For any leg that partially includes France you’d have to pay for the France portion separately, though you can use the pass to cover the remaining portion. In Option 2 you can go through any country including France.
If you get a rail pass it will come with a timetable book for all trains, or you can find the schedules online. The German rail site has most European trains on it.
You can’t purchase a Eurail pass from within Europe so you’d want to order it online before you go. Once you have it you can wait up to 6 months to actually validate it, which you do at the first station on the first day you are using the thing. Of course, if you choose to just get individual tickets then you can get those while in Europe, and in some cases they will be cheaper there than online, but not always.
Basically, there are “night trains” between pretty much every pair of large cities that are 6 to 12 hours apart. For example, between Rome and Paris, there would be one “night train” that leaves at, say, 10pm and arrives at 7am. So as long as it leaves after 7pm (and all night trains do), then you only have to use the arrival date as a travel day.
All European rail passes allow you to ride on the domestic trains as well as the international trains as long as you use a travel day. So they are valid for Zurich to Milan, and also from Milan to Rome. If you get a Continuous Days pass (as in 15 continuous days) then all train travel would be included, but if you get a 5 or 10 travel days out of 60 days, then you might not want to use a travel day for short domestic trips.
Let me know if you have any more questions. -Roger

QUESTION

Do you mean that Euro Global pass cannot purchase at any Europe country? Meaning that I only can purchase online and the ticket will courier to Asean(Malaysia)?
So here in this case, I would like to plan to book hostel but I do not know what is the timetable for train, can I book the hostel in advance? I afraid after I book the hostel based on my option 2 plan but in the end there is no train from Amsterdam to Paris then i will waste the hostel fees(as I search through train ticket on website :http://www.raileurope-asean.com/book-now/ but I cannot found any train schedule).
Kindly advice.
Thanks in advance.

ANSWER

Clarenz,
Yes, that’s correct. Eurail Passes are only available outside of Europe. European residents can buy different passes that are more restrictive and usually more expensive as well.
Booking hostels in advance is wise, especially during high season since the cheaper and better places fill up on most days. There are 8 daily express trains from Amsterdam to Paris, leaving at least every two hours. You have to reserve a seat even if you have a rail pass though. Here’s a link to the schedule for that route: http://www.thalys.com/nl/en/train-timetables/Amsterdam/Paris
-Roger

QUESTION

Hi Roger,
Do you know what is the lead time for purchase the global pass ticket to Asean?
I would like to know when is the last date that i should purchase the ticket as my trip is start on Oct 2013.

ANSWER

Clarenz,
I’m not sure how long shipping takes to SE Asia from France (where Rail Europe is located) but I’d think 1 to 2 weeks. However, all of these rail passes can be validated any time within 6 months of purchase, so if you ordered one in July you can start using it in October or even December. I hope this helps. -Roger

QUESTION

Hi Roger,
Does the Global pass include in the public transport(bus & train) at the 24 counteries?

ANSWER

Clarenz,
All of the Eurail Passes are the same in that they are good for all train travel within each country they are valid for on designated travel days, but they aren’t good on buses or even metro/subway systems. But of course those metro/subway systems are cheap so it shouldn’t become a problem except maybe in Scandinavia. -Roger

QUESTION

Hi Roger,
I would like to know if I had purchase global pass, should I need to purchase a Eurostar ticket to London from Paris Nord? Did Global pass included to London?
How about the price for eurostar?
Thanks.
Rgds,
Clarenz

ANSWER

Clarenz,
Here’s an article that explains the Eurostar trains.
Eurostar is a totally separate system from the rest of the European rail lines so it requires a separate ticket. However, you can get a discount if you have a rail pass and you don’t need to use a travel day for it. It’s best to buy the Eurostar ticket as soon as possible because prices start low and keep going up the closer you get to the travel date. -Roger

QUESTION

Hi Roger,
Wish to check with you how to make a reservation for those train that need reserve after I had bought a global pass?
Is it can buy online or must purcahse at the train station on the spot while travelling?
Can we make purchase earlier?
If we suddenly cannot go to travel, does global pass refund us?
Any terms & condition?
Need your advice.
Thanks.
Rgds,
Clarenz

ANSWER

Clarenz,
Here’s an article that explains everything you need to know about making reservations on European trains with a railpass.
The short version is: Most international express trains require reservations, which usually cost around €5 per seat. The only ones that it’s wise to make early are any trips on the French TGV trains because those have a quota of seats for railpass holders. However, even if you don’t get on the ideal train, you can usually get on another train earlier or later in the day. For pretty much all other trains, it’s fine to make the reservation the day before or even shortly before the train leaves on the same day.
You should be able to make a seat reservation on the site you bought the rail pass (raileurope or eurail.com, which are basically the same company).
For most trains it’s easiest and cheapest just to stop into the train station on the day of travel or any number of days before. You go into the travel office and take a number or get in the proper queue, and usually only a few minutes later you are at a window. They make reservations for pass holders every day, so it’ll be fast and easy once you are there. -Roger

QUESTION

Hi Roger,
I check through the website that I purchase the global pass & try to make a reservation on the night train, the cost was more than 5Euro(actual was 35 Euro from Munich to Amsterdam on CNL with reclining seat).
Therefore would like to understand is it purchase on the train station will get cheaper compare to book online?
By the way, can you share with me the link that have show 5Euro seat reservation?
Thanks in advance.
Rgds,
Clarenz

ANSWER

Clarenz,
My understanding is that seat reservations are basically the same price regardless of where you book them. The problem in this particular case is it sounds like you are booking on one of the TGVs in France, and those high-speed luxury trains do have a higher reservation fee, as well as a quota of pass-holders.
Here’s a list of all the reservation fees where they are needed.
The average of the ones that require reservations is about €5, but there are a few exceptions, particularly the TGVs in France. -Roger

QUESTION

Hi Roger,
Would like to get your advice on below items:
I already plan to buy Global pass for my Europe trip, do you think I should make a seat reservation at the same time as well?Or I should make reservation of seat(5Euro) when I’m arrive at the train station?
The reason i ask because currently Rail Europe Train has summer sales(Example: 1200 Euro discount 80 Euro).
But I face the problem was from the website i cannot found the cheap )5Euro) seat reservation as you mention to me before. Therefore until now I still do not buy the global pass yet.
Pls help.
In addition, would like to know if I purchase goods(bad) at Paris but I will flight from Munich to my hometown, can I claim the tax at Munich airport for goods that bought at Paris?

ANSWER

Clarenz,
I’ll answer those that I know in order…
Depending on the country and the type of train you are taking, you may need a seat reservation even with a rail pass. Here’s a list that covers all of them:
http://www.priceoftravel.com/3388/which-european-trains-need-reservations-find-out-here/
On a day that you are using a rail pass, you can ride domestic trains and suburban rail lines for free, but not buses or subways or other urban public transportation.
To reach Mt. Titlus you take a train to Engelberg, which is the town at its base. From Bern it takes a bit under 2 hours and from Interlaken it takes a bit under 3 hours. Trains leave hourly from both cities.
I’ve never actually done the VAT rebate thing so I’m not sure, but I do think it’s for one country at a time so you’d have to claim your refund when leaving the country of the purchase, because it’s them that collects the tax. The country next door probably doesn’t want to refund tax they didn’t collect, though again, I’m not really sure. -Roger



596 Responses to “Europe itinerary Q & A: Rail passes, flights, hotels, how long to stay and more”

Andres says:

Hi Roger, gotta say that didn’t know about your site, but now I can’t get enough of it. Since I started planning my trip you’ve been my go-to site.
I’m leaving on a 3 month solo trip across Europe in 3 weeks (frist time solo trip, first time to Europe), and still trying to settle on the itinerary. So I’m hoping you help me decide.

The rough idea is: Madrid(+Toledo +ElEscorial)-Barcelona-Paris(+Versailles)-Luxemburgh -Brussel(+Brugge)-Antwerpen-Amsterdam(+LaHaya)-[somewhere in Germany, probably Bonn and/or Koln]-Prague-Wien-Munich-Zurich(+some mountain village)-Geneve-Marseille-Nice+Cannes-Monaco-Genova-Firenze(+Pisa)-San Marino-Rome.
After that I’ll be heading to the Canary Islands to visit family and from there maybe 5-10 days in Southern Spain (Sevilla, Cordoba, Granada).

So, first of all, do you think this is doable? Are there any places that you consider are not worth the visit? Maybe other places you can recommend to fill in the gaps or for a day trip from one of the capitals (ie Versailles or Toledo) ?

Regarding transportation, what would you recommend? I plan on travelling as cheap as possible, with hostels in mind. But I understand that I would have to decide between trains with pass, trains point to point or airlines. Any tips there?

Thanks a lot for all the info you share with us. It’s great and helps us a lot. Cheers from Argentina!

 

    Andres, thank you for saying that you find the site helpful. That means a lot.

    I think your itinerary looks good and well thought out. If I were you I’d definitely keep this as “Plan A” but be prepared to change things as you go. Even in 3 months, that is a lot of ground to cover, and you’ll probably find that staying longer in cool cities is more enjoyable than spending every third day in transit.

    As for the specifics, I like that you are going to Luxembourg, but you can see the cool stuff in 24 hours (and it’s kind of expensive). Brussels has a gorgeous main square, but otherwise it’s relatively boring and expensive. Either stay one night, or just stop for a few hours on your way to Bruges or Antwerp. Koln is the highlight of that part of Germany for tourists, but also only worth a day or two. Prague is fantastic, even if it’s insanely crowded. Skip Zurich unless you are a fan of bank buildings and extremely high prices. I’d skip Marseilles as well unless you are going to see something specific. (Any city can be interesting, but it’s better to maximize time in the most interesting ones.) Do Monaco (and Cannes) as day trips while staying in Nice, which is much cheaper and more fun.

    I’ve never been to San Marino, but there’s no way I’d skip one night in Venice to fit it in. In other words, factor in exactly one night in Venice because it’s breathtaking.

    For other German suggestions, you’d be a bit crazy to skip Berlin, which might be the most vibrant city in Europe these days (and it’s also fairly cheap). It’s also a fun party town, along with Madrid, Barcelona, Amsterdam, and Prague on your list. Another Germany suggestion is the tiny medieval town of Rothenburg ob der Tauber. It’s packed with day-trippers during the day, but at night it’s almost empty so it has sort of a magical storybook feeling. Plan on one night there if the photos or descriptions on the internet look even a little interesting.

    As for transportation, most of your jumps will be short to medium distances, which aren’t good for flights. Buying train tickets as you go could be your best bet, but you might also consider a rail pass for maybe 5 to 10 days out of 60, only using it for your longer trips. Some of those rail journeys in France, Germany, and Benelux are quite expensive individually.

    Also, if your budget is low you can consider Eurolines.com for buses, which are often the cheapest way and sometimes only a bit slower than trains. They even have some promotional fares that are shockingly cheap. -Roger

     
      Andres says:

      Hi Roger, thanks a lot for the answers! They really hit the spot in a lot of things I’m considering and questioning myself.
      If you don’t mind I have a couple followups to dig deeper in some of your advices.

      Abouth the Netherlands, what would you say is the best way to do it? Would it be a good idea to “set camp” in one place and do day excursions to the other places? The idea is doing that area after Paris, so what would be the best way? Maybe it’s not worth it to go to Bruges, Brussels, Antwerp and Luxemburgh?
      Definitely want to check out Amsterdam though. Do you think a 4 day stay with a day set aside to go to The Hague is okay? (Is The Hague even worth it?)

      I’ll definitely skip Zurich, but what other places in Switzerland would you recomend? I understand that it can be quite expensive, but the photos I’ve seen of little villages in the Alps are awesome. Is there a cool trip to do around there, or even a place you can recommend to relax in the mountains even for a day or two?

      I’ll skip Marseilles as well probably. is there any other place in the Cote d Sur you would recommend besides Nice, Cannes and Monaco?

      About Italy I’ve read a lot of your posts about it being crowded by day. Is it enough if I arrive, spend the night, and leave the following day? It certainly conflicts with the two-night-minimum rule I’ve read everywhere about 😀
      Also, is Milan worth the stop? I understand that Firenze and Rome are the musts, but what do you think? Last, I’ve been reading about Cinque Terre. Would it be too much to add a couple of days there?

      I’ll definitely have to squeeze Rothenburg ob der Tauber somehow. Loved the photos. Though it doesn’t seem to be near any of my initial ideas. Would Frankfurt be a nice addition? Or should I stop in Rothenburg on my way to Prague?

      How about the greek islands? A friend of mine just returned from there and it seems I shouldn’t miss it. But I feel I’m trying to cover too much ground (Hell, I’d go to Istambul and Moscow if I could)…

      I guess that’s more than enough. Feel free to skip any question if you are overwhelmed, I’ll totaly understand. But it seems you give the best advices and I’m starting to freak out about the whole thing. Somehow, reading people opinions makes this trip more real and easy to manage as opossed to being scared about it.

      Thanks again!

       

        Andres, okay, I’ll answer as many as I can until I finish this glass of wine. 🙂

        What I’d do is leave Paris (skipping Luxembourg for another trip) in the morning on a fast train to Brussels. Spend a few hours seeing the main sights and having lunch near the Grand Place (main square), and then hop a train for Bruges. Bruges is cheaper, much prettier, and actually more interesting, so stay 2 or 3 nights if not more (to chill out). Then either take a train to Antwerp (more interesting than Brussels as well) or all the way to Amsterdam. I used to live in Amsterdam and I absolutely love it, but hotels and even hostels with good locations have gotten very expensive, so it’s hard to relax if you are on a tight budget. Stay at least 3 nights if not longer though.

        In Switzerland, Interlaken and Lucerne are both great choices for scenery and plenty of nearby things to see and do.

        Along the Côte d’Azur in France, the best (and most affordable) place to base yourself is Nice because it has most of the area’s affordable hostels and hotels. Most of the rest consists of other lovely beach towns that (like Cannes) are filled with many of France and Europe’s richest people all summer. Cannes and Monaco are like 30 to 40 minutes away by train each, and very interesting to see as a day trip, plus Nice itself is worth 2 or 3 days of its own. If you want to see something else in the area, just take a train from Nice and spend the day there.

        Regarding Venice, it’s insanely crowded during the day, pretty much every day of the year, but it’s crowded because it’s among the most beautiful cities in the world. Fortunately, it’s also quite compact, so you can actually see the highlights in 24 hours. So my recommendation is to get there between noon and 2pm or so and check into a hostel or hotel on the main island itself (even though it costs more). See some sights and around 6pm most of the day trippers will be leaving, and most of the cheapskates will be taking boats back to the (cheaper) mainland hotel area. Soon you’ll have most of the city to yourself until around 9am the following morning, when the next groups flood in. The evening and morning are amazing there, although be warned that most restaurants close by 10pm or so. By noon the following day you’ll have seen all the main things, without the stress of the daytime crowds.

        Milan is the least interesting of the main Italian tourist cities, and hotels are expensive if there is a trade show in town, but it still might be worth a day or two. I haven’t been to Cinque Terre but it looks fantastic and I’ve heard good things, so it could be worth a stop if you have time.

        Rothenburg is pretty much exactly like Venice in visitor patterns, so I highly recommend staying overnight there (and taking the Nightwatchman’s Tour). It’s not far from Munich so you can get there in a few hours from there, and it is worth going out of your way for if you want to see an authentic medieval town like that.

        To be honest, the Greek Islands are mostly filled with European families and party groups on package holidays. Many islands have ruins and other interesting things, but 99% of the people are there to relax on the beach and/or get hammered in the bars. If you are in that mood when you get near them it’s worth thinking about finding a cheap flight to get to one of them. You’ll have a great time either way. -Roger

         
          Andres says:

          You have outdone yourself, if that’s even possible! Thanks a lot for all the information. I’ll recheck the itinerary and probably hit you back soon; hopefully with more specific questions 😉
          Thanks a lot again!

           
          Andres says:

          Hi again Roger!
          Both your answers gave me a lot of insight, and I’m now starting to decide on the time that each city will take of my trip. Could you share some of your knowledge (again) and tell me if I’ve assigned too much or too little to some of this cities?

          Nights Full Days
          1 0 Madrid (late arrival, depart following morning)
          5 4 Barcelona
          7 6 Paris, Versalles, Chateau del Loire
          4 3 Amsterdam, La Haya
          3 2 Koln, Bonn
          4 3 Prague
          3 2 Viena, Bratislava
          3 2 Munich
          3 2 Luzern
          4 3 Interlaken, Gimmelwald
          3 2 Geneve
          5 4 Nice, Cannes, Monaco
          2 1 Venecia
          5 4 Firenze, Pisa, San Marino
          7 6 Rome
          6 5 Sevilla, Cordoba, Granada
          7 6 Madrid, Toledo, El Escorial, Avila

          I’m still trying to squeeze Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Carcassone and Brugges; so any suggestion will be greatly appreciated!

          Best regards and thank you again !
          Thanks !

           

          Andres,

          This looks pretty much perfect. I assume that when you have two cities on one line it means you will stay in the first one and do a day trip to the others, correct? That’s the ideal strategy, especially for places like Pisa or Bratislava, where the top sights can be seen in a few hours.

          In the Netherlands, I wouldn’t focus too much on The Hague (La Haya), even for a day trip. Instead I’d recommend an all-day bus tour from Amsterdam that takes you through the huge flower market, Delft, The Hague, Rotterdam, and a bit of Haarlem. I did one of these on one of my first trips to Amsterdam and it was a really nice way to see the countryside and just the highlights of smaller places. If you are in the mood to leave Amsterdam for a day, you can book a bus tour the day before.

          Both Bonn and Bratislava are fine, but you won’t be missing much if you just skip them. And Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Carcassone and Bruges are all very nice, though you already have a dizzying number of stops planned, so don’t stress if you can’t fit them in. There’s always next time. This looks really well planned. -Roger

           
Elena says:

Hi Roger,
I just found your site and have been reading as much as I can, thanks for all of this great information!

I will be travelling to Europe at the end of August and was hoping to run my itinerary by you. My visit is for 13 days and I am hoping to visit Barcelona, Rome, Venice, Pisa, Paris, Switzerland (still looking for a city), and potentially London. Is that too much?

Also, how would you suggest travelling between these locations? Would a rail pass be a good idea for us or would it be better to go with individual tickets?

Thanks,
Elena

 

    Elena, your question seems remarkably similar to one posed just before yours by Rachel. If you are on the same trip, please see the response at the bottom of the Europe itineraries Q & A article. If you don’t know Rachel, please read that response anyway and then ask whatever follow-up questions you might have below it. I’m happy to help if I can. -Roger

     
Ryan says:

Hi Roger, I am planning my first trip to Europe in September, and your website has been an invaluable resource. I was wondering if you can critique my itinerary. I will be traveling around for 3 months, on a limited budget (exclusively hostels), and, again, it’s my first time ever! I haven’t allocated specific number of days/nights to stay in the city, but I was wondering if you thought this was a reasonable ground to cover in 3 months. Like you said in another post on your website, I may never get a chance to come to Europe again, and I wanted to make sure I do it right! Thanks so much in advance!

It’s generally a clockwise itinerary:

New York – Paris – Ghent/Bruge – Amsterdam – Copenhagen – Berlin – Prague – (possibly Krakow between these cities, but not sure) -Budapest – Vienna – Salzburg – Munich – Venice – Rome – New York.

I am planning on getting the Eurail Global Pass as well. I would appreciate any input. Thanks so much!

 

    Ryan,

    I always love to hear that this information is helping people plan trips, so thanks for taking the time to mention it.

    Your itinerary looks fantastic. You’ve only got 13 or so stops, so if you are there for 90 days you’ll average about a week in each place. If that’s the case, you might actually be going too slow. A few of your stops, like Bruges, Salzburg, and Venice can be seen well in two days or less, so you’ll have plenty of extra time to work with. Definitely hit Krakow along the way, and also be on the lookout for other side trips to smaller cities in between. Those are almost always cheaper and make for a nice contrast to the large cities that you’ll mostly be hitting.

    As for a rail pass, yours is an interesting situation since the most common Global Passes are those that have a set number of travel days (like 10 or 15) within 60 days. So if you are going for 90 days then you’d either have to buy 90 continuous days, which obviously isn’t cheap, or choose 60 of those days to validate it.

    My best recommendation for what you have in mind so far would be to get a 10 Days out of 60 Global Pass, and validate it on the day you are leaving Paris. With this itinerary, you are definitely doing a lot of expensive train journeys in the first part, and they get cheaper as you go (like when you are in Italy). So validate it for Paris to Ghent and/or Bruges, and then only use it for 9 more of your longer and more expensive journeys in the following 59 days. This allows you to pay cash for some shorter legs you might do in between the main ones. If you don’t think that would work then let me know and I’ll work on a Plan B. -Roger

     
      Ryan says:

      Hi Roger,

      Thanks so much for your prompt reply! I am very glad to hear that my itinerary is alright; I was worried that I was being a bit too ambitious. I think your suggestion on the 10 days out of 60 Global Pass makes perfect sense. I guess it’s better to front load all my expensive train journeys on the first half with the pass, and buy regular tickets at the station for the cheaper half of my trip. Great advice!

      I do have some follow-up questions, if I am not being too much of a bother!

      I have some side trips to smaller cities/sights in mind when it comes to places like Paris (to Versailles), Prague (to Cesky Krumlov), Krakow (to the Salt Mines), Salzburg (to Hallstatt), but I was wondering if you had any other suggestions in mind, given my current itinerary.

      And also, would Stockholm be too ambitious on this plan? I was thinking perhaps squeezing in Stockholm between Copenhagen and Berlin, but I wasn’t sure if Stockholm would be worth the trip (especially considering the fact that I am on a budget!).

      Also, according to my rough estimation, I imagine I will arrive at Munich on my itinerary around the end of November. I would very much like to squeeze Lucerne between Munich and Venice. Is Lucerne at the end of November a poor idea, given the season/weather?

      Lastly, is there a post on your website detailing how the whole train reservation thing works? I have some rough idea of how it works from reading online elsewhere, but I am not quite sure if I understand it correctly.

      Thanks again Roger! I am so glad I found your website. It’s a tremendous resource for travelers (especially for beginners like me!).

       

        Ryan,

        It’s not a bother at all. Most of your side trips are really just day trips from those cities, and there will be plenty more to add as you research as you travel and talk to people once you are in each place. The great thing about a longer trip like this is that you’ll have plenty of time to talk to people at your hostels and other travelers (and even locals) to get recommendations as you go. What seems very opaque and mysterious right now will become very easy and second nature after only a week or so on the road. That said, one place I do recommend that not everyone knows about is Rothenburg ob der Tauber not far from Munich. Spend a night there on a stay of 24 hours or so and you’ll love it.

        I’d skip Stockholm on this trip. It’s incredibly expensive, not especially friendly, and Copenhagen is more impressive on a first visit. I do like Stockholm, but it’s not really a great stop for backpackers.

        Lucerne is probably best in summer, but most things are open year round, and it’s very well organized so even if there is snow the roads and trails will be plowed. Do some research as you are approaching and you’ll probably still want to go, but if not you can save it for next time.

        Here’s the article about European train reservations for rail pass holders you asked about. It’s a bit annoying to have to make reservations for the longer rides, but at least when you’ll be going the queues will usually be very short so you can often just walk up and get them 10 minutes before the train leaves. -Roger

         
Samantha says:

Hi Roger,

I’m in the unfortunate circumstance of needing to create a plan B for an upcoming two week trip to Turkey in August 2013 because my boyfriend works for a U.S. agency that is prohibiting travel to Turkey indefinitely (note to other travelers: no official travel restrictions for U.S. citizens, just unique to his job). We really don’t want to cancel this trip, but may be forced to choose another nearby country and could use some advice. I came to your site to compare value of other European cities (which is VERY helpful, by the way!) and was wondering if you might be able to recommend from your extensive experience another country or two in the region that would be as awesome as we were hoping Turkey would be (on a similar budget). We were looking to absorb some great history and culture, have a few adventures, and relax on a beach (our itinerary is/was Istanbul, Cappadocia, Kas). Thinking of Croatia or Greece, perhaps…

Any advice or opinion you’d like to share would be useful!

Best,
Samantha

 

    Samantha,

    That’s a shame about Turkey because in addition to being still very safe, it’s unusually cheap at the moment, but I understand.

    My first thoughts for alternatives were also Greece and Croatia, and perhaps both. Greece is similar to Turkey in many ways and the cheaper islands are actually less expensive than Croatia at the moment. Only a couple months ago I sorted through all the cheapest European beach destinations so you might want to look at that list. The cheapest group are probably not ideal for an English speaker, but the next bunch are perfect. Also, do note that the Greek islands mentioned are only examples, and there are dozens of similar ones that are also worth a look. Hopefully this helps. -Roger

     
      Samantha says:

      Thanks so much! The list of cheap beach destinations you recommended is really useful as well, thanks!

       
Cristy says:

Hello,
I am just getting started planning a trip for 5-6 weeks in June 2014. I saw your list of places to visit: (London Paris Rome Berlin Madrid Barcelona Istanbul)and am hoping you can help me with some things. I would really like to see Moscow but am being told it would not be worth it. Do you agree? My boyfriend is not interested in Spain, and I have been to Madrid and Barcelona. Do you feel if we leave those out we will miss a lot? I had never considered Istanbul, what is the draw there? Also if you have any info on which city to fly into (we are coming from San Francisco) that will give the best deal, that would be helpful as well. A lot of questions, any info will be appreciated! Thanks so much!

 

    Cristy,

    I’ve yet to visit Moscow, partly because getting Russian visas is a bit of a hassle, and also because I don’t hear many positive reports about it. Sure, Red Square, St. Basel’s, and a few other key places sound interesting, but pretty much everyone says it’s too expensive and kind of a hassle. I’m sure I’ll go eventually, but I’m not in a rush. If you have personal reasons for wanting to go, then you should go.

    Leaving Spain out of a 6-week Europe trip still leaves dozens of other great countries, so I wouldn’t worry about that. In fact, Spain is a bit out of the way, and you can cover many other great places by leaving it out.

    Personally, I love Turkey and have actually lived there, but I think Istanbul is a bit overrated. There are a few famous mosques and museums, and it’s a very lively place, but the Grand Bazaar is just another shopping center (with plenty of rip-offs) and most of the city center is generic European. Still, I’m very glad I’ve visited, and so far I’ve done two trips there. But again, Turkey is loaded with highlights outside of Istanbul, though it’s obviously a bit out of the way because they are actually outside of Europe.

    I’ve actually researched and written a post about the cheapest European airports to fly into, with surprising results. One of the surprises were how close most of them are to each other in price, so it’s probably best to fly into a place you want to spend quite a few days in (dealing with jet lag as well), as long as it’s somewhere on the cheaper end of the list. -Roger

     
Saleha says:

Hi!

You’re doing a great job in helping people like myself get a sense of direction. After planning out our entire trip to Germany, Spain, Italy and France using Euro rail, I’ve realized there are many reservation fees that I was not aware of.
This is what our itinerary looks like.

Fly into Frankfurt

Frankfurt – Barcelona
Barcelona – Valencia
Valencia – Grenada
Grenada – Seville
Seville- Madrid
Madrid – Barcelona

Fly from Barcelona to Rome.

Rome- Florence
Florence-Venice
Venice-Paris
Paris – Frankfurt

All of these are cities are going to be using the global pass. But I just read somewhere that reservations for trains going to France from Italy or Germany come down to €55 or more. Is this true? How do I go about it?

Really appreciate your help!

Thank you.
Saleha

 

    Saleha,

    Only a few of the French trains have those expensive reservations fees. Here’s a list of which European trains require reservations, and if you scroll down to the France section, you’ll see which ones do and don’t. The methods for making reservations are on that page as well.

    The good and bad news about that is that it’s the special high-speed trains, which are also more luxurious, that have the high fees. They also have quotas of rail pass holders as well, so if you do want to go on those you’ll want to reserve as early as possible. Imagine a Europe-wide fleet of 727 planes and a few Concordes on a few routes, those are the French TGVs, like between Milan and Paris. Often there are also more normal trains (going slower) on those same routes, so you can usually get there with a pass and a low reservation fee, just not as fast.

    However, commenting on your itinerary, do you realize that Frankfurt to Barcelona takes over 20 hours on the train? If you haven’t bought your rail passes yet, I’d recommend flying from Frankfurt to Barcelona and just getting a Spain Pass. Those Spain trains are also high-speed and expensive on their own, so a pass can save money even though the Spain Pass is fairly expensive on its own. Those shorter journeys within Italy aren’t too expensive when bought on the spot (or a bit in advance online).

    Venice to Paris is about 10.5 hours on an expensive train, and you might do best with a flight from any of the airports in northern Italy into Paris. The Paris to Frankfurt leg is under 4 hours on a fast train, which is also kind of expensive on its own, so it might be cheaper to fly. Long story short, if you buy a Global Pass it will probably cost even more and you’ll have a few really long rides, particularly that first one, which might be a deflating way to start a trip after a long flight.

    So you might even think about changing your itinerary a bit. Let me know if I can help. -Roger

     
PJ says:

Thx again for your help. It’s my first time in Italy so any help is greatly appreciated. Pasted below my questions is my current Itinerary

1.) Is Venice worth going to for the day? I would arrive around 1pm. From the airport, go to a hotel (seems like it can be time consuming), check in see the city for the evening – stay the night and take a train from Venice to Lake Como.(approx 3.5 – 4 hrs in total). It almost seems to make sense for me to just cut Venice out completely and fly into Milan..

2.) Does the flow of my itinerary seem to make the most sense possible, and am I spending to much or too little time in any of the cities that we plan on visiting?

3.) What would you do differently or would you make any suggestions to make this trip better?

4.) I am concerned that my Day 12 might be too much. Taking a train from Rome to Sorrento, and in between stopping in Naples and visiting Pompeii seems like quite a bit. Is this overload?

Europe Itinerary for Italy & Paris:

Day 1: Venice
Fly in to Venice at 1pm.
*Suggested Hotel:
Take vaporetti around the Grand Canal.
St. Mark’s Square and Cathedral.
Wander around the town and eat dinner.

Day 2 & 3: Lake Como / Bellagio
Train from Venice to Bellagio.
Suggested Hotel: Borgo Le Terrazze (Bellagio)
Take a boat ride throughout the lake.
Dinner.
Enjoy scenery & relax.

Day 4: Milan / Florence
Train from Bellagio to Milan.
Hike to the top of the Duomo.
See The Last Supper. (Make reservation).
Have dinner in Milan.
Take the ‘Frecciarossa’ Train from Milan to Florence.

Day 5: Florence / Cinque Terre
Suggested Hotel: Hotel Lungarno.
Day Trip to Cinque Terre via bus (Picks you up from your hotel)
Hike between the towns. Start in Riomaggiore.
Boat ride back to Riomaggiore. Best views out there!

Day 6: Florence
Uffizi Gallery (get reservations)
Pizza Vecchio
Accademia Museum (The David)
Ponte Vecchio
Wander through Florence and enjoy the shopping
Dinner: Acqua al due

Day 7: Tuscany (Pisa / San Gimignano / Chianti)
Rent a car in Florence and explore Tuscany and enjoy the day.
Head back to Florence
Dinner: Tres Panches

Day 8: Tuscany (Siena / Monteriggioni)
Drive and explore more of Tuscany.
Piaza on Il campo (Siena)
Striped cathedral (Siena)
Return car in Florence
Dinner
Train from Florence to Rome.

Day 9: Rome
Suggested Hotel: Jumeira Grand Hotel
Trevi Fountain (go early in the a.m. to beat the crowds!)
Piazza da Spagna (the Spanish Steps)
Pantheon
Piazza Navona
Camp de’ Fiori
Catacombs of San Sabastiano

Day 10: Rome
Vatican Museum, (can’t wear shorts or cleavage. open during certain times), (take tour)
St. Peter’s Basilica
Coliseum, The Forum (Get the Roma Pass to skip the lines!)
Victor Emmanuel Monument
Capucchin Crypt
Santa Maria della Vittoria (see Bernini’s St. Teresa in Ecstasy)
Baths of Diocletian

Day 11: Rome
Take a food tour.
Relax and enjoy Rome

Day 12: Sorrento
Suggested hotel La Maison Minervetta
Take train from Roma Termini to Napoli centrale. Stop in Naples and eat @ L’Antica Pizzeria Da Michele
Take the Circumvesuviana Garibaldi Station at Naples central station (downstairs) to Pompeii and visit. Once finished, continue from Pompeii to Sorrento.
Dinner: II Buco.

Day 13 & 14: Capri
Suggested Hotel: La Minerva
Take ferry from Sorrento to Capri
Visit Anacapri.
Ride the cable car for views of the whole island and take a boat ride to Blue Grotto caves.
Dinner: Ristorante al Grottino

Day 15 & 16: Positano
Suggested Hotel: Villa Fiorentino or Villa Rosa
Take a ferry from Capri to Positano.
From Positano, drive to Priano, a smaller town where you can spend an afternoon swimming in the bay and eating fresh seafood right off the water. Perfect during the day!
Visit Amalfi.

Day 17 Paris
Fly from Naples to Paris (easy jet)
Fat Tire Bike Tour
River Cruise.

Day 18: Paris
Arc de Triomphe (hike to the top).
Louvre.
Metro to Trocadero to view Eiffel tower lights across the river.

Day 19: Paris.
Luxembourg Gardens
Notre Dame.
Champs-Elysees.
Eiffel Tower.

Day 20: Versailles
Day trip to Versailles in morning.
Visit the chateau as well as the gardens.
Train back to Paris.

Day 21: Fly Home

Sorry for the long email and questions. I just want this trip to be one that I’ll always remember.

Regards,
PJ.

 

    PJ,

    This looks extremely well researched and planned. If anything, my suggestions would be more philosophical rather than technical. In other words, I think you could do almost this exact schedule (except being a bit overambitious on days 10 and 12), but I’m not sure you’d enjoy it as much as possible. To be honest, it looks as much like a scavenger hunt than a “vacation.” However, I’m actually a fan of “fast travel” although not usually for 3 straight weeks like this.

    So my first comment would be to consider perhaps removing at least one or two stops completely and replacing them with more days like Day 11. But if you really want to see and do all of this stuff, I do think only days 10 and 12 are problems. The Vatican Museum is huge and you pretty much have to walk from the entrance through all the main rooms along a specific path, and it’ll take you four worthwhile hours from entrance until you’ve seen enough of St. Peter’s to be ready to move on. Still, it looks like you’ve prioritized your sightseeing well, so I would just consider these your goals rather than a strict schedule. Don’t worry if you are enjoying sight #3 on a day so much that you don’t make it to #5 or even #4. Make sure the most important things are early in the day and you’ll do great.

    To your specific questions then:

    1 – Venice is absolutely worth it for a day, and yours might be the perfect strategy. Venice is completely packed with bus tour people from about 10am until 5pm every day, to the point that it’s borderline unpleasant. So to get there in the afternoon and be able to enjoy the calm evening and following morning is perfect. For many people, Venice is the highlight of Italy, if not all of Europe, though it is compact enough to enjoy in one day like that.

    2 – I think the order you are doing things is looks great. And in spite of maybe trying to do too much, I do think you’ve included enough time in the major stops (Florence, Rome, and Paris), plus flying to Paris is a great idea as well.

    3 – As I mentioned above, my only suggestion would be to remove 1 or 2 of the minor stops and use those days to relax a bit.

    4 – Day 12 does look busy, but doable. You certainly won’t want to race around that quickly on many days, and just being a bit flexible while you are actually on the trip should allow you to prioritize and change plans as needed.

    Overall, this looks really impressive and packed with highlights. Well done. -Roger

     
Brionny says:

Hi Roger!

My partner and I are travelling all the way from NZ this December for a looksue at Europe in winter 🙂

Can you please advise of the best sights and method of travel between the following places we’d love to visit:

We go straight from Paris to Strasbourg (one night).
Strasbourg to Chaminox (2 nights)
Chaminox to Innsbruck (2 nights)
Innsbruck to Salzburg (2 nights)
Salzburg to Munich via the Great Alpine Highway – rental car (2 nights)
Rhine Valley (2 nights)
Amsterdam (3 nights)
Bruges (1 nights)
Paris (4 nights)

We really look forward to hearing from you!

Brionny & Andrew

 

    Brionny,

    This looks like a really interesting trip that is filled with highlights, so I don’t think you need help pointing out the sights in each place. But as far as the method of travel is concerned, the train is certainly the best option for most of it. Most of these journeys are quite short and won’t cost too much individually, except for those starting at the Rhine Valley and onward. Those last few will be fairly expensive, but there isn’t a good rail pass to cover them, so my best advice would be to buy early online through the German or Dutch rail official websites.

    I think the way you’ve budgeted your time is also right on the money, so I think this is going to go well in general. -Roger

     
Cristy says:

Is Paris to Berlin to Prague to Vienna to Venice to Rome too much in 5 weeks? I wanted to go to Moscow or St. Petersburg so instead thought Prague might be a good trade off.

 

    Cristy,

    Yes, 5 weeks is PLENTY of time for those 6 cities. In fact, you could easily add more stops in between and still be okay. Venice is really best appreciated in no more than two days or so, partly because it’s so crowded all the time that it gets exhausting. The others in 4 to 5 days each is plenty for most people. I’m not suggesting you rush around when you aren’t in the mood to, but I am saying that this is a generous amount of time in each city so you might actually want to add another stop or two. -Roger

     
Yumika says:

Hi Roger!

I love your website, it is amazing! It is definitely the most helpful website I have come across for information about traveling Europe! I have already spent hours reading your articles and responses to comments. Everything is so interesting and useful! Thank you for taking the time to keep up this website, it is awesome! I hope you can find the time to help me out also!

I am a 23 year old from California, currently in the Philippines. In the next month I will be going to Thailand, Cambodia and maybe Vietnam.

My plans for Europe are 90% open. I have a flight to London on November 13 and a return flight from Paris on December 11. I definitely want to hit up the cities you mentioned in your “top 5” article (London, Amsterdam, Rome, Venice and Paris). I also wanted to see Barcelona and hopefully other places in between these major cities, if you could give me some suggestions!

It would be amazing to get your advice on the order of cities to go to and which modes of transportation would be best. I was initially planning on winging it from city to city and getting train passes as I go.

An off topic question. What is the weather usually like during November/December? I am only traveling with a 24L backpack, so overpacking is not an option! Any of your advice would be greatly appreciated!!!

Thank you for this amazing website!

-Yumika

 

    Yumika,

    Thank you for the kind words, and I’m always happy to hear that people find this information to be useful.

    As for your trip, it’s a pretty open-ended request. Since the weather will be getting colder as your trip goes on, I think it makes sense to go from London to Amsterdam and then head south where it’ll be milder. The good news about Europe weather during that time of year is that it rarely snows in those places even in the north, and also rarely goes below freezing even at night, so you’ll just have to deal with cold, wind, and a bit of rain. When you get to the UK you’ll find a big chain of shops called SportsDirect.com (the dot com is part of the name even in the shops) and there you can buy a jacket and other layered cold-weather gear for next to nothing. You can browse the selection online as well.

    As for your itinerary, you should buy a ticket on the Eurostar from London to Amsterdam as soon as possible because the price keeps going up the closer it gets.

    Then I’d recommend flying from Amsterdam to Rome, which should be quite a cheap ticket if you buy early.

    After at least 3 nights in Rome, pop over to Florence for a couple days and then to Venice for one night, all just buying train tickets as you go (or online in advance from the Italian rail official website if you are ready to lock in exact journeys. From Venice you can fly to Barcelona to save time and money. Venice has its own major airport, but Milan and Bologna also have airports with low cost carriers so there are options to compare.

    From Barcelona it would be cheapest to fly to Paris, but if you are in the mood to see more of France you could take trains and maybe stop in Nice or elsewhere along the way. It’ll still be cold in Barcelona and southern France that time of year, but everything will be open and it’s lively, so you’ll have a great time.

    Hopefully this helps and let me know if you prefer something different and I’ll try again. -Roger

     
      Yumika says:

      Roger,

      Thank you so much for your advice! Since reading your response, I have booked the EuroStar ($124) from London (3days/nights) to Amsterdam (3 days/nights). Flight (EasyJet $94) from Amsterdam to Rome. After traveling trains throughout Italy, eventually making my way Venice to Milan for about 10 days, which would be more reasonable:

      -Flight to Barcelona then trains to places in the south of France then train to Paris.
      -Trains from Milan to Genoa to Nice and other places in the south of France, train to Barcelona and fly to Paris.

      Thanks again for helping me out! Your advice has definitely saved me a lot of time and trouble!

      -Yumika

       
Crystal says:

Dear Felow

I have taken my shengen visa and I will start from Frankfurt
I need to have a wonderful 7 days in Europe
So please state the places, Activities and transportation
I dont have a problem in sleeping in discomfortable places but just to guarntee the safety. I am traveling by myself so its fine
Also please state places for cheap gifts
Thanks

 

    Crystal,

    I’m happy to help you plan a one-week itinerary if you start us with some information first. I recommend that first-time visitors to Europe start with London, Paris, Amsterdam, Venice, and Rome because those are the classic cities that will change your life. Are you interested in going to Paris? It’s all quite safe by global standards so you don’t really need to worry too much about safety when choosing destinations.

    What are you most interested in seeing or doing? In other words, what motivated you to buy the plane ticket in the first place? -Roger

     
Yumika says:

Hi Roger,

Sorry to bother you again. Just reposting this question in hopes to get a response!

Which would be more reasonable and cost efficient?
-Flight to Barcelona then trains to places in the south of France then train to Paris?
-Trains from Milan to Genoa to Nice and other places in the south of France, train to Barcelona and fly to Paris?

Thanks again!

 

    Yumika,

    Sorry that I missed the question last time. I think the cost would probably be similar with both options. You might want to check airfares between Venice and Barcelona against Barcelona to Paris, though my guess would be they’d be about the same. Assuming prices are about the same, then it’s still a close call because there are interesting places to see either way. Milan and Genoa aren’t as dramatic as the others you’ll be visiting, but they are more interesting (for a first-time visitor) than Lyon or Marseilles.

    In other words, I don’t think you could go wrong either way, and you should probably nail down which places you want to see in southern France to determine which will be the shortest and cheapest route. -Roger

     
Diane Leaver says:

Hi Roger,
My husband(70), my 15 year old daughter, and myself(60) are planning our first trip to Europe next June. We are flying in and out of Berlin and will be there for 27 days. I am planning on the first 5 nights in Berlin, then train to Amsterdam for 3-4 days, train to Paris for 5 nights, after that I am planning on going back up to Germany. Ideas are Fussen, Rothenburg, Munich, Salzburg. Not really sure about the route or what would be the best places to see. Also, are there places we should stop along the way and spend the night. We like to walk around the cities, use public transportation, see the sights. We do like museums, but don’t want to spend a lot of time seeing them all. Also, have a place to stay in Berlin, small pension by the zoo. I am having a hard time figuring out what would be a good area to stay in Paris. Want to not spend all my time traveling back and forth from someplace way outside the city. All suggestions would be welcome. We don’t really know what we don’t know.
Thanks in advance,
Diane

 

    Diane,

    First off, I think your itinerary looks really great just as you have it so far. Most people try to plan only a day or two even in major cities on a first trip, and your plan of 3 to 5 days for the big ones is perfect. Berlin to Amsterdam to Paris is the way to start, and you might consider slipping Bruges, Belgium for a day or two in between Amsterdam and Paris, but saving it for another trip is fine too.

    From Paris, if you leave early you could go directly to Rothenburg ob der Tauber, which is one of my favorite places in Germany and worth spending one day and one night there. But you might instead go Paris to a nearby city (Rothenburg is on a very local train line) like Stuttgart, and then head to Rothenburg the next day. From Rothenburg it’s an easy train (or even bus) ride to Fussen to see those castles. From Fussen it’s an easy train ride to Munich for a few days and then Salzburg for maybe two days, then back up to Berlin. I think you’ve got a great mix of big cities and interesting small towns, with just the right amount of time in each. Great plan so far.

    As for where to stay in Paris, I’ve written quite a bit about it and even have a list of recommended Paris hotels that are well located and good value. But the short version is this: Paris has an amazing Metro (subway) system that literally has stops every few blocks through the entire city center. It’s definitely more expensive to stay within walking distance of the Eiffel Tower or Louvre, so it’s wise to stay a mile or two away if you are on a budget. Then buy a transit card (it comes included with the Paris Pass) and you’ll be able to just hop on and hop off all day without worrying about buying tickets or how much it costs. The great thing about the Paris Metro is that you can get almost anywhere from almost anywhere in 20 minutes or so (as long as you aren’t staying way out near the edge of town).

    The Zoo area in Berlin is very central so it’s an ideal place to stay, though the city itself is huge and spread out so you’ll be taking public transport there as well. Amsterdam is much more compact and as long as you book a hotel that is within or near the main canal rings, you can literally walk everywhere (especially in June).

    Feel free to ask any other questions you might have as you continue to plan. So far you seem to have a great itinerary in mind. -Roger

     
      Diane says:

      Roger,
      Thanks for the very helpful information. I have more questions, but first I need to think through my plans. Really appreciate your help.
      Thanks,
      Diane

       
Alok says:

Hi Roger,
Thanks for posting such great itineraries and helping people like us who are planning a trip to Europe.
I am planning Europe in 2014; and the planning is in nascent stage.
Will be travelling with my wife and will have about 2 weeks to spend.
Can you suggest what do we do for these 2 weeks? Which places to cover? Both me and wife like beach holidays, however that is not a constraint. I was thinking of France and Italy or Portugal and spain.
Pls help

 

    Alok,

    If this is your first trip to Europe (or even if you’ve been to England before), I’d recommend a combination of France and Italy. I put my main advice into this article about the classic France and Italy itinerary. You have plenty of time so there is no need to rush looking in exactly what you are going to do. Feel free to ask any other questions as your planning goes on. -Roger

     
Diane says:

Hi Roger,
I have noticed that triple rooms in Amsterdam seem very expensive. What do you think of staying in Haarlem and taking the train into Amsterdam? It seems that the rooms are a better value.
Thanks for your time,
Diane

 

    Diane,

    Believe it or not, hotel prices tend to ease lower until about 3 months out, so you can keep checking for better deals until next March or so, and you’ll be even better off. You might even check hostels in Amsterdam as many of them have pretty good deals for rooms that sleep 3 or 4.

    But aside from that, I would not recommend staying in Haarlem or anywhere but Amsterdam itself. Going back and forth would take 2 hours round trip and cost about €10 per person each day. I used to live in Amsterdam and one of the nicest things about it is that it’s compact enough that as long as you stay somewhere reasonably central, you can walk everywhere. There’s also almost no auto traffic, so it’s very pleasant for strolling. If you are still finding it too expensive as the trip draws near, let me know and I will try to find something for you.

    Here are some of my favorite Amsterdam hotels and hostels, in case you haven’t seen this already.

    Annoyingly, Amsterdam is expensive for hotels (though pretty reasonable for most other things), and if you don’t see a good value for 3 or 4 days then I’d recommend paying more and staying one night less. With most other European cities I think staying in the suburbs can work out okay, but I just don’t recommend it in Amsterdam. -Roger

     
      Diane says:

      Hi Roger,
      I have some more questions. We are arriving in Berlin from Chicago on June 6 and staying for 5 nights, then leaving for Amsterdam for 4 or 5 nights (Hotel Nadia), and then Paris for 5 nights. I am trying to decide on where to stay in Paris, my 3 options are Hotel Jeanne d’Arc in the Marais district, or staying at Lux Hotel Picpus near the Nation Station for ½ the price of either the Jeanne or Doree, or lastly staying at Hotel De La Porte Doree for the same price as the Jeanne d’Arc. Any suggestions on those hotels and locations?

      My next questions are I still have 12 days with the last day or days spent back in Berlin. We leave on July 3rd. I wanted to go to Bacharach from Paris(is that possible) and stay for 2 days and take a day trip on the Rhine, then 2 nights in Rothenburg, 3 nights in Munich and day trips from there down to Fussen, and lastly 2 days in Salzburg. I feel like it is a lot of traveling around after staying for 4-5 nights in the first part of the trip. Any ideas on what would work better? Are the places I have picked worth going to or staying at for 2 nights? Should we skip something and add something else? Prague? Vienna?

      Thanks so much for your help and time,
      Diane

       

        Diane,

        In Paris, if I were deciding for myself I’d take the Lux Hotel Picpus if it’s half the price of the Hotel Jeanne d’Arc, which has a great location although maybe not worth double the other one. There are more things within walking distance of the Hotel Jeanne d’Arc, but all of them are near Metro stations so you’ll be taking that to reach most things you’ll see. If they were close to the same price I’d stay at the Hotel Jeanne d’Arc for sure.

        You can get to Bacharach from Paris with a train change or two along the way. I’ve never been there but it sounds nice. The rest of your itinerary looks quite good, though I think in Rothenburg you probably only need one night. It’s a compact (and lovely) town that you can appreciate well in about 24 hours or so. Fussen could be done in one day as well (seeing the two main castles), though two days is fine if you have them. Salzburg (another favorite of mine) is good in two days, but three would be great as well.

        I don’t think you are rushing too much in that later part of the trip. Those destinations are all around 3 hours apart by train, so you’ll have pretty full sightseeing days even on the days you travel. However, I think you have enough time to add Vienna or Prague in as well. Both are classic, though I prefer Prague because it has a bit of former-east edge to it. In other words, I think any of the options you are considering will work well. -Roger

         
Matt Nelson says:

Hey Roger,
I am studying abroad in Italy from late March through late April next year for my last semester in college. I am planning on going pretty much everywhere in Italy in that time. However, afterwards I want to spend 3-4 weeks traipsing through Europe before I meet up with family. My plan was to stay exclusively in hostels. I would like to start in Genoa, and stay there for a couple days. From Genoa to Monaco,(I know its not the cheapest city) for maybe 2 days, then Avignon for a couple days. from Avignon to Barcelona, Valencia, Madrid, and Zaragoza, so about 2 weeks in Spain. After Spain to Lyon for a few days. My primary goals are historical and architecture sites as well as just nice places to hang out. Do you think the Spanish or French cities,(Monaco being separate)I mentioned are worth it? Also do you think I should get a rail pass for this, say a 21 day or month unlimited? I have ruled out flying and driving. Finally for spring break (before I leave Italy for France and Spain)I wanted to spend a few days in Vienna. Unfortunately, I hear it’s quite expensive. Therefore, I have though about Budapest instead, what do you think? my plans are quite tentative and I could use some advice.
PS. I will be meeting up with family where I will be returning to Rome, and making my first stops in Paris and Dublin, so I won’t miss out on those cities, but they are a bit out of the way for my 3-4 week solo run.
Thanks a lot.

 

    Matt,

    Your plan sounds really good for the most part. First off, there are no hostels in Monaco and it’s a really tiny country anyway so most people get the most value by visiting as a day trip while staying in nearby Nice, France. The train ride from Nice to Monaco literally takes about 20 minutes and costs €3.70 each way. So find a hostel near the train station in Nice (which is actually a very pleasant and interesting city itself) and just go to Monaco for 5 or 6 hours.

    Otherwise, I think your city selection looks quite good, except perhaps for Lyon. Obviously this itinerary stuff is quite personal so there are no right or wrong answers. That said, you don’t hear many foreign tourists going to Lyon and then raving about it. I’m sure if you went you’d find plenty to like, just as you would if you chose a different city instead. So my advice on this sort of thing is for you to ask yourself WHY you are thinking about going to Lyon or any other city on your list?

    I say this as someone who has made bad calls myself over the years. For example, if your answer is that Lyon is the second largest metro area in France so there must be something interesting there, then it might be better to skip it. Or if your answer is that it’s conveniently located between two other cities you want to visit, it might also be better to skip it. But if your answer is that you’ve heard great things about the city’s northern African neighborhoods and food and architecture, then go check them out. Ask yourself that question about each city on your itinerary and if you have specific reasons for each then you are ahead of the game.

    As for transport, trains will be most convenient and most comfortable, but in some cases you’ll find that a bus is half the price and almost as fast. With all the short hops you are planning, a rail pass likely won’t be good value. If you can buy your longer train tickets in advance online (from the official country train website) then you’ll save some money over buying them as you go. Especially in France and Spain, walk-up prices for train tickets can be expensive, so if you can’t buy them in advance (or don’t want to in order to be the most flexible) then consider the bus as an alternative. Europe’s intercity buses are all comfortable and often start and stop from stations that are next door to the train stations as well.

    As for Spring Break, most things in Vienna are more expensive than in Budapest, alcohol in particular. It sounds like money is an issue so go to Budapest for sure. You can get cheap hostels or even hotels on the Pest side of the river, and look for the “ruin pubs” for very cool nightlife and pints of beer in the US$2 to US$3 range. Let me know if you have other questions. -Roger

     
Jess says:

Hi Roger, Wow you have some knowledge about Europe! We are planning a trip for April/May 2014 and I was hoping to get your opinion on the best order to see the countries. We are thinking of doing most our travel by train but if there are any distances you would recomend flying happy to consider. The order I was thinking London, Amsterdam, Paris, Lucerne, Prague, Vienna, Venice ending in Rome where we jump on a cruise.
Looking forward to your reply
Cheers
Jess

 

    Jess,

    Thank you for the kind words. I think your itinerary looks great and is in a very efficient order. Not only that, I think all portions of it are ideal for trains because they are mainly in the 3 to 5 hour range. In other words, a train is not only much more enjoyable than flying, but it’s faster too.

    Feel free to ask any other specific questions as they come up. -Roger

     
Mark D. says:

Roger, this site has been a fantastic find, not only for travel prices, but for the great rail tips. I have literally been on the site for 4+ hours straight just soaking it all in.

Question for you. Planning a trip for the family (2 adults, 15yo, and 11yo) starting in Dublin, Ireland. Would like to go for 2-3 weeks in the summer months and hit Dublin, Wimbledon/London, Paris, and Monte Carlo (possibly heading back to Dublin for cheap airfare if the fair to get back there makes sense). What would you recommend for transportation between all of these places, and did we leave enough time? Thinking of doing an Italy-Greece-Turkey itinerary as a separate trip since there seems to be too much for one trip.

 

    Mark,

    It’s always great to hear that this information is helpful, so thank you for mentioning it.

    I agree that doing Italy-Greece-Turkey as another trip later is wise. Even the quickest visit to those three would require two weeks minimum, and that would mean spending only a day or two in several key cities.

    As for your coming trip, it sounds like a pretty good plan for the most part. Flights into Dublin (assuming you are in the US or Canada) are quite cheap compared to the others on your list, and you may well save the most money by flying back to Dublin (or Shannon) on RyanAir before your trans-Atlantic flight leaves.

    And just so we are all on the same page here, I assume that you know that Wimbledon is just one of London’s suburbs that happens to have a tennis stadium. In other words, you’ll be visiting London, and if you do it during the tournament you might try to get tickets and attend a day or two, but I think hotels in that area would probably cost a fortune at that time. Also, Monte Carlo (as you probably know) is just one tiny district in the tiny country of Monaco. Most people find that one day-trip is long enough to experience Monaco, and hotels in that country tend to be very expensive. So, I highly recommend heading to and staying in Nice, France, and just going to Monaco on the 20-minute train ride from there. Nice is a really lovely city with plenty to see on its own, and it has accommodations in all price ranges.

    While we are at it, I hope you’ve considered the Dublin portion of your trip. Pretty much everyone who visits Ireland loves it, but Dublin isn’t really the shining star of the country. Dublin is interesting and has a couple of days worth of sights. It’s the countryside and smaller towns that contain most of Ireland’s charm, so you might divide your stay up with a couple days in Dublin and a couple days elsewhere in Ireland.

    So for this itinerary, you’ll fly into Dublin and spend time in Ireland. Then it’ll be fastest and cheapest to fly to London because the ferry-train combination is slow and expensive. From London you’ll take the Eurostar train to Paris, and if you buy those tickets up to 6 months in advance they will be quite cheap. From Paris you should take a train to Nice, and if you buy that well in advance from the official French rail site, it will also be reasonably priced. And as you suggested, it’s probably cheapest to fly back to Dublin for a flight home rather than trying to book into Dublin and then out of Nice (or Paris). Those RyanAir flights are really cheap if you buy far in advance, though you have to be very careful with luggage charges and other extras. Sounds like a great trip. -Roger

     
      Mark D. says:

      Thanks for the help. Haven’t done much research into the Ireland part of the trip yet, but my daughter loves being Irish, so I know it is a must stop for us.

      I realize Wimbledon is just a day trip from London. Hoping to go during the tournament, but don’t think the rest of the familiy is interested in that.

      I have a couple of free nights at the Fairmont that I was going to use in Monte Carlo. Would it make sense to use them in London for the Savoy? In Monte Carlo I can get a free suite upgrade, but in London I cannot, but the trip isn’t really about the room so I want to do what makes the most sense. Would it make more sense to go to Monaco on an “adult-only” trip?

       

        Mark,

        Hmmm…I think I’d use those points for the Savoy in London, which has a very convenient location in a city where many hotels don’t.

        And yes, I think Monaco could be a better couples destination. There’s an aquarium, but otherwise it’s about the casinos, restaurants, and shopping. It’s a stunning place and the kids probably won’t get bored on a day trip. However, the Monte Carlo district is up a steep hill from the harbor, so it’s not quite so easy to just walk all over town. -Roger

         
Chee Kwang says:

Hi,

i am going for my honeymoon in Apr 2014. This is my first time there hence i am bit lost on what to do?
My itinerary is as follows:
1)London-2)Amsterdam-3)Rome-4)Venice-5)Paris-6)London
(Return flight Singapore to London purchased)
1) Reached London at 0715 (London time) 2 days
2) 2 days
3) 3 days
4) 2 days
5) 2 days
6) Rest of the day relax at london before flight back to sg on 26/04.

Not on a very high budget, i been browsing thru transport between countries and accomodation and it was so much hassle. Don’t know where to start thus hope some kind soul be able to lend a helping hands. (if i am very rich then nothing to worry but wedding dinner and BTO coming next year so wanted to be a little budget on this trip but most importantly can enjoy the companion with my wife as newly wed. I may not be able to return to Europe so often due to cost and time hence i hope i will be able to visit the desired cities listed here. Been getting very negative feedback which lower my morale.

 

    Chee,

    Your itinerary is a fast-moving one for those cities and I’m not really sure what you are looking for help with. If you are wondering the best way to get between those cities I can tell you: London to Amsterdam is best on the Eurostar train and you should buy those tickets up to 6 months in advance for the lowest prices. From Amsterdam to Rome you should fly because a train would take forever and cost a lot.

    Rome to Venice is best on a train and you can buy that ticket when you get to Rome and it will still be fairly cheap. Two days is actually a pretty long stay in Venice, although maybe not for a honeymoon. Personally, I’d change to one night in Venice and add an extra night to Paris. Venice to Paris takes about 11 hours on a train, so your best choices are either a night train or a flight. If you choose to fly you should obviously buy those tickets as far in advance as possible.

    From Paris back to London you’ll take the Eurostar train again, so buy those tickets up to 6 months in advance for the best price.

    If you have other questions feel free to ask and I’ll do my best. -Roger

     
      Chee Kwang says:

      Chee,

      Your itinerary is a fast-moving one for those cities and I’m not really sure what you are looking for help with. If you are wondering the best way to get between those cities I can tell you: London to Amsterdam is best on the Eurostar train and you should buy those tickets up to 6 months in advance for the lowest prices. From Amsterdam to Rome you should fly because a train would take forever and cost a lot.

      Rome to Venice is best on a train and you can buy that ticket when you get to Rome and it will still be fairly cheap. Two days is actually a pretty long stay in Venice, although maybe not for a honeymoon. Personally, I’d change to one night in Venice and add an extra night to Paris. Venice to Paris takes about 11 hours on a train, so your best choices are either a night train or a flight. If you choose to fly you should obviously buy those tickets as far in advance as possible.

      From Paris back to London you’ll take the Eurostar train again, so buy those tickets up to 6 months in advance for the best price.

      If you have other questions feel free to ask and I’ll do my best. -Roger

      Pertaining to your reply above, thanks for all the needed info which at least let me know what i am suppose to do for the moment.

      Just to check, is it possible for you to guide me on where to visit for the above cities that i wanted to go to experience the cities. I am grateful to your help. Thanks again Roger.

       
Emma says:

Hi Roger,
I’m planning a trip to Europe for around 4-6 months, and am having some difficulty working out how long to stay in each place. I’ve been reading this post, and it has been a huge help! If you had any advice on how long I should spend in each country that would be amazing. Currently I want to go to:
Italy (staying in Rome with a day trip to Pompeii, and Venice);
The Greek Islands;
Spain (going to Madrid, Barcelona and Pamplona);
France (spending time in Paris);
Germany (spending time in Munich and Hamburg);
Russia (staying in St Petersburg and Moscow);
England (staying in London);
and Ireland.
I want to spend more time in Italy, the Greek Islands, and Ireland. How long would you reccommend for each place?
Thank you,
Emma

 

    Emma,

    I’ve yet to visit Russia, but one consistent thing I hear about it is that it’s pretty much a pure culture stop where you go to see and do the things on your list and then you leave. In other words, you don’t hear too many people just hanging out in Russia because they love it so much.

    Aside from that, I think you should plan on spending as much time in each place as your motivation dictates. The Greek Islands are dominated by Europeans who go there to sit in the sun during the day and drink at night (nothing wrong with that), so you might grow tired of them after a week or two. On the other hand, they are cheaper than the others on your list, even in high season. And of course, don’t ignore mainland Greece for at least a few days in Athens.

    In Spain, France, Italy, Germany, England, and Ireland, you could stay for months in each and enjoy every day. By the way, don’t miss Berlin if you are going to Germany. It’s the most exciting city in that part of the world, and it can be quite cheap, especially if you are going to stay for a couple weeks or more.

    So what I’d recommend is to carve out maybe a week for Russia, and at least a week or two in Greece, and then for the rest of it you can just stay as long as you feel like. I’ve done many long trips like this (ranging from 7 weeks to 3.5 years) and the sense of freedom you get is something you’ll never forget.

    Another thing to think about on a trip this long is that the biggest cities tend to be expensive and exhausting after awhile. And you’ll also become really tired of sightseeing every day after only a week or two, so it’s good to build in some rest stops where you find a cheap and comfortable place to just chill out for a few days at a time.

    It might seem intimidating during the planning stages, but really it’s quite easy to plan your trip only a couple stops at a time and then make the rest up as you go. And thanks to the abundance of low cost airlines in Europe, it’s usually pretty easy to get a cheap flight only a week or so in advance. The prime time flights might be expensive, but if you can go early in the morning or late in the evening, you can usually get really cheap flights even a few days out.

    Hopefully this helps, and feel free to ask any other more specific or follow-up questions at any time. Have a great trip. -Roger

     
San says:

Hi Roger,

I can’t help but comment how helpful this site is and it as been my staple during breakfast & dinner. I’m blown away by the kind of help you are offering to travellers. Really, kudos to you.

I think this might be the first of many enquiries to come (unfortunately). My good friend and I happened to be out of jobs now, so we are thinking of making the best of this coincidence by going for a month or two-long backpacking trip to Europe. We are planning to set sail in January. He’s not a fan of cold weather so after doing a little research, I gathered that it may be good to start off with Spain probably? We would like a good mix of cultural, city experience.

I know this is going to be a very broad question to throw at you, but just wanna take your opinion on the kind of cities you would recommend we cover (for first timers) and possibly if you can give us some tips on the travel method to get to the next city (cost considerations)? Should we also have everything booked out or leave it until we reach there? In the latter scenario, wouldn’t that means that we constantly have to look out for (budget) accomodation options instead of concentrating on the sightseeing?

Thank you. Ya da best!

 

    San,

    That’s really nice to hear that the site and advice have been helpful. It’s enjoyable for me to be able to translate decades of traveling and research into something useful.

    It sounds like this is going to be your first trip to Europe, and I’m not sure Spain is the ideal choice, although it may be. For one thing, Spain is one of the few corners of Europe where not much English is spoken or even understood. If at least one of you speaks Spanish then it’s a non-issue, but if neither of you do then it can be a bit of a hassle. Not to say that it’s really difficult, just that it’s more of a challenge than most other countries for that reason.

    Also, your research certainly showed that Spain tends to be a bit warmer than elsewhere in Europe in January. But the problem is that it’s still pretty cold so you’ll need to wear jackets and sweaters every day (even if you don’t get snow). Even the biggest cities in Spain tend to be pretty open, unlike other big cities where buildings tend to block the wind and where it’s really easy to get out of the rain. The point is, I don’t think Spain is much better in terms of weather during January and February than London, Paris, Amsterdam, or Rome, so you might be better off just going where you are most interested, rather than to where the winter is slightly milder.

    With one or two months, and especially that time of year, I’d just wing it and make plans as you go. Most hotels and hostels will be mostly empty at that time, so deals will be at their best. The cheapest way to get around is by bus, especially in Spain and Portugal. Realistically you’ll save the most money by making your future plans a week or so in advance, and then checking the official train websites and bus company websites in each country to find the best deals. Often you can get discounted train fares if you travel at off hours, but that usually only means leaving sometime after 9:30am or so.

    As for itineraries, you could do Madrid, Barcelona, Seville (or several other medium sized Spanish cities), and Lisbon, which is lovely, underrated, quite cheap, and has the best weather in that area (and English is more widely spoken). You could also pop down to Tarifa, Spain and then take the ferry over to Morocco for a few days or even more. It’s cheaper and a bit warmer there, and way more exotic.

    Or instead you could fly to Rome and do Italy, which has similar winter weather (if not a bit warmer) and is a bit easier to get around. If you haven’t been to Europe at all I think Italy would be more interesting and a bit easier. You’ll be able to find cheap double rooms at hostels or even at normal hotels that time of year in either country.

    Those are just a couple of ideas. Honestly, you might just try to find the cheapest flights to a southern European city and just drift around as you feel once you get there. You’ll be some of the only tourists wherever you go, which is pretty fund in places like that which are always packed otherwise.

     
      San says:

      Hi Roger,

      Thanks for responding. Ok, I’ll take your advice about Spain and below are the few cities I have in mind: Berlin – Prague – Krakow – Vienna / Munich (I read somewhere you mentioned the two is pretty similar?) – Venice – Florence – Rome – Paris

      Basically we don’t have restrictions on the duration of our travel (good and sad thing about being unemployed!), but should be looking at roughly 1.5 months. What do you think of the sequence & length of stay? Would love to fit London, Spain & Amsterdam for this trip but it might be a bit too much correct? Or do you suggest to skip any that I’ve highlighted and go for one of these instead?

      I’ve researched more & included also the travel methods & nights. Let me know your thoughts?

      Berlin (4N; Train to Prague)
      Prague (4N; Train to Krakow)
      Krakow (2N; Train to Vienna / Munich)
      Vienna / Munich (1N if Vienna, 3N if Munich; Train to Venice)
      Venice (1N; Train to Florence)
      Florence (3N; Train to Rome)
      Rome (3N; Flight to Paris)
      Paris (4N; Flight home)

      To come to think of it, the above only amounts to 24 Nights in total so I think have 2 weeks to spare. You think I should extend the stay at each city or add in the locations I mentioned above?

      I also might guess you would suggest against me getting a Eurail Pass, right?

      Thanks Roger!

       

        San,

        Hmmm…well…while southern Europe is a bit cold in January, cities like Prague and Krakow really do get wintery. If you visit these cities you’ll be spending part of many days in below-freezing temperatures. You might even see some snow, which actually makes things look even nicer for awhile, but it can be a bit of a hassle. I’ve traveled during those conditions and I don’t really mind it (partly because everything is cheap and mostly empty) but it’s not ideal for some people.

        That said, it looks like a pretty good itinerary. Vienna and Munich are both classic cities and aren’t really too much alike, but skipping one of them is probably wise. That time of year I’d probably skip Munich because it really comes alive in warm weather because it’s more of an outdoor city. Vienna is more urban and easier to deal with in cold months.

        One really good thing about the cities you’ve planned is that trains between them tend to be relatively cheap. So if you do this itinerary or one close to it, I don’t think a rail pass would make sense. Your combination of trains and planes looks right on the money.

        Your number of days in each city looks pretty good as well. Four days is on the long side for Prague, and two days is a bit short for Krakow. But since you have extra days to throw around you should be able to sort it out easily. Also, on a trip of over three weeks or so, you’ll want to factor in a few days of just hanging out without sightseeing. Pausing for a bit like that will be refreshing and will allow you to appreciate the things you see before and after a bit more.

        And again, that time of year you’ll be able to find (relatively) cheap hotel and hostel rooms everywhere you go, so you really can just wing it and make plans one day at a time. On the other hand, the train journeys (and definitely the flights) will be a bit cheaper if you lock them in at least a few days in advance, so it’s a bit of a balancing act of freedom and the cheapest possible trip.

        Feel free to ask any more questions you have. This time of year there aren’t too many people planning trips so I have plenty of time. -Roger

         
Cristy says:

Hello,
I am looking to travel in June 2014. Here is the schedule I am looking at now. I realized after reserving hotels for all but Italy that this leaves quite a long stay in Rome at the end :/ My first question is, should I try to add something in before heading to Italy, or between Venice and Rome (Florence?) or just spend the time in Rome?
Date in Date out City
5-Jun 12-Jun Paris (day trip London?)
12-Jun 16-Jun Berlin
16-Jun 21-Jun Prague
21-Jun 25-Jun Vienna
25-Jun 30-Jun Split
30-Jun 2-Jul Venice
2-Jul 10-Jul Rome
10-Jul 6:20 AM flight SFO
Second question is about getting between cities. The rail looks expensive, but could be scenic. I do plan to take the train between Berlin and Prague based on comments I have read. I arranged a flight between Paris and Berlin, but am not sure if I should arrange more flights or plan on taking trains. Any advice you have on this would be appreciated.

 

    Cristy,

    Unlike most people who plan European trips like this, you seem to have left a generous amount of time for each stop. That could be ideal, but you could also add in another couple of stops and perhaps enjoy it even more. Five days in Prague is longer than most people spend, and same with Split. So with that in mind, you might add Budapest between Vienna and Split. It’s a classic destination and quite a contrast from the rest on your list. Or in the other direction you could spend a couple of days in Salzburg, which is really lovely and one of my favorite places in Europe.

    Rome is an incredible city with enough to keep visitors busy for days. The problem is that it’s also quite a manic place that can really feel overwhelming at times. There’s heavy traffic and chaos near every main sight, and hotels are also weirdly expensive considering that many of them are in dumpy neighborhoods. It’s a matter of taste but personally I think I’d plan for 3 or 4 days in Rome and spend the remaining time in and around Florence. From there you can do a day trip to Pisa or spend a night or two in one of the small Tuscan mountain villages nearby. Those sorts of things will give you a really nice spectrum of the wonders of Italy. You might also pop down to Naples for a day or two.

    The Paris to Berlin flight sounds like a good idea, but I think you should take trains the rest of the way (although Vienna to Split is a long ride). Trains in Europe are far more pleasant and almost always come with nice scenery. And when a train journey is 5 hours or less, it’s usually even faster than flights when you add in the time going to the airport and waiting around and all that.

    Fortunately, you’ll be going through some of the cheaper areas for European train fares as well. If you are sure of your dates you can look for cheap train tickets online a month or two in advance if you look on the official rail site for each country. (Don’t buy individual tickets on RailEurope or other 3rd party sites because they charge quite a bit more.) But even if you buy those train tickets as you go, they’ll still be relatively cheap, and definitely cheaper than flights or a rail pass.

    I hope this helps, and feel free to ask anything else that comes up. -Roger

     
Angel says:

Hi Roger

I am planning a 17 days trip with husband on 17 Dec and most of the trip in Switzerland. appreciate your advice on the train tickets, and the best place to spend Christmas and New Year. I understand most of the places may be closed..

Arrive Zurich on 17 dec stay 1N
plan to head up to Luxembourg for 2N stay
(Is there anywhere worth visiting between Luxembourg and Switzerland for the nature or architectural sites?)
Basel stay 1N
Interlaken 2N
Bern 2N day trip to Fribourg
Montreux 2N day trip to Gruyere
Lausanne 2N
Geneva 2N

 

    Angel,

    Since you’ll be spending most of your time in Switzerland you should definitely look at a Swiss Rail Pass. Those are sold directly through a different system than the main Eurail Pass one.

    To be honest, I haven’t spent much time in Switzerland during the winter so I’m not of much help. Where to spend the big holidays would depend on whether you want more of a party atmosphere in a city or a white Christmas sort of thing in the mountain area. I’m sure you’ll really love wherever you happen to be on those days.

    As for going between Zurich and Luxembourg, there are plenty of castles all along the way. The Rhine Valley is loaded with them and each is impressive in its own right. It’s hard to narrow it down to one to recommend. Check wikitravel.org for pretty much any town in that area and you’ll probably find something interesting to visit, so it’s probably easier just to pick a place with a convenient train connection. Luxembourg itself is a highlight as well. Bon voyage. -Roger

     
Day says:

Hi Roger
Me and my friend are traviling in Europe this coming April -May for 22days this is our first time to go from Washington to melan
From
Melan
3days London
3days. Switzerland
3days. Luxembourg
3days. Amsterdam
3days. Belguim
3 days france
4days. Melan then back home
What is the cheap and best transformation to used?
Do you know any cheap and nice hotel for 4 women age 50^ ?
Do we need a visa each place we go.?
Can you pls. Inform us what are the nice place to visit ?
Thank you

 

    Day,

    I don’t completely understand the questions. Are you talking about Milan, Italy? If so I think trains are your best bet in getting around, and the exact route will depend on which cities you plan to visit in those countries you mention.

    If you have US passports then you won’t need any visas to visit the places you are going. You’ll need to show your passport when you get to Milan and also to London, but otherwise you won’t even know you are crossing borders.

    I do have some hotels I can recommend if you narrow down the cities you are going to see. -Roger

     
Sansha says:

Hi Roger,

This is such a fantastic thing you’re doing! Much appreciate it. Could you please try and help me out with a few questions?

We are a couple planning to visit Europe in April 2014 for 2 weeks. We can also do end of April-beginning of may. Do you think for the cities mentioned below, slightly earlier into April works in terms of budget, avoiding weather hassles and attractions being open? This is going to be a budget trip with one ‘not-lavish but not-very-budget’ dinner on our anniversary.

Our wedding anniversary falls on the 24th of April and which city do you think would be apt to make it a special one? 🙂 If Paris, any restaurant choices which are romantic yet slightly budget-friendly?

I’m thinking

> Mt. Titlis (We want to go there specifically for the cable car ride and the alps experience, but don’t intend to stay in Swiss for more than a day)
> France: Paris-2 days, Nice- will 1 or 2 days be enough?
Italy- Rome, Florence, Venice
> Amsterdam- For the tulips in case we can come around the May event. (Is it a must see?)
> I would love to do see at least 1 more place other than the above- is it realistic/possible?
1. Is it possible to do Greece with the above plan? or should I remove anything from the above plan?
2. Can we combine Vienna or any other closer-by destination?

We would be planning to travel by the trains and which pass do you suggest works best for this?

It’s sad that we only have 2 weeks to spare this year and would definitely return based on what we love the most during this trip.

Adding to the query I had posted, I now have around 15 days 🙂 Can we fly return trip Rome- Greece. Could you please suggest which islands I can look at that might work out both in terms of money, budget and possibly let us do a day-trip to Athens? Do you know off any travel agents who ave set tours from these islands to athens or would you suggest we plan it on our own?

Thanks a ton!

Thanks in advance!!

Sansha

 

    Sansha,

    To visit Mt. Titlis you’d want to stay in Lucerne, probably the night before and the night after you do the cable car. I’d really recommend spending 3 or 4 days in Paris rather than trying to see Nice as well. Paris is amazing and quite large, and if you left after two days you’d regret it, plus you’d only get to see a quick look at Nice.

    That will be tulip season in the Netherlands, just be aware that the tulip fields are way outside the city, and take about an hour to reach by bus. You can rent a bike once you are there, or take a bus tour to see the whole thing as a day trip. Amsterdam is another magical city that you will love, so plan on at least two additional days there just to walk around town and see the sights.

    You could add Vienna in there, but I really think spending more time in Italy would be better. In only 15 days you’ll only have 5 or 6 in Italy at the most, and that’s only enough time for Rome (3 days), Florence (2 days), and Venice (1 day).

    When you are in Paris you’ll have no problem finding a wonderful and romantic restaurant that doesn’t cost a fortune. Wherever your hotel is, withing a 10-minute walk you’ll have many choices. The food in Paris restaurants is almost always great, and there are almost no chain restaurants so it’s just a matter of looking at the menus outside to check prices and specials.

    I really wouldn’t try to add Greece to this trip since it’s only 2 weeks. In 15 days you’ll really only want to see maybe 6 or 7 cities at the absolute most, and even then it would mean spending every other day on trains rather than seeing the sights. Bon voyage. -Roger

     
Sansha says:

Thanks Roger,

I’ll alter my itinerary. Last question- Which eurail pass should I look at? I went through your other article and have the below questions

1. global pass would be expensive for the 2 of us. Where can I search for good deals?
2. Since France isn’t part of the select pass, can we train travel to a closer city on our list and take a bus from there to paris?
3. I have read through various articles and TA, but with your experience can you help me get a practical order to do these places in?

We plan to arrive into Zurich on 23rd April morning and depart from Rome on May 1st late afternoon.

Thanks a ton!!

 

    Sansha,

    If you are arriving on April 23 and leaving on May 1, that’s only 8.5 days. Is that your whole Europe visit? If so, you should narrow it down to only 4 stops at most.

    And if you will only be there for 9 travel days, a rail pass won’t be good value. You can buy individual train tickets in advance online, but make sure you are searching on the official rail website of one of the countries that is part of the journey. For most of them, if you buy the tickets at least a month or two in advance, you can get cheap early fares. The advantage of a rail pass is you can decide where to go at the last minute, but it really sounds like you’ll be better off locking it all in well in advance.

    There is an extensive bus network in Europe as well, and advance bus fares are even cheaper than rail fares. The buses usually take a bit longer and are a bit less comfortable, but they are still quite nice. Check eurolines.com for fares and promotions. It’s a confusing website, but don’t give up.

    If you give me the final list of where you want to go, I will help you figure out the best order for them and the best way to get between them. You might even fly between a couple of them to save time if you can get a cheap advance fare. -Roger

     
Sandra says:

Hi Roger. Thank you so much for doing this for all of us. I am planning a 15 trip for early April 2014 to London, Amsterdam, Krakow, Prague and Istanbul.

I am departing from Toronto, Canada. Would you recommend I fly into Istanbul or London? I assume I’m best off flying between London and Amsterdam, and then the train to Krakow and Prague and flying to Istanbul? Is 15 days enough time and are there any cities you would add?

 

    Sandra,

    I think flying into London is probably best, and flying back from Istanbul to Toronto if possible. If not, you could fly from Istanbul to London and then to Toronto, but you’d have to be careful about which London airports you’d be using since they aren’t close together.

    From London to Amsterdam I’d recommend taking the Eurostar train service. It takes about 3 hours to get to Brussels and then another hour to get to Amsterdam. Even then, it’s probably faster than flying because you go city center to city center. If you buy the Eurostar ticket at least a few months in advance, it should be cheaper than flying as well. And then yes, fly from Prague to Istanbul.

    Fifteen days for those 5 cities seems like the perfect amount of time. If you wanted to squeeze two days in Berlin before Krakow I’m sure you’d love it, and it would make those train journeys more reasonable. But you’d be rushing in the other cities a bit so it may be better to save it for another trip. -Roger

     
Sansha says:

Damn! My bad, I meant May 8th and not 1st. So so sorry.

This is a very rough draft, sounds insane at a few points, but that’s where I will be very grateful to you for all the advise 🙂

23 zurich-lucerne 1 night stay
24 mt. titlis in the morning. do an overnight train. Probably to Paris?
25 Paris day 1 and night
26 Paris day 2 and night. possible to transit to Versailles?
27 versailles 1 day. overnight train to nice or Amsterdam? Please help me choose either one. Which would have a different feel compared to the other cities on my list? Also, are the tulips a must see? They look pretty but I want to consider my tight schedule here, choose between the awesome and the most awesome and decide. also, which would work out better budget wise?
28 Nice or Amsterdam day 1. I read that 26th is kings day and 27th might have all the spill over crowd in amsterdam.
29 Nice or Amsterdam day half. Transit to the next place- fly out to greece?
30 Santorini- greece
1 santorini- greece
2 athens- 1/2 day and transit to Italy. Wont mind overnight tra.
3 Venice day 1 please help with the order for the below:)
4 venice day 2
5 Pisa, transit to another close by place by evening as we don’t want to stay over at Pisa. Please suggest what might work?
6 Half a day in this city, transit to Rome by early evening.
7 Rome, Vatican
8 Rome half day and reach airport by 1 PM as 3.50 PM is the flight.

I want to try and do Greece unless it’s very very absurd 🙁 Do you think any other destination would work for us better than Amsterdam or Nice? We are willing to explore smaller destinations if it has a different experience to offer 🙂

Roger, I’m extremely grateful to you for agreeing to help!!

Have a nice day!

 

    Sansha,

    Lucerne to Paris is only about 4.5 hours by train, so you can’t (or wouldn’t want to) do it overnight. Same with Paris to Amsterdam (3 hours) or to Nice (6 hours). Overnight trains are kind of a pain anyway, so I generally avoid them myself.

    Choosing between Nice and Amsterdam is a tough one because they are very different. I’d normally recommend Amsterdam, but only if you can get a hotel room at a reasonable rate. King’s Day (it used to be known as Queen’s Day) is the busiest day of the year in Amsterdam, and hotels are packed. But as long as you can get a room for the nights you are arriving, it should be a great time to be there. Most of the visitors are other Dutch people and they don’t stick around long after the main party day.

    Nice is nice, but not nearly as interesting as Amsterdam, and it’s still a bit chilly that time of year so you can’t really appreciate the beach yet.

    As far as tulips in Amsterdam are concerned, I’ve never been out to the fields myself, and it’s not one of the top attractions. My guess is that they look best from above, and that seeing them from ground level might be a bit disappointing. I’ve been to the huge flower auction outside Amsterdam, and the Tulip Museum in Amsterdam, and there are many flower shops in Amsterdam where you can see them all. The city is gorgeous and really nice, so you’ll have plenty to do even if you don’t go out to the big tulip fields.

    That’s a very quick trip to Greece. You might even consider saving it for another trip and spending a couple more days in Italy. There are no international trains out of Athens at the moment, so you’d want to fly for sure. Honestly, I think you’d be rushing around so much that it wouldn’t be worth it. Better to fly from Amsterdam to Venice (or Milan), or if the hotels in Amsterdam are too expensive then just take the train to Nice and then to Venice.

    Fly to Venice, and spend one day there, before heading to Florence for at least two days if possible. From Florence you can visit Pisa on an easy day trip, but Florence itself is actually more interesting.

    Rome is a huge city packed with great attractions (including the Vatican) so I normally recommend at least three nights. It’s a short train ride from Florence to Rome so you’ll still be able to do sightseeing on the travel day.

    Again, feel free to follow up if you are still unsure of what you want to do. -Roger

     
sansha says:

Just one last very important question- which rail pass do I consider and where I might I be able to look for deals and straights? V r 2 of us traveling together 🙂

Thank you so much for taking out time and helping me with the queries.. I’m sad to let go off Greece 🙁 but like you said it might not be worth it. Thanks again Roger!

 
sansha says:

Where might I be able to find deals and discounts*

Sorry for the typo.

 
Fiona says:

Hi Roger!

So impressed with your wealth of Europe travel knowledge, hope you can help my fiance & I with our European honeymoon itinerary. It is our first trip to Europe, so we are just trying to get a taste of lots of cities we have always been interested in and keen to visit. However we don’t want to feel like we are rushing too much, especially on our honeymoon.

LONDON – 4 nights
PARIS – 4 nights
BERLIN – 4 nights
VIENNA – 3 nights
VENICE – 2 nights
FLORENCE – 3 nights
ROME – 4 nights
AMALFI COAST – 3 nights
BARCELONA – 4 nights

That is 9 destinations in 32 days…

First of all, do you think this is adequate time in each city? We did go by your suggested 4 nights in each of the major cities!
Or do you think we are covering too much in 32 days? If so, which city do you think we could cut and put towards another?

Do you recommend flying or taking the train between these cities:
Paris to Berlin
Berlin to Vienna
Vienna to Venice

For the rest we will train! So is it worth us getting a Eurail pass or just booking separate train passes online?

Thank you so much for your time and fantastic advice!
We are really look forward to hearing from you : )

Our itinerary is for March / April 2014! Thanks again!

 

    Fiona,

    Thank you for the kind words. I think this itinerary looks absolutely perfect, which is something I very rarely say on a first draft. I think you are staying long enough in each place without lingering too long anywhere.

    I normally recommend taking trains whenever possible, but in the case of those three city pairs that you mention, I think flying is probably best. They would take about 10 hours each on the train, and the charm of train rides tends to wear off after about 7 hours. You could do night trains in about 12 hours each, but I normally only recommend those for backpacker types because they are much more like sleeping in a hostel dorm than a hotel room. Still, if you find that flights between two of those cities are weirdly expensive or require a change of planes then you might substitute a train trip (day or night) for one of them.

    Honestly, taking trains around Europe is one of the unique joys to a trip like this, and unfortunately the London to Paris train trip on the Eurostar is kind of a dud in that respect (lousy scenery and cramped seats). Taking the train around Italy should be a wonderful taste of it, though.

    From the Amalfi area to Barcelona is also a long distance, and it would require probably 3 changes of trains or even more, so you should probably fly from either Naples or Rome to Barcelona as well.

    So I think you’ve nailed the itinerary, and if you have any other questions I’ll be happy to try to help. -Roger

     
      Fiona says:

      Hi Roger,

      Thanks again for your amazing advice, really appreciate it!!

      So, we have come across very expensive flights from Vienna to Venice (otherwise flights that go back to Berlin before Venice), so we think taking the train would be best here.

      Are the views worthwhile for this train trip?
      If so, should we go for the day train, (7.5 hours) over the night train (12 hours)?
      Is the best website to book from – OBB?
      Also is there much difference between 2nd class and 1st class tickets?

      Thanks heaps!
      Fiona

       

        Fiona,

        Ah yes, it’s really not too surprising that it’s tough to get a cheap nonstop flight between Vienna and Venice (or Treviso even). The network of low cost carriers in Europe is big, but it doesn’t cover every possibility. On the other hand, that’s a really gorgeous part of Europe (the Austrian Alps) so it should be a very scenic ride if you choose to do it during the day.

        Night trains are usually cheaper than day trains, even when you include the cost of the couchette (bunk), but still I’d do the day train if it were me. So check the prices of both (yes, the OBB site is best for Austrian trains) and if you can afford either one then it’s up to you.

        One important thing to know about night trains is that they almost always stop in the middle of the night at least once to swap carriages with other trains, and that always wakes me up if I’ve managed to sleep at all. You don’t have to do anything, but you’ll feel the jolts of the trains unhooking and hooking back up. And the ride in general tends to bump and pitch a bit, so light sleepers (like myself) struggle to get any sleep at all. And of course you miss all the scenery. The upside is that you can theoretically save a night in a hotel, although night trains often arrive early in the morning, and you may not be able to check into your next hotel until the afternoon, so if you didn’t sleep well on the train it can be a bit miserable to wait. But the people who are able to sleep anywhere can do well on night trains, so it’s a personal thing.

        On the day trains, 2nd Class is plenty comfortable for most people. It’s 4 seats across (in a cabin or in open seating) and leg room is adequate for all but the tallest people. They are rarely full as well, so usually you can spread out a bit. And on trains you can always get up and walk around if you like, so they are way more comfortable than coach airline seats.

        In 1st Class it’s 3 seats across in a more comfortable seat with more legroom. When I’m buying individual tickets I will almost always get 2nd Class, even though I’m actually a taller, bigger person. But when I’m buying a pass and can get a discount on 1st Class then I love to upgrade if it’s not too much more expensive. In other words, 2nd Class is plenty comfortable, and 1st Class is a bit luxurious. -Roger

         
          Fiona says:

          Thanks again Roger! You have been such a great help.

          Have taken your advice to go on the Vienna to Venice day train (as I am a very light sleeper) and will be able to enjoy 7 hours of beautiful scenery! Managed to also book cheap 2nd class tickets (29 Euro each)! Amazing comparison to the flight expense. I think this was a great choice here, thanks 🙂

          Now onto booking our Italy train tickets! Do you suggest just booking the individual train tickets on the ItaliaRail website? They seem to be quite cheap again, thanks!

           

          Fiona,

          I’m happy to help. Yes, the ItaliaRail is the best (and only good) site to buy Italian train tickets. Being able to lock in tickets months early does get good prices, so it’s great that you are able to do that. -Roger

           
Sergio says:

Hello Roger, I’m planning on going for 70 days to europe from Jun 10 – Aug 20 with 4 friends all under 25 with a budget of 8,000 us dollars
Here is my ambitious Itiniary:

Amsterdam(3 Nights) TRAIN —> Germany
Berlin(5 Nights) TRAIN —> Prague
Prague(4 Nights) Train —> Munich
Munich(2 Nights) Fly —> Rome
Rome(4 Nights) Train —> Florence
Florence(3 Nights) Train —> Cinque de Terre
Cinque de Terre(2 Nights) Train —> Nice
Nice(4 Nights)(Visit Monaco, Cannes) Fly —> Barcelona
Barcelona(7 Nights) Fly —> Paris
Paris(6 Nights) Train —> Brussels
Brussels(3 Nights if i get tommrowland tikets) —> Paris
Paris Fly —> Split
Split & Islands (6 Nights) Night Train —-> Buddapest
Buddapest(3 Nights) Train —> Sofia
Sofia(2 Nights) TRAIN —> Varna
Varna(Summer Beach)(3 Nights) TRAIN —> Istanbul
Istanbul(4 Nights) TRAIN —> Athens
Athens & Islands(8 Nights)FLY —> Home

1. I Was wondering if you recommend if I buy a Amsterdam-Germany-Czech Eurorail Pass as a 3 select country pass and just buy Rome-Nice tickets on the go aswell as individual train passes from split-Budapest, Budapest-sofia, sofia-varna varna- istanbul istanbul – athens?

2. if you think a 8,000 Budget is enough for this trip flights included but not trains, accomodation, or expenses?

Sorry for the long post!

 

    Sergio,

    A Select (3-country) Eurail Pass has a minimum of 5 journeys, and it looks like you are only planning 3 journeys within those 3 countries so it really wouldn’t apply. Fortunately, train fares to and from Prague are pretty cheap as it is, so you should be fine without one.

    The train tickets in Italy are also fairly cheap, especially if you buy them online in advance (only from the official Italian rail website).

    At first glance I’d seriously reconsider the route you’ve chosen after Paris. I think it makes much more sense to fly from Paris to Budapest and then take the train to Split from there (unless you are going for some specific event earlier). Among the complications is that train service in all of the former Yugoslavia is so bad that buses are usually a better option as they are faster, cheaper, and often just as comfortable. You might be able to do an overnight train from Budapest to Split, although you might have to change in Zagreb. Then from Split you’ll want to take buses.

    One way to do it would be to take a bus from Split to Sarajevo and stay there for a couple days. It’s a wonderful city that is unlike anything else you’ll be seeing. Then you could take a bus from there to Sofia, probably changing in Nis, Serbia, which is another really nice town (where I lived for awhile as well). Then a bus to Varna and another to Istanbul. There are very few trains in that part of Europe, but because of this, the bus service is actually quite good and affordable.

    I don’t quite understand your question about the budget, specifically about whether the US$8,000 is meant to include flights and accommodation or what, and if you are asking whether it’s enough for 5 people or for each person? (I hope it’s not for all 5 people!) Please be a bit more specific with that part of the question and I’ll be happy to give you my opinion. No worries about the length of the question, and feel free to follow up. -Roger

     
Fiona says:

Wow!!! Thank you Roger! We were a bit worried with our itinerary as most people said we were doing too much, so we very much value your approval! Yes, we are definitely flying from Naples/Rome to Barcelona, and will take your advice to fly between Paris-Berlin-Vienna-Venice.

We did have other cities in our itinerary such as Munich & Salzburg, which from Berlin would have made a great train trip experience as you suggested for Europe, but we thought it was getting too much! Will have to save it for our next European trip, as well as cities like Amsterdam, Prague, Zurich which we just couldn’t fit in.

Out of curiosity, which one of the cities in our current itinerary would you cut if you had to?

Thanks for your excellent advice!
Best wishes,
Fiona

 

    Fiona,

    If I was forced to cut one city from your itinerary it would be Berlin, but only because it’s quite out of the way on your route. Berlin is actually one of my favorite cities in Europe and most people find it to be a big highlight on their trip, but if you were to save it for another time you could perhaps substitute a couple days in Munich and do that section by train. And as you mention, Salzburg is right on the way and is another great one to consider (that is easy to see in 2 days).

    Assuming you are planning on another Europe trip in the not too distant future, it probably makes more sense to stay in the south and save Berlin to connect with Amsterdam and Prague and Krakow and that area. I’m sure you’ll have a fantastic time with any of the options you are considering. Look at the comments above and you’ll see that many (if not most) people start by trying to see big cities in 2 days each, and you’ve already allotted much more time. -Roger

     
Charles says:

Hi Roger, your website is superb for first time visitors to Europe. I have been reading your tips on almost everything pertaining to our trip.

My wife and I are planning a honeymoon trip in April. However, we have booked round trip sale tickets before reading your one way multi cities tips. We will be touching down on 10th Apr in Rome and will be heading back home from Rome on 2nd May. We are planning to visit Rome, Amalfi Coast, Florence, Venice, Milan and Paris.

We heard that it happens to be the Holy Week for Good Friday and prices will be expensive. We are thinking of heading up to Florence, Venice, Milan, Paris then head back to Rome and Amalfi Coast to skip the Holy Week.

I have read your guide for 2weeks itinerary to France & Italy but I am unsure of the travelling time from Paris to Rome as we will be taking train from cities to cities.

What is your advice on the holy week and the route of cities?

 

    Charles,

    I’m always happy to read that people find this information useful, so thank you for taking the time to mention it.

    Assuming you are coming from the US or Canada, I think a round-trip ticket was probably your best bet for a trip like this anyway, as an open-jaw ticket is usually more expensive than a round-trip plus a short flight at the end to return to your starting city.

    I’ve never been in Rome during Holy Week but I do know it’s a big deal there and I’ve done similar things (like accidentally visiting Rio de Janeiro during Carnival Week!). Generally it’s only the hotels that raise prices. Right now I’m looking and hotel prices for that time don’t appear much different from normal, so it seems that if you booked soon you could find something good at a reasonable price. The other thing to consider is that some public buildings will be closed for a couple of those days, though I’m quite sure that the main attractions will be open (and quite crowded). If some hotel or touristy restaurants try to charge more during that week, I’m sure that plenty of local-oriented places won’t, so I wouldn’t really worry about that.

    Still, assuming that you aren’t too interested in what will be happening at the Vatican, it’s probably better to be in Rome any other week.

    I think your route idea looks ideal. You could go right from the Rome airport to Florence then to Venice and then Milan. From Milan to Paris the train takes between 7 and 9 hours depending on the exact train you take, so it’s not too bad. Just make sure to get those tickets will in advance (from the Italy or France official rail site) if you aren’t buying a rail pass.

    Getting back to Rome from Paris is probably cheapest by flying on Vueling, Ryanair, or Easyjet (the nicest of those 3), and it should be around US$100 one-way if booked well in advance. Or you could perhaps take the train from Paris to Nice for a few days and then onto Rome, which would be more interesting and also more expensive. Paris to Rome by train takes about 11 hours, and that’s a long day in one seat.

    Obviously the Amalfi Coast (and perhaps Naples as well) is a cheap and easy train ride from Rome, so that part should be simple.

    Wherever you are going to be during Holy Week, I’d try to book the hotel well in advance. It’s a big deal in many European cities. -Roger

     
Melissa says:

Hi Roger,

I am sure you have answered this question before but I planning to visit a friend who moved to Nice, France. I would like to go the end of Feb to early March 2014. Since this will be my first time traveling aboard, I am super excited to do it all. I would like to visit the following places. My itinerary is flexible but please let me know if you think visiting these places would be realistic. I would like to take the euro rail but I am sure that flying would be the best option since I don’t want to waste a lot of time on the train. Please give my your advice since you are the expert.

Nice, France to Rome, Italy = stay possibly 2-3 days
Rome, Italy to Athens, Greece = stay possibly 2-3 days
Athens, Greece to Frankfort, Germany = stay possibly 2-3 days
Frankfort, Germany to Paris, France = stay possibly 2 days

 

    Melissa,

    I haven’t answered this before, and even if I had it’s fine. Most people (including me) love taking trains in Europe, and with the scenery and all it’s the opposite of a wasted day, but after about 5 or 6 hours it does get a bit old so for longer journeys flying is often better. So with that in mind, you might actually consider going to some closer places that can be done on a train.

    Nice to Rome is obviously a short flight, and Rome is a huge and amazing place. I’d try to schedule at least 3 nights if you can spare them.

    Rome to Athens is a similar flight and is by far the best way. Athens is certainly one of the world’s great tourist destinations, but with all the tension there lately it’s becoming less popular. It’s also less charming than many other European cities except for the central tourist district. Two days should be enough to see the main sights, but that’s kind of a long way to go for such a short stay. You just have to ask yourself what you want out of an Athens stop, and if your list is strong enough then you’ll enjoy it. But if you aren’t really sure about Athens except for the most famous things, you might save it for another visit.

    And speaking of that, I’m curious why you’d want to go to Frankfurt. Aside from the huge airport, the city doesn’t have much going for it for tourists. It’s mostly a business and banking city, and I wouldn’t even put it in the Top 10 of places to go in Germany. Either Berlin or Munich would be infinitely more interesting, and both have large airports with cheap flights. But if you have relatives or something in Frankfurt, then that’s a fine reason to stay there. If not, you might even save Germany for another trip.

    Paris is as amazing as everyone says, so two days there would be great, but three or four days would be better. If you are going back to Nice afterwards then a train would be far more enjoyable than flying, although maybe not much cheaper.

    Hopefully this helps at least a bit, and feel free to follow up if you are thinking about changing things around a bit. -Roger

     
Sandra says:

Hello Roger. I am planning a 15 day trip to Europe the first week of April 2014. Dates are flexible and I haven’t booked the flight yet. I was thinking of flying to London and staying there 3 to 4 days and then would I fly or take the train to Amsterdam? How many days would I need in Amsterdam? From there would you recommend the train or a flight to Prague? After 2 to 3 days in Prague I was planning on taking the train to Krakow for 1 to 2 days, Budapest 1 day,and Istanbul the remainder. Would I fly to Istanbul from Budapest? To get home I suppose I would fly back to London? Are there other cities you would recommend in Turkey? How long would you recommend staying in Turkey? Would you recommend a rail pass? Thank you Roger.

 

    Sandra,

    Your plan sounds quite good, but I don’t think it would fit well into 15 days. I’d recommend no more than 5 destinations in 15 days, and even that will be a bit of a rush. So…

    Three or four days in London is perfect. From there the most pleasant way to get to Amsterdam is on the Eurostar, which is the train service that goes through the Channel Tunnel. You have to change trains in Brussels, but overall it’s still faster than flying. Buy that ticket as early as possible for the lowest price. You can buy the whole London to Amsterdam ticket through Eurostar.

    I adore Amsterdam, but it’s pretty compact so you can see the main sights in about two days, although you’d really enjoy a third day if you stayed that long. From Amsterdam to Prague you’d want to fly because it would be around 10 hours on a train, and that’s a wasted day (without great scenery anyway).

    Prague is another major highlight, and 2 or 3 days will be enough. Going to Krakow on a train sounds like a fine idea, and Krakow is yet another lovely city, plus it’s very cheap, which will be nice after London and Amsterdam.

    Budapest is also quite nice, though it actually has some similarities to Prague, so it won’t seem as novel when you get there. Two days could be enough to see the main sights, but honestly at this point you might actually have a better trip if you slowed down and maybe headed west instead of continuing southeast. Budapest is too big to enjoy in one night, especially when that means you’ll be traveling both days.

    If you do want to continue to Turkey you’d definitely want to fly (partly because there are no trains running there now). Istanbul is a huge city, although the tourist center is compact enough, so two days should be enough to see the most famous sights.

    I’d really recommend saving Turkey for another trip, but if you might cut out some other stops to fit Turkey into this trip, then I’m sure you’d enjoy it. My favorite other place to go in Turkey is Cappadocia (the region) and Goreme, which is the main tourist town there. It’s one of the most amazing places on earth, and it’s very cheap once you get there. Most people go by bus from Istanbul (the buses in Turkey are really comfortable and cheap) but you could fly if you were in a hurry.

    So again, I really think you’d be better off by either extending the trip to more like 3 weeks, or cutting out at least a stop or two. Feel free to follow up if you wish. -Roger

     
      Sandra says:

      Hi Roger. Thanks so much for the advice. I have extended my trip to Europe to 19 days as follows:

      Toronto to London (CAD $1387.97 return – would have been $1100 if I had booked 2 weeks earlier and included london to amsterdam) – April 9-13 (7+hr Frankfurt layover – maybe walking tour) : staying at St. Christopher’s Inn Oasis hostel (CAD $43.08/nite): Buying Oyster card at Heathrow : No definite plans yet – lots of walking, free museums, Tate Museum, Harrods, maybe hop on hop off?

      Eurostar to Amsterdam – April 13-16 (CAD $220.95): Hostell Female (CAD $25.79/nite): Bought Holland Pass 33.25 Euros : Canal Tour : Van Gogh Museum : Rijksmuseum : Red Light District : pannenkoekenhuis : view from central library : lots of walking

      Lufthansa to Prague – April 16-19 : Mojo Inn Hostel (CAD 21.20/nite), 18th Courtyard Marriott CAD $100 (for 6 am flight to Istanbul)

      Prague to Istanbul – April 19-20 : Doy-Doy Restaurant, Ferry Ride, Free Walking Tour, Hamman, Cappadocia, Pamukkale, Eyup?, Aga Hamam Hotel (Cdn $13/nite): Booked 10 nites at Aga Haman hostel but will book Cappadocia hotel after I arrive.

      Anything I’ve forgotten or changes you would make? I’ll buy you a pint if we meet up 🙂

       

        Sandra,

        This itinerary looks fantastic and really well thought out. I hope you like the St. Christopher’s hostel. I’ve stayed in many of them (in private rooms) and I enjoy a lobby that doubles as a traveler’s bar with cheap drinks. The hop on hop off bus tours in London are very expensive, although you do get to see a lot in a short time. I’d highly recommend the free walking tour on your first day to help you get oriented. In case you haven’t seen it, I recently posted all my best London cheap travel tips, which can help you see a lot on a small budget.

        In Amsterdam the free walking tour is also good, but it’s the canal boat tour that is the best to do as early as possible to get oriented. You’ll love Amsterdam.

        Ten days would be a very long time to spend in Istanbul, although it is a huge city with plenty to see and do. But I’m very glad to see that you are planning on doing Cappadocia. It’s an amazing place and very cheap as well.

        Thanks for the offer of a pint, and maybe I’ll take you up on it one day. For now, this looks great, and I’ll be happy to answer any other questions if you have them. -Roger

         
Madhu says:

Dear Roger,

We are 5 adults (men) travelling to Europe in the month of June for 21 days. I have travelled to Europe many times on business, but for my other friends , this is going to be their first.

Basic program is like this :

Flying into London from India , stay 4 days
Eurostar to Paris , stay 4 days
Train to Switzerland stay 2 days , mainly to see Jungfraujoch and ride glacier express.
Train to Vienna , Salzburg and Innsbruck , 4 days
Cross over to Italy, visit, Florence, Venice total 3 days
End the trip in Rome 3 days
fly back to London and back to India..

Question :
– Is this itinerary doable ?
– Would you suggest Eurail pass or buying ticket locally ( all our trips will be by train)
– We will be doing a budget tour and stay also would be a budget one.
What is the amount that we should calculate per person ( apart from India – London – India air ticket) to cover local sightseeing, food, stay etc..
– Accompanying people are not real affecionados for sightseeing, but they just want to see in general all important and historical attractions.
Would be grateful for your advice, to plan our itinerary in detail and will send to you for final suggestions.

Thanks in advance for your valuable time.

Madhu

 

    Madhu,

    I think your itinerary looks quite good, and it’s very doable. London and Paris in 4 days each is perfect, and 3 days should be enough to see the main sights in Rome if you hurry. Your time in Switzerland and Austria looks rushed, but Switzerland especially is expensive so I think it’s wise to try to see a lot in a short time. One suggestion I’d make is to stick to Vienna and Salzburg but leave out Innsbruck, which isn’t nearly as interesting as the other two.

    One day and night in Venice is enough to see the main sights (and to get out before the crowds drive you insane), and two days in Florence is also just enough. And each stop looks to be about 3 to 5 hours apart by train, and journeys of that length are ideal and most of them are quite scenic as well.

    For what you have in mind, a rail pass wouldn’t be good value. A few of your trips will be fairly expensive, but they won’t be so bad if you book them online in advance from the official rail sites of each country. Try to book a month or two in advance if you can and the fares will be about half of what they would be if you bought them as you went.

    About a week from now I will update the Europe 3-star Traveler Index for 2014, and that should give you a good idea of how much each city will cost. Right now you’ll see the 2013 prices, and not much changed last year so they’ll be similar. The most expensive thing will be accommodation, and depending on how you prefer to travel, that can be quite cheap or very expensive.

    If you want to keep expenses low and still see everything you are there to see, I’d highly recommend booking private rooms in hostels. With a group of 5 people, you’ll almost always be able to book an entire room for the group, just for the cost of dorm beds. When you go to look at hostels look at the “private rooms” option and in many of them you’ll see rooms for exactly 5 people or maybe 6. Doing that, you should be able to keep an average of maybe US$30 per person per night, as opposed to probably double that amount if you got 2 double rooms and one single room in a hotel. I have recommended good/cheap hostels for each city on the pages on this site, so that would be a good place to start.

    With that strategy, if you average about US$30 per night per person to sleep, you should be able to average anywhere from US$60 per day per person for everything, up to US$100 or more if you like to drink and eat in nicer restaurants. The train fares will probably average about US$40 per leg, or maybe a bit more, so the more you move around the higher the total will be.

    Hopefully this helps. Feel free to follow up with any other questions if you have them. -Roger

     
Denni says:

Hi Roger,

Thank you for your website as I and my cousin are planning a backpack trip for 3 weeks in Europe in the fall. We have narrowed our countries/cities into 5 (if possible, that is of course what your expertise in this area suggests): France, Spain, Netherlands, Italy and Greece. Can you give me advice which Country/City should be our port of Entry and Exit? And Also if Eurotrail would be our best bet? Thanks in advance.

 

    Denni,

    For a trip like you have in mind, an open-jaw ticket might be best. So you could fly into Amsterdam and take trains through France, Spain, back through France, and into Italy. From there you could fly to Athens or take a (slow) ferry, but either way it won’t be on a train. So then you’d fly home from Athens, or you could do the whole thing the other way around. Greece is obviously a bit tricky for this trip because it doesn’t border the others.

    A Eurail Pass might be good for this trip, but only if you are trying to see at least 10 different places in those 3 weeks. However, you wouldn’t use it in Greece, so assuming you definitely wanted to include that country, you will be better off just buying train tickets as you go. You’ll get the lowest fares if you book them well in advance online from the official rail sites of each country. In a few cases, flying might even be a better idea. A train from Amsterdam to Paris is best, but from Paris it might be best to fly to Madrid, and then take trains through Barcelona, Nice, and into Italy.

    Also, in three weeks, you’ll only be scratching the surface of these places. I’d actually recommend cutting it to 4 countries, which still only leaves 5 days per country. Feel free to post a day by day itinerary plan and I can tell you where it might be too rushed or improved upon. -Roger

     
Elna says:

Hi Roger,
Your site is very helpful!
We are 3 girls traveling to Europe for the first time. We plan to leave on April 5-19. Our initial itinerary is Manila-London-Paris-Italy-London-Manila. (Yes, we have to go back to London before heading back to Manila) I haven’t really done extensive research but is this doable? Please give us your recommendations on the best itinerary and how to go from one country to another. Can you also recommend the number of days we should spend per country? Thanks in advance. Elna

 

    Elna,

    It’s often cheapest to fly in and out of the same city when you are coming from so far away, so going in and out of London makes perfect sense.

    You plan looks really good and it’s easily doable. I normally prefer to comment on itineraries rather than build them myself, but yours is so simple I don’t mind.

    Here’s what I would suggest:

    Day 1 (April 5): arrive in London and stay 4 nights
    Day 5 (April 9): Take the Eurostar train (buy those tickets as soon as possible) to Paris, which only takes 3 hours or so. Stay in Paris for 4 nights.
    Day 9 (April 13): Fly from Paris to Venice (or one of its nearby airports) and spend 24 hours there.
    Day 10 (April 14): Take a train to Florence and spend 2 nights there (buy the train ticket online in advance from the Italy rail national site, or when you get to Venice if you don’t mind paying a bit more).
    Day 12 (April 16): Take a train and spend 3 nights there.
    Day 15 (April 19): Fly back from Rome to London and then home to Manila. London has 4 major airports so make sure you are flying back into the same one you are flying to Manila out of, or that you have enough time to get between airports.

    I really think this allocation of your travel days will be the most enjoyable in the end. Let me know if this was what you were looking for or if you have any other questions.

     
Dawn says:

best time to find cheap airfare from heathrow to Dublin week of aug. 20

 

    Dawn,

    Here’s what I wrote the other place you asked about this: If you are going to fly on a low-cost airline like Ryanair or EasyJet, then book that one as soon as possible for the lowest fare. I just checked some random dates in August on Ryanair (which is usually cheaper, although EasyJet is better), and I’m seeing a total of £98 for two people, round-trip from London Gatwick to Dublin. There are some additional charges for checked baggage and such, but it should be way less than £200.

    You should be able to get similar fares between a variety of city pairs in England and Ireland if you book soon. In other words, check Ryanair and EasyJet now for flights that work, paying close attention to the add-on fees on both, and book soon. The price will keep going up as more seats on each flight are sold. If EasyJet is only a little more expensive, I recommend paying it to avoid the headache that goes along with flying Ryanair. -Roger

     
      Melissa says:

      Thanks Roger for your feedback. Based on your suggestions, our plans have changed a little so I wanted to get your opinion. Here are the plans below. I wanted to know how we should pay for things in Europe. Take a credit card and have some cash on hand. I wasn’t sure what the safest route would be.

      Arrive in Nice, France- stay for 3 days
      Nice to Oslo, Norway – stay for 4 days (we have friends there)
      Oslo, Norway to London – stay for 3 days
      London to Paris – stay for 3 days

      I think this plan might be more reasonable. I found cheap flights and good hotels for our stay. Do you think this is realistic?

       

        Melissa,

        Yes, this itinerary looks really nice and not rushed at all.

        As far as how to pay for things as you travel, a credit card will handle most of it. Every hotel (at least in those parts of Europe) will happily take credit cards. In Europe they pretty much all use a more modern type of credit card with a computer chip and a PIN, but you can get by with a standard “swipe and sign” one quite easily (except for things like automated ticket kiosks in train stations, so you have to stand in line and get tickets from a human). In places where not many Americans go (like Oslo, perhaps) they might look puzzled for a moment, but they can still swipe the card and have you sign a receipt.

        For cash, it’s best to keep some USDs on you just in case, but you’ll get local cash out of ATM machines that are found everywhere you’ll be. In addition to being all over the cities, there are ATMs in the arrivals area of every airport. You get a much better exchange rate than you would from changing cash. As you probably know, France uses the Euro, England uses the British Pound, and Norway uses their own Kroner, and they are all easy to change with one another once you are there. I hope that’s the sort of info you were looking for. If not, please ask again. -Roger

         
Sophie says:

Hi Roger,
I’m planning an 18 day trip in May with my two sisters and cousin all under the age of 25. We will be in Italy traveling from Rome to Assisi to Florence to the Cinque Terre to Venice. It’s seven days of travel by train. Do you know if we can use a pass to get from the airport in Rome to Termini Station and for a roundtrip adventure to Pompeii? I wasn’t how that works. Do you think it makes sense for us to buy eurail passes for seven days in 1 country? Thanks!
-Sophie

 

    Sophie,

    If I understand this correctly, you are asking whether you should consider a Eurail Pass for Italy only, with 7 travel days within two months? For what you have in mind, I don’t think that would be good value at all. One of the nice parts of traveling within Italy is that all the main sights are fairly close together, and train tickets aren’t too expensive. Each of those journeys you have in mind is only two hours or so, and even if you just bought the train tickets as you go, they would probably average under US$40 each. If you buy them online at least a few weeks in advance, they could be half that price.

    It looks like an Italy rail pass for 7 journeys is US$308, which is US$44 per ride, and you’d still have to pay a bit more for seat reservations. So the cheapest way to do it would be go to http://www.trenitalia.com/ and buy your tickets as early as you are able to lock in dates and times. Those cheap tickets are non-refundable and non-changeable, so they do reduce your flexibility a bit. Still, if you bought all your tickets in advance and ended up wanting to change one or two, you could still buy them again and be saving money compared to the rail pass.

    If I misunderstood the question, please let me know. -Roger

     
Enrique Tolentino says:

Hi Roger,

My wife and I,both in our late 60’s, are planning a 16-day trip to Europe this April. We plan to visit Benelux, Munich and Zurich. We will be flying from Tampa,Fl to Amsterdam and flying back to Tampa from Zurich. How should we allocate the 15 nights in each city? What mode of transportation would you suggest to get us to each city? We are confused with the many choices of trains that run in those cities.

Thank you so much for helping all of us.

 

    Enrique,

    On an itinerary like what you have in mind, you’ll definitely want to take trains. Once you get to southern Belgium, the rest is a very scenic ride and there is frequent train service through the whole region.

    There are many choices of stops between Amsterdam and Zurich, of course, and most of it comes down to personal interests and taste in general. But since you ask, I’ll try to help as if a friend or relative were asking me, and you can perhaps use that as a starting point and then figure out how you might want to change it.

    Day 1: Land in Amsterdam and spend 3 nights there
    Day 4: Take a train to Brussels and I’ll give you 2 options here. Brussels is quite an expensive city for hotels and only the old city center is really interesting. So let’s say you arrive at 10am. You could put your bags in a locker at the train station and then spend 4 or 5 hours exploring the city and having lunch, and then back to the train station for a journey to Bruges to spend 2 nights. Bruges is more tourist friendly and has cheaper hotels, plus it’s really more charming in general. That way you’d only check into one hotel in Belgium, but the other option would be to spend one night in Brussels and then the next night in Bruges.
    Day 6: Take the train from Bruges to Luxembourg City. If you get an early start, you could be there for lunch, and one day is enough to see the main sights in the compact city center.
    Day 7: Between Luxembourg City and Munich, you’ve got at least 2 excellent places to stop, and you can choose one or both.

    Read more information about them on my Where to go in Germany article.

    1 – Neuschwanstein Castle/Füssen
    2 – Rothenburg ob der Tauber

    As long as you start on early trains, you can be at both places by lunch time so you have most of the day left for sightseeing. I’d actually recommend both of them, which would be days 7 and 8.

    Day 9: Rothenburg ob der Tauber to Munich to spend 3 nights. You might considering the 3rd day going to Salzburg, or perhaps the 4th day, instead of going to Switzerland on that day.
    Day 12: Munich (or Salzburg) to Lucerne, Switzerland. Most people agree that Lucerne (which is closer for you) and Interlaken are the most interesting and beautiful places to spend a few days in Switzerland, rather than the expensive and somewhat generic big cities.
    Day 15: Lucerne to Zurich for at least one day before you fly out the following day.

    Instead of 3 nights in Lucerne, you can add that one or even two in Salzburg, or you could add one in another place along the way.

    If you do something like this, you won’t really be covering too much ground and if you buy the train tickets online in advance, they will probably be cheaper than using a rail pass. The only Eurail Pass that could be helpful would be the Benelux-Germany Pass, which allows for 5 travel days for two adults traveling together for US$301 each. This would give you a bit more flexibility since you only have to make seat reservations a short time before you want to go on each leg, but you’d still be paying for the tickets once you get to Switzerland.

    To get the best deals on train fares in advance, go to the official websites of each country rail system (like http://www.bahn.de for Germany) and buy them online as early as you can. If you just walked into the train stations and bought tickets as you went, they would probably cost double what you pay in advance, and a rail pass would be a better deal in that case.

    Hopefully this helps, and feel free to ask any other questions. -Roger

     
DAWN says:

Roger, if I am flying into Heathrow on august 20 returning August 25 and want to fly that same day from Heathrow to Dublin would it be wise to buy my tickets now? I found airfare for £217.8 for two people on British Airways.

 

    Dawn,

    You could fly from London Luton Airport to Dublin and back for about £65 per person return on EasyJet, but of course that would mean going from Heathrow to Luton to do so. Heathrow is generally the most expensive airport for shorter flights in and out of London, though it’s obviously far easier if you are landing there already. So yes, if you prefer to fly out of Heathrow to Dublin, then I don’t think the fare on those British Airways flights is going to come down, or at least not by much, and it’s probably more likely to go up. So go ahead and lock them in unless you are prepared to spend at least £10 each and a couple hours changing airports. -Roger

     
Sansha says:

Hello Roger!

Trust you have been doing very well. Many thanks for your advise previously. I looked if there was a specific thread for Rome questions, didn’t find them, so writing it here.

We’ll be in Italy for the most part of our holiday visiting Rome, Venice, Milan and Tuscany-Pisa, Chianti, Florence.

Could you suggest a good clear water beach where we could stay over for a couple nights. It’ll be great if they have a few activities like a boat tour, snorkeling etc.? Budget options during the end of April 2014. 🙂

I had initially thought of visiting Praia A Mare in calabria (onda beach road hostyle) seemed like amazing value, but we will have to shell out a lot on the trains as it’s a detour from most of our other plans. Could you please suggest something closer to any of the above cities we’re planning to visit?

Thank You

 

    Sansha,

    Unfortunately, I don’t have much experience with Italian beaches, at least since I was a child visiting with my family. Most of them seem to be small and primarily catering to Italians. At least that means that most of them should feel authentic and interesting, unlike the many mass-market beaches in Spain or Greece. My guess is that any of the popular ones you read about will suit you well, but I can’t really help you decide. Bon voyage. -Roger

     
Sam says:

Hi Roger,

Me and a friend are planning on travelling round Europe in summer. We have a month and are starting in Amsterdam as got cheap flights.
We want to see as much as possible and would really like to see bits of Eastern Europe like Hungary, Croatia, Austria, Slovenia, Bulgeria, Romania. As well as Italy, Germany and Denmark.
I realise that seeing all of these places in a month is unrealistic and just wondered what you think would be the best itinerary to cover as much as possible.
Also we were going to get interrail tickets, but don’t know whether these are worth it for what we want to do.

Thanks in advance.
Sam

 

    Sam,

    It’s tough to give you advice at this point because you already realize that you will have to cut out at least a few on your list to even make it work in a hurried fashion. You mention Germany and Denmark, but none of the rest of your list (except the Netherlands) borders either of those.

    Just winging it here, what I’d recommend would be to save Denmark for a future trip. Copenhagen is a beautiful city, but it’s very expensive and quite out of the way from the rest of your list, so it would take at least one day getting there and another getting back. And I think I’d also save Romania and Bulgaria for another trip. Both are cheap and fairly interesting, though they are both very much secondary destinations that don’t really stand out compared to most of the others.

    So with nothing else to go on, I would recommend:

    Amsterdam
    Berlin
    Prague or Krakow
    Budapest
    Zagreb (for only a day or so because it’s not that interesting compared to the coastal cities)
    Split
    Dubrovnik (ferry to Italy, which could also go from Split)
    Rome
    Florence
    Venice (for one day and one night)
    Then back home from one of the many airports in northern Italy

    That would give you enough time for about 3 days in each major city, and at least a few extra days to make other stops or stay longer in places you like. Remember that many of those trips will be 5 to 8 hours on the train or ferry, and you can’t really count those as sightseeing days.

    I think if you did something similar to the above, then a 10-day Interrail Pass would probably be good value. If you wanted to shoehorn in a trip from Amsterdam to Copenhagen and then another from Copenhagen to Berlin, then an Interrail Pass would definitely be good value. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

     
Cristy says:

Hello again,
After much fuss I have managed to add Budapest. We have flights already booked out of Paris, Vienna, Split and Rome so those departure dates are firm. I saw that you feel the stay in Split is long but that is a place I am looking forward to relaxing on beaches. I was hoping that this itinerary seems better, and am wondering now about the trains between cities. Should I book these before we leave or is it OK to book the trains once we are in Europe? We will need them between most of the destinations.
Date in Date out# days City
5-Jun 12-Jun 6 days Paris
12-Jun 15-Jun 3 days Berlin
15-Jun 19-Jun 4 days Prague
19-Jan 21-Jun 2 days Budapest
21-Jun 26-Jun 4 days Vienna (Salzburg day trip?)
26-Jun 1-Jul 5 days Split (Plitvice lakes and Blue cave)
1-Jul 4-Jul 3 days Venice
4-Jul 10-Jul 5.5 days Rome (Pompeii day trip)
10-Jul 6:20 AM flight SFO
Your advice is much appreciated.

 

    Cristy,

    I think this itinerary looks fantastic. And I also like the extended stay in Split to just hang out, which is something that many people forget to include in a longer trip.

    Three days is actually quite a long stay in Venice, but it will be entertaining no matter what. One reason that many of us recommend a shorter stay is that Venice is actually quite compact, so you can see the main attractions in a day or so. But also because hotels are justifiably quite expensive, and the city is incredibly crowded during the day all year round. It’s a bit like spending 3 days in Disneyland, but there are actually things to do outside of the main island as well.

    If this is going to be the locked-in itinerary, then I think you’ll be best off if you do try to buy the train tickets online in advance. You can usually get them 90 days before, although some countries only do 30 days. Either way, tickets bought online early should be cheaper than buying as you go, but only if you buy from the official rail websites of the countries involved.

    Looks like a great trip for sure. -Roger

     
paul chacko says:

Am from Mumbai, India.
My family ( myself, wife, my 2 sons( aged 22 and 14) plan to visit London-5 days( have a place to stay),Paris-5 days( have a place to stay),Germany 3 days, Switzerland 3 days, Italy– 3 days sometime april 2015.
Can you suggest some travel tips as would be visiting Europe for the 1st time and please advice from where should I start my Europe trip.

 

    Paul,

    The best order for the places you visit will depend on the cheapest place to fly into. London and Paris both have very competitive airlines flying in from all over, but also high taxes so airfares still tend to be high. If you find a good deal flying into London, then stay there for at least a few days, and then take the Eurostar train to Paris, which is cheapest if you buy those tickets at least a few months in advance. From Paris you’ll be close to Switzerland and Germany for the rest of your trip.

    It’s hard to give many meaningful travel tips without having more information on what you are hoping to do and all that. Plus, you have places to stay already in two very expensive cities, so you are already ahead of the game. Let me know if you have specific questions I might help with. -Roger

     
Bridget says:

Hi Roger,

I will have about 4 days in Germany, starting from Frankfurt and ending in Rome where i will start my Italy tour.
what do you recommend to visit and what’s the best way to travel from Frankfurt down to Rome?

Thanks!
Bridget

 

    Bridget,

    Well, the cheapest way to get from Frankfurt to Rome would certainly be to fly, but of course if you want to take 4 days getting there, then you’ll want to take the trains and stop once or twice along the way. The most direct route will have you heading towards Milan, and then taking the train to Rome from there.

    First off, Frankfurt itself isn’t really a good tourist city, in spite of its huge airport, so I wouldn’t even recommend spending any time there. If you land in the morning, you might just hop on a train right from the airport and head to someplace more interesting.

    The places I’d consider if I were you are 3 that are discussed in this post about where to go in Germany. Namely, have a look at Munich, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, and Neuschwanstein Castle/Füssen. Those last two are great to visit in only one day each, so they’d work well for you. Munich would need either 2 or 3 days, and you could also pop into Salzburg for a day if you went in that direction.

    Once you make a decision, you’ll be best off buying those train tickets online in advance from http://www.bahn.de (the German rail site) or the Italian rail site for that part of the trip. Advance tickets are about half the price of buying them as you go. Hopefully this helps, and let me know if you have other questions. -Roger

     
Chan says:

Hi Roger,

My friend & I planned to go Europe and this is our first time. Appreciate your advise to buy rail passes or point to point tickets and your comments on our itinerary below.

Brussels to amsterdam( 3 days) visiting zaanse schans, giethoorn, keukenhof
Next morning depart to cologne (2days)
Cologne to switzerland (5days) visiting Zurich, luzern, interlaken, jungraujoch, wengen,
Geneva
Depart to Paris for 3 days trip. Visiting floral clock, eiffels tower, musee du lauvre, arc de triumphe
Back to Brusels

 

    Chan,

    This is a tricky itinerary for rail passes since France pulled out of the regional versions. In other words, to use a rail pass in France, you have to either buy one with just France or France and one other country, or get the Global Pass that includes all countries. However, the shortest version of the Global Pass is 10 rides, and it doesn’t look like you’ll need that many. Also, most of your rides within Switzerland should be fairly cheap because the distances are short, so a Global Pass wouldn’t be good value.

    So unfortunately, your best bet will be to buy point to point tickets. They are cheapest if you buy them online in advance, but only if you buy them from the official rail site for one of the countries involved in the trip (in other words, advance online tickets are too inflated on sites like raileurope.com, except on rail passes).

    I believe the Swiss Rail network only sells tickets 30 days in advance, but the others are about 90 days in advance, I believe, and the earlier you buy them the cheaper they will be. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

     
Maria says:

Hi Roger,
My family is planning a trip to Europe this summer. We have 3 teenagers and we plan to visit Barcelona, Granada, Sevilla and Madrid in Spain, and then either go to Italy and see Rome and Florence or go to Germany and visit Berlin and Munich (the kids seem to prefer the Germany version). We plan to stay for 3 weeks during the month of June. What itinerary do you recommend? Do you think the Rail Pass is a good option for us, because I checked and it’s expensive? What other options are there for transportation? What do you recommend us to see in the cities we are visiting? Also, given the fact that we are 5 people I think we might need to reserve two rooms in the hotels we are staying, is this right? is there an option hotel wise?
Thank you.

 

    Maria,

    The challenging part of either plan is (obviously) that you’ll be skipping over France. Partly because of that, a rail pass wouldn’t really be good value for you. To complicate matters more, individual train journeys across France are very expensive, and time consuming as well, so you’ll really want to fly from Spain to either Italy or Germany. The good news is that you should be able to get a cheap flight from Madrid or Barcelona to any of those Italian or German cities you mentioned, especially if you book as early as possible on a low cost carrier.

    It’s hard to choose between Italy and Germany because they are so very different. Italy is far more popular for tourists (and it’s also very different from Spain), but Germany has a lot going for it, and its modern culture is probably more interesting than that of Italy. Either way, you’ll be best off buying individual train tickets as early as possible (3 months out, I believe, is when they are available).

    Making the decision even more complicated is that train tickets in Italy are generally cheaper, but Germany has these promotions that can actually be cheaper still. Most notably, Germany has this ongoing promotion where up to 5 people can travel on Saturday or Sunday for €44, however, it’s only on “local services” so you can’t take the higher speed Inter City Express (ICE) trains. But still, you can still go longer distances with a bit of patience.

    As for what to see, all the cities you have listed are all loaded with really interesting sights that are in every guidebook or on every online travel site, so I’m confident that you’ll have a wonderful time regardless of your choice.

    Accommodation does get a bit tricky with more than 2 people. Hotel rooms pretty much all over Europe are tiny by international standards, and even fitting in one small roll-away bed can be difficult. In other words, even finding hotels that offer a room for two and another room for three won’t be as easy as it would be almost anywhere else. I have two suggestions that should help, and you can mix and match them in each city.

    One is to look for apartments instead of hotel rooms. The easiest place to find them is airbnb.com, which will have many choices in every city you visit, but there are a few other websites and agencies that also offer them. You’ll easily be able to find places that hold 5 people, usually for only a bit more than a single hotel room for two people. The other benefit is that you’ll almost always get a kitchen, so you can make your own breakfasts or other meals, and save even more money.

    The other option would be to look for hostels that offer private rooms for 5 or 6 people, which should also be fairly easy in all those cities. You’ll usually get a private bathroom to go along with the private bedroom, plus almost always access to a community kitchen so you have the option of doing a bit of cooking as well. Many hostels include breakfast in the rate, so the kitchen part would be optional.

    So if you look for apartments in each city, and then check for private hostel rooms in places where apartments don’t seem ideal, you should be able to keep costs down and still be comfortable. I have some good recommended hostels on many of the city pages on this site (like this Barcelona one), so you could check them first as a good baseline. Feel free to ask any other questions you have, and have a great trip either way. -Roger

     
Jen says:

Hi Roger,

I am traveling to Europe in September for 14 days, in and out London.

We are planning to go to Paris, Milan, Florence, and Rome.

Sept14-16 london
Sept 16-20 paris
Sept 20-24 would this be enough for italy? (Rome, florence, milan?) or skip milan?
Sept 24-27 london

Can you suggest the best itinerary?

Thanks so much!

 

    Jen,

    Four days is a bit short for Italy, even in a trip of only 14 days. I’d definitely save Milan for another trip, and you might even consider adding one more Italy day, with 2 nights in Florence and 3 nights in Rome.

    Milan is interesting in some ways, and it has the Last Supper for those who reserve well in advance to see it. But Milan is also not very Italian (it was part of Austria about 100 years ago) and hotels there are incredibly expensive when there is a trade show on, which is at least half the time. I’d add a day in Venice if I had one more day in Italy.

    You’ll want to take the Eurostar (train) from London to Paris, and you can get the cheapest tickets by buying up to 6 months in advance. From Paris it will be cheapest and fastest to fly into Florence, Pisa (which is near Florence), or Rome. Again, buy your ticket as early as possible and it should be quite cheap. Take trains to get around within Italy, and again, the cheapest tickets are those bought in advance from the official Italy rail site.

    From Italy back to London, you’ll want to fly for sure. There are several low-cost airlines that connect Italy and London, and you might get the cheapest airfare by flying from or into a secondary airport. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

     
Florence says:

Hi Roger,
I am planning a holiday in Germany in June for 2 weeks with my mom (72yrs) and daughter 17yrs). I am also visiting another daughter who is currently on exchange at Mannheim U. My mom cannot walk for too long a distance so it has to be a leisurely pace holiday with minimal climbing. Aside for staying in Mannheim for 4 days (including one day to Europa park for my younger girl), I need to plan about 10 days around Germany. Can you help advise places to visit & estimate no. of nights (considering our diverse age range- me, 50yrs)?
And if I should purchase the German rail pass?
Thank you very much for your kind assistance.
Florence

 

    Florence,

    I’ve gotten similar questions like this before so I put most of my recommendations in a where to go in Germany article.

    So the other part of this is the mobility situation. I’d imagine that castles would be a challenge because most of them require climbing stairs to really see what the inside is like. But Rothenburg ob der Tauber is reasonably flat. Salzburg, Austria is one that isn’t on that list, but it’s one to consider because it’s an easy train ride from Munich. The town square is gorgeous and compact, and mostly flat. There are also the Sound of Music bus tours which could actually be a fun activity for the group.

    The bigger cities on the list (Munich, Berlin, Cologne, and Hamburg) are all mainly flat, and each has some dense parts of the city center that are really interesting without having to cover too much ground. You can also get sightseeing bus tours in each of these cities, which I often recommend for quick visits even if mobility isn’t an issue.

    It really depends on where you decide to go whether a German rail pass would be good value or not. Tickets for shorter journeys like Mannheim to Rothenburg ob der Tauber are fairly cheap, especially if you buy them at least a week in advance from the bahn.de website. Longer trips, like to Berlin, can be very expensive if you buy them on the day, but reasonably priced if you buy ahead. Germany also has this deal where for €44 you can travel in a group of up to 5 on Saturday or Sunday, as long as you don’t take the fast intercity trains. So if you do that promotion for one trip, and buy the other 2 or 3 train tickets well in advance, it’ll be cheaper than a rail pass.

    The only great feature about using a rail pass for a trip like that is that you’d pretty much be able to go as you pleased. You’ll need seat reservations on most trains in Germany, but those are only about €5 each, and as long as any seats are available (they almost always are) you can go. So your options are to plan your journeys in advance and buy all the tickets to save the most money, or buy a rail pass for a bit more, and go as you please after that. -Roger

     
      Florence says:

      Thanks for the tips and suggestions. Will continue to research from here 🙂
      fantastic site here.

       
      Florence says:

      Hi Roger,
      I have read your site and Q&A more thoroughly and really appreciate the amount of information you have provided. Great job!
      I have firmed up my travel dates and would like your advise if given the following type of journeys should i get the German Rail Pass. Mannheim is my base.
      Trip 1 – Mannheim to Munich
      Trip 2 – Munich to Salzburg
      Trip 3 – Salzburg to Mannheim
      Trip 4 – Mannheim to Rhine Falls (Schaffausen, Switzerland)
      Trip 5 – Rhine Falls to Mannheim (can i fit in Triberg, Black Forest, Cuckoo Clock along this journey?)
      Trip 6 – Mannheim to Paris
      Trip 7 – Paris to Mannheim
      Trip 8 – Mannheim to Cologne
      Trip 9 – Cologne to Mannheim
      Trip 10 – Mannheim to Europa Park
      Trip 11 – Europa Park to Mannheim
      all the trips are happening on different days, not consecutive though.

      A million thanks!

       

        Florence,

        Traveling mostly in one country makes this decision a bit easier, but still it totally depends on your goals and travel style. Germany is one of many European countries that now offer relatively cheap train fares for those who book way in advance (usually locals), and very high fares for those booking at the last minute (usually tourists and business travelers). For example, on that first trip from Mannheim to Munich, if you bought a ticket today for a trip tomorrow, it would cost €86 each way. But if you bought today for a trip one week from today, the lowest fare is €39 each way, although the morning trains are still more expensive. If you bought today for a trip one month from now, you have many departure choices that are all €29 (which is the lowest advanced fare on that route).

        So if you are willing and able to book nonrefundable tickets for each journey at least a few weeks in advance, then a rail pass probably won’t be good value. But if you prefer the flexibility to go at the last minute, a rail pass is ideal. In Germany, most domestic trains don’t require a seat reservation, so you can literally just walk into the bahnhof (train station) and hop on a train just before it pulls out. It’s honestly a wonderful feeling to be able to go anywhere without worrying about transportation costs (once you buy the pass).

        I don’t believe I’ve been to Triberg, but I can say that the “Black Forest” isn’t much to look at, but all the tourist towns there are filled with kitschy souvenirs.

        If you use a continuous pass then you can use it for the Germany portion of your trip to Paris (so it would be a small discount on the full price), but otherwise that trip to Paris will be pretty expensive so you’ll want to buy that one as far in advance as possible, whether you buy a rail pass or not. -Roger

         
          Florence says:

          Got you. Once again, thanks much for all the advice and tips 🙂
          warmest regards

           
Jagadish Kothari says:

we are a family of 4 people (daughter’s aged : 21 and 15 ).
we will be reaching amsterdam on 6 may (2 nights) and will further be travelling to paris (3 nights). followed by switzerland (luzern : 5 nights from 11may) and finally italy (venice : 1 night and rome: 4 nights.)
please could you help and assist us in making an itinerary and mode of travel etc. could you tell us about important places to see and help us so that we can cover maxinmum things in the limited time span.
thank you 🙂

 

    Jagadish,

    You could fly on a couple of these segments, but I think trains would be more enjoyable and hopefully a bit cheaper as well. From Amsterdam to Paris you’ll want to take the train, which takes 3 hours and 17 minutes on the Thalys high-speed service and will cost as little as €35 if you buy well in advance from the Dutch Rail site.

    From Paris to Lucerne the train is also probably the best option. Buy those tickets as early as possible from the French rail site.

    From Switzerland to Venice and then onto Rome the train will be very scenic and reasonably priced. Buy those tickets as early as possible from the Italy Rail site.

    You aren’t planning enough individual journeys to have a rail pass be good value, but the individual tickets will also be fairly cheap if you buy them in advance.

    All the places on your list are packed with interesting and worthwhile sights, so it all depends on what interests you, and I’m sure you’ll have no trouble staying busy. Bon voyage. -Roger

     
Bekah says:

Hi Roger,

I am planning a first trip with my sister to Europe this coming April and was thinking of purchasing the Eurail Global pass (15days continuous +2 free travel days) in advance. We only have 15days for this trip but would like to visit countries like Netherlands, Switzerland, Italy, and Germany. With this pass, it means I could hop on and off the train multiple times during the day or is it limited on how many travels I could take within a day? Also when we do night trains is there shower available in the train? Lastly, what cities or sites are a must see in these countries? Thanks for your time. -becca

 

    Bekah,

    On the continuous pass you can take any train you like, multiple times per day. Even with a “10 days in 2 months” pass, a “travel day” allows you to take as many trips on that day as you can. And with the continuous pass, it’s even more wide-open. They are really nice for being able to do day trips or stop anywhere you like along the way, and then hop on a following train again. For example, I once did a morning train from Dresden to Munich so I could spend the afternoon at Oktoberfest without spending a fortune on a hotel, and then that evening I took the train from Munich to Innsbruck for the night, and all of it was considered one travel day.

    As for night trains, I think some of them might have a shower in the most expensive class where there is one bunk per compartment, but for any of the more affordable cabins there is no shower. Some train stations have showers, though I think most people just wait until they check into their next hotel or hostel.

    It’s difficult to recommend sights without knowing more about what you like. In the Netherlands, obviously you’ll want to spend most or all of your time in Amsterdam. You can do an all-day bus tour from there to see many other worthwhile sights like the flower market, Delft, Haarlem, and Rotterdam. In Switzerland I usually recommend that people consider a base in either Interlaken or Lucerne rather than in one of the big and expensive cities.

    Germany itinerary ideas
    France and Italy itinerary ideas

    Those should help you with Germany and Italy, at least in terms of the basics. Bon voyage. -Roger

     
Jane says:

Hi Roger,

I’m flying into Athens, Greece on May 9th, spending a couple of days in Athens, then stying four days in Santorini and a couple of days in Mykonos. I will be flying out of Paris on May 25th. I had thought about going to south of France because I have already been to Italy. Please let me know your suggestions of where to travel and how to get there during this time of year. Thank you very much!

 

    Jane,

    So it sounds like you have 16 days, and the first half will be in Greece, so you are wondering what to do with the other 8 days on your way to Paris for a flight home? If so, this is a tricky one (which might be why you are asking) because Greece doesn’t have many cheap flights that aren’t to Italy. Your best bet will almost certainly to start with the ferry from Mykonos back to Athens (3.5 to 5 hours), and then fly somewhere from there.

    My first thought would be to fly to Nice and spend 3 or 4 days there, including lovely day trips to nearby Cannes and Monaco, and then head by train to Paris for the last 4 days or so. That still could be good, but it appears that there are no nonstop flights so your best bet would be to pay US$202 on Aegean Airlines, including a plane change in Brussels, which takes 6 hours altogether.

    If you didn’t want to do that, I think your best bet would be to go back to Athens and then take a nonstop flight for US$95 to Milan. Many visitors to Italy skip Milan on their first visit, so if you did then maybe you’d spend a day or two there before taking the train to Nice. If you don’t want to stay in Milan you could jump on the train to Nice right away (if you buy that train ticket in advance). That would be quite a long travel day, and it would end up costing about as much as the Aegean Airlines flight as well.

    Mid-May would be great in southern France, by the way, because it’s fairly warm and yet the summer people are still at home so it won’t be terribly crowded.

    Hopefully this helps, and feel free to follow up if you have more questions. -Roger

     
Muna Gaye says:

Dear Roger,

I was hoping you can help me with my travel plans. I will be going on a RTW trip beginning of May for 3 months and will be spending the last month in Europe (from June 30th 2014). I am flying in from Shanghai to London- where I plan to spend a few days to visit friends and family. The my plan is to take the DFDS ferry from London to Esbjerg, Denmark arriving on July 7th. I will stay in Esbjerg for a few days visiting with family then will head to Copenhagen on July 11th to meet my friend who I will be exploring parts of Europe with. So the plan is that we will Leave Copenhagen on July 13th and want to see the following places (Paris; Italy (Rome and close by cities); Berlin; Switzerland, Istanbul or Greece; Madrid; and Barcelona)- not necessarily in that order. We will be flying out of Barcelona back to Canada at the end of July.

So my question is:
1. What is the best way to travel from Copenhagen to the places we want to visit? (Train, plane or Bus?)
2. What route will you suggest given that we need to fly out of Barcelona? We are open to suggestions to fly out of another city.
3. Is it work buying the Eurorail pass? We are budget travels and don’t have as much money- so the most affordable means is preferred.
4. Is three weeks enough time to visit the list of destinations I mentioned above not including UK or Denmark?

Many thanks for your help.

Muna

 

    Muna,

    Starting with #4 first, three weeks is potentially enough time to visit all of the places on your list, but you’d be rushing around most of the time and it would get complicated and expensive. If you save Greece and/or Turkey for a future trip, it gets much easier in every way. Also, Athens is interesting for about two days, and Istanbul for maybe 3 or 4, but with either of those you’d only get the quickest look at the country itself, and each is really great if you have enough time.

    So based on the cheapest way to do this, you’ll want to fly from Copenhagen to Berlin, which can be done for as little as US$47 on an easyJet nonstop if you book well in advance.

    Then fly from Berlin to Paris, which will cost as little as US$58 on easyJet (and by the way, easyJet is not a bad airline, much nicer than Ryanair).

    Switzerland is the opposite of budget friendly, although the Alps are stunning. If you do want to include this on your trip, you could fly from Paris to Zurich on Air France for as little as US$97, and then take a short train ride to Lucerne, where you’d spend at least 2 days. Or you could take the train from Paris to Lucerne (or to Basel and then to Lucerne) for around US$60 if you buy well in advance. The train would be far nicer and incredibly scenic, so do that as long as you are able to book far enough in advance to get those lowest fares.

    From Lucerne you can take a train to Milan, and from there you can switch to another one for a stay in Florence, Venice, or Rome. I’d recommend one day in Venice (because it’s amazing and one day is enough to see it without getting sick of the crowds), two days in Florence, and three days in Rome. So if you did that, you’d just buy a train ticket from Lucerne to Venice, and you’ll change trains in Milan on the way. Venice to Florence and to Rome are pretty cheap train tickets, especially if you buy early on the Italy rail official site.

    From Rome you’ll want to fly to Madrid, which will also be cheap, and then take the high-speed train to Barcelona for your outbound flight.

    Taking more trains and even getting a rail pass could work, but in this case they’d be more expensive and would require much more travel time since you are covering so much ground in so little time.

    The trick to doing all of this as cheaply as possible is to book and buy all of these flights and trains as early as possible. If you can lock it all in a month in advance you should get prices similar to what I mention, and the longer you wait, the higher the prices will go.

    I’m confident that this could work well for you, and let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

     
      Muna Gaye says:

      Dear Roger,

      Thanks for your response. Its very helpful. My friend and I have decided to make a few changes to our trip plan. We are scrapping, Istanbul, Greece and switzerland from our list. Since I will be flying into London from Shanghai on June 30th or so, and my friend doesn’t arrive in Europe until July 10th, I was thinking of the itinerary below. My specific questions are marked with **

      1. Flying to Barcelona from London on July 7th, visit family in Girona for 3 days.
      2. Then my friend will fly into Barcelona early morning of July 10th, take the fast train to Girona to meet me.
      3. We take the train to Figueres for the day to visit the Dali museum, spend the night in Girona and take the early am train back to Barcelona. (**Does this sound feasible?)
      4. We will spend 3 days 2 nights in Barcelona (**is this enough time to see sites and beaches, or would you recommend 3 nights 4 days?)
      5. We will then head to Madrid (2 nights 3 days)
      6. From Madrid we fly to Paris on July 16 in the AM (**we stay 3 nights in Paris- we want to see the most obvious tourist sites….can we do this between the 16- 19 knowing that we will arrive in Paris afternoon of the 16the probably?)
      7. From Paris we fly to Rome (july 19 in the am) and stay in Rome 3 nights(**is this enough or can we do 2 nights 3 days?)
      8. Take the train to Venice ( july 22… am or pm?) and stay 1 night (**Can we fly from Venice to Brussels or Berlin? Which one makes more sense first?)
      9. Between Brussels, Berlin and Denmark we will split our remaining days (7 days) **Can you recommend how best to split our time over these three places?
      10. We will then fly out of Copenhagen on the 30th of July.

      Sorry for the long message, but I want to know if this itinerary makes sense and whether given this new route, we should probably book flights rather than trains.

      Thanks Muna

       

        Muna,

        Your new itinerary looks quite good. I’ll try to answer the questions in order:

        The Barcelona and Girona idea sounds just fine. It looks like it’s only a 37-minute train ride each way on the new high-speed service, but those tend to be expensive if you don’t buy them online in advance, so you should at least look into that.

        Barcelona and Madrid are both very large cities with many worthwhile sights, so I recommend 3 days (or nights) in each as a minimum. It looks like are are close to that in your plan, so it’s just a matter of if you have an extra day to add or not.

        Paris also very large and I’d recommend 3 nights as a minimum, but you can see a lot in two busy days if that’s all you have. You might even consider doing it using a Paris Pass, which doesn’t seem cheap at first, but it allows you to skip many ticket queues and also includes a bus tour and Seine river cruise that are both great ways to see a lot fast and also get oriented.

        Rome, once again, is also huge and packed with incredible sights so I typically recommend at least 3 nights. But unlike the others, Rome is also somewhat crazy and stressful to visit, so doing your sightseeing quickly can be a good strategy.

        Venice has two airports (Venice Airport and Treviso Airport), and Bologna Airport is reasonably close, and there are 3 airports near Milan, which is only a bit over 2 hours from Venice by train. You might get the best deal at any of them. You’ll probably get the best deal flying into Berlin from one of those.

        Brussels is an unusual destination because it has a really wonderful city center that is totally worth at least a few hours, but hotels are expensive and most of the rest of the city is oriented towards business travelers and bureaucrats. I typically recommend that people spend an afternoon in Brussels and then hop on a train to Bruges, which is cheaper, more pleasant, and more interesting. Whether you included Bruges or not, I think two days in Belgium is good for a trip like this.

        Berlin is an amazing place, in a very different way. It’s also huge and spread out so I’d recommend 3 days there.

        Copenhagen is yet another gorgeous city, but the center is quite compact and you can see the main sights in two days.

        And again, you’ll want to book the flights as well as the trains as far in advance as possible to get the best fares. -Roger

         
          Muna Gaye says:

          Hi Roger,

          So as my trip is getting closer, there have been a few changes. I am now traveling on my own through Europe and have the following confirmed itinerary:

          Seoul – London- July 2nd
          London – Barcelona- July 8th
          Barcelona – Paris- July 15th
          Paris – Venice- July 18th
          Rome – Copenhagen – July 24th
          Copenhagen – Toronto – July 30th

          So I have a total of 6 nights in Italy starting in Venice but not quite sure how to spend my time there. I was thinking 2 night each in Venice, Florence and Rome, but since Venice is so expensive I was thinking just one night there, then 2 in Florence and 3 in Rome. What are your suggestions?

          Also I have three nights in Paris and can’t seem to decide on accommodation. I am on a very tight budget and will be living in hostels for my 3 month RTW trip. So far I have found cheaper hostels in the Montmartre area but don’t know enough about Paris to decide. Where would you suggest to stay. I plan to do the basic touristy stuff ( Eiffel Tour, Louver, the seine river tour and scare de coeur in Montmartre) but can’t make up my mind on where to stay. It may help to know that I’ll be flying into ORY and would appreciate the quickest transfer from the airport in the city centre by train so.

          Also, would you recommend booking accommodation in Paris and Italy now or wait I bit? I am in the process of booking train tickets within italy.

          Thanks Muna

           
Mrs Gonzalez says:

Going to Germany, July 1st for 10 days and would like to visit the Vatican, Rome, Venice, Amsterdam and Paris. What would be the best way to travel around: drive, metro, or fly? Where to stay (inexpensive)?

 
Gabby says:

Hi Roger,

Thank you for posting this thread, it has been immensely helpful! As much research as we have done, we are having trouble filtering through the noise and would love your input! Based on our itinerary, we have created a spreadsheet of our train ticket costs in hopes of determining whether a Eurail Pass would save us money, and headaches. However, it may have left us with more questions than answers… Our itinerary is as follows:

Lisbon, Portugal – 5 days (May 2-6)*Overnight train, already booked
Madrid, Spain – 4 days (May 6-10)
Barcelona, Spain – 5 days (May 10-15)
Paris, France – 5 days (May 15-20)
Nice, France – (May 20-24)
La Spezia, Italy – (May 24-28)
Florence, Italy – (May 28-June 2)
Venice, Italy – (June 2-4)
Rome, Italy – (June 4-9)

We will be flying from Rome to Athens and eventually flying from Greece (not sure from where yet) to Istanbul. Our flight home is July 1st from Istanbul. We are still determining our Greece itinerary.

We have decided to purchase point-to-point regional train tickets while we travel through Italy. We’re not sure about the Spain/France legs. Based on our spreadsheet, it looks like it makes sense to purchase a Spain/France Regional Eurail Pass ($314 ea) and avoid booking tickets now. It is not much more expensive than the point-to-point tickets ($272 for Spain/France leg w/advance purchase discounts). Additionally, the most attractive benefit with the Eurail pass is that we won’t be tied down to our itinerary and can move faster/slower/add destinations depending on how we’re feeling in each place.

The benefit to purchasing point-to-point tickets now is that we avoid any reservation fees associated with using our Eurail pass. We also have guaranteed seats on these trains (Madrid-Barcelona, Barcelona-Paris, Paris-Nice). *Please Note: I KNOW you know these things but am just laying out the conflict we’re faced with lol

If you were us, would you buy the France/Spain Regional Eurail pass? Or purchase separate point-to-point tickets before we go and forgo the pass altogether?

Also, if you have any other suggestions/recommendations in regards to our itinerary please trust that it is more than welcomed! 🙂

An OCEAN thanks in advance!
Gabby & Aaron

 

    Gabby & Aaron,

    Your itinerary looks fantastic and really well thought out and researched. You are allowing more than enough time in each stop to really soak them in, and that fact also means that you have plenty of room for potential flexibility. In other words, when someone allows only 2 days in a city that probably deserves 3 or more, they have to stay on their fast schedule just to get to the next stop at all. In your case, you have 4 or 5 days in each main city, so you’ll be able to leave sooner without having missed much, and maybe add in some side trips or other semi-planned stops on the way.

    You’ve summed up the argument for the France and Spain Pass perfectly. I do agree that it is probably your best bet if you want to be flexible at all because the only way to do it cheaper would be to lock in every single train ride at least a few weeks in advance. France and Spain have very expensive train tickets for those who buy on travel day, although they also have modern high-speed trains on those routes, so the fares are understandable.

    Just to be sure though, I hope and assume you are checking those point to point fares on the individual official rail sites for the countries you’ll be leaving from? The reason I want to check is that raileurope.com dominates the search results for people in North America who are checking prices on individual train rides, and they charge maybe 20% or more than the actual country sites on those tickets. Rail Europe is a fine company (owned by the France and Swiss railways, by the way), and they make it easy, but on individual tickets they unfortunately offer inflated prices. On Eurail passes they charge the same prices as everyone else, and they have free shipping included for most orders so I highly recommend them for passes, but not for individual tickets. I believe on some official rail sites they ask you which country you are from, and if you choose US or Canada it sends you to raileurope.com. So if that happens, try again and pick any other country to at least see the lower fares.

    The other thing I hope you are aware of is that France charges a much higher fee for a seat reservation on its high-speed trains, and on some of them it limits the number of seats that rail-pass users can get. The higher seat reservation fee is somewhat justified because those trains are very expensive no matter how you pay to get on board. The limited number of rail pass travelers seems to be only a problem for those who are unaware of it and try to book something on the same day. On those routes there are trains going every hour during the day, so as long as you get the reservation at least a few days early, you’ll typically have no trouble (unless you want to go on a big holiday or Monday morning or Friday afternoon etc). So you might discover that the 09:30 train has hit its rail pass quota, which means that you’ll have to book on the 10:30 or 11:30 train instead.

    Again, from the looks of it you’ve built enough wiggle time into your itinerary that you should be able to make and change plans as you go without costing much extra or having to miss important sights.

    My only comment on your itinerary is that I really encourage you to spend at least a couple days in Cappadocia when you are in Turkey. The photos look impressive, but it’s actually much better and more interesting in person, and it’s weirdly cheap as well.

    I’m sure you are going to have a wonderful trip, and feel free to ask any other questions if you have them. -Roger

     
Miranda says:

Roger,
My family will be staying in Ediger, Germany on the Mosselle River for one week at the end of May. We are scheduled to stay in Roquebrune, France for the 3 weeks following (one of our favorite places:) Originally, I thought that we could leave Ediger, travel by train to Lucerne and spend the night, then complete our journey to France the next day. However, I am unclear as to whether a 2-country rail pass will allow us to travel through Lucerne: The map on the Eurail site shows that route, but, when I enter our info, I get a schedule that routes us through Paris. What do you recommend? We definitely want the “scenic” route and are partial to smaller villages. (Furthermore, we will likely leave Roquebrune for a few day to go to Provence). If you have any suggestions, I would be most appreciative; I have found that most travel agents do not know anything about our destinations… Thank you!!

 

    Miranda,

    It’s not clear to me, but I’m assuming that the 2-country rail pass you are considering is for Germany and Switzerland? If so, then I’m quite sure you’d be able to use it to get from Ediger to Lucerne. The recommended route through Paris might actually be faster (although maybe not), but it would definitely be less scenic. I just checked that trip on Bahn.de (the German rail site) and all of its routes are only through Germany and Switzerland, although each one is circuitous because you are going between small cities in different countries.

    From Lucerne to Roquebrun it looks like it’s fastest to go through Milan, but with fewer changes if you go through Basel to Mulhouse and then south. In either case, you wouldn’t want to go anywhere near Paris along the way. So I’m not sure if this answers your question or not, but I can tell you that you DON’T have to book your journeys or seat reservations through any Eurail site in order to use a rail pass.

    Ediger and Roquebrun are both pretty obscure towns and I don’t know them myself, but I’m always happy to try to help answer a question when I can, so ask again if I’ve misunderstood. -Roger

     
Masynna says:

I’m deciding which Eurail to purchase as well which would be the best route to take between Germany and France. If I were to start in Germany with (example: 6daysfor2months pass) would I be able to visit major cities in Germany such as Munich, Berlin, and Cologne without staying overnight or because of the distances should I make sleeping arrangements in each city.
Also, do you think such a pass (6daysfor2months) cover Germany as well as Paris, Grenoble and the French Riviera (Nice area). And to travel in the French Riviera would I need/should I buy individual train tickets. Which pass would you recommend? route? I have 30 days to travel in these countries are there things you would recommend outside of the guides I’ve read on Germany and the France-Italy Itinerary? I will probably stay more in France. Thank you so much.

 

    Masynna,

    It sounds like I’m also trying to help someone named Anna in the comments of the Eurail article, who is planning the same trip.

    Those 3 German cities are between 4 and 6 hours apart by train during the day, and 10 to 12 hours apart by night train, but the night trains require connections and aren’t very convenient. I’m about to post a new article all about night trains in Europe in a few days, and one point on it is that doing them on back to back nights is probably not a good strategy for most of us because it’s hard to get much sleep, and not fun when you have nowhere to go in the day to shower and rest up. So I’d recommend at least staying in a hostel, and taking most trains in the daytime if you can afford them.

    And yes, if you buy a pass with enough days for Germany and France, you can use it on any train in either country or between the countries. You’ll have to make a seat reservation also, which is about €5 in Germany, and can be more for certain high-speed trains in France.

    I don’t have much expertise on longer and more detailed itineraries in France, at least aside from reading loads of guides and such, and you have access to the same things. France is a huge country (by European standards) and there are great sights all over. You can get a great overview either a the France wikitravel page or the France Lonely Planet page. -Roger

     
Elaine says:

Hi Roger,
We are planning our first trip to Europe for my husband, myself and 16 yr. old daughter in August for 4 weeks. We fly in and return home out of London. We are staying for 4 nights in London to start.
Can you please help us with our route and appreciate any advice you can give us:
London 4 nights
Brussels (via Eurostar?)
Amsterdam
Bruges
Berlin
Italy
– Venice
– Rome
– Florence
Paris 5 days

Thanks so much,
Elaine

 

    Elaine,

    Your itinerary looks excellent, especially for a first trip. Most of it will be quite straightforward, but in a couple spots there might be room for a bit of creativity. So here’s what you’ll do:

    London to Brussels: Definitely on the Eurostar. You can buy tickets up to 4 months in advance, and the sooner you buy them, the cheaper they will be. If you buy shortly after they are available, you can get them for as low as €49 (US$69) per person, but at the last minute they are €177 per person.

    You might think about going to Bruges straight from Brussels because it’s quite close and cheap by train, and if you went after Amsterdam you’d go through Brussels going in and coming out anyway.

    So I’d do Brussels and then Bruges and then Amsterdam. From Amsterdam to Berlin the train takes 6 hours and 10 minutes, and if you buy the tickets a couple months in advance they are as low as €59 each, but the price goes up to €117 each (in 2nd Class) if want to book on travel day.

    Now here’s our first place to get creative. Berlin to Italy would take a whole day on a very expensive train, so flying would be much faster and much cheaper. You could get a cheap flight from Berlin to Rome (or Milan) if you book well in advance. Or you could go by train if you add at least one more stop in. You could stop in Munich and then Salzburg, and both of those are wonderful places to visit on your way to Venice, and the scenery is stunning (starting just south of Munich). Or you could do Munich and Milan, or Munich and then a stop in Switzerland (Lucerne, perhaps) on your way to Milan and then Venice or Florence.

    Once you are in Italy you’ll want to get around by train. The distances are pretty short, and the trains there are fairly cheap (€19 if you buy early and up to €49 at the last minute).

    From Italy back to Paris I think you are going to want to fly. You could get a pretty cheap flight out of Rome or many other airports in Italy to Paris, and the train alternative would mean a long ride to Nice and then another long ride to Paris. That’s a great trip as well, but probably better saved for another visit because you’ll already be rushing a bit to do all of this in 4 weeks.

    If you keep to your original plan, the cheapest way to go is to book all of your train trips at least a month or more in advance, and there’s more information on an article I just posted about how early to buy train tickets in Europe. But if you decide to add in a stop or two between Berlin and Italy, then you might be better off with a Eurail Pass, which will also allow you to make up your plans as you go.

    Let me know if I was unclear or if you have any other questions. -Roger

     
Michael says:

Hi Roger,

I’m 26, making my first Europe trip and I’m a bit overwhelmed with where to go!

I’m going for a whole month from mid July to mid August, backpacker mode.

I know i want to do Paris-Brugge-Gent-Antwerpen-Amsterdam-Berlin.
(I have a friend in Berlin, so i would have free accommodation there).

My doubts are that i also want to include either Italy (Florence-Pompey-Amalfi Coast) or Croatia (plitvice lakes national park, dubrovnik for example). I’m not being able to make my mind between this two.

I guess it would be best to start from this places and go north more into august, because the coast would be more expensive in August (I’m not sure about this either), and would be really crowded.

I love nature and i love being able to see history as well. Being able to think about living in that space in time were everything happened.

I will go by myself and want to spend wisely. What I’m thinking is that maybe if i go to Croatia (this being the cheapest option), and it doesn’t astound me, i would regret not going to Amalfi Coast, pompey and Florence.

Any thoughts or suggestions?

Mike

 

    Mike,

    Perhaps the biggest issue you’ll be facing is that every beach area in southern Europe will be totally packed during all of July and August. As you might know, most Europeans get one of those full months off, and all of them that have the means tend to go to the beach areas (because it’s insanely hot inland, and almost nothing is air conditioned). In Italy it will be most Italians, and in Croatia it’ll be mostly Germans, Dutch, and Scandinavians. Even hostels in the beach areas put their rates up for those two months. I’m not saying you shouldn’t go, just that it’ll be crowded and relatively expensive if you do.

    But inland towns like Florence aren’t overwhelmed during those months, and some things are actually closed because local owners are away. I don’t think Naples and Pompei are overcrowded in those months, at least not with Italians. There will be plenty of tourists, of course.

    I’m not familiar with Plitvice Lakes National Park, but since it’s inland and also in Croatia, I don’t think it would be overstuffed with holidaymakers. Dubrovnik itself (and Split) will be packed in July and August, but still you might visit one of them for a couple of days just to see what it’s like since you are in the area. And if you found other interesting places in Croatia and nearby that aren’t beach resort towns, those could be good as well. Sarajevo is actually a very interesting city with a beautiful location, and it wouldn’t take too long to get there by bus from Croatia. It’s hard to reach from outside of the area, so that could be a cool one to consider.

    So it really comes down to how much you want to spend time in those coastal areas during the peak season, and how much you are willing to spend to do it. Either of those choices are a bit unconventional for a first trip to Europe, though you’ve made it clear that you are more interested in nature than city life.

    Those are my semi-random thoughts on it. I’ll be happy to discuss anything else that might come up as you are planning, so feel free to ask as you are getting organized. -Roger

     
neha says:

Hi Roger,

we are 4 of us who are planning from India to attend Oktoberfest and also go around Europe. We have 21 days starting from 20th September to 5th October.
Probably it is a little premature to ask this query. But we have to book our flight tickets now, i have to figure the arrival and departure destination.
We would like to surely go to Amsterdam, Spain, Munich. (if we can do Italy in that much time…:-)
Really appreciate if you can help us to figure the following:
1. the arrival and departure destination
2. what all places to go
3. how to travel to the places as suggested by you
4. how much time should one spend at the places
5. where to party and what to see

The trip is actually from 20th September to 12th October.
Thanks a lot Roger..:-)

 

    Neha,

    I don’t think it’s premature to sort this stuff out, and I’m happy to help you try.

    This one is a bit challenging because your 3 main destination choices are quite spread out, but in 3 weeks you’ll have enough time to see them if those remain your choices. I recently updated an article that shows the cheapest European cities to fly into, and the bottom line is really that fares tend to be pretty close together. In other words, you are usually best off picking the most convenient place and then shopping for the best fare, rather than trying to save by flying into a city (like Moscow) that is cheap but not where you want to go.

    I’d recommend saving Italy for your next trip. It’s really better to be able to spend at least a week there and visit Rome, Florence, and Venice, and if you did that as part of this trip, it would be like a race.

    One way of doing it would be to fly into Amsterdam and then fly out of Madrid. So you could check fares on those one-way flights, and if they aren’t close to the price of one round-trip flight into and out of one of those, you could buy a ticket on a low-cost airline to connect them. Like, round-trip from Mumbai or Delhi to Amsterdam, and then a cheap flight from Madrid back to Amsterdam on the day of (or day before) you fly home. You could start in Madrid and end up in Amsterdam, but that time of year you are probably better off going north to south for the best weather.

    Amsterdam is an awesome party city, and gorgeous as well. Plan for 3 nights there.

    After that I’d recommend Berlin, which is much, much bigger, but also really fun, interesting, and it’s fairly cheap as well. Three nights there would be enough, but you’ll love it and four nights might be better.

    From Berlin it’s easy to get to Munich for Oktoberfest. One important thing to consider is that hotel and hostel prices literally triple in Munich during Oktoberfest, so it’s very expensive and quite crowded. Munich is a really nice city, but it’s not worth €300 per night for a modest hotel room just to explore the city. And, the Oktoberfest thing itself is pretty intense, so two days there should be plenty to enjoy it but not get sick of it.

    From Munich you have many choices, depending on what you are after. You could go to Salzburg for a couple days, which isn’t really a party city, but it’s gorgeous and really fun. Or you could go to Rothenburg ob der Tauber for one day, which is also lovely and unique. If you prefer bigger party cities then you might go to Prague in between Berlin and Munich. Three nights there would be perfect, and it’s pretty amazing in spite of the crowds in the tourist areas.

    The best way to get between all the places mentioned above is by train. If you buy those train tickets online at least a month or so in advance, they’ll be relatively cheap. But if you bought them as you went they’d be very expensive.

    Once you have spent 12 to 14 days on that portion of the trip, your best bet would be to fly to Barcelona, which will be cheap if you book soon (or at least a couple months in advance). Spend at least 3 days in Barcelona, and plan at least 3 nights in Madrid. Book a high-speed train between them, which will be cheap if you book at least a month or two in advance. Those are both excellent and notorious party cities, and quite different from each other. If you allowed a bit more time in Spain, you could do any number of side trips, but the two big cities are the real highlights.

    Hopefully this is what you were looking for. Let me know if you have other questions. -Roger

     
sanj says:

Hi Roger,

It is amazing to see your wealth of knowledge on Europe. You seem to be like the go-to person for so many people seeking out this information through multiple links.

Again, like the previous post, I am travelling from India long with a friend from 1st August to 17th August.

Considering the difference in fares not being too much, we plan to fly into Prague and Fly back to India out of Barcelona.

Current outrageous plan is:

prague – 2 nights
Munich – 2 nights
Frankfurt – 2 nights
Cologne – 2 nights
Amsterdam – 2 nights
Brussels – 2 nights
Fly / train into Barcelona
Barcelona in and around 3 nights

It looks crazy tight but we’re a bunch of guys planning to go whole hog on the trip. Out of the cities above, frankfurt and colgne could be replaced with smaller towns cities – any recomendations?

Also, would it be sensible to cover bruseels or is belgium avoidable to increase a night somewhere else? If not brussels, any other place in Belgium that is a must see / party etc?

I have been told that driving around europs in a hatchback can be an amazing experience as well as a much cheaper option than flights or a train. Do let me know if it is true and considerign the itenenary, does it make sense? We anyways plan to take the flight / train from brussels to barcelona – again please advise if train or flight would be btter?

Instead of driving down, would a euro rail pass make more sense? Can it be made basis on no. of days or cities etc?

All in all – Prague, munich, amsterdam and barcelona is a must cover area – with your expertise, could you please guide on the above queries and please feel free to suggest your own itenenary if you were to do this trip.

I know it sounds like a hurried trip but we’re willing to compramise on sleep.

Also, regarding dorms or b&bs, is it better to pre-book or land and figure things out?

Thanks a tonne in advance for your valuable guidance.

Regds
sanj

 

    Sanj,

    I’ve been studying Europe and traveling all around the continent for so long that it’s nice to be able to put some of that knowledge to use like this.

    Flying into Prague and out of Barcelona sounds like a great plan. In between, I do have a few suggestions, especially suited to people looking to party (my own specialty as well).

    Prague is fantastic, and two days there is just long enough to see the main sites. It’s also a great party town, and it has the cheapest alcohol of any place you’ll be visiting (not counting the super-cheap wine in Spain).

    Munich is quite good as well, and two days should be enough to see the main things. Stay close to the train station for the best low-budget options and general convenience.

    Frankfurt isn’t really a tourist city so I don’t recommend it unless you have a specific reason to go there. Cologne is quite interesting, though a bit stodgy, and after you see the amazing cathedral there, there are few other highlights. Instead of those I’d think about Berlin, perhaps for all 4 days. It’s by far the funnest city in Germany, and it’s also fairly cheap as well. There are about a million bars and cool little clubs there, especially in the former East Berlin part, and the whole place feels really exciting (like London or New York).

    From Berlin it’s an easy (although not too scenic) train ride to Amsterdam, which you’ll love. Two days there is also enough to see most of the famous sights, but if you get involved in the coffeeshops and that sort of thing, you could miss everything else. You might think about staying an extra day if possible, although hotels and hostels there are pretty expensive so that’s something to consider.

    Belgium is quite interesting, but I’m not sure it will suit you on this trip. As I say so often, Brussels itself has a stunning city center that can be enjoyed in only a few hours, but otherwise it’s an expensive city built for businesspeople and bureaucrats. The most interesting tourist town in Belgium is Bruges, which isn’t far away and is much cheaper for most things. However, Bruges is actually quite similar to Amsterdam with the canals and architecture, except not as dramatic and the party scene is limited to tourist bars. So if you think you’d be in the mood for something a bit mellow by that point in your trip, Bruges would be great. But it won’t blow you away like the others on your list.

    So you might just forget Belgium for this trip, and add those days to the others, or go in a different direction. Like, you could stop in Hamburg on your way from Berlin to Amsterdam. Or if you want to mix in some things that are more historical and quaint, you could go to Rothenburg ob der Tauber for a day right after Munich, and/or you could visit Neuschwanstein Castle, which is near Fussen. However you do it, you’ll almost certainly be best off flying from Amsterdam or any other city nearby, to Barcelona. That train trip would take a long time and cost much more than a flight.

    Barcelona is a world-class party city as well, plus it has plenty of other things going for it. If you wanted to do something like I describe above, it could be more efficient to fly into Munich instead of Prague, but if fares there are much more expensive it might not be worth it.

    As for your other questions:

    Driving a rented vehicle around Europe would probably be fun, but it really wouldn’t suit what you have in mind. The hired cars tend to be expensive, and fuel is very expensive, and it’s almost impossible to park once you get into the big cities you will be visiting. There are also tolls on some roads. Basically Europe does a good job of making self-driving a difficult and expensive option. The trains, on the other hand, are very easy and they can be pretty cheap as well.

    Whether to consider a Eurail Pass would depend on the complete itinerary that you have in mind, as well as how much flexibility you want while you are there. The cheapest way to do it would be to buy all of your (nonrefundable, non-changable) train tickets at least a couple months in advance. A Eurail Pass will cost at least a bit more than that, but it allows you to almost go as you please. You do need to pay for a seat reservation (about €5 each) on most trains you’d take, but those can usually be done the day you want to leave, or maybe the day before.

    Choosing the right Eurail Pass can be tricky, so I will be happy to help you figure that out once your itinerary is more locked down. Most likely you could get a 4-Country Select Pass with 5 to 8 travel days. If you are both under 26 years old, it can be quite cheap.

    As for hostels and hotels and such, August is a peak month for Europe tourism, so planning ahead is usually wise. There will be loads of hostels in each city you visit, and in August all the best ones will be sold out at least a few days in advance, if not longer. The lousy ones will usually still have beds available, as long as you don’t mind staying in a weird/remote neighborhood and having fewer services available. What I’d recommend would be to book your hostels as soon as you are pretty sure you’ll be somewhere on a given date. When you reserve a hostel, you only pay about a 10% deposit, so even if you don’t make it, you are only out maybe €2 or €3 per person.

    I have recommended hostels and hotels on most city pages of this site: Prague, Amsterdam, Berlin for instance. You’ll see them in the left column, and in some cases there is a whole article. Those are all cheaper hostels with great locations and good services. Once you go through those, you’ll have a better idea of what to look for.

    The same is true for hotels or guesthouses or bed and breakfasts if you prefer those options. The better places will be fully booked in advance for August, so the sooner you reserve, the better place you’ll get for a better price. As long as you arrange a bed or hotel room by 6pm or so, you’ll find something decent even on arrival day. So don’t worry about having to sleep in a park if you choose not to pre-book.

    Hopefully this helps, and I’ll be happy to help more once you are more certain of where you want to go. -Roger

     
Nazlin says:

My son and I would like to go to Europe (first time) and would appreciate your advice. We are budget travellers.

We are thinking Paris, Vienna and Prague. We may include Madrid and Barcelona if time allows.

(1) Which in your opinion is the best mode of travel and in which direction should we go.

(2) Also please tell me how may days you think we would need for this trip with recommended days in each city(a) without Madrid and Barcelona and (b) with Madrid and Bareclona.

Thank you in advance for your help. It is much appreciated.

 

    Nazlin,

    Those are all great cities for a first visit to Europe. The cheapest and best way to travel between them would be to fly from Paris to Prague, and then take the train from Prague to Vienna. You could also fly from Paris to Vienna (or even nearby Bratislava) and then take the train to Prague. If you wanted to add in Spain, you’d definitely want to fly from Prague or Vienna to Barcelona, and then take the train to Madrid from there. You could actually reverse the order of all of that if you preferred and it would cost about the same.

    In all cases, you’ll get the cheapest train fares and airfares if you book as far in advance as possible. Fares on the low-cost airlines within Europe are just like trains in that they start off cheap, and keep going up in price as the departure nears.

    As for how long to stay:

    Paris – Stay at least 3 days, and 4 or 5 would be better. It’s a stunning place and you won’t get bored. You might think about buying a Paris Pass, which isn’t cheap, but it does allow you to see a lot in a shorter time because you can skip the ticket queues in many sights that usually have long waits.

    Vienna – Stay at least 2 days, and 3 days would be better because a couple of the main sites (the famous palace) are in the suburbs so that’s most of a day by itself.

    Prague – You can see the main sites in 2 days, but again, 3 would be better. The castle is a huge highlight, and the main tourist part of town across the river from the castle is also loaded with sights. It’s cheaper than the other two as well.

    Barcelona and Madrid: If you can spend at least 3 days in each city it could be very worthwhile, but if you don’t have that much time I wouldn’t bother. Both cities are very large and packed with interesting sights. They are also very different from each other, so they aren’t at all interchangeable.

    Bon voyage, and let me know if you have more questions. -Roger

     
      Nazlin Hansraj says:

      Dear Roger:
      Thank you so much for your prompt response. I will have more questions for sure as things firm up and I have a plan in place.

      Thank you again.

      Nazlin

       
        Nazlin says:

        Hi again Roger:

        I would like to know how much it would cost approx to fly from pris to Vienna (ball park).

        Thanks.

         

          Nazlin,

          That’s not one of the cheaper routes, unfortunately, so you’ll be paying around US$200 for a one-way flight from Paris to Vienna. -Roger

           
Jill says:

Hi Roger,
My niece and I are doing a WW1 tour in France which finishes early July. We have decided to extend our stay in Europe but only have an extra 5 days. We are planning a visit to Germany and krakow, Poland. Our departure city will be Paris. We would love to see Berlin before heading to Krakow but it isn’t necessary to spend a great deal of time there. A quick visit to the site of the wall would be sufficient. Our main reason for travelling to Poland is to visit Auschwitz. Do you have any suggestions as to what cities/towns in Germany that would be great to visit in the short period of time that we have? Also, what would be our best mode of travelling? Looking forward to hearing from you soon. Thanks so much.

Jill

 

    Jill,

    Berlin is a wonderful city to choose for a quick visit to Germany, and you can absorb the main sights there in only 2 or 3 days. One complication is that from Paris to Berlin is quite a long way, and from Berlin to Krakow is also pretty far. So it’s much faster and also cheaper to fly from Paris to Berlin. From Berlin to Krakow it’s almost 10 hours by day train, and more like 14 hours as a night train. Krakow doesn’t have a major airport, so most flights are quite expensive as well. In other words, it’s not too easy to go from Paris to Berlin to Krakow and back to Paris in a short time.

    Unfortunately, there are no other cities in Germany that would make it more convenient. Hopefully you’ve seen my list of cities to consider for a Germany visit in general.

    I really do think Berlin is a great city for a first visit, although I must say that the former Berlin Wall is kind of an odd sight. The famous remaining section known as the East Side Gallery is fairly remote, although there is a smaller section left of the wall that is close to Checkpoint Charlie and its museums. If you take the free walking tour you’ll see it, and get quite a few more really interesting historical sights mixed in as well.

    Krakow is also a wonderful place to visit, albeit much smaller than Berlin, of course. The Auschwitz tour is a fascinating half-day trip from Krakow, and the whole center of town is one big highlight as well.

    So if you want to do what you suggested, I am sure you’ll enjoy it. From Paris you should fly to Berlin (quite cheap on Easyjet if you book early), and from Berlin you should fly if you are in a hurry, or take the train if you aren’t. That train ride from Berlin to Krakow isn’t bad for scenery if you don’t mind the 10 hours including a quick change in Prague. Speaking of Prague, it’s a gorgeous city that you might also consider, especially since it’s actually on the way.

    From Krakow to Paris you’ll also want to fly, and fortunately you can get a pretty cheap ticket on Ryanair, or EasyJet, which is the nicer of the two by quite a bit. Feel free to ask any other questions if I’ve managed to confuse you even more. -Roger

     
Andre,W says:

Hello Roger how are you doing ? from Japan
well, We are A Couple from BRASIL-JAPAN we are buying a house in Montana Bulgaria
we are planning to Open a Brasilian BBq & Japanese Bar in Sofia border
1.Also My wife has a Office in Brixton /London England and need travel to Receive/Unload The goods from china we dont know exactly if 1 or 4 times a month workout
Please Sir
what should Be the best to get Cheapper Tickets Train/Bus/Last Minuts Flight go and come back so on ?
Thanks in advance for the guidance and Help
God Bless you for the Suppport & Lovely information for the fellows
here in your Blog
Thanks once again
A,W
Tokyo-Japan

 

    Andre,W,

    I’m doing well and happy to help you try to figure this out. So if I understand this correctly, you will need to go between London and Sofia on a regular basis starting soon? Unfortunately, London and Sofia are on opposite edges of Europe, so any ground option (bus, train, car) would take more than a full day in each direction. And a train or car would also cost a fortune, while a bus would be the slowest and also least pleasant.

    So as far as I can see, your only good option is to fly. Sofia has a small airport, but fortunately it has regular nonstop flights from London on Wizz Air, Bulgaria Air, and EasyJet. You can fly round-trip on any of those for around US$200 per person, and the earlier you book the lower the fares generally will be. Hopefully the cargo you’ll be hauling is small and light because those airlines all charge for luggage. You might be able to fly a bit cheaper into Istanbul and then take a bus to Sofia from there, but it would take quite a bit longer and probably not save money anyway after you buy the bus tickets. Good luck. -Roger

     
Will says:

Hi Roger,

I just discovered this website tonight, and I have to say, it would be a great help getting advice from a seasoned traveler like yourself. I am loosely planning a trip to Europe this summer (I say loosely because I have a few ideal destinations but I am flexible and I am going to be overseas for an indefinite amount of time). I am planning much of my trip around large festivals, with the time in between set aside for recuperation and going to other destinations along the way. My itinerary so far:

WORLD BODYPAINTING FESTIVAL – June 29-July 6, 2014 Portschach, Austria
EXIT Festival – July 9 – 13, 2014 Novi Sad, Serbia
STREET PARADE ZURICH – August 2, 2014 Zurich, Switzerland
SZIGET – August 11 – 18, 2014 Budapest, Hungary
NOTTING HILL CARNIVAL – August 24 – 25, 2014 London, England
France, Italy, Netherlands, Ireland, Scotland, ??? -August 28-Sept. 19
LES FESTES DE LA MERCE – September 20 – 24, 2014 Barcelona, Spain
OKTOBERFEST – September 20 – October 5, 2014 Munich, Germany

I figured that Budapest to London is going to be nigh impossible going any route other than air, but I am strongly considering, for the rest of my journey, to purchase the youth Eurail Global pass for a 3 month period. Would you recommend that option based on my current itinerary? I read up on the article regarding Eurail passes, the only thing I am worried about is reservations and having to claim one when you get to the train station rather than securing one in advance. Do trains usually not fill up even in high season (omitting French lines)? Regarding my locations, are there other spots along the way that you would recommend? Again, your insight would be greatly appreciated.

-Will

 

    Will,

    This is quite an interesting itinerary. I think it’s possible that this will be the funnest Europe trip ever, but it’s also possible that you’ll get sick of spending so much time in massive crowds long before you get to Munich. So I think your strategy of taking relaxing breaks between the festivals is wise and should really help balance things out.

    And I think for at least some of these festivals, you’ll only want to be there for part of the total duration. The only one of these that I’ve been to is Oktoberfest, and I think two days there is enough for almost anyone, unless you are there with a big group of friends who are really into it.

    In fact, Oktoberfest is a good example of why I generally tend to avoid festivals like this instead of heading directly into them. In Munich, hotel and hostel prices literally triple for the period of Oktoberfest. So you might be paying €75 per night just to sleep in a dorm bed in a hostel, which can be worthwhile for short bursts, but can also make a trip very expensive for longer than that. If you really care about what’s going on in the festival, it’s probably worth it, but not so much if you don’t.

    You could easily get from Budapest to London by train, and if you buy the rail pass, it will be pretty cheap as well. You could just take any train to Brussels or Paris and then take the Eurostar from there to London. You’d have to pay for the Eurostar, but it’s pretty cheap if you buy 3 or 4 months early. Of course, a flight is going to be much faster, if less scenic and interesting.

    As for the rail pass, I think it could be a great deal if you can afford that 3-month continuous Global Youth Pass. Those continuous passes tend to be expensive when you get the shorter ones (like one month or 15 days) because you feel like you have to take a train every other day just to get your money’s worth. But the 3-month version ends up being so cheap on a per-day basis that even 2 train rides per week ends up being good value, and it’s easy to take even more rides when they are almost free like that.

    Here’s the thing about those seat reservations: You’ll be able to get them on the same day you want to leave in almost every case, except maybe for when you are heading to one of these festivals on opening day or the day before. Those are the sorts of times when individual trains sell out in advance, so you’ll want to secure those tickets at least a few days early. In many cases you can make a seat reservation online with RailEurope if you bought your pass through them, although not all tickets are possible on that system.

    On train rides where you aren’t headed to the first day of a big festival, getting a seat reservation is generally easy, even in 2nd Class. Let’s say you are going from Berlin to Amsterdam for example. If you go to the train station at 8:30am, you might find that 2nd Class is full on the 8:45am train, and on the 9:45am train, but it’s wide open on the 10:45am train and every one after that. So in most cases, the worst case scenario is having to wait an hour or two to leave. For that reason, my own preference is to make the seat reservation the day before or even two days before. Doing that, you probably could have reserved on the 8:45am train or the 9:45am train for the following day. The other reason I like getting those seat reservations in advance is that I know I can check out of my hotel at a specific time, knowing that it’s a certain length of walk to the train station, so I can leave and get there only 5 or 10 minutes before my reserved train departs.

    If you have 3 months (or more) for this trip, you’ll obviously have enough time to see big chunks of Europe if you like. You are already going through some really interesting places, and I could help make more recommendations if I know just a bit more. Like, is this your first trip to this region? And are you more interested in trying to find some cheaper places between your festivals, or are you going on a pretty solid budget? Lastly, if you do get that rail pass, it would mean that you’d probably want to take advantage of it by moving around as much as is practical. But if you don’t get the rail pass, you might move more slowly and even go to some different places. So I’ll be happy to be more specific if you follow up with that info. -Roger

     
      Will says:

      You are currently in Portland? Talk about serendipity! I would love to grab a beer and pick your brain about further tips, tricks, and destinations this weekend if you aren’t busy. I’m not sure how to get in contact with you specifically other than this message board (I guess you might have my email), but so far you have proven to be an invaluable resource.

       
Will says:

Wow, thank you for all the great feedback. Now that I look into it more, a train from Budapest to Brussels, then to London using the Eurostar would be more cost efficient than flying, and would also hit a city I wanted to explore: Brussels! With the intention on leaving Budapest on 8/19 and getting to London on 8/23, 4 days in Brussels may be a bit overkill, any other places along that particular route you might suggest?

In regards to your questions about my intent/experience in Europe. This will be my first voyage overseas, and it will all be done solo (unless I find other travel companions along the way, of course). I plan on using the CouchSurfing.Org community as much as possible in cities where I don’t plan on any festivals or they are free, so that should help with lodging a bit. My budget is pretty open – to an extent – and I really don’t mind roughing it; hostels, public transportation, ample amounts of walking, etc. to save some money where I can.

The festival in Barcelona is from 9/20-9/24 and I will probably leave on the 25th. You seem to speak highly of Barcelona, would I want to sneak in there closer to summer in addition to late September, or would either dates still be good times to see Barcelona?

As for those very northern European countries, are there any highlights in Finland, Norway, Sweden, Ireland, Scotland that are must-sees? That big chunk between August 28-Sept. 19 is where I will fit in most of the other countries that I did not reach in my festival circuit. How would you suggest I proceed? I want to stress that I am flexible, spontaneous, and open-minded so there is little I wouldn’t try.

I really appreciate your help and expertise.

Cheers, from Portland, OR,
-Will

 

    Will,

    Brussels is a weird city to visit in some ways. The historic town center (the Grand Place) is stunning, and that whole area is worth a look and a stroll, but otherwise the city is primarily built for business travelers and bureaucrats. Accommodation is quite expensive, and there isn’t really a good university-style part of town with cheap food and such. So you might stay in Brussels for a day or two, but Bruges is far more charming and interesting for tourists. Even Antwerp is worth a stop rather than spending all your time in Brussels.

    The couchsurfing thing should work well for you, and I know several people who use the hell out of that system, even as other people complain that it’s not the same since they changed business plans a few years ago. As you seem to know, I’m guessing that it would be very tough to line up couchsurfing spots during most of those festivals, although you might get lucky.

    Barcelona is indeed a really great city, and September is probably the best time to visit, so I don’t think you should go earlier. In fact, in July and August, Barcelona can get really hot, and it doesn’t cool down much at night. The “outdoor season” in Barcelona goes most of the year, so in September it will still be near its peak in activity.

    For those northern countries, there are fewer highlights and much higher costs, at least in Scandinavia. If I were you I don’t think it would be worth it to go farther than Copenhagen, although Copenhagen itself is a gorgeous city and a really nice introduction to Scandinavia in general.

    Scotland and Ireland, on the other hand, are worth considering for sure. If you get the continuous rail pass, then Ireland is the most appealing because it’s part of the Eurail system. Scotland, Wales, and England are NOT part of Eurail, so you’d have to pay for those tickets individually. If you buy them well in advance, those train tickets can be quite cheap, but if you buy them on the day, they are insanely expensive. I can give you more info if you decide to do Britain as part of this trip.

    In Scotland, major highlights include Edinburgh and Inverness. Edinburgh is the second most important British city after London, and it really does live up to the hype. Inverness is the gateway to the Scottish Highlands, which is a beautiful area, and you can feel free to totally skip a tour of Loch Ness because that whole thing is kind of a rip-off.

    In Ireland, you’ll want to spend at least a day or two in Dublin, but it’s kind of overrated, at least compared to the small towns and castles and scenery that you get over the rest of the island. And again, if you had a Eurail Pass, you could go all over Ireland for free.

    Other cities that I highly recommend to a younger first-time visitor to Europe are Prague, Krakow, and Sarajevo (probably too far out of your way though). And while I’m at it, Berlin is the coolest city in Europe in many ways, and Amsterdam is another that actually lives up to its considerable hype.

    Once you are locking in more portions of your route, I’ll be happy to help with more suggestions or feedback. This sounds like an epic trip and I love planning this sort of thing almost as much as I do going on them myself. And interestingly, I’m also in Portland, OR at the moment. In a few months I head back to Europe for more adventures, and then Asia for the winter. -Roger

     
Nancy DuPuis says:

Wow Roger, you are full of helpful tips thank you for this service. My husband and I went to Paris last summer for ten days. We will go back to Europe this year from aug 21 to sept 10. We are landing in Rome and flying out of Amsterdam at the end of our trip. We have already booked our hotel for three nights in Rome but that is it so far. We would like to perhaps see Venice Como Nice Switzerland Germany and of course Amsterdam do you think we are trying to see too many places. During our trip we would definitely like to take in southern France (and hang out at a beach) as we did not on our first trip. Do you have any suggestions for sites we must see in these destinations. And how long would you stay in each. If you think we need to pair down, what would you cut out. At this time of year do you think we can just “wing it” in terms of hotels because we don’t want a strict schedule. Thanks for your reply.

 

    Nancy,

    Let’s see, you’ve got about 20 days to work with, and the first 3 are in Rome. You should probably do 3 nights in Amsterdam, giving you two full days of sightseeing before you fly home, so you’ve got about 15 days in between. You can certainly see a lot in that period, and I think you’ll have time to see most of what’s on your list.

    If you want to see Lake Como, it’s most commonly done by a day trip from Milan, although if you can afford it you might spend a couple days there. It’s a short train ride from Milan, so that’s where you’ll start either way. Before or after Milan, you can visit Venice quite easily. One day there is enough for many people because it’s very crowded and expensive, but it’s also amazing. Venice is very crowded during the day because so many people visit by bus as part of Europe tours, so the trick to enjoying it more is to stay on the main island for at least one night. That way you can stroll around in the evening and the morning before the crowds arrive.

    From Milan, you can take the train to Nice, and 3 days there should be ideal. There’s plenty to see in Nice, and you’ll have time for a quick day trip to Cannes (which has a sandy beach instead of the pebble beach in Nice), as well as Monaco. Both cities are 30 minutes or less from Nice by train, and Antibes is another that is even closer with nicer beaches that is less touristy.

    From Nice you could take the train up into Switzerland. The best destinations there are Interlaken and Lucerne if you want to see the Alps and the awesome scenery. The big cities of Switzerland tend to be very expensive and somewhat generic, at least compared to other famous cities in Europe. I think 3 nights in either Interlaken or Lucerne would be perfect.

    From Switzerland you’d still have about a week to spend in Germany on your way to Amsterdam on the train. Germany is obviously a large country with loads of highlights in different corners, so it depends on what interests you most. You can see my main recommendations for that country in the where to go in Germany article. You’ll have enough time for one or two quick stops in the south, and then one or two stops in the north. If you ended up in Berlin, Hamburg, or Cologne, you’d have an easy ride to Amsterdam for your stay there.

    As for hotels, I think you’d be better off if you pre-book some of them for your first week or so, but by the time September begins, the crowds thin out a bit, and winging it should be easier for the latter stages. Generally speaking, the earlier you book, the better the chance for a cheaper room rate at a place with a better location and better service. If you wait until arrival day to book, you’ll always find a room (except during festival times), but you’ll be choosing among the scraps (low rated places with high rates and poor locations).

    My own preference is to book my accommodation as soon as I’m sure I’ll be going somewhere. So let’s say you are in Nice, and making plans for Interlaken a few days later. I like to book my train trip and then book a place to sleep right then. At least with hotels, you can usually cancel for free up to one day before.

    Do you have transportation figured out? You’ll want to take trains for all of this, and your main choices are to book them at least a month or two early, or get a Eurail pass. If you wait until a day or two before you want to leave to book your train, you’ll pay a fortune (just as you would on a flight). But with a Eurail Pass, you only need to make seat reservations before you leave, and those (typically around €5 each) are usually easy to get on travel day or the day before. If you are getting a 1st Class rail pass, it’s even easier to get reservations.

    Hopefully this helps, and let me know if you have more questions. -Roger

     
Anthony says:

Hi Roger,
Imprest with your knowledge of travel, I hope you can help. My wife and I are going to europe for 6 weeks in september and have a few too many places to go for the amount of time we are going to be there for, can you suggest what we should take off or cut time out.
The plan is to arrive in Milan to go to the Italian GP, this is how it looks at moment but are 4 days over:

Day 1 Italy Lake Como
Day 2 Italy Lake Como
Day 3 Italy Lake Como
Day 4 Italy Milan Grand Prix
Day 5 Italy Milan Grand Prix
Day 6 Italy Milan
Day 7 Italy Cinque Terra
Day 8 Italy Cinque Terra
Day 9 Italy Cinque Terra
Day 10 France Monaco
Day 11 France Nice
Day 12 France Nice
Day 13 Spain Barcelona
Day 14 Spain Barcelona
Day 15 Spain Barcelona
Day 16 Spain Madrid
Day 17 Spain Madrid
Day 18 Spain Madrid
Day 19 Spain La Coruna
Day 20 Spain La Coruna
Day 21 France Lyon
Day 22 France Lyon
Day 23 France Paris
Day 24 France Paris
Day 25 France Paris
Day 26 UK London
Day 27 UK London
Day 28 UK London
Day 29 UK London
Day 30 Netherland Amsterdam
Day 31 Netherland Amsterdam
Day 32 Netherland Amsterdam
Day 33 Germany Berlin
Day 34 Germany Berlin
Day 35 Germany Berlin
Day 36 Germany Munich
Day 37 Germany Munich
Day 38 Germany Munich
Day 39 Czech Rep Prague
Day 40 Czech Rep Prague
Day 41 Austria Vienna
Day 42 Austria Vienna
Day 43 Austria Vienna
Day 44 Switzerland Swiss Alps
Day 45 Switzerland Swiss Alps
Day 46 Switzerland Swiss Alps

We have chosen La Coruna as I have been there for work and it was nice, no tourists just locals. We have done most of Italy already thus the reason why no rome etc..

What are your thoughts on what we have, also we were planning on getting a rail pass would this be the best option?

Thanks in advance Anthony.

 

    Anthony,

    This itinerary looks really well thought out and loaded with highlights, so it’s a shame if you have to scale it back a bit. It’s hard to be certain about what might make this trip a bit more lean, but I’ll start with Lake Como and Cinque Terra. Three days each feels like quite a long time in small places, especially in Cinque Terra, where many of the main hiking routes are currently closed (although some people take them anyway). Many people are happy with just a day trip, or one overnight and a day.

    Lyon is really the only other stop that isn’t quite so obvious. It’s not really a tourist city in the same way the others on your list are. People rave about the food there, but the food all over France is spectacular, and Lyon doesn’t really have many good sights beyond that.

    Your itinerary has one day in Monaco. You probably know this already, but just in case, you can visit Monaco in about 20 minutes by train from Nice. Since there are very few reasonably priced hotels in Monaco, it’s far more efficient for most people to stay in Nice and just visit Monaco during the day. Unless you really want to stay there overnight, you’ll be much better off in Nice for a 3rd night.

    Aside from those, I would change as little as possible. You are planning on 3 nights in most cities, which is ideal for a quicker trip. Many of your cities are about 5 hours apart by train, which is a really nice length for a train ride, but if you only stayed 2 nights in some cities it would mean spending every other day on the train, which isn’t ideal.

    A rail pass would indeed be your best bet for a trip like this. Your trips from Paris to London and London to Amsterdam will be on the Eurostar, and you’ll want to book those as early as possible (4 months early) for the best fares. They can get really expensive if you wait too long.

    For the rest of the trip I think a 10 days in 2 months Global Flexi Pass would be perfect. With 2 traveling together in 1st Class you can save an extra 15% each. As you probably know, the short train rides in Italy are fairly cheap on their own, so you’d want to use the rail pass for your 10 longer rides. Let me know if you need more information on how that all works. -Roger

     
      Anthony says:

      Hi Roger,

      Many thanks for your response and comments, we have had a bit of a problem and can now not go on trip in septamber and are now going in June next month so we have alot of work to do.
      We arrive in Milan on Wed 4th at 2.00pm and the plan is to go straight to lake como and we will be leaving Milan on Sat 5th July at 2.00pm.
      What are your thoughts on what we should take out of the below, we were thinking Munich and maybe a day out of Amsterdam or the Cinque or even all of the swiss alps (what are they like this time of year?).
      Also in terms of the direction we are traveling (clockwise) is this the way to go this time of year.
      One last thing any advise now on train travel now that its only a month away.

      Depart TUES 03-Jun-14 Country City
      1 WED 04-Jun-14 Italy Lake Como
      2 THU 05-Jun-14 Italy Lake Como
      3 FRI 06-Jun-14 Italy Milan
      4 SAT 07-Jun-14 Italy Milan
      5 SUN 08-Jun-14 Italy Cinque Terra
      6 MON 09-Jun-14 Italy Cinque Terra
      7 TUE 10-Jun-14 Italy Cinque Terra
      8 WED 11-Jun-14 France Beaulieu – Monaco
      9 THU 12-Jun-14 France Beaulieu – Nice
      10 FRI 13-Jun-14 France Beaulieu – Nice
      11 SAT 14-Jun-14 Spain Barcelona
      12 SUN 15-Jun-14 Spain Barcelona
      13 MON 16-Jun-14 Spain Barcelona
      14 TUE 17-Jun-14 Spain Madrid
      15 WED 18-Jun-14 Spain Madrid
      16 THU 19-Jun-14 Spain Madrid
      17 FRI 20-Jun-14 France Paris
      18 SAT 21-Jun-14 France Paris
      19 SUN 22-Jun-14 France Paris
      20 MON 23-Jun-14 UK London
      21 TUE 24-Jun-14 UK London
      22 WED 25-Jun-14 UK London
      23 THU 26-Jun-14 Netherland Amsterdam
      24 FRI 27-Jun-14 Netherland Amsterdam
      25 SAT 28-Jun-14 Netherland Amsterdam
      26 SUN 29-Jun-14 Germany Berlin
      27 MON 30-Jun-14 Germany Berlin
      28 TUE 01-Jul-14 Germany Berlin
      29 WED 02-Jul-14 Czech Rep Prague
      30 THU 03-Jul-14 Czech Rep Prague
      31 FRI 04-Jul-14 Czech Rep Prague
      32 SAT 05-Jul-14 Germany Munich
      33 SUN 06-Jul-14 Germany Munich
      34 Germany Munich
      Austria hallstatt
      Switzerland Swiss Alps
      Switzerland Swiss Alps
      Switzerland Swiss Alps

      Thanks again, Anthony

       

        Anthony,

        My advice on which cities to perhaps leave out would be the same in June or September. July and August are tricky in some parts of Europe (mainly southern beach areas) because so many Europeans take those months off, but otherwise things are pretty much the same all summer. So 3 days in the Cinque Terra is a long time, and that seems like the first one to cut back. Munich is quite nice but it might not be a bad idea to save it for another trip. Amsterdam will be a highlight so I’d recommend at least two nights there, if not all three that you now plan for.

        The Swiss Alps are glorious in summer because everything is so green and all the hiking trails and lifts are open. The area around Interlaken is one of the most stunning mountain areas in the world.

        I don’t think the direction you’d go in would make much difference. I think the current plan is good in that you will be going through the areas where summer heat might be an issue in June, rather than in July when the heat is usually its worst.

        My advice on a Eurail Pass also stays the same. I think this trip would be a really nice one for a 10 days in 2 months Global Flexi Pass, and there is more information on that other comment. It looks like a great trip at any time of year. Let me know if you have more questions. -Roger

         
Yogi says:

Hello Roger,
First of all. I do really appreciate your time for Answering all of the questions with detailed information and depth understanding.
This is probably one of few discussion room that doesnt yell ‘you spent too little time or you pick too many places’ for fast traveling.

I have few questions about my plan, me and 4 friends will visit europe for appx 28 days in April 2015. Our itienary will be:
Paris (4d)- amsterdam (3d)- berlin (3d)- prague (3d)- dubrovnik (3d)- venice (2d)-
Florence (2d)- rome (3d) – santorini (4d)

My questions:
1. If you think i pick too many places, what places is better be removed for more effective trip? Our main interest is paris, prague, dubrovnik, rome, and santorini.
2. What is the best way to go to dubrovnik? And from which city we should depart?
3. Should i buy eurail pass? Or point to point ticket and buy an italy pass later?

Thank you very much. I’ appreciate your help.

Yogi (Indonesia)

 

    Yogi,

    Thank you for the kind words, especially about not being too judgmental towards people who want to see a lot in a short time. As you’ve seen, I do think people can have great trips even if they move quickly, to a degree.

    I think your plan looks doable, and averaging about 3 nights in each city is a fine strategy. That’s obviously two solid sightseeing days in each place, and then a partial day on the road (and those travel days are also nice due to the scenery, as long as you don’t travel every day or two).

    Dubrovnik is a bit tricky, however, because it’s quite remote compared to the others. Your two best choices would be to take a train from Venice to Split (likely to be slow in Croatia) and then a bus from Split to Dubrovnik. The other way would be to take a ferry from Italy. You could go by train from Rome to Bari and then take a ferry directly to Dubrovnik from there, or take a train from Rome to Ancona or Pescara, then a ferry from there to Split, and then a bus from Split to Dubrovnik. You might even consider staying in Split instead because it’s similar and easier to reach.

    As for rail passes and such, they aren’t a good deal in Italy because the individual rides between those famous cities are pretty short and fairly cheap, especially if you buy at least a few weeks early. The other part of your trip could be helped by a 4-country (France, Germany, Benelux, Czech Republic) Select Pass, where you can get 5 or 6 or 8 travel days in 2 months. Your other option to keep train costs down would be to buy all of your train tickets at least a month or two early. You can get very cheap fares if you buy that early, but they are non-refundable and non-changeable. A rail pass might cost a bit more than advanced tickets, but it allows you to make up and change your plans as you go.

    Hopefully this helps, and let me know if you have other questions. -Roger

     
Ebon says:

Hi Roger, it’s my first time planning a holiday trip to Europe.
I would like to visit Venice, Rome, Florence, Paris & Milan then back to Singapore. Would you be able to advise which city should I start with as I totally have no idea. Thanks in advance.

 

    Ebon,

    You could visit these cities in several different ways and orders, but I will give you my best suggestion and hopefully it will help you figure out the best way for you. Fly from Singapore to Rome. Stay in Rome and then take the train to Florence then to Venice, then to Milan. From Milan you can fly to Paris for very little, starting at around US$100 round-trip, although that’s on Ryanair and doesn’t include the extra fees for luggage and such. You could either do a round-trip back to Milan, or book a different flight back to Rome instead. Then you’ll fly home from Rome.

    If this doesn’t work out just as you want, you could do the same thing flying from Singapore into Milan, and then visit those Italian cities, and fly from Rome to Paris.

    Those trains around Italy will be quite cheap if you book them online in advance from the Italy rail site. Best of luck, and let me know if you have more questions. -Roger

     
Diane says:

Hi Roger,
We our traveling to Europe this June(1st time). Plans so far: 5 nights in each of the following cities Berlin, Amsterdam, and Paris. 4 nights in Munich. Point to point train tickets already purchased for Berlin to Amsterdam and Amsterdam to Paris. One extra night between Paris and Munich. My questions: is there a city or place to spend the night between Paris and Munich that warrants a visit? I want to spend one night in Rotenburg and 2 nights in Salzburg, where do I fit that in? Any other ideas to add to this trip? I am flexible after leaving Paris, any ideas would be greatly appreciated.
Thank you,
Diane

 

    Diane,

    I’m not sure I understand the question, but I’ll give you my thoughts and hopefully it will help, or you can ask again. Rothenburg ob der Tauber would be a great choice for a one-night stop between Paris and Munich. Salzburg is also highly recommended, if you have time. In case you haven’t seen it, here’s an article where I discuss the various options within Germany. http://www.priceoftravel.com/3699/where-to-go-in-germany-for-1-2-or-3-weeks/

    You’ll see Neuschwanstein Castle/Füssen as a suggestion on that article, and that’s another one that could work between Paris and Munich. Salzburg is ideal right after Munich since it’s so close. I’m not sure if you have to cut days from Paris to see these other places, or if you are trying to figure out how many more days to add to your trip. Feel free to follow up if I’ve got this wrong. -Roger

     
      Diane says:

      Not a well asked question. I was thinking the I would go to Munich and take some day trips to the castles. Then go to Salzburg for 2 nights and Rothenburg after Salzburg. I’m not sure if the route would be correct. I figured it would be rushed to try and squeeze in Rothenburg between Paris and Munich with only one night, so maybe a different stop along the route between Paris and Munich could be suggested. Also I do have about 5 days to still use to visit other places, towards the end of the trip. Any suggestions?
      Thanks again,
      Diane

       
Alifs says:

Hi Roger

Amazed at the great wealth of suggestion and information being provided. I hope you can guide and suggest me in our planning for a 2 week trip to Europe.

We had our first trip to Europe last year and that was direct to London and Scotland hence did not have much of travel. But this year we want to do something more. We are a family of 2adults and 2 kids age 11 and 9 years old.

We plan to visit in end July/start of Aug, we will be flying to Paris and reaching in the morning around 8:30am. We would like to cover Paris(3days) – Heidelbergh(2days) – Munich(3days) – Innsbruck(2days) – Salzburgh(2days) – Vienna(1days) – Paris(return flight).

1) Can you suggest the order in which we should cover these places?
2) We plan to take trains all throughout, so is there a rail pass that covers the travel between one place to another and if not how do we go about?
3) Any discounts available for child ticket??

Any ideas or suggestion would be greatly appreciated. Also do u recommend something more enroute, we are quite flexible. In fact I am quite tempted to cover Innsbruck, Lucerne and give Vienna a skip:)) But on second thoughts I feel that’s just too much to cover in a short time and doing so we will not be able to enjoy the place and will have to keep running from one place to another.

Many thanks
Alifs

 

    Alifs,

    I’ll be happy to try to help. With this group of cities, you’d be going in almost a straight line from Paris to Vienna and then back, so you could actually visit them in several different orders and still be efficient. I think I’d do Paris > Heidelberg > Munich > Vienna > Salzburg > Innsbruck > Paris (via Basel), which would space out the legs nicely. You could also visit them all with Vienna at the end, and then fly back to Paris or take a much longer train ride. But I really recommend staying on the ground for this trip because almost all of it is very scenic and the trains move pretty quickly.

    Not that you asked, but I’ll editorialize a bit about your choices. Innsbruck is a pleasant mountain town, which is mostly popular as a winter sports center, but if you aren’t going on the slopes yourself there isn’t much to see (relative to others nearby). Salzburg, on the other hand, is a fabulous tourist city that is endlessly charming with a gorgeous setting. Having spent time in both, I recommend Salzburg instead of Innsbruck unless you are very sporty.

    Lucerne and nearby Interlaken are also gorgeous towns that highlight the stunning Alpine scenery of Switzerland. Two days in either of them would be among the highlights of your whole trip, scenery-wise.

    Vienna is one of Europe’s “grand” cities and it really is worth a visit for a couple days, unless you don’t care much about larger cities (which is understandable).

    It does seem like you will be going quite fast if you do an itinerary similar to this. It’s important to consider that even when going by train, the travel days aren’t full sightseeing days. In other words, you’ll leave your Heidelberg hotel at, say, 09:00, and you’ll be on a train to Munich at around 10:00. The train gets in at around 13:00 (1pm) and you won’t be check into your hotel there until 14:00 or so. You’ll have at least a few hours of sightseeing that day, but not enough to take a tour or do anything big. So moving every other day, you get about 1.3 “sightseeing days” out of those two days. Normally I’d say that you’d be spending way too much time on trains compared to seeing the sights, but in the case of this trip, there will be excellent scenery most of the way so the train trips will be highlights unto themselves.

    I really think you’ll enjoy any of the variations we are discussing here, as long as you make plans realizing that you might be spending a lot of your time on trains and in train stations.

    As for train tickets, this is a very expensive part of Europe for paying as you go. The absolute cheapest way to do it would be to buy all of your (non-refundable, non-changeable) train tickets online as soon as possible, from the official rail sites of the departure country. Train tickets for children ARE cheaper, although in many cases the discounted tickets aren’t any cheaper. In other words, a €99 ticket might be €59 for children, but if you buy a month or more in advance, it might be €49 for all tickets.

    Your other option, which might be best, would be to get a 4-country Select Eurail Pass (France, Germany, Austria, Switzerland) for 5 or 6 travel days out of 2 months. Passes for children are discounted, and you also get a discount for a group of 2 to 5 people traveling together on the same pass. While it might seem expensive at first, the advantage is that you can decide on which trains to take almost at the last minute (instead of a month before you leave home). You will have to get a seat reservation (about €5 each) for most of your journeys, but you can usually do that on the travel day. I prefer to get my seat reservations the day before so I know exactly when to leave my hotel to reach the train before it leaves.

    Hopefully this is the sort of advice you were after, and I’ll be happy to answer more questions if you have them. -Roger

     
      Alifs says:

      Hi Roger
      Thanks for your reply. After much thought and considering the travel time I have finalised the following itinerary. Please let me know your thoughts on it. We will be landing and leaving from Paris.
      Paris (3nights)
      Paris – Heidelberg (4hrs travel) Book tickets in advance
      Heidelberg(2 nights) one day for Speyer and Schwetzingen Palace
      Heidelberg – Stuttgart – Munich for Porsche museum (2hrs+4hrs) use Quer-Durchs-Land ticket
      Munich (2 nights)
      Munich – Salzburg (2hrs) use Bayern ticket
      Salzburg (2 nights)
      Salzburg – Fussen (5hrs) use Bayern ticket
      Fussen (1 night) next day early morning visit Neuschwanstein,
      Hohenschwangau Castle so can leave by early evening for Knonstanz
      Fussen – Konstanz (4.5hrs) use Quer-Durchs-Land ticket
      Konstanz (2nights) visit Bregenz, Lindau, Meersburg, Zepplin museum
      Konstanz – Freiburg (3hrs) use Baden-Württemberg-Ticket
      Freiburg(1 night) visit Titisee
      Back to Paris 5hrs need to book advance train ticket
      So i basically just need to book trains to and from Paris and rest I can move around using the day tickets using Regional lines. I understand they may take an hr more but in a way i have my own flexibility. Does the above itinerary make sense. Any suggestion and inputs that i need to make a note of.

      Thanks
      Alifs

       
Josh says:

Hey Roger,
Me and a mate are planning to backpack around europe next year for about 6 months, starting in June. So far we have listed the events we are planning to do including:
6 -14 July: Running of the Bulls, Pamplona, Spain
July – August: Boat week Croatia
27 August: La Tomantina, Valencia Spain
20 September- 5 October: Oktoberfest, Bavaria, Germany
We also want to spend a few days in Turkey and travel to Gallipoli, along with countries such as Greece, Poland, Czech Republic and the Netherlands to name a few. Apart from this we have no real itinerary. I was wondering on what advice you could give us in planning the best possible route and transport options, to catch the must sees in Europe and have the best time possible?

 

    Josh,

    Whenever I see Gallipoli on an itinerary, I can tell it’s an Aussie, but it’s great that it will bring you to that part of Turkey. I’d highly recommend also visiting Cappadocia and Ephesus, which will both be highlights of your entire trip. In Turkey, there are basically no trains these days, but there is an excellent bus network that is comfortable, cheap, and efficient.

    Oktoberfest is actually a bit of a challenge because hotels and hostels literally triple their room rates during that period. Also, the events are mainly restricted to this one sort of carnival area that surrounds those huge beer “tents” that require advanced reservations or long waits in line. In other words, it’s a pretty amazing sight to see for one or two days, but after that you’ll get sick of the crowds and even more sick of paying a fortune for everything. I haven’t been to either of those festivals in Spain, but I suspect that the Pamplona thing might also be best suited to only a couple days at most.

    As far as your route is concerned, the sky is the limit. With 6 months you’ll have plenty of time to sample every corner of Europe. Trains are the most enjoyable way of getting around by far, and you’ll want to stay on the ground as much as possible. But with a flexible schedule like that, you could also take cheap flights to anywhere and back. As in, you could take a cheap flight from Barcelona to Helsinki and then take the ferry over to Tallinn and then buses down through the Baltic countries into Poland, where you’ll take the trains again.

    When someone has 15 cities they want to see and 60 days in which to see them, it’s important to be efficient in planning the most direct or cheapest route. But with 6 months and only a handful of priorities, you have so much flexibility that you might be paralyzed by your choices.

    The weather should play at least some part in your decisions. As you might know, it tends to be scorching along the Mediterranean from about mid June through early September, and most places don’t have air-con because half the locals leave for the beaches themselves. Also, in Copenhagen, for example, the sun sets at about 11pm in late June, but before 4pm in December. You’ll really enjoy those northern cities much more if you try to get there by September or so. They feel like very different places during the cold and dark months.

    The transportation options are a bit complicated as well, depending on how limited your budget might be. As mentioned, you can get some really cheap flights within Europe on low-cost airlines, but only if you book at least a few weeks, if not longer, in advance. You give up spontaneity for low fares, or vice versa. Trains now operate basically the same way, with most international routes being quite cheap if you buy a month or more early, and shockingly expensive if you buy on travel day. There are also buses (Eurolines.com) that are the cheapest option, especially on short notice, but they are slower and less comfortable than the trains.

    One strategy would be to buy some cheap flights way in advance (lowest fares are 11 months out on low-cost airlines), and then use those as anchor points. For example, you could buy tickets from Amsterdam to Barcelona for 24-August (nonstop, for US$74) and then you’d slowly work your way to Amsterdam in the week or so before that, and then you pop down to Valencia for the tomato thing. If you waited until a week before to buy the tickets, it might cost US$200 or even more.

    Lastly, for now, Greece is another interesting one for a trip like this. You’ll want to spend 2 or 3 days in Athens, and then head out to one or more of the islands, probably by ferry. The islands are pretty crowded in July and August, mainly filled with package tourists from Germany and other northern countries. So September is a great time to go for good weather and smaller crowds (and lower prices) and October is good as well, although it gets pretty cool by then. By the beginning of November, most resorts and restaurants are closed for the season, and there is much less fun to be had. So the ideal window is September to early October. But other southern countries have a less formal “season” and you’d have a great time almost any time of year.

    Hopefully my rambling above helps at least a bit, and feel free to follow up with other questions at any time during your long planning phase. I’m sure it’ll be the trip of a lifetime, in the typical walkabout fashion that all my Aussie friends continue to rave about. -Roger

     
Diane says:

I didn’t quite ask the question correctly. I was thinking the I would go to Munich and take some day trips to the castles. Then go to Salzburg for 2 nights and Rothenburg after Salzburg. I’m not sure if the route would be correct. I figured it would be rushed to try and squeeze in Rothenburg between Paris and Munich with only one night, so maybe a different stop along the route between Paris and Munich could be suggested. Also I do have about 5 days to still use to visit other places, towards the end of the trip. Any suggestions?
Thanks again,
Diane

 

    Diane,

    No worries then. Here’s the thing about Rothenburg ob der Tauber, it’s similar to Venice in that it gets flooded with day-trippers on big buses from around 10am until around 4pm each day, but it mostly empties out after that. It’s also quite compact so you can walk the city walls and the main center in only a few hours, although it’s less enjoyable in the middle of the day when it’s packed. So my advice (which I got from Rick Steves and then confirmed on my own visit) is to visit for about 24 hours. Let’s say you arrive from Paris at 2pm and check into a hotel. You’ll still have a few hours to walk around town, and by then the crowds will be thinning out a bit. Then plan for the famous Nightwatchman’s Tour at 8pm, which will be a big highlight. Aside from the other people in your group, you’ll mostly have the town to yourself, and it’s really lovely that way. The next morning you can wake up and take another morning walk around town before your train to Munich leaves, and you’ll have had an excellent little visit.

    Or you could go to Neuschwanstein Castle along the way, although that closes at 6pm so you’d have to visit in the daytime. If you have extra days, you might want to go from Paris to Füssen (where the castle is) for a day or two, and then to Rothenburg and then Munich and Salzburg.

    Another option would be to work Switzerland into the itinerary. I always recommend basing yourself in either Interlaken or Lucerne, which are both small towns that have amazing views and Alpine walks nearby. There are gondola-style ski lifts that take you to mountain towns that offer the best Swiss Alps experiences for visitors. Both of these towns are fairly close to where you’ll be going, so you could stop in one of them before or after a few different stops you are already planning on. Hopefully this helps, and let me know if you have other questions. -Roger

     
Parker says:

Hello Roger,

We are a family of 6 (ages 18-50), looking to do some of Europe at the end of 2015…December through to January (4-5 weeks).

We will be flying from Perth Australia and our wants include Madrid, Barcelona, Nice, Florence, Venice, perhaps Berlin, Amsterdam, Bruges, Parish and London. Our question is would you train all of this? Suggested itinerary & time in each place? And would there be any other place in between that you would add? We would like to be somewhere beautiful & cosy for Christmas and probs either start or end in London.
Cheers
Parkers

 

    Parker,

    I would do it almost all by train if I were you. You’ll be among the very few travelers that time of year, so you’ll be able to easily find relatively cheap rooms in any hotel. Of course the main reason that few people travel around Europe like this in December and January is that it’s quite cold, even along the coast of Spain and France, and the days are short as well. Being from Australia I’m sure you are aware of the seasons in general, but I just want to be sure that you’ve looked at the average temperatures and such. In Amsterdam, the sun doesn’t rise until about 9am that time of year.

    As for “beautiful and cozy” during Christmas, it’s hard to beat Germany and its Christmas markets. Really, I think almost any place on your list could be a great place to spend those holidays, with the possible exception of Amsterdam because their big celebration is a couple weeks earlier. You’ll also have to consider which places will be mostly closed those days. Virtually all museums will be closed on December 25, and many on the day before as well (plus the day after in the UK). So if it were me, I’d probably try to get somewhere on 23-December and plan on staying until 27-December. There will be crowds on the trains on those days as well, so you’ll want to reserve early.

    Here’s one possible itinerary for you:

    Fly into London and spend 4 nights (partly to get over jet-lag etc)
    Take the Eurostar train to Amsterdam (changing in Brussels) for 2 or 3 nights
    Train to Bruges for 2 nights (although I must say that Bruges is like a much-smaller Amsterdam, so you might even skip it)
    You might also stop in Brussels for a few hours on the way, to have a look around the historic city center, which is really splendid.
    Train to Paris for 3 or 4 nights
    Fly to Madrid (faster and probably cheaper than the train) for 3 nights
    Train to Barcelona for 3 nights
    Train to Nice for 2 or 3 nights
    Train to Venice for 1 or 2 nights
    Train to Florence for 2 or 3 nights
    Train to Rome for 3 or 4 nights
    If you can fly back to Perth from Rome, that would be easiest, but most likely you’ll get the best fare by flying in and out of London. You can book cheap tickets from Rome to London just before you fly home.

    Adding Berlin would require you to go out of the way, so it’s tough to squeeze it in. I love Berlin and highly recommend visiting, although it probably has the harshest winters of all the places on your list.

    Hopefully this advice helps. Feel free to follow up if you have further questions. -Roger

     
      Parker says:

      Thanks so much Roger…that is great advice and much appreciated. We have done our research into the weather that time of year but do not really have a choice on travel dates. Cheers again!!

       
April says:

I will be flying into Berlin at the end of July, staying in Europe for 2 weeks. Is it reasonable to think I could make a loop through Italy and Greece and back up to Berlin in that time? Would the Adriatic Sea coast be a good option in Italy? Or should I do the west coast? Is a path from Greece up the Adriatic coast (east) doable through Croatia?

 

    April,

    Part of the answer would depend on how long you are planning on staying in and near Berlin. If you haven’t been there yet, I’d recommend at least 3 nights, but if you are just flying in and then want to go elsewhere, you could see a lot in those two weeks. Even then, I don’t think I’d try to do Italy AND Greece in that time. You’ll really want to spend at least 7 days in Italy, and to add Greece to that would mean racing from one place to another almost the whole time.

    The timing is also a bit tricky because August is the big vacation month for most Europeans, and during August you have half the population of the northern countries all heading to the beach areas of Croatia, Greece, Spain, and Portugal. The beach areas of Italy will be packed with every Italian with the means to go there, so they will all be crowded as well. In other words, every resort-style hotel will be jammed in August (and July), in spite of very high room rates. The trains and planes coming and going from these areas tend to be crowded as well.

    On the other hand, the main cities aren’t necessarily packed at this time of year, and sometimes you can get bargains. So if you’ve never been to Italy you might consider flying from Berlin to Rome and then going to Florence and then Venice by train before flying back to Berlin or going by train. You could add in the Amalfi Coast (south of Naples) or the Cinque Terre area (north of Pisa) if you want to spend time near the sea. The Adriatic side is less tourist-friendly and I know less about it, though I have heard good things. Most people seem to agree that the main highlights are on the west coast.

    Between Greece and Croatia it’s a bit of a black hole for transportation. You can take a ferry from Athens to Italy, and then from Italy over to Split or Dubrovnik, but there is no easy (or fast) way of going directly.

    Hopefully this helps at least a little bit. I’m not sure I really answered your questions, so feel free to follow up if you like. -Roger

     
Jason L. says:

Hi Roger,
thank you for being so kind and helpful by sacrificing your own time to help lost souls like us. I really appreciate it. I will be travelling for the first time to Europe from South East Asia and things can get rather overwhelming due to very different infrastructure from where I come from (Singapore).

I will be reaching Rome on 22 Nov Sat at 1240pm (Rome time) and will be leaving from Vienna on 07 Dec Sun at 1045am. Tactically I have 15 days since 07 Dec Sun itself is just spent waking up, grab a bite and set off to fly back to a cruel reality. 😛

1) For these 15 days, I am thinking of spending 7 days in Italy (3-4 Rome, 2-3 Florence, 1 Venice. In between, I am hoping to slot in Pisa, Cineque Terre and Milan on the way from a place to another. Can I and how do I do that? Kindly advise as coming from a very small country (it takes 1h 20mins to travel from from extreme east to extreme west by train in Singapore :P)

2) After that, I will be travelling to Swiss 5 days starting with 1 day Geneva for a day trip to Mont Blanc, 1 day Lausanne, before moving to spend 3 days at Zurich as will be staying over at a friend’s place as a base. The remaining 3 days will be spend on day trips to a) Black forest, Germany b) Lucerne c) Interlaken.

3) After that, will take an overnight train to Vienna and be there for 2-3 days just to visit a few museums, walk around and shop at the Christmas market.

4) Is my plan feasible or am I being too greedy? Also, from my tentative itinerary, it seemed like I should be getting a 8 days Eura rail select pass for 4 countries, is that so?

Once again, thank you for your time and I hope I am not asking too many questions (which I am… :P)!
Hope to hear from you soon and cheers!

 
Marylee says:

Hi, I’m wanting advise for an itinerary to see some highlights of Europe, I was thinking of starting in Barcelona, then head to the Black Forest, Bavarian Alps area, on into Switzerland, maybe stop somewhere in France on the way, I don’t want to go to Italy (already been there). We have maybe around 14 to 18 days, Any suggestions Thanks, We are going mainly for site seeing as most people. We were thinking of going to Munich for the Oktoberfest, we are going sometime in middle of Sept to beginning of Oct. I would think that rates are better then as less crowds also.

 

    Marylee,

    This sounds like a really nice plan, to explore a few regions rather than racing from one big city to another. I’d allow at least 3 days in Barcelona, and maybe even 4 if you might be dealing with jet-lag.

    I’m not really a France expert, but I can highly recommend the two most popular tourist cities in the country, which are Paris and Nice. The fact that you didn’t mention Paris yourself makes me wonder if you’ve already been there? If not, this is a perfect opportunity because there is a new high-speed train connecting it with Barcelona, which will be fairly affordable if you book at least 2 months in advance. If you’ve been to Paris, or you aren’t interested, then Nice is also fabulous, in a totally different way. It’s a great city for culture and of course it’s the heart of the French Riviera, and it’s also very close to both Cannes and Monaco for day trips.

    Beyond those two suggestions, you could visit a wine region or any number of other cities. After France I’d recommend heading to Interlaken, Switzerland for about 3 days. It’s a very friendly town in the Alps that is wonderfully set up for visits to the most stunning Alpine towns and views. You can easily visit the Jungfrau mountain from there. Lucerne would be another fine choice for similar activities.

    By the way, the Black Forest doesn’t really have much to offer visitors except for cuckoo clocks and other junky souvenirs. Fortunately, the Alps are nearby, and they more than make up for it.

    After a stop in Switzerland I’d recommend heading to Rothenburg ob der Tauber, which is a perfectly preserved medieval town not too far from Munich. It’s touristy, but also gorgeous and really interesting. One day and one night there is enough to see it. Also, not far away you can visit the Neuschwanstein Castle, which could be another good stop for about 24 hours.

    Read more about those places plus Munich and several others in my article about where to go in Germany. After one or both of those stops, you could go to Salzburg, changing trains in Munich along the way. Salzburg is at the base of the Alps, and loaded with great sights and scenery. Two or three days there should be enough.

    After that you could quickly head back to Munich to end your visit with 3 or 4 nights there. Unfortunately, Oktoberfest really makes things difficult that time of the year (mid September through early October). Hotel rooms literally triple in price, and are often sold out way in advance. The crowd is mostly Germans (about half of whom are dressed up in traditional Bavarian outfits), and the festival grounds are quite crowded. Getting into the “beer tents” requires a reservation or waiting in long lines, and those tents are surrounded by the sort of carnival that you can see in almost any city in the world. As a result, one or two days in the actual Oktoberfest should be enough, and you might not think it’s worth it to pay €400 per night for an average 3-star hotel when you are just visiting the rest of the city.

    You might only stop in Munich for 2 days or so, or you might try to time your trip so you arrive just at the end of Oktoberfest, or perhaps right after it ends.

    Aside from Munich, hotel prices should be lower in September than in July or August, although even that’s tricky. Since most European business people take all of August off, there are many conferences and such in September, so some cities are actually more crowded and expensive for 3-star and above hotels. If you plan and reserve in advance you should be fine, but I don’t think it would be wise to just show up without much research.

    That will give you some options, and if you did most of them it would nicely fit 14 to 18 days. Feel free to follow up if you have questions or are interested in something different. -Roger

     
Irene says:

Hi Roger,

My 2 friends and I just bought flights to Europe for mid-November. We will be arriving in Milan then leaving from Prague in early December, giving us 2 weeks. I’ve just started researching and the amount of information I’ve amassed is overwhelming. There are so many places to see and things to do, I don’t even know where to start. Heres some background info: 2 of us have never been to Europe, 2 of us will be 26 and the other 25. Some things we’re interested in are food, shopping (bazaars, flea markets and the like), and of course soaking up culture and sightseeing. What sort of itinerary would you recommend 3 young travellers on a tight budget? Would you recommend we stay in Italy (Venice, Rome, Florence) or cast a wider net?

Also, I’ve read somewhere that during off-season, its very easy to get good rates at hostels with no reservation. Is that true for even the well-rated, cheap, and conveniently located hostels in popular cities like Milan, Prague, Venice or Rome? I suppose what I’m ultimately trying to find out is how much planning vs. spontaneity should/can I put into this trip.

Thank you!

 

    Irene,

    This is a very interesting question, and I like the way you’ve asked it. Considering that you have already locked in Prague as a departure point, I think you might as well move kind of quickly and live it up along the way. Here’s what first comes to mind, which I think you’d love:

    Arrive in Milan, and either fly to Rome on a low-cost carrier or take a train to Rome to spend 3 nights
    Rome to Florence for 2 or 3 nights (all by train)
    Florence to Venice for 1 night
    Venice to Salzburg (gorgeous and fun) for 2 nights
    Salzburg to Vienna for 2 or 3 nights
    Vienna to Prague for 2 or 3 nights

    That would be a great mix of cities and scenery, and most of it should be fairly cheap that time of year. You could do Munich instead of Vienna, and it would also be great, depending on which of those appeal to you more.

    Late November is indeed a dead time of year for hostels, so you can probably do just fine if you just walked up to them once you arrived. So that’s possible, but still I don’t really recommend it. The thing is, in each of these cities you’ll be going to there are going to be 2 or 3 top hostels with the best locations, friendly staff, good reviews, and a social atmosphere. It’s much easier to research which are the good ones online compared to while walking around, and you usually only have to put down a deposit of around 10% to 12% to hold a bed.

    So let’s say you are in Rome, knowing that you are going to Florence in 2 days. It will take about 3 minutes to figure out the coolest hostel in Florence for what you like, and it might cost €2 per person to make the reservation online. At that point, you don’t have to worry about it, and when you get off the train in Florence you know exactly where you are going, and that they have a bed waiting for you. Since reserving online is so easy, there really isn’t anything to be gained by shopping around on your feet.

    Hopefully this helps, and the itinerary at least gives you some ideas. Feel free to ask any other questions you might have. -Roger

     
Joyce says:

Hello Roger,

I carefully read many contents of your site for my upcoming first trip to Europe. What you’re doing is just amazing, like a shining beacon of hope. Thank you!

If you have time for my questions, I’m a 29-year old from Asia planning for a 40-day trip in Europe starting from July 1st. I am going mainly for the Avignon Festival, and hope to see other cities after Avignon (high high season indeed).

I currently hold a 4-country select pass (6-days) and a plan as follows:

Jul 1 – Paris (4 nights)
Jul 5 – Avignon (7 nights)
July 12 – Head for a transfer city in Italy, not sure which one yet (3-4 nights)
July 15 – Vienna (6 nights)
July 22 – Berlin (12 nights)

1. What would be a good city in Italy that is good transit spot, in terms of traffic convenience?

2. Can some of the cities be too far apart for train travel?

3. My main concern now is the whole “mandatory reservation” rule (To all French trains, night trains and high speed trains, right?), which is to me bewildering. Since I’ve never been to Europe, I really wish to maintain the flexibility of this travel. I might, for example, prolong my stay in Avignon, cut Italy and Austria and see more of Germany. So would it be practical to just reserve the Paris-Avignon segment and see about the rest after I’ve got to Europe? Which segments of my trip would you suggest that I make a reservation at this point?

4. In these cities that I’m visiting, is it practical to during the high season to leave some of the accommodation windows open and play it by ear?

Thank you, with best wishes,

Joyce

 

    Joyce,

    I’m always glad to hear that people find this useful, and that they take the time to mention it.

    1. By far the most convenient city in Italy as a train hub is Milan, but if you’ve got a rail pass and can choose any city I’d go with Rome, Florence, or Venice. Those are the “Big 3” of Italian tourism for a reason, as each is a world-class destination. Milan is interesting and fairly modern, but it’s not very Italian. Those other cities are only a couple hours more by train, so I’d try to hit at least one if not 2 or 3 of them. Even if you have to pay for one or two train trips, within Italy they are pretty cheap, especially if you buy in advance.

    2. All of the cities on your list are ideal for train travel. Vienna to Berlin will be quite a long one, and you may even consider doing that by night train. Otherwise, they look about 4 or 5 hours apart, which is enough time to be relaxed and enjoy the scenery, but not so much time that you are ready to jump off the train just to see something different.

    3. There are 2 different issues with seat reservations. One is that they are required on most international and long-distance trains, in France and most other countries. They cost around €5 each except on a few lines in France served only by the high speed TGV trains. The other issue is that on some of those high-speed routes in France, there is a higher seat reservation fee (up to €35), and also a quota for rail pass holders. In other words, they might only allow 12 seats for rail pass holders, so when #13 wants to reserve, they’d have to pay full price even though there are still plenty of open seats. The Paris to Avignon one might be in this category, so if it is you should reserve as far in advance as possible. The Avignon to Italy train might also have a quota, but I’d think there are probably alternate trains that don’t on the same route.

    On any journey that doesn’t involve France, it’s just a matter of reserving your seat before the whole thing is sold out, which is usually easy, even on travel day. Typically the worst that can happen is that you have to take a late-morning train because seats on the early-morning trains are sold out.

    4. Obviously for the festival you’ll want to book way in advance. For the other cities, you can find a hostel or hotel if you just show up on the day, but especially during the busy months like this, I don’t really recommend it. My favorite system for this is to book a hostel or hotel right after you’ve confirmed the decision to go to a city on a certain day. In other words, let’s say you are in Vienna on July 17 and you decide that you will arrive in Berlin on July 22 as you plan. On the 17th, go to the train station and reserve your seat on the train, and after that go on your computer and choose a hostel or hotel right then.

    If you are booking hostels you’ll only have to pay about 10% as a deposit, and you’ll have your choice of most of the best places. Conversely, if you arrived in Berlin on July 22 with no reservation, you’d have to look for hostels that still have beds and go door to door hoping to find a decent place at a decent price. It’s WAY easier to find the good hostels and hotels online, so there is no advantage in waiting. And during the busiest months like that, most of the better places will be sold out in advance anyway.

    Hopefully this helps, and feel free to follow up if you have more questions. -Roger

     
Amanda says:

Hi Roger,

First of all, THANK YOU for your help with this!

My boyfriend and I are traveling through Europe Sept 9- Oct 17 of this year…we were going to get the Global Pass 15 travel days in 2 monhts, however I just learned that the Global Pass does not cover Poland.

We will be traveling from Prague to Krakow, and then from Oswiecim to Berlin.

The issue I’m having is trying to find the best and cheapest way to do this. I don’t think the Germany-Poland pass is beneficial, since we are are coming from Prague…

Also- a few of our trains are overnight (Berlin- Copenhagen, Oswiecim-Berlin, etc). Many of these trains are not direct and have change overs in the middle of the night- do these count as two travel days then?

This is our itinerary if you need any clarification:

Rome-Cinque Terre
Cinque Terre-Venice
Venice-Interlaken
Interlaken-Munich
Munich-Vienna
Vienna-Prague
Prague-Krakow
Krakow-Oswiecim
Oswiecim-Berlin
Berlin-Copenhagen
Copenhagen-Amsterdam
Amsterdam-Brussels
Brussels-Paris
Paris-London

Thank you for your help!!!!

Amanda

 

    Amanda,

    It’s my pleasure to help. Oh yes, I also only recently found out about that Poland thing, and it’s going to be more of a problem on my trip than it would be on yours. Hopefully that changes for next year, but in the mean time, I don’t think it’s a big problem for you. What they do is you can go into the station in Prague and show them your rail pass. They will reserve a seat for you from Prague all the way to the Polish border, and then you’d only have to pay for the balance of the ride inside Poland. So it might be a €75 ticket, but you only have to pay €18 because you used your rail pass for most of it. On the way back, you can again pay for the short segment into Czech Republic, and then your pass will pay for the rest into Prague and then into Berlin. That’s one way of doing it, at least. Even if those travel days within Czech Republic don’t end up being great value, the whole rail pass package will still probably be worthwhile.

    On night trains there is something called “the 7pm rule,” which means that any overnight train that leaves after 7pm, only counts the arrival day as a travel day. In other words, if you get on a train in Berlin at 8:30pm and 3 hours later you change in Hamburg for the train that goes to Copenhagen, only the arrival day counts as a travel day. The good news is that every real night train leaves after 7pm, so the only problem you could face is if you were trying to cover so much in one day and night that it was 14 hours or more of train travel. Enjoy. -Roger

     
Joyce says:

Thank you, Roger. I can’t tell you how valuable your suggestions are to me. I have a much clearer idea of what to expect now, and I have successfully booked the trains involving France. With warm gratitude,
Joyce

 
Jason L. says:

Hi Roger,
I left a message above on 21st May hoping to seek some answers with your expertise and advice but I realised it has not been answered. I am wondering if you happened to miss my posting. Hope to hear from you soon. Thank you.

Regards,
Jason L.

 
Marta and Sydney says:

Hi Roger,
we stumbled across your article and have found it very useful, but had one or two other questions we were hoping you could answer in regards to booking a Eurail Pass. The trip we are planning will consist of London, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovenia, Croatia, Romania, Italy and Greece. We are reasonably sure we want to get passes simply because then we won’t have to worry about how and when we plan on moving to each location,and also in order to get to see the countryside in a more leisurely manner but are still curious as to whether you would recommend getting a Eurail Pass for this area of Europe. We are thinking of getting a pass that allows us to take the train any 15 days within a two month period. We are also unsure if this meant that we could take 15 trains, or 15 journeys in order to get to our desired destinations (to clarify, if it takes three trains to get to our next destination, is that counted as three of our fifteen, or as one single trip). We are also wondering as to whether we need to specify exactly what countries we will be traveling to and through when booking the passes.I have heard from several people that they charge extra if you go to a country you had not specified, even if it was only en route to another destination, and was wondering if this was the case. If you could clarify these things it would be much appreciated as we plan our trip.
Thank you,
Sydney and Marta

 

    Sydney and Marta,

    While I do think a rail pass could be ideal for you, for the exact reason you specify, there are some things to be aware of. For one, the only trains connecting London and the continent are the Eurostars that go to Paris, Brussels, and Amsterdam, and that train is its own system, so Eurail Passes only give you a discount rather than a free ride. And also, those train tickets are pretty cheap if you buy several months in advance, but quite expensive if you buy just before you leave, so plan ahead. If you do buy a rail pass you should be able to get a discount on the Eurostar through the same site.

    Most of the rest of the countries you list are perfect for rail passes, except for Croatia, where trains don’t go south of Split, and Greece, where there are basically no trains running at all (since the budget crisis). Still, most of where you are going will have excellent rail service, which would be fairly expensive if you bought the individual tickets.

    You should also be aware that even with a Eurail Pass, you will have to get seat reservations (about €5 each) on most of those trains. It’s usually easy to get those only a day or less before you want to leave, but you can’t just hop on board trains like you could 10 years ago before it was all computerized.

    It sounds like you are thinking about getting the Eurail Global Pass for 15 travel days in 2 months. If so, it’s good all over Europe except for the UK and Poland. There are also what are known as Select Passes where you pick 4 bordering countries for your travel. Those cost a bit less because they restrict you to only the 4 countries you choose at the start.

    The best news is on the trains vs. journeys question. You actually get 15 “travel days” which are essentially good for unlimited travel during that day. In other words, let’s say you were going from Munich to Vienna and you wanted to stop for a few hours in Salzburg on the way. You can book a train from Munich to Salzburg and then another train from Salzburg to Vienna a few hours later, and it all counts as one “travel day.” If you have to transfer 3 or 4 times along the way, it still counts as one travel day. If you take an overnight train, as long as you leave after 7pm, it counts only as one travel day (the arrival day counts, so you could still do a free day trip after you arrive, and it’s still the same travel day.)

    As you might have read, the absolute cheapest way to do these train rides would be to buy individual tickets online at least a month or two in advance. But in that case, you have no flexibility, so your whole trip is arranged before you leave home. A rail pass is great in that you can change plans as you go, and the only issue is the seat reservations. Some journeys need no reservations, so on those you can just hop on still.

    Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

     
Emily says:

Hello Roger,
Your article is very helpful as is reading suggestions on other traveler’s plans. I will be traveling in a couple weeks and could use some of your help.
My current plan is
Madrid(3 full days)–>
Barcelona(3 full days)–>
Paris(3 full days)–>
Hamburg(Have to go, about 3 days)–>
Munich(2 full days)–>
Krakow(2 full days)–>
Prague(2full days)–>
Vienna(2 full days)–>
Venice (1 day)–>
Florence(2 full days)–>
Rome(3 full days)
I have another 3 or so days that I can add in places that need it.
Most of my destinations would also have another half day or so but because of travel I don’t think I’ll be out seeing much on those days so I didn’t count them. Please let me know if you think I need extra time in some of the cities or less time in some of them.
I think I am going to get a youth rail pass, I’m just not sure which one. I’ll get a pass as opposed to individual tickets because I would rather have my trains paid for before I leave while also having flexibility to stay a day or two longer in places if I get there and feel like I need it. Other than that cost, I’ll be on a small budget so I’m trying to figure out if I should shave some days off the bigger cities and add to the smaller ones I probably be focusing on the main tourist sites in each place and am looking for good night life. I’m going to destinations more for the experience than the location. I’m looking to stay longer in the places that will not be completely full of tourists and will have more fellow backpackers and more locals around that enjoy themselves and backpackers.
Please help me with any of this that you can, it’s much appreciated . Thank you for your input!

 

    Emily,

    If I’m understanding you correctly, you are only listing your full sightseeing days rather than total nights in each city? If so I think you’ve allowed enough time in each city, at least for a good first visit. That would mean that you are planning 3 or 4 nights in each city except for Venice, which is compact enough that only 1 or 2 nights is really enough.

    As you imply, Hamburg might be the weak link on your itinerary, and it’s a bit out of the way as well, but it’s actually a pretty interesting and impressive place so you could do a lot worse for a family visit sort of thing. Otherwise, your itinerary is all highlights and no filler. If you were looking to trim down your stay in a couple cities, I think Madrid and Barcelona could be visited effectively in 3 nights each, although you certainly won’t get bored in 4 total nights.

    Especially if you are going in summer as it sounds, pretty much every city on your list will be filled with tourists. But I’d advise against trying to go too far out of your way to avoid touristy places, at least on a first trip. These places are popular with tourists because they have the most interesting things to see, and fellow travelers are usually a fun part of the experience.

    I do agree that a Eurail Pass is probably a good idea for this trip. Many of these journeys would be quite expensive if you bought them individually, and the only way to control that cost is to buy them all at least 1 or 2 months early. I think your best bet will be a Global Youth Pass with 10 travel days in 2 months. The only tricky thing is that Global passes don’t cover Poland, so you could either pay for those individually (not too expensive) or use your pass for the portion of the journey that ISN’T in Poland. However you do those two trips, it will be fairly affordable, while most of your other trips will save a lot with the rail pass.

    Also, in France there is a quota on the number of rail pass spots that they allow on each train, so if you wait to reserve a seat on one of those, you might have to take an inconvenient train or a series of regional trains instead.

    You will have to buy seat reservations on most of those trains you’ll be taking (usually about €5 each), but for the non-France ones it should be pretty easy to get those on travel day or the day before. I prefer to get them the day before so I can get to the train station just before my train leaves, and not risk being delayed by a long ticket queue.

    So I really think this itinerary is well planned and well balanced. I think it you did the trip exactly like this, you’d be very happy with it. Or if you changed plans as you went and moved a day around here and there, you’d be very happy as well. Best of luck, and feel free to follow up if I missed something or you have new questions. -Roger

     
Jesika says:

Wow! Your article and comments are fantastic! My boyfriend and I are planning a 3-4 week trip at the end of September. We are thinking that we would fly into Amsterdam then travel through Belgium and France then fly out of Madrid, we do not have any specific cities aside from Paris and Barcelona. Would you suggest the 4 country pass or regional pass?
Thanks in advance for your help!

 

    Jesika,

    Thank you for the kind words. I think your plan sounds really good, as that’s plenty of time for a very good visit if you stick to that part of Europe. As I’ve written so many times, the absolute cheapest way to do it would be to buy all of your train tickets online at least a month in advance, but it sounds like you are hoping to wing it and decide as you go, so the 4-country Select Pass would be ideal. With that, you could make plans as you go, and you’d only have to pay for seat reservations, which are easy to get on travel day or the day before that time of year. On the high-speed trains in France the seat reservation fee is higher (and ticket in general are expensive), but the rest will cost around €5 each.

    It’s also worth noting that Belgium and Netherlands count only as one country (Benelux) for rail passes, so you could get one for Benelux, France, Spain, and also be able to add Germany, Switzerland, or Italy as the 4th country. That way you could explore more for the same price. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

     
Jesse says:

Roger,
3 couples want to travel for 21-23 days in mid to late August 2015.We want to start in Amsterdam – maybe visit Brussels and Belgium and work our way through Paris, Normandy, Germany (Munich and or Berlin) and Austria (Salzburg and Vienna). We want to stay in Marriott Hotels and take overnight trains! We are in our mid 50’s and in good shape.I know we will have to pack lighter than normal, 1 suitcase vs 2 for our wives!

We thought about a River cruise to Paris and Normandy followed by a land tour but with the money we’d spend per day per person on this cruise well we could go 1st class by train and hotel and see much more we think. We all usually travel on the large cruise ships and stay in a suite. We thought about trying something totally out of our norm.

What is the best way to travel to some if not all these cities? Am I on the right track?? I look forward to your response.

We do not need to do Normandy but would like to see either Milan, Venice or Tuscany.

 

    Jesse,

    I’ve heard very good things about the river cruises through Europe, and it’s a booming trend, but I haven’t done one myself yet. They do sound really lovely because they obviously allow you to visit quite a few places without having to pack and change hotels every day. One of the reasons I’m looking forward to doing one is that (unlike most cruise ports for the big ships) the river cruise boats dock right in the heart of each city. Particularly for cities like Prague, Vienna, and Budapest, a ship puts you a few minutes’ walk from most of the best sights.

    Aside from any area you might cover by river cruise, then trains are going to be your best mode of transportation. They go absolutely everywhere, and in most cases the train station is near the heart of the city, usually with a Marriott within a short walk as well.

    The one bump in your plans as you are thinking now, is that night trains would be difficult to use going between the cities you have in mind. You could take one between Vienna or Munich and Berlin, but most of the other places on your list are only 2 or 3 hours apart by high-speed train. Night trains are typically only available between cities that are 6 to 10 hours apart during the day, which makes them between 8 and 14 hours apart by night train (because they go slower at night, and usually add or change carriages as they go). I’ve written more about what to expect on night trains, and that explains it more fully.

    If you’ve never been to Venice then I highly recommend adding it to this trip, and it’s far enough away from most of the others that you could potentially do a night train. From there you should seriously consider Florence, which is also a top tourist city and also the heart of Tuscany. Milan, on the other hand, is more generic and less Italian than the others, although if you have something specific you want to see there (like the Last Supper, if you make reservations way ahead of time), then it could be worth a day or two.

    So yes, plan on taking trains, and a Eurail Pass could likely be a good move, especially if you were thinking about riding 1st Class anyway. When you get closer to putting an itinerary in order of cities you hope to visit, I will be happy to give even more specific information on your best methods of traveling. -Roger

     
      Jesse says:

      Thanks so much for your reply. After discussing the trip with my friends, we are going to leave the Tuscany area for another day. We want to rent a villa large enough for all 3 couples with a chef, driver and housekeeper.

      We are now deciding where we really want to go. We want to include Paris, Amsterdam/ Holland, Berlin/ Munich, Salzburg/ Vienna. Not sure what order to visit these cities. By reading your blogs, you say at least 3-4 nights in each. We are going for 3 weeks, probably mid October.

      We have been to London 2 years in a row so it’s time for something different. Any thoughts you may have they may be different from what I have said in my 1st email would be welcomed!

      Thanks again,

      Jesse

       

        Jesse,

        This sounds like an excellent plan you are working with now. You could obviously visit these cities in many different orders, but the order that would probably be the most efficient would be this:

        Fly into Paris
        Train to Amsterdam (possibly spending a few hours in Brussels on the way)
        Train to Berlin
        Train to Munich
        Train to Salzburg
        Train to Vienna and then home. You could get an open-jaw ticket or buy a cheap flight from Vienna back to Paris so you could fly in and out on a Paris round-trip.

        With 3 total weeks, I’d recommend 4 nights in Paris, especially if you start there and might be dealing with jet lag. You won’t get bored in 4 days, I promise. All the others should be well covered in 3 nights, and you can even do Salzburg in 2 nights. So if that is your final list, you’d still have 2 or 3 additional days to tack on to the cities you are fondest of. Using 3 weeks for 6 cities is pretty much a perfect strategy, as it will allow you to cover all the main sights in each city without having to rush to see them. I’m very fond of every city on your list, so I don’t really have any additional comments. As always, feel free to ask more questions should you have them. -Roger

         
debby says:

Hi
I have read through so many of your kind responses on travel. Clearly you have traveled far and wide. So, I am reaching out to see if you could make a suggestion for me. I am a young and active 58 year old woman, hike, walk etc. I took time off from work mid July to originally go to Budapest although I only have 5-6 days total and decided that was not a great choice. I am looking for somewhere to relax as well as walk as well as see things I have never seen before. I have only been to Italy, no where else, and I live in Detroit. Would you have a suggestion or two of someplace wonderful to visit?
I would greatly appreciate it.
Debby

 

    debby,

    I’ll be happy to try to help, and it’s true that I’ve been fortunate enough to cover much of the planet over the years. We’ll need a bit more info before I can give you really customized suggestions, however.

    So you have decided against Budapest? If so, I’m curious why? It is a really nice city with plenty to see, but it wouldn’t be one of my first suggestions for a first non-Italy trip to Europe. It’s good value and interesting, but a little challenging because English isn’t as widely spoken as in most of the rest of Europe.

    Will you be flying from Detroit and back only 6 days later? Are you still focused on Europe, or might you prefer something closer? Are you looking for something that is relatively inexpensive, or are you looking for something unforgettable even if it costs a bit more? They aren’t cheap, but I think London and Paris are amazing, and both are loaded with parks and open areas in and near the city center, so they aren’t nearly as frantic as, say, Rome. Amsterdam is another one that everyone loves, and in 6 days you could visit two of those three cities pretty easily.

    Please let me know more about what sort of thing you are looking for, and I’ll be happy to come up with more suggestions. -Roger

     
Debby says:

Gosh Roger, I can’t believe you actually answered me and so nicely. Thank you so much. Budapest was the original choice because I have family there. I nixed the idea pretty much for exactly what you wrote. This is a first solo trip and that seems overwhelming.
I am leaving and returning to Detroit. Money is always a consideration but I need this trip for me …mental health and I have never treated myself. So, a little pampering is welcome as to surroundings and room.
I am not dedicated to going to Europe at all, travel to and from is long so I am very open to ideas. Safety, of course, is important. I love mountains and I love beaches. I want a nice hotel, preferably not full of children. I like to be out and about, no spas for me. I like to antique, eat small meals of great food, don’t care if its a tiny paper napkin place, walk, read and sigh see independently. Is that helpful? I am so very grateful for your help.
Debby

 

    Debby,

    Based on everything you’ve said, only one place sounds like a perfect fit, and that is Paris. Walking around the different neighborhoods is endlessly entertaining, and you’d actually have to search hard to find anything other than a great meal there. There are plenty of parks and open spaces, even near the city center, and it’s all quite easy for those of us who can only speak English. Perhaps best of all, Paris is a gorgeous city that has probably changed more lives than any other after a visit. I don’t want to oversell it, but I honestly feel that it does live up to the hype.

    In 5 or 6 days you wouldn’t get bored and you’d have time to see a few things on the edges of town, such as the Palace at Versailles. It will be a bit crowded in July, but many locals actually go to the country or to the beaches in July (or August) so it’s not as bad as some other cities that time of year.

    If you wanted to mix in something else, you could potentially also visit London for 2 or 3 days by taking the Eurostar train over. London is also amazing, though in a different way. It’s probably more important, but it’s not as beautiful or romantic as Paris.

    The other option would be to take a train from Paris down to Nice for 2 or 3 days. Nice and all of the beach areas in the south of France will be packed in July, but for a couple days it would still be lovely. Among the better things about Nice is that it’s relatively affordable with good tourist infrastructure, yet it’s only 20 minutes away from Monaco to the east and Cannes to the west for day trips. Both of those places are more posh, so you can actually live it up for an afternoon without having to pay US$500 per night for a small hotel room.

    If you are open to it, I feel pretty confident about this advice, but feel free to write back if it doesn’t sound like something you want to do, and I can try again. -Roger

     
Debby says:

Hi Roger,
It does sound wonderful. The train to Nice is also very appealing. I believe that if I go to Europe, your idea of Paris and Nice/Caanes will be everything I am looking for. I have one more thought, this comes from too many people giving me advice. I already told them I would listen to yours. But… were I to stay in the states, is there any place you might think would work? I am from Miami so nothing down there would be new or fresh. And then, of course, many think the islands, which I have also never been to. These are my last questions, then I will make my decision and book my flight. I cannot begin to tell you how grateful I am to have happened upon your blog.
Debby

 

    Debby,

    It’s flattering that you are considering my suggestions, but your friends and relatives know you infinitely better than I do, and maybe they are making some valid points.

    My sense is that you are looking for a destination that is really special, and might have the potential to inspire something within you. Paris remains my top choice in general, although Bali is another that could actually fit the bill. The problem with Bali for you is that it’s a LONG flight for only a 5-day stay.

    In the United States the places that I think have a really “special” quality for a trip like what you have in mind are: Savannah, Georgia; New Orleans; Santa Fe, New Mexico; Sedona, Arizona; and San Francisco.

    My own experience in the Caribbean is fairly limited, although I’ve done loads of research on it. Being from Miami, I think the heat and humidity would not be the novelty to you as it is to many other people. And it also seems that the Caribbean tends to be a strong draw for couples and families, and not so much for independent solo travelers like us.

    Again, I hope this helps, and I enjoy trying to answer these sorts of questions, so don’t hesitate to reply if you are still unsure about it all. -Roger

     
PJ Pourshahidi says:

Hey Roger, I find myself back at your site once again when doing my homework on another trip to europe!

Thank you for your help last year – our trip was wonderful!

This time around, I am looking to see London, Amsterdam, Berlin, and Paris. If we could, we would love to squeeze in Prague, Vienna, and Zurich.

I have over 600k hyatt points, so hotels are one of the main reasons for picking each of these cities (free stays in all of the cities).

My question to you is regarding time spent within each city. We are pretty ambitious and in our early 30’s. I have anywhere between 14-16 days allocated for this vacation.

My itinerary that I was thinking was:

2-3 days in London
2-3 days in Amsterdam
2-3 days in Berlin
3-4 days in Paris

I am thinking that 3 days is probably safer for us in London since we will be flying in from Los Angeles, and the jet lag might ruin our 1st day. As far as Amsterdam and Berlin, would 2 nights be sufficient?

If we were able to fit Prague,Vienna and Zurich in, can you give me an idea of how long we might need to see some of the monuments within those cities? If you were able to include 1 of the above mentioned cities, which would you pick? And lastly, what do you think the best path of travel would be? We are open to flying to each city, or taking the high speed train.

Thank you again for your help.

PJ

 

    PJ,

    I’m glad you found us again, and also that your previous trip was a success.

    My recommended minimum stays in each of those cities is the following:

    London: 3 nights
    Amsterdam: 2 nights
    Berlin: 3 nights (but 2 could work)
    Paris: 3 nights

    If you stuck to those minimums you’d be up to 10 or 11 nights, leaving you only 4 to 6 nights at most for the other cities. One main reason why I recommend staying longer than the minimums is that it takes a large chunk of your day to get between cities. A 5-hour train ride means more like 8 hours from the time you check out of one hotel until the time that you are settled in the next one, and that’s most of a sightseeing day. So if you choose to travel literally every other day, it’s also like you are using nearly half of your sightseeing time to sit on trains and in train stations. The views on those trains are mostly pretty plain (except for Switzerland) so the journeys themselves would not really be highlights.

    That said, you could see the main sights in Prague in 2 nights, and the same with Vienna. I really wouldn’t recommend Zurich at all, unless there is something specific there you want to see. Zurich is very expensive and better known for banks, watch makers, and high-end shopping than for its actual sights. If you want to spend a couple days in Switzerland, consider either Interlaken or Lucerne for all the Alpine views and charm.

    Another consideration is how far these places are apart. London, Amsterdam, and Paris are all connected by the high-speed trains in a triangle so they are easy to group together. From Amsterdam to Berlin I think it’s 6 hours, and adding in Prague and Vienna would also come with longer train rides. I think if you added one of these cities, that Prague would be the best choice because it has quite a different feel from all the others and it’s the closest one as well. It’s also cheaper than the others, in spite of probably being more interesting.

    If did this you could go London to Amsterdam by Eurostar train (changing in Brussels), then Amsterdam to Berlin by train, Berlin to Prague by train, and Prague to Paris by air. You could fly out of Paris or take the Eurostar back to London if it ends up being cheaper to do that as a round-trip. Another way to do it would be London to Paris by Eurostar to Amsterdam by train, to Berlin by train, to Prague by train, and then fly out of Prague (either back to London or all the way home).

    As always, feel free to follow up if you like. -Roger

     
debby says:

Okay, I am still unsure about it all. I’ve struggled all day with this response. I feel a decision should be so easy. Paris seems so right yet I am hesitant to push the button.
I think my hesitancy in all honesty is going on such a trip alone. I have the days off and the desire to do something for myself. I can afford the trip and I haven’t had a vacation like this in ages. Somehow in my head it still seems like a trip meant for couples or at least a friend to share it with. Years ago I had no problem picking up and traveling alone with virtually no planning. 19 year marriage in the middle. Now all of a sudden it feels awkward. I spent time on line to read up on the US cities you mentioned but none excite me enough to go. You have hit the nail on the head in every way. Yes I want someplace special, yes I need something to inspire me from within, strangely enough Bali is on my must see list but not for this trip. Your gut advice?

 

    debby,

    Obviously you are the only person who can make this decision, and normally I hesitate to get involved in coaching rather than just travel advice. But maybe this will help. It sounds pretty certain that Paris is the right place, so it’s just a matter of building up the courage to hit the “book” button, and many of us have struggled in that position before.

    As for going alone, I think it might actually be ideal for you because it gives you are far better chance at actually connecting to locals or other travelers. Solo travelers are very approachable, which isn’t true of couples, pairs, or groups. If you are in the right mindset, you’ll be able to make whatever you want out of the trip. I’m now 49 so in a similar age range, and I’ve literally spent years traveling on my own. I’m not always in the mood to make friends, but when I am I know it’s easy to do. If you ask locals (or even other travelers) for help or a quick bit of information, it can easily lead to spending a couple hours with that person over coffee or a drink or just a stroll. As long as you start off every conversation with bonjour or bonsoir, you’ll find that people in Paris are very friendly, helpful, and generally interested in Americans.

    Another tip is to do the “free” walking tour on the first day that you can (you are encouraged to tip at the end if you liked the tour, which you will). Not only is it a great tour and a great bargain, but you’ll get to spend 3 hours in a group with other visitors and the guide. I’ve made many friends doing those, at least friends for the day.

    Check out photos (especially ones taken at night) of the Montmartre area in Paris. And/or watch the movie Amelie. Paris is waiting for you, so you just have to decide to be in the right frame of mind, and you’ll love it. Best of luck with whatever you decide. -Roger

     
debby says:

Ok. You are one smart man. Hotel suggestion where I can walk out the door and keep on walking?
I am not as much about museums as I am about antiques and little shops and real and local experiences. That being said, I want to see everything 🙂
I am booking tonight. I can and will do this and be richer for it.
Thank you Roger.

 

    Debby,

    Paris has quite a few antique flea markets, which was one reason why it seemed to match what you are going for so well. I’m also generally burned out on museums so these days I only go to ones that really interest me rather than all the ones you are supposed to go to just because you are there.

    Here is a short list of Paris hotels that I recommend. At the very least it might give you some ideas about the more central neighborhoods. On one hand, it doesn’t matter too much where you stay in Paris because there seems to be a Metro station every few blocks (literally). But still, staying closer to the center will mean there are more entertaining and beautiful things near your hotel. Paris’s districts are known as “arrondissements.” There are 20 of them, spiraling out from the center and #1, so the lower number the more central it is for the most part. I’m sure you’ll have a fantastic trip, as long as you take charge of the experience rather than just hoping that interesting things will happen to you with no effort. Bon voyage. -Roger

     
Steve says:

Hi Roger
The wife and I are in the early stages of planning a Europe trip (1st time) for mid next year, we are early 50s
We are looking at the river cruises (APT, Scenic) going thru 5/6 countries
But now I am thinking of staying in Paris (3 Days) fly to Berlin (3 days)than fly to Rome and maybe do a island cruise
Not sure which way do jump?
Your thought’s on river cruises and recommendations

Cheers
Steve

 

    Steve,

    As of now I’ve yet to take a river cruise myself, but I’ve been to most of the cities where they stop so I’m at least familiar with the routes. Those river cruises seem to be gaining in popularity very quickly in the past few years, and generally the passengers seem to love them. I think one main appeal is that in Europe the boats dock more or less in the middle of each city, so you can close the door to your cabin and then be sitting down in an outdoor cafe near the main square only 5 minutes later. Of course the other part of the appeal is that you only unpack your bags once and still you get to tour a different major city each day. Going to the same places on a train is much more of a hassle.

    So again, I don’t have any first-hand experience with these river cruises, but I’m looking forward to doing one because the feedback seems to be overwhelmingly positive. This contrasts a bit with ocean cruising, where more of the stops are at “private” beaches that are essentially shopping malls with beach restaurants owned by the cruise line. Best of luck. -Roger

     
susan says:

My husband and I will be visiting Germany, beginning 9/30 and returning to Philly 10/7. We got a good price on a flight into Munich, but would like advice on the rest of the trip. Should we stay within Germany or try and visit Austria and/or Switzerland? We’ve been to Paris and aren’t I interesting in going there this trip. We’re thinking of train travel within cities, but aren’t sure about the expense going to 2 other countries. WE’d like to see as much as possible but obviously don’t want to spend our whole trip on a train. Suggestions? Thanks so much-I’ve learned a lot reading other’s questions.
Susan

 

    Susan,

    I’m wondering if you realize that you are going to be in Germany during Oktoberfest (which ends on October 5 this year)? It’s fun, but Munich also gets extremely crowded and hotel prices go WAY up during this period. In 8 days or so, I agree with you that there could be a risk of trying to squeeze too much in. I think Munich plus 1 or 2 other places would be ideal in that amount of time.

    My first recommendation is an obvious one, which is Salzburg. It’s fairly close to Munich, and it’s a gorgeous and tourist-friendly place to visit the Alps, not to mention the endless Sound of Music tours and Mozart concerts. Two or three days there could be good, especially if you are trying to save money by avoiding Munich before October 5.

    In the other direction there are two great choices, and you could potentially do them both. They are both outlined on this article about where to go in Germany. They are Rothenburg ob der Tauber and Neuschwanstein Castle/Füssen. Each could actually be done as a day trip from Munich, but it’s probably better to spend the night there, especially as they tend to be packed during the day and pleasantly uncrowded at night.

    I think this will help you. Let me know if you have any other questions, and I’m sure you’ll have a great trip. -Roger

     
Aimee says:

Hi Roger,
My husband and I (28 and 27 y.o.) are going on our first Eurotrip for our honeymoon. We will be in Europe from Aug 25-Sept 8. We’ve already bought our plane tickets and would like to primarily use trains to get around once there. We’re both pretty flexible and might be inclined to take spontaneous train rides. We only have a bit of our itinerary set and don’t really want a fully set schedule to allow for a little bit of that spontaneity.

We’re flying into Valencia on Aug. 25 to participate in La Tomatina on Aug. 27. We plan to leave a day or two after. Besides that, everything is still up in the air. We don’t really want to stop in France, just train through to see the countryside. We want to visit Belgium for a few days (we’d love any advice on where to get good Belgian beers), then spend the rest of our time in the Netherlands. We plan to spend a couple days at Efteling because we’ve loved theme parks and roller coasters since we started dating in high school. We are also looking into finding concerts along the way.

By the way I describe our plans so far, would it be worth it to get 2 5-day Eurail Select Saver Passes?

We fly out of Amsterdam back home on Sept. 8 in the afternoon.

Thanks

 

    Aimee,

    As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, those train trips you have in mind could be quite expensive if you bought them as you went. Even in Spain, train tickets on the popular high-speed lines can be over €100 each in 2nd class if you buy shortly before you leave. So yes, a 5 days Select Pass with the Saver option would at least guarantee that your costs would be reasonable, even if you spontaneously decided to include Germany or Switzerland. Better still, you’d be riding in 1st Class, which might be overkill on a backpacking trip, but how many honeymoons will you go on? When I buy individual tickets I always buy 2nd class tickets, even though I’m a tall guy. But I LOVE to treat myself to 1st Class on a rail pass when it only costs a bit more like in your case. By the way, 2nd Class is 4 seats across and 1st Class is 3 seats across with more legroom and a more comfortable seat. Sometimes you even get a free drink, including wine or beer.

    So you could get a 4-country Select Pass including Spain, France, Benelux (those 3 count as 1 for this), and you could add Switzerland or Germany as the 4th country. That would obviously allow you to see the Swiss Alps or visit Munich, Berlin, or at least Cologne on the same ticket.

    The most important factor, however, is the number of longer train rides you think you’d want to do. If it’s really only 2 or 3 longer rides and 2 or 3 shorter ones, then that Select Pass might not save you any money. But if you think you’d like to do 4 or 5 longer trips, then I think it would be ideal, especially with the 1st Class factor included.

    Oh, and finding good beer in Belgium is like finding snow on the North Pole. Most locals actually drink a lager called Jupiler (owned by the same huge company that owns Stella Artois and most other beers), but pretty much every restaurant or bar will also have the craft brews and monk beers and such. It’s pretty amazing when you are there, and very different from the Netherlands and Germany in that regard. Bruges is the tourist highlight of the country, and they even have a couple of breweries with tours, although I think they are lagers rather than craft beers. Brussels is worth at least an afternoon to see the main sights on your way to Bruges, and Antwerp is another one that is actually more interesting than Brussels in many ways.

    And in case you aren’t aware of it, the best place to find concert information for any city is Pollstar.com.

    This looks like a fun trip for sure. Feel free to ask any other questions if they come up, and good luck. -Roger

     
shehryar says:

Great job Roger.
I am planning to visit Europe for 10 days with my wife and four kids. I will prefer to visit Germany, Netherland and if possible some part of Switzerland adjacent to germany. I will travel from Glasgow, UK.Would like to visit Europa park and Rhineland in germany. What itinerary would you suggest and what should be our travel mode. do you recommend a urail pass such as germany-Benelux pass. where should we base in germany where accomodation is cheaper. Thanks

 

    shehryar,

    In 10 days of traveling with four children, I don’t think you’d want to try to visit more than maybe 4 cities, perhaps plus one day in Europa Park. If you are going to visit the Netherlands then obviously you’ll be going to Amsterdam, and that city deserves either 2 or 3 nights. And again, when traveling with children I don’t think you’d want to include very long train rides, so I think it makes sense to find other places that are fairly close together so you can get between them in 3 hours or less.

    This article about where to go in Germany should help you pick one or two places. Specifically, Cologne seems like a good choice because it’s not far from Amsterdam. And when you get farther south you might also choose Rothenburg ob der Tauber and/or Neuschwanstein Castle/Füssen, both of which could be good family stops.

    If you wanted to include Switzerland then the obvious stops would either be Interlaken or Lucerne, both of which are loaded with ways to experience and view the stunning Swiss Alps scenery. Those towns are lovely, but also quite expensive, even compared to Germany.

    And speaking of budget, you’ll find less expensive accommodations in smaller towns in Germany compared to the big cities. Look for family-run guesthouses (locally called a “gasthaus”) for the best value. They are just like bed and breakfasts in Britain, where you get a comfortable room and a filling breakfast in a large home, typically much cheaper than a standard chain hotel room.

    A Eurail Pass is only available to non-Europe residents, but you can get something similar called an Interrail Pass if you are a Europe passport holder. Trains will almost certainly be your best bet for getting between places, although with a family of 6 a rental car might actually be good value. You could potentially fly from Glasgow or Edinburgh to Amsterdam and visit for 2 or 3 days, then rent a car for a week for the rest of your trip. Normally I don’t recommend rental cars in Europe because the fuel is expensive and parking is very hard to find at a decent price in cities, but if you are going to Europa Park and some smaller towns you can probably actually park for free.

    So it really depends on how many cities you want to visit compared to smaller towns, and how spread out the stops are. Once you have a better idea of your probably itinerary in mind, the trains vs. car choice will be more obvious, and I’ll be happy to help if you have more questions. If you aren’t going very long distances, a rail pass probably won’t pay for itself, and you can do even better by buying your train tickets online in advance. I hope this helps, and again, feel free to follow up with more questions if you have them. -Roger

     
Catharine K says:

Very informative site. Congrats! My family and I want to arrive by plane from Toronto Canada to any city (please suggest what is best). Then we want to visit Austria, Croatia and then end of in Amsterdam. Money is not the issue as much as having a great train experience We would want to spend at least 3 to 4 days in each place. Having the ability to eliminate one city if necessary. Can you give me a step by step on this type of itinerary. We are fairly flexible but we definitely want to visit vienna and croatia. Any questions let me know. Thank you thank you for your anticipated assistance.

 

    Catharine K,

    This is kind of a tricky one because Croatia isn’t the easiest place to reach by air. You could potentially get a roundtrip from Toronto to Amsterdam, and then a flight from there to Dubrovnik or Zagreb to start the real trip. Or you could fly one-way from Toronto into Croatia and then one-way back from Amsterdam to Toronto. I’ll leave that part for you to work out.

    Dubrovnik will be the southernmost point you’ll want to visit in Croatia, and from there you’ll take a bus to Split because the trains don’t go all the way down there. Once you are in Split, you can take the train, although it’s kind of slow until you get to Zagreb. Zagreb itself might be interesting enough for 1 or 2 days (but not longer), and then you can take the train to Vienna. Once in Vienna, the trains will all be fast and comfortable for the rest of your trip.

    After a few days in Vienna I’d highly recommend Salzburg for 2 or 3 days. It’s a gorgeous little town with plenty to do, and very different from Vienna. After Salzburg you should consider Munich, which is a highlight of Germany for most people. Whether you stop in Munich or skip it in favor of something else, you’ll have loads of choices on your way to Cologne, which is probably the most interesting and best stop just before Amsterdam. Depending on how much time you have, you might also consider a stop in Brussels on your way to Bruges for a few days before reaching Amsterdam.

    As for that middle section, the most scenic train rides would be along the Rhine Valley in western Germany. This article about places to visit in Germany describes several options including Rothenburg ob der Tauber and Neuschwanstein Castle/Füssen, both of which are on the way from Munich to Cologne (those are both covered in the article as well).

    Hopefully this gives you some ideas. Needless to say, there are many options along the way, and it’s difficult for me to confidently choose for you without knowing a lot more about you. As always, feel free to follow up with more questions if you have them and I’ll be happy to try to help. -Roger

     
Rick says:

Hi Roger – firstly excellent site and really appreciate what you’re doing. My partner and I are planning on visiting Europe in November for 3 weeks. Our plan is to fly into London and fly out of Athens. We are thinking of just spending just a night (or two) in london (been there before) and then enroute to Greece would like to visit Spain, France and Italy (haven’t visited any of these 4 countries). What day by day itinerary would you suggest to visit these countries. Money is not really an issue – we’d more like to maximise the time/experience and appreciate some of the culture in each country. We like art/history/culture/tourist features etc.

Thanks in advance

 

    Rick,

    Thank you. Needless to say, there are about a million different ways to go from London to Athens with 3 weeks to spend, but I’ll try to help with my top recommendations and it should at least give you some ideas.

    You’ll definitely want to head to Paris from London, and do so on the Eurostar train that takes only a bit over 2 hours. Spend at least 3 nights in Paris. After this it gets a bit tricky because Spain is in one direction and Italy and Greece are in another. Also, there is so much to see in France that you could obviously spend months just exploring that country, so it’s hard to know when to move on. The one easy and very enjoyable other stop in France that I usually recommend is Nice on the Mediterranean coast because it’s interesting itself, and you can do day trips to Cannes and Monaco in only 20 minutes by train each way.

    Still it makes the most sense to do Spain first, so you could fly from Paris to Madrid for 3 nights, then take a train to Barcelona for 2 or 3 nights, as those two are both major highlights of Spain, and they are quite different from each other. Flying from Barcelona to Nice is faster than taking the train, and probably cheaper as well, but you could do it either way.

    From Nice, or from Barcelona is you decide to save southern France for another trip, you could fly to Venice for 1 or 2 nights. It’s small so one night is actually enough, but it’s also amazing so 2 nights might be better. After Venice, the obvious choices are the other 2 members of Italy’s “Big 3”, which are Florence and Rome. You can take a quick train from Venice to Florence and spend at least 2 nights, and then another train from Florence to Rome, and there I recommend at least 3 nights because Rome is huge and packed with top sights. We are already getting close to 3 weeks at this point, so you’ll probably have to trim a place or two off this list, if not a whole country.

    From Rome you can take a train to the east coast and then a ferry to Greece, but it would be much more efficient to just fly from Rome to Athens. The most common quick itinerary for people wanting to visit Greece is 2 or 3 nights in Athens and then the remaining time on one of the islands. You can reach most islands by ferry from Pireaus (Athen’s port), but you can also fly to the larger and more popular ones, and that might be better if you are on a tight schedule. Santorini might be the best island choice because it has ruins and sights that are interesting, while most Greek islands are mostly about relaxing on the beach all day.

    Hopefully this at least helps you sort out what sounds best, and then you’ll likely have to eliminate some highlights if you want to keep it all in three weeks. As always, feel free to follow up with more questions if you have them. -Roger

     
Samantha says:

Hi Roger! My boyfriend and I are well-traveled adventurous foodie types in our mid 20’s from San Francisco and are planning a 2 week (15 nights) trip to Europe in early October on a pretty reasonable budget for folks our age (we’ve been saving!). We’re thinking Amsterdam, Paris, possibly Lyon, and at least one stop in Italy (either Florence or Venice, but preferably both). We’ve never been to any of the countries on our itineraries and are excited for a new adventure (I’ve spent most of my time in the EU in Spain and Greece and he’s spent more time in N. Africa and the mideast than he has in Europe). Our general plan is to start north and work our way South in the hopes of beating the cold, though we’re flexible on that front if it makes more sense to switch it up. We definitely want to spend a few days in Amsterdam (he has friends there and we may have an opportunity to move there for his work in the next few years) and at least 5 days in France. We’re having a bit of trouble planning the last leg of the trip though, since we’re not sure about the best approach to Italy, nor the best way to get home. Do you think stopping in both Venice and Florence would be possible? Would flying out of Rome make the most sense then? We’re much more “enjoy where you are” travelers than “let’s spend one night in x place just to say we’ve been there” types,and are most excited about drinking in the history (and the wine, obviously) taking in the sights on foot and by train, absorbing the local culture and eating amazing food. We’ll probably be staying in airbnbs rather than hotels, but both feel we’ve spent more than enough time in hostels for one lifetime already. Any advice you may have for us about any part of our upcoming trip would be much appreciated! Thank you!

 

    Samantha,

    It sounds like you guys have a great attitude about travel, and that should make the whole thing easier and more enjoyable. Fifteen days is fairly short for a trip that includes such a long distance from your starting point to your ending point, but it can definitely be done and done well.

    I’d recommend 3 nights in Amsterdam (used to live there myself), partly because it’s awesome and also because you will probably be jet-lagged and disoriented for your first day or two if you are flying all the way from San Francisco. Then take the train to Paris (buy a month or two early for the best fares) and spend at least 3 or 4 nights there. Paris, as I’m sure you are aware, is one of the world’s highlights and it’s pretty big. Lyon is not a typical stop on a first visit to France, although it’s very interesting and obviously right on the way. Two night there should be good as a minimum, so if you were moving quickly you’d still have a week left for Italy.

    Jumping to the end, the cheapest flights in and out of Italy are to Rome and Milan. Milan is not really worth a stop on a trip like this, so flying out of Rome is the logical choice.

    From Lyon you’d probably change trains in Milan on your way to Venice, and it would take 9 to 10 hours, so flying might be the better option, and possibly cheaper as well.

    As you may know, the “Big 3” in Italy for visitors are Rome, Florence, and Venice, and they all live up to the hype. I understand your point about not wanting to get sucked into checklist-style tourism, but I honestly think you’d have the best time if you visited all of them because they are each so different. The quick and efficient way to visit the Big 3 is to allocate 1 night to Venice, 2 nights to Florence, and 3 nights to Rome, although 2 nights would be better than nothing.

    Venice is compact enough (not to mention very crowded and quite expensive) that I recommend a visit of around 24 hours. The key is to spend the extra money on a hotel right on the main island, hopefully not far from San Marcos Square. Venice is mobbed by tourists on bus tours from about 10am until 6pm every day, to the point that you can barely walk around. But in the mornings and evenings it’s mostly empty, so those staying on the main island can really soak in the atmosphere during those times, and actually see all the main sights in a short time.

    Florence is only 2 hours from Venice by train, and the city center is small enough to see the main sights in two days. It’s also a nice break from the crowds of Venice and the craziness of Rome.

    Rome is only 90 minutes by train from Florence, and it’s a huge and crowded city that is packed with excellent sights. Again, I recommend 3 nights there, but 2 is enough to see the highlights, and then head to the airport for the flight home. By the way, you might find that an “open-jaw” ticket (SF to AMS and Rome to SF) is expensive, so you might also consider a round-trip from SFO to Amsterdam or Rome, and then a cheap flight on a European airline to connect the dots.

    Hopefully this helps, and let me know if you have other questions. -Roger

     
      Samantha says:

      Hi Roger,

      Thank you so much for your thoughtful and in depth reply! Excited to hear that our stops in Italy are all so close to one another by train! I do have a few follow-up questions for you though since it’s obvious you’re a great resource!

      First, as someone who’s lived in Amsterdam, where do you think the best place/s for us to stay there would be if we’re trying to get a sense of local culture and whether we might like to spend a year or two there ourselves?

      Second, although you mentioned that Lyon is an interesting spot to visit I’m wondering whether you’d recommend skipping it this time and spending another day in Paris and another in Florence instead. We do want to cover a lot of ground, but we also want to be sure our itinerary isn’t too crazy to be fun!

      Third, do you have any recommendations for areas to stay in Rome if we’d like to be walking/metro distance from the sights and eats but also somewhat away from the major tourist zones?

      And lastly, if we were to look into booking round trip tickets from SFO to either Amsterdam or Rome instead of flying “open-jaw” is there a particular airline you’d recommend? We found a shockingly good deal on SFO > AMS > SFO with stops in Dublin on Aer Lingus but since we haven’t flown with them before would love your opinion.

      Thank you so much again! We’re so grateful for your input!

       

        Samantha,

        Okay, I might be able to help so I’ll give this a go.

        1 – Amsterdam is fairly compact, but there are strangely-generic suburbs that start outside the main canal rings (beyond Prinsengracht) in every direction. Places out there are much more affordable than within the canal ring area, and that would likely be your day to day life unless you had a connection or could afford to pay a LOT in rent for a central location. The one sort of in-between zone to consider is the Jordaan, which is just beyond Prinsengracht and the Anne Frank House. It’s an artsy area that used to be slums but now is very trendy and interesting. You don’t have to stay in the Jordaan (there aren’t many hotels anyway) but you should spend an afternoon and evening wandering around to see a cool neighborhood without many tourists or sights. It’s close to the center, yet a very Dutch residential area.

        2 – If you don’t have anything specific in mind in Lyon that you want to see, I’d save it for another trip and use those days in Paris or Italy. Lyon is a big city without a great tourism infrastructure or any real checklist attractions, so it doesn’t end up on too many itineraries of new visitors to France.

        3 – As for where to stay in Rome, there are over a thousand hotels so it’s easy to get confused. I do have an article with recommended Rome hotels with good locations and that offer good value and I stand by it (there’s a map at the bottom). The area near the main (Termini) train station is very convenient, but some of the streets off to either side of it are a bit dodgy so you want to pay attention to what recent reviews say. The area around the Borghese Gardens is less busy and a bit more upscale. In order to get out of the tourist zone, you’d have to stay in the suburbs, which would also be inconvenient. Rome is a very touristy city, although crowded with locals as well. Overall, hotels in Rome tend to be more expensive than you’d think (compared to other big cities in Europe), so if you can find anything that seems affordable and has good reviews, you are ahead of the game.

        4 – As for which airline to take, I’ve yet to fly on Aer Lingus, but I’ve heard good things about them and they seem to score high reviews. With those trans-Atlantic flights, you’ll pretty much always get a nice wide-body plane with free food and good service on the main part of the flight, and then when you switch planes for the shorter jump to your final city you’ll usually be in a smaller plane similar to the ones that go between SFO and LAX and LAS. So the long part of the Aer Lingus trip should be nice, even if the Dublin to Amsterdam jump is a bit more bus-like.

        If you do the round-trip to Amsterdam, you could fly back from Rome to Amsterdam on EasyJet, which has fares starting at US$68 one-way from what I see here. EasyJet is actually among the best of the low-cost carriers operating in Europe, and far better than Ryanair, so that looks like good news for you. The earlier you buy that Rome to Amsterdam ticket, the cheaper it will be.

        Have a great trip, and let me know if I you have other questions I might have answers for. -Roger

         
Jun says:

Dear Roger,

My girlfriend and I are from Singapore both 25 years old, would be traveling around mainly in Berlin, Strasbourg, Lyon and Paris for 12 nights. As I am currently in France, so our holiday will start off in Paris.

We are planning from Paris we head to Berlin then to Strasbourg, to Lyon and back to Paris before we depart back to our country. With this in mind, we have looked into getting a Regional Eurail Pass for 4 days in 2 months pass. Do you think it will be a good idea? As I have tried looking at the train prices and after adding them up, I feel it is a lot cheaper than to get the tickets individually.

However my main question for you would be, how do we go about making reservations for the trains ahead? I hope you can answer my question, and I hope to receive your replies soon.

Best Wishes,
Jun

 

    Jun,

    First off, I’m surprised to hear that the individual train tickets you have in mind are more expensive than a 4-day France-Germany rail pass. That pass, unless you are referring to something else, is US$328 per person in 2nd Class, so that’s US$82 per ride. You’d also need a seat reservation for each of those journeys, and the ones in France can be quite expensive.

    Just checking now, it looks like Paris to Berlin during the day is €119 and 8.5 hours, or €29 and 12 hours if you take the overnight train. Or you could fly on EasyJet for €50 in under 2 hours. So the day-train option is quite expensive, as is the next journey to Strasbourg. The complication, is seems, is that those first two journeys are quite long for a single day, and even the advance tickets don’t seem to have discounts. I’d really consider flying on at least one of those legs, but a rail pass could work if you really prefer trains over planes. It’s a tough call.

    As for where to get tickets and reservations, you probably already know about http://en.voyages-sncf.com/en/ for France and http://www.bahn.de/p_en/view/index.shtml for Germany. Those are the best places to get the tickets, and buying early will save money as well. Hopefully this helps, and let me know if you have other questions. -Roger

     
Khushbu says:

Hi, I read all your comments, they are awesome.
Me and my husband will be going to milan for study for 3 moths from September to November….we want to travel Italy, Paris, Switzerland, Amsterdam, Munich and Austria… We will be free every weekend and also can take leaves in week days…
We want budget trip, we are 28 years so youth pass won’t work. What is your suggestion about planning trip to different places from milan… Is it better to book pass from eurorail. How we can start ??? Please reply along with travel mean either fly/ rail between cities??

 

    Khushbu and Anand,

    A rail pass would not really be helpful for what you have in mind. Milan has 3 airports with high competition among low cost airlines, so you can get surprisingly cheap flights to places like Paris and Amsterdam from there. As long as you buy at least a few weeks in advance (or are willing to fly at weird hours) the airfares will be cheaper than trains or a rail pass.

    For train journeys into Switzerland, Austria, and southern Germany, you’ll be best off if you also buy those at least a few weeks in advance. Trains in Italy are quite cheap compared to most of the rest of Western Europe, especially for advance purchases. Milan is a busy train hub so you’ll be able to get express trains to all the nearby cities you’d visit, probably for around €50 or less if you buy early. Since you have 3 months, I think you’ll have enough time to plan the longer trips in advance. You can also get to Lake Como in an hour, and to Venice, Bologna, Turin, and Genoa in under 2 hours. Those train rides will be fairly cheap (maybe €20 each), even if you buy only a few days early, so a rail pass would actually cost more.

    Once you arrive in Milan, you’ll also be able to get tips on these things from other people there, and I’m sure it will work out great. Bon voyage. -Roger

     
Meghali Daniel says:

Hi Roger, I am from Assam, India and am planning a trip like this for the first time. I feel you can help me with my queries. We are a group of 4-5 couples all in our early 50’s and desire to visit Central Europe over a period of 15 days in April 2015. I realise it’s still very early but we need to plan and co ordinate well in advance.We plan to fly from Delhi to Istanbul and then travel by Eurail to the following places: Greece 3 nights,2 nights each in Bled, Split, Vienna, Prague, Budapest and Bucharest, then back to Istanbul and fly out from there. However, since we are in a group we would like some flexibility in our travel as some might like to stop at different places to the ones I have quoted. Basically, we would also like to enjoy the European countryside even though we can’t visit all the countries, sadly due to time constraint.Based on this, we feel the 10 days within 2 months Eurail Global Pass would be ideal. I would like your views and suggestions regarding this. Also, how much would each 2nd class pass cost and where can we buy them ideally. It would be very helpful if you can also recommend some budget hotels that are good, clean and friendly. Thank you…Meghali.

 

    Meghali,

    This sounds like it’s going to be a fantastic trip. Unfortunately, Eurail Passes really wouldn’t be of much use on a trip like what you have in mind, but the good news is that it will actually be cheaper to do it another way.

    First off, there is essentially no worthwhile train service in Turkey for the next couple of years, as they are in the middle of a long refurbishment project that has shut down nearly all service. You can still technically take a train from Istanbul to Sofia, Bulgaria, but it’s at an awkward time and you have to do at least a couple parts of it by bus because the track is still partly closed. The trains in Greece are also not running for the last couple of years because of budget problems, so really that whole corner of Europe is dominated by buses instead. The buses within Turkey are quite good though, and cheap as well. And the international buses to Sofia, Bucharest, and elsewhere are also quite good. If you want to keep the route that you have in mind, you’ll want to consider a mix of buses, ferries, and even flights on low-cost carriers. Each of those options can be cheaper and better than whatever bus service there is there now.

    After you get through Turkey and Greece, you can actually take trains between Split, Bled, Vienna, Prague, Budapest, and Bucharest. The service from Split to Bled is slow on the train, and a bit faster on a bus, but the rest is better on a train.

    The other factor involved is that the individual train tickets in the area you’ll be visiting are actually quite cheap on their own, especially if you buy at least a month or more in advance. With a Eurail Pass like you have in mind, you’d be paying about US$80 per ride for the 10 rides (in 1st Class) that you had in mind. Meanwhile, those train tickets would probably average about US$50 or less if you buy them on travel day, and maybe about half that if you buy at least a few weeks in advance. That would be in 2nd Class, which is similar in comfort to AC2 in India, or really more like the 1st Class day trains, although you don’t get a meal and chai included.

    So in the end, visiting Turkey AND Greece AND those other cities will actually take quite a bit of work, and be quite a challenge in 15 days. If I were you, I’d probably save Greece for another trip (Athens is interesting for 2 days, and it would take many more days to really enjoy one of the islands). You could fly into Istanbul for 2 or 3 days, and then take another cheap flight to Prague, Budapest, or Vienna, and then do the rest by train before flying back to Istanbul for your flight home. Bucharest is also quite out of the way for what you have in mind, and visiting would add an extra day each way just getting there and leaving.

    I know this isn’t what you were hoping to hear, but I think you can actually do a great trip at a reasonable cost if you narrow your list of cities a bit like this. Let me know if I can be of further help. -Roger

     
      Meghali Daniel says:

      Hi Roger, sorry I took some time to reply. First thank you for your valuable suggestions. I think we need to look at other options now. Will check with the group and will come back to you for more of your expertise, if that’s alright with you. Appreciate your prompt and valuable response. Meghali.

       
Jun says:

Dear Roger,

Thank you for your reply. After reading your reply, I kind of realized we are too late to make our reservations for the Regional Pass too.

You mentioned about overnight trains from Paris to Munich. Can you paste me the link to the website of which i can book the tickets? I have tried googling for the past 2 hours but could not figure which site do I book the tickets for night train ride for.

Please advice.
Jun

 

    Jun,

    I’m sorry that took you 2 hours. Actually, I mentioned an overnight train from Paris to Berlin, but it turns out there is one from Paris to Munich as well, both leaving at 20:05 each night. The Munich train arrives at 07:10 in the morning. I found it on the official France rail site that I mentioned in the previous response: http://en.voyages-sncf.com/en/

    By the way, when you use that site it will ask you for your home country and you need to use anything but US or Canada, or it will dump you into their (more expensive) site dedicated to those countries. Let me know if you are still struggling to find it. -Roger

     
Cecilie Altenkamp says:

Hi Roger. This is an absolute fantastic website!! I am a mother of four children (17y, 15y,12y,8y) living in Sydney, Australia with my German husband. I am Danish. We are planning on travelling to Europe from end of april 2015 to beginning of july. We want to show our children Parts of Europe in these 10 weeks as my husband has longservice leave from his job. As his job is very stressfull we would like to see different major cities plus ofcourse family in a slow and comfortable tempo. Our preferred transportation would be with train as this brings us straight into the major cities. We would like to go to the following cities: Istanbul, Dubrownik (maybe Split), Venice, maybe Vienna, Florence, cinque Terre, Barcelona, Paris, London, Amsterdam, Berlin and for family reasons Stuttgart and Copenhagen. We were thinking of flying into Istanbul with Emirates. Our idea was the following : Istanbul 5 days to get over the jetlag, cruise from Istanbul to Venice over Dubrownik( 7 to 9 days), 1 night in Venice, train to Florenz ( 4days), cinque terre by train on to Genova, either by ferry or train to Barcelona ( 5 nights), train to Paris ( 5 nights), train to either Amsterdam or London ( stay in both cities 4 nights), train to Stuttgart for a 1 to 2 week break with family. We might hire a car and drive down to friends in Zurich and travel on to Zermatt in that time as well. after break head up to Berlin with train ( 5 nights), train and ferry to Copenhagen . Stay in Denmark with family 1 to 2 weeks, then fly home to Sydney. What do you think? Trainpass or not? We do not have endless amounts of money and therefore need to opt for staying in hostels in most of the cities. Any ideas on where to stay? We are also open to any suggestions from you concerning where to start and finish. And should we book all accomodation and transportation from here or wait till we are there? Being 6 people it could maybe be difficult to get reasonable accomodation not too expensive. Any ideas are appreciatet. I really like your website Roger, keep up the good work! Many regards from Cecilie.

 

    Cecile,

    Thank you for the kind words. I think your plan as you’ve described sounds fantastic and really well thought out. The itinerary looks well balanced, not rushed, and in a logical order. That must have been a lot of work to sort that out, and I obviously think you’ve done well for yourself.

    A rail pass would likely not be good value for you with what you have in mind. The cruise from Istanbul to Venice via Dubrovnik sounds ideal. Those next few train journeys within Italy will all be quite cheap if you buy tickets individually, probably around €20 each for adults if you book a month or more in advance, and maybe €40 at the most even if you buy on travel day (the children’s tickets will of course be cheaper).

    From Genova to Barcelona is a long train ride and that ferry might be a better option, although flying could also be considered because it might actually be cheaper.

    From Barcelona to Paris an advance adult train ticket starts at €59, but would be more like €100 to €120 if you only buy a few weeks ahead. It can be up to €176 (for adults) if you only buy a few days early, so that could be tricky, although again, flights might be cheaper.

    From Paris to London you’d have to take the Eurostar train, which isn’t part of any rail pass system, while from Paris to Amsterdam it’s only €50 for adults if you book a few weeks in advance, or around €120 if you book only a few days in advance. Those last couple of potential train rides to Berlin and Copenhagen could be kind of expensive if you don’t buy well in advance too, but still it seems unlikely that they would all add up to the cost of a rail pass, especially since the minimum is 10 rides for a Global Pass, and you won’t need that many.

    By the way, your German husband may be aware of the Schönes-Wochenende-Ticket, which has been offered for many years now. Presently it costs €44 and covers up to 5 people traveling together (so you’d need to buy one extra youth ticket) for non-express trains on Saturdays or Sundays. If you can visit Stuttgart or Berlin that way, it could be big savings.

    So like so many other trips these days, you’ll need to balance flexibility and cost. If you were to buy all of these train tickets on travel day, they could add up to a small fortune, but if you bought each of them 2 or 3 months in advance, they’d be shockingly cheap (and MUCH cheaper than a rail pass in your case). Train tickets go on sale about 3 or 4 months out, and as the travel date approaches and more seats are sold, the price for the remaining seats goes up. So buying a month early is usually cheaper than buying a week or two early, and buying two months early is even cheaper. Rail passes tend to be best for people who are covering a lot of ground and really prefer to stay flexible on the specifics until the last minute. If that’s what you’d rather do, a rail pass might actually make sense, but with 4 kids in tow it seems unlikely that you’d want to just wing it around Europe on a whim.

    As for where to stay, I think you have the right idea with hostels and you might mix in some apartments. You probably remember from your days in Denmark that European hotel rooms (especially in cities) are almost always tiny compared to those in Oz and the US and most other places. It would be challenging for your brood to fit into 2 rooms at most hotels, so you’d probably need 3, which could get expensive.

    For a family of 6 I think hostels could work out great. Many European hostels have private rooms for up to 6 people, and you’ll also have the option of booking an entire dorm room with 6 beds in many cases. That will allow you to use the kitchen facilities and common rooms as well, which will cut down on daily costs and be welcome because 10 weeks of eating every meal in a restaurant can get exhausting.

    The other option, which is a newer trend are the many apartments that can now be booked for short stays around Europe. Here’s an article about how to find short-term apartments in Europe, which includes info on AirBnB along with many other services.

    Hopefully this helps, and feel free to follow up if you have more questions. Here’s an article about how to buy cheap advance train tickets in Europe, by the way. I’m sure it will be an amazing trip, and since you are planning so early, you should be able to keep it affordable and well organized too. Best of luck. -Roger

     
Sandra says:

Hello Roger. Thank you for the great advice you gave me regarding my 3 week trip in April 2014 to London, Amsterdam, Prague, Istanbul and Cappadocia. I travelled alone staying primarily in hostels even though I’m 50 years old but had a fabulous time and met so many people.

I’ve just booked my flight to Barcelona departing Toronto October 1st and returning from Lisbon on October 30th. I plan on travelling throughout Spain approximately 12 days, then taking a ferry and 5 day inclusive tour to Morroco, and finally travelling from there to Portugal, again staying in hostels.

I would love your budget friendly advice Roger on how to travel around, where to go and also stay and any other info you think may be helpful. Thank you so much Roger.

 
Alfiben says:

Dear Roger
Me and my wife plan a trip to Europe on September 2014,we will arrive at Paris on September 7 from Jakarta Indonesia, at September 9 we wanna go to Munich, Roma and might be arrived at Barcelona on Sptember 14 because we have to attand a medical congress there. We need your suggestion if we used train for that trip.Thank a lot for your help in advance

 

    Alfiben,

    Those destinations you have in mind are all spread out quite a bit, which means that the train would take 6 to 10 hours between them and not really be cheap. They all have major airports, so flying will obviously be much faster and probably cheaper as well. You could go either way, depending on which you might prefer. But either way, I’d book the train tickets or flights as soon as possible because the price of either will increase as the travel date approaches. Rome to Barcelona would be a very long train trip, so I’d fly on that one for sure. Best of luck. -Roger

     
ANIQ says:

I am in Geneva from 8th OCt to 12th.

I am free from 10th 4 PM onwards and have a return flight from Geneva on 12 night. Want to cover some place (not switzerland) 2 nights. Please suggest nearby countries/reachable desinations where 2 days are enough.. current shortlists are Barcelona and Milan

 

    ANIQ,

    There are a lot of great possibilities for a place to go for two days from Geneva. Milan and Barcelona could work, though Milan isn’t really a great tourist destination (compared to elsewhere in Italy) and Barcelona is quite big for a 2-day visit.

    Other options would be Venice, which is only about 2 hours beyond Milan, and ideal for a 2-day visit. Or Nice, which is compact enough to appreciate in 2 days, and you could also spend a few hours in nearby Cannes and/or Monaco, both of which are only about 20 minutes away by train. Out of those 4 options, I’m sure you will have a great trip to any of them. -Roger

     
Kenneth McKeown says:

Roger,

I just stumbled across this amazing page of yours with Q&A’s. I will be working through a majority of the questions, but while I’m reading through these the next few days I figured I would ask a few questions and what you think of my planned trip. I hope to fly to London next summer (2015) and from there, fly to Madrid and use the Eurail pass to travel between these following cities:

Madrid and Barcelona Spain
Milan, Rome and Venice Italy
Paris France
Berlin and Munich Germany

I want you to, if possible, let me know what route between these cities is the best route to go. I wasn’t planning on flying at all, and just using the train to travel the entire time. I also want you to give me an estimate amount of time you would consider for this trip, as I think after reading your article that I may not be looking long enough. I was considering three weeks, but by the looks of it, that may not be enough time. I will be by myself and living in hostels throughout the trip, just to give you a little more insight as well.

Once again, some if not all of these questions may be answered as I read through this lengthy page, but my biggest concern is trying to make sure the route I decide to go saves me the most amount of time, or I should say alleviates any time that I may be wasting. THANKS!

 

    Kenneth,

    If this is going to be your final itinerary, I don’t think a rail pass would be good value for you. You wouldn’t have enough stops for a Flexi-pass, or enough to justify a 3-week continuous pass. Also, those trips within Italy will be pretty cheap even without a pass.

    Here’s what I’d recommend:

    Fly into London and spend at least 3 nights there.
    Take the Eurostar train to Paris for at least 3 nights
    Take a train from Paris to Barcelona, and then another to Madrid, spending 3 nights in each
    Fly from Madrid to Rome and spend at least 3 nights there
    Take a train from Rome to Venice, and spend about 24 hours there
    Take a train from Venice to Milan

    By the way, Florence is a much more common (and probably more rewarding) stop than Milan, and if you substitute it you could stop there for 2 or 3 nights between Rome and Venice, then fly out of one of Venice’s airports. Milan is interesting for 2 nights or so, and it has larger airports. From Italy, fly to Munich for 3 nights there, and then take a train to Berlin for at least 3 nights.

    If you buy all of your train tickets at least 2 months early, they’d be quite a bit cheaper than any rail pass, and those flights will be cheap if you buy early as well. You could instead take a train from Italy to Munich, although it’s a long (and scenic) journey.

    That is almost certainly your most efficient route, and as long as you don’t mind buying the train tickets early, it should be affordable. Let me know if you have more questions, and I’m sure you’ll have an excellent trip. -Roger

     
      Kenneth McKeown says:

      Roger,

      I love how I wrote this, fell asleep… woke up and I had a reply. Thank you so much! The rail pass that I was looking at, and since I am under 26, was only going to be $400 bucks roughly. You still think I can get all these train tickets and flights for under $400? I have never ridden a train before, let alone in Europe so I have no idea the costs of such. I have looked briefly into flights from London to Madrid, Berlin, Paris or Rome, etc.

      Also, a quick question about hostels as this will be my first time traveling EVER, and on top of that I am going alone. Do you suggest I map out and reserve nights for my entire trip a few months in advance at hostels, or am I better off finding a suitable one when I am in the city itself so my trip isn’t so forcefully structured. This website may become my homepage for the next year as I prepare for this trip, ha, but I just wanted to say thank you once again for all your help!

       

        Kenneth,

        Considering that the London to Paris part isn’t covered by a rail pass, and you’ll want to fly on at least one or two of the other legs, I do think that individual train tickets will be cheaper for the remaining rides, at least if buy in advance. If you were thinking about a continuous rail pass and wanted to add a few more rides in the same period, it could work out as a cheap option.

        As for booking hostels, I’d recommend booking them at least a few days in advance if you can. The best (cheapest and best located) places tend to fill up in advance, but rarely more than a few days, even during high season. On the other hand, if you are making train or flight reservations, so you are sure you are going to be there anyway, you might as well book a hostel. You only have to put down a deposit of about 10% to book, so there isn’t much to risk. And by the way, there tends to be a BIG difference between the best hostels in each city and the worst, so just turning up and walking to a hostel that still has available beds will often mean staying in a lousy place. I have recommended hostels on most city pages on this site, so those should at least help you know what to look for.

        I’m happy to try to help. -Roger

         
Kenneth McKeown says:

Roger,

I apologize for the double post… I still have a few nick nack questions and I guess it would be easier for you to answer them all in one reply versus sending constant replies back and forth. The following questions are just regarding me being a noobie at traveling. I just purchased this backpack, and hopefully it’s sufficient for traveling around Europe for 3 weeks, let me know if you dont mind, what you think.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B009R66YVW/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

Also, would you suggest bringing a laptop or not? I have my smart phone, but I know the options with it are limited since I can only use wifi unless I want to rack up my phone bill.

And if I go the train or plane route, how does traveling work? In the states you take taxis pretty much everywhere once you arrive, or you get a car. Can you virtually walk everywhere from where you arrive in Europe? Taking taxis in Europe to see everything in the city could get expensive so i’m just trying to be prepared.

And last but not least, I know in the next 10 months I will be googling so much in these cities to see what I should visit, but would you suggest any MUST SEE attractions or things I must do in these cities? I appreciate your help more than you can even imagine. Thanks!

 

    Kenneth,

    Feel free to ask questions as they come up, or all at once. I’ll answer them when I can either way.

    That backpack is probably larger than needed, but it seems well made and I’m sure it’ll work well for you. By the way, you probably know this, but just in case, it’s typical to bring maybe one week’s worth of clothes and do laundry as needed as you go. I’m currently on yet another multi-month trip in Europe, and I have 7 underwear, 5 shirts, and 3 pants. You want to bring as little as possible so you can be nimble when moving around.

    I always travel with a laptop because it’s my living, but other people prefer to leave it at home so it’s an individual choice. More people seem to be traveling with iPads and other tablets these days (and I have one of those as well), so that’s something to consider. You’ll have free wi-fi at every hostel in Europe, usually pretty fast.

    You won’t need to take taxis in Europe. When you fly in, there is almost always a train station at the airport, so in an hour or less you can be in the city center. Those airport trains usually cost US$10 or less, and they take you to the central train station in the city. Once there, quite a few hostels are within walking distance, especially as train station neighborhoods tend to be inexpensive and tourist-friendly parts of town. In other cases you can take a tram or metro to your hostel, and then see most of the city on foot once you are checked in.

    As for what to see when you are there, since this is your first trip I’ll actually suggest you focus on the famous and obvious sights. Even if you aren’t a big museum person, I’d recommend visiting at least the one or two most famous museums in each city. The buildings themselves are often quite amazing, and they tend to be priced reasonably. My best generic recommendation is to go on the free walking tour in each city on your first day there. You are encouraged to tip the guide at the end (US$5 is fine) and they are an excellent and cheap way to get oriented and often make a few friends along the way. I can give you more specifics as the trip draws near, so feel free to ask other questions if you have them. -Roger

     
Tom says:

Hi Roger,
Hoping you can help me, I am looking at organising a 6week trip to Central Europe (I used to think it was eastern) in about August/September 2015. I’ve travelled to Europe a few times and to some of the places I’d like to visit again but this has been via guided tours. This time my wife and I are going solo (early 30s) and I want to know drive, fly, try and if train book in advance or when there? Or a mixture of train and fly?

These are the places we’d like to go to (in some sort of loop order) but I’d like confirmation that I’m doing it the right way or should I try do smaller loops and then fly to the next destination (I.e rather than train from prague to Warsaw should I just fly and then see south Poland for a week before flying to Budapest etc). Based on your previous advice I may have too many destinations but I am australian so we don’t get the chances to get over as frequent.

– A place in Switzerland (wife’s wish list)
– Munich (my must haven’t been in 10 years)
– Prague (have been so not mandatory maybe a smaller town in Czech)
– Cesky Krumlov (would this suffice for the Czech?)
– Warsaw (incl. aushwitz)
– Krakow
– Slovakia …Bratislava??
– Hungary (been to Budapest and happy to go again but maybe a smaller town gyor)
– Vienna
– Slovenia (lake bled and Ljubljana)
– Croatia (rovinj/pula)
– Tuscany (we’ve done Italy but are keen to just hire a villa for 5 days outside of Florence and enjoy the life of a local)

As you can see a fair bit of ground to cover. So I’d like to know your thoughts…where should I start? Should I back it down in to smaller loops and then fly to speed up the longer breaks although I am keen this time to see the scenary of the countries and not just airports!!

I realise I’ve asked a lot of questions so maybe a response on how you would tackle this would at least get me researching in the right direction.

Cheers tom

 

    Tom,

    If you organize your route in the most efficient way, then taking trains between all of these will be your best option. I don’t really see any areas where flying would save time, considering that from hotel to hotel it will take 5 to 6 hours for even a shorter flight. When taking trains, as you know, you can leave your hotel and be on a moving train only 15 minutes later, and it’s much more enjoyable as well.

    As for driving, I’d resist that temptation for any city visits, which seem to be most of your stops. Parking a car in European cities is usually expensive and frustrating, so a car is more of a burden than a help unless you want to visit the countryside in a particular place.

    You could obviously do it in either order, but I think your last (or first) stop should be Tuscany, and do Switzerland (Lucerne or Interlaken) before that. If those were your last stops, it would make sense to start in Warsaw, or at least fly into Europe and then fly to Warsaw for the main portion of the trip to begin.

    You might even skip Warsaw because it’s not nearly as charming as Krakow, and Auschwitz is actually on the edge of Krakow anyway. From there you’d be taking train rides of about 3 to 5 hours each, connecting all the rest of your stops. Cesky Krumlov does sound like the best alternative to Prague, and I’ll actually be there in about two weeks myself so I’ll have more to say about it then. (I’m actually in Tallinn at the moment, and visiting many of these same cities on your list.)

    I visited Bratislava a couple years ago and there isn’t much there to recommend. It’s pleasant enough, but if I were you I’d skip it and add Salzburg to the list.

    Some of the train rides might be longer than 5 hours, but probably no more than 8 hours, and the flights between those same cities could be expensive and sometimes there are no nonstops anyway. You’ve got almost a year to plan, but as it approaches you might think about getting a Eurail Pass. The other option would be to buy the train tickets at least a month in advance, which obviously cuts down on spontaneity. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

     
Savern says:

Hi Roger, I’m turning 50 next October and I had this idea: fly to frankfurt from dallas. drive down to ludwigsburg. (i was station there from 86-89). stay a full day, then off to Munich for the last weekend of Ocktoberfest, by renting a porsche for the drive down. Next I’d like to take a train to Vienna, stay a few days, then to switzerland, not sure what city, perhaps lusanne. Then final stop to Paris. Two questions: is this a reasonable plan and what Euro Pass would be most beneficial

 

    Savern,

    Yes, I think it sounds like a very reasonable plan, and like a lot of fun for the big occasion. But a rail pass would be of little use to you since even the shortest ones are for 5 rides and it looks like you might only be doing 3 train trips. Those train tickets can be fairly cheap if you buy them at least a month or more in advance, and they’d be quite expensive if you waited until travel day to buy them. But that Porsche rental won’t be cheap either, so I assume that a low budget isn’t your highest priority.

    Let me know if you have any other questions I might help with. -Roger

     
      Savern says:

      Thanks for the prompt response. So that I’m clear, my best bet would be to purchase the train tickets a month or so in advance.BTW was the approximate costs of each “leg”. Also I am indeed trying to stay low budget, with the Porsche rental being the only indulgence. Let me know your thoughts.

       
Wahsono says:

Dear roger,

Me and my family of six plan to drive from Frankfurt to neuremberg , Prague , Vienna and Budapest in December.. Will it be dangerous driving in winter time in Eastern Europe? Will it be difficult to park the car in the city or should I rather drop off the car in every city? We plan to drop off the car in Budapest and take the train back to Frankfurt. Thanks

 

    Wahsono,

    The major roads between cities in Europe are generally in great shape, and are maintained well in the winter. There are parts of Eastern Europe (mainly the former Soviet areas) where that isn’t always the case, but you should be fine in the central areas you’ll be traveling in. The only real danger is if you got incredibly unlucky and there was a big snow storm just at the moment you wanted to leave. Otherwise, they usually do a good job of clearing the major roads quickly, and those areas don’t actually get all that much snow anyway.

    Parking could be tricky though. You really wouldn’t want to drive around within any of those cities on your list, but with a family of 6 I think it might be a good idea to drive between them as you suggest. When choosing accommodation, you’ll usually have a choice of places near the edge of town that have free parking, or places close to the center where you’d have to pay. It’s tough to say which would be better, because getting 6 people into the city center on public transportation is a bit of a chore, so paying €10 or €15 per day for parking near the center might be the better choice.

    Another option would be to rent apartments, which would have a better chance of having free parking nearby and also being central. You can find them on the hotel-booking sites for that part of Europe, or on Airbnb. Good luck and have a great trip. -Roger

     
Julie says:

Hi Roger absolutely love your articles. I am seeking information about select pass. If France is not included, can I use it from my nominated country, that is from Brussels to Paris.
Thank you
Julie

 

    Julie,

    I’m glad this has helped, but I don’t quite understand your question. If you include France as one of your 4 countries in a Select Pass, it can be used to reach the borders of France, but if you are going beyond that you’d have to pay for the portion of the trip outside of France. Please ask again if you meant something else. -Roger

     
Kristy says:

Dear Roger,

So glad that I bump into your site while searching for my coming Europe trip!!
I will be traveling there with my friend from around 20 December 2014 to 06 January 2015.
We are still undecided for the exact locations and path where we will be traveling to but more importantly we are worried for days like 24/25/31 Dec and 01 Jan. Will there be anything for us to go or do for those days or we will just have to stay put in our hotel?
Currently, we are looking at the places listed below, could you recommend the number of days that you think will be appropriate for the locations and which places will be more suitable (must go/ to skip) for the period I am going?
Berlin> munich> prague> salzburg> Vienna> budapest> austria> Paris. Italy, Rome etc.
Please feel free to recommend any other place you deem fit and the transportation. Both of us is 22 years old with driving license and will like to try out skiing for the first time as well.
Sorry to ask so many questions as we are quite excited for this trip but the information on the Internet is just overwhelming. Pardon on my English too.

Many many thanks in advance!!

 

    Kristy,

    So it looks like you’ll be in Europe for about 17 days, and in that amount of time I’d suggest focusing on only 5 or 6 cities. I’m on a similar (although longer) trip through that same area right now, and I try to stay for 3 nights in each place because the travel days are never good sightseeing days. In other words, if you only spend 2 nights in each place, you end up using every other day mostly traveling between places.

    As for the holidays, many sights will be closed on 24-December, and some have shortened hours on other days around then. But you won’t have to stay put in your hotel. New Years should be a big party everywhere you’ll go, and Christmas (on 25-December) is not a huge holiday in Europe, as many countries celebrate in early December or early January instead. It depends on where you’ll be, but most likely it’ll just be one quiet day and maybe a quiet morning, though still plenty to see.

    All of the cities on your list are top places for tourists and worth seeing, so it’s really a matter of choosing the 5 or 6 that you want to see on this trip, hopefully grouped together geographically. You’ll want to do most or all of your traveling by train, so trying to see Berlin and Rome on the same trip will mean spending a lot of time on the trains.

    It will be cold in all of these places, but probably not snowed-in (unless you get VERY unlucky). Still, the south will be a bit warmer than the north. On the other hand, all of these cities are loaded with excellent indoor attractions, so as long as you dress properly you’ll really enjoy them all. Munich is probably more of an outdoor city though, so I’d save that for another trip. If you want to try skiing then Innsbruck, Austria could be a great stop for that. Unfortunately, Innsbruck isn’t a great tourist city otherwise, especially compared to Salzburg, which is stunning. There are a few ski resorts about an hour outside of Salzburg, so that might be better.

    Assuming this is your first trip to Europe, I think Paris is one not to miss. Rome is also quite amazing, though it’s a long way from the others (and on the other side of the Alps).

    So again, I’d recommend choosing no more than 6 cities, unless you are able to stay longer. Once you have a shorter list, post it here and I’ll be happy to help you sort out the best order and specifics on how to get between them, plus maybe some other tips. -Roger

     
Ning says:

Hi Roger. I’ve read plenty of articles and posts on how to get around Europe and it can be very confusing. My husband and I are planning our honeymoon to Europe from December to January (approx. 23 days). I hope you can enlighten me with some answers on what’s the best way to get around.
Madrid-3 days
Barcelona-4 days
Paris-8 days (a for sure trip to Strasbourg)
Italy-5 days
Venice
Florence-day trip
Rome

And back to Paris for 2 days to fly out to Asia (we have to fly out from Paris because of ticket/plane trip). Please note also which part of the trip would be best to fly instead of train (if there’s any). How hectic is it to lug your luggage around and staying at different cities?

Have you spent Christmas in Paris? I read from one of the posts that it’s a pretty mild holiday there. And New Year in Italy? You’ve been very helpful to so many, thanks for the time.

 

    Ning,

    The train will be the best option for most or all of those journeys you mention. From Paris to Venice it will obviously be faster to fly, and maybe cheaper as well, but you could do it by train. From Rome back to Paris it’s probably best to fly as well, especially if you can fly directly into the same airport you fly back to Asia from (allowing enough time, of course).

    If you buy those train tickets at least a month or two in advance, they will be fairly cheap, especially the ones within Italy.

    I haven’t spent Christmas in Paris, but I know it’s a favorite time of year there for many people, although I’ve also heard that it’s not a huge deal like it is in many other cities. I’ve also never been in Italy over New Year’s, though I’m sure it’s fun because that holiday is a big deal in all major cities.

    I’m traveling around Europe by train at the moment, and every day I see visitors who have packed a huge rolling suitcase that they can barely lift off the ground. If you do that, Europe can be challenging because you have to walk some rather long distances going into train stations and that sort of thing. Also, on cobblestone streets, rolling luggage can be annoying. So it’s really all down to how much you pack and how you carry it. I use a travel pack (sort of a backpack shaped like a suitcase) and a laptop bag, and I can walk many kilometers easily with those over my shoulders. But if you bring a huge suitcase that you can’t lift over your head (to put on train racks above your seat) you might regret it.

    Have a great trip and let me know if I can answer any other questions. -Roger

     
Cathy says:

Hi Roger
Fantastic web site and thank you in advance for any assistance you can offer.
We are two senior female friends off to UK late May 2015 for a wedding then plan to spend 30 days traveling through Europe via train starting Amsterdam (23/05)then flying out from Rome.( 22/06) We are thinking of Global Pass? so far our thoughts….
Amsterdam 2/3 nights/day
Bruge 2 days
Berlin 3days
Prague 3days – Polish rail to
Krakow 3days – Polish rail to
Budapest 3days
Salzberg 3days ? – possibly stop Vienna on the way to visit Spanish riding school ( this is only available on weekends) a bit of a challenge to accommodate but!
then it gets a bit more confusing as we would like to travel from Zermatt to Lugano then down to Verona,possibly Florence,then Rome. This is were we seek guidance please …from Salzburg we were planning to go to Interlaken but we can’t seem to figure out (within our time frame) how to include the scenic trip Zermatt- Lugano as we would like to be in Verona 19/06 which only leaves us 1+days Rome. Have been to Rome previously. Thinking maybe we should go to Florence then back track to Verona (start of the opera season 19/06)?? Appreciate any assistance Many thanks

 

    Cathy,

    You could use a Global Eurail Pass for this itinerary, but I don’t think it would save you any money. Most of your hops are fairly cheap when purchased individually, especially if you buy them at least a few weeks in advance. Even on travel day, many of these would be cheaper than the per-day cost of a Global Pass. Bruge to Berlin would be fairly expensive, so that’s one to buy as far in advance as possible for a cheap fare. Prague to Krakow to Budapest are all quite reasonable whenever you buy them.

    Also, at least as of now, a Global Pass isn’t valid in Poland. To be honest, the buses in Poland are faster and better anyway (I just went through Poland a few weeks ago).

    For Switzerland, the longer rides can be expensive, but once you get into Italy the fares are cheap again.

    I’m actually in Interlaken at the moment, and it’s amazing here. Actually, the tiny villages above Interlaken are where you want to stay, although the town itself is nice as well. Head for Gimmelwald, Murren, or Lauterbrunnen for the best possible taste of the Swiss Alps.

    With that in mind, Zermatt doesn’t really compare for most people. It’s more of a ski-resort area and a place to go to look at the Matterhorn, while the Interlaken area has a far greater variety of dramatic scenery. So I’d vote for staying a bit longer in the Interlaken area, and then heading down through Milan by train. It may not be a classic Swiss panorama train, but it’s very scenic and probably a better use of your time if things are tight.

    There are other super-scenic train rides from Interlaken, including the Golden Pass, which I’m actually doing tomorrow. So if something like that is a top priority, you could still fit it in without having to go to Zermatt.

    Hopefully this helps, and let me know if there are any other things I might help with. -Roger

     
      Cathy says:

      Hi Roger

      Thank you so much for you reply, you are a wealth of information and we appreciate you taking the time to respond.

      We will now take your suggestion about Switzerland and work out a new itinerary, also we are grateful for you thoughts about the Global Pass.

      Thank you for the opportunity to come back to you.

      Cathy

       
Emily says:

Hi Roger,

You have some really awesome advice and am wondering if you can help me out!?

My boyfriend and i are planning a trip OS next year starting 7th May and plan on staying for at least 3 months (we also have a flexible return date and depending on money we will stay longer). We plan on flying into London and will be staying there for a few days before heading off to Paris and going from there (returning to london at the end). We are very flexible and are both still deciding on places we want to visit. Our itinerary so far is as follows…

London (underground train or ferry to Paris)

Paris (5-7 days) (train)
French Riviera – nice, cannes, monaco
Bordeaux (2-3days)

Spain (drive)
San Sebastian (3days)
Valencia (3days)
Seville (3days)
Granada –alhambra (2-3days)
Madrid (3days)
Barcelona (3days)

Portugal
Lisbon (5-7 days)
Porto (3-5days)
Day trips can include Guimaraes, Braga, Duoro valley

Italy (train)
Naples (1 night or day trip)
Lake Como?
Sicily ?
Cinque terre (3-5 days) can cut down
Amalfi coast (day trip)
Pompeii (day trip)
Venice (2 nights)
Tuscany – Florence, siena, chianti, pisa, lucca, val d’orcia, montepulciano, Arezzo, (all day trips except Florene -2-3days) (Drive)
Rome (3-5days)

Germany (train and fly from Greece)
Berlin (Must see) (3days)
Munich (Must see) (3days)
Munich to Prague (3 days)(czech republic) (bus)

Netherlands
Amsterdam (3-5days)

Greece – greek islands (10-14 days) Fly from Naples or ferry from Bari)

Sail Croatia (8days)

Ireland and scotland- 1&2 Dublin, 2&3 Londonderry/derry, 3 &4 galway, 4&5 killarney and ring of Kerry, 6 &7 Dublin (7-10 days) flexible

My main questions are

1. What would be the best way to travel around (we are both 26)
2. What is the best route to travel (especially having Croatia and Greek Islands on the list)
3. Time for each place- we plan on having at least 3 days in main cities because I’ve done less before and hasn’t been worth it. may need to cut down to have more time in less places

Thanks

Emily

 

    Emily,

    Thanks, and I’m happy to help if I can.

    1. The best way to travel for almost all of your stops will be by train. I’m in the middle of another one of these types of trips right now myself (currently in Lucerne) and I can’t tell you how peaceful and convenient it is taking trains rather than driving myself and worrying about fuel, tolls, and most of all, parking.

    European countries go out of their way to make driving expensive and inconvenient, so fuel prices are very high and parking in city centers is also expensive. The only good exception would be if you wanted to visit a group of small towns in French wine country or Tuscany. In those cases, you might rent a car locally for a few days.

    With such a long and open-ended trip, I think a Eurail Pass could be ideal. You could get a 15 days in 2 months Flexipass with the Saver option for 2 traveling together, and activate it when you leave Paris (after taking the Eurostar from London, which isn’t part of the Eurail system anyway). In those 2 months you can use the rail pass for your longer and more expensive rides, and pay individually for the shorter and cheaper ones.

    For example, train trips between the main tourist cities in Italy are fairly cheap, especially if you buy at least a couple weeks in advance. But in most other countries on your list, you have to buy at least a month or two in advance to get a decent fare, and same-day fares are often very expensive. You’d have to buy a 1st-class pass at your ages, which might feel like overkill, but in addition to being more comfortable, a 1st Class pass means there will always be seats available on virtually any train you care to take.

    The best part of a rail pass on a trip like you have in mind is that it allows you to make and change plans as you go. I agree that 3 nights is usually an optimal number to stay in most cities, but in some cities you might decide you want to stay longer, or decide you want to move on sooner. With a rail pass, you get all that freedom, while if you buy as you go you’d pay a fortune if you wait until travel day or the day before.

    2. As for your route, it’s tough to say because you’ll have to backtrack at least a bit no matter which order you see them in. It could even make sense to do Paris, Bordeaux, and then to Barcelona and the rest of Spain and Portugal, and then fly from Lisbon to Amsterdam then to Germany and down to Italy. As mentioned, starting in Italy, a rail pass doesn’t save much, and the trains in Croatia are slow so buses are actually a better option.

    Obviously a rail pass is useless in Greece, and although it’s valid in Ireland, those distances are also fairly short so you might want to fly into Dublin or Shannon on your way home.

    There are a lot of ways of doing this, including doing another flight or two. As long as you are willing to fly in the very early morning or in the evening, you can usually get reasonable fares on Easyjet or Ryanair even only a few days out. And if you have a rail pass, you’ll have most of your transportation paid for already, in 1st Class no less.

    3. I think your proposed days look good for nearly all of your trip. Three days is long enough in most cities, but adding more days is wise if you are sure about some day trips like from Paris or Lisbon. As long as you want to be flexible as you go, I’m sure you’ll work out a good rhythm early in the trip. On a longer trip like this, you’ll also want to add in a few non-tourist days where you just chill out. My preference is to hustle through expensive cities and linger in smaller and cheaper cities.

    Oh, and I’ll be going to Lake Como myself for the first time next week, and Sicily a couple weeks later, so it’s hard for me to comment much on those yet. But I can tell you that Lake Como is known for being scenic and peaceful and expensive, without much in particular to do. You might already be on scenery overload by the time you get close, or you might decide it’s exactly what you need at the moment. And Sicily gets mixed reviews from many visitors, which is evidently why so many others leave it off their itinerary altogether. If I were you I’d think instead about adding in some classic cities in eastern Europe like Prague or Budapest.

    Hopefully this helps, and as always, feel free to ask more questions if you have them. -Roger

     
Natalie says:

Hello Roger,
This site has been a life saver! we are traveling to Europe (four 25yr olds) for the first time (apart from several years ago with family)
I would appreciate your advice and thank you in advance.
we are flying into berlin from Australia on next June for an event, we plan on staying for a few days.

At the moment we then have a 9-10day gap in our itinerary. (suggestions welcome we were thinking maybe the UK)

we are then joining family in Amsterdam and heading to brugge. (about the first week of July)

We then were looking at how do we get from anywhere in Belgium to Paris. it seems by rail we would need to go through London?

We will spend three days in Paris.

From Paris we are looking at hiring a car and driving through the countryside to Bordeaux, san Sebastian, Toulouse and continue on the coast till Nice. We have allowed 10 days for this. Do you think we will need longer?

From France we would like to continue into Italy, do you suggest doing this by car or by rail? we would like to see Milan, Venice and then spend sometime relaxing on the coast or a nice island. (suggestions welcome)

Thank you so much!

 

    Natalie,

    I always appreciate the kind words, so thanks. I’ll go through your questions in order.

    With a 10-day gap between Berlin and Amsterdam, there are dozens of fine choices depending on what most interests you (obviously). If you wanted to do the UK, you could get a pretty cheap flight into London and spend 4 or so days there. The second best stop in Britain is definitely Edinburgh, and there are plenty of interesting places in between them. You could fly into one and out of the other (many low-cost flights), or fly from Berlin to Edinburgh and then take the train from London to Brussels (via Eurostar) and then to Amsterdam. If you are interested in this sort of thing, I can help with more suggestions.

    However, from Berlin you could instead take a train to Prague for a few days, then to Cesky Krumlov for a couple days, and then to Munich for a few days on your way up to Amsterdam. Those are all major highlights, especially in summer. It would also be cheaper and more exotic (assuming you are Aussies).

    From Brugge/Bruges you take a regional train to Brussels (1 hour) and then change to a high-speed train to Paris (90 minutes) or anywhere else in France. The key to trains to or within France is to buy them at least a couple months in advance to get low fares.

    Hiring a car when leaving Paris and driving around France and down to Nice to drop off the car sounds ideal for a group. Ten days should be long enough, especially since you’ll return the car when you arrive in Nice because you can see things there by foot, or by short train rides (to Monaco or Cannes).

    From France into Italy, I think train is the best choice, especially if you’ll mostly be visiting cities. I’m actually in Lake Como at this moment, about to head out for some sightseeing in the rain. Trains in Italy are quite cheap, and they go everywhere you’ll want to go. Buying early can make the fares amazingly cheap.

    Within Italy, Milan actually isn’t a major tourist stop. It’s mostly a banking city with a fashion industry that is hard for tourists to observe. It could be worth a day or two, but Rome, Florence, and Venice are Italy’s “Big 3” for a reason. All are packed with sights, and great food and culture.

    One challenge will be that Italy’s coastal areas get completely jammed with Italians during July and August, so many tourists prefer to be elsewhere. Your main choices are the Cinque Terre, the Amalfi Coast, and the island of Capri. All are scenic, and will be packed at peak hotel rates that time of year. If I were you I’d see how you feel as that part of your trip approaches and maybe it will sound good or maybe it won’t. All of Europe’s decent beaches will be packed that time of year, and coming from Australia you’ll be amazed at the low quality of the beaches (pebbles are more common than sand, and they are all small).

    So you’ve got plenty of options there, and I’m happy to help you narrow it down as the trip approaches. Feel free to comment again and I’ll try to help. -Roger

     
Sam says:

Hi Mr. Roger,
Hope all is well with you.
I’m planning to visit Europe this month end (Nov25-Dec2) with below details and hope you can advise me for a great itinerary for a solo woman traveler;
Nov25: Arrival in Munich
Nov26-27: Nuremberg
Nov27-28: OPEN DAY (any suggestions?, I’m thinking of Prague)
Nov29-30: Paris
Dec1-2: OPEN DAY (any suggestions? I’m thinking of Amsterdam)

Actually my trip is joined with a little business trip that is why I have to stay in Nuremberg for two days…

Honestly, i don’t have any booked hotel and train tickets yet 🙁
Your suggestions are highly appreciated.

Thanks a lot!

 

    Sam,

    I have family who live in the town just next to Nuremburg, and I would have tried to talk you out of going there unless you had a good reason (and you do). It’s actually quite nice, but not a major highlight in the area.

    Actually, Munich itself is quite nice (I was just there 2 days ago), although it’s better in summer because it’s mainly an outdoor city. Hmmm…

    Honestly, if you spent 3 days in Paris, you’d still have a long list of things you wish you had time to do.

    Prague is quite nice, even this time of year, but it’s several hours in the other direction from Paris, so I don’t think it’s worth it for a 1-night or maybe even a 2-night stay. Not far from Nuremburg you’ll find the lovely medieval town of Rothenburg ob der Tauber, which would be a perfect place to spend at least part of a day, if not a full day and night.

    Another option would be to stop in Fussen, which is also not far away, and visit the Neuschwanstein Castle. You could visit both of those in two half days, and then head to Paris the following morning. And again, Munich is worth considering because it’s right there.

    Paris will keep you entertained for at least 3 days, but if you are particularly interested in Amsterdam (I love the place myself and I was there before Munich), then it’s an easy 3-hour 17-minute train ride between them. Amsterdam is also compact enough that 2 nights is enough to do it justice, but I don’t think it’s worth it just for 1 night.

    Keep in mind that the sun will only be out from about 9am until 4pm that time of year, so your sightseeing hours are limited for walking tours and such. The museums keep shorter hours during winter as well.

    As for hotels, it will be easy to book them at the last minute that time of year, although I prefer to book in advance once I know my travel dates because you’ll get a better place and probably a better deal as well.

    For train tickets, you should try to buy them online as soon as possible. The longer you wait, the higher fares will be. The Paris to Amsterdam one will be very expensive if you wait until travel day, so unless someone else is paying, it’s probably worthwhile to lock in your itinerary soon and at least buy the train tickets.

    Hopefully this helps. I could make some other suggestions if you don’t think these are what you are looking for, or if you schedule changes at all. Have a great trip. -Roger

     
Jesse says:

Roger,
Need help. We want to take a cruise, 7-10 days out of Barcelona or Rome. We also want to visit Munich, Salzburg and Amsterdam. We want to stay 4 days on the average in each of the cities. We love to travel but are scared about the trains especially when we will have 2 pieces of luggage per person. We have never done the train before and not sure if the luggage is safe. We are wanting to leave the Houston, Tx area on or after the 25th of August and we have 21 days to use.

What itinerary would you suggest ?

 

    Jesse,

    I’ve actually had a backpack stolen on a train in Wales, but right now I’m on yet another European train trip and I’m not worried about my bags at all. On nearly all longer-distance intercity trains in Europe, there is a long rack above every seat that is large enough for a large suitcase. On my Wales train I left my backpack in a luggage area at the end of the carriage, and I will probably avoid doing that from now on. Fortunately, those situations are very rare, and on the trains you’ll take I can almost guarantee that there will be racks above every seat.

    Also, what I’ve always done, including in Wales, is I keep my valuable stuff (camera, laptop etc) in a shoulder bag that never leaves my shoulder or lap, and a large bag with clothes is the only thing that is at risk.

    First class carriages on trains usually come with more room for luggage and also very small crowds so they are even safer.

    It’s a cliche but still very true that you should pack as light as possible. Smaller bags are easier to carry and also keep track of.

    As for an itinerary, a cruise out of Rome, or even Venice, would be easier to connect with those other cities. From Italy you can get to Salzburg in an easy day on the trains, and it’s a gorgeous journey. From Salzburg to Munich is only 90 minutes by train, and from Munich to Amsterdam is about 7 hours. It’s not a terribly scenic ride (I just did it myself about a week ago) so you might consider flying that leg, probably for a similar or lower price.

    If you can fly into Rome or Venice and then fly home from Amsterdam, it would probably be best, but if a round-trip is much cheaper then you can get a cheap one-way flight from Amsterdam back to Italy for your flight home.

    From Barcelona you’d have to go all the way through France, which is a large country with expensive trains, in order to reach the others. Better to save France and Spain for another trip. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

     
Tonie says:

Hi Roger,

My family (me, husband and 7 year old daughter)are planning to visit Europe for the first time. Maybe spend 1 month or less. We will go to Germany first to visit a relative and tour around Germany. Then we want to visit Paris and then Colmar (just to see the Fairytale-looking town) in France. Then from there, we want to visit Switzerland (we want to see Zermatt, and other cities) and Italy(Rome & Venice).

Can you recommend a relaxed itinerary that my 7 year old daughter can also enjoy? We want to see the best of those places as it is gonna be our first time, and because we might not come back anytime soon.
Do you also recommend train or plane in travelling from country to country? We will have at least 3 luggage.

Thanks!

 

    Tonie,

    I’d definitely plan on taking trains on this trip. It will be faster and probably cheaper in most cases. Zermatt isn’t close to an airport, and most of the rest of your stops are only a few hours apart by high-speed intercity trains.

    I’ll be happy to help you figure out an itinerary, but it would help to know what you have in mind for Germany. It’s a large country with many highlights that are spread all over. You might have a look at my Germany itinerary suggestions for some ideas. I think Rothenburg ob der Tauber would be a good choice for your daughter, as it’s another of those fairytale towns and easy to enjoy in a day.

    As for Switzerland, I just toured the country myself and I highly recommend the Interlaken area instead of Zermatt. Specifically, the tiny village of Gimmelwald, which is easy to reach from Interlaken. Zermatt has views of the Matterhorn, and Interlaken has MANY more wonderful views of more interesting Alpine peaks. And Interlaken is easier to reach as well.

    So if you come up with ideas of where you might want to go in Germany, I’ll be happy to make suggestions about which order to see them in, and specifically hot to get from one to the next. -Roger

     
Deanna says:

Hello, I will be travelling in Europe for 90 days, want to see all the sights, I will spend the next 90 days in non-shengen coutries)and plan to re-enter shengen for an additional 90 days. I want to go to major cities with time to visit smaller towns along the way…..which eurail pass do you recommend ? do I buy two at a time for the first 90 days and the second 90 days ? Thank you

 

    Deanna,

    I’d be curious as to more specifics of what you have in mind in order to help you decide on how to get around. There are many Eurail passes that could be ideal within the Schengen Zone, but they are nearly useless outside of it.

    As hopefully you know, the non-Schengen countries are the UK (which isn’t part of Eurail) and also Croatia, Serbia, Romania, Albania, Montenegro, and a couple other obscure ones. So if you spend time in the UK, the trick is to buy rail tickets as early as possible, and the passes are a rip-off. In the other countries, the trains are slow if they exist at all.

    If you are talking about one 90-day continuous pass for the first part of the trip, and then another 90-day continuous pass for after your Schengen break, you could do that. But if I were you I’d do them one at a time because you might change your mind after 6 months on the road. I’m winding up a 3-month Europe trip on Eurail myself right now, and I’m quite burned out from moving around every few days. If you provide more specifics, I’ll be happy to give you more specific advice. -Roger

     
Diane says:

His Roger,
I received great info from you last year for our first trip to Europe: Berlin, Amsterdan, Paris, Munich, Salzburg, and Dresden. We loved it so much that we are planning to return for about 5 weeks in June and July. I am planning to fly into Amsterdam and out of Prague. I am having trouble with our itinerary. I would like to visit some smaller places. I have some ideas, but the trains seem problematic. I am starting in Amsterdamm, then Bruges, wanted to go to Colmar, Fussen, Rothenburg, Hallstatt, Heidelberg, Cesky Krumlov, and Prague. Any ideas, additions, or suggestions would be appreciated, including some ideas for train passes.
Thank you,
Diane

 

    Daine,

    I’m happy to hear that the trip last time worked out so well. Most of the journeys you have in mind for this trip are relatively short, and therefore relatively inexpensive. Many of your trips will be on the suburban/commuter rail lines, which make quite a few stops, but are cheap as well. I think all of the stops you have in mind are no more than 3 hours apart by train, and some less than 2 hours.

    The exception is getting to Cesky Krumlov and Prague, but even that’s not difficult if you go from Hallstatt to Salzburg or Vienna and then take an express bus or shuttle. The trains in the Czech Republic are still quite slow, and the train station is a long walk from the center of Cesky Krumlov. Taking a bus or shuttle is faster and they stop right near the (gorgeous) Old Town. I was just there about 6 weeks ago, by the way. Also, from Cesky Krumlov to Prague, the express buses are faster and cheaper than the trains as well. You can book those when you get there at a fixed, low price.

    When you say the trains are problematic, are you having trouble finding the travel times, or figuring out the best route? Or is it something else? I’ll be happy to help if you let me know the challenge.

    So I don’t recommend a rail pass for this trip, and actually, buying these train tickets as you go shouldn’t be too expensive. For the regional trains like many that you’ll be taking, the price doesn’t start low and go up like it does on the high-speed intercity trains.

    Feel free to follow up, and I’ll be happy to help. -Roger

     
      Diane says:

      Hi Roger,
      Thanks for your helpful information. I need help with my itinerary. So far, I have planned the following:
      Amsterdam: 3 nights
      Brugge: 2nights
      Cochem: 2nights
      Bacarach: 2 nights
      Then, I have 10 days to travel on public transport to Cesky Krumlov. I have already been to Munich and Salzburg. I would like to travel to see some smaller towns, but don’t want to spend all my time on the train. Also, would like to spend 2 nights wherever I go. I was thinking of Heidelburg, Freiburg, Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Berchtesgarden, Oberammergau, Halstatt. I know I have listed too many places, just ideas. Fell free to suggest other places that would be better. Generally, we like to walk around the town center and just enjoy the feel of the area we are visiting.

       

        Diane,

        I think your plan looks great, but I’m afraid that I won’t be of too much use to you on this question. Out of all the small towns you’ve listed, I’ve only spent time in Heidelburg and Freiburg. I can confirm that both of those do have charming city centers, but also that they aren’t too popular with foreign visitors. Freiburg is the largest town near where by brother and his family live, and I was there just recently, in fact. I’ve also spent time in Aachen (where my brother used to live) and a few other towns, but none that I can highly recommend.

        It sounds like your are purposely avoiding most of the major tourist cities, which tells me that you’ve probably seen most of them already and are looking to dig deeper. In pursuit of that, it’s tough to really give specific recommendations because I think you are looking for something that is hard to define. For example, Rothenburg ob der Tauber is a wonderful small medieval town, but every day it’s packed with tourists on bus tours, which makes if feel a bit like Disneyland.

        So I think the towns on your list are probably as good as the towns on any list that I have, and you’ll probably have a great time even if you avoid the popular tourist centers. Have a great trip, and let me know if there are any other specific questions I might help with. -Roger

         
Lim, Irene says:

Hi Roger, Your advise sounds very good.
My husband and I are planning a trip to Europe, going:
Paris- London – Brussels – Amsterdam – Prague – Switzerland – Paris
Total trip time: 18 nights. We are going in Sept 2015.
Do you think we should look at getting a rail pass for the entire trip? Or should we just book each train seperately? We are not keen to fly anywhere… I’m planning to take night train from Amsterdam to Prague also same to from Prague to Switzerland, is that a good plan?
Your advise will be greatly appreciated! Irene

 

    Lim, Irene,

    For this itinerary I don’t think a rail pass would help much. First off, the train between London and Paris or Brussels is the Eurostar, and it’s not covered by any rail passes. The rest of the train trips would be quite expensive if you bought them on the day of travel, but if you buy them a month or more in advance they will be fairly cheap.

    Also, rail passes into France are tricky because you have to pay a supplement to use the high-speed rail lines, and buying two months in advance gets you a price that isn’t much more than the supplement. Also, trains within Switzerland still use fixed prices (unlike the others where fares start cheap and go up as travel day approaches), but the country is small and none of the trains are too expensive.

    So what I’d recommend is figuring out as much of your itinerary as possible, and buying those train tickets 2 or 3 months before you go. You’ll spend much less than buying a rail pass that way. The rail passes are excellent for longer trips where you want flexibility, but in 18 days with a fixed list, buying early is best. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

     
Travis says:

Hi,

I’m looking to visit Belgium in march 2015, and will be going to Paris for perhaps 2-3 days. I dont really plan on going anywhere else but those two locations, do you think 2 weeks will cover a good amount of time to see the good sights belgium and france have to offer? I want to visit the Atomium, and the Eiffel tower, those are the two important landmarks for me, as well as knock off anything in between…should I request 3 weeks from my job? I’ve never been to europe so any information would help! thank you in advance!

 

    Travis,

    Well, if you are only planning on spending 3 days in Paris, then I think 2 weeks should be fine for the whole trip. In two weeks I’d think about maybe 4 days in Paris.

    Brussels has a really impressive city center and main square (the Grand Place), but otherwise it’s not really a tourist town. The Atomium is a bit away from the city center, yet easily reached on public transport or even a bus tour.

    Bruges is really the main tourist highlight in Belgium, but it’s pretty compact so you can see it all in 2 or 3 days. Antwerp is another city that is more charming than Brussels, and maybe more interesting.

    Being so close, it would be a shame to skip Amsterdam, which is on my list of the “5 European cities not to miss” along with Paris, Venice, London, and Rome. Brussels to Amsterdam is only two hours by train.

    France actually has plenty more to offer as well, although not much novelty architecture beyond the Eiffel Tower. I’ll be happy to help you plan more as your trip approaches. Just let me know what you have in mind and I’ll try to help you organize it the best way. -Roger

     
Paula says:

Hi 🙂
Thanks for all the tips. What would you recommend if 1 want to start in London and visit Prague, Budapest, maybe Poland and Istanbul and any other places you recommend. 3 weeks, with 1 week of that in London. Probably in Jan 2016.
Thank you!

 

    Paula,

    That sounds like a great plan. What I’d recommend is flying into London and spending your week there, and then flying from there to Prague or Budapest or Krakow. Once in that area, you can see the other two cities by train or bus. You can get a cheap fare if you book well in advance on the London to Prague part.

    If you want to see Istanbul as well, you’d definitely want to fly there. It’s slow and difficult to reach on the ground, but flights are cheap and it’s a great city to visit in the winter as well. Let me know if you have other questions. -Roger

     
Jenny says:

Hi Roger,

I’m deciding between a Global or a Select pass right now for my 4.5 week trip around Europe end of Dec – end of Jan.

I’m thinking of going London -> amsterdam by ferry. and then going the following way by train in order of city with (days spent):
Amsterdam (2)
Berlin (3)
Cologne (2)
Paris (5)
Venice (2)
Rome (5)
Florence (2)
Marsielle (2)
Barcelona (4)
Madrid (4)

I’ve read around that Eurail pass (I’m under 25) isn’t very good value for Italy so I’m currently tossing up between getting a global pass or getting a select 4 country pass for the Netherlands, Germany, Spain, and France.

Whaddya think?

Cheers!!

 

    Jenny,

    This looks like a really good trip, and you’ve done your homework on the passes for sure. A 4-country pass could work because those trips within Italy are fairly short and cheap on their own. However, the complication is that the journey from Paris to Venice and then from Florence to Marseille, would be quite expensive if you bought them individually. So the only really cheap legs would be from Venice to Rome and from Rome to Florence.

    You can use a rail pass for just the portion of a trip that is within a covered country, but if you are thinking of a Flexi Pass (with a number of travel days) as opposed to a continuous pass, it may not be worth using a travel day for the portion within France.

    So I’m not looking at the prices of your two options at the moment, though I will say that paying more for the Global Pass might be worth it. I’m just finishing a 3-month trip with one today (currently in Dusseldorf) and it’s amazing to know that you can just jump on any train without paying the high fare for a same-day ticket.

    Also, I feel an obligation to mention that Marseille isn’t really a tourist city. If you have something specific you want to see there, then by all means go. But if you are just looking for another French city to visit along the way, I will highly recommend Nice, partly because it’s very close to Monaco and Cannes for day trips. You can even visit both in one day.

    I hope this helps at least a bit, and let me know if you have more questions. -Roger

     
Samuel Schwartz says:

Hi
My wife and I are going to find us with some friends in Barcelona and from there we wanted to rent a car to head to Brussels, Bruges and Amsterdam.
We recommend this tour by car? As would be the route we would have to do? It may be included Milan on the road? And if not, what other suggestions for touring by car in around 10 days out of Barcelona? Excluding Spain already know most of it. The month: May
Thanks friends

 

    Samuel,

    The conventional wisdom on car trips in Europe is that they are a bad idea if you are mainly going from city to city. Europe purposely makes it expensive and inconvenient to do this, mostly to push people towards public transportation. Fuel costs are very high, and parking in city centers tends to be very expensive. With that in mind, some people choose to stay in hotels out in the suburbs that offer free parking, which do exist. The problem is that driving into the city each day for sightseeing is a pain in the neck, and taking public transport into the city is also a hassle so you’d end up seeing much less of the cities you are there to explore in the first place.

    The good thing about renting a car is that it could be fairly cheap on a per-person basis if there are at least 3 or 4 of you. So it comes down to priorities. If you want to really experience those larger cities, then I think I’d do this trip by train, which will be easier and probably faster as well (high speed trains cover much of your route). But if you don’t care about the main city-center sights, there are plenty of interesting things in the outlying areas, and seeing those by car could be enjoyable.

    I recently rented a car at the Split, Croatia to drive to the Plitvice National Park, returning the car at the Zagreb Airport. In a case like that, I never had to drive in a city and the car took me to a place that was hard to reach otherwise. So if you want to visit places like that, a car could be great. Otherwise, I think it will be more fun on trains, and more interesting as well (and much less stressful). -Roger

     
Gabriel says:

Hi Roger!! How are you?
Your website has been truly helpful for me in order to plan my trip and I’m actually suprised by the way you’ve answered all the questions with so much valuable information.
I’ve been reading a gazillion comments and I’ve been learning a lot from all of them as well! thanks
My friend and I are planning our first trip to Europe and I’ like to know from you whether our itinerary is good.
Can you help us?
take a look:]

Lisbon
Lisbon
Lisbon => Porto
Porto
Porto
Porto => Madrid
Madrid
Madrid
Madrid
Madrid => Barcelona
Barcelona
Barcelona
Barcelona
Barcelona => Paris
Paris
Paris
Paris
Paris
Paris
Paris => Brussels
Brussels => Amsterdam
Amsterdam
Amsterdam
Amsterdam
Amsterdam => Venice
Venice
Venice => Florence
Florence
Florence-Pisa-Lucca (daytrip)
Florence => Rome
Rome
Rome
Rome
Rome

Chau!, Adiós!, Au revoir! Tot ziens! Ciao!

Aren´t we spending to much or too little time in any of the cities that we plan on visiting?? could you make any suggestions??
Do you think it’s better to save Spain and Portugal for another trip? Or maybe Italy?
Thank you Roger!!! Take care:D
!

 

    Gabriel,

    I’m always happy to hear that this information is helpful. As for your itinerary, I think it looks really solid and well thought out. You’ll want to fly from Porto to Madrid because I don’t believe there is train service between them. After that you have convenient trains all the way to Amsterdam. From Amsterdam to Venice you’ll want to fly, and of course within Italy the trains are quite cheap and the distances are short.

    As for the length of time in each stop, I think it looks great in general. If anything, you are being too generous with days in a few places, while most people plan to rush around. Planning as many days as you have in each place, you’ll have time for one or two fairly major day trips from most places. Six nights is a long first stay in Paris, so you might prefer to spend a day or two in the area. And four days in Amsterdam is pretty long as well, so you could sneak in one night in Bruges on the way in (possibly instead of Brussels).

    Once in Italy I think the durations are ideal. You could possibly substitute a day in Naples and Pompeii for one of your Rome days, but Rome itself is huge and packed with sights so you won’t get bored. This looks really nice and I think you’ll have a great time. Well done. -Roger

     
Gabriel says:

Hey Roger
Thank you for the feedback and advices!!
I took note of everything and I’m happy to know we’re on the right track. We certainly will follow your tips!!
Now I understand why some people say that ‘half the fun of going on a trip is planning it”. I just hope everything goes well in practice and turns out to be as much fun as we’re imagining :p
Thank you Roger! keep the great work up ;))

 
Alexandra says:

Hello Roger have just moved to France to look after my Mother. However my French is really poor – doing a google translation does not help in a reply back!
I’m located in a town called Quillan in Aude 11500 district with a train Station. Would you know if it’s a cheap option to take a train or fly from Carcasson Airport to Euro Disney Land. Takes over 7 hours to drive there!! Had planned to take the Children there in the summer. Your advice would be greatly appreciated
Thankyou

 

    Alexandra,

    It looks like a train from Carcassonne to Paris is €20 each way if bought well in advance. There are no flights from Carcassonne Airport to Paris (or anywhere else in France), but you can fly from nearby Beziers to Paris for about US$100 round-trip on Ryanair. So the train is actually pretty cheap if you buy close to 3 months in advance, and the flights are only a bit more if you buy many months in advance as well. So it probably comes down to which is more convenient on your end, since both options require a bit of travel to get to the starting point. By the way, it doesn’t look like there are any long-distance trains out of Quillan, if there is a train station there at all. Best of luck. -Roger

     
Lisa B. says:

Hello Roger,
Myself and my husband are Canadians living in Morocco with our 2 children, busy boys ages 8 and 9. We are hoping to travel around Europe for 8 weeks this summer before returning to Morocco. We hope to start in Rome mid June before the heat and crowds hit, travel up through Italy (Florence, Pisa, Venice, etc.) I figure about 3 weeks for this. July is open – considering one of Croatia or Prague or Geneva??? Thoughts? – but we do need to head down through France to meet friends in the south of Spain at the beginning of August (already seen Madrid and Barcelona). Then return to Morocco.
If we decide to train this, rather than ferry our car over and drive (thoughts?), which Eurail pass would you recommend? Do we need the big delux family one, or would country passes suffice?
Thank you so much!

 

    Lisa B,

    Your plan looks really good so I’m sure it’ll be an excellent family trip. As for July, I’d highly recommend Croatia, even though the beach towns will be full and at peak prices. Geneva is a dud of a city so Bern is a far better choice in Switzerland. In Croatia you can visit Plitvice National Park (amazing) as well as Split and an island or two nearby. The Czech Republic could also be a good choice though. Prague is wonderful for a few days, and you can also visit Cesky Krumlov, which is a small and gorgeous town that is even cheaper and very interesting.

    Most likely a rail pass would not work well for what you have in mind. They tend not to be good value in Italy because individual prices are already pretty low and distances are short. The trains in Croatia are slow and cheap as well, so buses are actually a better option. I rarely recommend driving around Europe, but since you can bring your own car I think it might be the best way to go. You’ll be better off staying on the outskirts of cities because parking in the middle of these towns is very expensive and a big hassle. But you’ll get much better value on family hotels and apartments on the edges of town, so I think it will work well for you.

    Have a great trip, and feel free to follow up if you have more questions. -Roger

     
      Lisa B. says:

      Thanks so much Roger!
      I think after much deliberation we are going to go with the train, with kids. Which passes would you recommend for this peak season itinerary? Individual country passes?
      Rome – Florence – Pisa – Venice – Milan – Genoa/Turin (which say you?)
      3 weeks slowly working down through France (which places to hit?)
      2 weeks working down through Spain
      Thanks so much,
      Lisa

       

        Lisa,

        Once again, I’m really not sure that a rail pass would save you any money in Italy, at least if you plan on staying within the relatively small area you mention. However, in France and even in Spain, the individual train tickets tend to cost much more, at least they do if you don’t buy a week or more in advance.

        So what I’m recommending is that you get a France-Spain 2-country Eurail Pass for 10 Days in 2 months. Those 10 rides turn out to be quite cheap when you buy a 2nd Class pass using the Family Plan.

        In Spain it’s pretty straightforward although you’ll need to make advanced seat reservations (at about €5 each) for the high-speed trains. They rarely sell out in advance, except on Friday afternoons and that sort of thing, so you can pretty much go when and where you like.

        But in France they have rail-pass quotas on some of the most popular