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Raileurope.com: See Europe by train
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Old 05-27-2010, 06:05 PM   #1
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Question Backpacking and clueless

Hello everyone,

My best friend and I just came back from Dublin (first time abroad) and we decided that one week every summer was just not enough. We're planning on going backpacking at the end of next Spring 2011.
I'm extremely excited, but also extremely clueless. Please, bear with me...

Eurail: I am extremely confused. I'm thinking of the 5 country pass, but I'm not sure how I reserve my space or if I have to pay extra... Bullet points would be great so I can understand what I'm reading on the website. =\

Budget: Adding up the costs of the plane ticket, the eurail pass, bus trips, food, and a few other things, we thought $3,500 would be good for two months. I'm going to save up $4,000, but I still can't find an estimate I'm comfortable with. Any help in this area would be very much appreciated.

Backpack: $200 for a backpack is just too much. Is that a good price, or could I get a good/cheap bag? What should I look for?

Anything would be helpful, really. I'm extremely excited about this! I have a lot of time to prepare, so please feel free to give me as many tips and things I should review/keep in mind.

Thank you,
VK
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Old 05-28-2010, 04:57 AM   #2
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Is the Eurorail really worth the money? I didn't use one and always got some sort of discount at the desk, usually a student discount (it's been a few years since I travelled I wouldn't get that now).

I'm not sure though.
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Old 05-28-2010, 07:12 AM   #3
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We're planning on going to more than six countries, so I think the eurorail is a must.
Thanks though.
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Old 05-28-2010, 08:09 AM   #4
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On almost every single train you will need to make a reservation. you should go to the train station the day before... sometimes you can go 15 minutes before the train is set to depart and get a reservation. The cost is between 0€ and 15€ on average I think I paid about 8€, though keep in mind this was 5 years ago so some things could change. At some points we were able to just jump on the train and never had to buy a reservation, at some stations it was free to make a reservation. Hope this helps.

There are about one thousand other topics on these boards about the eurail passes so you could do a quick search and learn alot. but if you come up with some more questions feel free to ask.

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Old 05-28-2010, 08:13 AM   #5
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Welcome to Travelpunk!!!

Eurail: Depends on what countries you're going to. As a rule of thumb, you do not need to reserve your space on a train. It would mostly happen in you take a night train. If its needed, the timetable will say "reservation required." Usually its not that expensive.

Budget: Western Europe you need 60-75 USD per day, Central maybe 40-50 USD per day. $4000 sounds like a good number for 2 months excluding plane ticket and Eurail pass.

$4000/60 days comes out to about $67 per day. Lets take Amsterdam for a moment. A bed at the flying Pig is currently going for 22 euro (approx 28 USD). So thats about 40% of your daily budget. Eating can vary bc u can self cater or go to a resturaunt, but say average 10 euro or 15 euro (12-18 USD) on food per day. Now lets say you want to have some beers in a pub. I've never been to A-dam but I'm going guess minimum 4 euros. Say you wanna have 2, that makes 8 euro or 10 dollars. Perhaps the only thing left is sightseeing. This varies wildly by attraction. For example the Anne Frank house is 8.50 euro so about 11 dollars. You may want to use the remainder of your budget for shopping, more alcohol, more food? Dunno. Its all up to you.

Basically my budget advice would be think about what you spent in Dublin per day (you know, excluding any crazy shopping sprees on Grafton St) and apply it to your whole Europe trip next summer. Dublin is pretty expensive so you should come up with a good, safe estimate from those numbers.

Backpack: I'm using the MEI Voyageur right now which is the "maximum legal carry on." It costs about $150 or 160 including shipping. I really like it. Its zip around so its easier to get to my stuff versus a top loading which I had before and is a pain in the ass. Plus the fact that its a reasonable size forced me to NOT bring a lot of stuff (packing rule #1: no matter how big your bag is, you WILL find a way to fill it with useless crap)
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Old 05-28-2010, 02:26 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Elizabeth View Post
Welcome to Travelpunk!!!

Eurail: Depends on what countries you're going to. As a rule of thumb, you do not need to reserve your space on a train. It would mostly happen in you take a night train. If its needed, the timetable will say "reservation required." Usually its not that expensive.

Budget: Western Europe you need 60-75 USD per day, Central maybe 40-50 USD per day. $4000 sounds like a good number for 2 months excluding plane ticket and Eurail pass.

$4000/60 days comes out to about $67 per day. Lets take Amsterdam for a moment. A bed at the flying Pig is currently going for 22 euro (approx 28 USD). So thats about 40% of your daily budget. Eating can vary bc u can self cater or go to a resturaunt, but say average 10 euro or 15 euro (12-18 USD) on food per day. Now lets say you want to have some beers in a pub. I've never been to A-dam but I'm going guess minimum 4 euros. Say you wanna have 2, that makes 8 euro or 10 dollars. Perhaps the only thing left is sightseeing. This varies wildly by attraction. For example the Anne Frank house is 8.50 euro so about 11 dollars. You may want to use the remainder of your budget for shopping, more alcohol, more food? Dunno. Its all up to you.

Basically my budget advice would be think about what you spent in Dublin per day (you know, excluding any crazy shopping sprees on Grafton St) and apply it to your whole Europe trip next summer. Dublin is pretty expensive so you should come up with a good, safe estimate from those numbers.

Backpack: I'm using the MEI Voyageur right now which is the "maximum legal carry on." It costs about $150 or 160 including shipping. I really like it. Its zip around so its easier to get to my stuff versus a top loading which I had before and is a pain in the ass. Plus the fact that its a reasonable size forced me to NOT bring a lot of stuff (packing rule #1: no matter how big your bag is, you WILL find a way to fill it with useless crap)
Thanks for the warm welcome!

We're planning on going to London and taking a train to Paris. From Paris on is where I guess we'd need the Eurail... We're planning to go to Belgium, Netherlands (which I think count as one..?), Italy, Spain, and Germany. I know the pass we want doesn't 'work' for England, so we'd have the five country pass for the others... Do you think it's worth it?

Good gawd that's more money than we planned!
I tried to use my Dublin budget as a guide, but the flight and hostel were part of a deal, so I can't calculate how much the hostel was (although they were offering beds for 15 euros a night). Plus the fact that it was a private room.
We're not big partiers, which could definitely change under circumstances, but buying a lot of alcohol isn't in our budget.
Our weekly budget was 160€. We ate free breakfast and spent two euros on sandwiches at Spar for lunch and dinner... As far as museums go, we visited places for free, discarding the Writer's Museum. I know this won't be the case in every city, but I don't want to drastically ump my budget for that. Most of my money was spent on souvenirs for my family, which I won't buy this time around. Pictures will have to suffice... Grafton St. was very, very tempting, but I guess I'm too damn stingy.
I guess that I should've asked what was everyone's first budget when they went abroad and for how long... It just seems impossible to calculate.

Thanks for all your help. I truly appreciate it.
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Old 05-28-2010, 02:28 PM   #7
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Lets see.... Minus airfare and trains, $4000 should work depending on your drinking/drug intake...
As for Northern EU... The only trains I know of that require a reservation are Thalys... Learned that the hard way by getting kicked off, even with my eurorail pass... But I know for sure that Belgium and The Netherlands require no reservations.... And am pretty sure most of N. EU is the same...
As for the price of the pack... Spend the money, as you will be thankful for a nice comfortable pack about 1 week into that trip... Take your time with the purchase, make sure you fit the pack to your body (completely loosen the shoulder and hip straps, lay pack on floor, lay down on top of pack and tighten straps, loaded pack of course) REI actually has a pretty impressive collection of packs for sale....
And def do some searching on this site about the Eurail.. You will find pretty much everything you need info wise here...
Best of luck and keep us posted!
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Old 05-28-2010, 09:42 PM   #8
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I believe having a Eurail pass that includes france will get you a discount on the eurostar, if you are trying to calculate whether it is worth it.

I have found that stressing about precision budgeting is a waste of time. The great thing about backpacking is that, if a month into your trip, money is starting to run low, you just tighten the belt and start booking in 24 bed dorms and eating rice and pasta and appreciating the architecture from the streetview. But if a month in you are still flush with cash, you are free to splurge on private rooms, swank restaurants and overpriced tourist traps. Most countries/regions have a general target budget that is pretty accurate (as the previous posts have said) and will keep you from being homeless.

As for a pack, you don't have to break the bank, but don't just buy a pack because it is the cheapest. That thing is your home and everything you own while on the road.
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Old 05-30-2010, 08:18 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jabad17 View Post
I believe having a Eurail pass that includes france will get you a discount on the eurostar, if you are trying to calculate whether it is worth it.

I have found that stressing about precision budgeting is a waste of time. The great thing about backpacking is that, if a month into your trip, money is starting to run low, you just tighten the belt and start booking in 24 bed dorms and eating rice and pasta and appreciating the architecture from the streetview. But if a month in you are still flush with cash, you are free to splurge on private rooms, swank restaurants and overpriced tourist traps. Most countries/regions have a general target budget that is pretty accurate (as the previous posts have said) and will keep you from being homeless.

As for a pack, you don't have to break the bank, but don't just buy a pack because it is the cheapest. That thing is your home and everything you own while on the road.
I decided it's definitely worth it considering the long trips. We're planning on going from Munich to Venice, so I think it's definitely worth it.
How do you get that discount, though? (Eurostar)

We decided to do 40 days instead of two months because with classes and rent $5,000+ would leave us completely broke when we return. It's a bit inevitable for me to not stress about cash since I'm paying for my education as well as rent...plus the trip of a lifetime (seemingly). We do plan on eating rice and pasta from the get-go.

I saw the MEI Voyageur bags for $139 and a few REI backpacks on sale, so I think I have a range of prices to choose from and not stress too much about it.
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Old 05-31-2010, 04:18 PM   #10
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I always like to preach 'over budgeting' on your trips. For example, if all your research indicates that you'll be needing about $75 day and you budget $100 a day, by the end of the 30th day if you've only spent up to $75 day (your planned budget), then you'll have $175 a day to spend on your remaining 10 days of your trip. That means, you can end your trip with a BANG (nice hotels nice restaurants, shopping, etc...)!

Thats exactly what I did on my first trip. My last 7 days I had roughly $400 a day to spend from a planned $150 a day. I wasn't even close to hitting my daily budget each day and I was staying in private hostel rooms the first 3 weeks (never had to stay in a shared dorm room), then met a nice girl who invited me over for the remainder of my trip.

So, over budget and tell your friend to do that too. It will make all the difference in the world on your trip as you won't ever be stressing about penny pinching on your trip.

Also, the Euro has been taking a major crap right now so your money will should go further next year as I don't think the European Union will be able to get their act together by that time.

Regardless of budget, allow yourself to splurge at a good authentic local restaurant in every city. You'll always remember the stuff that tastes good.

As far as the backpack, I agree that top loading backpacks are pain. I didn't have one, but saw lots of people painfully going through theirs. I'd also recommend one with a spinal chimney for heat to escape easily and lessen the sweaty back action.

It's great that you are still heading out despite having to pay for your rent and school!
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Old 06-01-2010, 09:53 AM   #11
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I agree on the over budgeting. I budgeted 50 euro a day and for the last couple of weeks I had about 100 euro a day.... I couldn't spend it all though I was still staying in dorm rooms, eating at the hostel and drinking the local selections. Though I was able to party like a rock star a few nights
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Old 06-06-2010, 04:31 PM   #12
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I have lost money by taking the eurorial vs. planes. If you plan well enough, or are flexible (buses), then I think you can do better then the eurorail. That being said, there is a bit of comfort in knowing that you can virtually change plans at any given moment (reservations aside).

I, too, agree that you should over-budget. Start saving all you can now. Research your hostels. Don't skimp on a backpack. Have fun!
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Old 06-08-2010, 06:59 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dig View Post
I have lost money by taking the eurorial vs. planes.
Though if it's not too much more money the trains can be worth the little extra cost.
  • Train stations are usually in the center of town while airports are on the outskirts
  • Planes are very impersonal and don't really allow you to see the culture of the country you are visiting
  • If you are from North America you have probably never been on a train and the experience is unforgettable
  • Plane tickets need to be booked far in advance, you can usually get a train ticket the morning of departure allowing you to be much more flexible with your planning.
I agree that if your only goal is to get from point A to point B in the Fastest and cheapest way, flights are probably the way to go. But if you want the flexibility and the cultural experience I would no doubt go with the rail pass.

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Old 06-08-2010, 08:32 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dig View Post
I have lost money by taking the eurorial vs. planes. If you plan well enough, or are flexible (buses), then I think you can do better then the eurorail. That being said, there is a bit of comfort in knowing that you can virtually change plans at any given moment (reservations aside).

I, too, agree that you should over-budget. Start saving all you can now. Research your hostels. Don't skimp on a backpack. Have fun!
I don't thinks there's ever been a moment in my life when I've been turned away from an over crowded train, even when going to soccer matches or out to La Tomatina.

Most times I moved from one city to another it was just a case of turning up at the station picking my city getting the student discount (which I wasn't actually eligible for at the time it was just always offered). The only comfort I can see it giving someone is knowing that even if they lose all their money they can at least ride the train. I don't think it offers any other advantages that I can see, I don't think I spent nearly €400 on trains over the course of my 2 month trip.
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Old 06-08-2010, 07:26 PM   #15
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I have never been turned away from a flight.

I enjoy the freedom of moving by all means. Trains ain't cheap in europe either. Now buses... love those babies!
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Old 06-09-2010, 10:08 AM   #16
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I spent about $4000 (not including flights, Eurail, etc) for 7 1/2 weeks when I backpacked Europe in 2005. As a guide, the first month I was VERY stingy, eating only the free breakfasts and then spreading out my other 2 meals as one or just buying like a loaf of bread to last me the day sort of deal. I would walk everywhere so that I wouldn't have to take the metro (literally like 20-30km in a day) and would generally only buy any alcoholic drinks I had from the grocery store. Also, I was pretty lucky because I was still only 17 at the time and I got into a lot of museums and stuff for free. I have no idea what I spent per day, but after the first month, I'd spent roughly $1600 CAD.

After that first month I realized I needed to let lose a little more because, well, let's face it, certain aspects of it sucked and I ended up spending about $2500 the second month where I'd eat out a lot more, take the metro, party a little more, and bought a few souvenirs.

Times have changed, I'm sure prices have raised in the 5 years or so since I went, so I think 2000-2500$/month is a realistic goal. The thing is, it's all fine and dandy to eat pasta the whole way through and only go to free stuff for a while, but it's really hard to sustain for a long time. Especially since a lot of what makes Europe Europe is the food, the historic sites (which are NOT all free), and the parties. You shouldn't let your budget compromise your trip too much.

I would bank on wanting to pay for at least one entrance fee to SOMETHING a day. A budget of 15 euros should be realistic. Chances are there will be more though...

Often you meet people who are going out to dinner and you want to join if nothing more than for the social aspect. I would bank on wanting to go out to at least 2 nice meals a week (which doesn't have to be too expensive, but will definitely be more expensive than pasta...).

I would also bank on a drink or two every couple nights, even if you don't plan on drinking. I would rarely get drunk when I was in Europe but I found that I was going out (even if that meant just staying in the hostel) for a drink or 2 almost every night when I was in Europe. It's a social thing...and trust me, you'll probably end up doing it enough to factor in alcohol into your budget. Say, 25 euros a week? That's a total of approx 5 cheaper "bar-priced" drinks or so divided up as you please.

Also, yeah, you'll be travelling in high season so expect hostels to cost around 15Euros min (rarely), but more likely 20-25 euros everywhere you go...
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Old 06-11-2010, 07:48 AM   #17
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One of the perks of being a girl (in my experience at least)...free drinks! I have hardly bought any alcohol for myself since I've been in Europe.
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Old 06-11-2010, 11:17 PM   #18
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....hrmmm...apparently I am just not hot enough to get the "free drink" thing to apply to me
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Old 06-14-2010, 07:15 PM   #19
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Quote:
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....hrmmm...apparently I am just not hot enough to get the "free drink" thing to apply to me
Haha, that's two of us.

I've/we've decided to ump the budget to $5,000 and reduce the days to 45 instead of 60... I will probably start eating pasta and bread for the first few days anyways. I'd like to have a little bit left when I return, after all. Plus, I don't want to have any stress over running out of money.

A few other questions:
Has anyone ever tried couch surfing? If so, how was it? Are they easily found/accessible?
Should I take a fork? I saw a backpacking video and it said I should... but it just doesn't seem like I'd need it.
Does this seem like a good bag? (I'm only posting the info because I need more posts to provide a URL.)
Size: 22" x 14" x 9"
Weight: 3 lbs , 10 oz
Capacity: 3066 cu. in.
Material: 2520 + 840 D Nylon
Warranty: Lifetime guarantee against defects in materials and workmanship
Linear inches: 45"
SKU:EB2066-22
Catalog Number: CT33-15026
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Old 06-15-2010, 07:13 AM   #20
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You absolutely don't need a fork.

Is this the bag eBags Weekender eTech Convertible - As Seen in People Magazine- eBags.com

Wow that looks like a pretty decent sized bag with really small shoulder straps, I would recommend getting a bag with wider shoulder straps and one of those goofy looking waist straps. You may think they look silly over here but when you are lugging that thing 3 miles in the wrong direction of your hostel, the waist strap comes in very handy, it will actually distribute a lot of the weight of the bag to your legs, taking the pressure off of your shoulders and back.

Also the ergonomics of that bag with the flat back do not look comfortable. Remember that this bag will be your everything for 45 days.


Look at the Kelty 2500 Kelty Redwing 2500 Womens Backpack - Shop Now- eBags.com

Notice how much wider all of the straps are and the back is curved to mold your back. also it has a chimney on the back to allow for airflow.

Your are going to be spending 5 grand on this trip, Don't cheap out on the one thing you will carry everywhere and will carry everything. Also buy a good pair of shoes.
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“Life is too short to spend it doing something you don't like... if your passion is selling surfboards by the sea, then that is where you should be.”
-My Dad


"Do we really want to travel in hermetically sealed popemobiles through the rural provinces of France, Mexico and the Far East, eating only in Hard Rock Cafes and McDonalds? Or do we want to eat without fear, tearing into the local stew, the humble taqueria's mystery meat, the sincerely offered gift of a lightly grilled fish head? I know what I want. I want it all. I want to try everything once."
-Anthony Bourdain

“If you can imagine a man having a vasectomy without anesthetic to the sound of frantic sitar-playing, you will have some idea what popular Turkish music is like.”
-Bill Bryson

"The older I get the less likely I feel I will ever figure my life out... I think that might be okay though"
-Me
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