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Questions & Answers

Just the FAQ

I get quite a few emails from people wondering the same sort of things.
I thought it might be helpful to have a page where these questions can be answered for everyone.

 Quick Jumps

 Plane Tickets

What kind of ticket did you buy to stay for 7 months?
We bought what is called an open ticket
. Ours was a year open ticket, which meant that we could fly home anytime within a year. There are also tickets called open jaw tickets. These are when you fly into one city, then leave out of another. For example, if you flew into Amsterdam then traveled by train down to Italy, you may not want to travel all the way back to Amsterdam to fly home. An open jaw ticket would allow you to fly into Amsterdam and out of Italy.

How much did your year open ticket cost?
It cost us $899 Canadian (in 2000) because we were under 26 when we left to go to Europe. (I turned 26 while we were in Europe but was still able to fly home using this ticket.)

Rail Passes/Transportation

Did you use rail passes?
Yes, we did. The problem with a 7 month trip is that you have to buy several rail passes. The longest pass only lasts 3 months. These links will take you to the main page of RailEurope. We used the following:
 
  • Benelux TourRail Pass (Includes Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg)
    5 Days of travel within one month
     
  • BritRail Flexi Pass (Includes England, Scotland and Wales)
    8 Days of travel within two months
     
  • ScanRail Pass (Includes Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden)
    10 Days of travel within two months
  •  
  • Eurailpass (Includes 17 European countries)
    3 month unlimited

How did you figure out which passes you needed?
We planned out which countries we wanted to visit, estimated the time we would want in each and the number of cities we were hoping to visit in each country. RailEurope has a pass comparison chart that is very helpful. Go to their site, then to RailPasses then click on the comparison chart.

Do you need to make reservations when taking the train?
If you are traveling long distance or wanting a couchette for overnight travel, yes. In fact, I think that couchette reservations are mandatory. You will pay for both reservations ($5-$10) as well as for couchettes. For short trips within a country, you should be fine. Trains crossing borders tend to be more crowded.

If you are traveling within England, definitely make a reservation-they are free and save you the hassle of overcrowded trains!

Once you were in a city, how did you get around?
In most cities in Europe, the train station you will be arriving at is very central. From there, you can walk, take a bus or in some cases, take the underground subway. There are usually maps in the subway station showing you where to get off and what the stations is called. Give your hostel a quick phone call before you arrive and ask for directions on how to get there. If all else fails, ask somewhere! Most people are more than happy to help-bus drivers will tell you what bus to catch or where to get off etc.

Guide Books

Which guide books did you bring with you?
We brought both "Let's Go Europe" and the "Lonely Planet Western Europe". We couldn't have done without both of them-they both offered different information, which we found helpful. The Lonely Planet had clearer maps and more accurate information but Let's Go had sections on Prague and Scandinavia, which the Lonely Planet didn't. You can buy them online in my Amazon bookshop for less than bookstore prices.
Here is a direct link for them both;

Let's Go Guidebooks
Lonely Planet Guidebooks

Hostels

Do hostels require anything specific?
There are two types of hostels; independent and hostels that are affiliated with Hostelling International. The HI hostels require you to have a Hostelling International card or you will pay extra. They also like you to have a
sleeping sheet (bed sheet sewn in half) and in some cases, a pillowcase. If you do not have these, you will have to rent theirs for a small fee. The independent hostels do not require a membership card. It varies from hostel to hostel whether they require the sleeping sheet and pillowcase.

Where do I leave my main pack when I go out for the day?
Many of hostels provide lockers you can use to store your pack during the day. Some require you to have your own lock, so you might want to bring one along for that sort of thing. For hostels that don't have lockers, this is what I suggest. Bring all your valuables (train tickets, travelers cheques, passport etc.) with you at all times or have them locked the the hotel safe. If you bring them with you, make sure to lock the small lock on your daypack to ward off pickpocketers.

Lock your main pack to the leg of your bed using a cable lock or something like that then secure the zippers on your bag with small travel locks.

Where do I get a Hostelling International Card?
Visit a HI hostel in your city before you leave or buy one online here. An adult membership (age 18-54) is $28 US dollars.

Where do I get a Hostels of Europe Card?
You can buy the Hostels of Europe card online
here. A one year membership is $15 US dollars.

What is the difference between a Hostels of Europe Card and a Hostelling International card?
The HI card is good for those hostels that are a part of the Hostelling International affiliation. When you are looking them up on the web or in your guide book, they will usually have HI Hostel listed after them.
Hostels of Europe is a group of independent hostels that allow you to get a discounts up to 15% using their card. The HI hostels will charge you more if you don't have their card. You will not pay more if you do not have the Hostels of Europe card at their hostels.

Which card did you bring?
I brought both. For 7 months, we got our moneys worth out of both of them. If you don't know which one to buy, try looking at the hostels and seeing which you think you will be staying more at.

Money

How much did your trip cost?
The question on everyones mind!

  • Our year open plane tickets in and out of Amsterdam were $899 Canadian.
     
  • We had a "Back to Amsterdam" coupon that flew us back to Amsterdam to fly out from any city in Europe for $150 Canadian
     
  • We spent on average $65 Canadian a night for private rooms in either hostels or hotels. An average dorm bed will be much cheaper for those not traveling with partners.
     
  • Food depended on whether we could cook or not. Cooking yourself and packing lunches will save you a lot of money!
     
  • City transportation depended on the city and form of transport. On average $1.50-$3.00 Canadian for a bus or train ride. We tried to walk as much as we could, however.
     
  • Sightseeing depended of course, on what it was. I tried passing us off as students as much as possible. It work about 65% of the time.

How much should I budget per day?
 If you will be staying in hostels and watching your money, budget about $60-$70 a day per  person. This will work for individuals traveling alone or couples. This amount would be for food, lodging and a bit left over for sightseeing. It would not include rail passes and extras like that.

Do you have any other money tips for me?

  • Keep your money in a chequing account, not a savings account. A lot of ATM's in Europe will not let you withdraw from your savings account.
     

  • Make sure your pin number is 4 digits.
     
  • Bring some local currency for your first city so you don't have to worry about exchanging money
     
  • Avoid, at all cost, exchanging your money or travellers cheques at the train station. You will get a horrible rate.

Backpacks

What sort of backpack should I buy?
Well, I'm a big fan of backpacks with a removable daypack. This way when you go out for the day, you have something to put your camera and your lunch in. As far as brands, I would go with Eagle Creek. It might cost a bit more but is definately worth it. I brought a cheaper one that fell apart in Scotland. Even my second one showed signs of strain by the time we got home. My boyfriends Eagle Creek was incredible.

Visit my Backpacks page for tips on what to look for in a backpack and suggested packs.
 

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