So I'm heading to Europe in the spring……
I am studying abroad in the spring from the end of January until the end of May in Leicester in the United Kingdom. I am also going to be traveling for a month around Europe (and on the weekends I’ll be traveling around closer to where I am staying). I was wondering if anyone would like to meet up/let me couch surf with my friend/has tips for traveling in Europe?
I am so excited for this adventure, I’ve never been out of the US, and I would love to share my experiences with other HEthen!
Let me know!
All my love,
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Welcome to couch surf in Newcastle. If you were of a mind to listen to an old fogeys ramblings and a crazy thai wife (who happens to cook awesome food). You could use it as a spring board to visit Newcastle obviously, Durham (ancient historical city well worth it) Edinburgh, and if there is one part of the UK anyone should see it is the Glencoe mountain range up to Fort William (and highlander castle is on route). If you can drive hire a car and along with the route to Sa Calobra in Majorca and the Alps it is the finest drive known to the European man, winding around the black sister mountains or alternatively bus or train it up, visit skye and hyke to the old man of storr. Next to London these are the things I would recommend.
Holland is very tourist friendly; on the contrary to what @chodebalm, said a tip of (approximately)10% is normal, just like in any other European country. Although it is not compulsory as in the US, you do tip when you are satisfied with the food and service. English friendly, tourist friendly, weather unfriendly. You should definitely visit Amsterdam. (very English friendly). Public transportation is easy as well.
Belgium has quite some nice cities to visit as well (Bruxelles, Gent, Antwerp), Luxembourg is nice to visit for a day too (so you can say you have been there). Tourist friendly, English friendly in the Northern Part, not so English friendly in the Southern part (North = Dutch, South = French)
France has some beautiful landscapes as well (Bordeaux) varying from beautiful coasts to great mountains (Alpes) (if you are there before April, you can snowboard/ski). French people are very chauvinistic though, not English friendly and quite cocky and arrogant (in general). You can travel by train to cover most distances (it is a big country compared to Holland, Belgium or Luxembourg).
Spain & Portugal are nice countries with good weather. Visit Lisboa, Madrid, Barcelona, Granada and one of the islands (I would advise Menorca if you prefer a relaxed, non touristic island where you can experience the authentic culture, or (Palma de) Mallorca, if you are in for partying and tourists. In Ibiza you will only find party people, not worth visiting in my opinion). English is not their strongest language, but in the big cities you can get along of course, just like in the rest of Europe. Big cities are not a problem.
Italy is similar to Spain & Portugal concerning the weather and landscapes, you got beautiful mountains as well (Dolomites). Visit Florence, Venice, Rome, Milano and Cyprus (Island). English can be a problem in the smaller places. Beautiful country though. People can be chauvinistic like in France. The culture is very open, so if people start touching you or get into your social comfort zone, do not worry, it just is their culture, no wrong intentions (in general).
Switzerland & Austria, good for snowboarding/skying because of the beautiful mountains. Switzerland is very expensive though (!). In both countries you can get along with English. Landscapes are beautiful in both countries. People are friendly as well.
Poland is a great country to visit as well, beautiful landscapes, beautiful nature, very friendly people and great food. You can go visit the coast and take a dive in the sea, visit the beautiful lakes (north east) and landscapes, or go south to visit the beautiful mountains. Basically in Poland you have all different types of landscapes, even ‘walking deserts’ in the north, which is very interesting. Definitely visit Krakow if you are in the southern part, since that is the most amazing city in my opinion. If you are going to the mountains visit Zakopane, it is the most popular and well known mountain ‘village’. Warszawa, the capitol, is definitely worth a visit as well, and many more beautiful places, but according to your itinerary it is not possible to visit everything. (English friendly in the big cities, not really in the villages, especially older people)
Slovakia and Czech, culture is similar to Poland, languages are very similar, but both countries are less beautiful than Poland, so if you choose, go for Poland. (English friendly in big cities, further same as Poland)
I would definitely recommend Sweden as well, as the other Scandinavian countries. From the beautiful fjords in Norway to the amazing landscapes in Sweden (I do not know about Finland though, but I guess it is the same). If you are on the other side of the sea you can visit Denmark as well (Kopenhagen). (English friendly overall)
Germany: like manimal already mentioned, if you are in for the best party scene in the world, go to Berlin. Amazing clubs, the place where techno is born and all the best techno DJ’s as well. If you are not in for this type of music yet, then you will certainly be after you experience some creme de la creme from the Berlin underground scene. If you are in for good party drugs, this is the place to try it out!
Apart from the party scene, Berlin is a nice city to visit in general. Furthermore you can visit Munich, Monchengladbach, Hannover, Hamburg and a couple of other big cities. Germans are friendly and open in general, and very English friendly. Travelling on the German Autobahn is a huge pleasure as well, especially when you have a fast cars and you enjoy the adrenaline of legally driving 250 km/h. I assure you, it is great fun.
The UK, well you are going to study there, so you will find out yourself.
Apart from that I have not really been in Eastern Europe, but in general it is poorer and less tourist friendly than the Western part that I have been talking about. Although Croatia has become a huge tourist attraction in the last years and from the stories I am hearing it is definitely worth visiting. English can be a problem in Eastern European countries, plus a lot of the countries are not in the European Union, which is a pain with currency etc. Western countries almost all have the Euro (Sweden does not though, Switzerland neither).
Enjoy! If you have any other questions, let me know!
I’ve been fortunate enough to visit 6 different countries in Europe, England being one of them. A couple tips to help save you money while you’re over there: take the metro, never a cab. When dining at a restaurant, either don’t leave a tip or leave just a very small tip. In Europe, tipping is generally not done, though when I’m over there I do leave one Euro for a tip just because I feel bad leaving none at all. Also, order tap water if you order water, because otherwise you will receive bottled water and will be charged for it. Same with bread – if they bring you bread without you even asking them for it, it will still show up on your bill.
I know these are just small things, and it may some like a tightwad thing to do, but when you’re abroad, every cent adds up. Also beware of pickpockets, they are all over in Europe, especially large touristy cities. Don’t let any stranger touch you, even if they seem like they’re just being playful street performers. If you’re gonna carry cash or anything of value, keep it somewhere inconspicuous or uncommon.
I will be in Spain again in March. Do you plan on going to Spain at all? It would be cool to meet up with someone from HE. I often travel abroad by myself, and I always end up making friends and meeting people and partying. It’s an awesome time. Some of my best memories are from Europe trips.
im in the very south of spain, closer to morocco than the rest of europe. if you plan on seeing the area, your best bet would be to book a flight into málaga and then bus it to granada. andalucia has some great beaches (malaga being one, but many more as well if malagas too touristy for you). everythings very cheap, i had a friend visit this week and got a nice hostel for 10 euro/night. plus you get free tapas whenever you order a drink! you can get a nice buzz and decent meal most places for a couple euro. theres a lot to see in granada as well, from the alhambra to the arab baths to the tomb of isabel and ferdinand. its unique in that you can really feel the arabic influence on the city; it was their last stronghold in spain against the reconquista. besides all that, its a big university city with a very young feel and good night life!
from malaga its easy to catch a cheap flight to madrid, barcelona, lisbon, or even paris and rome. the best advice i can give you is to check skyscanner.com for cheap flights to and from spain, as its kind of far from the rest of europe so its harder to travel by train than it is elsewhere.
feel free to PM me when the trip gets closer if you want more tips on where to go, what to do/see, etc. especially in spain, it looks like you’ll have plenty of help with the rest of europe as well. i wish id thought to make a post on here before my semester abroad!
@laurenlouise, The west of Ireland is quite nice, same with parts of the south. Lots of mountains and streams and forests and and shit. Most of the awesome pictures you see of Ireland are from there.
The rest is pretty much just fields and a shit tonne of cattle.
Oh and if you want good night life, go to Temple Bar, (it’s an area, not a bar) in Dublin. It has an incredible atmosphere, especially around Christmas time.
Have fun wherever you go!
Well I am staying in Leicester, so on the weekends I think we are trying to go to Scotland, Ireland, Wales, and travel around England. From the end of March to the end of April we are going to Germany, Prague, the Netherlands, Poland, Italy, and Greece. And then in mid May we are going to France and Spain. :)
@chodebalm, Thank you so much for the tips, I totally wouldn’t have known any of that. And I will be in Spain either the beginning of March or the end of May. I would love to meet up if possible! I definitely can’t wait to make friends, I’m just going with my one friend, so I’m sure we will go out a lot.
@connorklauck, Thanks! Yeah, I noticed it tends to be rainy over there.
Sounds like a solid plan then. Nice choices.
What kind of stuff are you looking for with these travels? Just seeing different places or trying out the cultures or what?
Berlin and Tallinn are ace spots if you like partying.
Paris is a sweet place for kicking back and just enjoying cultural stuff, so is Amsterdam and really most of central Europe.
The Czech and Poland are great if you like beer (ridiculously cheap) and strange musky foods.
Greece and Italy have a really nice warm climate, and there’s a lot of history stuff if you like that, plus things are generally very cheap.
Spain is probably the best place for typical vacation-style stuff, I love it there. And the parties are wild too.
If you’re still in Europe when summer arrives I highly recommend coming to Scandinavia, it’s wonderful in the summer. The nightlife is shitty, but there’s so much history and tourist stuff, and the landscapes are incredible, and it’s a lot cleaner and more peaceful than most of Europe.
@laurenlouise, Go to Cork Ireland, and rent a car :D I’m from Dublin, Ireland originally but now I’m living in France for a year. I went to Cork with my family about a month before I left and I can’t wait to see Cork again! :)
I am really looking forward to seeing all of the historical spots, but I think my favorite things is exploring the natural beauty of all of the different places. There’s so much to see! And partying a bit too of course.
Is there anything I should know about being American and traveling? I think that’s what I am worried about the most; making a fool out of myself somehow,
@laurenlouise, im studying in southern spain right now, in granada. i definitely recommend seeing it, especially since youre looking to see a bit of history. toledo was fantastic as well, and if youre looking for nightlife you really cant beat barcelona. ive been around spain a bit and a few other countries as well, let me know if you want more detail!