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three weeks in Europe by train - wwyd?

(23 Posts)
variousthings Sat 02-Jan-16 13:21:22

Wanting to go on holiday in March for three weeks. Ruled out South America as too expensive, and was considering an organised tour of Vietnam. But it will be my first ever holiday on my own and I'm a bit nervous about it all so thought visiting some places in Europe would be fun and maybe a bit more manageable for me. I'm recently separated, mid-30s no children and feeling a bit crap about everything! My budget is modest.

Where would you go? What would you do? Really interested in hearing about your experiences if you've done anything similar.

Graciescotland Sat 02-Jan-16 13:37:05

When I was younger I did a nice back packing trip starting in Nice (easy jet flight) along coast of France and the top of Italy. Not a massive amount of ground covered but cheap and lots of things to see and do along the way. Awesome youth hostels in Cap d'ail, walking distance to Monaco along the coast and in an old Monastery in Verona.

Youth hostels are good as there is always some to chat to/ go for a beer with if you fancy but you also do your own thing.

Trills Sat 02-Jan-16 13:45:03


I am in a similar position to you so would love to hear stories.

In September I went on a Spanish-and-cookery course with GoLearnTo in Granada. If you didn't fancy staying in the same place for a week they have other "learning" experiences in various places that are shorter. Good for having people to talk to but also time to do your own thing.

Graciescotland Sat 02-Jan-16 14:05:40

If hostelling is a bit basic I also did a volunteer thing in Spain where you speak to natives who are doing an English immersion course. Stay in a lovely 4 star hotel all meals included in exchange for your time it was called vaughan town.

ThenLaterWhenItGotDark Sat 02-Jan-16 14:09:14

How fab! I would choose one country and do its properly. Spain probably.

Trills Sat 02-Jan-16 14:16:36

That Spanish/English thing looks brilliant - thanks for telling us about it Gracie smile

Artandco Sat 02-Jan-16 14:22:57

Bare in mind it will be cold in Europe in March. So I'm assuming sightseeing holiday rather than sun, sea and sand?

I would be tempted to fly into one country and work back so you don't rush yourself getting places. Maybe fly into Dubrovnik in Croatia, then can work your way back up and through the countries?

Is there any way you can go later in the year? Europe in general will be a much nicer experience in June as you can be outside more as warmer and drier. You can then mix sightseeing with walks and beach

CocktailQueen Sat 02-Jan-16 14:33:09

We did a rail holiday last year with the dc - train to london, Eurostar to Paris, stayed in Paris a few days, train to Carcassonne, stayed in a gite, train to costa brava, stayed for a week, train to Barcelona, stayed a few days.
Direct train home. It was fab, and we plan to do the same this year.

French and Spanish trains were great. Clean! punctual! fast.

For March, I'd be tempted to do italy or south of Spain/Portugal. Get a map and some guidebooks, decide where you fancy going, look at train timetables and take it from there. Sounds wonderful.

variousthings Sat 02-Jan-16 15:02:03

Thank you! I will read all of these properly later and check out the links

It has to be March as that's when I need to use my annual leave by smile

ClaudiaWankleman Sat 02-Jan-16 15:09:40

I did two weeks on my own last year. I took a gopro. Videoing gave me something to do while I was experiencing everything. Took away some of the need for a companion.

Although I did eventually realise that taking pictures when you're travelling alone turns the experience into a two week long selfie.

IrenetheQuaint Sat 02-Jan-16 15:13:52

What about Sicily/Naples - lots to see, good trains there and around, and warmer than most of Europe in March. Plus Italy at Easter would be fun, lots of processions and celebrations I imagine.

Or else southern Spain - Seville, Cordoba, Granada etc.

zipzap Sat 02-Jan-16 18:29:58

We spent our honeymoon doing a train and cruise journey for about 4 weeks - train overnight down to Madrid, couple of days in Cadiz, caught the boat there, did north africa and ended up in Athens, then spent a few days in athens, ferry to Italy, train to Bologna for a few nights, then back to Paris and home.

Was amazing - and can recommend all the places as nice places to visit (albeit sad that North africa is off limits these days). We got a deal for the overnight bit from paris to madrid so were able to upgrade to first class for £20 each, meant we got a cabin for the two of us only with a teeny bathroom en suite (you could sit on the loo, brush your teeth and have a shower at the same time if you were so inclined - it was teeny!) plus a delicious 3 course meal and house wine in the restaurant car was included, so we had something to do in the evening and would have had to have paid to eat anyway, so was a great deal - so worth looking out for if you are doing any of that sort of thing...

But have a look at cruising too - it can be a fab way to travel and see lots of places but without the inconvenience of having to unpack lots! They also have plenty of tours and things you can join in with if you fancy or you can do your own thing. Joining a cruise on the north coast of the med by train would mean you weren't wasting time travelling in the rougher seas to get down there. We went with Swan Hellenic who specialised in older travellers but we had a fantastic time and were treated incredibly well. Plus they included lots of stuff, and we got it for half price, there are often deals, so don't be put off by the initial price! Combining cruising with the train worked really well for us so I can definitely recommend it.

The other thing to do is to look at are companies like Voyage Jules Vernes and others that organise tours by train or to areas you are interested in, see what sort of itinerary they offer, as then you can use them as an idea of places to go and how long to stay in places.

zipzap Sat 02-Jan-16 18:43:30

forgot to say that we used Railbookers who are a specialist travel agency who specialise in rail travel (as if you hadn't guessed that from the name grin)

They are really helpful and can chat through ideas and say whether or not you are being over optimistic or will know of other good places - they are also the ones that got us the amazing upgrade deal on the train!

The other place to check out is the site - an amazing resource started as a hobby by a man that loved travelling europe by train (seat 61 was his favourite on eurostar I seem to remember) and that has grown to become full of really useful info about travelling the world by train and ferry.

ShortcrossSadie Sat 02-Jan-16 19:35:23

Hi, Zipzap beat me to it, but I'd just signed up so that I could recommend the absolutely brilliant to you! I am single and in my early 40s and am in the process of booking a train trip from Belfast to Sicily in April using info from the site.

I'm planning to use the overnight ferry from Belfast to Birkenhead and the train to London (Sail Rail). After a day out in London, I will be on the overnight ferry from Harwich to Hook of Holland and the train to Amsterdam. Day in Amsterdam and then the sleeper to Munich. 2 days in Munich followed by the sleeper to Rome. 2 days in Rome and then the sleeper to Syracuse in Sicily. I'll spend 10 days exploring Sicily and then fly back. Can't wait!

Awks Sat 02-Jan-16 19:39:29

We went from London on the Eurostar to Cologne, then to Chur in Switzerland when we went over the Alps on the Bernina Express then from Tirano in Northern Italy to Milan then on to Rome and then to Venice. It was without doubt the best holiday I've ever had - just rucksacks and money (with pre-booked hotels, obv grin ) Have a brilliant time, I'm jealous.

monkeywrench Sat 02-Jan-16 20:06:28

When i was recently separated a few years back, I went on a girls only surfing holiday to Morocco, it was FAB!! Not a train journey, true, but was really great fun, the weather was great (i went in Jan, pp mention March in europe probably = shit weather) I made a couple of good friends who I am still in touch with and although I travelled alone there, the group thing meant i wasn't alone alone IYSWIM. Obvs you might not fancy surfing but there are loads of other sorts of these holidays around.

Allinafankle Thu 07-Jan-16 20:28:05

I LOVE train travel and until 4 years ago that was the only way I'd travel. It still would be if I had my way but that's another matter grin I did London - Moscow - Ulaanbaator - Beijing and back a few years ago and it was an amazing experience.
Maybe get yourself an Interrail pass - you can get country specific ones or one for (most of) Europe. And some countries / regions do their own ones. You need to bear in mind that if you want to use high-speed or international trains you normally need a reservation and these aren't covered by the pass so whilst you can use it for the fare, you can't just turn up and go iyswim.
Check out the wonderful seat61 website for everything you could ever want to know about trains journeys anywhere in the world - how to get to x from the UK, how much it costs and how and when to buy tickets.
If you want to be really geeky, get a copy of the European Rail Timetable - ideal for planning trips and when on the move.

wannabestressfree Thu 07-Jan-16 20:36:33

Allina is that the trans Siberian railway? Its my dream to do it smile

Allinafankle Thu 07-Jan-16 20:49:28

Yes wannabe it is. Although to be precise what I did was the trans Mongolian! Best thing I've ever done and I'd love to do it again - in winter to see all the snow. smile

wannabestressfree Thu 07-Jan-16 20:53:34

Was it expensive? Difficult to plan?
I have just had some not great health news and its made me consider my options. I have a colostomy bag etc just want to know if its 'doable' smile

Allinafankle Thu 07-Jan-16 21:55:52

Aw. It might make it more difficult but not impossible I would have thought. I did one train direct from Moscow to Ulaanbaator which meant 4/5 nights in the train but you can break it up as often as you want. Also depending on how much you pay you can have smaller compartments, some with private toilet or shower (don't think luxury though!). Take a look at the website I mentioned above - seat 61 as there is loads on it. There's also a really good book The Trans-Siberian Handbook which is full of practical info on planning it, what to expect etc. There was a lot of planning but I think the visas was the hardest bit to do.

wannabestressfree Fri 08-Jan-16 04:58:20

Thanks will look into it. Think I need to get on with planning it smile

Kittykatmacbill Fri 08-Jan-16 22:17:38

I loved it (pre children) we did Alps and Low Countries frequently, but check out the man in seat 61 for information But I am not sure I would feel massively safe tootling round Europe on my own right now, this spring looks like travel might be stressful the Schengen Agreement is changed (European border agreement) and general disposed populations.

tbh if I was in your situation I would do a tour of se Asia / China, way cheaper and utterly different look at intrepid travel. Had loads of great trips with them not massively organised just get you from city to city, make sure you don't miss the main sights, sort out accommodation and help with where banks and laundrettes are.

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