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iphigeneia's avatar

What to do when travelling alone in Europe?

Asked by iphigeneia (6224points) February 15th, 2010

I’ve planned a trip to Europe this year for late May to early August. My parents will be accompanying me for part of the trip, and leaving me in Vienna where I plan to do a German language course. The problem is, I’ve left it a bit late to book a return flight plus I want to use Frequent Flyer points, leaving me with few flight options.

I have 1–2 weeks between the end of the course and the next available flight, which will probably be from Frankfurt, Vienna, Prague, etc. Obviously, as a solitary young female without a firm grasp of any languages other than English, I’m looking for something structured to do in this time, rather than hanging around youth hostels chatting to strangers.

I’ve looked at a variety of Contiki-type tours and there aren’t any that perfectly fit my schedule/budget/comfort level/places I want to visit, so I was wondering if anybody knows of any boarding houses, homestay programs, etc. that would be interesting for me and reassuring for my parents? Or are there any other options for a short time alone in central Europe?

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12 Answers

candide's avatar

Don’t take contiki tours – get some guidebooks and go yourself. I might suggest getting a Eurail Pass before leaving for Europe, which will allow you so many days’ travel on trains that you don’t have to plan too much ahead for itinerary, then take into consideration what you are interested in. History abounds everywhere. If you like medieval history, Prague is a good place to spend some time, as well as take in some very good concerts and visit the Mozart house. If you have not finished seeing all of the palaces and museums in Vienna, it is a good place to spend time visiting the Schatzkammer, Hofburg, Roman ruins, Neidhardt Frecoes, Schonbrunn, Mozart house and Belvedere for starters. Frankfurt will bring you into the commercial West, where you might take Rhine cruises to view a multitude of breathtaking landscapes with castles on the hilltops, sample wine in the many vinyards and visit some really pretty German villages that time has forgotten. All of these places will allow you to practice your German, too, but remember there is less of it spoken in the Czech Republic and Vienna has a marked dialect. If you only have a couple of weeks, you should not try to see too much, but pick a few main attractions that appeal to you, stay in Youth Hostels where you can talk to other keen travellers and get info on what to see and where to go from them, if not with them, as well as from the friendly people who run the hostels. Mostly, remember wherever you go, to have fun and enjoy yourself!

lifeflame's avatar

I second heading out on your own. It’s so much more fulfilling, and the flexibility of the Eurail is wonderful. I’ve soloed it as a single female and I never had any major problems.

I would recommend Krakow, Poland as one of your stops.

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

I would get guidebooks.You will have a great time! I want to do exactly what you are doing someday:)

Cruiser's avatar

Contact the university where you are going to school to see if they have any cultural exchange programs. I would expect there are many people willing to host people from other countries. Have a great time!

The_Idler's avatar

If you’re only there for 1–2 weeks i wouldnt recommend the interrail pass, as you wont have enough time to be travelling outside of the central europe area (if youre leaving from frankfurt wien or praha anyway.

You would be fine to just by a few books and go and explore the cities. The great thing about Europe is that you couldn’t possibly miss the incredible architecture and restaurants etc.

In Praha, do not buy ANYTHING on the main tourist strip near the George bridge or whatever it is. Here a pint of beer is £2.50
If you walk literally 150yd down away from the tourist buzz, you will find cafés and bars with beer for 50p (was like that about 3 years ago, anyway)

I don’t know why you would go to Austria to learn German, it’s like going to Scotland to learn English, but OK. Wien is another place so full of great architecture and café culture, you won’t be stuck for things to do.

I love Frankfurt. I will recommend taking a boat for a ride on the river, maybe down to the Rhine (it joins). You can just walk up and buy a ticket, they are very regular. If you want, pick one where you can get off in a smaller town down river and take a walk up the banks of the Rhine. They are covered with vineyards, and once you get to the top you will be ready to sit down and enjoy a glass of wine, whilst soaking up the fantastic views over the valley. Then hop on back to Frankfurt and wander round for a few hours. There are plenty of shops and nice architecture and places to stop for a drink or some food.
Frankfurt pic
Frankfurt pic

Make sure you get yesen down south of the river to Sachsenhausen. There are so many great independent eateries and breweries. I wish I could remember the name of the place I went, everyone sat in this huge courtyard in the middle of a leaning old wattle and daub building, they served the most fantastic Wurst und Sauerkraut, there must have been a pound and a half of meat/black pudding there and it went perfectly with the pickled cabbage….
Sachsenhausen pic1
Sachsenhausen pic2
(These are pretty minor side roads, maybe representing about 0.5% of the area, and it is usually pretty busy between lunch and late)

OK I couldnt elaborate enough on how much great things there are to see and eat and drink in the West German cities (I haven’t been to the East yet), but rest assured that almost any town you find yourself in is going to be beautiful and exciting. I can personally recommend that, in Hamburg, Koln, Frankfurt and all the towns and cities in between, all along the Rhineland, you will never be at a loss for what to do. You can really just buy a day public transit pass (and public transit there is great) and explore. The city-centres are the safest areas in Europe, not like America at all.

whitenoise's avatar

@The_Idler I thinks you refer to Charles bridge, which is in itself definitely worth a visit. When in Prague, also take a cup of coffee on the second floor of the cafetaria across the street from the opera house. Then you can see one of the world’s most beautiful clockworks operate.

Visit Amsterdam, Paris, or Venice, if you can arrange a nice flight from any of these towns. Use an interrail card as suggested above. All good stuff. In Amsterdam and Paris there are great musea.

You might also consider St Petersburg.

In any case, travelling alone shouldn’t be much of an issue, as long as you keep thinking. When you join a troup of Americans on a tour, then you are basically still in America.

When in Austria, pick up a copy of “The Sound of Music” (sleezy. I know) and visit Sallzburg. It will be a party of recognition. In essence, anything you do will be fine.

The_Idler's avatar

I did mean the Charles Bridge. I wouldn’t recommend the interrail though, you won’t have enough time in 1–2 weeks to make it worthwhile, without spending most of your time on the train. Look into getting a Lande pass or something like that from DeutscheBahn, for Bavaria (Bayern) it covers all public transport, in a VERY large area, and they are always great deals.

whitenoise's avatar

@The_Idler
When committed to staying in Germany, you’re right, but from Vienna to Paris is within a day by train and trains are just a great way of travelling, through instead of over the landscape.
And well… OK… Germany is nice as well, but hey… Italy, or France, or even the Dutch will offer a completely different cultural experience.
Isn’t one of the things about Europe, it being a patchwork of cultures?

The_Idler's avatar

yeah, but 1–2 weeks just isn’t enough to do more than 5 cities, and you will spend half your time travelling.

using the train is a great idea, but for a Europe-wide pass you’re gonna need a month to make it worthwhile.

susanc's avatar

But how to avoid being lonely? Stay with a family for part of the time. Good idea to check with your school, but beyond that, Servas is a good possibility – an organization that connects travelers with hosts. Also Couchsurfing.com. Do be careful when you choose hosts.

iphigeneia's avatar

The 1–2 weeks come at the end of my trip, so I’ve already got a week or so planned for London, Paris (+ Loire Valley), Amsterdam and Berlin. My main concern is spending the weeks I haven’t planned for by myself. Thanks for the destination suggestions, you’ve just made it very difficult for me to choose, haha. Thanks @susanc, I’ll ask around and see if anyone I know knows of any good families first, then I might have a look at Couchsurfing.com myself.

@The_Idler I’m studying German in Vienna because I just wanted to spend quite a bit of time in the city, and the course sounded like a good way to meet other people plus it comes with accommodation and activities.

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