5 Things we learned researching our European trip

Louvre at night, Paris

One week from today, we’re setting off on a six-month exploration of Europe. In truth, we don’t know exactly how long we’ll stay there. One thing we do know is that in six month’s time the weather will turn cold again. After enduring this past winter in the U.S. we promised ourselves we wouldn’t spend another one anywhere near a cold climate. So six months sounds like the right amount of time before we’ll want to start a southern migration.

The other thing we know is that we’re limited to 90 days in any and all Schengen area countries. After that we’ll need to exit the visa area, which encompasses most of continental Europe, for another 90 days before we can return again. We intend to spend all of our “Schengen days” this time around in Spain and France.

With our flight to Madrid fast approaching, we’ve spent these past few weeks trying to catch up on trip planning and have made some surprising, and some not so surprising, discoveries.

Trains don’t go the way you think they should

After four years of RV trip planning we’ve become conditioned to believe that the shortest distance between any two points is a straight line. We’re so used to just looking at a map, seeing what’s nearby and deciding to go that we overlooked the fact that mass transportation doesn’t always work like that.

Because of geography and ancient history, European trains don’t methodically connect all the dots on the map you might want to visit. Our first attempt at planning a Spanish itinerary, for example, had us traveling from Madrid to Barcelona in a nice orderly way.

How we thought we'd travel around Spain

How we thought we’d travel around Spain

Unfortunately, Spanish train tracks weren’t laid with our itinerary in mind. We couldn’t always find train service between the two cities we wanted to visit. We had less luck finding any information at all about bus routes.

So we reordered our itinerary based on Renfe train schedules and are now looking forward to a bunch more back-and-forth travel than we’d have ideally planned.

How we'll probably have to travel around Spain

How we’ll probably have to travel around Spain

It’s possible we could have avoided all the to-and-fro had we consulted a guidebook before booking our flight into Madrid. It turns out there’s a reason they structure their itineraries the way they do. And theirs don’t typically start in Madrid. Lesson learned.

Guidebooks: 1 Pigheaded Individualism: 0

For two or more people, renting a car is less expensive than taking the train

As Americans we hear a lot about the superiority of the European rail system. What we don’t often hear about is how bloody expensive it is. It’s so expensive that it’s sometimes cheaper to fly between two European cities. What surprised us more is that renting a car is also sometimes less expensive than taking the train.

Of course which method of transportation – planes, trains or automobiles – is least costly depends a lot on your travel specifics. But for the month we’re planning to spend in France, we rented a car for less than half of what we’d spend taking the train.

We expect to stay in 13 different places while we’re in France, many of which are in rural areas we’ll want a car to explore anyway (castles, yay!). We didn’t price out train fare between each of the destinations we want to visit but did notice that a Eurail Pass allowing us just 10 trips on the train would have run us 888 Euro. Instead, we’re picking up a car in Nimes, driving it for 30 days and returning it in Rouen for 373 Euro – a 58% discount to the price of the more restrictive rail pass.

True, we’ll need to pay for gasoline and we’re “limited” to driving our car in France while the Eurail ticket permits travel in both Spain and France. We’ll also have the hassle of having to find a place to park the car while in cities. But for the cost of about $10 per person per day, we’ll have the freedom of wheels, which – we’ve found from hard experience – is something that lifts the burden of long-term travel immensely.

Drive a stick, save a bundle

Me mangling a selfi after brushing up my 20-year rusty manual transmission skills at the Brooklyn Driving School

Me mangling a selfie after brushing up my 20-year rusty manual transmission driving skills at the Brooklyn Driving School

I have to admit I feel like a bit of a fool. I now know that I’ve wasted hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars renting cars on previous European vacations. I don’t even recall giving it much thought. I simply rented an automatic transmission because that’s what we drive here in the states.

But that’s not what they drive in Europe. There almost everyone drives a stick. And that cultural difference shows up in both the price and availability of rental cars in Europe. Assuming you can even find an automatic transmission vehicle to rent, it will cost you two or three times more than your cheapest manual option.

If you don’t know how to drive manual transmission, it’s worth finding a friend or a local driving school to teach you.

Hostels aren’t always the cheapest lodging options

Hostels have come a long way in recent years and so too have their prices. Instead of just offering basic, dorm-room type accommodations to kids, many hostels have made a big push into more upscale markets. So much so that it’s not uncommon to hear the once-oxymoronic term “luxury hostel” used with a straight face.

Now “hostel” type luxury still isn’t the Four Seasons. You won’t get mints on your pillow or marble lobbies. But private “ensuite” rooms suitable for, ahem, older couples like ourselves are now pretty common. And along with those private rooms you get amenities that the Four Seasons can’t touch – like full working kitchens, daily organized activities, and common rooms teeming with other travelers eager to share their tales and their local tips.

At the Al-Andalus Hostel in Granada, for example, we’ll be checking out the wares in their wine cellar. And at the Sevilla Backpackers Inn, we’ll be taking a paella-making class and sipping sangria on a roof deck with views of the Royal Alcazar palace and a cathedral.

These places cost us about $10 more per night than competing budget hotels in the area, but we figure the better atmosphere and activities make it easily worth the price.

Stuff books up early

Bayeaux is Reserved

If we sound a little like a broken record about the virtues of advance planning it is because every time we turn around something we want to do is booking up on us. The most recent example is Spain’s Alhambra Palace.

If there is any single place on our European agenda that we’re absolutely dying to visit, the Alhambra is it. And if we tried to book Alhambra tickets today for the days we expect to be in town – a full month from now, in the middle of the week, and still in the off-season – we’d find them sold out. Had we not grabbed tickets a couple of nights ago we’d be in a bit of a panic right now.

Of course in the case of the Alhambra we might still be able to get tickets by paying triple for a private tour. Or we could pay double and get a Granada City Pass that also includes tickets to the Alhambra. But we’re really not about paying double and triple for things (except car rentals, apparently). And there’s no guarantee that even those options will remain open indefinitely.

Cars in Europe are going fast as well. Fewer rental companies are offering automobiles for the month of May today than when we booked ours two weeks ago. And prices for those remaining vehicles have risen by about $100 since then.

Hotels in Normandy for early June are also hard to come by. According to Booking.com, the city of Bayeux and the surrounding area is 94% booked for the weekend of June 6; two and a half months ahead of time.

We’re told we need to start booking now if we want to hit Oktoberfest this fall.

Of course not everywhere is so overrun. We’re still finding plenty of great and inexpensive hotel options in places like Toledo, Spain, just a couple of weeks before we arrive.

But the problem we face is that we can’t tell which things need to be booked ahead until we have some idea where we’re going to be and when we’re going to be there. And knowing those things really does require a fair amount of advance planning.

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53 Comments on “5 Things we learned researching our European trip”

  1. James Dunn -- Coffee and Countries March 17, 2014 at 8:33 am #

    “Trains don’t go the way you think they should” SOOOoooo very true! I live in the UK and even in our tiny country the trains meander in weird and wonderful directions!


  2. Lynn March 17, 2014 at 8:42 am #

    Did you have to buy any insurance for your car rental, or are you relying completely on your charge card to cover any damages?


    • Brian March 17, 2014 at 8:48 am #

      Hi Lynn,
      We’re not buying any additional insurance for the car. Typically your existing automobile insurance covers rentals too so there is rarely any need to double-up with the expensive stuff the rental companies sell.


      • mytimetotravel March 17, 2014 at 9:51 am #

        Have you checked that with your insurance company? Mine (State Farm) will NOT cover foreign rentals, even Canada, only domestic.


        • Brian March 17, 2014 at 9:59 am #

          Yes, I meant to put the disclaimer in my other comment “check with your insurer as all insurance polices are different.”

          I’d also add that if you’re worried about car insurance while overseas and if your existing policy doesn’t cover that, I’d try to get a rider to that policy, a supplement from another insurer or change domestic insurance policies to include overseas coverage. In my opinion, all of those options will likely be better than relying on the products offered by car rental companies, many of which are “insurance” in name only.


      • Lynn March 17, 2014 at 12:31 pm #

        My insurance only covers the US And Canada.


  3. Jodi March 17, 2014 at 8:54 am #

    Another tip: Don’t expect to get much sleep on an overnight train, unless you’re splurging for a private bunk! I was quite nervous about my stuff going missing while being lost in dreamland!


    • Brian March 17, 2014 at 9:19 am #

      We’re going to try to avoid the overnight trains altogether (no need for us to travel that far that fast ;-)) We also carry a lightweight bicycle chain that we could use to secure our bags in such circumstances. But I still wouldn’t expect to get much sleep.


  4. Chuck & Lori March 17, 2014 at 9:23 am #

    Awesome (and certainly timely for us!) post, Brian 🙂 I hear you on the virtues of advanced planning, but we’re trying to balance the worry-free certainty of planning with some excitement of “getting lost with purpose” by establishing some anchors (like spending all of July in Barcelona) with intentional gaps. We’ll report on how that works out as we go, LOL.


    • Brian March 17, 2014 at 10:16 am #

      Hi guys,
      Planning (or not) is of course a matter of style. But for us, there always seems to be something to figure out – people want to meet us somewhere on specific days; popular places or events get booked months in advance; visas need processing; travel vaccinations need sticking; inexpensive airfares need snatching; etc. None of that ever just falls into place, at least not for us. I’m honestly not sure how so many people claim to ignore all these details and “just go.” My guess is that they really don’t. But I’d love to read an honest and detailed dispatch from someone who really travels that way. It would be enlightening to see the tradeoffs they’re making for the benefit of not having to think too far ahead.


      • Chuck March 17, 2014 at 10:50 am #

        True! Even our intentional gaps are cities or areas we plan to be in: cities or areas where the destination is the attraction so, if nothing else, we’ll enjoy just walking around or people watching. And while we haven’t been booking hotels or travel in & out of those gaps, we certainly are researching and familiarizing ourselves with the options. This might be the only time we try this, and conversely even when we’ve made plans they haven’t always worked (a botched reservation in Amsterdam comes to mind). I definitely should have pointed out that the research and planning is a big part of the fun of travel!


        • Brian March 17, 2014 at 10:56 am #

          Yeah, our intentions are always to leave things open. It often doesn’t stay that way for long, though. We really didn’t start out thinking we’d book as much ahead in Europe as we’re now booking. But once we started researching things we began to see how much was already booking up in certain locations. So then we had a choice to either start planning in detail or accept that we wouldn’t be able to do those things.

          Of course if we never researched anything, we’d never know what we were missing. Maybe that’s the trick. 😉


  5. spc30802 March 17, 2014 at 9:53 am #

    My wife and I are currently planning a trip to Ireland and also noticed the cheap car prices. But I’m assuming that the manual transmission will be all left-handed in England and Ireland. That scares me unless there is someplace to learn that techniques first.


    • Brian March 17, 2014 at 10:02 am #

      That sounds like a fair assumption. My advice would be to take a train to a small town and rent your car there. Spend some time driving around the parking lot until you’re comfortable. It shouldn’t be hard to get the hang of. Good luck.


  6. Animalcouriers March 17, 2014 at 10:02 am #

    Six months is a long time to be on the road, especially in such varied countries. Does look like you’re doing your homework though.


    • Brian March 17, 2014 at 10:06 am #

      Six months is about as far in the future as we can see, but with nowhere else to call home, it really is only the beginning. Come September or October we’re thinking about heading to South Africa or Thailand. We just don’t know for sure yet.


  7. suziejprince March 17, 2014 at 10:04 am #

    Trains in Europe are like flights in South America with some airlines. It feels so inefficient to keep going through the same city.

    Europe by car is very nice. I’m sure you’ll love it.


    • Brian March 18, 2014 at 9:35 am #

      How true. We’re finding that most everything connects back through Madrid, which is why there are so many suggested day trips from there. Oh, and some of those “connections” go into and out of different Madrid train stations. 😐


      • mytimetotravel March 18, 2014 at 9:59 am #

        Most major European cities have multiple train stations (just as some have multiple airports), it saves running the main line tracks through town. Unlike US airports, the train stations are connected by good public transport, usually metro/subway/tube trains. London has half a dozen main line train stations plus five airports, so the two in Madrid aren’t anything special. You do need to check which one you leaving from!


        • Brian March 22, 2014 at 1:12 pm #

          Yeah, that last part is important – especially when you think you’re just switching trains (not train stations).


  8. mytimetotravel March 17, 2014 at 10:07 am #

    Glad to see this, I’ve been wondering when you were leaving. Looking forward to reading about your trip.

    That’s a very good rate on the car. However, a rail pass is not necessarily the cheapest way to travel by rail, especially if you aren’t eligible for the second-class youth pass. Generally it is cheaper to buy heavily discounted tickets directly from the relevant rail company well ahead of time. Given that in France you need to pay for reservations not included in the cost of the pass, the only real reason for a rail pass is flexibility. Also, you should NOT use RailEurope, which is run by the French and Swiss rail companies and has a bad habit of only listing a subset of the most expensive trains. (Supposedly it has improved some recently, but I wouldn’t trust it.) Did you consult http://www.seat61.com/index.html on train travel in Europe?

    If you were willing to take night traIns you might not have needed to change your itinerary. There is a night “train hotel” between Granada and Barcelona, via Valencia. Of course, some night trains are better than others, but I have often slept well on them. With two of you you could book a sleeper, and would save on a night in a hotel/hostel.

    I hope you booked the night tour of the Alhambra – it’s magical!


    • Brian March 17, 2014 at 10:37 am #

      Thanks for the detailed comments.

      We used the rail pass for a quick and dirty price comparison for the blog post while understanding that isn’t the cheapest option. We did hear that we could buy discounted rail tickets but to get the discount we needed to buy them as much as 60 days in advance (please correct me if I’m wrong) – that’s more detailed planning than even we are capable of. Even with the discount, though, it’s tough for us to imagine getting a better deal than the car considering how many stops we’re planning to make (we’d need 26 train or bus tickets in all.)

      And I think we deliberately chose to backtrack than to take a night train. In theory traveling overnight is great. It saves a night’s hotel cost and frees up an entire day. We’re usually so wrecked the day after overnight travel, though, that it never feels like a great idea in practice. But I hadn’t really thought about booking a sleeper cabin, which undoubtedly makes a big difference.


      • mytimetotravel March 17, 2014 at 11:05 am #

        Yes, western European trains are like planes, the earlier you book, the cheaper the rate. How far ahead you need to book depends on the country, and sometimes the train. However, we’re really talking long haul routes on fast trains or train hotels, like Granada-Barcelona. For shorter trips you can take regional trains and just buy as you go. However, your rate on the car is so good, that even with gas and tolls, and with two of you traveling, it will almost certainly be better. Since I travel solo my calculations are different. Who did you book with? Is it a lease?

        Traveling solo I usually book a berth in a couchette, but a sleeper cabin for two would be even better. I would certainly not recommend trying to overnight in a seat, and I don’t think the train hotels even allow for that. Being able to lie flat makes all the difference!


        • Brian March 17, 2014 at 11:15 am #

          A lot of budget travel advice is geared toward solo travelers. Traveling as a couple or with a family does change the calculations quite a bit. That’s part of what makes hostels more expensive for us than for solo travelers – they price everything per person which means we always pay twice as much as a solo traveler. Meanwhile most hotels don’t charge twice the single rate for a double.

          We rented through Europcar. It’s not a lease.


      • Chuck March 17, 2014 at 12:33 pm #

        We’ve done a few overnight trains, and in all cases rented a sleeping cabin. We still arrived weary and bleary 🙂


    • Brian March 17, 2014 at 10:58 am #

      Oh, and we booked a day in the Alhambra but have not yet booked the night tour. Tickets are still available for that, but we need to make a decision soon on the night tour. You’re recommendation helps. 🙂


  9. Tom March 17, 2014 at 10:59 am #

    There are alternatives to your claim. I don’t want your readers to think that renting a car is the only (or last expensive) way to get around Spain.

    After living there for three months, we found that buses were the best way to get around. They often DO travel as the crow flies, they’re comfortable (especially by American standards), and they’ve gotta be cheaper than renting a car, especially when you’re staying in one place for multiple nights, thinking about the rental charges you’re running up while the car is parked and you’re out exploring.

    You’re right about the lack of online bus schedules (and this may be one reason to NOT put too much faith in planning ahead). We found it to be most effective to just walk into the nearest bus station, look at the posted schedules (sometimes they’re not even available in printed form) buy a ticket and go. We never found a route that didn’t have room for us, and we never had to wait more than an hour for the next bus, usually much less.

    Finally, there are plenty of online alternatives to guidebooks. Forums, in particular, are useful places for exploring alternatives, and don’t forget TripAdvisor.

    Oh yes, about driving a stick: it’s like riding a bike. It comes right back to you. Unless you’re in a county where they drive on the left and you have to shift with your left hand…


    • Brian March 17, 2014 at 11:10 am #

      Hi Tom,
      Sorry for the confusion, but we’re renting our car in France not in Spain. While in Spain we expect to spend most of our time in cities and that makes a car impractical. In France we expect to spend most of our time in the country and that makes public transportation impractical. We’ll probably rent a car in the U.K too, but we’ll cross that channel when we come to it.

      We haven’t booked our transportation ahead in Spain. We did research train routes just to make sure we had an option for getting from one place to another. We’ll look into bus schedules and prices when we arrive and take whatever seems best.


  10. Carol Balawyder March 17, 2014 at 12:27 pm #

    Thanks for sharing such interesting tips:)
    I once took an overnight train from Munich to Vienna. I rented a sleeping car (I’d always wanted to do that experience). It turned out to be less expensive than a day train ticket and then a hotel.


  11. BABYBOOMER johanna van zanten March 17, 2014 at 1:53 pm #

    I haven’t seen anybody mention the price of gas that is much higher than in the US and Canada. As well traffic is much faster and the rules are a bit different, so I would recommend to get hold of the traffic rules in the EU and make sure you know the meaning of all the signs. I drive here in Canada, had lessons in Amsterdam before moving across the Atlantic, and have driven in the US, but hesitate to drive in Europe. It is scary and although they are generally better drivers, traffic there is so fast and highways so crowded, and everyone relies more on the driver’s knowledge of the signs and driving skills.I prefer taking the train and the bus, and the combination gets you anywhere, without too much stress. Only for the long haul are reservations recommended. I don’t mind the night car and even slept well, being lulled to sleep by the sound of the cars hitting the rails. Don’t be panicky about stealing if you have your suitcase overhead. Only on train stations is stealing an issue, pickpockets are many in most large stations.
    Have a nice time. Relax and do as the Romans do. Speak a bit of French and start out with that if you want the French to speak English to you. Its worth your while knowing the basics of French and use it and don’t be shy about making mistakes. They will then start speaking English, if only to stop you from butchering their language. It is the thought that counts. But, if you speak English first and ask them if they speak English right off the bat, they will likely pretend they can’t understand you. The Spanish are a bit less chauvinistic about their culture. Johanna


    • Brian March 17, 2014 at 2:06 pm #

      We drove across France on our very first trip abroad. Inflicted our “French” on them too. 🙂


  12. allisonmohr March 17, 2014 at 2:32 pm #

    We drove from Bologna to Marseilles October 2012. The driving was fun and easy. There’s one traffic sign we’re still not sure about, but it wasn’t stressful at all. We were not in large cities so that helped.
    Who are you renting from? That’s a great rate. We were hosed because we picked up in Italy and dropped off in France. We knew we would be, but that’s what we wanted to do.
    Watch your speed. Italy and Germany are covered in traffic cameras and I believe France is going in that direction. We’ve never received a ticket in the mail, but the government will ask your car rental agency for your information. Your car rental agency will charge your credit card around 45 euro for providing that information. They’ll charge you for each and every infraction. It’s very irritating and there is no recourse.
    Looking forward to your trip reports!


    • Brian March 17, 2014 at 3:37 pm #

      Thanks for the tips. We’ll be mindful of our speed. The last thing we need are tickets arriving in our mailbox. We get our mail so infrequently they’ll have international arrest warrants out for us before we even know we need to pay a fine. 😮


  13. eemusings March 17, 2014 at 4:23 pm #

    Yup, figuring out train itineraries is a real headache!

    Because we were under 25 and travelling quite fast in Europe we didn’t rent any cars (except a BMW for a day in Munich!) as insurance PLUS petrol would’ve been insane, and trains were pretty convenient. My husband can drive manual and a car would’ve been nice in Italy though. We got to the US just as he turned 25 and rented a car for our US road trip.

    We hardly ever stayed in hostels in Europe or in fact anywhere else we travelled – two dorm beds are very expensive and usually a budget hotel turned out cheaper.

    Enjoy your trip!


  14. mcmeeshi March 17, 2014 at 5:55 pm #

    Perfect timing and great advice! My husband and I are planning a trip to France and Switzerland in the Fall, and I was starting to run into similar problems with the train system. Perhaps we’ll look into a car rental… Thanks and enjoy Europe!


  15. Sam March 18, 2014 at 6:45 am #

    This was fun to read as a European. (I promise, I was laughing with you, not at!) Indeed trains in Europe are wonderful, but can be expensive. They’re only really affordable (at least in Western Europe) if you book in advance – I once got a ticket from Berlin to London by train for just €50, but I had to book it 3 months in advance and it wasn’t alterable in any way…nevertheless, that’s definitely competitive with cheap airlines. I actually lived in Spain for 3 months and have travelled there quite a lot, but I’ve never taken a Spanish train! I found the bus company Alsa http://alsa.es/ quite good and the prices were reasonable, if that’s of any use to you.


    • Brian March 18, 2014 at 8:22 am #

      Thanks Sam, that is most definitely helpful.


  16. Adelemm March 18, 2014 at 9:05 am #

    I second the vote for Alsa buses. Hubby and I used them quite a bit on our last holiday to Spain. I’m pretty sure there’s trains between Madrid and Barcelona… we were in Madrid last summer and there were trains to pretty much everywhere… that said, the Alsa buses were often better journeys.Your itinerary looks great. I’ll add a vote for Salamanca as an additional, really lovely place to stop.


    • Brian March 18, 2014 at 9:17 am #

      Salamanca was/is definitely on our radar – it just takes us a bit further away from the southern route we were planning. We originally thought we’d stop in Segovia, Avila and Salamanca but we don’t really have the time. So we’re just stopping in Segovia and will have to leave Salamanca for another trip.


      • Adelemm March 18, 2014 at 9:21 am #

        Good plan Brian. Tough decisions always have to be made when planning itineraries. I hope you get to see Salamanca at some point, but you’ve got some cracking places on your agenda. You certainly won’t be dissapointed.


        • Brian March 18, 2014 at 9:29 am #

          We’ll definitely be back. We’ve left the whole western and northern crescent of the Iberian Peninsula for another trip. If we can pull ourselves away from the coast, Salamanca might fit into that itinerary. If not, that’s what a third trip to Spain is for. 🙂


  17. BuddhistTravels March 20, 2014 at 12:58 pm #

    The Renfe train schedules are TERRIBLE in general, I’ve learned from my time living here in Spain, and yes, not being able to rent an automatic car easily is also quite frustrating! But you will have an amazing time! If you need recommendations for great restaurants in Cordoba or Barcelona, I will gladly pass some one!


    • Brian March 22, 2014 at 1:10 pm #

      Oh, oh, oh, we loves recommendations. We’ll be in both Cordoba and Barcelona so lay them on us (if you don’t mind.)


      • BuddhistTravels March 24, 2014 at 5:56 am #

        Of course not! Well in Cordoba, my favorite place is the Salmorejeria Umami. It has alternative twists on the typical salmorejo that are simply incredible. Get there earlier than traditional meal times because it’s small and gets crowded quick. In Barcelona there are quite a few but the top two are: The Lolita Taperia (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Lolita-Taperia/143987912319269) and Federal Cafe (https://www.facebook.com/pages/federal-cafe-barcelona/134531549899409). They are both MUSTS! Enjoy!!!


        • Brian March 24, 2014 at 9:40 am #

          Thanks so much. I doubt we’ll have much trouble getting to Salmorejeria, or anywhere else for that matter, before “traditional meal time” so that works perfect for us. 🙂 Looking forward to checking out all three.


  18. escape2find March 26, 2014 at 12:35 am #

    Have you considered a coach? Might be cheaper than trains and might run in more straightforward routes… might…


  19. Denny Meyer March 28, 2014 at 4:00 pm #

    Loved Spain – traveled there with my son during one of his spring breaks. Granada was my favorite but also loved the peacefulness of Nerja on the Mediterranean.


  20. Mamzalbambam April 1, 2014 at 9:50 am #

    Having worked in a Brussels Hostels over a summer a few years ago..I can tell you that many people who ” Just go” also spend the nights wandering around looking for a place to crash instead of enjoying their trip! I don’t know how many times people would wander in at 3pm and ask for a bed and we would be totally booked up. Next option is to wait it out and see if there are any no-shows and have the nice receptionist call every hostel in the city for you XD. As for trains, the eurail pass is often more expensive than simply using normal fare. There are a few websites that break it down for you and pretty much give you pointers as to which countries to use Eurail with and which to use normal fares with..pretty useful! I hope you guys plan to visit Belgium at some point! Wonderful little country! 🙂


    • Brian April 1, 2014 at 10:41 am #

      That’s kind of what we imagine happening every time we consider just showing up someplace. We have done it before, but we quickly discovered that wandering around town with our bags after hours on a plane/train/boat/bus looking for lodging isn’t our idea of a good time. And after a week in Spain we’ve already saved ourselves countless headaches because we did a little research (everything from having a Chip and Pin credit card to knowing that trains connecting through Madrid sometimes arrive and depart out of different train stations.)

      More importantly, we’re definitely getting to Belgium. We just don’t know when.


      • Mamzalbambam April 1, 2014 at 10:45 am #

        Wonderful! I look forward to reading your posts about Belgium! Don’t miss Gent and Ypres! Probably my 2 favourites! I thought Brugges was cute but a little too overrated and with all the tourism it seems to have lost authenticity..maybe it’s just me, but walking through town I kind of felt like nobody actually lives there, like they just close the town at the end of the day and nobody is left except hotel employees and guests haha!


  21. Albatz Travel Adventures May 28, 2014 at 3:45 pm #

    Scotland is a place where it is way better to rent a car than take the train. On the other hand, next time we go to Holland we’re taking the train – parking is a nightmare!



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