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Dear PoP – Advice on Backpacking Europe

by Prince Of Petworth February 24, 2010 at 2:30 pm 40 Comments

Short Final
Photo by PoPville flickr user Rukasu1

“Dear PoP,

I’m guessing some Pop T-shirts have traveled the youth hostel-backpacker-Eurail circuit around Europe much more recently than I have so I’d love to tap the readers for advice. My favorite niece is finishing her masters in education this June and I’m cashing in my flyer miles and advancing her 10 years of birthday presents to send her on the “Grand Tour” for 4-6 weeks.

Times have changed a lot since my own trip (1985, mostly hitchhiking, and ultimately 2 years long.) Do people still prefer backpacks or is a wheeled suitcase/duffel better? (She’s more a city girl and not likely to climb any alps and will have a one-month Eurail pass.) What’s the best credit or ATM card for exchange rates? Does anyone still even use traveler’s cheques? How about phones? On my own recent trips to Europe I found public phones few and far between. (Even with my friends’ mobiles, we sometimes had trouble between the French, Italian and British) Any particular recommendations?

Has anyone had good experiences with “couchsurfing” or “Air bed and breakfast” or other home-stay arrangements?

She also loves to teach and do volunteer work – any info on short-term volunteer opportunities that might give her a better way to get to know people than just the youth hostel experience?

With such a short time, she’ll be doing mostly all the main cities and attractions, but any particular lesser known “don’t miss” places or experiences or festivals she should seek out?”

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