I'm in the early phases of planning my first solo backpacking adventure. I have only ever traveled with my family out of country when I was younger, and with my friends in country (Canada).
I will be going solo, the only obligation I have is to be home in Late August 2016, and I have a budget of ROUGHLY $5,000-$10,000 (would rather not be broke when I get home, but it's an option.)
I want to go to Eastern Europe.
So far, I know I want to see: St. Petersburg(ferry from Helsinki), Prague, Budapest, Kiev, Bucharest, and maybe Warsaw or Krakow. In that order of importance.
I also want to see the Baltic states (Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia), just not sure where would be best, and safest for a tourist.
I know my money will go far in the Ukraine, so I would like to stay there for quite a while.
I will be staying in hostels, airbnb, and whatever saves me the most money. Might get a hotel for a night in St. Petersburg, but other than that, I'm going to be cheap.
I have concerns about my safety, specifically with Kiev.
If anyone can recommend places I should visit and things that i should see, please contribute. I'm open to doing most things.
If anyone has any resources/advice on what to pack, visas, rail passes, other things i'm overlooking, I would love some help here. This is all pretty new to me.
I'm a white male, 22.
Tl;Dr Going to eastern Europe alone, would rather not die.
I am going to take this ferry to St. petersburg, to get around applying for a Russian visa
How should i pack a backpack with clothing? Helsinki will probably be cold as fuck,and Romania(being later in the trip, summer months) will be significantly warmer
I don't know too much about Eastern Europe, but I have been to Krakow. I would absolutely go there. It's got a lot of culture. There's a neat castle and town square. It has decent nightlife if you're into that. The famous salt mines are really close too. I liked Krakow much more than Warsaw for what it's worth.
Warsaw was razed to the ground by the Germans, Krakow was spared the fate. As a result, the former is ugly and boring as shit, whereas the latter has plenty of old architecture and atmosphere. That's not to say there aren't any commieblocks of course - if you go to EE, you'll soon see that they're more of an eternal symbol of communism than the hammer and sickle. Warsaw does have some ok sights, but if it's a this-or-that with Krakow, definitely go with the latter.
As for nightlife, there's plenty of clubs and pubs depending on your preference. Beer goes for anywhere between 1-2.5 euro, similar for a 5cl shot of vodka. Liquor stores are ubiquitous, often open 24h/7 and are a popular alternative, easily slicing the prices in half. It's a common practice to get slightly drunk on store-bought alcohol before going clubbing - but not enough to tip off the bouncer of course. Keep in mind that public drinking is an offense, so watch out for the police or you'll get fined. Being particularly unruly when smashed can result in an expensive trip to the drunk tank, but you'd have to try really hard to land there.
As for safety, watch your belongings like a hawk - minor theft is a problem. Otherwise it's perfectly safe, just use common sense and avoid drunk, bald gentleman wearing track suits.
Just so you know OP the ferry makes you go back to Helsinki you cannot go to Tallinn straight from St. Perersburg, and you can only stay TWO nights. They make it seem a little different on the Internet. Great time tho enjoy the boats for the price are incredible I felt like I was on a cruise.
Finfag with a lot of travel km's here, the thing with the ferry is that (at least Finnish people) don't need a visa for it. That's why you'll stay two nights and come back with the same boat. Personally I'd just take the train and tourist visa. Otherwise I imagine that you can apply for a tourist visa on your own, and then piss off to Tallinn if you don't want to take the boat back. Petersburg is def more interesting than Moscow in my opinion.
In Baltics it's safe. I would definitely recommend Vilnius, which is really fun city. Best out of the Baltics I'd say. Been there many times and it just keeps getting better. Riga is the most boring out of the three capital, Tallinn is nice as long as you try to avoid the tourist traps and go where the locals chill.
Warsaw is pretty cool, but huge and people don't speak so well English, so airbnb/couch surfing could help you there. The initial feeling might be that it's just commie blocks, but if you find your way into the city you'll notice there is shit loads of cool things happening (which the previous anon obvs didn't figure out). South of Poland is cool, places like Wroclaw and Krakow def worth checking out. I would also go to Prague because it's cool as shit.
And while you're in the area, don't you fucking miss Berlin, I'll promise you would regret it.
If you have a real Russian visa and not just the 3 day boat visa you can go wherever you want in the time frame. You aren't allowed to leave the St. Petersburg area with the boat, or at least you would get in trouble if caught. If you have a boat visa it probably isn't even worth it to go to Moscow.
There is a 4 hour train between the two, but it runs pretty sparingly so I've heard.
May I recommend former Yugoslavia OP, especially Bosnia. Amazing food, really kind people, you'll meet great people at your hostel there too.
Not to sound fucked up but Bosnia still has SO many buildings damaged or destroyed from the war. If you haven't checked it out you should before they finally clean that shit up.
yeah, they're pretty much a lost hope. I wanted to do just a weekend trip at Mt. Kosciusko, just to say I've been to the highest point in Australia and when I asked one of them he pointed out he was at the highest point in Skyrim and sent me a "selfie"
For Budapest there are plenty of recommendations up on /trv/ right now, so I'll just talk about the parts that are not mentioned in those threads.
Couchsurfing is quite active in Budapest, so if you want to save more money, you want to check that out.
It's not clear to me whether you've been to Europe with your family, so some general tips:
Be alert of pickpockets. Anyone can become a target, but if you show any (ANY) of your valuables, you're automatically a target for pickpockets. They are normally focused on public transport and stations, but they can be anywhere.
What else... Practice the "I know where I am and where I'm going to" look, that also helps against pickpockets.
You're learning Russian already, so this you already thought of... But it makes a huge difference whether you can say "do you speak English?" in all the local languages. Doesn't matter if you're reading it off your palm or anything. Generally people with next to no English would avoid talking to you in the fear of embarassing themselves, they might even pretend not to see foreigners in some cases, just to signal you won't understand each other anyway. Once you mutter something in their native tongue, they will suddently treat you like a king (or at least a person).
May be obvious, but quite important in Eastern Europe.
I'll be doing the same, leaving in may with about 25'000 and staying until I'm bored and cross russia to go in china. But I plan to stay in the balkans for at least 4 months.
I think most of those countries are safe, even Ukraine. I went in Albania, Hungary and Slovakia last year and nothing to report but I got my phone stolen in Denmark...
I even had to show my iphone to people so they could type numbers (some didn't know how to use a flat screen).
I also want to stay in Ukraine, but will go in Lviv, I heard there's even less violence than Kiev and cheaper too.
I'm not into the pua mindset at all but you should check this thread https://www.rooshvforum.com/thread-37535.html
Even if you don't care about girls it's interesting and you'll see that those people get drunk all night around shady people and nothing bad happens. They seem to have a good time there.
Uhh how is your passport/situation going to work?
Best to do all the EU countries first as they will be least hassle. Also since they are European some WILL basically ask for bribes. Either to hurry you along (as youre non EU and can take a shit load of your time and take whatever they want) or because you don't have a visa.
Literally asked to bribe for €5 to go to Bulgaria before it was EU
Damn man, I like to take my time and even I felt like 3 weeks was more than enough for the Baltic. I was ready to go by the end of it. Interesting history. The women are pretty conservative (I usually do alright). I liked Vilnius the most out of the 3 capitals but tallinn was the prettiest for me
I live in Eastern Europe, just use your common sense the worst that will happen is that you get pickpocketed don't act like a typical loud ignorant American and be respectful and you will do fine
Will be doing the same thing as you OP, with a similar budget A$10k or below (as I plan to move out when I get home).
You might want to start a bit earlier if you want to make the most of the summer over there. I'm planning on starting out in Helsinki around mid July, then make my way down to the east. If you're interested, check out this festival in Croatia. Been dreaming of going to this for 3 years now, probably one of the main reasons for me going on the trip.
Will you travel for how long? I'll tell you the cities I know
St. Petersburg - You'll need at least one day for Hermitage, other for Peterhoff, one, maybe to to enjoy the city. But stay as much as you can.
Tallinn - It's a hidden gem. 2 days are enough
Riga - Quite shitty. Another 2 days
Vilnius - It's another hidden gem. 2 days
Warsaw - >>1064190 is right, but there is a ton of historical things related to WW2
Krakow - one day for Auschwitz, other for the salt mine, one, maybe two, for the rest (which includes to see the da Vinci picture
Prague - Stay as much as you can. It deserves
Bratislava - Good place to rest 2 days
Budapest - Stay as much as you can - but less than Prague
Also, you should consider Gdansk
holy shit this is what im planning for my end of post-secondary thing
I was thinking
pretty much the same as you, maybe drop some of the baltics in favor of seeing a bit of germany (munich & berlin really interest me)
It'd also be my first solo backpacking, i am also for canada 1 year older than you and dtf but I was more planning on making the trip in september but maybe summer is the better time to go? Any anons have any advice on this?
We should defo have an eastern europe general
I want to go to moscow for the Victory day celebreation. It's on May 9th i believe.
Dimentions looks fucking insane! never heard about it before but I want to o so bad now!!
This trip is starting to rack up expenses, I want to go to way too many places.
I will probably stay in Ukraine for the longest amount of time(until i get bored) due to the cheapness factor.
I flew to Pula on a whim after an EFL job in France just because it was on the Ryanair destinations list and I had never heard of it. Had an amazing time. Unreal Roman ruins, perfect size, great smooth-rock beaches with clear water. Don't sleep on Croatia senpai. Hostel Pipistrelo is where you wanna stay in Pula.
I would add to this guy's bit about Warsaw to stay at Oki Doki hostel - they organize lots of events to discover Warsaw on a local level and the hostel itself has its own bar. Had a great time there.
You should stay for Outlook as well, which is by the same organization in the same area, right after Dimensions ends. Outlook is more garage, dnb, grime, dubstep, reggae oriented and has FAR more visitors.
Eurail is somewhat pointless in Eastern Europe, book single fares instead or take the bus.
Moscow is shit and even worse around that time of the year due to the crowds. Only worthwile cities in Russia are Pidorburg and the golden ring.
For Ukraine I would recommend heading out to Lviv, Chernivtsi, Odessa, Ivano-Frankivsk, Kamianets-Podilskyi and Lutsk if you have the time. Kharkiv is also supposedly nice, I haven't been there yet though. Eastern Europe is generally safe, avoid shady commieblock districts at night, keep your wits around, stay away from the fine gentlemen in tracksuits and obvious scams and you'll be fine.
The itinerary mentioned here >>1066632 is pretty solid, consider adding Gdansk, Torun, Lublin and Wroclaw in Poland, Plzen and Brno in Czech Republic if you have more time.
I can't offer much about the other countries you are travelling to but if you go to Krakow give Mosquito Hostel a look. Really cheap, it's comfy and the people there are super friendly. It's easy to meet other people and hit the bars with them too