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last minute travel planning, barcelona, etc

Shazkar ShadowstormShazkar Shadowstorm Registered User regular
edited May 2010 in Help / Advice Forum
so last friday i, very last minute like, bought a ticket to barcelona for 23 days

assuming the volcano doesn't fuck my shit up, i could use some help

travel basics questions:
- for hostels, is it pretty safe to just check with hostelworld.com and find one with good reviews? anything else to consider? i've only ever stayed in hostels with groups of people i knew prior.

- any tips on packing light? like, how few clothes should i bring, and what clothes are essentials for europe travels?

- any tips on luggage / backpacks? i can afford a new snazzy backpack and i kind of want one for later in life, so suggestions would be welcome (also size suggestions for a trip of only 3 weeks)

- any other basic travel tips? especially for the solo traveller? i've been to many places in my life, been to spain before (but madrid & galicia areas), but have only ever travelled alone to other places within the USofA, all my foreign travels have been with family or with groups of friends

- other things to consider? i have a fee refunded ATM card. should i bring multiple credit cards? i primarily use one but i guess a backup would be good?

- how do i make sure no one steals my shit?

small question about layover in Amsterdam:
- i have a 5h15m layover in Amsterdam-Schiphol. 8:00AM arrival, 1:15PM departure.

- the website for the airport says if you have over 4 hours you can probably go into the city, and my googling of travel forums says its doable too. there are 6 euro storage lockers in the airport too apparently.

- so i want to do this, where should i head to that would not be too hard to get to, and that i can just kind of walk around, and grab a good meal? or any particular sights that i might want to see (considering this will be a tad rushed)?

barcelona specific questions:
- any particular suggestions on where to stay / what to eat / what to see?

- how easy is the metro?

- how long is the minimum amount of time i should devote to barcelona itself?

- are there any easily feasible short excursions that would be good, to the close vicinity of the city? and how would i get there?

where else to go in my trip:
- so, some of my friends are going to be elsewhere in europe, and i was thinking of meeting up with them, but there is much in spain alone i would like to see.

- i was thinking this: 3 places that'd be cool to see would be bilbao, san sebastian, and valencia. i've been to madrid and the surrounding things (like toledo and segovia) so i can leave those out.
so my thinking here is i could fly to bilbao, (40 bucks), see that, bus to san sebastian, get back to bilbao and then from there either fly to barcelona and head to valencia, or go meet up with one of my friends elsewhere in europe, before coming back and seeing valencia before i leave (since i am flying out of barcelona)

- thoughts? suggestions? i dunno? best way to get around / where to look?

god damnit, i should given myself another week

i had the time! the flight cost the same amount! oh well.

so. yeah help me out.

poo
Shazkar Shadowstorm on

Posts

  • VisionOfClarityVisionOfClarity Registered User regular
    edited May 2010
    - Don't leave Schiphol. It won't be worth the hassle for a couple of hours. You'll take the train downtown
    which isn't a long ride but you won't have time to do much other than grab a bite and then go back.
    Schiphol is a nice airport, I'd grab a book and chill out watching a movie on your laptop.


    - Call you CC companies and let them know you're traveling, twice. I called once and they still fucked it up.


    -Bring cash and keep it in a safe place with your passport. You don't want to rely on atm's. Also, bring a
    copy of your passport and keep it hidden somewhere you won't lose it in case you lose your passport. I
    also left a copy at home with my mom and one with my roomie.


    - Every hostel I stayed at had a place to lock up your shit. I used Student Universe for finding my hostels and I liked it better than STA, didn't use hostelworld.com.


    - Get an International Student ID from STA. I got a lot of discounts places with that thing.


    - For 4 months I brought something like this and a small
    backpack for my laptop. I probably could have gone smaller if I was smarter. If you fill that for 3 weeks
    you're bringing too much crap. Pack light, as light as you can. Nicer hostels will have a laundry room, use it.
    Pack at most like you're going somewhere for a week. Then do laundry at the end of the week.


    - I used Skype for calls back to the states and had a disposable cell for calls made to other European lines. I got it
    cheap and it worked well enough. I don't know if it would be worth doing for 3 wks but it would be helpful to
    have.

    VisionOfClarity on
  • ShogunShogun Hair long; money long; me and broke wizards we don't get along Registered User regular
    edited May 2010
    I will echo that if you're taking your bank card or credit card make sure they know where all you are going to be. My bank wanted to know what countries I would be in at what dates. American Express just wanted to know what countries I'd be in during the duration of the trip, but I still ended up getting phone calls from them in hong kong asking if it was me using my card.

    edit: regarding using a phone when we went to Asia my mate bought one of those Magic Jack things. I will not vouch for the product or the service, but it worked every time I had to make a phone call and was ridiculously cheap. Plug it into a USB port and you can call anywhere in the world.

    Shogun on
  • Shazkar ShadowstormShazkar Shadowstorm Registered User regular
    edited May 2010
    oh, yeah, i forgot to ask

    i do have an unlocked old phone at home we use for travel

    what's the deal with sim cards? especially prepaid sim cards?

    you went for 4 months? i am jealous. i had time for 6 weeks total probably, shoulda done that instead of just 3.

    Shazkar Shadowstorm on
    poo
  • VisionOfClarityVisionOfClarity Registered User regular
    edited May 2010
    See if you can push back your ticket. I did that with mine, it cost me an extra $100 but was worth the extra 4 weeks.

    The phone I had was a $30 STA phone that I added minutes to with my credit card. The minutes weren't cheap so I only used it for local calls once I realized how cheap Skype was and started calling home to the States with that.

    VisionOfClarity on
  • Shazkar ShadowstormShazkar Shadowstorm Registered User regular
    edited May 2010
    oh, also, since I am graduating in may, can i use the STA ID card, and can I get it within 3 weeks?

    because i forgot to mention that i leave on the 31st!


    edit: because i bought my tickets so last minute they are non-refundable and non-transferable

    Shazkar Shadowstorm on
    poo
  • VisionOfClarityVisionOfClarity Registered User regular
    edited May 2010
    Yup! As long as you are a current student now when you apply and it's good for one year.

    http://www.statravel.com/cps/rde/xchg/us_division_web_live/hs.xsl/student-discount-card.htm?wt.mc_id=US_ticker_cards

    VisionOfClarity on
  • CauldCauld Registered User regular
    edited May 2010
    oh, also, since I am graduating in may, can i use the STA ID card, and can I get it within 3 weeks?

    because i forgot to mention that i leave on the 31st!


    edit: because i bought my tickets so last minute they are non-refundable and non-transferable

    you should still be able to change the dates for a fee. Also you can use the STA card until you're 25 or something, even if you aren't actually a student (I think).

    Cauld on
  • PlushyCthulhuPlushyCthulhu Registered User regular
    edited May 2010
    I'm finishing up a trip in Europe and mostly used Hostelworld. It worked just fine for me - the main thing is to make sure the hostel has storage lockers (bring your own lock - some places have a lock, some you need your own) and wifi if you have a computer. Also check the comments to see what the atmosphere is like, especially if you are planning on meeting people or partying. Any place with a bar downstairs is usually a good place to meet fellow travelers.

    In Barcelona I stayed in Backpackers BCN Casanova, which was comfy and in a pretty decent location near La Ramba, but wasn't particularly social when I was there.

    Assuming you're not actually backpacking, your best bet is one carry-on sized bag with wheels for most of your stuff and a small daypack for food/camera/supplies during day trips. I packed fairly light for my 9 week trip (3 pants, 5 t-shirts, 1 dress shirt) and honestly I wish I had packed slightly more since my travel bag just stayed locked in the hostel room between train trips... If you don't have wheels then weight becomes more relevant.

    As for specific clothes, just make sure you have one thing you can wear to a nice restaurant and one thing you can wear clubbing (this can be the same). I went early enough that it wasn't shorts weather yet in Spain, but the summers there are hot so see what the weather is supposed to be like.

    I had absolutely no trouble being a solo traveler in Barcelona. Just don't be stupid - keep your passport safe (ideally on your person) and ideally have two sources of money, one of them not in your wallet. Say cash in wallet and atm card with passport. One credit card is good, I suppose you could take more than one just in case, but make sure you notify all relevant companies that you will be travelling.

    To prevent stealing - all your stuff should be with you or locked up or something you don't care about. Wallet in front pocket.

    Metro in Barcelona is excellent, and pretty cheap compared to other places. I think it was about 8 euro for a 10 trip ticket? The city is big too, so you will probably use it a lot. Touristy-wise, the old castle, park Guell and all the Gaudi stuff, and the La Sagrada Familia are all worth seeing. I totally don't remember which bars and such we went to, but try to stay off La Ramba for the most part - it is expensive and full of tourists.

    I would say 5 days is minimum, but honestly I could probably live there...

    PlushyCthulhu on
    Steam/LoL: plushycthulhu
  • Shazkar ShadowstormShazkar Shadowstorm Registered User regular
    edited May 2010
    Thanks guys.

    Plushy, out of curiosity, what cities did you hit up in your 9 weeks?

    Shazkar Shadowstorm on
    poo
  • PlushyCthulhuPlushyCthulhu Registered User regular
    edited May 2010
    Thanks guys.

    Plushy, out of curiosity, what cities did you hit up in your 9 weeks?

    Hehe, I went for quantity, especially toward the end. A friend was supposed to meet me in Amsterdam, so I rushed through Berlin and Prague to meet her on time, then the Volcano blew up, she got cancelled, and I wished I had more time in those places...

    Anyway : Paris -> Barcelona -> Valencia -> Madrid -> Zurich -> Munich -> Salzburg -> Budapest -> Vienna -> Prague -> Berlin -> Amsterdam -> Den Haag -> Copenhagen -> Stockholm -> Gothenburg -> Hamburg -> Cologne -> Bruges -> Brussels -> Antwerp, flying out of Amsterdam

    On Topic, Valencia was awesome, but I went during Las Fallas, so it was pretty much a party all the time, w/ parades + fireworks + burning statues.

    PlushyCthulhu on
    Steam/LoL: plushycthulhu
  • Shazkar ShadowstormShazkar Shadowstorm Registered User regular
    edited May 2010
    Oh, that is a shame, Berlin is one of the cities I've enjoyed most. Did you do most of your travel by train/bus?

    Shazkar Shadowstorm on
    poo
  • PlushyCthulhuPlushyCthulhu Registered User regular
    edited May 2010
    Oh, that is a shame, Berlin is one of the cities I've enjoyed most. Did you do most of your travel by train/bus?

    All of it by train. Had a 2 month eurorail pass. Spain sucked in that regard - had mandatory reservations for almost everything, and Paris->Barcelona and Madrid->Zurich had 50 euro reservation fees. Once I got out of Spain it was great though, Germany in particular has excellent train travel.

    PlushyCthulhu on
    Steam/LoL: plushycthulhu
  • Shazkar ShadowstormShazkar Shadowstorm Registered User regular
    edited May 2010
    Also, I'm pretty much stuck at 3 weeks:
    This ticket is non-refundable and non-changeable.
    This ticket's value cannot be used toward the price of a new ticket.
    Your will need to purchase any new airline tickets at current fares.
    Oh well, it is what it is, can still do lots in 3 weeks. And money will be less tight.

    Shazkar Shadowstorm on
    poo
  • ScalfinScalfin __BANNED USERS regular
    edited May 2010
    I've found that it's nice to have a bike when traveling. Maybe you could see if there are any rental chains where you can rent from one place and return it to another (so you can bike instead of taking the train).

    Scalfin on
    [SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]
    The rest of you, I fucking hate you for the fact that I now have a blue dot on this god awful thread.
  • SanderJKSanderJK Crocodylus Pontifex Sinterklasicus Madrid, 3000 ADRegistered User regular
    edited May 2010
    5 hours should be plenty of time to take a glance at Amsterdam. Basicly, Schiphol <-> Amsterdam CS is about 15mins by train (trains at least 8x / hour). Schiphol has a huge shopping center attached though, and I believe a detachment of the Rijksmuseum (biggest holder of golden era Dutch art, such as Rembrandts). There won't be enough to to do much though, apart from making the insanely touristy walk from CS to the Dam.

    I picked this off another forum:
    So yesterday was the big day. Right off the bat I ran into problems. My plane was two hours late landing.




    I was determined, however, to see Amsterdam. Here is what I learned from my layover.




    1) There are security checkpoints between terminal sections. If you land at F for example, and your departure is from B, there will be a security checkpoint between the two. This is especially important to know if you are using a locker to store your carryons, which is definitely recommended.




    Here's an example. You land at D terminal, store your gear, and leave the airport. Upon return you enter through B security checkpoint. YOu then must go through security to get to your locker, and again to return to your terminal. That is why I returned through D security, then only had to go through one more time to get to B terminal for my departure. YOu could also save yourself time on the end by going through security to your departure terminal before you get your locker.




    2) Storage lockers are HUGE. Don't worry about having enough room. IT's 5 Euros to use, make sure you have charge card or coins, it doesn't take bills.




    3) You have PLENTY of time. You will be intimidated by the lines coming in. When I was leaving toward the trains, I passed the security checkpoint coming in. It looked like a huge mess. Apppearances are deceiving. At every point in the airport lines were HUGE and intimidating and yet, without fail, they moved exceptionally fast.




    4) If you have to check-in for your transfer do so at the Transfer desk inside the terminal. There's no need to go out to the main ticket counter, even if you do not have boarding passes.




    5) Make sure to map out your route in town in advance. My major regret is forgetting my map in my luggage and needing to just wing it in town. I would have been able to see much more if I had remembered.




    6) Don't count on renting a bicycle to save time. MOst layover site seeing isn't far enough to need one, and the bike lines are LONG.




    7) Don't panic. If you just pay attention, stick to the plan, and refuse to give up, you can see Amsterdam on a 7 hour layover even if you are two hours late landing.




    It took me an hour to get out of the airport. If I had known some of the above it wouldn't have taken me nearly so long.




    Also, check out the museum in the airport, it's worth it.




    Now to enjoy my Brussels visit!

    Another thing to consider: The world championships soccer start on 11th of june. Even a group game will be a big deal in a country of choice, watching it from some central location. Not sure when exactly you are over here...


    Creditcards: Visa and Mastercard have the biggest penetration. AEX will work in most restaurants and hotels, but not all shops. (I know the Dutch market better then others of course) If you have a card with a Maestro logo on it, you should be able to withdraw funds from any ATM in the Eurozone.

    For sheer beauty, it's hard to beat northern Italy. Florence and the whole of Tuscany are just amazing, and your weather prospects are better as well.

    SanderJK on
    Steam: SanderJK Origin: SanderJK
  • KetarKetar Come on upstairs we're having a partyRegistered User regular
    edited May 2010
    Metro in Barcelona is excellent, and pretty cheap compared to other places. I think it was about 8 euro for a 10 trip ticket? The city is big too, so you will probably use it a lot. Touristy-wise, the old castle, park Guell and all the Gaudi stuff, and the La Sagrada Familia are all worth seeing. I totally don't remember which bars and such we went to, but try to stay off La Ramba for the most part - it is expensive and full of tourists.

    I would say 5 days is minimum, but honestly I could probably live there...

    7,85 for the 10 ride Barcelona Metro ticket - just got back from a short trip there on Sunday. Personally, I felt like I saw everything I wanted to see within the city itself within about 3 days, but more time than the 4 days I did have would have been nice just to do things in a more leisurely manner, relax, and enjoy more local food. It is a great city and you really can't go wrong with more time there.

    I wouldn't recommend eating on La Rambla, and yes it is full of tourists, but I'd still recommend walking it at least once just for the experience. Also quite a number of historical sites and more reasonable shopping/dining/drinking on the side streets branching off of the main drag. And the Mercat de la Boqueria is a must visit just across from the Liceu Metro stop on La Rambla - we stopped in there as often as twice in one day for fruit juices and various food goodies.

    Sagrada Familia was rather disappointing due to the large amount of scaffolding obscuring views of a large portion of the interior and (particularly) the exterior. That and shelling out 29 Euros for 2 tickets in and 1 ride up in the elevator for 2. Still it's an impressive structure, and one you should visit.

    Ketar on
  • Shazkar ShadowstormShazkar Shadowstorm Registered User regular
    edited May 2010
    would it be totally silly of me to fly and meet my friend in munich for 4-5 days and then fly back

    Shazkar Shadowstorm on
    poo
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