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I'm an undergraduate student, and upon graduating from my university a year from now, I want to travel solo across Europe.

I want to be on this vacation for a month and a half. The catch is that I don't want the trip to be completely planned beforehand - for a sense of 'adventure'. Applying for a Schengen tourist visa would mean that I would have to show a detailed travel itinerary with hostels I'd plan to stay in.

Some questions:

  1. Now I don't want to decide on hostels beforehand - I would know which countries I will visit and in what order, but I might, at some point, choose to travel to some random city and stay in a hostel there. Will the consulate be okay with such semi-unplanned travel?

  2. I have been saving up money for such a trip since the last two years through various internships and projects - I have about 7000 USD that I'm willing to burn. Is this amount enough for such a time period? Should I consider a shorter duration? I'm willing to settle with really cheap accommodation; I don't care much about luxury.

  3. Are there trans-Europe vehicle rental agencies that can loan me a motorbike which I can collect from point A and ride till point B, where I could return it?

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Wow, 7000$ really is a lot for backpacking! I would consider travelling longer, or lowering the budget ;-) ... Btw, you should specify where you're from, as that is quite important to be able to answer the visum part. –  fretje Jul 25 '11 at 10:24
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I used to budget $1000 per month for backpacking in cheap countries. Europe is not cheap but last year I managed 6 months on $6000 by taking a more extreme budget approach including hitchhiking. This year I'm trying to make the same amount last a year by going even more extreme. Anyway if you are only half as extreme as I was last year $7k is easily enough for 3.5 months so you'll do very well burning that in a month and a half! –  hippietrail Jul 25 '11 at 11:57
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@Aditya: Well it does depend what countries. Switzerland and Norway are very expensive. London and Dublin were too when I was last there. Berlin is very cheap for Europe. Eastern Europe is of course cheaper, especially Bulgaria and Romania where I am now. Buses are cheaper than trains and ride sharing in Germany is cheaper than both. Hostels are still appearing like wildfire, especially in East Europe. Don't worry too much about the money unless you're buying big ticket items, taking high speed trains all over the place, etc. –  hippietrail Jul 25 '11 at 13:44
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@Aditya: You seem to be very unsure of how exactly to budget. Take some time to look at standard hostel prices in each city on hostelworld.com to find out which cities are more expensive. That's accommodation. Look at other questions on this site on rail travel within EU for more information on transport expenses. And $7000 is a LOT of money, you won't be spending that much unless you really like to splurge. –  Ankur Banerjee Jul 25 '11 at 14:15
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@Aditya: If you don't get an answer to the motorbike rental question I recommend you split that part out to another question where it will get more attention. It seems to be hard to answer which to me is the sign of a great question. Buying a used bike might be another possibility. Travellers do this a lot in the US and Australia so I assume Europe too. –  hippietrail Jul 26 '11 at 6:37
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4 Answers

Reply to #2:

A basic normal hostel should cost 20...25 Euro/Night in Western Europe, plan another 10Euro/Day for food. You could probably travel at 1000Euro/month.

Reply to #3:

I don't know about any rental agencies who would rent out motorbikes in Europe. Motorbikes are for people who have to commute to work each day, or for students who need to get to school.

Either you rent a car (Europcar, Hertz, Sixt), or you take a train. Those rental agencies usually have a office at each airport or at train stations in big cities, and you should be able to get a car for a 1-way trip and drop it off in another town, but there might be a surcharge.

I don't know what you need to get an european driving permit, but if you are from India keep in mind that most of the countries drive on the other side of the road. My advice would be to take the train: it's more relaxing, gets you everywhere and it's most likely cheaper than renting a car and gets you there faster if you take the express train.

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Last year in Germany I paid less than 20 euro. 15 or 16 is about the cheapest bargain price I suppose unless inflation took care of that in the last twelve months. I don't think it's our place to recommend motorcyclists not ride in Europe though. I've definitely come across many long distance riders in all parts of the world including Europe but I have no ideas about how to rent one so I think that part is a great question for this site. –  hippietrail Jul 26 '11 at 6:34
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As a motorcyclist from Europe who's not a student or commuter, there are loads of people who ride motorbikes. You might be thinking of mopeds. There are loads of motorbikers around Europe who ride bikes. Here in Ireland it's €100 per day to hire a motorbike. –  Rory Jul 26 '11 at 14:18
    
10€/d for food? Sorry, that's not enough in most European countries, unless you're willing to live on water and bread. –  vartec Aug 31 '11 at 14:27
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10€/d if you buy and cook something from the supermarket - didn't mean street food or restaurants. –  iHaveacomputer Aug 31 '11 at 21:22
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@vartec: Most hostels around the world have a kitchen for guests where you can cook your own food. Many backpackers on a budget never eat in restaurants but always cook. Getting a few people to cook together makes this even cheaper. –  Peter Hahndorf Dec 29 '11 at 19:01
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The usual way for European students to backpack across Europe is to buy an Interrail pass and travel by train. 30 countries during one month in first class costs less than 1000€. Railways are very efficient in Europe.

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Yeah, interrailing is excellent - you can just hop on and hop off whenever. Once, we hit Vienna and it was terrible weather, so we turned around and got on the next train to Munich :) –  Spedge Jul 28 '11 at 10:22
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Your budget is more than sufficient.

Regarding the visa; I've never heard that you need to specify your intended itinerary. It is the very nature of the Schengen space that you can freely travel between all the countries that are part of it. You need to get the Schengen visa from the country that you are planning to initially enter.

I would second the opinion to use railways as the main transport vehicle. Renting a motorbike might be an option to explore the surroundings, specially in southern Europe (Corsica, Greece, Italy). But bear in mind, that in the big cities traffic can be overwhelming. But then again, it might be relaxing for you if your're used to Indian cities' traffic :).

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You never heard of an itinerary because you most likely don't need a visa ;-) Schengen is about free travel once you are “in” but it isn't particularly open to the outside. –  Annoyed Apr 6 at 5:50
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To answer your specific questions:

1) even if your consulate requires such an itinerary, don't worry too much about it. Once you arrive, no one will ask you about it unless you happen to come in contact with the police (which if you stick to the law should be extremely rare). Worst case scenario: book a hostel for the whole time somewhere in Eastern Europe. make sure they have a refund policy and just cancel the stay after you get there. Then you are free to go and stay wherever you want, as long as you leave Schengen area on time.

2) You can make things as cheap or as expensive as you wish. I traveled for 6 months on 2,5 EUR a day, but let me tell you that is not easy at all. Obviously, that is extreme. But if you couchsurf and hitchhike (or buy a motorbike instead of renting one) you can cut your budget quite a lot. 7000USD is enough for 3,5 months of extremely comfortable traveling if you take care of what you do a little bit. Eastern Europe is cheaper then Western Europe though, so it also depends on where you go.

3) I'd say that buying and selling is probably far cheaper then renting. Especially renting from A and returning to B is usually quite expensive.

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