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1st time in Europe for solo female in 30's - where to go?

Montreal, Canada
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1st time in Europe for solo female in 30's - where to go?

Hello everyone!

I have all of May off (4 weeks) and I want to go to Europe but since I've never been there I can't make a decision as to where to go! There are too many great options. So I thought maybe you guys could help. Here's what you should know:

-I'll be flying from Montreal, Canada

-Budget around 3000$ including flight. Last time I checked there were still flights around 1000$ or slightly under, depending on the destination, so that leaves about 2000$ for all the rest, but the cheaper the better!

-I'd prefer to fly back from the same airport I'll fly into since one RT ticket is cheaper than two one-way tickets

-I have no problem sleeping in dorms and on overnight buses/trains to save on the lodging

-I'm not a fan of all-inclusives/big resorts/organized trips/cruise ships

-I'm more of a backpack kind of traveler, but I do enjoy some level of comfort (obviously!)

-I like diving/snorkeling

-I want my trip to include some beach time but I also enjoy sightseeing, hiking, exploring cities, visiting museums and cultural/historical sites, shopping in markets, eating local food and drinking good wine/beer/whatever it is that people drink over there.

-I don't want to rent a car (I'm not even sure if I'm allowed to drive in Europe?)

Here's the ideas I've had so far:

1) Follow the Mediterranean coast from Barcelona to South of France (with a detour to Toulouse because I know people there) and maybe Italy (and then fly back to BCN I guess?). Or start further South in Spain (Malaga for instance) and make my way up to South of France, or the other way around (keeping in mind that I have to go back to my starting point)

2) Tour Italy

3) Fly to Athens and then to Skiathos right away where I have family. Stay in Skiathos for 1 week or so, then go to I-don't-know-where for 2 weeks-ish and finish with a few days in Athens. The in-between Skiathos and Athens is bogging me because I feel like touring the Greek islands is very expensive and very...well...''touristy'', and I don't know if the mainland is worth visiting (I'm sure it's beautiful, just not sure that's what I'm looking for). I was thinking about maybe going to Turkey but I don't want to go there alone which implies going on an organized tour, which could be fine, but then again, can I go from Skiathos to Turkey? And if yes, how much would that be?

4) Fly into Athens, stay there to visit for a few days, then off to Skiathos for a week, then hop on a train through the Balkans and back down to Athens

I know there's a lot of elements in my post. Hopefully some of you will be able to make sense out of it and make helpful suggestions!

Thanks in advance!

kent
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for Kent, Solo Travel
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1. Re: 1st time in Europe for solo female in 30's - where to go?

Eve... I don't know how much your spending budget is in Euro's, which is one of the main currencies for Europe, but given that you have family in Skiathos, I'd suggest a month in Greece is probably the most economical use of your money...... and provide you plenty of variety.

If you don't already have a guide book/map of Greece and the Greek Islands, this would be a good time to get one.Greece is well served by an excellent ferry system, and using the ferries would enable you see some of the other chains of Greek Island.

Looking at what you specifically wanted from your trip, I'd say that Greece and the Greek Islands would tick all the boxes, and by going in May, you will certainly avoid the start of the main tourist season, which is at it's height in July and August, when all the schools break for the summer holidays.

As for flights, you could consider "open jaw" tickets, which is where you fly into one destination and back from another with the same airline. This is cheaper than buying two single flights.

Skyscanner is a reputable flights search engine, and the links from it will take you to the booking sites . If you identify an airline that fits your route choice, it may be worth going to that airlines own website and putting in a variety of dates to see if there are cheaper departure /return dates, and for any sale alerts.... and join their loyalty scheme... you'll get points for long haul flights that may come in useful for further trips to Europe!

There are some extremely knowledgable contributors to this forum, whose indepth knowledge of Greece would be valuable to you, but until they post here, I'd suggest having a good of the information and reviews in the various Greece, Skiathos and Athens forms. There may be a link to the ferry service timetable in the Athens forum.

Edited: 20 April 2013, 09:15
Delphi,Greece
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2. Re: 1st time in Europe for solo female in 30's - where to go?

You talk about May 2013, in 2 weeks' time??? I think you should make some plans soon and book your flights while you can!

2000 Canadian $ is about 1500 Euro for 4 weeks, ~ 50-53 euro/day. To be honest with you, in most of Europe this budget will allow hostel stays, self catering, a site admission here and there, occasionaly a beer or two, but not lots of moving around or flexibility or expensive activities like diving... I think that as far as staying with family is an option, this will help making your budget go further, plus locals will show you around things that a visitor would hardly see.

Greece is a very interesting option, note though that Greek Easter 2013 is 5th May. If you plan to arrive around this date, you need to make transport and stay arrangements asap! Skiathos for the time been has ferry connections only to surrounding islands on Sporades group and on mainland Agios Konstantinos and Volos. You could always go to other group of islands through mainland though,or do a circular route Athens-Skiathos-Central/Northern Greece-Istanbul-Turkish coast-some Greek islands-Athens. Many options here.

Greek islands are not expensive and not necessarily "touristy", especially on May. You should avoid far too many connections and you'll be fine. Greek mainland has lots to offer to, you may want to google places such as Volos,Pelion, Meteora, Thessaloniki, Pella,Vergina,Xanthi, Komotini, Alexandroupoli...

You may want to check greeka.com and greek-islands.us for some inspiration...

Montreal, Canada
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3. Re: 1st time in Europe for solo female in 30's - where to go?

Thanks a lot for your answers! I decided to go to Greece and stay with my aunt in Skiathos for a week or so. Then I'll take it from there. Will it be Turkey, a tour of the Greek islands or Mainland Greece? Who knows!

Delphi,Greece
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4. Re: 1st time in Europe for solo female in 30's - where to go?

I strongly suggest to have a look on the Greece forum here in TA. Check especially the stickys at top of the forum page for some generic info and then look on various trip reports to get an idea . Read through sub-forums on areas that migth interest you. Use the search box at top right of the page to find related topics to your questions ... If you still need some help open a new thread with a representative title and providing as many specifics as possible. We are a very friendly team over there to Greece forum,so don't hesitate to ask : )

If you decide to do some island hopping, Thomas Cook Island Hoping guidebook is a good place to start in order to get an idea of how ferry system works.

Edited: 24 April 2013, 09:21
Montreal, Canada
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5. Re: 1st time in Europe for solo female in 30's - where to go?

Thank you!

Delphi,Greece
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6. Re: 1st time in Europe for solo female in 30's - where to go?

You are welcome, enjoy your trip !

7. Re: 1st time in Europe for solo female in 30's - where to go?

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