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  1. #1
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    4 months in Europe: What am I not going to realize till I'm there?

    So my partner and I are going on a four month tour, leaving in just over a month. We'll be spending a week in Iceland before flying into Norway. From there we'll be biking Oslo--Copenhagen--Berlin--Prague--Vienna--Budapest--Venice--Barcelona. I've never been to Europe, and she hasn't been since she was a kid. I'm pretty confident with bike maintenance, so what's got me most curious/concerned is what sort of bicycle infrastructure/lack thereof I'm going to encounter.

    Obviously, every one of those countries will have different infrastructure, but for those that have toured in these areas--what are some things to watch out for? Any countries that are especially dangerous for highway cycling? We're planning on tent camping as often as we can--how does that fare in major cities?

    Basically, like the title says: what do you wish someone could've told you, before you found it out on your own?

    Thanks all!
    Garth

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    Senior Member himespau's Avatar
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    What bikes are you going to use? Ones from there, or are you taking some with you. Sounds like an awesome trip.
    Punctuation is important. It's the difference between "I helped my uncle, Jack, off a horse" and "I helped my uncle Jack off a horse"


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    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    Many places theirs is better than US.

    Might have to visit the Visitors center in town central , and get info on specifics ,
    then go back out to where the campgrounds are. [mY tours were without cell phones and I pads ]

    May be better to lock up your touring bike in the Hostel bike shed,

    and take public transport around the city is better

    than having someone harvest parts off your bike while it is locked up,

    going in Museums and the like
    Last edited by fietsbob; 04-25-12 at 03:20 PM.

  4. #4
    Travelling hopefully chasm54's Avatar
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    Well, first of all I envy you your tour. You are going to have a fantastic time.

    It is impossible to generalise about infrastructure, except to say that almost all the countries you are visiting are more bike-friendly than the States. there are simply more cyclists around, more interest in cycling as a sport, more tolerance of cyclists. The exception to this will be Venice: not much cycling potential there. LOL. Certainly the most beautiful city I have seen, though.

    The big difference between Europe and the States is how easily, with a bit of planning and decent maps, one can avoid highways. Myriad small settlements since Roman times have led to to a network of small roads. One of the things that surprised me when touring in the USA was how often there was only one route from A to B. that is rarely the case over here. You can choose the road less travelled most of the time.

    Camping isn't easy in big cities. You can search for campsites on-line, there may be convenient options. But I'd strongly recommend that when visiting cities you look for the international hostels. They are often excellent and very good value.
    There have been many days when I haven't felt like riding, but there has never been a day when I was sorry I rode.

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    Quote Originally Posted by himespau View Post
    What bikes are you going to use? Ones from there, or are you taking some with you. Sounds like an awesome trip.
    I've got a 700c LHT and she's got a (pristine) (jaw-dropping) Miyata 1000 that we're putting on the flight with us.

    Something that has been mentioned by one friend--we don't know quite what the timeline is looking like, so we've got one-way tickets and plan on purchasing a ticket back when we know where & when we'll be flying back. She goes back to school late September, while I'm funemployed as of 4 days before the flight. What's the likelihood of getting detained at customs?

  6. #6
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    Post 9/11/01Your name on the no fly list? get refundable tickets , if it is even mistaken for someone else the interviews and cavity searches will not help you make your flight

  7. #7
    Senior Member Chris Pringle's Avatar
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    Wow! What a great trip!

    Concur that it might be better to pay for a more expensive refundable R/T ticket or a ticket that will allow you to change return dates without too many hassles or high fees. 9/11 guidelines are pretty severe as fietsbob mentions and anyone flying on a one way ticket on a long-haul flight is subject to much higher scrutiny by the TSA right in the U.S. just before departure. Furthermore, some countries in the European Union will not even issue a tourist visa if one cannot prove at the port of entry that one is returning back to its country of origin. Those countries outside of the European Union may have different guidelines (possibly even stricter.) Check with the consulate of the countries you'll be visiting. One thing is for sure, you'll have avoid all these headaches with a round-trip ticket back to Seattle.
    Last edited by Chris Pringle; 04-25-12 at 03:57 PM.

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    Please do realize that once you leave Norway you are entering the Schengen zone where Americans can stay for 90 days without a visa, but then must leave for 90 days before returning.

    Denmark is amazing for cycling but lodging isn't exactly cheap. Everybody speaks english. Everybody.

    That is completely untrue about northern Germany though, exactly one hotel clerk spoke English during the 4 nights I spent there.

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    Also, my buddy and I are leaving from Berlin (we're both from Warsaw) on a two month trip that covers yours pretty well: Berlin-Prague-Vienna/Bratislava-Budapest-Northern Italy-Southern France-Spain-Portugal (well, everything but Prague and Portugal are subject to change).

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    I'd reccomend www.couchsurfing.org if you haven't heard of it.

  11. #11
    Senior Member Chris Pringle's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Omiak View Post
    I'd reccomend www.couchsurfing.org if you haven't heard of it.
    Yes! Or even better, warmshowers.org which is exclusively for people bicycle touring.

  12. #12
    2 Fat 2 Furious contango's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chris Pringle View Post
    Wow! What a great trip!

    Concur that it might be better to pay for a more expensive refundable R/T ticket or a ticket that will allow you to change return dates without too many hassles or high fees. 9/11 guidelines are pretty severe as fietsbob mentions and anyone flying on a one way ticket on a long-haul flight is subject to much higher scrutiny by the TSA right in the U.S. just before departure. Furthermore, some countries in the European Union will not even issue a tourist visa if one cannot prove at the port of entry that one is returning back to its country of origin. Those countries outside of the European Union may have different guidelines (possibly even stricter.) Check with the consulate of the countries you'll be visiting. One thing is for sure, you'll have avoid all these headaches with a round-trip ticket back to Seattle.
    A friend of mine travelled using a one-way ticket a couple of times on the basis he would book the return flight once he knew how long he was staying. That was a flight from the US to the UK. Getting into the UK wasn't a problem as he's got a UK passport. He travelled on a one-way ticket bought a couple of hours before he flew, had no checked luggage, flying out of New York, and didn't have any problems with airport security.

    If you are a tourist without a return ticket you can expect to be questioned in some detail about your plans to return. I wouldn't necessarily say you will be denied entry but you'll almost certainly need to prove you've got some solid ties to your homeland.

    Norway is expensive. Seriously expensive. Sweden is one of the more expensive countries in Europe and Norwegians who live close to the border shop in Sweden because it's so cheap there (relatively speaking).

    I'm sure you've already considered the difference in climate between Norway and Spain. Norway gets seriously cold in the winter time. In the summer time they have the midnight sun but you'll need to be a fair way north of Oslo to see it. Southern parts of Norway get a lot of sun-seekers in the summer time. Spain (especially the south) is a destination of choice for lots of sun-seekers.

    You'll find some pretty hilly terrain along the way.

    I can't comment on bike infrastructure in the areas you've specifically described but would suggest knowing in advance which roads a bicycle is legally allowed to use. I tend to classify roads into three categories - the ones I'm not allowed to use, the ones I'd only use if there was absolutely no other way, and the ones I'd use without too much concern.

    From my (limited) experience of continental Europe and my experience of living in the UK I'd expect you to have problems with camping in cities, simply because there isn't the space for it. If you can find yourself a small space in a secluded area you might get away with stealth camping but try and find out a little about the area first. In the UK the kind of places that seem secluded are sometimes used by teenagers as a place to get drunk and rowdy at night.
    "For a list of ways technology has failed to improve quality of life, press three"

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    In Norway you can camp on almost any wild ground but in the South, campable ground can be hard to find.
    Many small towns have commercial sites (see local tourist information). The city of Stavanger even has a campsite in the main city park.
    Denmark has a fantastic network of free or low cost (3 euro) sites. They have toilet and water and some have showers. They may be in forestry areas, farms, or small town sports grounds. Tourist information have the guidebook: Overnatning i der frie.
    If you camp most nights and cook you can keep the costs down. My staple food in Norway was smoked mackeral. Dont leave Norway or Denmark with coins in your pocket, spend them on some coffee and cakes before you enter the Euro-zone.
    Wild camping in the rest of Western Europe is very hard, you need to be stealthy or camp at high altitude.
    There are loads of campsites, some municipal, some small commercial and some huge holiday sites with full tourist facilities.
    With any big campsite, you shouldn't leave valuables in your tent.
    All those Euro countries have good cycle networks for tourists and most small towns have good bike shops.

    Make sure your credit /debit cards have a chip and pin security system. I usually just get local currency from bank ATM machines but use one at (or better, inside) a bank so you can retrieve any swallowed cards and it is better secured against scams.
    Make sure your mobile phone is european compatible.
    Last edited by MichaelW; 04-25-12 at 06:04 PM.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by jedrek View Post
    Please do realize that once you leave Norway you are entering the Schengen zone where Americans can stay for 90 days without a visa, but then must leave for 90 days before returning.

    Denmark is amazing for cycling but lodging isn't exactly cheap. Everybody speaks english. Everybody.

    That is completely untrue about northern Germany though, exactly one hotel clerk spoke English during the 4 nights I spent there.
    Norway is in the Schengen Zone. OP, Schengen facts here: http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_p.../cis_4361.html

    In Denmark, you can stay at designated cycling campgrounds (usually someone's back yard or similar) for a 'tyver' (about $3.50).

    Ah, the joy on the East German's face when he discovered that the English word for 'nudel' was 'noodle' (regardless, they weren't very good): http://o-slashy.blogspot.com/2009/10/day-2.html

  15. #15
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    To keep my pocket less picked..i used a money belt,

    did s bit of stripping to get to it under rain gear

    so it was done in the bank.
    Last edited by fietsbob; 04-25-12 at 07:14 PM.

  16. #16
    Senior Member Doug64's Avatar
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    My wife and I spent 3 months last summer covering some of the same ground you are planning on riding. We rode from Lisbon to Amsterdam via of Spain, France, Switzerland, Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands.

    Leave time for serendipity.

    We found a GPS unit loaded with Garmin's City Navigator Europe Maps to be a really good tool. It covers all the roads, and some trails. It was especially useful for navigating through the larger cities (and some not so large). It also has a comprehensive list of campgrounds and other types of lodging in the Points of Interest directory. Even with the GPS unit we ended up mailing home 11 pounds of maps. The large scale maps which show good detail are only useful for a couple of days of riding. In some places finding good Shell or Michelin maps was not always easy. We rode through a pretty good stretch of Germany without a good map. FWIW I used a Garmin 60csx, and it worked great. We did very little route planning before we left. We just knew the cities and places we wanted to see, and where we needed to be to catch our flight home.

    It sounds like you are flying Icelandair. We had round trip tickets, and took advantage of their layover option on our return to spend 3 days in Iceland.

    Good luck on your venture.

  17. #17
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    http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/p..._id=96223&v=Gh

    Some of my thoughts on cycle touring in middle Europe over 4 months. Many points will apply to the countries in your tour.

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    Great info, Steve, but I disagree as far as Lidl goes - you can get some really excellent products there REALLY cheap. Selection is awful, but it's the trade-off.

  19. #19
    2 Fat 2 Furious contango's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jedrek View Post
    Great info, Steve, but I disagree as far as Lidl goes - you can get some really excellent products there REALLY cheap. Selection is awful, but it's the trade-off.
    Lidl can be pretty hit-and-miss, in the UK at least.

    Some of their products are apparently every bit as good as branded products but a small fraction of the price. Others are so bad it's a wonder they lasted long enough to get put on the shelves. I've found the majority of their stuff is good enough that it's worth a punt on the basis the odd times they miss the mark completely the prices are low enough to just chuck something out. Just make a mental note of what's good and what's bad!
    "For a list of ways technology has failed to improve quality of life, press three"

  20. #20
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    For Ss&Gs I did a couple of quick searches and found a campground very close to the center of Copenhagen:

    http://www.bellahoj-camping.dk/ukpladsen.htm

    And at least one in Oslo:

    http://www.ekebergcamping.no/index-english.html

    And one on the "mainland" of Venice:

    http://www.ecvacanze.it/en/campingvillagejolly

    And one in the center of Budapest (there are others):

    http://www.hallercamping.hu/index.html

    Prague:

    http://www.prazacka.com/

    Berlin:

    http://www.hettler-lange.de/index2.html


    "The big difference between Europe and the States is how easily, with a bit of planning and decent maps, one can avoid highways. Myriad small settlements since Roman times have led to to a network of small roads."

    I found that to be the case when touring in Andalucia. Many days I simply used the Michelin map for the region and followed the smallest roads between points.

  21. #21
    Senior Member djyak's Avatar
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    Visit the main train stations in the larger areas, called the Hauptbahnofs in Germany or Hbf. They'll have plenty of cycling maps, and maps of the area for free.

  22. #22
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    I just have some short tips. When you are travelling in Sweden: avoid the 2+1 roads. They are narrow and big trucks comes very close. It's quite easy to get away from them but the trip can be a bit longer. I haven't travelled too much in west Sweden so I don't know the roads very well. The other tip is to google "Allemansrätten". Simplified it means you can overnight almost anywhere in the nature for one night and then move on, as long as you don't damage it.
    "When there is no more room in Hell, the dead will walk the Earth."

  23. #23
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    This has been great--thanks for all the advice.

    One question that I'm now somewhat concerned about--the Schengen area only allows for 90 days of travel within a 6 month period, i.e., I couldn't just exit and re-enter the next day. To those of you who have done longer trips in the zone, how did you bypass this requirement? I can't find anything from googling about it.

  24. #24
    2 Fat 2 Furious contango's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by garthb View Post
    This has been great--thanks for all the advice.

    One question that I'm now somewhat concerned about--the Schengen area only allows for 90 days of travel within a 6 month period, i.e., I couldn't just exit and re-enter the next day. To those of you who have done longer trips in the zone, how did you bypass this requirement? I can't find anything from googling about it.
    I thought you were allowed 180 days to visit. Things may have changed since then, but when my wife first came to the UK on a tourist visa (she wasn't my wife at the time) she was allowed 180 days.
    "For a list of ways technology has failed to improve quality of life, press three"

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by contango View Post
    I thought you were allowed 180 days to visit. Things may have changed since then, but when my wife first came to the UK on a tourist visa (she wasn't my wife at the time) she was allowed 180 days.
    The visa and visa exemption provisions vary wildly between countries. As to garth, you may well have to apply for a different visa from the outset to enable you to stay longer.

    We are currently using this website to assist us in our determinations on visas for the 20 or so countries we intend on visiting on our tour:

    http://www.visahq.com.au/

    You may find a similar site in your own country suited to your needs. And be aware, that provisions for each country can change without notice, so it's worth keeping a regular check on such things while touring.
    Dream. Dare. Do.

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