Hostelling tips from A Canadian Chicks Guide to Backpacking.
Arrive at hostels
early in the morning. Some hostels are full by noon and one great hostel
in Florence was consistently full by 9:30am!
If you are going to
arrive into a city in the evening, try to have reservations.
are often unnecessary or unavailable, it is still a good idea to call
the hostel you are wishing to stay at a few days before you arrive to
find out if they expect to have any beds available. This is a good opportunity
to ask what time you should arrive if you want to be sure that you will
get a bed.
If you make reservations,
tell the hostel what time you expect to arrive. If you will be arriving
late, for example not until 8pm, and you do not inform them of that, it
is likely that early in the evening (or even in the afternoon) the hostel
will assume that you are a no-show and give your bed away.
I found that the best
hostels and ones where I met the most travelers were hostels that had
their own bar. These hostels are often college-aged backpacker havens.
More importantly, a bar or some other common area with a social atmosphere
is essential for travelers to be able to mingle and meet each other. Otherwise,
you may be restricted to only meeting the other people staying in your
Hostels with kitchens
can save you a substantial amount of money on food expenses as preparing
your own food is always cheaper. And while I consistently picnicked from
the supermarket even when there was no kitchen available, it was nice
to have a hot meal every so often. Kitchens are common in hostels in Northern
Europe, but not in hostels in Southern Europe.
Ask other travelers where they have stayed and what they liked or didn't like. Word of mouth is the best source of information to find great hostels. The best and newest ones are often not listed in any guidebook.
When we arrived in Austria (by way of Eurobus - a tour bus where you can buy a ticket for a period of time that lets you travel around a circuit of various destinations in Europe for intervals of 2 days), we were in Innsbruck, and stayed for only two days, as Austria in itself was more of a stop over than a destination for us, however, it was a very clean, neat+tidy kind of city. It was small, but it had a very good, clean hostel, with a yummy breakkie, and a good transit city.
When we came into Italy, we came first to Venice, then Florence, then Rome, then took an overnight train from Rome to BRindisi, which is a ferry port to Greece. Depending on how much time your daughter has, she may want to stick to the big cities and see as much as she can, or go to smaller villages, for a more "Italian" feel. When I went, I basically stayed to the main cities.
I would definitely go to Venice again, certainly a city to fall in love with, if you're not in love when you get there! Lots of quaint shops, and good markets as well. Gondola rides are about $100 per boat for a certain period of time, if I can remember correctly, and it's not based on per person, but rather by boat, so if she's turned off on the price, she can try to barter, or gather a group of friends, which is easy to do when you're travelling!
Florence was another beautiful city, which has tons of galleries, and a beautiful river with lots of bridges (like Venice too!).. You can find Michealangelo's "David" in one of the museums, and lots of other stuff. The hostel there is BEAUTIFUL! Looking back, that was one of my favorite places to stay, it's location is a beautifully restored building, and they have a great little place to eat inside as well, cheap!
You can also get to Pisa from Florence, but I forget how now, however, any decent guide book that's worth their salt can help. ( I would recommend "The Berklely Guides" - as they are quite honest, sometimes to the point of being blunt, but they are also quite funny!, as well as "The Lonely Planet", which are also Great! That may be the best gift you can give her, and certainly with time enough to research places to go in advance which may help her plan her time better. )
Rome was also another fabulous city, The Vatican City was great, and seeing the Sistine Chapel was definitely a highlight of my whole trip. Seeing Mt Vesuvius near Naples was also very cool, and if you go to the MT., make sure to visit the actual museum in Naples city, as I have regretted not going ever since I came back.
Greece was amazing as well. A favorite place for travellers is obviously the Islands, however, they are also quite "touristy". Lots of young people go to "The Pink Palace" on Corfu, which is actually a Hostel, but I think's it's reputation as an all night party is why people go there. My favorite place was called "Paleochora", and it's on Crete, the most southern island in Greece, and Paleochora is the most southern village. I can not say enough good things about this beautiful place, and if I were ever to get married, I'd love to go back there - it's sooo pretty!
All in all, I'm not sure what else to say about the actual countries, however if I may give your daughter some advice, some of which I"m sure she's heard already:
- most men are rude at the best of times, and vulgar at the worst. Remember this in any country you are in, (even at home!), and be careful, travel with someone, don't walk alone in the dark, and be wary of strangers...common sense right? In Italy, you can say " Va Via", which means " *&%$ OFF"...
- Become a member of Hostelling International (HI) if you need accomodations. They set the standards for how things should be internationally, also, members get better prices per night. Lock up any valuables, and anything that is important RE: Passport, Travellers Cheques, Visa's, Airline Tickets, etc....preferable if you can sleep with these things in a pouch under your pillow...
- Get an International Student Identity Card ( ISIC) if you can, as it helps out with discounts on stuff...
- Bring something safe to put your money in, other than a wallet ( I recommend a travel pouch which can be worn around your neck, and under your clothing. - pickpockets and thieves are rampant, especially in Italy and Greece. Watch out for begging children, and women with children as well, as they will generally look for the sympathy vote, and take advantage of you!
- Bring along one of those lingerie bags to keep your dirty stuff in, and also, one of those tiny, vending machine boxes of Laundry detergent, as you just never know when you may need it!
- If you are travelling on overnight train trips, be wary of almost everyone, especially the notorious trip from Rome to Brindisi - it can be a little sketchy, so it may be best to travel with someone....
bring a lock for your back pack, so people can't get into it, without huge effort...keep the lock on it at all times when you are travelling. This is a great deterrent...