Enjoying NW Europe on the cheap?
May 19, 2006 10:14 AM   Subscribe

TravelFilter: This summer I and 3 friends are planning on travelling around part of Europe by train and are looking for advice on the main areas we plan to stay in. Information on hostels or other cheap accommodation (first hand if possible) would be great (more inside)

We are students in the UK and are planning on getting the Interrail pass for Zone E (France, Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg) so we can travel with relative freedom for 16 days.

We plan to stay in these cities primarily (although advice on other places in the general area would be accepted):

Lille (2 nights)
Brussels (3 nights)
Amsterdam (4 nights)
Luxembourg City (1 night)
Northern France including Paris (6 nights)

What I am looking for in particular are cheap (in the vicinity of €20 to €30 per night) hostels in each of the first 4 cities and also general advice for places to stay/see in Northern France.

Any other advice from people who have had InterRail or Eurail passes before would also be appreciated.

Many thanks
posted by knapah to Travel & Transportation (9 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Not many direct recommendations here, but just some pointers.. For €20 to €30 per night, your best recommendations are going to come from other travellers as you go (especially since hostels can change from one month to the next) and forums like those at The Lonely Planet.

That's a pretty low budget, although if you're willing to pool your money together (for example, spend your collective €80-€120 per night for a room that can take four people or two rooms with two each) then your options (and comfort) will be greatly increased if you're happy with sharing in that way (better than sharing with strangers in hostel dorms, IMHO, but opinions will vary!).

In Northern France, I'd recommend Arras and Amiens, particularly if you're into history. Amiens Cathedral is amongst the most epic cathedrals in the world.

From recent reports from friends (though I haven't been there) I'd give Brussels a skip, unless there's some specific reason to go there. I noticed you gave three days to it, which hints you have some motive. I'd say it'd be worth trimming it and spending extra time in Amsterdam (which tends to get nothing but good reports).
posted by wackybrit at 10:30 AM on May 19, 2006

Response by poster: ah, damn. yeah, i meant to say a 4 bed room is fine, and possibly preferred.
posted by knapah at 10:33 AM on May 19, 2006

I travelled through Europe by myself for a month and a half last year.
Of the places you mentioned I only visited Amsterdam and Paris. Nonetheless, the best advice i can give you are two webpages which where extremelly helpfull for me:
For accomodation try:
www.hostelworld.com pay attention to the ratings which really work.
For airfares:

Good luck with the planning!
posted by Manouk at 10:56 AM on May 19, 2006

Second wackybrit's last comment - unless there's something you're going for, Brussels is really only a day and a night. Use the other two days to see some of Brussel's other attractions, like Bruges.

In Northern France: have you considered Honfleur yet? It is a lovely town.
posted by whatzit at 12:09 PM on May 19, 2006 [1 favorite]

I spent a few months in France and Italy this past winter, with a Eurail pass for the two countries.

Definitely get the pass for the length of the trip, and make sure you have enough days for traveling. (Individual train tickets cost around 70euros.) Also, don't write in the date on the pass unless you're told to, because sometimes the conductor forgets to ask and it's a good way to stretch it.

If you can, sleep on the train when traveling place to place. With the pass, you only have to pay for the bed, which is pretty cheap, and you save a day of travel.

I used hotels.com when booking places to stay, and things worked out pretty well.... sometimes you can get a hotel room for the same, or cheaper than, as a hostel. When I traveled for a week in Italy, we winged it and got a room when we arrived in the city we were staying in. It worked out for us, but I don't know if I'd really recommend it.

For northern France, I'd really recommend Rennes, St. Malo and Mont St. Michel. We stayed in Rennes, which is about an hour by train from the English channel. We stayed in the youth hostel there, close to a bunch of good restaurants and bars. Then, during the day we traveled to St. Malo and Mont St. Michel, both fabulous places to visit.
posted by strikhedonia at 12:20 PM on May 19, 2006

If any of the journeys between cities are long enough for an overnight train, you could pay a small supplement to your Interrail pass to reserve a sleeper car or 4-berth couchette and maybe lessen the number of nights accomodations needed in the cities that way...
posted by dinah at 12:35 PM on May 19, 2006

Response by poster: Cheers guys, I'll certainly consider moving out of Brussels to explore Belgium a bit more. The budget can probably be stretched a bit, but the sleeping on trains thing sounds like a possibly good idea.

I've been to Mont St. Michel before, it's beautiful... will try and convince others to go there. heh.

Anyone have any personal recommendations for cheap accommodation (not necessarily as cheap as i specified in the question) in or around the aforementioned places? (and include Bruges for good measure)

Thanks again
posted by knapah at 1:26 PM on May 19, 2006

Let's Go Western Europe was my bible when I went backpacking around Europe last year. It lists cheap, safe hostels to stay in, as well as cool sites to see and the best pubs, bars and clubs. But I have not used any of the Lonely Planet guides so they might be comparable.

As far as other cities you might want to visit, I really enjoyed my weekend in Reims, though that may be because I really enjoy champagne.

And I third the suggestion of sleeping on overnight trains as much as possible. What is lacked in comfort is made up for in $$ saving and the crazy/memorable experiences you can have on these trains (YMMV).
posted by killjoy at 1:28 PM on May 19, 2006

The streets surrounding the Place de La Bastille (especially the street going northeast from the Place) are filled will small, cheap hotels with kebab shops on the ground floor. I remember we stayed there in doubles for 32€/night per room in 2004 - 16€/head was at least as cheap as hostels and much nicer (sink in the room!).
posted by jedrek at 4:53 PM on May 19, 2006

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