Q I'm a grad student hoping to take a vacation to Europe in late August. Traveling on a student budget and without renting a car, where is the best place to spend a week without finding most of the locals away and everything closed?
ADespite the exodus of Europeans during the summer, and particularily August, no major city ever completely shuts down -- not when throngs of American (and Continental) tourists are arriving daily. If you want everything to be open, you can follow the Europeans to their mountain or beach getaways: Spain's Costa del Sol, the French Riviera, Tuscany. However, on a student budget, those destinations probably aren't feasible.
"Our recommendation for those who want to mingle with the locals in their natural setting is to avoid 'icon' destinations and seek out countryside towns and villages in a country or countries of interest where populations may be a bit less cosmopolitan, thus less likely to leave on vacation," David Kleinman, spokesman of the European Travel Commission, said in an e-mail. "Central Europe is still relatively undiscovered (except for coastal areas, like resorts of Dalmatian and Croatian coasts), and prices are lower." He also suggests Baltic cities, which are "less likely to empty out in the summer months." Another option: Malta, where the locals travel in the winter and the country goes "full swing" in the summer, according to Ambassador John Lowell.
And definitely consider the old standbys. Leila Haddou, of STA Travel in Georgetown, said London and Paris are "always crowded," from the trains to the museums.
To work within your tight budget, find a travel agency that specializes in student rates. STA Travel, for example, lists hostels for $23 a night and hotels from $36, and it can help find lower airfares during Europe's high season. Info: 800-781-4040, www.statravel.com. For info on Europe: European Travel Commission, www.visiteurope.com.
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Dunn Loring, Va.