When planning a trip to a city or a country, how long is long enough? The answer probably depends a little bit on your travel style, whether you plan to revisit again in the future, the detail to which you want to explore where you are visiting, and obviously how much time you have available. Clearly there isn’t a set answer, so we thought that we would try to weigh in on some of the factors that should be considered.
How long should you spend in a new country?
Well, we suppose the obvious answer would be “as much as possible”, but time and money are always limited, so there are other factors that should be considered. As an example, for our first trip to Europe, many years ago, we decided to spend five days in France and then about eight days in England. In France, we only visited Paris, while in England, we went to London, Stratford-Upon-Avon, and Manchester. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, but we felt like we were constantly on the move and never really got to immerse ourselves in the culture. Several years later, we went to Spain and took a full two weeks just to explore the southern region. Would we have liked to spend longer and visit more than just the southern cities, sure we would, but that wasn’t an option due to the cost of our resort and hotels. What we did do, though, was to stay at one location in Estepona and then spend a couple of nights in different cities, but always returning back to our base resort. Obviously this is more expensive, but it allowed us to take overnight bags instead of packing up all of our stuff and moving it from hotel to hotel.
Back to the question at hand, how long is long enough? If you really want to understand the people, learn about the culture, understand the regional variations, you probably need at least four to six weeks. That doesn’t have to be in a single visit, that could be spread out over an entire lifetime of traveling. Two weeks is probably long enough for a specific region of a country, perhaps one with anywhere from two to five major cities. It doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t go to a new country if you don’t have weeks to spend, but understand that you are only dipping your toes into the everything that the country has to offer.
How much time should you spend in a city?
Again, the answer depends on vacation time, money, and all other limiting factors that might determine what you can do versus what you want to do. While we were living in Germany, we spent many weekends traveling around to visit as many places as possible during our somewhat limited time staying there. What we found is that there are basically three different levels of spending time in a city and seeing the sights that the city has to offer.
If you only have two days, or potentially even one, you can usually see all of the major sites, but you probably won’t be able to do tours and get in-depth information, but you will have the opportunity to at least see the sights of the city, taste the food, and get a sense of what it has to offer. Three to four days gives you enough time to take more in-depth tours, spend quality time in museums, and explore some of the more unusual attractions that might exist in the city. Four or five days in a city provides the opportunity to venture out into the outskirts of town which allows you to see beyond the urban lifestyle and get a feel for the countryside. Generally speaking, we found four days to be ideal for larger cities and two days to be just right if the city was a little smaller.
Obviously, one answer can lead to another. If there are four cities in a region of a country that you want to visit, and you want to spend three to four days in each of those cities, plus get into the countryside, two weeks in that region of the country will be barely enough time, but it would certainly work, like it did for us in southern Spain. We spent six months in Germany and felt like we were just getting to truly understand the country when it was time for us to leave. Unfortunately no one usually gets to spend as much time as they truly would like to in the cities or countries that they visit, but depending on the time that you have, at least you can prepare yourself for how much you will be able to accomplish during your trip.