Trying to determine how you want to travel around Europe is one of the biggest decisions you will have to make before you go. Since there are so many ways to travel around Europe from hitchhiking to private jets (neither way will be talked about here) and a few ways in between, I am going to go over just those that I think, after weighing all the advantages and disadvantages are the best ways to do this. After that, I leave it up to you to decide which suits your travel style and your budget the best.
Traveling by Car
Alot of those traveling to Europe, especially if its there first time, try to avoid this option. They figure it either way too expensive or they don’ think they would feel comfortable driving in Europe. I know this, because I used to think this way. However after going to Europe countless times, I realize what I false impression I gave myself. A few of the most popular ways to rent a car is :
1) Standard approach – Just what you’d expect. You use the website of your favorite car rental company or compare rates online sites such as bookings.com . We all know how it works from here, we check the rates and the car types that fits our budget and travel style and then book the car.
2) Tourist Car Lease – This may sound daunting at first but it really isn’t. Its most common in France and only works if you are going in Europe for 21 days or longer and you reside outside the European Union. Some of the best benefits of going this way is that Full Insurance is included and you don’t have to pay any VAT or Airport/City fees which means you save quite a bit of money . Just to let you know how this works , by offering this type of rental, French car companies create a supply of almost-new, reduced-VAT cars that can be sold to European citizens and rental firms at highly competitive prices, if not downright cheap compared to a new car. The bottom line is everyone wins.
3) Car Sharing – This is basically taking car pooling to another level as it is the same principal as what dones within a city but now it can be done on long distance travel. Companies such as BlaBlaCar.Com (not a typo) offer a service where you go to there website, tell them from where and to where you want to, the city you want to leave from and the dates and then they tell you who is available and what the price is. Its a great way to go as a traveler as you meet new people , you save a lot of time compared to say a bus and best of all, its not very expensive.
A couple of things you need to keep in mind about renting a car is the amount of of the tolls that you will pay. If you take the main highways the tolls can be very expensive and for example, in France you have to pay in cash unless you have a European Credit Card. Also you need to be careful of speeding tickets as you don’t necessarily have to be pulled over to get one. You’ll be surprised when you get home and find out you were given a ticket for speeding. (personal experience here)
There are alot of budget airlines in Europe that will take you from one place to another and if you book early enough it can be alot cheaper and quicker than almost any other way. Taking planes around Europe sure is a nice way to get around but there are of course some disadvantages to this that you should be aware before deciding which option is best for you.
- You have to book very early in order to get the best prices and the more popular destinations sell out fast.
- As the airports are outside the city, you have to factor in the cost of getting from and too these airports into your comparison pricing.
- Once you book, forget about trying to get refund.
Here is list of the current discount airlines for Europe:
- Ryanair – A Irish low-cost airline serves 34 countries in Europe, Africa (Morocco), and the Middle East (Israel and Jordan)
- EasyJet – A British low-cost carrier airline. It flys to over 820 routes in more than 30 countries
- Transvia – A Dutch low-cost airline that is part of Air France-KLM group
- Vueling – A Spanish low-cost airline from Barcelons. It flys to over 100 destinations in Africa, Asia, Europe and the Middle East.
- Wizz Air – A Hungarian low-cost airline from Budapest. They fly to cities across Europe and the Middle East
- Eurowings – A German low-cost airline and a part of the Lufthansa Group.
To check out current prices, you can either go to each airline individually or use a website like bookings.com as sometimes one is less expensive then the other..
Lets face it, Train travel in Europe is the classic way to go, and for good reason as for long distance travel it does have a lot of advantages. First of all its just a lot more relaxing as there is no airport to rush or airport security nor do you have to be concerned about speeding tickets and expensive tolls. In addition after all this time they have train travel down to a science so its even for a tourist to figure out schedules, train tracks etc. You can also take overnight trains and save on a hotel expense.
But there are some downsides to taking a train which may affect your decision on what your best option is, such as when you go by train you lose flexibility as you have to go by the trains schedule. Also some routes, especially the more popular ones, require reservations and you may be charged extra if you go overnight or take the quicker trains such as the TGV.
There is alot of information about train travel in Europe out there and beyond the scope of this post, so I am just going to give you the basic information for your consideration. If you want to look into this option more closely, then check out websites such as RailEurope . With that said here are some of the train travel options for your consideration:
A Flexi Pass lets you travel from 2 -4 contiguous countries that you are starting your pass from and then you can travel for anywhere between 3-10 days within a 2 month time span. This option is less expensive then the Global Pass (see below) but has those travel restrictions.
Global Pass – This is the Platinum version of train travel. Basically you buy this pass and you can travel wherever and whenever you want. Covers all of Europe also covers some Ferries and currently comes in time periods of 15 days, 22 days, and 1, 2 or 3 months
Single Country Pass– Pretty self explanatory but lets you travel just within 1 country.
Important to note about these passes: You have to be a resident outside of Europe and you must get it BEFORE you arrive.
Eurostar is a train that connect England to France and Belgium so its limited in its reach but Its the easiest and quickest way to get from England to Paris or vice versa as it only takes about 2 hours. It’s fast, its comfortable and convenient. It can also be very cheap IF you are to book ahead of time and are flexible with your time and the best part is, when you get off the train you are right in the center of town! To make even more comfortable it includes free WI – FI, 2 big bags and charging outlets at your seat..(if you can’t tell by now I am a big fan of them)
Traveling by Bus is alot different in Europe then in the U.S. and you have quite a few options to choose from. And to me, bus travel in Europe is like flying on a budget airline but with more comfortable seats. Although not as classic as train travel, still many of them offer a great way to get around Europe at very affordable rates. Its also a great way to see the countryside and meet fellow travelers. The only caution I would have about traveling by bus (I don’t want to overdo this point and make it sound worse then it is,) but the bus stations that you either leave from or arrive at will vary quite a bit in both location and quality so you may want to consider traveling during the day if you have any concerns or are going solo.
Here is a short list of the more popular buses to take in Europe:
Busabout – a hop-on/hop-off bus service primarily used by backpackers
Flixbus – They have routes between 20 European countries
Euroline – Large! Goes to over 600 destinations throughout Europe and Morocco
MegaBus – For travel around England Scotland and Wales
That said let me give you a short list of some of the advantages:
Cheap – Who doesn’t like that?
Sleep – You can sleep overnight and save…
Stops – They stop often to stretch legs and get something to eat or drink
WI FI – makes it easier to pass the time but not 100% reliable service
Alright I gave you the good points, so naturally, there are some disadvantages:
Crowded – Although you have a seat – it can still feel this way
Time – You have to some patience as some routes are well over 15 hours
Unexpcted Delays – There could be accidents or traffic jams
Leg Room – Depending on the company it could be cramped ( translation: miserable)
If you have the time, a good set of headphones and some books either audible or the old school paperback and maybe even apps like WhatsApp or Viber you can pass the time quite easily and save a lot of money!