Why I always find the Best Way to Travel Around Europe
The good thing about Europe is that you have plenty options to choose from if you want to travel around. And the bad thing about Europe is that … you have plenty of options to choose from if you want to travel around.
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Due to the amount of options it’s sometimes hard to decide on the best kind of transportation to travel from A to B. So in this blog I want to give you more insight on your options when you travel around Europe, what to expect when you choose bus, train or plane and what are good websites for your research.
Introduction transport Europe
Europe has a dense network of buses, trains and planes that cover many destinations in Europe. Before you start travelling you can decide if you want to buy point-to-point tickets for every leg within your trip or to buy a pass that covers the whole trip. If you choose for the first, you’ll be more flexible and you can decide on the best option for every leg. If you choose for a pass you have to stick to one means of transport.
In the rest of this blog, I will explain more about the options if you choose to buy a point-to-point ticket. But I also would like to say something about the pass options.
Rail passes in Europe
Your decision to choose a Rail Pass in Europe does depend on the question if you only want to travel by train and on your itinerary. A lot of the times it’s not necessary the cheapest way to travel but it can be handy and comfortable. Having a Rail pass doesn’t mean that you don’t have any extra costs. The reservation costs are not included in the price of the pass, so if you’re planning on a couple of overnight trains or day trains in Italy or France than you have to add extra costs.
I’ve found a great blog, written by Nomadic Matt, where he researches if a Rail Pass is worth the money or not: http://www.nomadicmatt.com/travel-blogs/eurail-passes-breakdown/
In Europe you have two kind of Rail passes, namely Eurail for people who are living outside Europe and Interrail for residents of Europe. Here you can find more information on these passes:
– Eurail: RailEurope and Eurail (www.raileurope.com) / (www.eurail.com)
– Interrail: InterRail (www.interrail.eu)
Bus passes in Europe
In Europe you can choose between a Hop-on-Hop-off bus pass from Busabout or a more flexible bus pass from Eurolines.
With Busabout (www.busabout.com) you choose a certain route you want to cover in a loop or a one way route. You travel with the bus during the day from one place to another. They have plenty of different routes to choose from. But the moment you’ve chosen a route, you’ll not be flexible anymore on what to see. I do like that you’re flexible on the amount of time you take to travel the route. So, you can decide yourself when you want to hop off the bus and when you want to hop on again.
Another option is the lesser known Eurolines pass (www.eurolines-pass.eu). With this pass you can travel to 50 cities in Europe in 15 days (from € 185) or 30 days (from € 250). It’s not a fixed route and you can make as many legs as you want within 15 or 30 days. This is a budget option to see a lot of Europe but keep in mind that you’re not allowed to take the same route twice and it can take quite some time to travel from A to B (Amsterdam to London takes 9-10 hours).
Bus travel in Europe
There is an extensive network of bus routes which cover the European continent, so it’s quite easy to get around. Buses are great if you want to go off the beaten track and see more of the rural areas in a country.
Buses in Europe are affordable and fairly comfortable with air conditioning, declining seats and toilets, at least in the long haul buses. Most buses stop in the centre of the city so it’s easy to start sightseeing once you arrive at your destination.
Hereby some websites which are really handy if you want to travel Europe by bus:
– European busline: Eurolines covers most of Europe with over 500 destinations: www.eurolines.com
– National bus lines: EuroCheapo gives an overview of the different bus companies per country: http://www.eurocheapo.com/bus/countries.php
Train travel in Europe
If you choose to travel around with point-to-point tickets instead of a Rail Pass. You have to do a bit of research yourself but it’s doable. Keep in mind that the prices of trains are flexible so it’s cheaper to buy your ticket well in advance (like three months) or to be lucky and go last minute. The last option actually works best in low season.
Train travel in Europe is easy and comfortable. Train stations are in the centre of the city and you can show up at the train station just 15 minutes before the train leaves (or later but it’s nice to have the time to figure out from which platform the train actually leaves). Train travel in Europe is also a way to see far more from the continent just by relaxing and gaping out of the window to see beautiful mountains, small villages and impressive landscapes.
My all-time favourite website about train travel in Europe (and the world) is www.seat61.com. This is a comprehensive website that offers good tips on different trains. And you can find links to all the train operators in Europe.
Another good site is the website of Deutsche Bahn (www.bahn.de), the German train operator. The site is in several languages and you can find the timetables of all the trains in Europe. So you don’t have to travel Germany to use this site. You only can’t find the prices of train travel outside Germany. For that you need to go to the website of the local train operator (for links see www.seat61.com).
Air travel in Europe
To travel Europe by plane can still be quite cheap and fast, because you have many different budget airlines that fly around Europe for really cheap prices. But there are some things to keep in mind.
- The price you see on the net isn’t always the price you pay. The budget airlines know how to add extras to your price. Think of extra charge for your luggage, extra charge to pay with credit card, extra charge if you don’t print your boarding pass in advance. So it still can be cheap but most of the times not as cheap as it looks.
- If you travel with a budget airline it can happen that the airport is far off the city centre. So you need to take a shuttle or public transport to get there. This can be quite expensive and makes air travel not as fast as it seems.
So what I’m saying is that you have to figure out what you’ll be paying exactly and how to get to and from the airport. But if you have figured that out, than travelling by plane is absolutely a good option.
With so many budget airlines it’s almost impossible to check them all for the best times and fares. That’s why I always use Skyscanner (www.skyscanner.com). It’s great to check times and fares if you know when and where you want to go. And it’s even better if you’re flexible because you can choose “everywhere” as your destination and you can see prices of a whole month or even year.
How to choose the best form of transport
Based on my own experiences I’ve made an overview of the most important things to think about when choosing your transport.
- Distance: the amount of km that is advisable to cover in one leg=> – – is not many and ++ is a lot.
- Price: what’s the price you have to pay=> – – is cheap and ++ is expensive.
- Comfort: how much comfort do you have while travelling=> – – is not much comfort and ++ is a lot of comfort.
- Time: how much time does it take to get from A to B=> – – is very fast and ++ is very slow.
- Experience: how much do you see while travelling=> – – is not much and ++ is a lot.
You can travel around Europe by using the train, bus or plane. If you decide to buy a pass for the train or bus than you also decide to stick more or less to one means of transportation. It can be handy and sometimes it’s more economical to buy a pass. But if you decide to buy point-to-point tickets you can choose the best option of transport for every leg based on distance, price, comfort, time and experience.
In a nutshell:
- Travelling by bus is the most economical option
- Travelling by train is the most comfortable option
- Travelling by plane is the fastest option.
Do you agree on this or do you have other criteria to choose your transport option?