One of the many great things about Europe is its size, and therefore the close proximity of so many awesome places to see. It also gives you several options for getting around; whether your main concern is cost, comfort or speed, there are options to suit all. Here are the pros and cons of five different ways to travel around Europe.
Train – for the comfort traveller
Pros – If easy travelling means comfort to you, then the train is your best option. With fewer delays than flying and less faff, the railway is certainly the comfort option. It is also usually the speedier option when covering shorter distances, as there is no check-in or security to go through. The train can be a great way to see the countryside, and areas of a country that you would perhaps not otherwise get a chance to see.
Cons – If you are on a small budget, European trains can be surprisingly expensive. If you don’t book in advance, they can cost equal to or sometimes more than a flight (but that doesn’t mean there aren’t cheap prices to be found too!). The train can also take a lot longer than flying if you’re travelling long distances, even with the added check-in time for a flight.
Tip – Make sure you choose the right train service for you. High-speed trains are often dramatically faster, but usually more expensive; slow trains are the slower but cheaper option if you’re not strapped for time. Visit the SNCF website for national and international train times and prices throughout Europe: http://uk.voyages-sncf.com/en/. For a single pass to cover all train travel on your trip, visit Interrail: http://www.interrail.eu/.
Bus – for the budget traveller
Pros – If your main concern is cost, then the bus is definitely the best option. Europe has an extensive system of buses, both national and international, and prices can be mega cheap. Buses are also the most flexible public transport option, as tickets can be purchased on a hop-on/hop-off basis, meaning that there’s no need to book in advance or be tied down to specific departure times.
Cons – Buses can be the slowest travel option, sometimes taking several hours longer than a high-speed train or a flight. Road traffic can also mean unpredictable delays, which is never welcome if you’re short on time.
Tip – Try Busabout for a flexible hop on/hop off buss pass: http://www.busabout.com/europe.
Car – for the adventurous traveller
Pros – Driving gives you the flexibility that no public transport option can offer. Spend as little or as long as you want in each location, without worrying about booking tickets or sticking to timetables. Driving also avoids the inevitable luggage-lugging that comes with using public transport, allowing you to go wild with the souvenirs, and gives you the opportunity to explore wherever and whenever you like. Go to the places where public transport won’t take you.
Cons – If you don’t have your own car, hiring can be expensive, especially if you are under 25 years old; you may have to pay a young drivers’ surcharge, which can dramatically boost up the cost of the hire.
Tip – The AA provides loads of information on the different driving requirements for each country in Europe: http://www.theaa.com/motoring_advice/overseas/countrybycountry.html. If you’d rather not worry about driving yourself around, find a ride on BlaBlaCar: https://www.blablacar.co.uk/.
Plane – for the time-strapped traveller
Pros – When covering longer distances, flying is certainly the easiest option. Rather than spending an entire day travelling from one capital to another via train or bus, a flight can take only a few hours from arrival at the airport to arrival at your final destination. Low-cost airlines can also offer some unbelievable prices at off-peak times.
Cons – Although in theory flying should be the quickest option for getting around, check-in, security and frequent delays can actually make it no quicker than taking a bus or train when covering shorter distances. Furthermore, if you’re travelling with baggage that is too large for the cabin, the price of a flight can be greatly bumped up by expensive hold baggage charges.
Tip – Fly at off-peak times for the cheapest prices, and reserve flying for longer distances; stick to the ground for the shorter mileage. To compare flight prices, use a comparison site like Skyscanner: http://www.skyscanner.net/.
Bicycle – for the active traveller
Pros – Especially in the summer months, cycling can be a wonderful way to experience a country, including its countryside and cities, and everything in-between. Like driving, cycling is also entirely flexible, allowing you to move at your own pace and not worry about booking tickets. It is of course also the cheapest travel option, with no further expense once you have purchased or hired your kit.
Cons – The joy of cycling can be totally dependent on the weather. Summer is usually your safest bet, but there can be no guarantee of clear skies. Cycling also limits us to covering shorter distances, so will usually have to partner with another travel option if you want to cover more ground in less time.
Tip – Rivers and canals are often accompanied by cycle paths, so cycling is a good option for exploring riverside towns and cities. When you need to cover a longer or less cycle-friendly distance, search for trains that allow bicycles on-board. Eurovelo is a sustainable tourism project with multiple cycling routes around Europe: http://www.eurovelo.com/en.
Whichever option you choose, your European adventure will not disappoint.