CHEAP traveling by trains, planes, and automobiles in Europe

October 12, 2009

There are so many options in traveling around Europe… there is an abundance of airline companies, bus companies, and even types of trains, but what is the best and cheapest way?

The easiest way to begin is to create a list of cities that you will definitely be visiting in Europe. Check out Google Maps, and get an idea of the length of time it takes to go from city to city, so that you will better know whether you would take a train, plane, or bus. I personally really love to take trains, as they are most often located in city centres, so you won’t be paying loads of money to get to the airport (either by shuttle bus or taxi) and you save time and money by not having to check-in.

An extremely cheap option is to take a night bus, which is what I did between Sevilla, Spain and Lisbon, Portugal. I have to admit, though, that it was less than comfortable, as I had the creepiest guy on the bus sitting next to me for awhile before I gave him the evil eye, and he went to go sit next to some other girl. Coughing on creepy people also tends to help. Blowing your nose in an obnoxious manner is a nice touch, but the other people on the bus will not appreciate these tactics LOL. The buses are often packed, too, which does not allow for much comfort.

Resources for Aeroplanes:

This website is great, because it is a bit of an amalgamation of many cheap airline sites, and it gives you ideas on the transfers you would have to take to get from place to place, as well as showing the prices in different currencies.

Ryanair is the king of cheap flights in Europe. If you book up to at least a month ahead of time, you will find flights for as little as 5 euros (about $7 CAD). Sweet! I managed to get a flight at that price from London to Dublin. If you wait, though, you will end up paying a lot more. Visit their website often to pay attention to the great deals.

Warning: As this is a discount airline, you have to be aware that is really 0 frills. You will not get any food, and if you want to check-in a bag then you should pay for this option ahead of time on their website. Also, be sure to stay within the weight range that they list, or you will find yourself paying more at the airport. I have known people that have been forced to wear most of their wardrobe on the flight to avoid the exorbitant extra charges. Also, if you choose the online check-in option, then do it! Otherwise you will have to pay about $50 right before you take your flight… I learned this the hard way.

easyJet’s prices are generally more expensive than Ryanair, but they have deals from time to time that you should pay attention to. Also, they fly to areas not covered by Ryanair such as Lyon, France, which is quite handy.

Warning: Sometimes called sleazyJet for the reasons listed above in the Ryanair section- make sure to prepare everything before your flight

Resources for trains

A couple of my close friends purchased a Eurorail pass before heading to Europe. They had their entire itinerary planned beforehand with the help of the train timetables listed on the website, which is a super handy and easy to use resource, that I would recommend for anyone who is interested in taking trains on their travels in Europe.

If you are interested in taking a combination of trains and planes, then the pass may not be in your best interests. It is also important for me to note that some train networks are more highly subsidized by their national governments, so a pass would not be as helpful in this case. For instance, a pass may not be very helpful in Italy, because the ticket prices are already inexpensive, however, a pass might be helpful in France or Switzerland.

Also, there may be extra charges that come up for reservations and upgrades to TGV so be prepared to budget a bit more for travel.

Carte 12-25
I lived in Lyon, France for 6 months, so I purchased a Carte 12-25, a youth pass for people between the ages of 12 and 25. I paid 49 euros for the pass, and it helped me enormously in saving money. I know that a similar card exists in Switzerland. If you plan on doing a lot of travel in one country, then this might be for you!

Shamrocker Adventures
My best friends and I took a tour of Southern Ireland with Shamrocker Adventures! It was one of the best traveling experiences of my life. We had a real irish tourguide who was hilarious, and loved by all. He even pointed out the scenes from “PS I love you!” for me! I imagine that it would have been harder to get around Ireland without this tour. I would do another tour in a heartbeat.

Also, we got in without waiting at the biggest and best club in Killarney, and danced the night away…

Busabout offers a hop-on, hop-off system on certain routes. I have never traveled this way, but I imagine that it would be a good way to meet other like-minded student travelers. The advantages of traveling this way are that it is a good way of meeting people, and more flexible than your average tour, but the downsides are that it is likely more expensive than buying separate train tickets, and that you would not have the same flexibility in planning your trip as this uses routes.

Contiki tours
The mandate of Contiki Tours is to provide tours for people between the ages of 18-35. I have never personally taken a tour with this company, but I have heard many good things. If you are traveling on your own, then it is a great way of meeting friends. It is also likely more expensive than backpacking by yourself or with friends, but there is safety in numbers, they take care of all of the plans, and you will have a tour guide with expertise. Another thing that I have noticed is that seem to only spend one or two nights per city, and that would personally not be enough for me.

Topdeck Tours
This is a british company, which is similar to Contiki. I know of someone that traveled around Italy and Switzerland with this company, and they had a great time.

If you will be traveling around Europe for an extended period of time then it might be in your best interest to buy a car or a van. One of my cousins traveled around Europe a few years ago in a Volkswagen van with her boyfriend, and they had a great time. You might even be able to save money on accommodations every second night by sleeping your van haha… maybe not something I would advocate, though! I like doing things on the cheap, but I also enjoy a nice warm shower.


2 Responses to “CHEAP traveling by trains, planes, and automobiles in Europe”

  1. Rob K said

    For buses, there’s also National Express in the UK. When my brother and I were in London, we used National Express to get out of the city most of the time. If you book early enough, you can sometimes find fares as low as 1 pound.

  2. prettypinkninja said

    Thanks for the suggestion! 🙂

    I think I will update the buses section soon with your suggestion, as well as another company that I just thought of.


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