Unlike the US, which has limited and relatively expensive cross-country travel options, Europe has plenty of ways to get from one side to another. Depending on when and where you are traveling, different options may be better or cheaper. So whether you are looking for the best way to get away for the weekend, or the best long-term travel option for your backpacking trip, here are some of your options for the best ways to get around Europe.
Train can be a really cheap way to travel, or an extremely expensive one. For example, in Germany, you can get a day pass for you and your four closest friends to travel all over your region for usually under 50 euros total, depending on the location and time (weekend vs week, night vs day travel). You can take all of the slow (not ICE) trains with this pass, and you must all stay together. BUT, if you were solo travelling from one city to another, it can cost anywhere from 19 euros to upward of 100 euros, again depending on the time and place, as well as your traveling class.
For inter-Germany tickets, you can use the Deutsche Bahn website or app. If you will be spending a lot of time in Germany, I recommend the app, as it tells you the times and platform of your train.
All over Europe
Inter-country travel can be tricky. It is much, much cheaper for you to travel to Venice from Innsbruck, Austria (50 ish euros), than it is to travel from Munich to Venice (150ish euros). If you are coming from Bavaria, it may be better for you to drive to Innsbruck, park your car, and then take the train down.
If you are planning to travel through several countries in a specified period of time, it may be better for you to buy a multi-country pass!
Here’s your best option:
Eurail.com has really flexible options for your travel needs. You can choose 1-4 countries you would like to travel between, or you can get the full global pass, and if you are 12-27 years old or in a group, then you get a discount.
Eurail also offers itinerary packages to the most popular European cities, with a nifty chart to help you plan based on where you want to go and how long you have.
It’s really convenient because you only need the one pass- you don’t have to buy individual tickets for every ride, but, if you’re not using the train that often, it may end up being more expensive than buying individual tickets.
If you’re planning to visit more remote places or just like the freedom of being able to leave whenever you want, then maybe renting a car is the best option for you. You can look into Europcar, eDreams, and eBookers to compare deals.
If you don’t have a European driver’s license- it’s okay! You should pick up an international driving permit just in case you need it, and check with your car insurance company ahead of time to make sure you will be covered in a rental overseas. Also check with your credit card company. Many of them will cover your rental cars at home or abroad if you pay with their card.
I get really carsick, like, really carsick. So I’ve never traveled long-distances with a bus. I think that would be a bad idea for everyone involved. But, bus travel can be really great for anyone with a stronger stomach composure than me.
Megabus is the cheapest way to get around the UK, and now it also offers trips to Brussels, Amsterdam, and Paris! You should book a month in advance to take advantage of the low fares.
Busabout is a backpacker-centric hop-on hop-off style bus company where you can get off wherever you want and then get back on to go somewhere else. The downside is if you want to go somewhere not in their network, you have to arrange your own separate travel. The upside is it usually works out to be cheaper than train travel to the same places!
The cheapest and probably most convenient way to get around Europe is by taking budget airlines. You can search for flight deals directly on the websites of RyanAir, EasyJet, and WizzAir, or you can use conglomerate websites like eDreams and eBookers to compare flight deals across airlines.
If you have an iPhone, then you should definitely get the Hitlist app. Hitlist is amazing for finding cheap flights to whatever locations you have saved as “Want to Go”. And it’s free. But the website doesn’t work and there isn’t an Android app (yet?) so sorry to non-iPhone users. I used Hitlist to book our flights to Dublin over Thanksgiving for $75 each I think? That’s round-trip. The only downside is you can only book one person at a time. So if you’re flying with a group then you have to book the flight over-and-over for each person, and the flight could sell out. If you’re flying solo (or in a couple) then it’s definitely worth it!
Full packages, for those of you who like to do as little planning as possible.
Hotels, flights, cruises, vacation trips, whatever you want- Click and Go offers full packages. This makes planning destinations easier. Sometimes flights are included, but sometimes it’s just accommodations. Potential small problem: Click and Go is based out of Ireland, so wherever flights are included, they are also out of Ireland. But the prices are so cheap you might still save money, even including the extra flight! Maybe.
One Last Thing
Wherever you’re traveling, make sure that you have some medical coverage just in case of emergency. I like to use Allianz when I travel back to the US, because my current insurance provider covers me in every country in the world except for the US. That should tell you how messed up our insurance system is. But Allianz will cover you worldwide for the duration of your trip. They’re great!
(I literally traveled one time without insurance, and that’s the time I got sick. I had to go to a hospital in Thailand. It wasn’t that expensive, but the total cost was far more than the cost of insurance would have been, had I gotten it in the first place. And if I had gotten any sicker I would’ve been up a river without a paddle!)