When travelling within Europe you have several options for transportation. Most large cities offer extensive networks of busses, subways and trains. Most places are easy to travel around without a car. If you are traveling between cities then you will generally have the option to fly, take a train, or ride a bus. You may also find that renting a car is the best method of transport in your situation. If you are trying to decide which method of transportation is the best fit for you then you will need to do some research on your destination, and see what is available. Each option has benefits and negatives.
Flying to your destination is by far the quickest option, provided you do not pick flights with multiple and long layovers, and do not encounter long delays with the airline. There are many discount airlines within Europe who are constantly competing with each other to offer the best airfares. Some of the more popular airlines offering discount fares within the EU are Ryanair, Easyjet, and Vueling. These airlines are no frills, low cost carriers. You can expect to pay extra for every amenity, and they also have strict baggage policies. The good news is that you will be able to find some ultra low fares on these carriers. I have often seen advertised fares for less than €30 each way. That’s super cheap!
If you want to book on Ryanair or Easyjet then you will have to go through their website, they do not offer their fares on major booking sites like Expedia or Orbitz. Major national carriers also offer flights all over Europe and it is always a good idea to check multiple airlines before booking a flight, you have a better chance of getting a good deal if you do multiple searches. Buying airline tickets at the counter has become a thing of the past, and may not even be an option with some airlines. You will want to book your flight before heading to the airport, even if your travel is last minute.
Air travel is best when you are traveling long distances between large cities. A one-hour flight could save you several hours on a train, and in many cases will be less expensive. Be aware when you book your ticket; make sure that you will be flying into the airport of your choice. Airlines will often times use airports that are outside of the city that you want to fly into, while still branding the destination as your chosen city. Landing and gate fees are often cheaper for the operating airline at outlying airports near a major city. Cities like London, Barcelona, Berlin, Rome, and many others in Europe have multiple commercial airports. Once you know which airport you will be flying into, make sure you can get transportation from the airport to where you will be staying. It may not be very convenient at some of the outlying airports.
If you are going to take a flight within Europe you will need to consider transport time to and from the airports. Give yourself enough time to check in and drop baggage, get through security, and board the aircraft on time, about two hours. All of these things will add to your travel time. Make sure that the extra work is worth it.
Although airlines are typically reliable, there are some times when you will encounter significant delays and cancellations. You can’t plan ahead for delays; you will just have to wait them out when they occur.
An extensive network of rail runs throughout Europe. The train system can get you almost anywhere you can think of. Long and medium distance trains are a great option for getting between cities that do not offer major airline service, and may be a better option than flying in several cases, even if airline service is offered at the destination. Most train stations for major cities are conveniently located near the downtown area near most other forms of mass transit. Traveling by train gives you a glimpse of the countryside and villages along the route, so it’s a great way to enjoy the scenery as you travel. The seating on trains is usually a little more comfortable than airline seats, and baggage policies are much more relaxed for rail travel. All of these benefits may make traveling by train the right thing for you.
There are many different ways to buy train tickets in Europe. You can book online with the rail website, walk up to the ticket window and buy, or purchase a rail pass for a set number of rides, or a set of dates that you will be traveling. If you buy a pass then you will have the option of hop on hop off travel anytime you desire, something you won’t get with air travel. If you are considering buying a rail pass, it is important to buy ahead. The physical pass must be mailed to your address before you leave for your trip.
Train service in Europe is very reliable. Anytime I have travelled by rail in Europe, everything has been right on time. Getting into and out of train stations is usually much less of a hassle than dealing with airports. There are no long check-in queues or security lines to deal with; it’s easy to get through and on the train.
As with airline travel you will want to research the routes you plan to take and make sure they will get you where you want to be. European train stations have dozens of trains coming in and out constantly. Make sure you buy the right ticket and get on on the correct train. I’ve boarded the wrong train before. It does not make things easy.
Once you are on the train it is important to know when to get off. Unlike airlines, trains will make several stops on the route. Passengers will constantly be getting on and off at different stations. Each stop is not always announced, so you will need to be alert. If you fall asleep and miss your stop you will wake up somewhere that you hadn’t planned on being.
Train is a classic way to see Europe, I definitely recommend spending some time on the trains during your trip.
Busses are the slowest form of mass transit you will find in Europe, but it will come in handy in many situations. There are several cities and towns that are not serviced by train or air. Taking a bus may be the only way to get you to where you want to go in some situations. Especially to remote or mountainous areas.
When considering busses you will want to research the city or town you’re heading to and see what type of bus service is offered, and the schedule of the route. Many bus stations are connected to train stations in Europe, making it easy to connect from a train to a bus. The same companies that operate the trains often times also run the busses, so it should be pretty easy to get the information you need at a train station.
Like train travel, the bus offers views of the landscape, and will get you closest to where you want to be. If you are riding a bus make sure to pay close attention to the stops it is making. Usually the bus will only stop for a moment before continuing on its route, and the stops may not be announced.
Of the three options, I have spent the least amount of time travelling on busses. Air and rail usually tend to be the best options for me. When I find myself on a bus it is usually with a private tour company on a day trip. Bus tours are a great way to get guided access to some of the great sites in Europe, and are definitely worth looking into.
Rent a Car
If you will be traveling between many cities, or are planning to do several day trips from your location, and there is limited public or mass transit options, then renting a car could be a great option. Most airports have car rental companies on site, and you may be able to find cars for rent near your hotel. Renting a car gives you the freedom to come and go as you please on any schedule you desire. It is definitely the most flexible way to get around.
If you are considering renting a car in Europe then you will want to do some research on driving in the country(s) that you will be spending time in. It’s good to know the local rules of the road before you take the wheel of an unfamiliar vehicle in a new country. If you will be driving in the U.K. or Ireland then you will need to get used to driving on the left side of the road. That could be difficult.
When renting a car it is important to consider some of the additional costs that come with the rental. You will be responsible for gas and parking. Traffic will also be an issue in many areas, especially large metropolitan areas. Many people do not own cars in Europe, due partly to highly efficient public transportation systems and the difficulty of driving in the cities. Heavy congestion on the roads can make it very difficult to drive around in some cities.
If you are looking for the most freedom to get around, renting a car could be a great transport option for your trip.
When you’re planning your travel through Europe ask yourself whether Air, train, bus or rental car is best for you. The answer is probably YES! You should consider all of the options. Each method offers several benefits for the traveler. Air will save you time, and maybe some bucks. Trains are convenient, reliable, and plentiful. The bus can get you to tough to reach places, and a rental car will give you the maximum amount of flexibility and freedom. Whatever you are looking to find there is a form of transit in Europe that will get you to where you want to go!