Am wondering the best way to get around Europe for a month of backpacking and a taste of about 5 countries? We're going in May/June and will probably only spend 2/3 days in each place we go to.
I've been looking at buses and trains (eurail and eurolines sites) - but they both have their problems. A global pass from eurail for 30 days is going to cost a small fortune and with the extra costs for reservations etc on the high speed trains, it all adds up! Do you think in the end a pass of this type is worth it?? How hard is it to get reservations on these trains, say 1 to 2 days before you want to go? Good for seats only?? Any chance of getting couchettes etc?
Eurolines (bus) sounds great for choice and price, but as the bus routes are all international, it would have to be combined with something else anyway like local buses/ trains.
What do you think would be easiest for non-seasoned traveller's whose language skills only stretch to hello/goodbye/please/thankyou in a few different languages?? And also the most time and cost effective??
Thanks very much in advance - any and all advice appreciated!!
Although it may sound daft, flying is going to be cheaper than taking the trains. You don't say where in europe you want to go but if i was you i would look up easyjet.com and ryanair.com and book in advance as you can get single flights for around £20 - £30. You could get a plane for any long journeys you want to make and the bus for the shorter ones. I regularly fly with these 2 airlines and they are no-frills so dont expect a meal on board but great for getting you from a-b. you do get people complaining about them but you get what you pay for. It annoys me when someone pays £20 for a flight and then complains that it wasnt as nice as flying singapore airlines!!! Anyway, i should stop moaning and say that i really recommend them.
Me and a friend of mine went backpacking with the Interrail ticket last summer, for a month. The trip spanned over Denmark, Germany, France, Monaco, Italy, Greece and Serbia. I must say I was impressed with how easy it was getting around on the trains! Sure, we had to sleep one night on the train station of Milano, and sometimes we had to take a detour to get to where we wanted - but it worked out. Our original plan worked, and we got to where we wanted! There can be a bit of a hassle with figuring out what trains you need to pay a supplement on, but asking around usually solves that. The biggest tip is getting the book Train Travellers Guide that is revised and republished several times a year. It contains all the routes, costs and timetables of all the trains in Europe. Kind of the best travel-guide I've ever bought
Go for the trains!
Compared what international train travel in Europe usually costs, the Eurail pass is a real bargain.
If you are only staying for 2 days in one place, you'll really enjoy walking to and from the train station in the middle of the city instead of spending 3 hours to get to the aiport, waiting for 2 hours at the airport and then another 2 hours to get from the airport to the city. Night trains especially can save you time and money you would otherwise need to spent on accomodation. Train travel is also the most environmental-friendly method of travel, a lot more comfortable than bus and safer and healthier than flying.
That said, the best option to explore large areas of Europe in a very short time is a combination of train travel and budget flights.
I can recommend the site http://www.skyscanner.net as a search engine for budget flights within Europe and http://ricksteves.com/rail/rail_menu.htm as a guide to Eurail passes. Rick Stevens also has a god guide to flyng budget at http://ricksteves.com/plan/tips/flights.htm
[ Edit: Edited on Apr 11, 2007, at 9:08 AM by t_maia ]
I go with a mix of air and train, and depending where you go you may not have a choice.
The advantage to air is itis cheap and fast. Last year I took a Ryanair flight from Milan to Barcelona. The flight was less than 25 EUR (incl tax) and less than an hour in the air. The disadvantage of discount airlines is they usually land at the smaller airports far from the city and you have to take an hour bus ride to get into the city centre. The airports are small though and you can get out quickly. I think the train from Milan to Barcelona was 16 hrs and a ridiculous price.
Trains on the other hand will let you see the countryside and pass through small towns. The stations are usually close to the city centre so it is easy to get around.
A mix of planes and trains, is the best way to get around. I would say if a trip is longer than 4-5 hours, start looking for a connection by plane instead of a train.
There are a lot of budget airlines, that can be really cheap, and also major airlines like Iberia and Alitalia, sometimes have pretty cheap tickets. So far I haven't seen a search engine that picks up every cheap flight but skyscanner is one of the better ones.
One tip, if you want to see the Provence/Cote d'Azur, don't try to fit it in between Italy and Spain. It's much better and cheaper to get a cheap flight (e.g. Vueling Airlines)
Thanks very much everyone for your tips and opinions!! Greatly appreciated....
One thing I'd love to know from people who have done it: Do you need to book in advance (mainly for day travel) or could you leave it until a day or two ahead?? I'd love to leave some of our plans open in case we really love a place and want to stay an extra day. On the flip side, I'd hate to get stuck somewhere cause we can't get a ticket and one of our limited days get used up!!
Oops! Forgot to mention - the booking question was mainly to do with trains.
Hey Rena, I did a thing called Busabout with some mates a couple years ago. You may have heard of it already because it's 95% Australians and Kiwis that do it.
It's one of those hop-on hop-off tours where they have buses going past certain hotels every second day and you can get off in whichever city you want and get back on the bus when you want.
It easy because they drop you off out the front of your hostel with about 20-30 other people and then you do whatever you want for a few days and get back on a different bus.
Easy to find more on google.
PM me if you need any more info.
[ Edit: Edited on Apr 11, 2007, at 7:26 PM by ikey ]
Busabout is a great network and I would highly recommend it, but if you haven't done a lot of bus travel and are prone to car sickness you could end up having the worse trip of a lifetime.
As far as your previous questions. Definately book a flight in advance. Check out Ryanair. I've booked via Internet tons of times. It's safe.
Trains you can book when you get there, except for overnight trains. make your reservation in advance. Remember some oridinary day routes require a reservation even though you may have a pass. It is sometimes an additional cost. If you are taking one of those routes you can do that when you get to the train station but give yourself extra time.