Me and my friend are planning to travel round europe for around two months, but the countries we want to visit are very spread out. we will be starting in amsterdam and working out way all the way down to madrid, then round to rome and all the way back up to Germany. In total it is around 14 different countiries. We have looked at the inter rail pass, the busabout and looking at prices of single rail trips.
Can you please give us some advice on what you think is best from experiences?
Personally i do luv trains so for me train itself sounds kind of fun. But, I guess, you r going not for train expirience. The key is good proportion between time of being (watching, touching, eating, having fun, what ever) and the road (kind of waiting for pleasure). So road should take about 10-15% of your time. I'd crop the smaller area and travel there easier or, as the 2nd option, you can take a flight to the farest destination and then move "back" in direction of home.
14 different countries? What are they?
Eastern and Western Europe are two quite different territories when it comes to doing a journey and spending money.
As an example, you can get from Paris to Amsterdam by train in well under 4 hours. On the other hand, crossing Romania on possibly some of the slowest trains on the planet, can take 12 hours or more. The fare from Paris to Amsterdam can cost you over €60 one way, whereas the trip from (as an example) Oradea to Suceava, through Transylvania (just one of the greatest train rides anywhere in the world) is quite often an overnight journey and takes up to 11 hours. However, the fare will be something like €10-€15.
There are budget airlines that can fly you from one country to another for just a few €'s one way - and in most cases the air fare will be cheaper than the train ticket, either in Eastern or Western Europe.
Incidentally, Amsterdam to Madrid by train, can be done in under half a day by rail - easily and if planned out well, will involve just two trains.
Inter-rail passes can be good and convenient, but (and it's a subject that's covered very often on T/P) with a bit of homework, individual tickets bought internally within one country usually works out cheaper. The secret is to buy a ticket to the last station before the border, get off, cross over by foot to the next country and pick up another internal (rather than international) service. It saves a packet on international train fares. As an example.. There is a direct train from Paris to Amsterdam (Thalys), that goes via Antwerp. If you buy a ticket in advance and board the train in Antwerp, it costs around €55. The journey is just over an hour. However if you take a direct slower train, that fare goes down to about €35. Even better still, buy two tickets - one in Belgium to the border and then another on the Dutch side of the border to Amsterdam - you can shave another €4 or €5 off. So from €55 down to €30 for one journey. Thats's your lunch and drinks paid for when you get to Amsterdam.
How much of the journey do you want to do by train/bus and how much by air?
I love taking the trains because they are pretty easy to figure out and relatively good pricewise. Last time I was in Italy, I met some people doing the busabout thing and it seemed like fun and a good way to meet likeminded people. Not sure how comfortable a bus would be on a long trip, though... and you have to go where they want, right?
I've done the interrail pass and buying single tickets. You really just have to price it out and see if a specific pass will be cheaper. There are so many combos of passes it can be challenging to pick the right one. You might want to have a pass that you only use for the long rides and buy tickets for the short ones or the cheaper countries. Or choose the no-brainer pass that covers every country, every ride for as long as you will be traveling. May not save you much money but you won't have to think about it so much.
Try using busabout, youll meet like minded travellers and you can hop on/off at all kinds of destinations whenever you want too. Its not a guided tour like contiki, simply just a means of transportation. Good thing is its cheap and they'll drop you right at your door, if stayin in their partner hostels. I was in a simular situation to you a few years ago, definately cheaper than the train and youll get to see the country side too.
Thank you all for the great feedback. We did first of all plan to get the interrail pass but came across busabout this week. As it is out first time doing this we think it could be the best idea for us. It allows us to have structure of where we are going and what dates, but can also change them online if we need to. This will save us getting to lost around europe or getting carried away.
We havent booked it yet but we will most likely go with the full loop so we get the full experience. I fell the coach might not be the most spacious but it will be safer than the trains.
We plan to go in four weeks and are both nervous but VERY excited.
In what sense are trains not safe? I'm not sure that should be a reason to avoid them......
I didnt say trains werent safe, i am just saying that i would feel a lot safer on the coach. You are with the same group of people for the few hours journey and no one else is allowed on the coach. while on trains, if me and my friend both fall to sleep, there is a lot more people getting on and off trains and would make us a lot more vulnerable.
OK - I understand that. I would say that though that nobody I know of has ever had any problem on trains in Europe, so I still would still consider it if this was the main issue as a train pass does give you rather more flexibility. But if you do really want to travel around with the same group of people then the busabout thing sounds like a reasonable idea.
There is a valid point by maxineh being made here though - isnt there. Once on the coach, thats pretty much it - whereas people come and go in your train compartment and if you fall asleep, you could wake up with everything gone. It does happen, fortunately not (yet ! !) to me, but I've met people that have been totally skinned while sleeping.
Saying all that though, I much prefer the train over the bus anytime - day or night.