What do you choose? Eurail pass, busabout, fly or just wing it and pay as you go? Which is cheaper, which is going to be the most comfortable, which will allow you to get some sleep?? The questions are endless when deciding on what is the best way to get around Europe.
I’ve gone back and forth over how to travel around Europe when I leave in April, and to be honest its doing my head in. From the beginning I had dreams of travelling Europe just by train. Watching the gorgeous countryside pass me by, all with the speed and over night sleeping options of a train. Naturally then I was looking at getting an unlimited 2 or 3 month Global Eurail Pass.
That was until I found out its not cheap to travel via train, especially when you have passed the Youth age bracket of 26. A 2 month Global Pass with Eurail would have set me back $1919 AUD… yeah that’s what I said too.
I then thought about flying and taking advantage of the cut price airlines that operate out of Europe. Combining them with a cheaper train ticket is possible but most of the airports are out of the way. This requires extra spending just to get to where you wanted to be, making that cheap airfare not always so cheap after all.
Air travel also takes me far away from the views I hoped to see while travelling via train. So what’s like a train just a lot slower… a bus. Bus tours are popular and provide hop on and hop off pricing so you can travel at your own pace. The downside I found was that while they cost half the price of a 2 month global Eurail ticket, I was only going to be delivered to half of my chosen destinations.
It was at this point I almost decided to just wing it, hoping to catch a local bus or pay the fee at the train station as I went. Then I came to my senses and reached out for help on twitter (reminder for next time ask on twitter first) asking for advice on the topic.
Some great advice was offered. Craig from indietravelpodcast.com sent me a an awesome pdf on the topic and then numerous seasoned travellers shared their information on how they got around. Again I am overwhelmed by the sheer volume of support the travel community offers each other. Give yourselves all a pat on the back I say.
With this onslaught of knowledge I then crafted my own travel plan. Taking good bits of information and merging it with my own desires, I have come up with the following plan of attack.
As I intend to visit approx 13 countries over my 2-3 month lap of Europe, I am looking at a 15 day Global Eurail Pass over 2 months. This allows me to travel great distances quicker than a bus and have the option of a sleeper cabin if I’m so inclined to travel at night. Not to mention I get to watch the scenery pass me by.
While trains will get me to the major cities, I’ve decided to try my hand at catching local bus’s for the rest. They can be cheap and as Benny told me earlier “bus travel is the best for spontaneous to anywhere random travel”.
My Eurail ticket is almost half the cost of what I was originally intending to pay, leaving plenty of bus money spare. To be honest, even with a full 2 month Global Pass I’m sure I would still have had to catch a bus more often than not. At least that’s part of the reasoning I’m using to make myself believe this is the right idea.
So there is my plan of attack to get around Europe, well it will be unless you convince me otherwise. If you have a different opinion I’d love to hear it. Being my first trip I know I’ll make mistakes but if they can be avoided I’m all ears.
EDIT: Updated to reflect correct EURail pass. I will be buying a 15 Day Global Pass that is valid for 2 months.
I’m planning on taking trains and buses ad hoc when I need to go further than my legs want to take me. I wouldn’t say flying is out, but loading the bike up on a plane can be a costly endeavor.
It’s nice to know that I can hit up places within 100km under pedal power, though!
Tough balance on buying the passes – if you have a pretty set itinerary it can make a lot of sense financially. But leaving yourself open to change things up can definitely make your trip more enjoyable. You seem to have hit a good balance between the two.
.-= Joel´s last blog ..Confessions of a Cultural Idiot Part 2: Learn =-.
Hey Joel. I’m really starting to get jealous of your bike adventure 🙂
The fact that I have a general direction I want to travel makes the train idea work. If I was just rocking up with no idea it would be less suitable I think.
We traveled through Europe with friends for 2 months and 2 months ourselves this summer and did a variety of transport options. For the 2 months with our friends we chose the Eurail 2 Month pass, and also had to choose the 1st class option.
The Eurail worked out really well for our travel style; which is to say an unorganized fly by the seat of your pants style. We knew which cities we wanted to hit but didn’t have a definitive list, didn’t know how long and wanted ultimate flexability. Riding in first class through Europe was an easy and awesome way to travel. But for this flexability you pay a premium price, and it doesn’t stop at just the initial ticket price.
Each time you want to use the Eurail you have to pay a reservation fee. This amounted to €5 – €25 per daytime trip, aprox €50 for second class overnight (even though we bought first class tickets) and €80+ for first class overnight. With exchange rates this sure adds up quickly. Our overnight first class (private compartment to be fair) from Venice to Budapest was €110 each, and we were refused 3 times to be sold the ticket. They didn’t say why, but I can only assume they wanted to sell full price tickets.
Like you say, RyanAir and Easyjet fly all throughout Europe and offer awesome prices. But you have to book ahead, often 2+ months to get the cheap rates and you pay for luggage and extra weight. It’s cheap and easy, but you do have to be careful about what airports you fly out of and often it costs €10 – €20 to get to these airports.
If you know what your going to be on a tight schedule, book your Easyjet and RyanAir flights today. Bundled with a 21 day Eurail pass you can easily get all throughout Europe. Be aware of the extra costs though. At the end of the day, the Eurail ticket saved us a bunch of money overall because of the way we travel. We just weren’t expecting to pay another €500+ each in reservation fees.
If you have any questions about Eurail, feel free to ask us. It was a love/hate relationship and we talked about it a lot.
WOW Scott, that’s awesome info you have. Its put me off getting a sleeper cabin a bit, especially at those prices.
I’ve reasoned out that while the 2 month unlimited ticket would be great to go anywhere etc and just explore, the cost can’t be justified when a bus will do the same job for most likely a lot less.
A 21 day pass easily covers the 13 countries I intend to visit as well as providing extra passes for plan changes etc.
The feedback about catching bus’s has been good so while flights are quick I think I’ll stay grounded if I can help it.
Where about in Europe did you travel? was the overnight rate so high because you booked sleepers each time or was it that much just to get a normal seat for the night?
I saw wing it, because it keeps life more interesting!
.-= Andi´s last blog ..Brasil: Day 7 (Part 2) =-.
hehe how did I know you’d tell me to do that Andi. I think you’d just enjoy reading my blog stories about how I kept getting lost and the trouble I got into winging it 🙂
An open 21 trip pass for 2 months is going to work out cheaper for me given my rough calculations of ticket prices by buying as I go.
The rest is open to interpretation as there are some great smaller towns to visit I hope to see via bus.
Oh and don’t worry the vegemite is coming 🙂
PS Don’t forget to bring some vegemite to eat on the long train rides… 😉
I traveled around Europe for 2 months and only used a 21 day pass as well and it worked out great. Depending on where we were going, we did a couple overnight trains or if we wanted to go somewhere that was a big distance, we took Ryan air or Easy Jet. I think it’s great to always switch it up and just keep you ears and eyes open for the best deal. I’m so jealous!
.-= Joya´s last blog ..Where Did All the Dublin-ers Go? =-.
Hey Joya. Something I wanted to know about the 21 day pass. You just fill in where you want to travel as you go right? you don’t have to fill out all the trips when you activate the pass do you?
In a pinch I’d look at flying if I had too so its nice to know there are cheap options. And hey if the bus is cheap and my wallet is empty some things you just have to endure 🙂
Any tips you can offer for finding bargins on travel deals?
Yes, just fill in as you go because they want the time and date and you won’t exactly know all of that until you buy your ticket. You should buy your ticket for your next destination a day or two before. When I got to one train station in one city I would buy my ticket for the next city a couple days in advance so I wouldn’t have to worry about it and just go explore.
You can sign up for Ryan Air and Easy Jet newsletters and they sometimes send out e-mails about special deals. TravelZoo is also a good newsletter too.
.-= Joya´s last blog ..Where Did All the Dublin-ers Go? =-.
Thanks Joya, I thought that would be the case but wanted to clarify to be sure. A friend did tell me to buy my ticket in advance to save on having to deal with it later on.
I’ll look up on those newsletter options as well. Appreciate the info.
I’d suggest going with a mix and using Ryanair to hop to sections of Europe and then doing train from there.
.-= Anil´s last blog ..The Top 4 Scams Of Marrakesh And How To Avoid Them =-.
Hi I am going to London in December and wants to visit as much places as i can within 3 weeks, as i never been there, it is possible?
Hi guys its doing m head in this travel thing. I am looking at going in June next year 2013 with my 3 kids and lovely wife. We are looking at flying into Holland, getting over to London, then up to Liverpool, (Son is a football tragic), then wanting to get to Paris under the channel. From there we want to get to the south of France and then over to Switzerland. All this to be done in about 5 weeks. Any suggestions please as I am losing hair just thinking about it. The kids are 18, 16, and 14. And all tall. Please help.
Hi Tony, for travel around Europe I’d look at the trains with an eurail pass. Costs will be cheap for the kids and give you plenty of freedom to move about and not get stuck in a cramped bus seat. A bus will be cheaper but you really can’t beat seeing Europe from a train window in my opinion.
As for England you can get around on train really easily and buy tickets once in London. Hope that helps.
I am going to Europe on Aug/Sept for 4-5weeks really not sure what is best way to get around.
Looking at going:
Croatia & Bosnia
Greek Islands (Santorini/Mykonos)
Having trouble finding a cheap way to get from paris to nice and berlin prague to venice what’s best ways
Natalie the best form of transport is the train in my mind but it can be expensive in certain parts of the world. Have a look at the EUrail passes to see if one will work for you otherwise look into someone like busabout with their hop on hop off options.