Traveling Europe is on many people’s bucket list, which is completely understandable. Europe can really please any type of traveler if you ask me. However Europe is fairly large so you’re going to need a means of transportation. Since all countries are somewhat connected this gives for a multitude of options. I’ve taken all of the options and summarized how they would be the most budget-friendly way to travel Europe and also what you can do to make the options more affordable. Basically a post littered with the most travel tips for traveling Europe.
- 6 Of The Most Economical Ways To See Europe
- 1. Traveling Europe By Car
- 2. Traveling By Bus
- 3. Seeing Europe By Train
- 4. European Air Travel
- 5. Cycle Your Way Through Europe
- 6. Walking Through Europe
6 Of The Most Economical Ways To See Europe
1. Traveling Europe By Car
It might not seem like it is the best option but there are ways that you can make traveling by car a budget-friendly option in Europe.
I have to mention this but you do have your classic rent a car option. Sometimes you can luck out and find a great deal when you book via a travel agency. Do be mindful of the fact that there are age restrictions when booking a car. Some car rental companies will not rent cars to people under 21.
An option by car that has way more chance of being budget-friendly is carpool. No I am not talking about trying to find a ride standing at the side of the road. Always an option but not the type of carpool I mean. There are several apps that let people schedule a ride that they are taking anyways and then you can join that ride for the cost of gas. An example of an app that lets you do that is blabla car.
Though they say that they vet the people on their platform, still be careful when using this method of transport.
Another is to rent a car for literally the time that you need it. This might sound like it is the exact same as renting a car from a car rental agency but it actually is not. This also works via an app where you can see which cars are available near you. However the cars are not on a lot but just parked wherever the last person that used the car left it. On the map you can see where they parked it, reserve the car and then use it for where you have to go. When you park the car someone else can then start the same process again. This is mostly available in the larger cities in Europe.
2. Traveling By Bus
The cost of traveling by bus is best compared with traveling by train. Sometimes the prices vary so much that it is immediately clear which one is the better option. Also the notion that traveling by train is always faster than by bus is not completely true. It really depends on the route you take! It has happened that by bus you’re faster and saving more money. Thus when considering traveling by bus in any of the ways discussed below definitely cross reference it with traveling Europe by train!
2.1 Traveling by Regular Bus
It’s well known that you can book whole holidays that travel by bus. A lesser known fact is that you can book just travels as well without the accommodation or tours that bus travel packages usually offer. In theory this works the same as booking coach travel however the difference lies in where they drop you off. As usually these busses take people to the hotel that is within the package that they offer.
This means that when you book just the ride without the accommodation you have to double check where the end destination of the bus is. Knowing just the city and possibly a train station is not enough. It might seem that way but other factors that you have to take into account are that these busses are, more often than not, catered to taking people to their hotel so arriving at 10.30 PM is not a problem to them. It could be a problem to you though if public transportation doesn’t run that late or you are in an area where public transportation is not as readily available or you have lots of layovers to get to your chosen accommodation. Not carefully planning all of the just mentioned points can make you lose out on the savings you got by just booking the travels sans the package deal.
Pro tip: check the prices of the hotel that the bus stops at. Sometimes booking things separately can do wonders for your budget.
2.2 Traveling Europe by Coach
Another budget-friendly way to travel Europe is by coach. From my research in traveling by coach the prices vary greatly on the days that you want to travel depending on where. If you want to travel to bigger cities I would do that during the week as the weekends tend to be more expensive.
A wonderful thing about traveling Europe by coach is that you can travel at night. It’s the most available option for night travel apart from flying. This can save you lots of time as you can sleep, perhaps not in the most comfortable positions, on the coach and have the entire day to explore your destination.
Also the worry about being dropped somewhere in the middle of nowhere is less or even not really there as they usually start and stop at major train or bus stations.
A company with a widespread European network is flixbus. However when booking with them take a good look at how long it takes you to get from A to B as sometimes there’s no direct connection from where you are starting to where you are going which causes you to have layovers. I always try to avoid these by seeing if another departure point that’s close by offers a better route timewise.
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Speaking of different departure points. That’s also a thing to check. Some cities in Europe have different departure points for buses. I always play around with these to find the most direct route possible. Which sometimes means choosing an ending point that is not the closest one to my hotel but does save me 1 or 2 hours of travel. It all depends on what you prefer. I just don’t mind being on the other end of the city and having to take a longer route of public transportation to get to my hotel, if that means I save myself a layover or two.
Playing around like this can not only save you a layover but also a lot of money as arriving at some of the most popular destinations can be more expensive. However if you were to choose one that is still in the city but not as popular you can really pull your price down. Another thing to be mindful of when playing around is the time that you arrive. The more favourable your time of arrival is, the higher the price can be. While arriving at an hour that is not as desirable, such as in the middle of the day instead of the morning, will take the price down quite a bit. Especially for weekends I’ve noticed this to be true more often than not.
3. Seeing Europe By Train
Traveling Europe by train takes by far the most planning time in my opinion. This is because there isn’t really a universal website where you can see all the trains you will have to take unless you are staying within the same country of course. Regardless of that traveling by train can be a really great & budget-friendly way of traveling Europe. Especially when you are below 25 years young as there are lots of youth options you can take advantage of!
Before I dive in and discuss the different kinds of options I just want to give some general advice. When traveling internationally by train the general rule of dumb is the earlier you book the best price you get. There are a few routes and trains that have set prices but those are more exceptions than rule. Also if it is an international train the tickets sell fast hence that I said you need to plan this early and very well!
3.1 Night trains
Night trains usually only do really long haul rides and generally do not stop until having reached the destination. Which is great when you want to hop from one country to the next in an easier fashion than flying. Night trains are your best option when you really want to go the distance but I would still compare them to air travel as with all the low-cost european airlines it might be more economical. Especially if the date of your travels is coming up soon.
3.2 Sleeper trains
Sleeper trains offer a bed and are quite like a hotel on wheels. There are different types of “rooms” that you can book at different price points. If you want one completely to yourself then you’ll probably be paying the most. One of the cool things about sleeper trains is that you can book a package and have your travel and accommodation settled at once. These are fantastic because they enable you to see quite a bit of Europe for that one price as these packages sometimes offer stops not only in several cities but also in several countries!
Seeing several countries like this can be more economical than flying across all of them. It also takes less time to hop on a train so you’ll have more actual sightseeing time. Though when traveling by train internationally in Europe you do sometimes have passport control.
3.3 Border trains
Border trains are not what they are officially called but they are what I call them. An easy and budget-friendly way to travel internationally is by taking a train that just crosses the border and then switching to the local train net of the country you’re in. Traveling in this matter can save you money by circumventing the sometimes steep international train prices while still getting you to the same destination.
The only downside to doing it this way is that you’re going to have to book on several websites as you’ll be buying from several countries. The upside is you get to see a new city if you don’t have a direct connection. I, personally, have made fantastic discoveries and travel memories like this.
4. European Air Travel
In countries that are really big, such as Germany for example, it can be more economical to fly than it would be to drive or to even take a train or bus. In Europe we have so many budget-friendly choices in airline travel that we have gotten to the point where your flight can be cheaper than a full tank of gas.
I have already gone ahead and made a list of the best budget-friendly airlines in Europe for you to choose from. Here you can find the list of low-cost European airlines. And not to worry as I keep the list updated to make sure you get the most for your money.
5. Cycle Your Way Through Europe
Though popular for short distances in many European countries, you can actually go the distance by bike in Europe. I feel like this is often a forgotten option unless you are already really into cycling, but it is a very good option.
Now you might think that you would have to bring your bike to get this done which is a fair thing to assume and if you have one I would definitely recommend doing it. However there are many cities in Europe where you can buy a bicycle for a relatively economical price, sometimes even with the option to sell it back to them if your ending point is the same as your starting point. Especially second-hand bikes are sold for very economical prices depending on where you are buying of course.
You can also rent a bike for stretches of time. I would be mindful of taking it out of the country as they might have policies that don’t allow that. So definitely ask before finishing your booking whether you can do your international trip on it.
If you’re wondering whether there are actually cycling routes to be found or you’re going to have to map that out yourself well then you’re in luck! Europe actually has cycling routes that take you through quite an extensive part of Europe. You can find some European cycling routes here! The site tells you exactly where you start and all the countries you pass through when following one of their routes.
Here’s a pro tip for you: you can use the crossovers between the different routes to put together your own cycling route through Europe. This way you can make sure you visit all the countries you actually want to visit.
The biggest must-do expense you have when traveling Europe by bicycle is the upkeep of your bicycle. Depending on whether you rent, buy or take your own the price is going to vary of course.
Depending on the route you take you might have to cross some waters. This will most likely be the case when you start all the way up north, but can happen on ”mainland” Europe as well, so that is an expense that could make the trip less budget friendly. However if you take in the whole picture of crossing 3/4/11(?) countries only for the cost of the upkeep of your bike and the cost of the ferry then you’re still sightseeing your way through Europe in a very economical way!
5.1 Combine Cycling With Train Travel
At some point cycling might get you all sorts of tired which you can easily solve by planning to take your bike with you on a train. For a relatively low addition to your regular ticket you can book for your bicycle to come with you. Just to be very clear you have to buy a specialized ticket for your bike to take it with you. You cannot just hop on a train with it because it could potentially land you a fine.
This is especially a good option if you want to change routes as train routes are most likely to be better connected between different cities than cycling routes are.
5.2 Combine Cycling With Bus Travel
The same as combing it with train travel with the exception that it could be a tad harder to get your bike on a bus as it really depends on the size bus and if the storage room has the capacity to fit your bike. This is definitely something to inform about prior to booking. I would even go as far as making sure that it is somewhere in writing that you’re bringing a bike on the bus as this can help you in case the bus the company decides to use a bus size for your trip doesn’t fit your bike.
6. Walking Through Europe
This one might be the strangest on the list but the most, the absolute most budget-friendly option to travel Europe is on foot. There are many people who have walked Europe from west to east or vice versa. Some have even started all the way up north.
I have said many times: in Europe if you live near a border there’s a high chance that you can literally walk into another country. So why not make a trip out of it? I understand the reasoning completely.
To travel Europe on foot the most expensive thing you’re going to need are good quality walking shoes. You’re of course also going to need accommodation and such things but those you can make as expensive or low cost as you’d like. The one thing you should definitely invest in is the shoes.
As there are cycling routes that take you all the way through Europe, there are also ready made walking routes. Though most people do it with a simple map or nowadays with google maps in order to truly follow what they like.
Now that you have seen all the options to travel Europe in a budget-friendly way, which one is your preferred method? Do you already have a trip in mind that you can now make more budget-friendly by choosing another method of travel?
Traveling Europe can truly be as expensive, comfortable or low-cost as you plan it to be.
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