The most daunting and stressful part of any holiday is navigating your way around the country! If dealing with language barriers and confusing instructions weren’t enough, often your 20kg of luggage stamps a massive target on your back that invites taxi drivers and tourist mongrels to take advantage of you. After falling victim to their ploys numerous times, in turn wasting stacks of coin, I am finally wiser to the best modes of travel around any European country. And, in genuine Wonderstruck Fawns spirit, I am happy to share my knowledge with you!
So here you go; the best way to get yourself around Europe!
The way I see it, you’ve got 3 legitimate options to get around Europe; planes, trains or busses. (I’m ruling out cars here, as these 3 options are more cost and time effective). Okay, so 3 choices. Let’s narrow this down.
Planes are often more trouble than they’re worth – after factoring in airport transfers and time spent waiting at airports, they’re often no quicker then ground travel, and after hidden costs around every corner, even the cheapest airlines are often the quite expensive. For these reasons, I don’t recommend air travel for the bulk of your European tour!
Busses in Europe are often touch and go- depending on which tour company you choose, it can be the smoothest ride of your life, or the scariest. Whilst most coaches these days come with built in TVs, WiFi connection and semi reclinable seats, they still are the slowest method by any means. If you’re traveling for months on a budget, you may be able to swallow the 12+ hours international journeys for the few Euro’s you’ll save, but for most on strict time constraints, you’ll need something a little speedier.
Enter trains. They’re the perfect synth between the speed of planes and the convenience of busses, which makes them the only option you should take note of. With prices hovering somewhere above busses and far lower then planes, they’re also your most effective method of travel in terms of time and money. They’re also great for long journeys, as, unlike busses, there is space for you to move around. Most European trains will also have a restaurant carriage or a canteen trolley that trundles along the carriages offering you the option to purchase snacks during your journey.. you know, if you needed another reason.
Okay, so as you can tell, I’m pro trains. However when bouncing around Europe you’ll find yourself in transit every couple of days, so the cash on train tickets certainly adds up. Enter the Eurail Pass.
BREAK IT DOWN FOR ME
A Eurail Pass is a master pass for all (most) international and domestic trains in Europe. There’s various passes on offer, including 1, 2 or 3 month unlimited passes, or passes for a X amount of travel days to be used in a period of Y months. Since I was traveling a lot, I chose to get the 3 month pass. However, at $1600, it’s not a decision I took lightly!
To help you decide if you want to invest in the Eurail pass, or stick it out with the busses, I’ve compiled the most important pros and cons of the Eurail.
▲ If you plan on traveling a lot, it’s the most cost effective mode of efficient travel. It easily trumps planes in terms of price, and is cheaper then purchasing train tickets as you travel. It’s more expensive than busses, but as stated, much faster.
▲ The Eurail app, which operates offline, is a comprehensive app that allows you to completely plan your travel journey in the palm of your hand. It takes the stress out of your trip, and is a huge benefit of the Eurail. Imagine missing a connection and being stranded, without WiFi, in a new city and having to figure out how you’re going to get back on your way… It’s my nightmare. Thankfully, the Eurail app solves this issue for you!
▲ Trains take you to the centre of the city, which is incredibly convenient. Most stations will be serviced by Metro lines that can take you straight to your accommodation, depending on when you’re staying.
▲ Most trains have power sockets to charge your electrical items.
▲ Trains are the most comfortable way to travel. Hands down. I’d take a train over a bus or plane any day.
▲ Overnight trains often have the option to purchase sleeper cabins with beds! Easily the most comfortable mode of overnight travel.
▲ Having the Eurail entitles you to certain discounts in most European cities! You can read more about that here.
▲ It’s expensive! $1600 for 3 months is a lot of money… (However, if you consider that you’re moving every 3-4 days, this amounts to about 30 travel days. With the average plane ticket sitting around $100 after baggage, it’s already half the amount you’d be spending on flights!)
▲ Trains are always delayed in Europe. Always. Okay, not always, but often. Average delays are around 30-40 minutes, however they can be longer. Something to be mindful of.
▲ Some trains contain additional fees. This is something I wasn’t aware of, and wish I knew before I purchased the Eurail (wouldn’t’ve changed my decision, but would have made feel less indignant post purchase). Some of the longer trains, or trains in Western countries require ‘Reservations’, aka, you have to pay a fee to reserve your seat. This is normally around 30 euro (as opposed to the 300 euro original fare), but it all adds up.
▲ Trains book out. Fast. Most of the trains around Europe, especially the overnight ones, require you to reserve your seat. Often this can only be done at your departing station, so make sure to reserve your exit train as soon as you arrive at a new destination.
I hope my mistakes and learned knowledge brings you some wisdom and clarification when you go to plan your next European adventure!
Now over to you – have you tried the Eurail? And if so, what are your thoughts on it?