Ask LH: What Are The Best Ways To Travel Europe?

Dear Lifehacker, I've been meaning to plan a trip to Europe for a while now, but I'm not sure how to go about getting the most out of my trip. There are so many ways to travel Europe, including different services and transport options and I'm not sure which one to pick. What is the most efficient way to travel Europe, for a range of budgets? Thanks, RyanJ

Europe travel image via Shutterstock

Dear Ryan,

There are so many options for travelling Europe, and many different places you might want to put on your travel itinerary. It comes down to deciding what you want from the trip, and what your style of travelling is. There are options for travelling independently, semi-independently and fully guided, and for each of these styles there are options ranging from expensive luxury trips to those more suitable to shoestring budgets.

For the independents there are a number of options. The best way to do it if you're planning on going off the beaten track is to hire a car, as long as you have the budget for it. Rick Steves' Europe travel hub estimates the average weekly cost of hiring a car in Europe to come out around $US580 a week, which works out to roughly $820 with current exchange rates. It does depend on which country you hire in and the rates you can manage to find, but you should budget around this amount as a ballpark.

If you're on a tighter budget that doesn't allow enough for car hire (or you don't drive), there are still options for you to get yourself around. Coaches and trains can be caught between most major hubs in Europe, and can be booked on the fly if you're making up an itinerary on the go. However most long-distance train services will be much cheaper if you book a few days in advance, so being organised will save you a few more Euros for partying. If you're planning on travelling lots of long-distance trips by rail then it's worth investing in a Eurail Pass, but make sure you're committed to enough train journeys to get your money's worth. Getting to obscure destinations may be more difficult without a car, but don't be afraid to get to know the local public transport system.

Semi-independent travel is great for those who want a more curated trip, but still want to pick their own daily activities and have the ability to change things up as they travel. Busabout is a hop-on hop-off bus tour that lets you choose how long you stay in any of their European destinations. Their loops are curated to give you the best out of your time in Europe, and stretch from Western Spain to Poland in Eastern Europe, and from Rome up to Berlin and Amsterdam. Busabout also allows you to book recommended accommodation and tours through them, so it's a great option for people who don't want to have to go to the effort of researching everything themselves.

For those who want to let someone else do all the work, there are plenty of companies running tours of Europe to suit many budgets and time allowances. Contiki and Topdeck are the most popular party tours, if you want to hit up the nightlife of Europe and make some friends along the way. Offerings from companies like Intrepid, on the other hand, tend to be far more focused on cultural experiences and outdoor activities.

If you're keen to keep costs down, it's also worth cherry-picking what countries you go to. The UK (in particularly, London) is one of the more expensive destinations, along with Switzerland and Austria in continental Europe. Capital cities like Rome, Paris and Madrid can also get a lot more pricey than the smaller destinations within their respective countries. If you're looking for a fantastic trip on a budget, think about doing a chunk of your travelling in Eastern Europe. While countries like the Czech Republic and Poland aren't as popular as their western cousins, they are much cheaper, and have some incredible cultural experiences to offer.

Cheers, Lifehacker

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Comments

    I travelled Europe by train (and ferry between Greece and Italy) for 3 months from Athens to Copenhagen, and everything in between. I highly recommend it, comfortable and hassle free - you turn up 15 mins before departure, find your seat, and off you go

    I used Viator to scope out city walking tours or anything else of interest at every major stop. Also look into GlobalGig for phone and data access everyone you go

    Europe is super easy, make sure to smile and mind your P's and Q's, and you get along just fine

    Be selective. Work out what you want to see/experience and tailor your itinerary around that. I'm going to Europe for 5 weeks in May. Was originally going to get a Eurail pass and travel through central and Eastern Europe (not interested in overly touristy places like Paris or Rome). Then I started investigating Albania (wife's family was originally there). Turns out were pretty much spending the bulk of our trip in Albania now. Has alpine regions, unspoilt Mediterranean coastline, Greek and Roman ruins, world heritage listed villages etc and is also one of the cheapest countries in Europe (pint of beer is about $1.5, packet of smokes is about $2). 20 days accommodation in best clas accommodation is about $1700.

    ***Disclaimer: I run a travel agency***

    As above there is many different options - the other huge factor which was really covered is time. Each method of getting around is really dependent on how much time you've got overall and how much time you want to allocate to each place you want to see.

    My 2c-
    Busabout-
    Is great for longer term travel (6weeks +). It's a flexible way to customise your own individual itinerary while making use of their network which covers all the major destinations. They can also assist with booking hostels. The value gets better the more you use it.

    Eurail-
    Is a great option, I always recommend rail over flying where possible. The great thing about rail is you actually get to see much of the amazing European countryside and discover smaller towns you may not normally see. The passes are only available to tourists outside Europe so they are at special discounted rates and can be highly customised depending on where/how long you've got. They're also great for efficiency as you've mentioned in original question as you go from city centre to city centre and no need to be at the station 2-3 hours before like you would an Airport.

    Coach Travel-
    Great options out there to cater to different experiences/budgets/age groups. Contiki and Topdeck are only for ages 18-39 and are a reliable way to see lots in a shorter amount of time. They seem to have garnered a reputation as being a partybus however especially Contiki now has 8 different types of trip styles so you could opt for say a Discovery Plus style trip with sleep ins and more nights in each city. There's also Cosmos/Globus which has a higher average age demographic and high standard. G Adventures has some unique trips which use a variety of transport such as trains, coaches, local transport and get of the beaten track a bit more also in a shorter period of time.

    Carhire- This generally can work out much cheaper than advertised, especially for longer hires. There's also the option of leasing with Peugot for long term needs.

    In summary if it's your first time there, you've only got 5 weeks and you want to see most of the major cities and sights I'd recommend some sort of coach trip tailored to your style. The tend to be the best value for money as they include great accommodation options which are centrally located. It gets you around from place to place so you don't need to work out timetables in foreign languages and can spend your time more efficiently actually seeing the places rather than getting caught up in the logistics of getting around.

    Shameless Plug: I'd be happy to help with yours or anyones trip to Europe, I'm from Scotland and got extensive experience in travelling Europe. Feel free to contact me at [email protected] (You can also layby your trips through my company)

    You'll have a great time, as they say - Paris is always a good idea.

      I did Busabout myself for a 6 week trip, and I loved it. Definitely would have been even better if I'd had more time to use their whole flexible system, there were definitely places I would have liked to extend if I had the time!

        I've used them for their Festival trips, they do for Hogmanay in Edinburgh. All in all really good company to deal with - It'd be a dream to take 6 months off and to their Hop on Hop off network at a nice slow pace - there's so many places I'd still love to see around Europe. I can see why so many Aussies do the whole working in the UK thing - it's a great base to explore!

    We don't you use Stoke Travel Rolling Circus festival! It is a bus that travels through Europe and it starts in Spain - Barcelona and ends in Munich for Oktoberfest. It is a party bus, so you get different parties every night, its like a circus you take part - but its all around Europe!! Me and my friends went on it last year, and it was the most amazing idea to get around Europe+ party+ meet people+ and see sights!!!!!

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