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
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.
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