Europe offers a lot to travellers but with so many amazing places to see and plenty of land to cover, you might be left wondering; what is the best way to travel around Europe?
When planning a trip through this incredible continent, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by all of the options. With fantastic places to visit, unique sightseeing on offer and countless transport options, it can be easy to find yourself in a never-ending travel planning hole.
From the bright lights of Paris to the intriguing wasteland of Chernobyl; the fairy-tale town of Bruges to the buzz of Budapest’s Sziget Festival, there is no shortage of itinerary stops on the vast European continent!
Though you’ll want to decide on the different spots that are of interest to you whilst travelling, we’re here to help you figure out the best way to travel around Europe.
So, What is the Best Way to Travel Around Europe?
Let’s start by saying that there is no one right way to travel around Europe.
Different modes of transport will suit different types of travellers at different points in time.
No method is perfect, just as none are out of the question… it all depends on your budget, timeframe and what you hope to get out of the experience.
With that said, let’s dig into what makes each form of transport different to help you determine the best way for you to travel around Europe.
Travelling Around Europe by Bus
If you’re travelling alone (or in a small group), buses are one of the most cost-effective, time-efficient ways to travel around Europe. What they lack in flexibility, they make up for in comfort and affordability.
- Bus transport in Europe is affordable.
- As tickets are issued on an individual basis, they are especially affordable for solo travellers (and couples).
- Buses tend to run throughout the day, allowing some flexibility in your itinerary.
- They’re often equipped with WiFi.
- You’ll have a guaranteed seat as they are assigned at the time of booking.
- Buses are sometimes faster than trains as they are generally able to take a more direct route.
- They can easily be combined with other forms of transport – eg when you’ve finished one leg, you can choose to fly onwards.
- Bus stations are sometimes out of the main tourist areas, requiring additional transport.
- If the available bus times don’t suit your plans, you may find yourself having to amend the time you spend in a city to make your connection work.
- There is no ability to share the costs across a larger group as tickets are issued on an individual basis.
- Buses are not able to stop for sightseeing on the way to your destination.
Are Trains the Best Way to Travel Around Europe?
Is there any transport option more romanticised than interrailing through the European countryside? Loved by travellers, trains are another relatively low-cost way for independent travellers to get around.
- Train transport in Europe is affordable – generally just a little more expensive than a long-distance bus.
- As many trains do not allocate seats, you can get onboard even if all of the seats have sold out; this means you’re unlikely to be turned away from a scheduled train.
- If your train does not allocate seats, you may find yourself without a seat.
- Trains do not always run the most direct route so you may have to catch two or more trains to get to your destination. This can add significant time to your journey.
- WiFi is not provided onboard trains in Europe.
- There is no discount for travelling as a group.
- They can easily be combined with other forms of transport for onwards travel.
Travelling Europe in a Car
Buy a Car
- If you’re travelling for an extended period, buying a car may work out to be more affordable than renting.
- As a group, you are able to pool payments for expenses (fuel and rental/purchase price).
- When travelling by car, you’ll have complete flexibility to stop where ever you like, whenever you like.
- You will be responsible for any upkeep and mechanical work that is required.
- Should your car break down, you’ll potentially find yourself stuck.
- If travelling by yourself, a car can be an expensive option as you’ll carry all the costs alone.
- Purchasing a car and getting insurance as a foreigner can be challenging.
- Selling a car in a different country to that from which you purchased can also be difficult.
- Should anything go wrong with your car it will be replaced/fixed at no charge to you.
- If you’re travelling with others, you will be able to split expenses.
- You’ll have complete control over your itinerary and desired stops.
- Rental cars can become expensive if hired for an extended period of time.
- If travelling solo, you will have to pay all the expenses yourself.
- If driving one-way, you’ll need to account for additional charges to have the rental company return the car.
Ride Sharing (BlaBlaCar)
- Costs are shared between riders and generally offered at affordable prices.
- As it’s set up ahead of time, you’ll have certainty regarding your pickup/drop off.
- You’ll have the opportunity to chat with a local (or two).
- Because you’ll be working to a set timetable, once you’re locked in, you’re locked in. If you want to leave a destination earlier, for example, that won’t be possible.
- People won’t always be offering available rides where/when you need them.
- Hitch hiking is generally free (though in our opinion, it’s nice to offer something).
- Hitching a ride will give you a chance to connect with a local.
- As you’ll try to pick up a ride on the side of the road, you won’t have a clue if/when someone will stop, nor will you know how far someone will be able to take you.
- Getting in a car with a stranger can obviously be dangerous so do your best to stay safe (if you do decide to hitch a ride).
- Many people are unwilling to stop for hitch hikers.
Does it Make Sense to Travel Around Europe in an RV/Campervan?
Travelling by RV/campervan is a perpetual favourite amongst independent travellers. The benefits and disadvantages here are exactly the same as we listed above when comparing buying and renting a car.
In addition, you may like to take the following factors into consideration…
- When basing yourself out of a campervan, you’ll have all of your gear within easy reach – that means no need to pack/unpack each day!
- Save money by travelling with an onboard fridge and kitchenette. Purchase groceries as you go and cook your meals yourself.
- If you’re feeling tired, it’s easy to pull over for a snooze.
- If you’re self-contained, you may be able to freedom camp to save on accommodation costs.
- Travelling down narrow streets can be a real challenge in an RV.
- Finding parking in towns can also be difficult – at times we had to park outside of town and catch local transport in when travelling by campervan in Norway.
- RVs can be expensive to rent, especially if you’re travelling solo or as a couple.
Fly: The Fastest Way to Travel Around Europe
If you’re short on time and are looking to travel large distances, you can’t beat jumping on a plane.
- Flights are able to cover a lot of land in a short period of time.
- By the time you get to the airport and allow for the required check-in time, flights are not always faster (and seldom cheaper), especially over short distances.
- You’ll have to pay extra to baggage on a lot of budget carriers.
- Airports are often located outside of town/city centres which means additional transport costs to get to them.
Hop Aboard a Coach Tour in Europe
If all of the above options sound like too much hard work, an organised tour is potentially the best fit for you. This option takes the planning and organisation out of your plans and will instead see you benefit from the buying power that tour companies enjoy.
- You’ll make instant friends.
- If you’re travelling solo, you’ll have the security, support and companionship that comes from travelling in a group.
- You won’t have to worry (or even think about) getting from one location to the next.
- You’ll likely find you save money when comparing an identical trip that you organise yourself (as the tour company benefits from having increased buying power).
- By joining a coach tour, you’ll enjoy the commentary and expertise of your tour guide.
- Some companies (like Gobus Tours) include WiFi, panoramic windows and will even take your luggage to your room for you!
- The pace of the tour might be different to what you’d normally choose for yourself; it’s quite possible that you would choose to spend more time in each location, if you were travelling independently.
- You won’t be able to independently stop as you’re driving along – though, if you pick your tour wisely, plenty of interesting stops will be included to break up the journey.
- You could end up on a tour that’s targeted at a different kind of traveller.
Reflecting on Best Way to Travel Around Europe: What Suits You?
With so many incredible sights to see in Europe, there really is no doubt that you’ll want to pay this continent a visit or two at some stage.
How will you travel from place to place upon arrival though?
Armed with the information in this post, you’ll now be equipped to book your preferred transport options.
The only question then, will be where you want to travel first?
Off top Europe? Pin this transport guide…