What makes Europe the easiest continent to travel through? Its extensive and well-developed transportation network, of course! No other continent in the world is as thoroughly-connected and linked as Europe is - making it the perfect destination for first-time solo travelers.
The knowledge of how to maximize such a facility definitely becomes a valuable skill to have - not only can it save you vast amounts of money and time, but it can also give you the experiences of a lifetime. For that reason, I feel like it is my duty to share the knowledge I have accumulated over the past year - spreading the love!
Europe paved its way as the biggest consumers of low-cost air travel, with countless low-cost airlines mushrooming across the continent - making air travel more often than not the cheapest and fastest way to travel. But with so many airline companies to choose from, how would you know the best deals that are offered? That is where flight comparison websites come into play - the more famous ones being Skyscanner and Kayak. A slightly more unconventional website that has immediately became my personal favourite is Azair.
For first-timer visitors, do not be deterred by the seemingly complicated user interface. Upon exploration, you will come to realize that its wealth of options available will allow you to tailor flights to your every travel need. A true gem for European flight search as it is connected to 58 different European airlines including Eastern European destinations (quite a rarity in other flight comparison websites). Some examples of its flexibility are ;
- Different route options to a destination, including taking several different airlines, layovers up to a maximum of 5 different airports, overnight layovers, flights from different airports, etc
- Different travel date options, by specifying range of travel dates and duration of travel
- If destinations don't really matter to you but only the cheapest flights does, it also has the "take me anywhere" option
Pros : Fastest form of transport (for long distance travels), cheapest (with the right deals)
Cons : Destinations limited to bigger cities with airports, location of airport is often out of the city centre so extra transportation is required to get to the city
Say a car driver from Paris wants to drive to Barcelona over the weekend to see his girlfriend. The journey will take at least 10 hours and will probably cost him an arm and a leg on petrol and toll charges. So instead of ploughing through the 10 hour journey alone, he can go to Blablacar and advertise empty seats in his car to other travelers looking to make the same trip! Travel costs are shared and to top it off, he will now have travel buddies to keep him awake for the next 10 hours. Simple, but genius!
Whether its a 30 minute drive from suburbs outside of Brussels to Brussels city centre, or an 11 hour drive from Geneva to Berlin, Blablacar has it all. All you have to do is sign up, set up a user profile, find drivers that are heading to your destination and reserve a seat in their car.
Throughout my travels, I have found Blablacar to be the cheapest form of land travel because the objective of the service is to bear the cost of the journey together - instead of making profit. You do have to pay 10% commission to Blablacar for the service that it provides, but it is worth every penny with the personal space and comfort of traveling in a car. The cherry on top of the cake is of course having instant travel buddies to make the long traveling time fly by. However, it is not all sweet, spice and everything nice when it comes to Blablacar. A downside to this service is that drivers sometimes tend to cancel on you last minute - it rarely happens, but not unheard of.
Pros : Cheapest form of land travel, faster than busses, instant travel companions (usually locals too!)
Cons : Slightly unreliable, slower than trains
European railway system is the most comprehensive transportation network the world has ever seen. With railways spanning over thousands of kilometres, it has made traveling accessible to any Tom, Dick or Harry. Trains are essentially the most "European" way to travel across the continent, especially with the availability of Eurail passes allowing unlimited travel on all European railways. Come summer, the trains are jam-packed with youth from all over the world equipped with their Eurail passes, ready to take over Europe. It is definitely a sight to behold.
I personally have never been able to justify purchasing a Eurail pass because of the top dollar prices. I prefer to combine trains with other transportation options that cater better to my budget. The best thing about traveling on a train is upon arriving at your destination, you are right smack in the city centre!
Pros : Reliable, comfortable, fastest form of travel (when measuring city-centre to city-centre traveling time), train stations are located in easily accessible locations
Cons : Expensive, often sold out thus unavailable for last-minute travelers
Busses are well...busses. They get you to your destination cheaply, albeit the grueling traveling time and questionable driving manners of some drivers. One thing to keep in mind - buses can get you to places that are unreachable by other means of public transport, definitely a plus point!
Pros : Cheap, vast array of destinations, reliable
Cons : Slow, least comfortable form of transport
How to choose?
Traveling in Europe leaves you spoilt for transportation choices. Do you really have to go through each option to find out the best one to suit your budget, time constraints and preferences? Lucky for us - we live in a time where convenience triumphs all. A website has been ingeniously designed to carefully sift through all transportation options and list down the cost, travel time and timetables for each. The holy grail for European transportation is no other than Rome2rio.
The print-screen above shows various options available for the journey from Zurich, Switzerland to Bratislava, Slovakia. The routes are arranged according to travel time - from fastest to slowest - alongside the cost of each transport. With its clean and simple user-interface, Rome2rio has transformed what used to be a tedious time-consuming process to a seamlessly uncomplicated experience - without costing you a dime!
Hopefully these transportation tips will help make your European travels a breeze. Do you have other transportation tips for fellow Eurotrippers? Do share them here and spread the love!