An essential part of travel is… the actual travelling. Unless you’re on a city-trip, at some point you probably want to get from A to B. Admitted, some routes are more spectucalr than others, and not all ways of transport are equally pleasant. But getting around can be part of the joy of travelling, and even in Europe it doesn’t have to be expensive.
- Take the bus
The major destinations in Europe are well-connected by budget airlines and the excellent European train network is rightfully praised. However, in some parts, like the Balkans, bus is the major mode of transnational travel. But even in better-connected parts of Europe the transnational buses of Eurolines are a very valid alternative for the budget-minded traveller. For example, say you want to travel from Amsterdam to Frankfurt. The cheapest flights are at least 90 Euro, train tickets start at 59 Euro but the bus costs just 25 Euro! Sure, 8 hours by bus is longer than 6 hours by train, but it does save you 35 Euro. And on shorter routes, like Amsterdam-Brussels, the margin is even greater (9 vs 29 Euro for the cheapest tickets and the train is only an hour faster).
- Rent a car
What? Renting a car? How’s that a budget mode of transport? Well, under certain conditions it is. First of all, if you’re going to remoter destinations, or off the beaten track, renting a car can be even a necessity. Secondly, since trains in Europe can be quite expensive, if you travel in a group, or moving around a lot, renting a car can turn out to be cheaper than train or even bus. “Group” doesn’t mean you have to squeeze 5 guys in a small-sized vehicle, the break-even group size is usually between 2 and 3. This means that even for a couple, renting a car can be a budget option and if there’s 4 of you, don’t hesitate to rent. Finally, car rental is about the only thing in Europe that is cheaper outside the peak season of July-August, and the differences can be significant. Check the prices in different months – it might pay off to postpone your travel by a couple of weeks, to save hundreds of Euros on the rental vehicle.
This is for the more adventure-minded travellers. For women its probably not the best idea to hitchhike alone even in the safest countries. Generally, standing by the roadside with a board or the thumb up is not a good way to hitch a ride. Go to a gas station and engage in conversation with people you want to give you a ride. Smile a lot. Learning a few words in the country’s language, even if only saying “Hello, how are you”, is essential for breaking the ice. Ask people politely where they are going and if they would be ready to take you with them. While hitchhiking took me once from Vienna to Eindhoven in just 10 hours, be prepared for the worse – like getting stuck on a dead road for a whole day. Fortunately, in the modern hyperconnected world, there are special websites like www.carpooling.com or its local sibling www.mitfahrzentrale.de, where you can find a ride in advance (maybe while paying part of the gas costs). Additionally, Couchsurfing groups are a great way of getting in touch with other travellers, that may want to join you in hitchhiking, share gas costs or just give you a ride. Happy hitchiking and stay safe!
Well, now you know where in Europe to go to on a budget, how to find a cheap place to sleep and how to get from A to B. Next time – the all essential question of when to go if you want to be able to travel Europe for 30 Euros a day (and I promise not to forget to tell you what you can actually do in Europe on a budget).
- Rent a car