Omni Traveller

Budget Backpack Travel in Europe

Getting Around Europe For Less

Visiting Europe on a budget? The easiest place to make significant cuts in your budget is also the best place to make cuts without diminishing much from your enjoyment of your destinations. This area is your mode of transportation; and luckily, there are many student-friendly options to choose from.


 

Planes

The fastest and sometimes the cheapest way to get around Europe by air. Unlike the overly expensive and restrictive system of air travel in the United States, Europe has a travel-friendly web of flights and carriers that can take you just about anywhere you would need to go without eating up a large portion of your vacation fund. Flights throughout Europe can be pricey, of course; but if you know where to look, great deals can be found.

To begin with, flights found while actually in Europe through European based internet servers and websites usually provide much lower flight prices than those found in America and Canada. However, you must be in Europe to buy them and waiting to book your inter-European flights until you’re actually in Europe can be a big risk. Doing this would leave you exposed to the potentially trip ruining predicament of finding out there are no available seats on the flight you need or no flights leaving at the times you need them. This method also would require putting credit card numbers through the unsecured internet connections found at hostels or internet cafes. For some people, this might add to the thrill of adventure and if you’re willing to take the risks it could save you a respectable amount of money in the end.

The best places to search for the flight deals are on any number of search engines such as www.skyscanner.com which will show all price ranges going anywhere in Europe.

The king, and jester, of all cheap flights in Europe is the legendary and infamous RyanAir. RyanAir offers the most suspiciously cheap flights around Europe, sometimes even selling flights for the price of a single Euro.

The curtain is usually pulled aside pretty quickly when you buy into these deals and realize fees are attached to your price for things such as having a bag, printing out a boarding pass and not printing out a boarding pass. Regardless of these ridiculous add-ons, RyanAir flights are still usually the cheapest flights you’ll find and are usually worth it, even if the safety you feel while on the actual flight may make you wonder why they don’t charge a mandatory personal parachute fee, just in case.

There are a handful of other more regionally specialized budget airlines but, love it or resent it, RyanAir has the most extensive network.

 

To EuRail Pass or Not to EuRail Pass

The most romantic, scenic and old timey way to travel around Europe is still many times the best option—the train. With so many countries so close to each other in such a relatively small geographic region, Europe built a reliable, extensive, and efficient international train system decades ago. In western Europe, trains are safe, well-maintained, and dependable. Single-destination tickets are usually reasonable, but for those travelling to several cities and towns in different countries, there is also the potentially more economical EuRail Pass.

The EuRail Pass provides a sort of metro card like system of riding the rails through most of continental Europe but not including Britain, Russia, and some other far eastern European countries. The EuRail Pass system is also saddled with rules, restrictions, limitations (off-limit regions within the system), and an overall convoluted nature of the beast that takes away a lot of the appeal.

For some, the EuRail Pass may be practical. But a EuRail Pass is a bargain only if you have a very short trip timeline and you are cramming in many, perhaps too many, destinations in too short a time to fully appreciate them.

Besides the fact that Britain is not within the system, a common complaint is that after purchase, a EuRail Pass gives an unwanted sense of having to rush from destination to destination in order to be able to make full use of the pass. So, it does have an unexpected price.

Do research on how the pass works, find the prices for individual tickets between your destinations vs. a EuRail Pass for the same destinations and the time period of your travels, and see which one is the better idea, before you leave home.

You may discover a EuRail Pass is just flat out expensive.

Otherwise, picking up your train tickets individually and for exactly where you want to go, and save money, have a sense of complete freedom, and have a more enjoyable, leisurely trip.

Incidentally, whatever train you wish to take will usually have tickets available even a few hours before the train actually departs. You can go into the train station and buy your tickets there (there is usually an English speaking teller or two) and you may find you will save a significant amount of money even from the prices you may have just seen listed on the internet.

Also, in the train station in many countries you will be able to buy a country specific student card that will provide you with further discounts on most train tickets within that country.

 

Renting a Car

Renting a car may not be the most commonly chosen method of transportation for travellers in Europe but it is definitely one that can provide the most alternative and customizable adventure.

All the roads less travelled and the option to go down any path or take any interesting-looking detour you may come across is a powerfully tempting siren. Not being at the mercy of train timetables or crowded plane flights is yet another appealing draw. However, this can easily become the most expensive way to travel as well.

Between renting (or buying) a car, gas prices (which are much higher than North America) and insurance this option could quickly eat up your entire budget. Securing whatever licenses may be necessary for each individual country, figuring out the regional rules of the road and worrying constantly about parking are yet more topics to be concerned about. For the individual this all may be too much, but if you are travelling in a group you can split the costs and responsibility with, going by car could be the greatest and most memorable way to experience Europe.

In Germany in particular, trains are really expensive. In response to this, websites such as www.mitfahrgelegenheit.de have emerged to pair up travellers who may have an extra train ticket or who may be driving across the country and have an empty seat open for anyone willing to pay for their share of the gas. Websites like these are very commonly used in Germany and can save a ton of money getting around. Many may question the safety of such a site after watching the most recent slasher film, but in reality these connections are usually very safe.

As always, single female travellers should take extra caution. A good idea could be to team-up with someone you’ve met in a hostel and travel together. This is a safer option.

 

Whichever Path Is Best

As you can see, there are many modes and combinations of modes of transportation to get around in Europe.

Flying is obviously the fastest and many times the cheapest but in doing so you miss miles of beautiful scenery and possible stops along the way. Trains are fast and reliable but sometimes they can be a little too time consuming and pricey. Cars and buses are cheap but can take a long time, in some cases days.

It’s all a matter of preference and how much money and time you have, or are willing to spend. Spending and travelling in the lap of luxury is incredible and can really make a trip much more enjoyable but the cheaper you go, the better the stories you might have.