With many European countries now open to fully vaccinated travellers, it’s time to start saying oui to a Parisian croissant, maybe wave at the Queen, or simply soak up some sun in the Mediterranean. Now it’s only a matter of knowing the best way to get around.
Europe offers up well over 40 countries to travellers, and with so many nations to explore, one of the most frequently asked questions from our readers is what is the best way to get around Europe.
Of course, “best” can mean different things to different people though!
Your ideal transport will depend on a number of factors like whether you’re looking for the cheapest routes, the fastest routes, or those with the most flexibility. So it’s important to weigh up all your options.
If you’re planning a trip to Europe, you’ll first need to consider how many people are travelling with you, where are you looking to go, how long are you planning on travelling, how much luggage do you plan on taking, and finally when you are thinking of booking.
These questions will help you decide which of the following main methods of transport throughout Europe will be the best for you.
The Best Ways to Get Around Europe
Get Around Europe Easily with Omio
I will be covering six of the main ways people get around Europe, with the top four ways being made easy with Omio.
Omio is a comparison and booking tool (website and app) which lets you search for and book the best routes between countless European cities, while being able to seek out the best possible rates.
With Omio at your fingertips (click here to start searching), you can search for the cheapest or fastest flights with both big name and budget airlines.
You can search for more cost-effective buses with companies like Eurolines, Avanza, and RegioJet, carbon footprint-reducing train journeys with companies including Thalys, Renfe, and Eurostar, and hundreds of ferry routes across 17 countries.
Once you decide on what method of travel you’ll be using throughout Europe, let Omio do the much harder work of searching through all the various companies for a quick and comprehensive list of the quickest or cheapest options.
Europe by Bus
Let me start with budget travellers looking to get Europe around on the cheap. Your best bet will be on the bus since this is typically Europe’s most budget-friendly transportation option.
While buses may not be the most glamorous or fastest way to travel, they get the job done and allow you to save your cash for food, lodging, and experiences.
Travelling by bus allows you to be a bit more spontaneous with your travels, since tickets can readily be purchased just minutes before boarding.
Bus routes also generally follow the same routes as trains, you’ll just pay more for a train ticket since it will likely get you there quicker. That being said, bus travel throughout parts of Central and Eastern Europe may actually be quicker than train travel.
Bus journeys are best when they aren’t long-haul buses, unless you plan on taking overnight buses where you can hopefully sleep during most of the journey.
Booking overnight buses will also allow you to save even more money since you won’t have to book accommodation that night, just be warned that I have done this many times and have been completely wrecked upon arrival at my destination in the early AM hours of the day.
Europe by Plane
Not so keen on the idea of buses? Maybe you’re more of a flight person. Flights provide incredible connectivity across Europe, where you can be just about anywhere in just a few hours time.
Of course, all that speedy travel comes at a price. Air travel can prove to be one of the most expensive ways to travel around Europe, but you can cut costs by flying budget airlines and travelling with minimal baggage.
With more and more air routes opening up between European cities, and a greater selection of budget airlines providing what looks like at least on the surface affordable routes, many travellers are going with air travel.
Just make sure to be aware of hidden costs when booking with budget airlines. Does your ticket include any baggage allowance, in-flight food, or the ability to select your seat? Choosing budget airlines is definitely no-frills flying where extra costs can add up quickly.
You also need to make sure to carefully check which airports flights are departing from and arriving in. Really attractively priced flights often see you visiting less popular airports where you may have a longer and more expensive taxi ride into the city awaiting you upon arrival.
While flying is often a great way to travel across Europe, there are some other potential drawbacks of winging it. Having to allow more time to check in for flights, dealing with strict baggage limits, waiting in long queues, and getting hit with hefty cancellation or change fees when plans go awry are all things that can make flying even more expensive and stressful.
Europe by Train
Consider trains to be the Goldilocks way to travel. Trains aren’t as cheap as buses but are generally more economical than flights, and when it comes to speed you’ll find they offer a nice compromise between agonizingly monotonous long-haul bus journeys and speedy air travel.
One of the biggest advantages of European train travel is that most trains journeys can be booked from city centres unlike airports which are often situated a great distance from the major attractions and accommodation options. That means you may be able to avoid the need to book a taxi or Uber to get to your hotel or hostel upon arrival into the city.
Another bonus of trains over buses is that you can get up and walk around, and potentially book a private sleeper cabin. And trains also have an edge over flying in terms of luggage allowance.
With train travel, there is much less restrictions in terms of weight and size of bags, allowing you to keep accumulating more and more souvenirs during your holiday without worry. There are also no restrictions when it comes to travelling with liquids.
Types of Train Travel
One factor to consider is deciding whether you want a high-speed train which generally require a reservation or whether you wish to seek out a longer but more scenic train journey that may have more booking flexibility.
Much like buses, there may be overnight train journey options as well where you can book a sleeper cabin and avoid paying a more expensive night’s hotel accommodation.
Another option with train travel depending on where you want to travel is to base yourself out of a single European city and then plan return day trips via train to nearby cities you want to check out. This avoids having to constantly pack and unpack and may allow you to take advantage of cheaper longer-stay accommodation rates.
Note that because languages can differ between European countries, booking train tickets via companies’ own websites may prove confusing. You can easily avoid this by booking train tickets on Omio where you know the booking process will always be in English and easy to use.
Europe by Ferry
Now that I’ve covered land and air, let’s take things to the water. Europe also offers the chance to travel between countries by way of ferry.
Whether you’re planning travel between Scandinavian nations, or wish to do a bit of island-hopping in Greece or Croatia, ferries can be a great option. You’ll find there are both speedy passenger-only catamarans as well as slower ships that can accommodate you and your vehicle if you’re travelling with a rental car.
The larger, slower-moving ferries tend to be a bit cheaper than the faster ones and their schedules are not usually affected as much by inclement weather.
Many larger ferries also offer travellers things like lounges, restaurants, entertainment, and onboard pampering in the form of spas. Depending on the length of journey, you may also have the option of booking a a private cabin.
A few drawbacks with ferry travel include the fact that many routes may be seasonal depending on the destination, and routes on smaller ferries with limited seating may sell out quickly during peak season.
Booking an onboard private room can also set you back just as much if not more than a nice hotel room would. Oh, and I haven’t even mentioned seasickness.
While most European ferries shouldn’t pose too much of a problem, you may want to pack some medication if your especially prone to seasickness.
Europe by Rental Vehicle
If you’re more of an independent traveller who’s possibly looking to stray far off the beaten path, renting a vehicle may be the best option for you.
Having a vehicle readily at your disposal allows you to take your travel more into your own hands. You are no longer restricted by schedules set by trains, planes, or buses.
Renting a vehicle can get quite expensive for longer holidays, especially when you consider added fuel and insurance costs. However, you can avoid or greatly reduce accommodation costs by renting a campervan and seeking out free or low-cost overnight parking areas.
Renting a vehicle is great for travellers travelling with a large family and lots of luggage as your transport costs would otherwise pile up quickly using planes, trains, and buses.
Renting a vehicle is also a great option for travellers who cherish their own personal space and don’t want to feel constricted by constantly having to be places at specific times. This is definitely one of the most flexible transport options.
Of course there are drawbacks associated with renting a vehicle besides the cost factor. For one, it may be difficult to find an automatic vehicle in some European countries, you may have to get used to driving on the opposite side of the road, and may need to brush up on the local road rules.
You may also need to make sure your driving licence will be accepted in the country you plan on driving in, or you may need to get an international driving permit. And remember that fuel is quite expensive in a number of European countries.
Europe by Guided Tour
Lastly, if the thought of booking an assortment of flights, trains, buses, and ferries seems all a bit too much, consider booking a tour where all the transport is planned for you.
Whether it’s a European river cruise where all the shore excursions are set up for you, or a land-based tour where a company takes care of all the driving for you, a guided tour allows you to sit back and relax while someone with local knowledge plans pretty much everything.
The drawbacks of a tour are of course a more rigid itinerary where you don’t have the flexibility to go off script.
That being said, for those travellers that aren’t really sure what they want to see but simply wsih to travel, this can be a great way to take a much needed holiday with as much ease as you can get.
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