I am spending two months in Europe this summer, and I wanted to take advantage of the cheap ways to travel to some of my favorite places and explore a few new destinations while I am here (more on my upcoming travel plans in my monthly round-up). With the exchange rate between US Dollars and Euros being more favorable than it has been in a long time, and a myriad of ways to get around the continent for very little money, there is no better time to travel around Europe than now!
During my research on how to get around Europe I came across several websites and apps that make your trip even cheaper – because when traveling Europe, you never want to just show up and hop on a train or bus – you have to book in advance. This does require more travel planning than in other parts of the world, but use the tools I am sharing below and you can see Europe for very little money.
The following websites and apps are the ones that I use to figure out how to get from country to country, which way is the cheapest and the most convenient:
GoEuro is my first go-to website when I look to travel around Europe. What I like is that it shows me all the options I have to get from Place A to Place B: Plane, Bus, Train and (shared) car. And not only does it show me how much each of these options will cost me on the date of my choice, but also how long it will take me. That way I can still decide if I want to go for the $30 bus ticket over the convenience of a flight, or if it makes more sense to take a 2-hour flight over an 8-hour bus ride. GoEuro has special rail rates by the way – I often don’t find their rates on the official rail websites they take you to when you want to book a ticket, so make sure to go through GoEuro. Tip: GoEuro now also offers car rentals and I’ve found some pretty competitive rates on their website – if you are traveling as a couple or in a group of four, this might be even a cheaper option, provided you return the car at the same place you pick it up, for example when you are planning to visit the Highlands in Scotland.
Bus travel is hands-down the cheapest way to travel around Europe these days, and the number of bus companies that zigzag all over Europe seems to be growing steadily. It can be hard not to lose track of all the different bus providers and which ones cover which route, but that’s where Busradar comes in.You simply type in your travel date and your departure and destination cities and Busradar will show you all the available bus companies that cover this route, and how much a ticket for each one is. Sometimes the difference between ticket prices is marginal, but sometimes companies have sales and comparing ticket prices can save you a considerable amount of money. Busradar also shows you which amenities each company offers, i.e. things like toilet on board, wi-fi, how many pieces of luggage are allowed and if there are power outlets.
What I also like about Busradar is that they include car sharing (more on that in the next paragraph) in their searches, but right in the listing with all the bus companies, as you can see in the image below, pointing out how much faster car sharing is compared to bus travel.
I’ve been using BlaBlaCar in Germany for years, and it has grown into the biggest car sharing platform in Europe. I have been using car sharing both ways: as a driver, taking passengers with me, and as a passenger, sharing a ride – dozens of times within Germany but also internationally from Milan to Munich via Austria, and I have always had great experiences. The great thing about car sharing is that you automatically meet like-minded people and can connect with other travelers easily. While car sharing is not necessarily cheaper than buses anymore (bus tickets are ridiculously cheap!), it is certainly faster than taking a bus.
Tip: If you are unsure about taking a ride with a stranger, read through the reviews that other passengers have left.
I will be using an Interrail pass for the first time for part of my Euro trip next month, and I am looking forward to taking advantage of Europe’s excellent train network. Interrail might be a little bit more expensive than buses, but it’s without a doubt the most comfortable way to travel around Europe. Trains in Europe are fast (many countries have high-speed trains), reliable and enjoyable. If you dislike bus travel, you should look into buying a Eurail pass, which starts at €46 for a 1-country pass and €192 for a Global Pass (valid in 30 countries!) – which is actually a steal. Tip: If you’re planning a Euro rail trip I recommend downloading the excellent Eurail /Interrail app for iOS or Android which includes all train schedules and also shows you which ones require a reservation.
Europe is blessed with several budget airlines – it is rare that I had to pay more than €50 to get anywhere within Europe, be it from London to Barcelona or Berlin to Istanbul. Flights can be ridiculously cheap (the best deal I’ve personally found was a flight from London to Cornwall for £1!), and for some distances, say the UK to Italy or Portugal to Sweden, it simply makes sense to take a cheap flight instead of spending two days on trains or buses. It can be a bit tricky to find out which airlines cover the destination you’re planning to visit, but Google Flights has become much better in including budget airlines recently – much better than Skyscanner even, and most other flight comparison websites don’t include budget airlines at all. A quick Google search usually reveals which airlines go to the place you’re planning to visit, and this guide on budget flying within Europe by Rick Steves also has some great information, plus a list of all European low-cost carriers.
Cheap holiday package deals
You know that I am usually an independent traveler, but sometimes even I can’t say no to a great travel bargain – and that’s how I found myself on Mallorca a few years ago: because I had stumbled upon a package deal that included flights and accommodation in a 4* hotel for a week for €200! And of course it’s up to you what you make of your vacation: I still ended up exploring the whole island with a rental car, but I didn’t mind coming home to a fancy hotel and knowing I didn’t have to deal with airport transfers.Package deals like this aren’t rare to find in Europe – right now you can find great last minute deals to places like Greece, Turkey and other Southern European destinations online – for example a week of self-catering in a beach resort in Greece including flights from the UK for £179! A week on the Turkish Riviera for £167 including return flights from the UK? Or a week in a vacation apartment in Cyprus for £232, also including flights? Yes, please!
Looking for package vacation deals like this can enable you to include a week in a country that you might not be able to visit otherwise. These deals are particularly good in the shoulder season – and I don’t think that deals to Greece for example will ever be better than they are now. Check out websites like Lastminute.co.uk or Holidayhypermarket for package deals like those mentioned above.Do you have any tips on how to get around Europe on a budget? Feel free to share them in the comments below!