The train is one of the most beautiful, relaxing, and economical ways to travel around Europe. Unlike in the United states, where trains are somewhat infrequent and notoriously unreliable, almost every European city has a train station with many daily departures… and they’re punctual! Also, while air travel requires the traveler to get to the airport at least an hour before take off, getting to the train station fifteen minutes early is usually ample time.
Discounts: Travelers between the ages of 16-25 are considered “youths” and can get train tickets at cheaper prices. Also, at many train stations allow you to buy multiple tickets (usually six or more) at a discounted rate.
Where to get train passes/tickets:
These websites both offer different rail passes for routes throughout Europe. Also, if you go to any local train station, you can almost always buy train tickets the day of or the day before your departure.
While the train is convenient it is often not the most economic way to travel. Traveling by bus is a cheaper option that usually takes a little longer but also allows you to see much of the countryside. Buses are also very punctual and bus stations can be found throughout many cities, large and small. Buses also go to smaller cities that trains do not.
Student travel agencies are good places to buy bus tickets – they have all of the schedules available and you can purchase tickets directly. And they can give you directions to the bus station!
Also, like train travel,it is often convenient to simply visit the bus station the day of or day before you depart and buy your ticket there.
When traveling a long distance (i.e. 24+ long hours by bus or train) it is almost always a better idea to fly. While it usually is more expensive, there are student travel and discount travel websites that have cheap flights. The fares vary on your starting point and destination but if you book things early enough, you can usually find a pretty good deal.
Here are some good websites to find cheap flight tickets:
Ryanair.com (An airline that offers inexpensive flights)
skyscanner.com (A flight search engine that finds inexpensive flights)
studentuniverse.com (For students with valid college email addresses)
Traveling by car is usually not the most popular way to for young travelers but is definitely ideal if you are trying to visit small villages and rural cities. Traveling by car throughout Europe tends to be about two to three times more expensive than in the United States because of gas, tolls and parking. However, if you decide car travel is for you there are a few things to keep in mind!
While American licenses are considered valid in Europe, it is also a good idea to get an International Drivers Permit (IDP). If you get pulled over, a police officer may not recognize your state’s drivers license but will definitely recognize an IDP. They are fairly easy to get online and only take a few days to process.
Like the United States, there are countless car rental companies in cities both large and small. However, some rental companies only allow their cars to be driven in certain countries and their cars to be returned to specific locations. Just make sure you do some research before renting a car!
While many do not think traveling by boat is the most conventional way to go, it often makes sense depending on where you are! Boat travel is actually very popular in the Baltic Sea, Black Sea, North Sea and the Mediterranean. Most of these boat trips range from 24 hours to about a week and allow you to see many different cities and ports all while sleeping in the same place! Another mode of boat travel that many do not think about but may be helpful is through the English channel, from England to France. There are a few different routes that it takes and allows you to get from one place to another with little hassle.
Be creative! Your optimal travel experience may involve train, bus, plane, car and boat! Happy Travels!