Getting Around in Europe By Bus, Flights, Trains, Ferries & Car

Europe – The Land of the Elite!

Blessed with natural beauty and a rich cultural history, a trip to Europe is the Holy Grail for all those bitten by the wanderlust bug. Be it the snowy Alps, The Scottish Highlands, the beaches of Spain and Italy, or the British Isles, Europe has a thousand ways to charm and entice those who visit!

From the scenic Iceland in the west to the vast and almost never-ending Russia in the east, Europe is like a beautiful mosaic of countries, which together cover 10.18 million square kilometres of all land area on the planet, and house more than a billion people!

Euro Travel Diary

 Source – simul8.com

Any trip to Europe means a trip to the most affluent and economically developed landmass on the planet. Be it Greece- the birthplace of Western Civilisation, Germany- one of the world’s leading economies, England- the home of the royalty, or the once Soviet Union of Russia, Europe is the cradle of contemporary and modern world history. Riding on the Renaissance and the Industrial Revolution, European powers changed and shaped the course of world history. Socrates, Aristotle, Winston Churchill, Mussolini, Lenin are some the many famous names to have been born here who went on the make lasting impressions on the entire globe. The Buckingham Palace, The Palace of Versailles, and The Colosseum are just some of the countless iconic places which give a glimpse into the defining phases of world history.

Once you’re done exploring places connected to history, Europe has some of the best cities and spots for you to relax and unwind! Looking for a vibrant night-life? Paris, London, Ibiza and Prague have you covered! Housing some the most iconic and sough-after party destinations in the world, partying in Europe is unlike anything you would have ever done! Also, let’s not forget: most of the world’s best DJ’s are European. So, with the Glastonbury and Tomorrowland music festivals happening here, the party-freak inside you have the perfect outlet to explode!

Want to go on a gastronomical trail? Say no more! Europe is laden with cities which house multiple Michelin starred restaurants. Be it the healthy and exotic Mediterranean cuisine, the elegant British cuisine or the lavish French cuisine, there’s everything for everyone. Chocolate and dessert lovers would find themselves in heaven in Belgium and Switzerland, while pizza lovers would never get enough of Italy! From posh restaurants to cosy cafes, from world- famous bakeries to beer making breweries, Europe has more than you could ever imagine. Its cuisines and flavours would leave you gasping for breath and secretly wish that you could savour everything!

World renowned for their expertise in winter sports, European nations are the perfect place to indulge in some of them and set your pulses racing. The snow-covered Alps, while providing for a breathtakingly beautiful background, also prove to be the ideal setting for all types of winter sports. Imagine the thrill of skiing and snowboarding in the shadow of the Mont Blanc and putting-up in medieval-era accommodations!  Do snow kiting in Iceland or try dog sledding in Scandinavia: Europe is the perfect setting for all your adventure fantasies.

No description of Europe would ever be complete without a detailed description of its famous footballing culture. Considered the Mecca of world football, not only does Europe has some of the biggest and most popular football leagues in the world, European football clubs are the biggest in the world and enjoy unrivalled popularity and massive fan-following round the globe. The likes of Manchester United, Real Madrid, FC Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Juventus command the loyalty of legions of fans from across the world, drawing them in millions to visit and watch their favourite team play.

Whatever be the purpose of your visit, be rest assured, your social media platforms will be full of beautiful pictures and your hearts full of unforgettable memories from your European sojourn!

As discussed, European nations are the most sought-after tourist destinations in the world, drawing more than 500 million visitors from across the globe. We shall now explore the various means of travel and transport to get around in Europe.

Travel by Air:

With European nations amongst the most affluent in the world, air travel is the most popular mode of transport in Europe. Being a tourist hot-spot, tourists fly into Europe from all over the world. As a result, European airports are amongst the busiest in the world and handle a huge amount of air traffic daily. Major airports like London Heathrow, Istanbul Atatürk, and Frankfurt serve as the entry points for arriving in Europe. Statistics form 2013 show that about 43% of all international travel within the EU was done by air. This even though almost all of mainland Europe is interconnected with an extensive network of rails and roads, and the ease of inter-state travel within the European Union. A surge in the presence of low-cost carriers in recent years has spiked the number of air travellers in recent years. Countries like Spain, Cyprus and England rely almost entirely on air transport for their border crossings.

Following are Some Tips on Travelling within Europe by Air:

1. Book tickets with budget carriers like Easyjet, Ryanair, and Wizzair to get great deals on your travel. Operating from smaller airports, these carriers make use of various air liberties to cut costs and in turn price tickets at lower prices. For prices ranging between $50-$250, they connect almost all major European cities. Following is the list of major budget carriers in Europe along with their main hubs:

Airport name (Airport Code) Low Cost Airlines Local Cities
Reykjavik (KEF)WOW airReykjavík, Keflavík
Katowice (KTW))Wizzair, RyanairKatowice, Krakow,
Budapest (BUD)Wizz Air, EasyJet, Ryanair, Jet2.com, AerLingus, Germanwings, Norwegian Air, Transavia, VoloteaBudapest
Stuttgart (STR)tuiFly, Condor, GermanwingsStuttgart
Orio al Serio Airport (Bergamo - BGY)Ryanair, My Air, Alitalia, BMI Baby, and many others flying Europe-wideMilan
Brussels South (CRL)Ryanair, Jetairfly, Wizz AirCharleroi
Pisa (PSA)Ryanair, Easyjet, tuiFly, WizzairPisa
Dublin (DUB)Ryanair, CityJet, FlyBe, GermanwingsDublin
East Midlands (EMA)Ryanair, bmi Baby, Jet2, Thomson AirwaysNottingham, Leicester, Derby, Peak District
Barcelona (BCN)Monarch, Vueling, Easyjet, Thomson Airways, tuiFly, Germanwings, Jet2Barcelona, Alicante
Malaga (AGP)Monarch, easyJet, Ryanair, Thomsonfly, Flybe, SmartWingsMalaga
London Luton (LTN)Monarch, Easyjet, Ryanair, Flybe, Thomas Cook, Thomson Airways, Wizz AirLuton, London
Alicante (ALC)Monarch, Easyjet, FlyBe, Ryanair, Thomas Cook, Jet2, Thomson Airways, transaviaAlicante, Barcelona
Leeds Bradford (LBA)Jet2.com, RyanairLeeds, Yorkshire Dales
Amsterdam Schiphol (AMS)Easyjet, transavia, Blue1Amsterdam, Haarlem, Leiden
London Stansted (STN)Easyjet, Ryanair, Kibris Turkish Airlines, Norwegian.No, Germanwings, Atlantic Airways, Blue1, AtlasJet, Transavia, Fly NikiCambridge, London
Berlin Schoenefeld (Brandenburg - SXF)Easyjet, Ryanair, Germanwings, tuiFly, CondorBerlin, Potsdam
Liverpool (LPL)Easyjet, Ryanair, Flybe, Wizz AirLiverpool, Manchester, Preston
Cologne/Bonn (CGN)Easyjet, Germanwings, tuiFly, Wizz AirCologne, Bonn
Munich (MUC)Easyjet, Brussels Airlines, tuiFly, HapagLloydExpress, German Wings, Blue1Munich
Paris Charles de Gaulle (CDG)EasyjetParis
Bratislava Ivánka (BTS)Danube Wings, Ryanair, Sun D´OrBratislava, Vienna
Brussels (BRU)Brussels Airlines, Sterling, Blue1, Condor, Jetairfly, Thomas Cook,Brussels
Bucharest Baneasa (BBU)Blue Air, Wizz Air, Germanwings, MyAir, EasyJetBucharest
Paris Beauvais (BVA)Blue Air, Ryanair, Wizz AirParis
Hamburg (HAM)airbaltic, Blue Wings, Brussels Airlines, Easyjet, FlyBE, Germanwings, Hamburg International, Intersky, norwegian.no, Pegasus, TUIfly,Hamburg
Berlin Tegel (TXL)Air Berlin, HapagLloydExpress, tuiFly, transaviaBerlin
Düsseldorf International Airport (DUS)Air Berlin, EasyjetDüsseldorf

2. Make use of portals like Kayak, Google flights and Expedia to obtain detailed flight info and pricing. Those on a budget can explore portals like Skyscanner and Vayama to get detailed information about cheap air tickets. Following are the various major trip-planning platforms:

3. Those looking to save on long-distance air travel can exercise the option of linking together two or more budget flights. However, there is always a possibility of delays occurring in the connecting flights.

4. While booking tickets on a budget carrier, always read the terms and conditions carefully. Most of the times, these tickets are non-refundable. Low selling routes may see the flights getting cancelled, thereby leaving the traveller in a limbo.

5. Budget carriers might be cheap, but this is accomplished by using airports that are often far away from the main city of arrival. Hence, be prepared to bear the expenses of travelling to your original destination. Also, due to the low cost of the tickets, they are generally looking for other ways to make money. This might include various excess charges on baggage, on meals and snacks and other miscellaneous charges, Fliers are hence advised to read all the details carefully to avoid getting a nasty surprise.

6. Another factor to be kept in mind is the cities of arrival and departure. Fliers are advised to try and use the same city for arrival and departure since departure from a different city will cost extra on the ticket.

7. Try booking your tickets at least a month in advance to avail great discounts.

Getting Around in Europe by Train:

Travelling Europe by train is one most exhilarating and soul-satisfying experiences one can think of. With a network spread throughout mainland Europe, exploring Europe by train is an experience in itself. Not only are most major European nations connected by a robust rail infrastructure, but the railways enjoy the distinction of traversing through all major cities of Europe, unlike airports which may be far away from the main city. Passing through the mountains, green fields, major cities and other scenic routes, rail travel in Europe is certainly worth undertaking once. Most of the European rail networks enjoy the liberties of operating in the European Union and are hence a very effective and comfortable mode of transport. All of this without having to stand in long boarding lines and being forced to put-up in crammed seating areas! Plus, you can always pack in your own food! (no one is stopping you!)

Still not convinced? Well, picture this: travelling through the Alps, mesmerized by the view, to the French countryside. All this while being comfortably seated in your train seat! Beautiful! Isn’t it?

We shall now see some useful trips and hacks to keep in mind while travelling around Europe by the rail:

    • The best way to utilize the European rail system for your travel is to purchase a travel pass. Most railway networks have their dedicated rail passes, which allow train travel across long distances and multiple cities. These passes work best for travellers who seek to explore a large number of European cities and countries, without having to go through the hassles of multiple boarding and de-boarding of flights. A Single rail network shall take you to all the destinations mentioned in the itinerary. (The important thing to be kept in mind is that these rail passes are on the expensive side and may not appeal to those on a tight budget and bag packers. Also, the travellers need to travel long distances to get their money’s worth.
    • Eurail is a rail pass that allows you to travel across Europe by train. It is pass that is a result of the cooperation between various rail companies and networks across Europe. It allows you to visit up to 28 European countries, while passing through major European cities and major tourist hot-spots.
    • Those on a budget can utilize point-to-point tickets to travel between small distances. Such tickets can be booked online as per the user convenience and allows them to plan their own itinerary. (The thing to be kept in mind while utilizing point-to-point tickets is that they are mostly non-refundable and non-transferable. However, they are a great money saving way if tickets are booked well in advance)
    • Another effective and useful train travel tip is making good use of night trains. While in the recent years, the number of night trains have come down, there are still a large number of night trains which operate from major European cities, across major European routes. Not only do these night trains allow you to cover distances while you sleep peacefully, they are also quite cheap and convenient. The general high standards of safety in Europe make it a secure mode of travel too.                                                     Following is the List of Night Trains in Europe:                                                                                     
      List of Night Trains in Europe Route
      Berlin Night Express Germany - Sweden
      EN Czech Republic-Poland night trainthe Czech Republic - Poland
      EuroNight IsterRomania - Hungary
      EuroNight Kálmán ImreAustria - Germany - Switzerland - Hungary
      EuroNight LisinskiAustria - Croatia - Germany - Slovenia
      EuroNight MetropolAustria - the Czech Republic - Germany - Slovakia - Hungary
      Hellas Express Serbia - Greece
      Intercités de Nuit night trainSpain - Luxembourg - France
      ÖBB NightjetAustria - Italy - Germany - Switzerland
      Santa Claus ExpressFinland
      SJ Norway - Sweden
      SnälltågetSweden
      ThelloItaly - France
      Trenhotel domestic night trainSpain
      Trenhotel international night trainPortugal - Spain - France
  • The important thing to be kept in mind here is that the travellers need to be accustomed to the basic communication words of various European languages. This will help the users to navigate the stations and the station premises without any major confusion in areas where little or no English is spoken.)
  • First-time travellers should check the train schedule carefully since these can be quite confusing and complex. For example, multiple cities may have more than one station. Hence, it is not uncommon for travellers to arrive at the wrong station. Careful study of the itinerary is hence a must.
  • Travellers are also advised to check out for the event of a rail strike. Since such strikes can occur once in a while, prior knowledge of the same helps in making alternate arrangements.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             Following are the Major Railway Networks in Europe:                                                                                              
    CountryRailway CompanyFerry CompanyPublic Transport
    Austria ÖBB, plus the private train companies ROeEE / GYSEV and Westbahn
    _
    Free transport on S-Bahn in Vienna and Innsbruck
    BelgiumNMBS / SNCB
    _

    _
    BulgariaBDZ
    _

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    CroatiaHZ
    _

    _
    Czech RepublicČD
    _

    _
    DenmarkDSB, plus the private train companies: Arriva, DSB S-Tog and DSB-ØresundFjord Line, Scandlines, Stena Lines
    _
    FinlandVR and private bus companies Veljekset Salmela and Net-matkatFinnlines, Tallink Silja Oy, Viking Line
    _
    FranceSNCFIrish Ferries
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    GermanyDeutsche Bahn (DB) and various private companies
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    S-bahn
    GreeceTRAINOSE (only available in Greek, use Google translate)Superfast Ferries, Minoan Lines, Grimaldi Lines, Blue Star Ferries
    _
    HungaryMÁV-START and private railway company GySEV/Raaberbahn
    _

    _
    IrelandIrish Rail / NI RailwaysIrish Ferries, Stena Line
    _
    ItalyTrenitalia and private railway company MicotraGrimaldi Lines, Superfast Ferries, Blue Star Ferries, Minoan Lines
    _
    LuxembourgCFL
    _

    _
    MontenegroŽCG
    _

    _
    The NetherlandsNS and the private companies Arriva, Connexxion, Keolis, Syntus, Veolia and DB RegioStena Line
    _
    NorwayNSBFjord LineNettbuss Møre AS, Veøy Buss AS
    PolandPKP and the following companies owned by local governments: KM Koleje Mazowieckie and Przewozy RegionalneFinnlines
    _
    PortugalCP
    _

    _
    RomaniaCFR
    _

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    SerbiaZS
    _

    _
    SlovakiaZSSK
    _

    _
    SloveniaSZ
    _

    _
    SpainRENFEBalearia, Grimaldi Lines
    _
    SwedenSJ and the private train companies Arlanda Express, Arriva, Inlandsbanan, JLT, Norrtåg, Skånetrafiken, Tågkompaniet, Värmlandstrafik, Västtrafik, VeoliaFinnlines,Scandlines, Tallink Silja Oy, Viking Line, Destination GotlandLändstrafiken in Norbotten, Veljekset Salmela, Net-matkat -
    SwitzerlandSBB/CFF/FFS and various private railway companies
    _

    _
    TurkeyTCDD
    _

    _
  • After booking your tickets, using them is quite easy. Just take your ticket up to the nearest validation machine before boarding the ticket and it will be stamped. This is an important step and must not be skipped to avoid and trouble(s)
  • It is also common for train officials to collect your tickets and passports at the start of your travel. These help them in entering new countries and allow the authorities to verify your passport, without you having to undertake all of that. The tickets and passports are returned at the end of the trip.

Getting Around in Europe by the Road

Given how well European nations are interconnected by air and rail, it is not quite often that exploring Europe by road is considered as a serious option. However, road travel across Europe is much more popular than you think. In fact, road travel is a very cost effective and simple way of travelling between mainland European nations. Given the fact that they are much cheaper than the other means of transport, it is the preferred choice of transport for budget travellers. These things said, however, this mode of travel is very time consuming and lacks the comfort provided by the air or by the train. In some parts of Europe, London in particular, buses are a very popular and traditional way of sightseeing and exploring the city.

Being a popular means of commute, buses are a major means of exploring and getting around in Europe.  Bus routes and destinations can be quite confusing too. The rise in the number of private bus operators has led to a various types of bus services, allowing travellers to choose a suitable one as per their travel needs. Travellers have the option of choosing from transit buses to comfortable coaches, short distance connections to long-haul services, and overnight bus services which operate on select routes. Bus timings are specified beforehand and operate timely every day. Unlike flight tickets, while there is no surge in prices when demand rises, tickets for popular bus routes may be more expensive than the others.

Most importantly, buses play an important role when commuting to the city from airports of budget carriers, which are often quite far away from the mainland city.

Following are the Major Bus Carriers in Europe:

  • Eurolines: One of the most popular bus operators in Europe, they offer connectivity to 40+ cities in Europe, along multiple routes. Also offers a discount card for those looking to save on multiple trips.
  • Flixbus: Also among the largest bus operators in Europe, it offers connectivity to 1200 destinations across 24 countries in Europe.
  • Busabout: Targeting the new age back packers, this is a hop-on-hop-off bus service. It has 41 stops along 11 countries. Unlike rigid itineraries, the passengers can stay in one city or town for as long as they want. You have the option of staying your desired places or you may also stay in their designated places of stay.
  • Megabus: Based in UK, this bus service provider provides services within the UK. Some of its routes are very cheap and its London-Edinburgh Route can be booked for as Little as less than 10 pounds. (if you book a month in advance, that is)
  • ALSA: Based in Spain, it the most prominent Spanish bus operators. Their buses provide facilities like Wi-fi, air-conditioning and charging sockets.
  • Baltour: A subsidiary of Eurolines, this bus operator is based in Italy. They cover 500 destinations both within Italy and across 24 European countries. Almost 4 million passengers use it every year.
  • Hello Buses: They operate across 24 countries in Central Europe. Covers parts of Germany, Czech Republic, Austria, Croatia, Slovenia, Milan and Italy.
  • National Express: It is the main bus company of the United Kingdom. Offers bus services to Spain, Portugal and Germany.
  • Ouibus: One of the largest bus companies in France, it operates on 180 routes both within France and across Europe. It connects all major cities in France and Italy, along with Barcelona, Brussels and other major cities.
  • PolskiBus: The most popular bus operator for travelling to Poland, its 16 lines link 20 Polish cities and 5 European locations. They are famous for their luxurious facilities.

Following tips to be kept in mind while taking a bus in Europe:

  • Make sure to book your tickets in advance. The earlier the booking, the bigger the discount.
  • Carefully check the routes and the cities that you shall pass through. Many-a-times, there may be shorter routes between two destinations.
  • Bus operators also provide tour intermarries. Make sure to check them.
  • Most bus operators offer travel passes which enable savings on multiple trips. Be sure to check with your operator about the same.

There you have it, then. No matter which mode you choose, Europe will always be a dream destination and won’t disappoint.

Happy trip planning!