Best way to travel around Europe?

Old Nov 11th, 2004, 03:21 AM
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Best way to travel around Europe?


Planning my trip around Europe. I don't know whether I should hire a car, train or bus. I will be travelling to England, scotland, germany, amsterdam, france, italy. I am thinking of breaking the trip up and spending all up, over 2 months, maybe 3 in europe. At some stages, I will be travelling with another person, who could help in subsidising the cost of the car. I'm concerned with the additional costs of taxis, buses etc to get to your hotel after stopping off at the major bus/train terminals.

I'd like to know what are the most popular passes. I am from australia over age of 26. I will be travelling in may - july.

Thoughts are greatly appreciated.
brenhur is offline  
Old Nov 11th, 2004, 05:54 AM
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You should also consider the possible additional costs of parking a car if you are staying in some urban areas.
You might also look into the notionof leasing a car for the period rather than renting.

A car would probably give you ultimate flexibility. Depending on where you stay the costs of taxi fare from a rail/bus station to the hotel could be minimal; you might even be able to walk.

The RickSteves site gives a good overview of the various railpass possibilities and once you've decided on some sort of ininerary you can enter it at to determine whether or not a pass would be more economical then point-topoint tickets. Generally speaking, passes become more economical the more you use them.
TopMan is offline  
Old Nov 11th, 2004, 06:51 AM
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It's delightful to see someone not phased by the problems of navigating yourself, by yourself, through cities on the Continent where they drive on the wrong side of the road.

Let this be a lesson to those myriads of scaredeycat Americans who are forever batting on about how they couldn't cope with the traffic in London (where, unlike most of the countries brenhur's going to visit, they do at least speak English). As I'd always suspected, Aussies are made of sterner stuff.

There are some other cost issues in all this: not least that cars give you access to a much wider choice of hotels, which inevitably means you'll be able to find lower-priced hotels. In many smaller towns, even getting a cab out to the ultracheap Formule 1 on the ring road often isn't a realistic option.

BUT: in doing your sums, do remember that public transport costs from stations to hotels in cities are close to trivial, but that in the larger cities you'll need a public transport pass anyway, even if you're driving. And apart from the cost of daytime parking, many city hotels will charge you for overnight parking.

Remember too that neither trains nor cars are the cheapest way to travel. The cheapest way, at any rate between countries, is often cheapo flights.

You're probably going to need a mix, and that mix depends on what you want to see. Personally, without doing the sums, I'd be inclined to do without a car in Britain, then fly to Paris or Amsterdam, lease a car and do a big continental circle. But that would be because I'd want to linger a fair bit during the two Alpine stretches.

If it was just the museums and city life you wanted, you'd probably be best Easyjetting with a couple of connecting train journeys.
flanneruk is offline  
Old Nov 11th, 2004, 06:52 AM
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No one approach will work in all cases, obviously. Hiring a car will entail high taxes, parking fees, and some areas just don't permit cars at all, such as the core of historic cities like Bruges or many hill towns in Mediterranean countries. And not one car will work, either - RHD in Britain, LHD on the continent, etc.

In the past we have sworn by the French leasing (actually "buy-back") schemes run by Renault and Peugeot, and you might well consider them for car hire periods greater than a couple of weeks (the cost break-point is around that). The advantage of these schemes is they include insurance and allow the cars to be driven, for example, into eastern European countries that many "main line" companies won't permit (or will impose a crushing surcharge.) Obviously, the car gives you total flexibility, and allows you, for example, to stay in less expensive suburban (or rural) settings and commute on trains into the great cities, the best of both worlds.

OTOH, if your touring priorities are mainly major cities and not countryside or villages, then the car might be more an inconvenience than an asset. In that case, you could ride the train between cities (or use the myriad low cost airline options for slightly longer trips) and just rent a car by the day or weekend if you want to take a country break.

Having spent a couple of weeks pricing out some options for ourselves on a quick multi-country jaunt in January (yes, loony) I'm coming to the conclusion that, for the time being at least, the cheap airlines beat the train hands down, depending on which airports you use. Cheaper prices, much faster travel times, and the connections from many airports into the central stations or cities are competitive with taxis etc. that you'd encounter with the train. I would especially look at those options for UK-continent connections and for long-distance hops like Italy - Holland or Scotland - France.
Gardyloo is offline  
Old Nov 11th, 2004, 07:05 AM
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Hi bren,

> I don't know whether I should hire a car, train or bus.<

Oh, do hire a train. It is so much more elegant.
ira is offline  
Old Nov 11th, 2004, 07:08 AM
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I'm always amazed at how Flanneruk never passes up an opportunity to bad mouth Americans. Why in the world he would do it on this thread is beyond me. Maybe it makes him feel better about himself. Sad. Very sad.
hansikday is offline  
Old Nov 11th, 2004, 07:43 AM
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With such a long trip, I'm guessing you may stay put in certain locations for a longer period of time? My thought is only that you will not be using transportation on a daily or maybe even weekly basis.

For Germany, France, Italy the trains work very well. Possibly you would need only point-to-point tickets, not a railpass? I would not be overly concerned of the cost of taxi/bus to get from the train station to a hotel in a city. These would not be major expenses, and as mentioned in some places you could even walk or take normal public transportation (bus, metro).

I have never rented a car, but the idea of a long term lease or rental is appealing for the flexibility.

The "best way" might be a combination of everything mentioned: low-cost airlines for longest distances, car rental for certain parts of the trip, train travel for others.
suze is offline  
Old Nov 11th, 2004, 02:16 PM
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As mentioned above, the best option is probably a combination depending on where you are heading at a particular time and what you want to do along the way.

On our trip to Germany, we used trains for the first two destinations, and a rental car the rest of the way.
RufusTFirefly is offline  
Old Nov 11th, 2004, 02:31 PM
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Consider leasing a car from Peugeot or Renault. Here are their web sites:

Renault is more up front on its site about costs. If traveling more than 5000 km., a diesel is worthwhile even though it will cost more up front.
Michael is offline  
Old Nov 11th, 2004, 02:31 PM
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flanneruk, not all Americans are too nervous to drive in the UK, and its ridiculous to assume that. My husband and I rented a car in England (which also happened to be our first trip overseas) and wouldn't hesitate to do it again. However, not everyone is comfortable driving in a foreign country and they should not be critized for that.
tcreath is offline  
Old Nov 11th, 2004, 03:40 PM
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I agree, I've driven all over England problems. Of course I'd had alot of prior experience with left hand driving in Singapore, Malaysia, Malta, Carib islands, etc. This may sound strange but I prefer driving on the left.
Traveler863 is offline  
Old Nov 11th, 2004, 07:02 PM
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Hi all, thank you so much for your responses. You have all been a great help. I'm leaning towards mixing it all up after reading the responses. I used this site to plan a trip for myself and my parents in 1999 and it was unbelievabe. We went to the USA and my parents had the greatest time of their life. Thanks to this site, I basically had every day, every event covered. I was sooooo well prepared.

By the way flanneruk, you are right. Us Aussies are a tough bunch. You certainly stirred a few up. I drove all around the USA with my parents. It was certainly a little daunting picking the car up of a night in the middle of San fransisco. Nearly went the wrong way down a one way street a few times, but other than that, I enjoy the challenge.

Thanks again.
brenhur is offline  
Old Nov 11th, 2004, 07:13 PM
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Trains and planes might be your best option if you'll be mainly in the cities. Both are relatively cheap, compared to car rental and fuel costs. There are lots of nice hotels at various price points around the train stations. With a car, you'll spend a lot of time trying to figure out where you're going, where to park, finding the hotel, figuring out road signs in a foreign language, etc. As someone else pointed out, you wouldn't use it in the cities anyway. Car travel is inefficient compared to the excellent public transportation systems in Europe. Even buses are good some places, such as Ireland, although there I would recommend a car.
happytourist is offline  
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