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Travel within Europe: Last Minute & Low Budget

Friday, February 20th, 2009

If you are planning a Euro Trip, or even just a multi-city adventure, these are your most efficient options for getting there at the last minute…

When planning out your trip to Europe, carefully consider your options. Your travel arrangements will most certainly be effected by one of the following factors: budget, time, distance, and comfort. For example, I am studying in Lyon and took a last minute trip to Rome with my girlfriends. I booked it 5 days before leaving (not the best for a great deal), I had lots of time (a week of school break), not a lot of money, and well… considering the lack of cash, comfort wasn’t my first priority. Does this sound familiar?

The Bus

So we took a bus. The trip was a bargain relatively speaking… 118 euro with tax round trip from beautiful Lyon. The deal was that the trip back was only 5 euro, so the trip there was 113. The bus ride was 17 hours. We traveled with Eurolines, which claims to have a bar service, bathroom, audio, entertainment centre, as well as other amenities. Let’s just say I packed my own toilet paper. And the bus was absolutely crammed…nothing like what we would see in North America, it’s true that everything really is smaller over here. Having said that, if you are prepared and get yourself on the bus well before departure time, you may be fortunate enough to score your own seat…make yourself a little bed, and doze off with the hope of not being interrupted. This usually works quite well if the bus isn’t too full.

My train ride from Rome to Venice was an absolute treat in comparison…but trust me, I’m not complaining. The bus ride, although still a bus ride, was beautiful. You get to see the entire countryside, and the major cities that they stop in. The bus is also usually at night… so you can get a few winks in while reaching your destination. This is a huge advantage if you’re a traveling student as it will save you another night’s accomadation.

So the bus is a fairly affordable option, and leaves from many major cities in Europe connecting most of the continent.  I heard a group of Aussie girls around my age that had taken it from Paris to Rome. It can be done…and for cheap. Their prices don’t change as time runs out… but they do have an occasional sale, so keep an eye out. If you decide to take the bus, bring a pillow, toilet paper, and definitely an iPod…perhaps even a little Gravol. They stop quite frequently; so “nourishing” yourself is not an issue.

+ An extra plus on the bus: You can take as much luggage as you want. So if you’re heading from Rome to go skiing in the Swiss alps and you’ve got your own skis… take the bus.

Rent a Car

There is also the option of car rental. I’ve had a few international friends who have rented cars and driven from France to other countries, and experienced great success. Just as long as the driver is prepared for the difference in European roads, signage, and road etiquette.

Beware:

  • Each country varies… but in every European country there are tolls set up to use the highways, and the fare can be pricey. This can dip into your budget quite quickly…
  • Also keep in mind the price of gas which is quite higher here than in North America. (And in Euros!)
  • Many rental companies require the driver to be 25, and may even require an international license. So make sure that you have looked this before you plan an entire trip!
  • If you have registered a driver under insurance, and only one… that’s the driver. If someone else takes over and something happens, you’re in trouble.
  • Can the pilot drive stick? Most European vehicles are standard… as are their rentals, if you request automatic…. You’ll also pay for it.
  • Space. Most European vehicles are quite small in comparison to home, so remember if you’re squeezing 5 people into the vehicle… their suitcases may not all fit into the tiny trunk.
  • Rules of the Road. If you’re speeding, or D.U.I., and you’re caught… you may not even understand the officer, and they have no tolerance for ignorance. So be even more careful than you would at home.

On the plus side!

The car itself can be a steal of a deal, especially if you are traveling with your family, or if you have a group of friends going to the same destination. You can split the cost amongst the travelers, which may prove to be much less than it would have if you took the bus or the train.

Photo of tourists traveling by bus by nikoretro

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2 responses to “Travel within Europe: Last Minute & Low Budget”

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