If you are wondering whether you should travel between European countries by airplane, train, or bus, this guide -complete with pros and cons for each alternative- will undoubtedly help you find the most convenient travel option for you.
What Is the Best Way to Get Around Europe?
The ideal transportation to visit multiple European countries in a single trip may vary depending on the amount of time you have, whether you already know which towns you wish to visit, and, the budget you have allocated to do so.
For example, if you are wondering whether it is cheaper to fly or take a train in Europe, the answer is that it depends. If you would like to get to a smaller village that is not near the airport, then a train would probably be a better option. Similarly, a train ticket will get you to the heart of the city whereas a low-cost flight will likely take you to a secondary airport on the outskirts of major cities.
Let’s explore the pros and cons of each travel alternative within Europe to help you decide which one is right for you.
Traveling Around Europe by Train
Europe’s rail network is vast and very efficient with multiple trains a day for most destinations. Moreso, many popular routes have a train departing each hour which makes it quick and easy to get around.
Advantages of Traveling by Train in Europe
- There are train stations in many of the smaller European villages, some of which cannot even be accessed by bus so if you plan to take the road less traveled, traveling by train may be the most efficient way to get around
- European trains run like clockwork, contrary to airplanes that are often affected by delays, so if you are short on time, this may be the best option to make the best of your stay
- Missing a train in Europe is no big deal since train companies can easily book you on the next one with minimum hassle
- Sleeping on the train may be more comfortable than doing so on a bus or budget flight since overnight trains are often roomier
- Trains aren’t affected by traffic like buses are so going through major cities is often faster
- There are multiple train stations around town which will save you the time and cost of getting to the airport or the bus station
- The views on European trains are often spectacular so get a window seat if you can
- You can take your own food and drinks when traveling by train and often have a bigger table to enjoy a good meal than on airplanes
- You can walk up and down the train to stretch your legs if you get tired of sitting
Disadvantages of Traveling by Train in Europe
- You will have to carry and stow your own luggage, so trains are better for people who travel light
- Food sold onboard European trains tends to be overpriced
Traveling Around Europe by Airplane
Traveling between major European cities by airplane is now more affordable than ever. With hundreds of flights a day and a choice between budget airlines and traditional ones, flying is a quick and practical way to get around the EU.
Advantages of Traveling Around Europe by Airplane
- Getting from one city to another that is across the European continent takes significantly less time by airplane than by train
- If your travel dates or European destinations are flexible, you may find really cost-effective flights between major cities
Disadvantages of Traveling Around Europe by Airplane
- Low-cost flights usually land in secondary airports on the outskirts of major cities. This makes travelers incur in extra trouble and expenses to get to their destination by taxi, train or bus
- Many flights leave at inconvenient hours, and when travelers factor in the time to get to the airport and the number of hours they need to arrive in advance to check in, taking an airplane begins to seem less appealing
- Budget-friendly airlines charge extra for checking in luggage, amongst other services, which may add up
Traveling Around Europe by Bus
Going from one major city to another by bus is a cost-efficient way to get to know Europe. Although travel times may be longer, frequent buses allow spontaneous travel for more adventurous tourists looking to book a ticket on a whim.
Advantages of Traveling Around Europe by Bus
- Getting around Europe by bus is usually more cost-effective than traveling by airplane or by train
- Most European buses allow passengers to buy tickets and board a bus almost immediately
- Buses usually make stops every few hours making it more comfortable for travelers to get a good meal, use a proper restroom and stretch their legs before continuing on the road
Disadvantages of Traveling Around Europe by Bus
- European buses offer limited bus routes, most of which connect major cities, but not smaller villages in comparison to trains
- Information on bus routes is less readily available and usually in the local language
- Some European bus stations are out of town or away from the city center, closer than the airport although usually further away than train stations
- Many buses that travel around Europe are not equipped with toilets, hence the frequent stops along the road
- Traveling by bus takes longer than by train so if you have little time on your vacation you may prefer to take a train or flight
- European buses usually have limited seating space, similar to budget airlines, so taller people may appreciate the extra space train seats offer, or the more time-efficient option of flying to their destination
Documents Needed to Travel Around Europe
- Keep your passport on you when you are traveling from a Schengen country to a European Union country that does not belong to the Schengen Area since you may encounter border control checks
- If you are wondering whether you can travel in Europe without a passport, you will be pleased to know that once you arrive to your country of entry within the Schengen Area, you will be allowed passport-free travel within other member countries
- US citizens traveling to the Schengen Area may do so without a visa until 2021. From that year onwards, American passport holders will be required to apply for an ETIAS travel authorization.
The ETIAS will grant holders 90-day stays within a 180-day period in all the member countries for tourism and leisure. Applying for the travel authorization will not require visiting an embassy or consulate since the process may be completed through an online form. Most ETIAS requests are granted in minutes, although some applications may take up to 72 hours to be approved
- If you are traveling around Europe with an ETIAS visa waiver, you may exit from another Schengen country from that through which you have entered the Schengen Area