Flexibility is key to travelling with limited funds. If you are able to adapt your travel plans to fit around the less popular off-peak journeys you’ll be in a much better position to nab those bargain offers. So allow yourself a bit of lee-way, book in advance when you can and your money’ll go the distance.
The UK boasts such an incredibly well-connected network of low-budget airlines that it often seems difficult to justify any other means of travel across to continental Europe. EasyJet and Ryanair to name just a few offer unbelievably cheap flights throughout Europe and, with flexible travel dates and destinations, you can snap up some really great deals. Especially when you’re planning a short city-break or weekend trip and can get by with just hand luggage.
If you’re short on time, flying is of course a great option: By the time you’ve had a flick through the in-flight travel guide and a little nap the plane’s already preparing to land and you’ve reached your destination. As time-efficient as this may be, the joy of travel also stems from the journey itself. Rather than just “popping up” in an entirely new country, train journeys let you witness the changes in the landscape of the places you travel through, something that feels a much more natural and “real” travel experience. Plan your route, book well in advance and be prepared to take the slower train options to keep costs down. However, once you start racking up the miles, particularly through Northern and Western European regions like Scandinavia, Germany and Switzerland, train tickets can get fairly pricey. If you’ve got a couple of hundred Euro to hand, you could go all out and invest in a Eurorail pass, but I wouldn’t put it at the top of your list when there are so many more affordable alternatives.
Better perhaps, just hop on a coach. Bus travel in Europe is definitely a good way to go if you’re on a tight budget, even if you end up booking relatively last-minute. Sure, you may run the risk of being that unfortunate passenger who gets stuck next to the toilets, but in the majority of cases bus travel is surprisingly plush, with many new buses even kitted out with free wi-fi and air-conditioning. Eurolines’ website displays – in almost Ryanair style – a host of pretty great offers to various popular destinations throughout Europe. And with a network that extends beyond the Polish borders into surrounding capital cities including Berlin, Vienna and Prague, Polskibus is also definitely worth checking out. Think along the lines of Megabus, just punctual and with nicer seats. Booking online just a couple of days in advance can cost you around €15 (I’ve paid even less!) for a nine and a half hour bus ride between Warsaw and Berlin – really quite reasonable. Remember to pack a good book and plenty of snacks, and you’re set!
Although the prospect of road tripping is always tempting, it probably doesn’t make the most sense economically. Don’t underestimate toll fares (looking at you, Italy) and parking costs (Paris, that’s you) which can really whack up your travel costs. Of course, if you’re travelling with a car full of gear or fellow travellers to split petrol money with then driving gives you pretty much endless freedom to explore all corners of Europe.
Alternatively, just grab some cardboard and a marker, take to the roads and get hitching: Carbon neutral, exhilarating, not to mention free!
Guest Author: Susannah Taplin
For options on getting around Europe, check out GoEuro!