If you’re going to Europe, and planning on traveling, rather than staying in the one place for the duration of your vacation, and you don’t want to spend a fortune, there’s two or three alternative ways that you can travel throughout the continent.
The first option would be to take what you might call the “traditional” budget alternative, which would generally be backpacking and traveling by train. Nothing wrong with that at all, and by using a pass on the trains you can certainly reduce your spending, whilst journeying widely throughout many countries.
There are, however, a couple of down sides to this traditional “budget” planning.
First, whilst it can often be exhilarating and exciting to meet and travel with strangers on a train, equally, sometimes, it’s nice to have your own space to enjoy the journey, on your own.
Secondly, by definition, trains can only take you as far as the railway station, and railway stations are not always placed where you want them to be placed. In other words, if you have definite “target” places that you want to see, then you might end up having to take a train, then a bus or taxi (for who knows what distances) before arriving at your destination. This shouldn’t be a problem if the place you so desperately want to visit is in the city, but what if it not?
And, of course, trains run to their timetable, not yours!
An alterative to trains are planes. Flying within Europe is now extremely cheap, and can be reasonably convenient, especially if you are visiting a country that it widely geared up for tourism.
For example, right now, it is possible to fly from the UK to beautiful Salzburg in Austria for GBP19 one way (approximately $35) or to Istanbul in Turkey for GBP31.
Budget flying, however, carries with it many of the disadvantages of the trains – crammed into small seats next to someone you have never met before, the inevitable delays and so on.
So, here’s my suggestion. If you are lucky enough to be planning an extended European adventure, (at least one month) then make it a real adventure of which you are in total control.
Travel by car. Then, you can go exactly where you want, when you want, you can choose your own company, and, basically, you’re the boss. Maybe you are now thinking, nothing so revolutionary in that, car hire is not exactly a new idea, is it?
No,. it isn’t, but I’m not suggesting that you use Hertz, Avis or any of the other global car rental companies.
I’m suggesting that you do what I did some years ago for a three month tour of Europe.
BUY a car – a used model, something relatively cheap that you can then resell at a later date, before you fly home. Make sure that it’s a fairly basic model, something that is widely available throughout Europe (so that any required spare parts will be cheap and plentiful) and that it’s mechanically straightforward – no turbochargers or superchargers – so that if anything does go wrong with it on your travels, repairs will be simple (i.e. inexpensive) as well.
In my case, I traveled to Europe, bought an estate car (a station wagon) in France for $750, drove some 10,000kms throughout France, Spain, Portugal, Italy and so on, and sold it for $650 three months later. Apart from a couple of minor repairs (a new battery) and the cost of the gasoline, I lost exactly $100 on the deal.
In the meantime, I had gone exactly where I wanted, when I wanted and done exactly what I wanted to when I got there! Truly, the freedom of the open road!