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Archive for July 29th, 2008

 

Maybe not the fastest method

Maybe not the fastest method

Choosing how to travel between cities and countries on a trip will determine what order you will go to those places. I planned on doing my three week trip solely by train (excluding the first flight) and so I then always moved north to minimize time on trains. If on the other hand I chosen to make use of cheap flights then I would have planned my destinations around where those flights came in and left from. 

The first plane ride will be the one to get to Europe (assuming you leave from North America), this flight should be booked as soon as possible. For transatlantic flights I have the best luck with STA Travel (but this could be because I was a student). This can either be a round trip flight or an open-jaw flight. Round trip would work best for trip in one country, exploring a particular area (say Paris and its surroundings) or a circular journey. An open jaw flight is one where you fly into one city, say London, and then out of a different city, say Rome. These flights work for trips that traverse more then one country. 

Once inside Europe there are three ways to get around: train, plane or automobile (it had to be done). I have no experience with driving in Europe so I will casually gloss over it. Continuing with planes a fast cheap method to travel in Europe is to use budget airlines. While exploring the best methods for myself I found these airlines for cheap flights:

Keep in mine that the cheaper the flight the more an “experience” it can become. I’m looking at you Ryanair.

Instead of flying around Europe trains are also a viable alternative, in fact I prefer them. While a plane flight may be faster and cheaper that is usually before adding in the cost of getting to and from the airport (in terms of time and money). Especially for some of the cheaper airports. When Ryanair flies to Glasgow it actually goes to Glasgow Prestwick, a good hour outside of Glasgow. Trains also allow you to carry more and even carry liquids between cities. The stations tend to be more centrally located with connection to local subways if there are any.

There are two ways to pay for trains. Either buying each ticket on its own or buy a railpass. Railpasses come in consecutive day passes (like 21 straight days) or a certain amount of travel days per 3-6 months. I liked having a railpass because I could just hop onto any train I wanted without worrying about having a ticket (except night trains which need reservations). This map is very helpful for estimating how long it takes to travel between major cities, I am not sure how updated the prices are.

For more accurate times and prices I found these three websites to be helpful:

  • Virgin Trains – Good for prices and times in the UK
  • SBB – I prefer the Swiss SBB for planning train times and routes
  • DB – They can give prices for the trains as well as times and routes

If planning on a specific train (like you need to be at a hostel in a new city by a certain time) check to see if there are backup trains in case the first is delayed, full or just does not come.

Night trains are a good way to move between two cities without spending a day traveling, it also saves on accommodation to boot. But it is not the best night of sleep I have had. If you are young or adventurous I would recommend at least one night train journey, it builds character.

    There is also the environmental issue to consider when choosing how to travel. While planes may be a faster way to travel they produce a much higher amount of carbon emissions per mile then a train.

    Also keep in mind that European trains are much much better then the American system of Amtrak. Way better.

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