Cruising around Europe sounds like HEAVEN right? It certainly does to me. It’s something that I think everyone should do at some stage in their life. Europe has so much to offer and given the chance to spend time perusing many cities in multiple countries broadens your travel horizons exponentially.
Gazing out the train window. Relaxing travel!
Last summer we did just that. Tom and I spent a couple of months meandering through England, Holland, Germany, Croatia, France and Spain. It was amazing. It was my first time in Europe and that trip will always be a time I remember very fondly.
Logistically there are a few things to think about when you are planning a Euro trip. We personally decided to travel mainly by train. Hiring a car and driving through this continent is of course an option but not one we thought we were ready for.
Next week we are off on our summer holiday to Italy and while we were doing our planning we discussed how we were going to get around. Hiring a car was something that we considered but again decided wasn’t for us. That however doesn’t mean that this is the best decision for you. There are many factors to consider and I think there are pros and cons for both car and train travel through Europe. For us personally the car cons outweighed the pros – mainly because coming from Australia Tom and I are left side drivers and have no experience driving on the right hand side of the road! We didn’t really want to start in Italy which is renowned for its, ahem, ‘challenging’ drivers.
However if you are comfortable driving on the right hand side of the road; hiring a car and driving through Europe certainly gives you a lot more freedom than train travel does. Even including the added costs of car insurance; it can often be cheaper to hire a car and split the costs of fuel if there are several of you travelling together. Travelling by car of course also gives you a lot more options regarding your itinerary and exploring the road lesser, it allows you to get out there and really explore the countryside (and in places like France and Spain that can be a real dream). You don’t need to wait at the platform for that train that is delayed an hour or make 3 connections to get to your destination. Having your own car may also save you from sitting next to that passenger with the awful BO or having to make polite conversation with the loud backpacker across the aisle from you.
On the other hand trains can be wonderful as well – you may make best friends with the loud backpacker across the aisle from you! Trains provide a form of transport that is simplistically lazy – you rock up at the station either at your pre-chosen time or whenever you like (if you are prepared to wait for the next available seat on a train heading in your direction) and you can jump straight on. No pricy parking fees and no spending hours driving around the block going the wrong way up a one way street trying to find that elusive parking spot.
When considering the financial benefits of train vs. car travel in Europe make sure that you factor in all the relevant costs. When calculating the cost of car travel ensure you include car insurance in the unfortunate likelihood that your car breaks down; parking costs; toll roads and fuel.
Train travel costs can appear straightforward but sometimes the train does not take you direct to your destination in which case you may need to fork out for a bus or a taxi to get you to your accommodation. There is also then the decision to make as to whether to get a Euro pass or to buy train tickets separately but that’s for another post!
However you decide to make your way around Europe make sure you do it safely – always be aware of your surroundings at the train station and if you take a night train remember to trust your instincts when it comes to your fellow passengers. If someone is making you feel uncomfortable, get up and sit in another carriage. If you decide to go with the hiring a car option please make sure to drive safely and remember that only idiots drink and drive or drive tired!