This is probably the best method to get around Europe on the cheap if you plan to stay within a certain part of Europe. This means, if you want to get from Paris to Kiev take a flight. There is also some areas where no trains work and buses are the main method of transportation. But for this article we are going to cover Trains.
The best website for trains in Europe is www.banh.de/en
This will give you information on inter-European trains and also buses if there are no trains to your certain destination. And depending on the country you travel, such as Germany or Austria, you can book online.
Now there are some flaws with any system and there is also with bahn.de. Often it will not “think” as much as it should and will take you on the most logical, but not the most practical route. For instance, I wanted to travel from Fussen, Germany to Kaltenbach, Austria. Bahn.de gave me 5.5 hour journey which entailed going further inland to Munich and then out at a whopping 69 Euro price-tag. Ouch! Instead I used an alternative website http://www.vvt.at. This website gave me a reduced timeframe and reduced tarif of 21.10 Euro for my journey. No brainer!
Sometimes it helps to google about a bit to get your information, particularly if you want to do things on the cheap. Europe is great to get around with these days, I mean single currency in a lot, no border checks (even if you do miss those stamps in your passport)….but what they don’t have is concise information on transportation, makes things a bit tricky, especially when you are trying to get around lots of countries.
As I said before, generally train travel can be cheap. Especially if you are young (this generally means under 24 for most countries) or a student. However, you also have the Euro cards you can get that I personally think are expensive but can be hassle-free if that’s what you want and are here for a short period…but I’m not going to cover the Euro travel card train thingys…you can go to their website for that.
What I want to break down for you is recommendations on trains in europe and how to et about on the cheap and in which case (personal experience) trains are the best.
Steps for Train Travel
1. Search your trip on www.bahn.de/en
2. look at the breakdown of the train trip, this will show you what companies run the service for your route (there may be more than one or combination of buses)
3. go to the website of those companies or google them, cause a lot of times there will be special tarifs or reduced tickets. There may also be an alternative route you could take hat gives you a nice detour to explore somewhere unexpected in Europe
Now the thing to remember with trains, which could mean why most people get the Euro train pass thingy is that you can generally only get your tickets 3 months in advance!
Personally I plan in advance, which is generally only flights which can be booked. But flights are such a pain in the ass, for one, you have to arrive 2 hours before, you need to sort your personal items, you pay all extra fees for checked baggage and generally the airports are miles out of town and you spend a small fortune to get from the airports to the cities.
Remember show ID or student card when buying as it gives you discounts
Some countries have a purchasable card that gives beneficial discounts, depending on your timeframe this may be the best investment you make
Below I’m going to break down country by country in Europe for the best train travel starting from the west
Hire a car. Period.
Hire a car, you can drive from dublin to cork in 2 hours. It gives you much more flexibility, as it is a pain to get about otherwise you are staying inside cities. But if you do want to check out trains in ireland the website is http://www.irishrail.ie/. Generally unless you go Dublin to Cork, either hitch hike or bus it!
There are a variety of train companies, however, the UK is very expensive for train travel unless you book forever in advance! I would alternatively recommend using uk.megabus.com
If you are going to use a website the best is www.thetrainline.com it gives you a search of all the train providers and can give you discounts
But one of my favourite services is definitely the Eurostar from london, easily a 39 euro one way ticket to paris if you book 3 months in advance www.eurostar.co.uk
Never take a train in portugal, but here is the website http://www.cp.pt
This is quite a big country and personally I think the trains are pretty amazing in Spain, but again depends on where abouts you head to in spain. For instance when leaving spain to go up into France, the trains are buggered, take a bus for instance Pesa buses will get you from san sebastian to biarritz for 6 euros.
The other thing I like about spanish trains is the change your ticket for free, none of the french or british bullshit for charging you to change your tickets. You can also get good deals online and if you go to the major cities they are often cheaper (so go from Alicante to Valencia then if you are heading to a smaller city take a bus…it will reduce your costs significantly!
I was in France for 8 months and bought the under 27 young person card for 50 euros, best investment I could have made. It basically would have cost me 650-odd euros for my trains but with the card, 230 euros! France trains are ridiculously expensive unless you book 3 months in advance and even then without a discount card, expensive. Depending on where you are planes or buses may be a better option – or even hitchiking, which is really common. For instance trains do not run from west to east, which is a pain, but all trains lead to paris, which is also a pain cause there are 5 main train stations and can lead to missed connecting trains (happened to me). Buses are another option such as Eurolines, but they are very limited services and again, expensive. Covoiturage is a good way to get around – this is in essence carpooling. ww.carpooling.fr. Or hitch hike, its a pretty common occurance in France and generally people dont charge you if you are not going far.
however, if you go to the calendar on the sncf website you can generally find some good deals but again mostly from major cities such as marseille to paris and set dates to travel.
This is a teeny tiny country and their trains are fantastic to get around. Eurostar is also great to go inter-country on the cheap
This is also a teeny tiny country and trains are awesome here especially for young people.
Well everything is expensive in Norway, it being the most expensive country in Europe. Basically you’re fucked trying to get around the country unless you live and make Norwegian money, which is really unfortunate because it is a BEAUTIFUL country filled with beautiful people. They do have a minipreis section (meaning 40 euros for a ticket is as small as it gets if your lucky). A cheap alternative is ferries, surprisingly because this country has such a large border and lots of islands and fjords ferries run at public prices (which are still higher than most places) but sometimes you can cover a night of accommodation or visit somewhere beautiful. Norway (depending where you are) also has a great metro system and often goes quite far outside the towns into regional areas.
As stated before http://www.bahn.de/en is best website especially looking at trains in germany. But germany also has low cost everything buses and flights, so google around cause you may find a bargain. Also if you are doing a lot of Germany or you are there for a while they have loads of discount cards which WILL save you money in the long run!
Another country that is expensive, especially for trains, but breathtaking scenary! I generally have taken eurolines buses about this country.
Now problem with Austria it is expensive for trains, basically cause half the country is mountains and can be difficult to get about on the west side of the country. I use www.vvt.at it has the trains and buses and gives you map of routes and fare price. If you are in Vienna though, Eurolines has great and chap tickets to Eastern European destinations and trains are quite cheap like to Budapest. It also depends where you want to go…for example, you generally can get the Sparscheine deals which if you go 150km within austria the ticket can be on special 9 – 18€ one way and other countries tickets can be discounted e.g. major cities in Austria to Munich is 39-49€. For example I travelled Bad Gastein to Mayrhofen, but is below 150km in Austria, ticket price varied from 46 – 80€! I ended up booking my ticket Bad Gastein to Innsbruck and got off at Jenbach (where you cannot into Mayrhofen), and because innsbruck is just over 150km, the train ticket was 14€! So research can be key to save you money!
But the train website is www.oebb.at
Trains in italy are cheap but it is a long-ass country, so if you are in the south it may be more logical to fly up and if you are getting to croatia take a ferry. If you really want cheap cheap travel, bus it
Not sure about trains in denmark, but remember copenhagen is on an island separate from the largest part of denmark and there is a bridge from copenhagen to sweden! I flew from Copenhagen to aalborg (the northest part of denmark) for 50 euros return, so depends on your timescale etc, but flights are pretty cheap.
Another expensive country, never took a train (I mean its 40 euros just to get to the airport by train) if you are getting from sweden to finland take the ferry – its awesome and super cheap and singles can book in a 4 berth cabin! Www.siljaline.co.uk
But here is the train website http://www.sj.se/?l=en
Trains are definitely cheap in czech republic, but one of those countries without the Euro
One of the few european countries I have NOT been too but here is the train website, I only went trhough border by bus using Eurolines.
I’ve only flown into croatia, but had a lot of mates travel this part, trains seem pretty reliable, if you are here in summer there are lots of ferries as well http://www.hzpp.hr/basicinformation
Again never trained through poland, but mates have told me its pretty cheap. Poland is a very cheap country anyway, but also big, so flights may be a better bet.
Bosnia & Herzegovina
Absolute gem of a country but seriously under-developed, more so than eastern neighbours, the War hit this country hard in 1993 but they are in recovery mode. For instance when I travelled here in early 2011 google had not mapped any streets yet. Yes that’s right, there was a country border with a dot distinguishing Sarajevo and thats it. You had to drive by line of site with signs on unpaved roads. However, it is now google mapped (go Bosnia!) here is a the train website, I got a eurolines bus in.
Bratislava and Vienna are 40 minutes drive away from each other, the two closest capital cities in Europe (a bit of useless trivia). So buses are pretty good to get about here but here is the train information
Trains are definitely a great way to get about. Budapest is an international hub for western and eastern europe. Its also a fantastic city.
I never took a train here, I got a bus through private company which breakdown for 3 hours with no refund…. The link to the train timetable is a pdf http://www.zicg.me/AdminCMS/public/pdf/RedVoznje_english.pdfgood luck getting about, its basically a holiday destination for russians but is beautiful.
Never took a train in serbia but here is the website http://www.zeleznicesrbije.com/active/en/home.html
Another country in Europe I havent been to, but here is the train info http://www.hsh.com.al/
hahaha oh greece is very entertaining when it comes to any forms of public transportation (even before the financial crisis). Trains run within the country, but to get out of the country you need to take a bus, because the trains were closed down a few years ago. The train website is http://www.ose.gr/en/Home.aspx or https://tickets.trainose.gr/dromologia/ but good luck, as you only know on the day if the train will come or if it is delayed or if there is a riot (and I’m not joking allow time for things to go wrong with trains). But to get out, you take buses from Thessaloniki to other destinations such as turkey or Former Yugoslavic Republic of Macedonia or FYROM – seriously do NOT mention Macedonia as another country, Greeks are really passionate about this topic. If you need to mention where you are going say FYROM or the full name. (Greece does not recognise the country)
Private buses may be a better bet for you or ferries to the islands. Everything is getting privatised . http://ktelmacedonia.gr/en/content/Destinations-map.124/ You need to a bit of googling to get the private company you need. Aso I recommend priinting a direction map from the train station to the address. Because information will not (or does not – not sure) give you a map, no one will give you directions except to take you in a cab for a fee! Remember, the greek alphabet is different to English so it can get confusing reading streets and asking locals for directions. I used these guys to get to Skopje http://www.simeonidistours.gr/tours/ you buy the ticket when you get there and its like a 10 minute walk from the station
No trains, I mean they have them and the tracks, but trains don’t run here. It’s buses. You can book at the station, but they dont speak english, so write down destination and date you want to go and come back (as some destinations dont have return sales points like Ohrid). You take the bus to et out of Macedonia also to Bulgaria or day trip to Kosovo so here is the “train website”, I thik they are renovating it to set it up http://www.mzi.mk/en/index.php
The bus website is http://www.skopje.com.mk/angliski/megju.asp
Very debated area and I would recommend checking travel websites for any issues, these mostly affect the north with the border of Serbia (who do not recognise it as a country). Also check visa issues particularly if you want to visit Serbia, because if you enter Kosovo from Macedonia, you WILL NOT be able to go into Serbia. However, if you enter from Serbia you can. As I said check out details first. But there are buses into here from Skopje which are cheap http://www.skopje.com.mk/angliski/megju.asp
Trains are really great in Bulgaria, except on Sundays – be aware of the day of the week the further east you go because you may not be able to buy tickets. I would also recommend to get all your tickets in the capital Sofia, as they speak English and then you don’t have to worry about being stranded
Trains are really great especially overnight services from Bucharest. The international section is well-hidden but very reliable and take cash only, again recommend buying all your tickets in Bucharest http://www.cfr.ro/ My favourite is definitely the overnight train from Bucharest to Chisinau, your train gets picked up in the middle of the night and changed. The reason? Europe and Old-Soviet Union tracks are different widths and well which side is going to give in to pay billions to change the tracks? The answer is no one, which means the train is picked up off the wheels and changed to the other wheels so the train can continue the journey. You will most likely be asleep, but it will wake you and pretty cool to witness. The trains are also about 50 years old and what you envision old eastern European trains to be. Beautiful details, gold-coloured curtains, just old-school 1940s look and feel to it and they have to be cause they are the only trains that can change tracks. But the most entertaining is certainly going through immigration, I’m pretty sure every Moldovan wondered what on earth someone would do in their country!
Didn’t travel myself by train but understand is quite cheap to and fro Russia, but takes a very long time. Here is the website http://www.vr.fi/en/index.html If you are travelling to Russia or want to check out Russia, go by ferry. You get a 72 hour visa by taking the ferry without going through the application and is cheap (and crazy) cruise ship
Didn’t take a train in Estonia http://www.edel.ee/274/the buses here are ridiculously cheap though for the whole Baltic area http://www.luxexpress.eu/en
Again didn’t take the train in Latviahttp://www.ldz.lv/?object_id=861buses for baltics http://www.luxexpress.eu/en
Again didn’t take the train in Lithuania http://www.litrail.lt/wps/portal buses for baltics http://www.luxexpress.eu/en
The country of the crazy money! Absolutely beautiful country but don’t expect much help at the train station. i.e. there is no help centre at the train station – tourist information does not exist. But people are very friendly. Prepare to take out currency from an ATM as no one wants to change other currencies and find out the exchange before hand (Ukraine is good for this) because the ATM tells you to take out 500,000 BLR, seems a lot, but its only 50 Euros (well was when I went). http://www.rw.by/en/To get around (i.e. outside Minsk) to the tourist destination (as far as I know there are 2) the bus is your best bet.
The BEST country for train travel. Cheap, efficient, online booking system. Thank goodness they hosted the European football cup! Train site http://www.uz.gov.ua/en/booking site http://booking.uz.gov.ua/en/Seriously Ukraine is amazing. Sleeping bed with pillow and blanket for overnight 12 hour journey….5 Euros! Awesome. The trains are set up as third class berths which are open, recommend getting the lower bunk as you get to sleep on the luggage storage, if you travel alone. Also don’t take their crap if the people who are above you arrive before you and put their stuff on where you sleep, move it. Prepare to sleep almost immediately, as a lot of the trains depart late at night. The train also doesn’t get a platform until about 30 minutes before, be prepared cause these trains are massively long. There is 2nd and 1st class, but if you travel solo or less than number of people required for the number of seats then you end up stuck with a closed door in a small room with strangers. Take ear plugs and eye mask, someone WILL snore and they also turn the lights on ages before you arrive.
Be prepared to pack quick, especially if you are on the bottom bunk, cause people want to sit normally before arriving.
Also have fun on the border checks, these happen in the middle of the night (of course), so being half asleep being questioned in Russian with very VERY serious looking men in uniform, is always a joy.
Oh the joyous little country no one knows about until you have to go through it. Trains are pretty good in Moldova, but there are lot of fun things (i.e. pain in the ass) about the country also that sometimes means the bus is better. There is an area that about 30 years ago decided to declare itself a country, there was a civil war and basically no one could be bothered so now this part has its own currency and border checks – be prepared. This is probably the most helpful site I managed to find for lots of information on Moldova not just trains http://www.marisha.net/crossroads.htm
but the official train station site is http://www.railway.md/ro/schedule/