Cheap Ways to Travel Across Europe

By Nomadic Matt | Published September 13th, 2012

Even with the falling Euro, traveling around Europe can still be fairly expensive, especially if you are traveling long distances or miss out on that killer fare from Ryanair. I sometimes get sick to my stomach at how much transportation can cost even for the shortest distances. But, despite the high valued Euro, high transportation costs, and general expensiveness of Europe, there are still many ways to travel around Europe affordably:

Megabus

Megabus in EnglandMegabus is a cheap way to get around the United Kingdom (England, Scotland, Wales), as tickets can cost as little as 1.50 USD. You’ll need to book at least a month in advance on popular routes to get these fares (and even if you don’t scoop up these amazingly cheap deals, you can still travel for a more reasonable price than on the national bus system as fares rarely top 15 USD). Additionally, Megabus also operates trains to some destinations around the UK, usually starting at 10 USD. Megabus is definitely the cheapest way to get around the UK and now is also the cheapest way to get to Paris, Brussels, or Amsterdam; they just launched routes from London to these cities with fares as low as 10 USD.

Busabout

Busabout in EuropeBusabout is a hop-on/hop-off bus service similar to the Oz or Kiwi Experience in Australia and New Zealand that is primarily used by backpackers. You can get on and off whenever you want along one of their set routes. Additionally, you can buy tickets that let you travel their whole network with a set number of stops. For example, you can buy a 9 day flexipass which gives you 9 stops from your starting city. Those stops can be wherever you want, for as long as you want. That pass is 669 USD which works out to be 72 USD per trip. That makes the pass competitive with the long distance and high speed trains. The only downside to Busabout is that if you want to visit a city not on their route, you have to make your own way there. It’s not as versatile as a regular bus or train pass.

Budget Airlines

RyanAirBy far the cheapest option for getting around Europe, budget airlines are so prolific that competition helps keep fares cheap. You can often find tickets where the fare is just the taxes. Companies like Transavia, EasyJet, Ryanair, and Vueling offer mind-blowingly cheap flights throughout Europe. My friend just flew from Porto to Barcelona for 25 USD, while I flew from Barcelona to Nice for the same price. It cost me 30 USD to fly from London to Amsterdam.

Just remember to book at least a month early to scoop up great deals. There are also regular sales, especially during the off season. Remember to read the fine print. These budget airlines make most of their money through fees and the second you mess up, they whack you with a fee. Follow the rules and travel cheap.

For more information, here is a complete guide to finding cheap flights around Europe.

Eurail Pass

EurotrainGetting a rail pass is a good option if you are going to be traveling across vast distances. The European rail system is very good and very cheap over short distances; however, when you start boarding night trains across multiple countries, the rail system becomes a bit more expensive. Fares can cost well over one hundred dollars. Rail passes are a great way to save a lot of money, and are a must for anyone looking to take the trains for extensive, long distance travel. I managed to save a few hundred dollars each time I’ve bought a rail pass.

For more information, here is a complete breakdown of Eurail passes and when they should be used to save money.

Eurolines

Eurolines
The umbrella organization for international bus travel in Europe is called Eurolines and it will take you throughout the continent. Every country has their own national bus service but for international long distances, there is Eurolines. In Europe, buses are way cheaper than trains. Taking Eurolines from Berlin to Paris is 100 USD while the last-minute booking on the train is 248 USD. The downside to bus travel is that instead of the much roomier train, you are cramped on a tiny bus. For this reason, I tend to pay a bit more and travel by train but if you are on a tight budget, buses are the way to go.

Hitchhiking

hitchhiking in Europe
The best way to travel for cheap is to not pay for it. Hitching is quite common in Europe and I’ve met a number of travelers who have done it. I myself traveled this way in Bulgaria. It’s important to use your head when hitchhiking. Just because someone stops doesn’t mean you need to get in their car! Alternatively, there are websites where you can ask for rides so long as you pitch in for gas. Gumtree is the most popular among backpackers. This article has a list of other ride sharing websites.

The cheapest way to travel around Europe is by bus or budget airline, but what it really comes down to is planning – the earlier you book your bus/plane/train ticket the cheaper it will be. Last-minute or high speed train and bus fares are double what they cost during early bookings. Ryanair fares can go from 1 pound to 50 pounds in a day. The key to traveling around Europe cheaply is planning. Plan, book in advance, and save. However, if you are as fickle and indecisive as me, buying a rail or bus pass can help you reduce your prices while maintaining flexibility.

Next step: keep planning your trip to Europe with these articles:
Continent wide Europe travel guide
The Cost of Western Europe Travel
The Cost of Traveling Eastern Europe
Is a Eurail Pass Worth the Cost?

comments 76 Comments

I asked to see something like this just yesterday in your survey! I’m sure you already had this planned out long before, but what great timing! I’m leaving to backpack Europe with friends this Sunday and we know where we want to go within Europe, but just not how to get there. I will definitely be referring to this frequently. Thanks!!

Erica

Eurolines can be an awesome way to go, for a few Euros we went from Riga to Vilnius in the luxury back part, spacious, free wifi and a breakfast box! And they run on time!

Great resources for getting around the UK/from the UK to Europe (http://www.moneysavingexpert.com/travel/).

This is excellent, thanks Matt! I also like Student Agency busses for the Budapest, Vienna, Prague, Berlin route. Cheap, easy, and the scenery is beautiful countryside in that region of Europe.

The best way to get around in Europe for me is the budget airlines of Easy Jet and Ryan Air; they tend to be dirt cheap. The regional trains in each country also tend to much cheaper than the Eurorail trains. In Germany for instance, it is much cheaper to travel on the regional trains. I like your tips on the buses – never knew about those companies!

Jon of Tantric Traveler

Chances are, when you add it all up, you’ll throw down as much on transpo on these “cheap” options as you could actually find a cheap car for if you’re spending any time there. Consider using gumtree, CL and the like to pick up a used car that runs well but you’ll feel no problem leaving behind at the end of your journey. You can also use couchsurfing.com friends as a local resource to fins something. I did this in Australia and it was a great investment. Went where I wanted when I wanted without having to plan around other schedules.

Yeah, I’ve definitely done the CL for a used car and sold it after my trip. Actually, I did this twice and saved all my money because I sold the vans for more than I paid. I did this once in SE Asia with a motorbike but lost a few hundred dollars. Still, it’s all a risk, so don’t chew off more than you can swallow!

We looked at taking megabus from London to Paris because we missed out on the cheap Eurostar tickets, but the bus takes 8 hours versus a 2 hour train ride. That sounded miserable, so we just went with the train.

Mathieu

How come you don’t seem to be talking about hitchhiking so much ? Not your thing ?

NomadicMatt

I mentioned it here but I personally don’t do it that often.

Larry

Shame on you! :)

In Germany try mitfahrgelegenheit.de for ride shares. Much safer than hitchhiking and cheaper than the train (quite often you’re also faster than the train), plus you meet locals.

I recommend the megabus which is really cheap if you have booked earlier. I always use it when I go to places in UK.

NomadicMatt

Same here.

My favorite budget airline is Easyjet. Unlike Ryanair, you don’t need a stamp on your ticket in order to board (which can sometimes mean waiting an hour for check-in when you don’t even have baggage) and the plane ride is much less tacky (i.e. no pan-handling of smokeless cigarettes).

If I can fly Easyjet I hands-down choose it over Ryanair.

I also prefer Ryanair, though there are some places it doesn’t go to..but it is relatively cheaper as I have observed..

Soph

check also SimplyBus and Polski Bus.

This rocks! I’ve used Eurail passes as you’ve said, for long distances that would otherwise have been very expensive, it saved me hundreds. We had to hop on a Eurolines bus one day because of some sort of strike, but our seats weren’t too cramped, so it wasn’t so bad. Thanks for the information!

I love europe! i wish i could visit Barcelona someday..thanks for this very helpful info..goodluck on your next trip!:)

Piter

it’s worth to notice Wizz Air low cost airline, most popular with Ryanair. travelling from/to Berlin to Poland, Prague or Vienna to Poland by bus it will be shame not to check polskibus.com

Trigger

As a rule of thumb,yes buying no-frills air tickets in advance gets you the better prices easyJet especially give good prices for advance sales but with the current slump and appalling UK wet summers many are hesistating whether or not to go away:then do so at the last minute egged on by the lo-costies adverts. Returning from Budapest into MCR last month the dude next to me’d managed to get in for under £50 I’d paid over £100. Cheezy aint’it?

Where is walking mentioned?
And riding a bicycle?
What about trying hitch hiking with a bike?
Or motorbike.
Cheapest?
If you say hitching is free then is this cheaper than buses?
As you have said Matt, it is not always about cheapest, it’s either convenient or how to meet local people.
In the late 70’s, One use to hitch Munich to geneve overnight on the newspaper trucks and vans. And from geneve to london in a day on the truckie lines.
And all the way to from India hitching.
See hitch wiki . Org
And we will open a whole new world to you that has always been there.
Max

I am a big fan of Busabout, I am glad you mentioned them here. I do not recommend renting a car even if you are traveling with friends. There can be good deals on the car rental itself, but the tolls throughout most of Europe will kill your budget. Some of them can even be more than €20 just for one toll. Parking can also be a huge problem and often expensive, and then gas on top of that…..bad idea.

Arnold Gall

I agree !
But the biggest disadvantage’s of travelling by car (for me) is that
You have to drive it Yourself
You do not meet as many locals
You always have to return to Your car (!)

Jennifer

Considering that I want to travel to Europe one day this really helps me. Who doesn’t want to save money especially when you’re already on a trip. Thanks for the tips.

Budget airlines are great when you go by the rules. We got a €39 flight from Milan to Budapest and got around the carry on weight limit (if you go over they make you pay to check your bag, more than the cost of the flight) by stuffing our jacket pockets with electronics and books. Even in the 40C heat, they didn’t question why we were both wearing tons of clothes.

Thanks for all the great info! I’ve been a fan of your blog for quite sometime. A couple of my friends here (Germany) have told me about RyanAir, and have yet to try it. Hopefully I wouldn’t mess up on anything.

Orangeways (www.orangeways.com) is absolutely a must if you travel in Central Europe from or to Hungary. They have budget prices especially if you book in advance.

You can organize your trip to several Central European countries with a base in Budapest. They are a Hungarian coaching company organizing international lines to Austria (Vienna only), Slovakia, Poland, Czech Republic and Transylvania (was a part of Hungary, now is a part of Romania with a significant Hungarian community). The destinations can vary depending on the season.

The Megabus tip is a good one, although you have to be one of the first 5 or so people to book a specific journey to get the 1.50$ deal.

Normally prices are around 5-10$ for a longer journey (for example London to Manchester!)

Duncan

Liz

Most of the options you listed also offer student discounts, which is great for anyone still lucky enough to be one!

Great options of budget solutions when traveling in Europe. I would actually prefer Eurail Pass than ryanair if im moving trough Europe.

I’d recommend Wizz Air for those who want to fly to Eastern European destinations in Hungary, Poland, Romania etc. And as I know they’ll have new routes, Kiev and Tel Aviv. The bus can be cheap for the spirit I prefer trains.

NomadicMatt

Wizz Air is a great budget airline. Very good deals.

Mary

I want to travel in Europe. Actually I had make a plan for, but due to some problem I can’t go. This resource is very helpful for me. I prefer to train for traveling.

sugandhem

Thank you. This is a great collection of bus companies.

Also, as “Elle of Solo Female Nomad” suggested the regional trains are also a good, and cheap choice for regional travelling.

Tuscany was quite tough about 5 years back – using their Blue Buses for most regional travel.

I prefer Bus travel for regional because you get to see so much more. Especially, when it you are going by the country side in Italy (surely true about most of Europe/UK as well)

I’ve heard great things about busabout, but didn’t realize the price was comparable to train passes…think I’ll stick to the train

NomadicMatt

Different strokes, for different folks. Might be worth a try if you’ve been interested in doing them. You never know!

Having used the air-lowcosters in Europe on a monthly basis, must admit that they are getting more and more pockets-thrashing – trying to squeeeze every cent from you, once you are at the counter. Especially this holds for Ryanair and Wizzair nowadays. Matt correctly suggests ‘doublecheck the conditions’, but things are often getting unpredictable with those two lowcosters – overbooked planes, bad color of the printed e-ticket, etc.
And of course, the space inside for an individual is computed according to a dwarf standars.
I am keeping away from using lowcosters currently, by trying my best to use car/bus/train oppotunities.

True, the low cost airlines has some special conditions. But on the other hand I choose them only for short routes within the EU. For me a 1-1,5 fly to Malmo, Rome or Brussels (I flew to these cities with Wizz) for 25-35 euros (to and back) is a good deal. Yes, these were only few day long visits, I didn’t needed extra luggage and so on, but for that money (I’d pay more for 3 hours long train ride inside my country…) I didn’t care too much about the legroom… Maybe somebody thinks it’s much more fun to drive for 10 hours on a motorway, well, I envy him. I did it for many times and didn’t enjoy that much. And just a story: for a Gothenburg trip we chose a “big”, not low cost airline. When we had to come back, there were some problems with the plane, we had to wait for hours, they took us home on a crazy route and the “compensation” was a free sandwich and a coffee…

Matt, do you know anything about the InterRail? I know you have to have proof of residency for six months prior, but do you know much about how it stacks up the Eurail for long-term travels?

– Andi

NomadicMatt

If you’re American, just get RailEurope. Same thing. Interail is for Europeans, Rail Europe for everyone else. Same product.

I am planning to have visit in Europe and I will prefer to travel by Eurail Pass. Thanks a lot for great info.

Jackie

Matt,
If you and your spouse/friend had 10 days and $4000 dollars to spend on a trip from California to Europe–where would you go?
Since my husband and I are navigationally challenged–should we consider a group tour? If so, can you suggest any?
Is it possible for us to visit Venice, Rome, Paris, and London for $4000?
Thanks so much for your insight!
J & J

NomadicMatt

You can visit anywhere in Europe for that amount of money! For 10 days, I would stick to just one geographic area.

SprogandMe

iv have no plan what so ever i want to travle europe as cheep as possible i am a student and my traviling partner is my LO(5/6years).

I was wondering if any one had a way of working out the best ways of finding the cheepst deals, i just wanted to look at a website and go “thats the cheepst deal” and just go there, and so forth
(although i might form a bit of an advance plan in that ill decided where we are traviling via the cheepest destions when booking in advance.)

im sorry if iv made this confusing im hoping that someone might be able to help….

N. Cordelia

Hi, Thank you for all the useful information.
But I have some questions. I’m from Iran and as you might know, our banks don’t have any kind of relations whatsoever with the banks in other countries, so we can not use our ATM cards or credit cards in other countries. And because of that, if I want to travel to any foreign destination, I’ll have to carry cash with me. And I can not book my ticket online. I really love to travel, and so far, I have only traveled with the tours provided by the travel agencies in my country. But as you may know, these tours can be really expensive. I always dream about traveling to Europe on my own, but I don’t even know how I should start. Believe me, for us Iranians, even getting the visa is a really hard job to do!

Have you considered opening a bank account in Europe for your travel budget?
In that case you would only have to bring the whole cash on your first flight to Europe. Afterwards you go to the bank and make a deposit and you can use the bankaccount during your travels.
There is a nice (German) website showing banks you don´t need a residence in Europe.
http://www.erasmus-konto.de/opening-a-bank-account.html

I personally use the DKB as they don´t charge you extra money when withdrawing cash at an ATM in another country. However making a deposit there will cost a little fee as the do not run subsidiaries. So you´ll have to go to another bank and make a direct deposit for your account. After a couple of days the money should be available on your account.

Be aware that if you carry more than 10.000 Euro when entering the European Union you´ll have to announce that at the customs desk otherwise the customs might confiscate your cash.

melissa hedwall

thank you!

there’s also a car share service where you tell people you’re going from city a. to city b. and you chip in for the petrol money for the driver!… you also get to meet some lovely locals …

i cant remember the name of the website sorry..

This is excellent. My friend and I were just talking about traveling across Europe and I will be sure to tell her about this

Paul

We were thinking of driving from Spain, through France and into Italy. Besides your normal hire car agencies, is there any cheap van or backpacker vehicle hires we could look into??

Richard

I think you mean gumtree ? It’s like craigslist

Richard

that was for Kris

Interesting points on a moment we are planning 90 day tripe around the EU. Thanks for the share.

Telling about Megabus, it has been my number one choice when I want to get to London under £5 or if booked in one month in advance it only cost as less as £1 :)

Just love the site and will be checking out what more will help our team to get over the EU with some good budget tips…

Vee

Megabus, definitely a yes! By the way, stay away from vayama…terrible customer service! Will try Ryanair to find my replacement ticket that vayama ef-ed up (and refusing to refund.)

NomadicMatt

What was the issue?

I knew about Megabus but not Busabout so thanks for the heads up.

L Shreffler

I am a disabled individual. I am trying to plan a trip from California to Europe in mid June 2014. Our trip would be 14 days, We would like to see at least England, France, and Italy. What kind of itinerary would you suggest and what would be the best and safest way to get around being I am disabled Thanks for any info you could provide. We would want to spend no more than $5000. I am trying to use my timeshare network for lodging.

Great tips, Matt, but from my experience flying budget airlines can sometimes cost much more than anticipated after you add in all the extras – check in fees, costs to check a bag, the hour long bus rides to get from the regional airports that Ryanair flies into… much better to sign up and wait for cheap train tickets, plus you get to see some of the countryside too!

As said above the car-share website mitfahrgelegenheit.de is worth checking for Germany and its neigbourcountries. Blablacar.com for all other countries (and germany too)

You write about cheap Ryanair tickets. Our cheap Ryanair flight became pretty damn expensive. They felt it necessary to steal the burner of our camping cooker. It was filled with water to neutralise it, but because there had been at some point some kind of inflammable liquid, it had to be confiscated. That was our first and last Ryanair experience.

I love transportation posts – when you don’t have a car and you don’t want to be wasting cash on taxis all the time, you gotta use public transportation and it’s not something anybody would know all the details unless they live there/travel there. So when I finally go to Europe I’ll definitely be referring to this, thanks!

Good tips. New home new life and new friends or your child. Just give them time and space to adjust in meeting new friends. Be friend with the community and they will share their love and support.

This is definitely a great handy tips for travellers to europe! I agree to steve and some other commenter above not everyone is expected to know everything about all places they are going to travel and articles like these are of great help as well as reference point for travel freaks to make their adventure journey more planned and organized. Thanks!

Yves

Anybody here ever take Vueling? I read some horrible reviews on this airline online and very few positive ones. That sucks because they have a decent price from Alicante via Barcelona to Lisbon from which Portomaio is not very far by train or bus. Believe it or not going from Alicante (Spain) to Portomaio (Portugal) is either a 20 hour bus ride or a train via Madrid for 200 euros and I am only in Seville. Unbelievable!!??

The budget airlines are probably the cheapest way to get around Europe. Book around 3 weeks in advance and a two hour flight should never be much more than 30 Euros if you’re a bit flexible with your dates/times. Wizzair are another one that are pretty cheap if you’re going to Eastern Europe.

travailing in European country is expensive special when you want to travel for long distance but its also a reality their vechals are very comfortable and peasful their buses are very comfortable and facilitate their passenger.Hitching is quite common in Europe its a best way for trevaling.

Kanishk

Which airline is good among Ryanair , Transavia or EasyJet? The wikipedia article of Ryanair has a long “Criticism” section citing bad customer service, unnecessary charges and even duping the passengers. I am not expecting any frills but at least customers should not be harassed even if the airline is a low cost carrier.

NomadicMatt

I like EasyJet the best but Ryanair is cheaper.

Hils

If you are booking at lot of trains in the UK and are under 25 might be worth your while buying a 16-25 rail pass, its 30 pounds but can save you a lot of money if your traveling a lot on the trains. Also never book on national rail for the UK try http://www.thetrainline.com its always cheaper. National Express often has cheap fares on the buses as well but Mega bus is normally cheaper never hurts to compare prices though.
Also for anyone traveling more than 3 or 4 stops on the underground in London within any zone consider buying a day pass at any station office. If you have a rail card these are only 6 pounds just make sure tell them what zones you want if you are traveling outside of 1. The oyster card is good for 1-3 trips in one day but any more and its worth your while. Can also make someones day on your last journey and give them the ticket as its valid till midnight. If you are heading in for the day also check at the office when getting your ticket its normally only a few pounds to add the day pass on as part of your return ticket giving you a whole day of free travel.

Very nice tips.Thanks for given such a good tips fro us.Travailing in European country is expensive special when you want to travel for long distance but its also a reality their vechals are very comfortable and peasful their buses are very comfortable and facilitate their passenger.Hitching is quite common in Europe its a best way for trevaling.

Very well said Matt, I used Eurolines a lot when I traveled through Europe and Megabus is without a doubt very very cheap if you book it at the right time!
I also tried hitchhiking through Austria, Germany and France which was the first time I done it and to be fair I’d say it was because of this that I managed to travel around Europe for two months on less than £1,000 and of course met some amazing people that you never would just on trains and buses!!

Amrita K

How was the experience on Eurolines, did you take any overnight journeys? I got my younger brother to book tickets with them for this summer for 4 looong journeys, and now I’m a bit apprehensive after reading some pretty bad reviews. Should I get him to cancel and take flights?

I guess it depends where you start your journey, first off if your in the UK you have to cross the channel before the story begins!! ferries a possibly the cheapest option if going by car from dover to calais will cost around £110 return for 4 adults. Again mega bus is possibly the cheapest option here if you dont mind buses, I guess they are ok as you will be able to see all the sites due to convenience of bus lanes. Ryan air is great of booking in advance, but you really have to plan your journey properly as changes can cost dearly.

I prefer travelling by car its much more convenient if doing a euro trip!

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