Plane, train or bus: How to travel for less in Europe

After years of living on the other side of the world, being based in Europe is wonderful. Within just a few hours, we have a multitude of bright and sparkly new cities and countries to explore, many only a short flight away. 

You see, that's the benefit of living in London - hideously expensive pints, but fantastic transport options! However, as we've discovered, getting to continental Europe is the easy part; exploring more than one place there is where it can get a little tricky.

For those of you planning a mammoth multi-country European adventure, it can be damn right exhausting. Planes, trains, buses. So many different ways of reaching the same place! 


Board a bus

A few years ago, I would have baulked at the idea of spending 12 hours on a bus. Numb bum, smelly toilets and hours and hours of motorway. Well, two years in Latin America certainly fixed that phobia.

Fast forward to summer 2016, and this lady could sleep with her head in foot-well, blissfully unaware of the exceedingly loud snores emitting from the exceedingly loud Colombian sitting next to her. 

So, when we took off across Europe last year, I felt pretty prepared for the worst that it could throw at me! Imagine my surprise when I discovered that European long-haul buses had gotten a little fancy.

Reclining seats, wifi, a refreshing silence instead of Enrique Iglesias on repeat. Of course, I just slept with my head in the footwell, but I'm sure Andrew enjoyed the little luxuries ;)

Whilst there's still those out there that will poo-poo bus travel, for any of you that are on a tight budget, this is where you can save a fair bit of cash, as even at the last-minute, buses are almost always your cheapest option.


Take the Train

Train travel in Europe is a double-edged sword.

Trains, unlike buses, cut straight through the countryside; this means that instead of staring at a never ending highway, or spending hours simply moving from place to place, you have the opportunity to see more of your chosen country. Additionally, given that many of the trains that cross Europe are high speed, you can cover pretty large distances in relatively short periods of time - especially if you opt for sleeper or overnight trains.

The bad news however, is that unless you have a rail pass or book your tickets at least a few weeks in advance, a relatively short journey could cost you a small fortune. You want to go from London to Manchester today? That'll be £90. Book the same exact ticket a month in advance however, and you can get it for as little as £22. Excellent for the crazy-organised amongst you, less good for those of us who prefer to fly by the seat of our pants! 

Hop on a Plane

When I was growing up, taking a plane was a big deal. Once a year, my parents would bundle us all into the car in the middle of the night (why did all flights in my childhood leave at ridiculous times of day?!), drive three hours north, south or west and on to a plane filled with hundreds of other pasty-faced British tourists in desperate need of a tan. Different country each year, but a pretty similar experience either way. But the flight, damn that was exciting! (less thrilling to the adults around us when 8-year old Emily proclaimed how exciting a crash landing might be!)

Fast forward twenty-odd years, and the developed world is taking flights like it's no big thing. Book your ticket in advance, use a fancy 'fly anywhere' option on a search engine or simply head somewhere nobody else wants to go, and you can get a flight for next to nothing. Pack with carry-on, and you can be in a new country in a couple of hours for less than £20!

Unfortunately, there's lots of sneaky ways that low-cost airlines are trying to make a quick buck, so make sure you're clued up before you book - lucky for you, we have this post that does just that - and be prepared that if you want to fly anywhere in Europe during school holidays, that cheap flight almost certainly doesn't exist.

So how do you choose?

The difficulty with all these transport options, is finding the best deal.

We suspect that we're not the only ones who will spend hours researching the most economical route, and weighing up arrival times against price through a million open tabs on an increasingly slow computer. 

And the worst thing? Not booking that day and then having to start the whole process all over again - just as the prices have gone up!

Thankfully, whilst trying to navigate a cheap route from Paris to the south of France, we discovered a better way - Omio

This handy little app (accessible via your phone, tablet or laptop), makes planning our route from point A to B much simpler, especially in a country where we don't necessarily know all the transport companies and options available - and helps us source the best value ticket, whether we're travelling last minute or with a little more time to spare. 

NB | To remove any confusion, in 2019, GoEuro rebranded as Omio. This article only includes mentions of ‘Omio’ however screenshots were taken whilst it was under the title of ‘GoEuro’.

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So, how does it work?

To begin, simply enter your starting point, where you'd like to go and the preferred date of travel, and Omio will do the rest. 

You'll be presented with a brief overview of cost v.s time and a more substantial breakdown of 'smartest', 'cheapest', 'fastest', as well as options based on departure and arrival time.

Whether you need to be in a new country quickly, you're looking for the cheapest way to get there or the most sensible route (their 'smartest' feature looks at the optimal combination of departure and journey times, as well as price), you can be confident that you'll book the most appropriate ticket for your trip.

Once you've selected the route you'd like to book, simply click the 'Book' button and you will be redirected to the payment page. Usually this is the transport companies' own website, although occasionally payment will be made to Omio directly (such as in the case of TGV - the French train network, with whom they have an official partnership). Reassuringly - especially for people like us who hate paying booking fees - Omio guarantee that you will never pay more than if you had booked directly. Happy days!

At present, Omio only functions across 12, mostly western European countries, but we have high hopes that more will be added in the future - we have grand plans for Eastern Europe, and would love if this was rolled out there too. 

Download the phone apps here

Google Play Store | Apple App Store



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Finding the best flight, train or bus for your European adventure can be time-consuming. Thankfully, GoEuro have taken all the hard work out of it! Click on the pin to discover more!

This article was produced in collaboration with GoEuro but all opinions, as always, are our own