One of the best ways to see Europe is from the comfort of a train carriage. The continent has an extensive network of slow-speed and high-speed trains connecting towns and cities and crossing international borders. Each country runs its own rail system and has its own processes for booking tickets, but the systems are mostly interconnected, so international rail travel is easy enough to organise.
How to buy a train ticket
For short-distance travel within a particular country, you can usually buy your ticket at the station. For long-distance and international journeys, it's usually best (or sometimes essential) to book in advance.
To buy tickets online, the standard way is to book via the rail website of the country/city you're travelling from.
- Most of the above sites will let you book intercountry trains. Or you could try searching via a Europe-wide site such as trainline.eu.
- The German Railways website bahn.de is a good place to check timetables for train journeys all over Europe (it's zehr efficient!).
- If a rail site won't accept your Australian credit card, or if you have a complicated itinerary and just want a simpler booking process, try a specialist site such as raileurope.com, loco2.com or railbookers.com.au.
- Most tickets won't allow you to hop on and off, so you'll need to book your journey in separate legs, or consider a Eurail pass.
If you plan to cover a lot of Europe by train, consider a Eurail pass. They aren't cheap (you have to use them a lot to actually save money) but they do give you the freedom to hop on and off and really explore. Tip: Eurail pass holders still need to book in advance to be sure of a seat.
Finding cheap train fares
If you want to hunt down a bargain fare, seat61.com has a wealth of advice based on specific routes. This might mean booking via the website of your destination country rather than your departure country, booking on a certain date, or using a third-party booking site.
Senior and youth discounts
If you're over 60 or under 26, you may be eligible for cheaper fares. However, many senior or youth fares are simply a discounted version of the full-price ticket, so they often aren't as cheap as the advance-purchase discount fares available to everyone.
Buses aren't always as comfortable or charismatic as trains, but they usually cost less – and of course they'll take you to many places that trains can't.
Booking bus tickets
- Bus tickets can usually be bought on the spot, except during peak times.
- To book in advance, search for fares on sites such as eurolines.com, buseurope.eu or idbus.com, or if you know the name of the bus company operating the route, see if they have cheaper fares on their own site.
- To compare the cost of bus, train and air travel all over Europe, try goeuro.com.
Multi-trip bus passes give you a similar hop-on/hop-off freedom to Eurail passes, and for a much cheaper price. They're available from many bus companies and travel agencies.
Flights within Europe
If you don't have time to travel by land, a quick flight can zip you from one must-see city to another in a matter of hours, or even under an hour! Fares are often extremely low, thanks to competition from budget (though not always reliable) airlines such as easyJet and Ryanair.
Book via the airline's website, or compare fares first through third-party booking sites. See our tips on using airline booking websites.
Budget flight? Check which airport
Budget airlines often fly to secondary airports that may be a long way from your destination (they do this to save money on airport fees). For example, you might book cheap flights with Ryanair from London Stansted Airport to "Barcelona Girona Airport", only to find that Girona Airport is actually 115km from Barcelona.
If you're planning on taking a lot of flights in Europe and you prefer not to fly with budget airlines, consider a Visit Europe Pass from oneworld or talk to a travel agent about similar
With the boom in cheap flights, travelling by ferry in Europe isn't as common as it once was, but it's still the best way to cross channels and seas if you
have a vehicle, or if you simply prefer to take the scenic route.
You can often buy tickets at the port, but if you're worried about missing out – particularly if you're travelling at a peak time, want a sleeping berth or
need to take your vehicle on board – it's best to book ahead.
Once you know which ferry company runs the service you need, it's worth shopping around for the cheapest deal. ferrylines.com is a comprehensive European booking site, offering 7700 routes by 810 operators. For ferries
from the UK, as well as some other routes in Europe, try directferries.co.uk. For Greek island ferries, try ferriesingreece.com. Or simply search on the ferry company's own website.
Train tickets can often be combined with ferry tickets (for example, London to Dublin can be booked as one fare via Britain's National Rail). Eurail passes also
include some ferry services.
Europe is one of the best places in the world to travel long distances by bicycle. The EuroVelos are a network of
15 signposted cycle routes, criss-crossing the continent for thousands of kilometres with bike-friendly accommodation and services along the way. The
quality of these 'bicycle highways' varies from country to country, with the Netherlands, Denmark, France and Germany among the best, but in almost every
part of Europe you'll find better and safer cycling infrastructure than in car-loving Australia.
Travel light with your own set of panniers and a map, or have a bike tour company organise your itinerary, transport your bags and even change your flat
tyres for you.
Many European cities have bicycle share schemes. Some simply require a swipe of your credit card, but some others require you to apply for a membership card. Bike helmets aren't compulsory anywhere in Europe.
Taxis and car share
Obviously the taxi companies and their phone numbers change from country to country, but the taxi-ordering app taxi.eu covers more than 130 cities in 11 European countries: Germany, Greece, Ireland, Austria, Switzerland, Luxembourg, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Denmark and Czech Republic. The ever-expanding Uber network is also available in more than 100 European cities.
Local public transport
Almost every city and town in Europe will have public transport information available online via a website or app. Just search for what you need, or add the appropriate apps to your phone before you go.
- Moovit is an international public transport planner app covering more than 2500 cities worldwide.
- rome2rio.com is a great resource for working out how to get from A to B by any means of transport, anywhere in the world.
Although Europe has some of the best public transport in the world, having your own car is a great way to get off the beaten track and travel on your own
Read more in our article about driving in Europe.
options in Europe are many and varied - from renting your own medieval castle to staying in B&Bs, holiday parks, hotels and hostels. And of course the
price you'll pay will vary greatly depending on which country you're in and what time of year you're travelling.
During peak seasons (summer holidays and Christmas in particular) it's essential to book ahead. At other times, you may have more freedom to follow your
You can book online through the usual sites, or
try to get a better rate by contacting the hotel directly. Check online reviews before you
book. If you're looking for a homestay or holiday house rental, airbnb.com is widely used in many parts of Europe.
See our tips on booking accommodation.
can be arranged through a travel agent or online. For the easiest option of all,
consider a package deal from a travel agent, which includes flights,
transport, accommodation and sometimes even meals.
(or self-guided cycle holidays) give you the freedom to travel independently, but with your itinerary already set out for you and your bookings already
Consider waiting until you're in Europe to book day trips. If your schedule is flexible, you may want to check the weather forecast a few days in advance
before committing to outdoor activities. You'll probably also find a greater choice of tours once you're in your destination than you would online.