Ask students anywhere how their study abroad experience was and they’ll rave about all the amazing cities they visited and how easy and inexpensive it was to hop from country to country. So when I was studying abroad in Paris last spring semester and planning my first trip, I realized I had no clue how to travel around Europe. By the end of my five months abroad, I had gathered an extensive list of multiple airlines and types of transportation that worked for me.
Travel by Plane
Flying is the most common and quickest way to country hop in Europe. Some of my top airlines were Momondo, Easy Jet, Opodo and Cheap Flights. It’s right there in the airline name, “cheap flights.” While there was the occasional bumpy flight where I questioned my safety, for the most parts these airlines weren’t bad at all. While a bargain airline in the States will get you no leg room and a fee for bringing a backpack onboard, these European airlines serve snacks and drinks, allow you to bring two carry-ons with no additional cost and have just as much room as Delta or American Airlines.
Student Universe is a discount airline that is primarily for students traveling on a budget, perfect for someone studying abroad. Ryan Air is another option, but while the flights are cheap, the airports it flies into are usually not centrally located. For example, when flying Ryan Air into Paris, you don’t land in the recognizable Charles de Gaulle or Orly, but in Beauvais Airport, which is about an hour out of the city. Although Charles de Gaulle isn’t technically in Paris either, it is at least connected to the metro system, which takes you into the heart of the city. While at Beauvais, you’ll have to take a bus (or taxi if you have the $$).
Travel by Train
Though not the fastest option, traveling by train is usually the most expensive. The train companies I would look at when traveling were SNCF, Thalys and TGV. I only traveled by train once other than short day trips outside of Paris, and it made me realize why it was more expensive than a plane ticket. While most of my train experiences were on the dingy Long Island Railroad, traveling by train in Europe is really luxurious.
I rode in first class on my way to Amsterdam because for some reason a first class ticket was cheaper than coach. I was served dinner and dessert and wine as I watched the French, Luxembourgian and Belgian countryside roll by. Even in coach on the way back I was extremely comfortable. The seats are large and fabric and the trains are never crowded, so you usually have a row to yourself. Traveling by train is also convenient because train stations are located in the heart of every city.
Travel by Bus
Traveling by bus is by far the cheapest way around Europe. It is also the longest. FlixBus, Rome2Rio and ouibus are some of the companies I have used while traveling either between cities or across countries. The only time I traveled to another country by bus was from Paris to Zurich and I was meeting a friend who was studying in Madrid. While she got a Friday morning flight in and a Sunday night flight out, there were no flights available where I would arrive at a convenient time. So I left around 11:30 p.m. on a Thursday night and embarked on a 10-hour bus ride. Honestly, it could have been worse. It took some time to get comfortable and fall asleep and I woke up a couple times throughout the night because of stops and a passport check at the border. But after walking and exploring all weekend, I slept the entire bus ride back.
At first, looking up so many different modes of transportation, airlines, costs and schedules was overwhelming when booking travel plans, but by the end of the semester I was a pro and I could book a day of traveling from Madrid to Paris by plane and Paris to Amsterdam by train in the same day with ease.
Lizzie is a senior double majoring in media management and french. She is currently the Travel Editor for distractionmagazine.com, and the Managing Editor for the print magazine as well. Born and raised in Long Island, New York, Lizzie loves working out, going to concerts, traveling and of course, writing.