European Budget Travel // pt. I: Budget Transportation


part I || part II || part III [coming soon!]

Since I’m, you know, not the wealthiest person in the world (while recognizing that I do have enough to comfortably sustain myself in France as well as travel), but I still manage to travel fairly frequently, I figured I’d do a little series on how to travel through Europe while young and broke. Please note that I’m currently already living in Europe, so that means I can’t help you with the part that involves getting your butt onto the continent—what am I, your mom? [Just kidding, I’ll write some tips on that later!]

If you’ve ever hopped onto a site like Skyscanner to ogle the flights and empty your wallet, you’ve probably noticed offers for 9€ one-way tickets through airlines like RyanAir. As I type this, I’m waiting on a $22 round-trip flight from Paris to Venice. [This was written back in January. To clarify, I am not still waiting for that flight to Venice.] So yeah, you could say I have some experience on the matter. Still, when considering budget transportation options through Europe, there are a lot of different bits and pieces that need to come together.


Part I: What’s the Cheapest Way to Get Around Europe?

Answer: it’s pretty much always going to be a bus. [Sorry!] Still, when weighing out your options, there are multiple factors to consider.

1. Bus 

Pros: For traveling through Europe, this is the cheapest option. If you’re backpacking, it might even be the best option, because there’s no fuss over luggage or carry-ons or any of that—if it fits, you can bring it on board. Also, sometimes they have complimentary WiFi!

Cons: It is not fast. While that may not sound like a big deal at first, just wait until you’re trapped in a moving metal box with your knees pulled up to your chest and your butt cramping in places you didn’t know existed on hour 4 out of TEN. Also, there’s always the chance that you’ll get a slightly unhinged driver, which is never fun. [But makes for good stories.]

2. Plane

Pros: Flights are almost unreasonably cheap within Europe, especially if you’re going with budget airlines like RyanAir. Check SkyScanner for the best prices! Also, even if it’s not necessarily the cheapest option, it’ll definitely be the fastest.

Cons: Chances are, you’re going to be flying with RyanAir. Hidden fees abound [see next section] and get ready to drop 100€ or more on a roundtrip flight to the next town over during travel-heavy parts of the year.

3. Train

Pros: Reasonably comfortable, none of the security hassles of airports, consistent prices. If you’re going for an Interail/Eurail type deal, it’s probably the best way to tackle a lot of locations in one go in terms of sheer simplicity and ease. Also, most of these trains will take you through some incredible scenery.

Cons: Also is not fast. Faster than a bus, but still… Not fast. Also, of all of the options here, this will probably not be the most cost-efficient. Also, again for Eurail/Interailers, there are some hidden fees at play here too—paid reservations are sometimes required for overnight trains or trains in certain countries. Yikes, I know.

4. Car [I mean…. I guess?]

Listen, I’m not a real adult and I’ve never had a driver’s license, so I guess I can’t fathom why you, a budget traveler, would want to drop a bunch of money on a car rental just to spend even more money on gas and tolls in a continent where taking an Uber from Paris to Amsterdam would be more cost-efficient. Still, for the right person and the right circumstances, [family road trip in a very specific, easily traversed region of Europe comes to mind] this could be the best option! Never rule anything out!


Part II: Budget Airline Buyers, Beware

Although my initial ticket was dirt-cheap, there have been some snags along the way. Today, I’m going to tell you what to look out for when shopping budget flights within Europe.

1. Hidden fees 

Budget airlines love to do this. Sure, you get the ticket for almost nothing, but you wanna check in early? Extra 30€. Checked luggaged? 40€. Choose your seat? 15€. Want a cup of water on the flight? That’ll be an extra 10€, buddy.

If it’s a flight of an hour or less and you’re backpacking, simply suck it up and swerve as many of these ‘amenities’ as possible. If you’re looking for something more comfortable, maybe spring for something a little pricier. (Economy class flights within the continent rarely jump beyond 150€, which is a steal for those of you with ca$h mon€¥.


If only nowhere looked this nice.

2. Hello, and welcome to the middle of nowhere 

This is a problem I’ve had before. During my Venice trip, my budget airline connected two airports that are in the middle of NOWHERE. LITERALLY NOWHERE. I’m talkin’ BVA and TSF, the Burbank of Paris and Venice, respectively. I then had to take special, specific buses (22-ish€ roundtrip for both) just to get to the edge of where I need to be. That means my total transportation cost at ended up being around 70€. Next time, I’ll probably just spring for a flight that actually goes out of CDG at the very least.

3. Weird departure hours 

Red-eye flights are cheap for a reason: only the truly desperate would resort to that kind of torture. If you’re unwilling, or worse, physically unable to reach the airport at 4 in the dang morning, opt for something else. As someone who relies largely on public transportation and the goodwill of others to get around, sometimes crack-of-dawn flights are just not an option, especially if they’re return flights and you’re well on your way to falling into a canal on the way to the bus station.

reddoublesPart III: Finding Cheap Transportation

Now that you know what to look out for, here are some tips for snagging cheap flights/buses/rides.

1. SkyScanner

Every savvy budget traveler and their mother uses to find the cheapest flights. If you’ve heard of Skyscanner, you’ve probably heard of the ‘Everywhere’ and ‘Cheapest Month’ options, too. Good on you, savvy budget traveler. Good on you.

If you haven’t heard of Skyscanner, it’s a website that allows you to find the cheapest flights to and from any destination, every time. It’s basically a godsend, but it’s also probably going to bankrupt me.

2. OuiBus

Although OuiBus is French-based and currently pretty limited in terms of destination options, Ouibus is fantastic and also way better than Flixbus/Megabus, like goddamn. If you’re traveling within France, you’ll likely be able to snag a ticket to pretty much any French city you can think of for 15€ or less. I’ve seen 7€ for Paris to Lille, if that helps give you an idea. Other destination options at the moment include London, Barcelona, and Amsterdam, and they’re adding more all the time! I used OuiBus for part of my Chamonix trip.

3. Eurail/Interail

This one really depends on what kind of trip you’re taking. If you plan to backpack for a long period of time [a month+] a 300-500€ Eurail [for non-EU residents] or Interail [for EU residents] might be your best bet. With a Eurail or Interail pass, you go pretty much anywhere via train. It’s what I’m thinking of using for my summer spree around Europe, so I’ll definitely be writing more on the subject, especially since it does get a little confusing! While the initial price tag can be hefty, if you’re smart, you can make some major savings on transportation.

That’s all for this segment of European Budget Travel! If you have any tips and tricks of your own for seeing Europe on a budget, be sure to comment below. 🙂

Thanks for reading, and make sure to subscribe for more travel!

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37 thoughts on “European Budget Travel // pt. I: Budget Transportation

  1. 1944april says:

    Having travelled through Europe I always prefer the train – far more comfortable than the bus & faster, and without the pain of flying. On many occasions found the train to be faster & cheaper than flying. CBD to CBD – no airport to city taxi cost, little security, so boarding the train quicker & easier – I love train travel. :-o)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Dippy-Dotty Girl says:

    Clan of the truly desperate dropping in. I am always, mostly, to be found on a red-eye flight. To say that I am a zombie walking around a few hours later in a new city is an understatement. I like your tips. Very canny. Also, I am a fan of Flix.

    Liked by 1 person

    • thesweatergiraffe says:

      I’m a borderline narcoleptic at times so I try my best to avoid that particular situation but more power to you, sister, for having the strength to stay upright and still explore post-flight! I think Flix is a great option, I’m just glad I discovered my love, OuiBus, ha ha! Thank you for reading and commenting. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. yodandalek says:

    Great summary of public transport options. A bit of research goes a long way in saving money on transportation. We’ve just recently begun to use “city cards” with public transport and attractions rolled into a great value (ex: Lisbon, Rome). Also checkout supersaver tickets before you go to Switzerland (50% off) and thank us later 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Karen says:

    Useful little post. Just a few notes from my own experiences: There’s a few budget airlines that aren’t on Skyscanner, including Transavia and Easyjet, who I fly often. (Depends on your base). It’s good to check their actual websites too! Additionally, a lot of the time if it’s close, it’s usually cheaper to rent a car for the weekend (although the company I usually use is a bit sketchy) to drive to another country than to even take the bus or fly. You end up saving a lot since you have no crazy early morning flights and you can stay further out with cheaper accommodations. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • thesweatergiraffe says:

      Thanks for the notes! I’d never heard of Transavia or Easyjet before, I’ll definitely be checking them out! And yeah ha ha I’m warming up more and more to the idea of renting a car in Europe with the comments I’m getting – if only I could drive lol


  5. robyncspice says:

    I’ve only ever really bused and flown to European destinations. 36 hours from Scotland to Barca on a bus (oooouch)! I’d love to do some train trips through Europe. Thanks for the share. Saving for when I travel through Europe again 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Kyntra Strickland says:

    I have had a hard time finding cheap train tickets. Usually, buses are available where the trains are with not that much time difference. I hadn’t heard of Ouibus; I’m so glad you shared that! Very informative and helpful!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Sarah says:

    Omg Lynn so glad I found your blog as well! You are hilarious, I love it when people just write like they speak 🙂 These are great tips, I have discovered a lot of them through my own various misadventures but will definitely check out ouibus! Now I’m off to explore the rest of your blog…

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Megan Johnson! says:

    This is super helpful! I’ve started planning Europe trips a couple times and ended up other places, but figuring out transportation was always intimidating since there were so many options!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Jamie says:

    You include EVERYTHING! My goodness! I so wish I had this when I started out traveling in Europe! I’m a super light packer so I’ve never had a hard time with hidden fees BUUUUUT I’m looking into other means of travel since flying is the worst way to travel in terms of environmental friendliness… I wish trains were as cheap as RyanAir!!


  10. Rohan says:

    Great article for budget travellers 🙂 Blablacar is a ridesharing website which is great! Often cheaper and easier than a bus. Hitching is also fairly safe and easy in Western Europe.


  11. Laia says:

    Great guide! I love train travel but within Europe I usually take plane, bus or blablacar for cost reasons. I never heard of Ouibus, that’s good to know! Ah yes… the hidden fees in low cost flight companies, always good to remember!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Anna Schlaht says:

    Awesome tips for traveling across Europe! Thank you for the hard work you put into this guide; I’ve always wanted to backpack around Europe, and while I seem to be tackling it one piece at a time instead of all at once (I wish I lived in Europe, le sigh), this is still very helpful for when we jump from (say) France to Amsterdam or Madrid to London! I’ll have to use these tips as we book the next leg of our Europe trip this August. Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Viivi Severina says:

    I hope you will continue writing this series! It is always interesting to hear what tips others have for budget travel here in Europe. I have been planning for some time now trip around the Europe only using cheap buses. Maybe I will even do it one day…

    I really like your blog and your posts are always interesting to read. That’s why I nominated you for Blogger Recognition Award in my side blog:


  14. Dacian says:

    Lovely! Thanks for the great tips!
    It’s always lovely to see some pointers and actual experience on how people have traveled. Because it’s so important. Once you are in a new city, never mind how you got there, how are you going to see it is going to influence you experience so much.
    Interesting post anyways!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. RealLifeWithLou says:

    Yes the budget airlines and flying to random airports!! I’ve nearly been stung on that one a few times, I think it’s especially common when booking package deals with flight and accommodation. Often you end up flying to some airport in the middle of nowhere and your package deal doesn’t include transfers 😦 Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. iotism2m says:

    Reblogged this on The Spline and commented:
    Bus is cheap and quality comes at a cost. However, bus has some advantages over plane, especially when there are no airports in the area. Some countries have only one major airport, near the capital city and in such cases the bus beats the train. In some mountainous countries, it has always been a competition between bus and train.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. A1 Cars says:

    Train travel is so relaxing for me also cars are my best choice for the short or in-city travel. I liked your blog and as a blogger i have to think about the budget transportation.


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