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Planes, Trains and Automobiles: Your Complete Guide to European Travel

You’ve been abroad for a month or two now, and you’ve finally got your bearings; you can understand what your host family is saying to you and you no longer get lost trying to find your classes.  Now it’s time to plan for the reason you wanted to go abroad in the first place—break travel!  Will you go eat pasta and visit coliseums in Rome?  Sip wine and climb the Eiffel Tower in Paris?  Try real German beer and bretzels in Berlin?  The world is your oyster!

But wait … how much does that train cost?  Does your suitcase have to be that small to fly RyanAir? And exactly how safe is it to travel with a stranger?

With so many ways to get to your destination, planning travel abroad can be, well, stressful.  But no worries—we’ve got your back.  Just read this guide on how to get where you want to go and forget your stress.  Besides, there are worse problems to have than having to plan a fabulous European vacation, right?

By Plane
Flights across Europe for £10?  Yep, they exist.  Low cost airlines such as Ryanair and easyJet can make it easy to fly cheaply.  But don’t book that plane just yet; make sure you’re well-informed about the airline’s baggage limits beforehand, or you could be paying a lot more than you planned.  For example, Ryanair allows just one very small carry-on bag—and that’s it.  Your purse, laptop, camera, etc. must be inside the carry-on, too. The cost of checking one bag with Ryanair can be up to €40 (more than $50) depending on your flight, so be prepared to pack light if you want to travel for cheap.

Also, be sure to check out where your destination airport is located.  Most low-cost airlines fly to smaller airports that are farther away from major cities and downtowns.  A €20 flight might not be as good of a deal as expected if you have to pay for a 2-hour cab to get to your hostel.

Verdict: Cheap and fast, but not as convenient

By Train
Traveling by train can be a relaxing and easy way to get to your destination.  While not as fast as planes (traveling from Paris to Rome can be over 10 hours), trains do give you some great complementary views!

If you think you’ll be traveling by train often, check your local railway to see if you can get a discount card for being young or a student.  For example, France’s carte 12-25, which people between the ages of 12 and 25 can buy for €50, gives you a guaranteed 25% off tickets and other discounts up to 60% off tickets for one year.  With the 16-25 Railcard in the United Kingdom, people between the ages of 16 and 25 save 1/3 on fares in Britain.  The card costs £28 and lasts for one year.

One thing to be wary of on trains is the safety of your belongings.  Typically your bags will be stored in open areas away from your seat that anyone can get access to.  Invest in good luggage locks so thieves won’t be tempted by your belongings.

Verdict: No-hassle and can be cheap, but keep an eye on your luggage

Buses
Eurolines, a bus system that travels through 29 countries in Europe, is perhaps not the quickest or most comfortable option, but definitely a low-cost one.  Their website often has great deals on popular routes; during selected days in March and April this year you can travel from London to Paris (one-way) for just £9.  Sounds très bon to me!

Verdict: Easy and cheap, but can be a long ride

Carpooling
It’s not just for getting to middle school soccer practice.  With websites like carpooling.com, you can hitch a ride with people driving to places all over Europe—even to different countries—who want to save some money on gas.
  
While carpooling is an extremely cheap option, it’s also important to stay safe while doing it.  Before accepting a carpooling offer, check the person’s online profile and see if they’ve been given a good rating by other users.  If you’re nervous about riding in a car with a stranger, meet up with them a few days in advance for coffee to see if you feel comfortable with them.  If for any reason you don’t feel safe with someone, trust your judgment and don’t get in a car with them. Your safety should ALWAYS be more important than saving a few euros.

Verdict: No-hassle and cheapest, but it could be a long ride–and BE SAFE!

Bonne chance, collegiettes!  Keep an eye out for a how-to hostel guide soon.  And remember: it’s your vacation, so don’t stress!

Photos:
London (photo): Sprachcaffe, http://www.sprachcaffe.com/english/study_abroad/language_schools/london/main.htm
Airplane (photo): RegBlog, http://www.law.upenn.edu/blogs/regblog/2011/08/european-court-of-justice-considers-carbon-tax-on-foreign-airlines.html
Train (photo): National Geographic, http://travel.nationalgeographic.com/travel/top-10/european-train-trips/
Eurolines (photo): ukstudentlife.com, http://www.ukstudentlife.com/Shop/Company/Eurolines.htm
Carpooling (photo): Qatargp, http://www.qatargp.net/

Michelle was the Senior Editor of Her Campus. She is passionate about producing high-quality, entertaining and informative content for readers. Before joining the staff full-time, she was an editorial intern, the Life Editor and a contributing writer for HC, during which time she wrote the most-read article in HC history. Before joining the HC team, Michelle interned for The News & Observer in Raleigh, NC. A native of North Carolina, Michelle graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2013 with a B.A. in journalism and French and a minor in music. In her spare time, she likes to run (a lot), buy way too many magazines, obsessively follow UNC basketball and explore new places. You can follow her on Twitter: @mclewis3
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