One thing you will discover about Europe, how easy it is to get from one destination to another using multiple forms of transportation. Unlike Americans, who are accustom too getting into their cars and driving everywhere, that’s just not the case in Europe. Not everyone in Europe drives cars so they rely heavily on other forms of transportation. To travel around more efficiently and inexpensive, you’ll find public transportation a much better solution than in the states. Europe’s extensive public transportation infrastructure offers a vast selection of trains, buses, trams and subways, as well as automotive and airline travel, that can get you to anywhere you want to go.
First things first, you’ll need to determine your transportation to go to Europe. These days going by plane is the most practical way to travel to Europe from the US, as it has the most benefits.
- Less time to get there.
- Lower cost.
- You’ll be able to depart from a major airport near you.
- You can arrive at an airport at your end destination or very close to it. This is also true for departing from Europe back to the US.
To read about arriving into European airports from the U.S. go to our ➾ Arriving in Europe page.
If you can obsoletely not fly, you can be possibly take an ocean liner which will take 6 days to get there. These days only ➾ Cunard is the offering a transatlantic crossing from New York to Southampton, UK several times a year. However, some cruise lines that operate in the Caribbean during the winter months operate in Europe during the summer. That means they make a transatlantic crossing twice a year with reduced rates. To monitor these low cost fares and when they become available, go to ➾ The Cruisenetwork
Getting Around in Europe…
Once in Europe there many good choices when it comes to transportation. Depending on your itinerary and where you plan to visit some forms of transportation will be more effective than others.
Also called Rapid or Suburban Rail and in some instances light rail. These trains operate on the regular tracks of trains that travel from city to city in Europe. They make stops at many neighborhood stations throughout the cities and suburbs. Some will go out as far as 100 km to towns where a major tourist attraction is located. Transit passes will be valid on these longer routes but, you must upgrade to a pass that covers the zones further away from the city.
What we call subways are more commonly called Metro’s throughout Europe. They typically travel underground and are usually only used in the largest cities. While they are highly efficient there is no scenery to see as a visitor. However, several can emerge from underground and run for a distance on an elevated track.
The vehicles run on their own tracks, usually in the middle of a street and do not share them with regular trains. Sometimes they are identified as light rail systems. They are a great way to get around a city and see it’s neighborhoods. Many cities use trams for their city transportation and these are always covered by transit passes.
If a train, metro or tram doesn’t get you close enough to your destination, a bus most likely will. Most cities trains and trams are quite extensive but, when not, the bus line will provide coverage. Buses routes run quite regularly and most stops have electronic signs indicating when the next bus and numbered route will arrive.
Many European cities offer bicycles rentals for you to pick up at one location and drop off at another. Please go to our ➾Bicycling Page for more detailed information. E Scooters have recently burst on the scene for rental sharing like bicycles.
Cities have can have water ways like canals that have been used for centuries to travel from one part of the city to another. In Venice, other than walking, you’ll use a water taxi. Other cities located on rivers have sightseeing and dinner cruises to enjoy.
In some areas the elevation can present challenges for walking or regular vehicles. In mountainous or hilly areas the best way to get up or down may be to use funiculars or cable systems. Transportation on these may be valid on some transit passes but, make sure you check first.
So what mode of transportation does make the most sense?
It all depends on the variables like:
- Where is your departure location?
- Staying in certain countries and cities can provide you with higher access to transportation than others. Large cities airports, that serve as a hub for an airline, means more flight choices to more destinations. Some countries have a vast rail networks with punctual service. Many major cities have efficient public transportation systems, others have an excellent grid of highway that make driving a car in rural areas a good option.
- How what is the distance between destinations?
- The shorter the distance the better your train or driving options become. Remember to add 2 hours to flight times for security and travel time to and from an airport. If you have a 2 1/2 hour flight time, that’s 4 1/2 hours minimum needed. If there is customs at boarder, up to 5 1/2 hours total.
Let’s look at the pros and cons of each.
-The fastest way of getting somewhere, especially if it is a distance to travel.
– Low cost airlines are now prevalent for travel to most European countries.
– You can rest while traveling.
– You may be able to use frequent traveler points for a free ticket
– Tickets can be more expensive on short notice.
– Service and schedules can be limited to selected airports.
Some airports are located far from city centers.
– Low cost carriers can charge extra fees for services.
– Extra time is required for checking in and security screening.
Weather and mechanical problems can delay or cancel flights.
– May be the only option to travel into areas with no bus or train service.
You will be able to travel on your own time schedule.
– You can spontaneously change your route plans to add a visit to another destination.
– You will view the countries natural beauty and local life close up.
– No time wasted on security screening and checking in and baggage.
– Driving in major metro areas can be hectic, especially in the old city centers.
– Fatigue from driving.
Will usually take more time than other transportation.
– Gas prices are very high in Europe and tolls will add to the overall cost.
– Bad weather conditions can lead to slower traffic and hazardous driving conditions.
– Services are excellent and frequent, especially in western Europe.
– Rail cards can give you flexibility and are inexpensive if traveling by train frequently.
– Almost all stations are located in the city centers.
– You’ll be able to rest comfortably while viewing the countryside and scenery.
– No time wasted on security screening.
– Night trains available on many routes eliminating a nights hotel room charge.
– More time consumed on longer distance routes.
– You will need to store your own luggage on and off the train.
– Some trains may not have refreshments or services available.
– Remote locations away from major metro areas may only have scheduled service several times a day complicating travel with several connections..
– Some areas may not have train service at all, bus service may be a viable alternative..
Read below the best options for:
- Traveling in the Cities
- Day Trips from the Cities
- Traveling within a Country
- Traveling Country to Country
Traveling within the Cities…
Unless you absolutely have to, we suggest not driving a car. Public transportation will be more efficient and less costly. Cities are centuries old with narrow and hard to navigate streets. Street numbering systems for address’s are different and anyone can get easily confused. Traffic can also be very congested and parking is hard to find and costly. The hotel you’re staying at will also most likely charge you for parking, per night. If they do not provide parking, you are on your own to finding parking in the streets or a parking garage, which may be blocks away from your hotel.
City or regional transportation passes can be purchased for the duration of your stay whether it be 2 , 3 or 5 days. Passes will be valid for use on different forms of transportation whether it be bus, subway or tram. Some cities have speciality services that are not covered, like a funicular, etc. Depending on how much you plan to move around, a pass can save you money and time.
Day Trips from the Cities…
To make day trips out and back from a city it makes good sense using trains, shuttles, buses, etc. Many tourist areas within a short distance from major cities have designated daily transportation to the tourism sites and back to the city. Some of the city passes include free transportation to these areas outside the city limits. Read the passes carefully before purchasing as you may have to pay a little extra for the areas or zones serviced outside the city limits. Getting to areas that are not high tourist destinations or that are more secluded may not have a good frequency level of service by train or bus. That means availability of arrival and departures of maybe limited to one to three times per day, restricting the time you may want to spend visiting a location. Take the bus or train to a town outside of a major city and rent a car at that location. With a rental car you can arrive and depart without worry about adjusting your schedule to meet a service.
Regional Trains and buses are usually your best options for day trips. You can also book day trip tours that not only give you the transportation to and back for a destination but, may also include a tour guide. However, you will have limited time to spend seeing attraction.
Traveling within a Country…
The train is most likely your best option followed by the bus. Regional or national train and bus lines have excellent routes that can take you to most of the important tourism destinations within a country or a bordering country. Make sure you confirm which passes cover these areas. If you buy a pass for travel in just one country it will not be valid for use in any other country. Once you enter into another country it is invalid, even though you are returning back. When purchasing rail passes make sure you purchase a pass that covers the countries you are traveling in. If you want to spend some days out in the country away from a city renting a car could be more advantageous. If you want the experience of going where you want without worry about scheduled services, then rent a car. Again, try to rent outside of a major city and avoid traffic and congestion.
Traveling Country to Country…
If you are traveling to a bordering country, a high speed train will most likely be your best option. If no efficient train and bus service is available or if your travel time is over 4 hours, we suggest looking at your options to fly using one of on many of European airlines. As in the states, Europe has low cost no frills airlines to chose from when going longer distances. Look at how much time you can save on one service as opposed to the others. Remember, with flying you need time to travel from your hotel to the airport, which is usually located a distance from the city center. Then you need to be there a minimum of 1 hour before departure and more if you need to go through customs or border control. Flights can also be delayed more easily than trains or buses because of weather. The guideline is the longer the distance the better it will be to use an airline.
Transportation Rankings by Country
Some countries have far superior transportation systems from others. These are the ones where a mode of transportation will serve you best.
Best Rail Systems
🇬🇧 United Kingdom
Best for Air Travel
🇬🇧 United Kingdom
Best Quality Roads
To figure your traveling time time from one destination to another go to our ➾ Set Your Route page for times and mileage between major European cities. You also use mapping programs on the internet or smart devices for specific directions form one address to another.