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I'm visiting Europe soon, and I need some advice for transportation inside Europe on an extremely low budget.

I probably will spend many days there, so I want to visit as many countries as I can. I'm thinking of an itinerary like this, including countries of Schengen territory, from Portugal to Greece and from Italy to London or even Norway:

  1. Arrive to Paris
  2. Move immediately to Madrid (I need to find someone there)
  3. Start from Lisbon (Portugal)
  4. Move to Gibraltar, Madrid, Barcelona (Spain)
  5. Pass to France: Toulouse, Orleans, Versailles, Paris, Strasbourg.
  6. Move to Brussels (Belgium)
  7. Netherlands (Rotterdam and Amsterdam)
  8. Connect in some way to London, Stonehenge (UK), Dublin (Ireland)
  9. Copenhagen
  10. Go back to Germany (Hamburg, Berlin, Frankfurt, Munich, Bremen)
  11. Switzerland (Zurich)
  12. Italy (Venecia, Bologna, Rome, Pisa, Naples)
  13. Greece (Athens)
  14. Finish endless experience.

I have some ideas:

  1. I found pages for optimization in booking of car rentals. I'm surprised to find from 7$ daily which can be translated 420$ for 2 months or 630$ for 3 months which is affordable, but it depends of many factors like gas price, what is the regulation to pass from one country to another with a car, maintenance of the vehicule, insurance, etc. So, it's a little bit complicated.
  2. I heard of a full pass train ticket, but no sure of its limitation and price. Eurail I think. Any inconvenience?
  3. I heard outrageous stories of people who can find a flight to one country to another for 5$... I wonder where!?!?!?!?!!? That would be awesome or maybe there are urban stories maybe.
  4. I think bicycle trips would be messy. Where should I return it?
  5. Walking would be impossible to achieve 20 countries for 2 or 3 months.
  6. Is there any bus service?

Can someone recommend a better choice please? From some early replies, it looks like mixed-mode transport could achieve the cheapest way to travel inside Europe.


Edit: Last Update

I didn't mention why I chose Paris as first arrival destination. It's because I found a trip suggestion from Flight-Hub that it was very "cheap" (IMHO) around US$ 500 to go first to Paris than any other city in Europe. No matter how many times I clean my cache browser, anytime I perform a search between Canada and Paris, it is always the best choice. If someone know where to arrive for less than this price, it would be awesome to share with others.

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closed as too broad by Gayot Fow, CMaster, Mark Mayo, Tor-Einar Jarnbjo, JoErNanO Mar 3 at 15:21

There are either too many possible answers, or good answers would be too long for this format. Please add details to narrow the answer set or to isolate an issue that can be answered in a few paragraphs.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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You're asking a lot of questions and should break up your post into multiple individual questions. – MastaBaba Mar 2 at 20:35
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That said, Seat 61 is your friend for anything you could possibly want to know about trains in Europe, from information about common routes to information about passes (see here for Eurail passes). – Zach Lipton Mar 2 at 20:45
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20 countries in 3 months by the cheapest feasible method will leave wrecked with fatigue in about 5 - 6 weeks. You're looking at about 18 days spent looking out of a bus window or schlepping to a hotel or finding a McDonalds or what-not or stuck in traffic or waiting in the bus terminal. Stamina is key but you get no economies of scale when you're on the move all the time. – Gayot Fow Mar 2 at 20:57
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Beyond what @GayotFow said, Europe is not a race. How you travel is up to you, but my view is that you're better off constructing an itinerary that lets you linger a bit rather than trying to cross countries off a list like there's no tomorrow. Traveling so much is also inefficient: you'll be spending more of your vacation time going from place to place than experiencing the place you're in. – Zach Lipton Mar 2 at 21:04
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Are you planning to just arrive in these places, get a photo of yourself against some famous landmark, and move on? Because for that, you could just stay at home and use Photoshop. Make a list of what you'd like to see/do in just a couple of those places, and you'll quickly see that in some cases you'll want a week (or more) just to begin scratching at the surface. Fitting 30 destinations in 3 months implies 3 days/destination (excluding travel time—in reality you'll have 1-2 days in each place to really look around). Thinking you'll experience anything in such a short time is delusional. – eggyal Mar 3 at 12:00

While it may be possible to cross that many borders, I doubt you can actually see so many countries in that period of time. Figure about half-a-day of transport each time you change countries and you will see how the amount of time left for seeing is greatly diminished.

Generally speaking, Europe offers some of the cheapest transportation options. For you to find which mode is the absolute cheapest between any given two points, you will have to check your options for each segment.

When making plenty of short hops, as your itinerary suggests, I found that the cheapest option is often inter-city buses, followed by local trains, where available. There are very cheap flights indeed to some places but their costs add up when you include all fees plus transport to and from the airport. Buses often stop right in the city, some with multiple stations for larger cities. On the other extreme, taxis do cost as much as a plane ticket sometimes!

Car rentals are interesting but I would not consider them the budget option. There are plenty of fees which can double the announced price and the then extra ones for dropping off a vehicle in a different location, even more for a different country which only a few more expensive agencies allow.

Do note that sometimes the shortest route is not the cheapest due to popularity. You must balance how much ground you cover with how much time you spend in between. Remember you can always come back on another trip. I suggest seeing more places close together than trying to reach a certain number of countries. Last year I had planned to see 6 countries in 3 weeks and I ended up cutting it down to 4 which made for a fast-paced trip but not completely exhausting and we did see a decent amount in each stop. In hindsight though, I would have balanced the days spent in each country in a different way but we were happy about the experience.

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I really appreciate your answer. I can understand clearly your point because for my experience. I will try not to be ambitious and concentrate in some historical cities that I want to know for sure. I'll be still doing a research to avoid a huge expense! Thanks! – Maximus Decimus Mar 3 at 2:24

"Gibraltar? @MaximusDecimus was there! Here's a selfie to prove it!"

That's the impression I get with your proposed itinerary. You've listed thirty-something cities all over the place, to be covered in one trip. And you want to do it on a shoestring budget. That sounds like exhaustion, not a vacation. My suggestion: skip straight to the last bullet point in this answer.

Assuming you want to go through with it anyway, let's consider some options:

  • Hitchhiking: Costs you nothing, but it sounds stressful and inefficient. At age 29, and with a second passenger, plus belongings, and so many destinations, I'm not sure it would work out.
  • Renting a car: This has the advantage that you can go anywhere at any time without having to think too hard about which bus or train to take. In addition to the rental, you have to pay for fuel, tolls, and parking — all of which are significantly more expensive in Europe than in most other places on the planet. Your itinerary is also heavy on cities, and having a car in cities is more of a hassle than a benefit. (As a result of being isolated in a car, you would miss out on the full European experience.) Also, driving south of Rome is a challenge if you're not used to the local style. In addition, you would still have to make other arrangements for outlying destinations like Greece, Ireland, and Mallorca. You would be somewhat committed to taking care of the car for the duration of the rental period, making it difficult to switch to other modes of transport.

    In short, driving would be ideal if, for example, you were touring the Loire Valley or the Alps, or if you want to experience the German Autobahn. You seem to have a more urban itinerary, though. It doesn't sound like a good fit for you, especially given your budget concerns.

  • Trains: For a grand tour like this, you'll probably want to get a two-month pass. Price it out yourself. You'll spend a few thousand up front, but that will cover most of your inter-city transportation. You would still need to pay extra for reservations on high-speed lines like the TGV or Eurostar. Another caveat: there's no train that will take you to places like Stonehenge.

    One budget tip is to use overnight trains. You save time by travelling while you sleep, and save money by not requiring accommodations for the night. (You'll still incur a reservation fee.) For your sanity, I don't recommend doing this more than two nights in a row.

  • Flying: If you can plan ahead and book in advance, you may be able to find some cheap flights on EasyJet or Ryan Air. Also factor in the time, money, and hassle of getting to/from an airport, which is not going to be near the points of interest at city centers, the way train stations are.

Like I said, this whole plan sounds problematic to me. Your desire to do this on an extreme budget makes it even more impractical and unpleasant. My recommendations:

  • Change your scope: If you are on such a tight budget, why visit so many places? Just shorten your trip. You'll get better value for less money. You'd be sick of travelling towards the end anyway. Marginal utility, you know?
  • Cut out the more outlying destinations: Greece? Ireland? Mallorca? Each of those destinations would be its own vacation, even if you lived in Europe. You're only 29. You don't have to see those places right now. The Parthenon has already exploded; it will probably still be there in a few decades.
  • Cut out the more expensive destinations: Norway? Switzerland? London? You would enjoy those places better if you didn't have money on your mind the whole time.
  • Reduce cities within each country: The French, for example, have done you the favour of concentrating the highlights of France in Paris. Do you really need to stop by Toulouse? For that matter, you might even want to consider skipping major cities such as Hamburg, Frankfurt, and Milan.
  • Join a package tour: Seeing many places efficiently is a solved problem! Join a package tour (arbitrary example), and you'll have a bus, tour guide, lodging, entrance fees, reservations, meals, and all that planning taken care of for you! You'll even know up front how much it's going to cost.

    Sure, you give up spontaneity, but you weren't going to have that anyway, considering all the destinations on your list. If the package doesn't cover everything you wanted to see, then add your own side trip to the end.

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+1. Especially for the last bullet. There are companies that offer transportation and discounted backpacker hostels. Also some of them offer the possibility to hop on/off, so in case you like a city you can spend an extra few days there and simple take the next bus (if there is space is the next bus) – magu_ Mar 3 at 12:53

Generally I would say long distances buses and air transport are your best bet - trains are very much dependent on the specific country, but may be an option, too.

To your ideas:

  1. I found pages for optimization in booking of car rentals. I'm surprised to find from 7$ daily which can be translated 420$ for 2 months or 630$ for 3 months which is affordable, but it depends of many factors like gas price, what is the regulation to pass from one country to another with a car, maintenance of the vehicule, insurance, etc. So, it's a little bit complicated.

Rental terms differ massively between countries within Europe, so you will need to check in detail. Cross borders in rental cars also depends on the country - thre examples: a) renting in Germany you'll be allowed to travel to most of the neighboring countries, b) renting in Italy, crossing borders is most often completely prohibited with the exception of Monaco and San Marino - often also the Italian islands are forbidden, c) renting in Denmark travel in the nordic countries (Denmark, Sweden, Norway) is usually allowed, travel to Germany and south depends on the rental company.

  1. I heard of a full pass train ticket, but no sure of its limitation and price. Eurail I think. Any inconvenience?

For Eurail you'll have to select a pass - they either cover only a limited number of countries, or are short term, or expensive. E.g. whole of Europe, seven travel days within one month: €300

  1. I heard outrageous stories of people who can find a flight to one country to another for 5$... I wonder where!?!?!?!?!!? That would be awesome or maybe there are urban stories maybe.

Flights can be very cheap indeed - but those €5 or €10 tickets are rare and lucky cases. WizzAir and Ryanair often have flights in the €20-€40 range. All of easyjet, eurowings, TuiFly and many more have flights not much more expensive - flexibility is key, so comparing a lot of options will help finding the best deal. However: check the actual airports involved - the cheaper the tickets get (especially Ryanair and WizzAir) the further outside the major cities the airports often are; and sometimes transport from the airports to the city can set you back as much as the flight itself. Use a comparison portal to check for flights and book early.

  1. I think bicycle trips would be messy. Where should I return it?

I've never heard of cross-border bike rentals. Also distances can be large and not all countries in Europe have good biking infrastructure.

  1. Is there any bus service?

There are plenty of long distance bus services in Europe, e.g. eurolines, FlixBus and many more. There are specializes search engines of inter city bus travel, e.g. busradar.com. Others compare different modes of transport, e.g. rome2rio and goEruo.

Finally: car sharing and hitch hiking might be options to explore - acceptance and availability of both differ significantly between countries though.

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+1 but you might want to add a few points: (1) $5 sounds indeed sounds like a lucky Ryanair ticket to a secondary airport but Easyjet certainly flies to major airports and €40 is very realistic if you are flexible (e.g. willing to travel early on Sunday or in the middle of the week) so it's confusing to conflate both; (2) no need to dwell so much on rules for car rental, it's just not a budget option, it's strange to even think of it from a European perspective; (3) car sharing is definitely missing, hitch-hiking might be worth a mention. – Relaxed Mar 2 at 20:57
    
Excellent answer. I really appreciate it. Many resources to explore. Thanks! I will to try to draft everything and as soon as I can I will update my itinerary-question! – Maximus Decimus Mar 3 at 2:26

Car rentals may offer you a rate from 7$ a day, but that does not take into account that

  1. you will not be able to travel out of the country in the car
  2. you will have to pay for daily insurance cover usually at least 23 euros a day. if you don't pay for the insurance any damage to the car will have an excess of at least 500 euros
  3. you will be required to pay a deposit of **at least ** 600 euros minimum - either pay it or have a hold placed on your bank account / credit card.. I imagine this would take a large chunk out of your budget.
  4. there will be a limit to the amount of kms you can travel in the car. this varies.

Trains will often be the most expensive mode of travel you could possibly find in Europe.

Booking flights in advance is always the best way to find a cheap route.

However, ultimately.. I would recommend you travel off-peak season to find any reasonable modes of travel. Flying anywhere in the summer in Europe can easily cost 300 euros one way. Even in Spain a flight and/or train from BCN to MAD can be hundreds of euros.

How do I know this? I have lived in various countries in Europe my whole life. and plus I recently just had to travel over land through Spain, France, England and Ireland.

Cheapest possible modes of transport: ouibus - very long, slow buses. and using blablacar - a car sharing service. you are at the mercy of other peoples schedules. Personally I had a terrible experience and was left waiting over 4 hours later than our agreed pick up time. and then the driver made me pay again - despite already having paid 50 euros, and having waited 4+ hours in the freezing cold in Paris.

There is no magic path on a budget.

My suggestion.. don't try and cover too much ground with a tight purse. Rather, enjoy your time in just a few places - ideally in the same country. You will have a more enjoyable experience overall. It's not about cramming 20489 places into one trip, but rather enjoying the time you spend.

I travelled to south america thinking I was going to hop from one country to the next. I arrived in Brazil and realised, I would actually spend my whole trip there instead. I couldn't have made a better choice.

Good luck.

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Another disadvantage of a car rental is that you'll have to park it somewhere, and that's usually rather expensive, especially if you want to park anywhere near a city center. – Zach Lipton Mar 3 at 1:38
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I'd say it's a stretch to generalize trains as the most expensive mode. Trains may be more expensive than long distance buses, but they can be competitive with some flights when transfer to/from the airport (especially a distant airport served by a low-cost-carrier) and any additional fees for flying (baggage fees, seat reservation fees, booking fees, etc...) are factored in. Like you say, there's no magic path though, and it's going to depend a lot on each segment's route and when you want to travel. – Zach Lipton Mar 3 at 1:42
    
@amyloula Thanks for your answer. Very appreciate it. You mentioned many strong points that I didn't think about. You really opened more my eyes! Try to see the positive thing of your "negative" experience, because you already know what not to do and advice others .Thanks! I'm planning to go in April! It's just around the corner. – Maximus Decimus Mar 3 at 2:29
    
I'm not sure that the comparison to South America is apt... Brazil alone is about twice the size of the entire E.U. by land area (3.3 M mi^2 vs. 1.67 M mi^2) and nearly as large as the entire continent of Europe (3.9 M mi^2.) – reirab Mar 3 at 4:22
    
@reirab There is more in each country in Europe than you can see in weeks, in most countries in years, so it does make sense to limit yourself to one country. Brazil might be bigger, Europe has a lot packed into it. – Willeke Mar 4 at 14:51

Once thing which I've used extensively and missed seeing in other's answer is the option to take a Bus.

Yes! In the last 24 months (since I've lived in Europe), inter-state and inter-country buy services have been liberalized and there are plenty of cheap options.

Busses usually have Wi-Fi and kind of take couple of hours more than a car. So interms of time, you find that it is 'almost' the same.

With the prices, it is ridiculously cheap and ranges from 5 to 60 Euros (Hamburg to Milan was 60 Euros!). You need to book fairly (2-3 weeks) if the travel dates are along the weekends or long vacations.

Here are some good bus operators who cover most of the countries you have mentioned:

  1. Meinfernbus
  2. Postbus
  3. Megabus
  4. Studentagency
  5. DB Bus
  6. Eurolines

A good website to search for bus schedules www.busliniensuche.de

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Hi and welcome. Is this your website? – JoErNanO Mar 3 at 15:23
    
@JoErNanO No, the website is not mine – Srikanta Mar 3 at 19:57

The eurolines bus service connects many countries in europe, and has night buses. booked well in advance it is CHEAP (about 20 euros from Amsterdam to London). The good thing about it being a night bus is that you save on accomodation as well. You just need to make sure you're ok with sleeping in a (slightly uncomfortable) bus seat.

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I would call it more than 'slightly' uncomfortable to sleep in a bus seat but some people can sleep anywhere. Good option for those who can sleep in buses. +1 – Willeke Mar 4 at 14:53
    
I'm one of those, hence the 'slightly' uncomfortable. If the OP is looking to travel on a budget he's likely willing to give up comfort for lower prices anyway. – AkkaVoskuil Mar 4 at 15:36

There are several good answers and comments so I guess you have a pretty good idea about what you are about face.

I usually travel very cheap and longer (many days). One thing I learned in Europe is that you are visiting countries. France itself would take months if you want to really explore there. I would give at least 3 days to each city.

Here are some suggestions. Note that I'm not affiliated with any of these services, but they are from my own experience.

  • Travel by night buses.

This saves you a hotel/hostel night. OuiBus or example, takes you from Paris to Barcelona overnight. If you plan properly, you can find better bus seats that suit your itinerary. However, out of the all ways to sleep, buses would be my least favorite way to get a proper sleep. Ouibus for example, stops every 2-3 hours (happened to me in Paris - Barcelona route), and there is no way to continue sleeping even if you have a blanket on and ear plugs. But it is somehow a way to spend a night and travel, so you have that option. There is nothing really to see on route either.

  • Hostels

I'm currently in Darjeeling, and I miss all those great hostels in Europe. Paris, Amsterdam, Barcelona, etc have great hostels that are located well to make it easier for you to travel. I can see from you comments that you are traveling with your wife. There are many hostels that you can find people who travel alone, and often with a tight budget. If you/your wife have not hosteled before, keep in mind that they are not just places to crash. For a more colorful stay, try to get to know the roomies, and hosteld often arrange night out events and walking tours that are often less that entry fee of a club. While in Barcelona, the hostel staff could arrange several walking tours for me (for free), and their restaurant had the cheapest food and drinks I could find there.

20 countries in 3 months by the cheapest feasible method will leave wrecked with fatigue in about 5 - 6 weeks. You're looking at about 18 days spent looking out of a bus window or schlepping to a hotel or finding a McDonalds or what-not or stuck in traffic or waiting in the bus terminal. Stamina is key but you get no economies of scale when you're on the move all the time. – Gayot Fow

I couldn't agree more with him. It is possible to cover that many countries, but you will build up a lot of stress because you booked stuff early to get better prices, and one thing gone wrong can mess up many things in your itinerary.

  • Couchsurfing / Hitchhiking

Similar to hostels, there are etiquette there. If you have hosted guests before, that can help immensely to find someone that is willing to lend you a couch. A couple traveling has more chances to find a host compared to a single guy traveling alone. Note that this is not going to be free. I usually take a bottle of wine or something for my host, and try to do something in return. Finding a good host is the key. But if planned right and you are lucky, your accommodation will cost next to nothing. Do not expect great locations as you would with hostels though. Almost 100% of the time, you will have to take a local train (not subway) to the hosts place. So budget accordingly.

  • Proper itinerary

You will need to research yourself the pricing patterns between airports, trains, etc. I did not mention trains and flights because it is pretty obvious now that Europe flights and trains have a pricing model that increases with the demand and how early you book. RyanAir, and such budget airlines can help, but since you plan to stay longer, you will likely need to pay almost the same price for you luggage. They are not fuzzy about the hand luggage either, so you are likely to pay more than you expect.

Antwerp to Paris, if booked a few minutes before the departure would cost about 110 Euros. That is usually double the flight cost. If you can find a train and a flight, take the train. With the airport transfer costs, luggage and time wasted in the airport itself considered, trains are almost 100% the better deal.

I would rather try to limit the trip to a few countries. A relaxed trip to UK, Spain, and Netherlands will take about a month (in the way I travel, yours could be different).

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I would definitely recommend hitchhiking! I did it alot in Europe together with friends and it worked perfectly well in most countries. It is a bit hard in northern Spain and in Southern England, but I am optimistic for all other places (I've never been to Italy ot Greece, though). Hitchhiking those long distances is especially efficient when you look for lifts at petrol stations and you should approach truck drivers preferably. I once had a lift from Berlin to Wales in just two trucks meeting in Belgium.

To become a little bit more safe, try organised lifts, e.g. using blablacar.

Anyway, get a bivvy or small tent for over-night accomodation in emergency cases, most areas close to highways should be appropriate for it ;-)

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Here's a flight comparison website for all major cities in Europe. Start in one city and type Everywhere in the "To" box and "Any date" .... and you'll find the cheapest flights in Europe.

http://www.skyscanner.net

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