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How to see the very best of Europe this summer

Forget flying! The best way to see Europe is via bus and rail. Oh, and it’s usually cheaper and often faster than taking to the skies. The Local rounds up some top tips for planning your next European adventure.

How to see the very best of Europe this summer
Credit: Unsplash

“It’s not the destination, it’s the journey,” mused the American scholar Ralph Wado Emerson back in the 19th century. While travelling has changed beyond all recognition since Emerson’s day, his message still rings true for eager explorers of all ages.

Investigate all options

It’s doubtful Emerson would have suggested that going through all the airport rigmarole was a part of travelling to be savoured. But did you know that numerous European routes are quicker to navigate by bus or rail than by plane? London – Paris and Munich – Frankfurt being just two compiled in a list by search and booking platform Omio.

Omio (formerly GoEuro) was founded back in 2012 by a former backpacker who was determined to make life easier for wannabe travellers. It streamlines the entire travel planning process enabling users to see all their options, such as departure times, transport operators and prices, before booking their ticket on the site or via the app.

Click here to start planning your trip to Europe

Other routes that are quicker by train than by plane are Brussels – Paris (2hr 39min faster) giving you plenty of extra time to explore the Louvre, and Madrid – Valencia (1hr 28min faster), which is almost enough time saved to watch a football match at Real Madrid’s famous Santiago Bernabéu stadium.

Read Madrid’s famous Santiago Bernabéu stadium. Photo credit: Deposit photos

So spend some time investigating all your travel options to grant yourself some added time in your destination of choice.

Look out the window

Experiencing Europe by rail and bus opens up the path for routes through the Swiss Alps, criss-crossing between Spain and France down to the Italian Riviera and trekking across Scandinavia to name but a few.

With eye-watering scenery often on display, put down your paperback or tablet and glance out the window. Rail and bus travel offers the chance to see a great deal more of a country’s natural landscape and to also become au fait with new-fangled words such as couchette and hauptbahnhof.

Copenhagen. Photo credit: Deposit Photos

Wow your friends with random travel anecdotes that will surely pepper your trip. Try taking the Deutsche Bahn service from Copenhagen to Hamburg where you can marvel at how a train rolls seamlessly onto a ferry. And no trip aboard a German train is truly enjoyed without eating a meal in the bistro complete with table service and cute table lamp.

Have cash, will travel

Back in the old days, travelling across Europe involved changing currencies with every new country you visited. And while there was a certain charm in collecting new notes and coins, figuring out how much things cost compared to your own money was a nightmare; 1,500 Italian lira for an espresso anyone?

Let’s face it, queuing at the currency exchange for Deutsch Marks and pesetas was a hassle. Now with a single European currency, card payments and mobile banking apps, you can spend your hard earned money with ease.

But that’s not to say there still isn’t a place for old fashioned notes and coins…in certain places. In Sweden, for example, cash is practically dead but in Switzerland it reigns supreme. Buy yourself some time by having some cash in your wallet as it will come in handy for paying for luggage lockers and even to use the toilet in some bus and train stations.

Got your adblocker on? Pause it on this page to use the Omio widget below and find the best deal:

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Planning your trip in your own currency is made easy with Omio. Users can compare prices in 15 major currencies and in 18 languages. Omio is used by 27 million users every month to help organise their travel plans.

Click here to start planning your trip

What our readers say

We reached out to The Local’s readers via Facebook to get your travel tips. Below is a selection of your comments.

“Travelling by train especially from Perpignan to Paris, passing through all the different regions, is an easy and cheap way to experience the French countryside and villages. Easy travel.” (Sue Chamberlain)

“For Americans, make sure your credit card has a chip and ask your bank for a PIN. Before you get on the train, make sure you are getting on the right part; German trains sometimes split in two. Then relax. European trains are far better than those in the US.” (Doug Urquhart)

“Pack light!! Enjoy traveling like a local, the lighter you travel, the easier everything is!” (Jill Greenlee)

“Country roads or regional trains in the south of Germany, Alps and southern” (Luis Schlappkohl)

“Don't get off the train at the wrong city.” (Tom Roelke)

The Local's Assistant Editor in France Evie Burrows-Taylor also conducted a Twitter poll on travel in France see the results below.

This article was produced by The Local Creative Studio and sponsored by Omio.

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TRAVEL

How a rental car shortage in Europe could scupper summer holiday plans

After long months of lockdowns and curfews Europeans are looking forward to jetting off for a bit of sun and sand -- only to find that their long awaited holiday plans go awry due to a shortage of rental cars.

How a rental car shortage in Europe could scupper summer holiday plans
Tourists wait outside of rental car agencies in Corsica. Photo: PASCAL POCHARD-CASABIANCA / AFP

In many areas popular with tourists cars are simply not available or subcompacts are going for a stiff €500 euros.

Car rental comparison websites show just how expensive renting a vehicle has become for tourists this summer.

According to Carigami, renting a car for a week this summer will set tourists back an average of 364 euros compared to 277 euros two years ago.

For Italy, the figure is 407 euros this summer compared to 250 euros in 2019. In Spain, the average cost has jumped to 263 euros from 185 euros.

According to another website, Liligo, daily rental costs have nearly doubled on the French island of Corsica. At the resort city of Palma on the Spanish island of Mallorca, rental prices have nearly tripled.

Today’s problem is a direct result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Faced with near absence of clients, selling off vehicles to raise cash made a lot of sense for car rental firms struggling to survive.

“Everyone drastically reduced their fleet,” said the head of Europcar, Caroline Parot.

Until the spring, most companies still had fleets roughly a third smaller than in 2019, she said.

Car rental firms are used to regularly selling their vehicles and replacing them, so rebuilding their inventory should not have been a problem.

Except the pandemic sent demand for consumer electronics surging, creating a shortage of semiconductors, or chips, that are used not only in computers but increasingly in cars.

“A key contributor to the challenge right now is the global chip shortage, which has impacted new vehicle availability across the industry at a time when demand is already high,” said a spokesman for Enterprise.

It said it was working to acquire new vehicles but that in the mean time it is shifting cars around in order to better meet demand.

No cars, try a van

“We’ve begun to warn people: if you want to come to Italy, which is finally reopening, plan and reserve ahead,” said the head of the association of Italian car rental firms, Massimiliano Archiapatti.

He said they were working hard to meet the surge in demand at vacation spots.

“But we’ve got two big islands that are major international tourism destinations,” he said, which makes it difficult to move cars around,
especially as the trip to Sardinia takes half a day.

“The ferries are already full with people bringing their cars,” he added.

“Given the law of supply and demand, there is a risk it will impact on prices,” Archiapatti said.

The increase in demand is also being seen for rentals between individuals.

GetAround, a web platform that organises such rentals, said it has seen “a sharp increases in searches and rentals” in European markets.

Since May more than 90 percent of cars available on the platform have been rented on weekends, and many have already been booked for much of the summer.

GetAround has used the surge in demand to expand the number of cities it serves.

For some, their arrival can’t come fast enough.

Bruno Riondet, a 51-year-old aeronautics technician, rents cars to attend matches of his favourite British football club, Brighton.

“Before, to rent a car I was paying between 25 and 30 euros per day. Today, it’s more than 90 euros, that’s three times more expensive,” he said.

In the United States, where prices shot higher during the spring, tourists visiting Hawaii turned to renting vans.

In France, there are still cars, according to Jean-Philippe Doyen, who handles shared mobility at the National Council of Automobile Professionals.

“Clients have a tendency to reserve at the last minute, even more so in the still somewhat uncertain situation,” he said.

They will often wait until just a few days before their trip, which means car rental firms don’t have a complete overview of upcoming demand, he added.

He said business is recovering but that revenue has yet to reach pre-pandemic levels as travel is not yet completely unfettered.

SEE ALSO: British drivers will no longer need an insurance ‘green card’ to visit Europe, EU rules

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