Europe on the Cheap: Take the Train
When it comes to traveling through Europe, there's a lot to be said for taking the train. With just a little planning, you can see five or six countries in just a week — and for a price that doesn't break the bank. And if you are interested in extended travel — or live the digital nomad lifestyle — you can travel around the whole of Europe for a fraction of the cost of plane tickets or car rentals. These tips can get you started in the right direction to do just that.
1. Buy a rail pass.
There are more than a few different rail passes that offer you inexpensive access to European railways. Even if you look only at the Eurail passes, you'll find options for unlimited travel, regional travel and more. Some of these passes, such as the Eurail Global Pass, which starts at $475, can seem fairly expensive. But you can get a phenomenal amount of traveling done with such a pass — and there are routinely discounts available for the passes.
2. Travel at night.
If you're willing to ride a train at night, you can save quite a bit of money. First of all, you can skip the expense of a hostel or a hotel. Second, the way the Eurail pass and other European rail passes tend to work is that if you stay on the train overnight and into the next day, your time on the train all counts as one day's travel — which can help you travel even more on your pass. If you were to get off the train for the night and then reboard in the morning, you'd use up two days worth of travel on your rail pass.
3. Find a local supermarket.
Many modes of transportation have specific rules against bringing food on board. But you can pack along a few sandwiches or other food while you're traveling, making your food far less expensive than whatever expensive snack you can grab in an airport or bus station.
4. Use your pass to get other discounts.
In addition to savng you money on train rides, the Eurail pass in particular can get you into some museums, discounted ferry rides and far more.
5. Exercise your flexibility
One of the greatest parts about traveling by train is that you can be very flexible. I've found in the past that there were local fairs and other events that I'd really like to attend, but couldn't because I was with a tour group or had an airplane to catch. In some cases, I've been interested to the point of changing my plans — and paying fees to do so.
While these tips focus on traveling by train in Europe, there are options for taking a train on just about every other continent. However, you may find that you have to adapt to the local railway system a little more. In the U.S, for instance, travel by train can be a little less assured, especially in the Midwest. The distances involved can make for very long train rides and all of my experiences with train travel in the States have involved delays.