Like the United States, Europe can be viewed as a one major country when it comes to travel. Although border control is heavy for air traffic, it is less-so for car, train and ferry crossings. Flights from one country to another can be viewed as domestic flights with typically 1-2 hour flight durations between major cities. If you’ve got slightly more time on your hands and you want a more scenic journey then travelling by train can be a better option. Or if you have several weeks and want to discover the real Europe then the best way is by rental car, stopping at towns and National Parks along the way to enjoy each European country at its best.
If you’re planning to just cover the major European capitals like London , Paris, Rome, Madrid, Amsterdam and Berlin you could combine several modes of transportation. The Eurostar train between London and Paris is fast and convenient. Ferry’s from England to Amsterdam are frequent and again convenient. Meanwhile travel to the more Southern capitals such as Madrid, Athens and Rome are best approached by air due to distance.
European flights are now operated by several low-cost carriers which easily compete with train fares. Quality is budget with reduced leg-room and baggage allowance (both of which can often be upgraded), however this is reflected in the price with single journeys from around $50-$150. Something to note is that these budget airlines often achieve their lower prices by using early morning timeslots and secondary airports. So make sure you’re happy with the travel times and have factored in city to airport transfer costs before deciding if this is better value for your money.
A good website for checking flight options with all operators is www.skyscanner.net.
Most European capitals are connected by train and with modern tracks and trains this can be the fastest mode of transport once you consider the check-in times at airports. For example Edinburgh to London with Virgin on their Pendolino route takes 4 hours 20 mins for a 400 mile journey. With a new service starting December 2016 this journey time will be reduced again to 3 hours 45 mins.
Utilising the Channel Tunnel the Eurostar route from London to Paris takes just over 2 hours. This service also goes direct to Brussels the capital of Belgium and Disneyland Paris.
From Paris to Rome there is a high-speed rail service which stops in Milan with a total duration of 11 hours 15 mins. The first leg from Paris to Milan is with the French TGV high-speed service, and then from Milan to Rome with La Frecce, the Italian high speed service. There are also night train options which take longer but with you able to sleep some of the journey may work out better for some travellers.
Another popular train route is Madrid to Barcelona to take in the two iconic Spanish cities, with a duration of just under 3 hours. The line is operated by AVE and takes you from one city center to the other.
One of the most relaxing ways to tour Europe if you have the time is to rent a vehicle – I say vehicle because this doesn’t have to be limited to a car, it could be a Campervan, Motorhome, or even motorcycle. Cars are the cheapest option and so are stick-shift (manual geared) vehicles.