Monday, October 12, 2009

Cheap flights around Europe

For those of you planning on traveling around Europe after the completion of the tour:
You have a few options for getting around.

Bus, train, and air are the most common. Buses are alright, but since most people will be planning to go from large city to large city, that option is not likely available or desirable.

Eurail is alright, but extremely time consuming and quite uncomfortable in long shots. I once took a 20-hour train ride from Budapest to Amsterdam-- not recommended. Generally speaking, you don't want to take a train ride that will be longer than 7 hours or you will drive yourself crazy. And just so you know, Berlin to Paris is 9 hours, Berlin to Amsterdam is 6.5 hours, Berlin to Copenhagen 7 hours, Berlin to Warsaw 6 hours, etc. Even Frankfurt is 4 hours, Munich 6. That's a lot of missed time sightseeing. That being said, if you have a scenic train route planned (e.g. crossing the Alps), it's well worth the time. Also, Eurail passes are somewhat challenging to decide which package is right for you, and sometimes you end up paying for train rides that you don't use.

Which brings me to why flight is the way to go. The cost of rail and flight is not all that different, plus with flights you have the added bonus of not having to worry about buying all in one go., for example, has flights for about €40 to almost any major European city. Some even have flights available to several North African cities for the more adventurous types (Marrakech, Casablanca, Tangier, Cairo, Luxor, Tunis). With taxes and fuel costs, it comes out to about $80-$100. Well worth it. Here is a link to a list of cheap local airlines. Do some research-- don't just take the first one because it seems low. You could find lower.

I would like to stress one point: do NOT use RyanAir. While the low, low prices are tempting, your flight can and may be cancelled at any time, even if it's 5 minutes before your scheduled flight time. No refund, no reschedule. Just CANCELLED. The customer service is miserable, and good luck trying to find another quick flight out when the rest of the plane is doing the same thing. Their basic philosophy is "You pay nothing, so we give you nothing." Here is one guy's explanation of why he'll never fly with them either.

This is all based on my own personal experience of planning extended tours, so if you have any questions, please ask. I'd be happy to help.

Happy planning!