Europe is such a diverse country with many different regions. You have the Baltics, the Balkans, the Nordics, and Western Europe just for starters. With the news that many countries are now open in Europe for UK and European residents, you may be considering planning a trip to Europe, whether it's for a weekend break or to travel through a region of the continent.
Having spent four months travelling from London to Istanbul overland, I've compiled an alphabetical list of the best way to travel Europe with useful websites, to help you to plan your European trip. For how to get around in individual countries, you can find the individual European destinations here.
- Camper Vans
- Cargo Boats
- Hot Air Balloons
- Metro / Underground
- Water Taxis
Barge holidays are really popular in Europe, especially in the UK and France. A barge is a flat-bottomed boat which is sometimes called a narrowboat that you’ll find on canals or rivers. Hiring a barge typically involves manoeuvring yourself through a region’s canals, opening and closing locks, so it can be physical work, but you get to moor where you like, stop off in a traditional English pub or an elegant château to taste the region’s wine.
Barges in Europe are self-equipped with all mod cons, such as a kitchen, shower, toilet and bedroom, and you can also rent luxury barges. Typically they accommodate four to 12 people, so there is plenty of room for a solo. If you’re not confident of steering a barge you can take a training course for one to two days before you begin your barging holiday.
Best way to travel in: UK, France
Canal Holidays – Canal boat hire in the UK
Bus around Europe for the cheapest way to get around. If you’re in a city, you can normally get a day pass where you can use as many buses as you like. Many cities have hop-on, hop-off buses which are an ideal way to sightsee, especially if you’re in a large city. They allow you to travel around and stop at tourist attractions and tell you some information about the city as you’re going around.
In smaller cities it’s just as easy to walk around or get a normal bus than pay for a day ticket. If the city is big and you know that you won’t get around it in one day, buy a tourist ticket for two days, which can be cheaper than two separate passes.
There are other types of hop-on, hop-off buses; ones which are perfect for solo travellers and don’t just involve sightseeing around a city. These take you across a country or countries and you buy passes depending on where you want to travel. You can go as far as you want, and you get the chance to meet people on the bus and stay with them for the entire time or hop off for a few days and then get back on again. There are optional tours and activities thrown in along the way. You can practically travel the whole of Western Europe on Busabout,
Outside of cities, some buses in Europe that travel intercity are more like coaches and will take you across the country, allowing you to buy a pass for states or territories. National Express operates in the UK and has regular departures across the country. Megabus operates in Europe, the UK and Ireland, and has very cheap fares. You can even get across the English Channel from various points in England to Amsterdam for just £30 and, although the journey takes nine hours, it’s well worth it if you’re on a budget.
Travelling by bus at night not only saves you accommodation costs, but some buses are really comfortable and have reclining seats. If you take a night bus in Turkey you even get drinks included too. Make sure that you have your valuables in your daypack and kept close to you at all times in case you fall asleep.
Best way to travel in: The Baltics, the Balkans
- Busabout – Bus passes for Europe
- Hop on Bus – Hop-on, hop-off sightseeing buses worldwide
- FlixBus – Cheap bus Europe travel
- Megabus – Bus travel Europe, UK and Ireland
- Omio – Search for flights, trains and buses in the UK and Europe.
Camper vans in Europe act as both transport and doubles up as accommodation as well. If you’ve never driven one before, you can hire smaller ones to navigate your way around unknown pastures. Stay in a campground for some company in the evenings. With campervan hire Europe, you can collect your camper van from the airport when you arrive, then drop it at a different location before you depart.
You don’t need to take anything with you either, as you can hire equipment there, such as a picnic chair, table and pre-paid gas stove to cook your meals. Some come with toilets, a shower and a stove, and they’re similar to driving a car with either automatic or manual steering. The only downside to being a solo is that the minimum you can rent is a two-birth camper van, but if you can find a travel buddy to share, it will reduce the cost. Companies offer campervan Europe hire. Just read the article for more details.
Best way to travel in: Portugal, Spain, France
Useful Article: Benefits of Camping and Caravanning For Solos
If cruise ships aren’t your preferred choice and you’d like something quieter without tourists that will take you across the seas, consider cargo ship travel. Mostly used for freight travel with accommodation for extra passengers, cargo cruises are a greener way to travel and they visit less touristy parts of the world not serviced by cruise ships. Accommodation is generally good and they travel all year and not just during the high season.
Take freighter travel around the Mediterranean or all the way to Australia or the Caribbean. Some freighter cruises offer round-the-world itineraries, so you can stop in several destinations. With costs at just $1,250 for 14 days or $15,000 for four months, they are a good alternative to cruise ships and you may even find yourself dining with the captain.
Best way to travel in: the Mediterranean
Freighter Voyages – European freighters with passenger accommodation.
These don’t have to be the 3,000-plus passenger cruise ships that you find in the Caribbean. European river cruises are a great alternative for those who don’t enjoy the movement of rough seas and there are plenty of rivers to cruise along. You can explore Europe’s fairytale castles as you cruise along the River Danube and even take a Siberian cruise to explore Siberia by water instead of rail.
Aside from cruising along European rivers, there are also the breathtaking Norwegian fjords. The benefits to taking a fjord cruise are that your accommodation and board are generally included, you only have to unpack once and you’ll get to make friends on board.
Best way to travel in: the Mediterranean, France, Budapest (the River Danube), Germany
- Hurtigruten – Norwegian fjord cruises
- Viking River Cruises – Viking River cruises Europe.
Cycling is a great way to explore and it’s the perfect way to keep fit too. As a solo you have to be careful which country you decide to do it in as regards to safety and vast distances (you wouldn’t cycle across the Australian outback or Honduras for starters), but countries in Europe are perfect for cyclists.
Some cycling holidays Europe offer self-guided tours, where you set your own pace and have accommodation and meals included along the way. If you’re worried about doing it by yourself then you can join a group and peddle through landscapes with the security of others.
Cities such as Amsterdam, Paris, London and Glasgow offer a bike-rental scheme with designated cycle paths and docking stations dotted around the cities. You can just swipe your credit card and off you go, returning it to another rental station when you’re finished. Amsterdam is known for its love of bicycles, but if the thought of cycling around the city among hordes of other cyclists is too much, then venture out into the countryside and along the Amsterdam-Rhine canal past tulip fields and windmills.
Paris has group cycling tours which are perfect for meeting others and exploring the city at the same time. If you’re not planning to visit a city, hostels and accommodation in small towns can offer bike hire and it’s a great way of taking in the landscape at your own pace.
Best way to travel in: The Netherlands, France, European cities
- EuroVelo – Routes for cycling across Europe
- Explore – Offers cycling holidays worldwide
- G Adventures – Offers cycling tours Europe
- I Amsterdam – Cycling in Amsterdam
- Meetup – Paris cycling group
- Transport for London – Santander cycle hire in London.
If you have a driving licence, then consider driving in Europe. The only downfall to a Europe road trip is the cost, as being solo is more expensive than sharing with others, but you do get to go where you want and take your time in places with no one else to answer to.
Hire companies are in the majority of countries, meaning that you can collect a car from one place and drop it off at another, such as an airport and then drop it at a city. Taking a car across a border does carry some restrictions, so check with the hire company if it’s possible.
When you travel Europe by car, make sure that you have both copies of your driving licence – the paper and card copies – and a credit card. Check the insurance and the excess before you hire one. If you’re driving somewhere known for erratic drivers, it may be worth paying the extra to reduce the excess to prevent you parting with the rest of your travel funds if someone crashes into you.
Always check the car before you hire it for scratches and even take photos of it if you’re unsure. This will help to prove the condition it was in before you drove it away. If you do notice anything, tell them straight away. Paying insurance will be a set daily amount and you generally have to pay a deposit, which is charged to your credit card and held until you return the vehicle.
If you’re not used to driving on another side of the road, then consider sticking to towns and more remote areas than within a city. If the city has an organised transport system then it’s usually easier and more cost effective not to hire a car. Trying to find your way around a country with difficult-to-read signs, such as those in the Cyrillic alphabet in the Balkans can be a challenge. Only consider driving in these places if you’re a competent driver. Make sure you get a map when you hire the car or have a satellite navigation function on your phone to help you get around.
Best way to travel in: Western Europe, United Kingdom
- Avis – European and Worldwide car hire
- What Side of The Road – Check which side of the road to drive around the world.
If you are planning to island hop independently instead of taking a tour, ferries are an easy way to get from the mainland to a cluster of islands. In Greece you can combine Athens with the closest islands to get the best of the capital and Greek Island life. In Croatia you can take a ferry from Split or Dubrovnik to add islands to your itinerary.
If you’re planning on seeing more than one of the Nordic countries and want to combine them with the Baltics, you can travel from Estonia to Finland for example, or from Denmark to Sweden. You can also reach the Balearic Islands from mainland Spain if you don’t want to fly, or travel to the Isle of Wight from Portsmouth or Southampton in the UK, or to France and Spain from Portsmouth.
There are so many options and routes and if you are hiring a car, taking a ferry allows you the opportunity to take your car across to an island and explore it in your own time.
Best way to travel in: Scandinavia, Ireland, Croatia, Western Europe
Direct Ferries – Offering ferry times and prices across Europe.
Hitchhiking in Europe is more common than you may think, and although there is obviously safety in numbers, people do do it travelling alone.
Hitchhiking through Europe is popular and, in Albania – with buses not running to any particular schedule – it’s the best way to get around. It’s really important to go with your instinct and if a situation doesn’t feel right, then don’t get into a car. You may feel more comfortable agreeing a ride with a couple or a woman on her own driving. Being careful about which country you choose to do it in is also important. Steer clear of any which don’t value women in the same way as Western society does.
To hitchhike, stand at the side of the road and stick out your arm or thumb until someone stops, but just because someone pulls over doesn’t mean that you have to go with them. You can always wait until the next one comes along.
If the thought of hitchhiking Europe is too daunting to do solo, then consider sharing a ride with someone vetted before instead. BlaBlaCar is a platform where you can find people who are driving a certain route in Europe and join them for the ride. So, you can travel from Lithuania to Switzerland, for example, or even all the way from the UK to Russia. You can cover vast distances and have company along the way.
Best way to travel in: Western Europe, Albania
- BlaBlaCar – Car sharing for the UK & Europe.
Hot Air Balloons
Nothing beats silently floating in the skies, observing wildlife from above, whether it’s kangaroos in Australia, or camels in Egypt. Hot-air balloons are a treat, and some come with Champagne and breakfast packages to enhance your flight experience. Flights usually last about an hour, but expect to be there for up to four hours for a briefing before (and to enjoy your breakfast, of course).
Balloons come in different sizes and typically range from two to 18 people with insurance included in the price. You may be asked to sign a disclaimer before you take flight. Cappadocia in Turkey is one of the most popular places to take a hot air balloon in Europe. Seeing the fairy chimneys of Pigeon Valley at sunrise is one of the most magical scenes you can experience in your lifetime. Expect there to be couples on board and for the experience to make a dent in your travel budget.
Best way to travel in: Turkey, Spain, Italy, Lithuania
- Viator – Balloon rides in Cappadocia, Turkey
- Get Your Guide – Offers hot air balloon rides in Europe and Worldwide.
Metro / Underground
London has an old one, Paris has an Art Nouveau one, and Russia has a beautiful one with marble walls and elaborate chandeliers. In fact, it’s hard to find a city without a metro or underground system nowadays.
Metros in Europe can be really cheap but if you’re planning on navigating your way around a city by the metro, see if they offer a day pass or, in Paris, buy a book of 10 single tickets to save you money. Once you’ve figured one underground out, you’ve pretty much got the system for the rest with many colour coordinated. It's also to great way to see some of the famous stations such as Baker Street on the London tube.
Whether it’s overland or underground, taking a ride on the metro will get you to your destination quicker. Although there are security cameras on most metros, for safety at night stick to carriages with others and avoid rush hours if you’re a bit claustrophobic.
Best way to travel in: Paris, Russia, London, Rome, Berlin, Stockholm
• Transport for London – London Tube map
It’s not just for the hairy bikers. Motorbiking in Europe, feeling the wind in your hair on the open road, is for girls too, and it doesn’t have to be on a large Harley-Davidson either. If you haven’t ridden a motorbike before, join motorcycle trips Europe to get used to the bike in somewhere stunning such as the Greek islands. Be careful if you motorcycle Europe, as moped accidents do happen, and health and safety in other countries may not be what you’re used to at home.
Best way to travel in: Canary Islands, Western Europe
- Canary Ride – Motorbike hire and tours in the Canary Islands
- Bennetts – The best motorcycle routes in Europe
If you’re stuck for time, flying in Europe can be the best way to get around. Europe is known for low-cost airlines so getting around is made even quicker by taking international flights on the continent.
Look for air passes such as Star Alliance and One World, as it may save you money over a period of time. When you’re booking a flight, check luggage prices as a fare may be just as comparative as a train or bus once you’ve added on your 20kg bag, so do your research before you book.
If you’re using a low-cost airline for cheap flights to Europe, check the location of the airport. Although Luton Airport says it’s in London, it is nearly 90 minutes away from the city. Consider the cost of transport getting into the city, as flying into a more central airport could work out cheaper and be much easier. Be careful if you’re flying in late at night and make sure you know how to get to your accommodation so you’re not hanging around by yourself at night.
Best way to travel in: All over Europe (especially Russia and Turkey)
- Skyscanner – Flights to Europe and cheap flights within Europe
- Hoppa – Europe and Worldwide airport transfers
- No 1 Lounges– Airport lounges.
You don’t have to be a sailor to enjoy the freedom of sailing. Even if you don’t have good sea legs there are calm bays so you can still enjoy the solitude of the sea. Sailing takes you from one port to another, giving you the chance to disembark every time and spend some time in a new city or village, or on a different beach.
It’s also a perfect way to island hop and experience the best of Europe’s islands. Sail around the Dalmatian Coast in Croatia, Turkey, Greece or Montenegro. If you can’t sail, consider joining a tour where all you have to do is lay on the deck and enjoy the views.
Sailing is for everyone whether you want to be the skipper or just lay on the deck and catch some rays whilst watching the world sail past – literally! And it's a great way to meet others. As a solo you may find yourself sharing a cabin with someone of the same gender.
Best way to travel in: Greece, Croatia, Turkey, Montenegro
- Medsailors – Skippered sailing holidays for 20-35s
- Sailing Holidays – Award Winning Flotilla Sailing Holidays in The Greek Islands
Speedboats are not the cheapest, but they are a taste of luxury. Travelling along the French Riviera or through Venetian canals can make you feel like a film star, if only for an hour. You can take a speedboat on a snorkelling trip and some even take you across borders. If you don’t like choppy seas, speedboats are a better way to travel, as they avoid the rolling action that you find on some ferries.
You can take a River Thames speedboat in London, for example. Plus, you get the chance to meet others on a half-day or day tour with some drinks and nibbles included as you socialise. Bouncing along the sea watching the sun setting in the background is the perfect way to end a day.
Best way to travel in: Croatia, London, Venice
Get Your Guide – Offers speedboat trips in Europe and Worldwide.
Whether you prefer the convenience of a fast speed train or the slow leisurely ride of a steam train in England, train travel in Europe can be one of the most picturesque ways of travelling. They are a great way to travel long distances with the freedom to stand up and walk around. They may be cheaper than catching a flight and can add an extra experience to your trip, as you pass the landscape of the country and witness the lives of rural people.
Travelling around Europe by Interrail is an efficient way of getting around with modern trains and regular timetables, and you can even use them for overnight accommodation. You can buy passes for several countries, but make sure you purchase them before you depart, as you may not be able to buy them once you’ve arrived in the country and may have to buy separate ones instead.
If you’re travelling during peak seasons (especially in the summer months), it’s worth paying the extra to reserve your seat, so that you’re guaranteed somewhere to sit during your long journey. Always make sure you have a ticket before you board, as getting fined more than €100 for hopping on a train in Liechtenstein without a ticket is an expensive lesson to learn.
If you’re going to be travelling to more than one destination in a country, see if there is a travel pass for the country. Switzerland offers a Swiss pass which, considering the price of individual trains, will save you money if you take more than one. Some of the routes have panoramic carriages for a more picturesque view of the lakes and the Alps. You can even take the Jungfrau Railway to the top of Europe. Trains in Europe, especially Western Europe are punctual and generally clean.
In developing countries, such as Bulgaria, where new highways have been built, trains may be the slowest form of transport, but they are the most authentic method of travelling and nothing beats sitting in an old-style carriage watching the world as it passes by the window.
Best way to travel in: Western Europe
- Omio – Train travel across Europe and Worldwide
- Interrail – Rail travel passes in Europe.
- Seat 61 – Everything you need to know about rail travel in Europe and Worldwide.
Think of trams and you probably think of the city of San Francisco, home of the tram, where it was invented in 1874. Wherever you see overhead cables and rails in a city there’s probably a tram. They generally open at each end with a closed section in the middle, although you can get different types and find newer models in cities such as Edinburgh in Scotland.
Trams are generally a slower form of transport, where you usually buy a ticket on board. In Istanbul you can use your transit pass to take a ride on one. It connects the historical part of the city with the modern part, so you can use it to sightsee too.
Some trams in Europe have a time limit for your ticket and others are a flat fee anywhere on the line. Other places to find trams are Prague, and Poland (where they are also known as street cars). Whether you ride one as a tourist attraction or use it to get across a city, trams are a fun way of getting around.
Best way to travel in: Austria, Prague, Poland, Switzerland
- European Best Destinations – Best trams in Europe
- Urban Rail Net – List of trams in Europe.
Who needs transport when you can get around on foot? Plus, some countries are just made for walking. Whether you’re a novice or a serious explorer, there are treks everywhere for all levels. Europe is known for the Camino de Santiago, but there are many other best hikes in Europe, from the Dolomite Mountains in Italy, to the Pyrenees in Spain.
If you’re worried about trekking in Europe alone, you could join hiking holidays Europe to meet others or just go at your own leisurely pace somewhere such as Albania where you can take two days to walk the valley pass from Theth to Valbona, staying in a guest house and experiencing Albanian hospitality along the way.
But you don’t have to be a serious trekker exploring mountains, as you can just walk around cities and explore sights on foot at a more leisurely pace. Just make sure that you’re visiting the country at the right season for walking, as trekking in the rainy season may be an adventure, but it’s not that much fun.
TIP If you are going to be trekking over 2,000 metres, make sure that you’re covered by your travel insurance policy.
Best way to travel in: Spain, Portugal, France, Italy, Switzerland, Germany
- Ramblers Worldwide – Walking holidays across the globe
- True Traveller – Covers insurance for more than 2,000 metres trekking
- Walks Worldwide – Guided and self-guided walks worldwide.
Water taxis do exactly what they say they do – taxi you across water – and Venice has to be the best city for these. Instead of navigating the streets on foot, you can take a water taxi across the lagoons. In London they are an alternative to the Underground and buses, and are a unique way to cross the city.
Best way to travel in: London, Venice
Thames Water Taxis – Water taxis in London.
I hope that this article has inspired you and helped you decide the best way to travel around Europe for you. You can always mix it up and try a variety of options too. Have you travelled around Europe? I'd love to hear your comments below.