Getting around Europe on a budget

Most students intending to travel abroad during their gap year have to be careful about their funds.  Foreign adventures can definitely be more expensive than initially anticipated, which means that students should take advantage of any opportunity to save money, since they will be likely to need that money later on.  Depending on the countries and cities visited, it can be quite challenging to find bargains on important items such as accommodation. Fortunately, across Europe there are usually some great deals to be had on travel, particularly for those that plan ahead.

Train passes

One of the best ways to get around Europe on a budget is to purchase an InterRail pass before the trip.  These train passes allow tourists to enjoy unlimited rail travel on selected routes and provide them with a number of useful options.  For example, tourists can purchase a single nation pass for a very reasonable rate; this option allows them to explore a single country in great depth.  It would be perfect, for example, for a student who plans to study the Italian Renaissance at university after his or her gap year; the single nation pass would make it affordable to wander up and down the Italian peninsula seeing such wonders as Michelangelo’s painting of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican, and works by Raphael and Titian in Florence.

Students who plan to travel more broadly should opt for the InterRail Global Pass that provides access to train travel in more than 24 different nations.  These are ideal for those who have not yet chosen any special area of study.  Indeed, visiting a diverse collection of tourist attractions such as the site of the once-formidable Berlin Wall, and the Alhambra, from which the Muslim emirs once controlled Granada, can help students on a gap year clarify their interests so that they enter university better prepared to understand their own interests.

InterRail options

To assist students to use their funds as wisely as possible, the InterRail programme offers two further options.  A “flexi pass” is good for unlimited travel on a limited number of days.  Since these need not be grouped one right after another, a flexi pass makes it possible to travel to one city and to stay for as long as desired before moving on to the next.  In this way, a 10-day InterRail flexi pass could provide an entire summer’s worth of adventure.

A “continuous pass,” on the other hand, provides for unlimited rail travel over a certain span of time.  This option is better for students who plan to be on the move quite frequently and anticipate only brief stays in one city or another.  The continuous pass option is only available on an InterRail Global Pass and cannot be combined with a single nation pass.

Other affordable options

Another popular budget travel method is to make use of buses.  Eurolines is a bus company that crosses the Continent with many routes and provides travellers with large, comfortable seats in their coaches.  This option is much slower than taking a train, but that can be an advantage for some tourists since it allows them time to relax and admire the scenery.

Hiking is also a common means of travel for students on a gap year, though most who try it also utilize some form of mechanized transport from time to time.  Students who plan to trek through parts of Europe should have at least one hiking partner and always stay together for safety’s sake.

It is all too easy to think about foreign travel and conclude that it is too expensive to manage, but this is not really the case.  With a little creativity, forethought and the willingness to try new things, a gap year exploring Europe is within the price range of most individuals and will help them to start their working lives or university with a renewed sense of purpose, as well as a higher degree of self-confidence.

Top Image by Yakobusan

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