Travels of a Bookpacker

Around the world with a book and a backpack

Getting around Europe as a Solo Traveller

For my first ever solo adventure I packed a (very large) backpack and headed to Europe with my life savings, a head full of lonely planet fuelled ideas and no end date. Over the five months I was travelling and in the years I’ve spent in Europe since I’ve tried many different methods for getting around. I now consider myself a somewhat seasoned traveller and feel comfortable sorting out transport as I go along. But as a young, solo, female I enjoyed the security of some pre-planning. This article sums up the pros and cons of some of the organised transport options in Europe.

If you’re looking for a cheaper option and are happy not to plan too far in advance then check out my article on Budget Travel in Europe.

Organised Tour

There are many companies that offer these nowadays and all of them vary in price, length and standards. Some reputable ones are Contiki, G Adventures and Topdeck.

A much younger me on a cruise ship through the Greek islands with a Contiki tour.

Pros

  • Instant travel buddies – This is great if you are a solo traveller and looking for other like-minded people to travel with.
  • Convenience – There is a schedule and you’re picked up and dropped off where you need to be. There is no need for negotiating your way from city to city or trying to pick out a good hostel with a vacancy.
  • A guide – Someone who knows the areas and can give advice. They can give you tips for places to go when you have free time and give a lot of information about the places you visit.
  • Security – ┬áDepending on where you are, traveling in a group might be safer and more relaxed. I joined a group tour through Turkey and Greece as these were areas I was less comfortable in during my first solo adventure.

Cons

  • Planned itinerary– ┬áThis can be limiting and is often very rushed as these tours aim to see as much as possible in a short time.
  • Group tourism – While it’s great for socialising and security anyone can tell you that travelling in a group can get annoying. It takes longer to get anywhere, you’re stuck with the same people and enjoying little cafes and quiet areas is near on impossible.
  • Price – These tours are almost always considerably more expensive than what it would cost to do it yourself.

 

Hop-on Hop-off Bus

Busabout offer various tickets and routes around Europe. The idea is that you take a bus, stay in the city/town as long as you like and take another bus onto the next destination when you’re ready.

San Sebastian – Not somewhere I would have thought to stop but since it was on the bus route I did and it was awesome!

Pros

  • Flexibility – This system offers you the ability to make up your plans as you go along and change them as you want, knowing you always have transport to your next destination.
  • Meeting people – Because you’re in a bus only with other people who are using Busabout you can always meet people who are going to the same destination as you. If you end up getting on well you can always tweak your itineraries to travel together.
  • Tours and Accommodation – While these are not included in the price there is always a tour guide on the bus who will help you book these for your upcoming destinations.

Cons

  • Price – While the pricing is decent it is still more expensive than doing it all yourself.
  • Bus trips – Bus trips in Europe can be looooong. Unless you have a lot of time you can waste a lot of your trip getting between places where a train or a cheap flight would allow you to enjoy more time seeing the sights.
  • Set stops – The buses only stop at set places along your route. They cover most of the main tourist destinations but if you want to see anything smaller or off the beaten track you will need to organise this yourself.

 

Eurail/Interrail

The train station in Madrid

Depending on if you live in the EU or not this is the same company offering passes for trains around Europe. There are various combinations of passes for an amount of time, an amount of journeys or specific countries. There are discounts for EU residents and under 25s.

Pros

  • Fast travel – The trains in Europe are generally the fastest way to get around. Although they are prone to delays and strikes they are still the fastest and most comfortable way to get from A to B.
  • Flexibility – Having a rail pass leaves you flexible to travel where you want, when you want. Europe is you oyster!
  • Long Distances – Because the passes offer travel anywhere you can use them to cover a lot of distance in one day, including overnight trains.
  • Variety – Because of the number of passes offered you can always find something that will suit your travel plans.

Cons

  • Lack of Socialising – Because you are taking the public trains you’re less likely to meet other travellers along the way but there are always hostels for this.
  • Reservations – Especially in peak season the trains will fill up. Certain trains only let a limited number of interrail pass holders on the train so you need to book in advance and sometimes pay extra to book a seat.
  • Price – Even though you can get a good deal on passes (especially if you’re under 25) it is still cheaper to book it yourself if you are flexible with dates and times.

On a booked out overnight train from Bratislava to Berlin.

I have tried all three of these and at the time they worked really well for me. Now that I know Europe and am a little more budget conscious I would always do it myself but for a first time or solo traveller these options can be worth the extra bit of money.

 

5 Comments

  1. Great tips! I really need to see more of Europe – considering I’m from England I haven’t travelled enough of it! Will bookmark your post for future trips!

  2. I LOVE how you pro/con..ed each one! this is insanely helpful especially for first time travelers!

  3. Thanks for sharing!!! I love these tips!! I have travelled alone in many countries and I really prefer it than travelling with other people!

  4. These are all fantastic tips! I started off traveling in tour groups when I was younger but definitely prefer to do my own thing now. Tours are great for new travelers or people who like the extra company!

  5. Loved your list. You forgot to mention renting a car. I loved that aspect of Europe compared to the SEA countries. Beautiful roads, awesome scenery and a chance to kickback and enjoy. The downside is that isn’t really budget friendly unless you book in advance and have company.

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