When we were initially planning to tour Europe for 3 to 5 months, we thought we’d be doing most of our travel by train. At first, we thought it would be the cheapest option. After doing a lot of research about the Eurail Pass, we found it was significantly cheaper to travel throughout Europe by bus. Depending on the cities you’re visiting, some bus routes are significantly longer than the train while others are quite comparable in travel time. The coach buses were often one-third to one-half the price of a train ticket (a couple times we found Flix Bus tickets for 5€ to 8€), and rides were universally cheap and comfortable. While we also did a fair bit of rail travel, if you’ve got the time and are on a budget, we’d highly recommend the savings of doing most of your journey by bus.
International bus travel around the Baltics & parts of Eastern Europe (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Russia, Finland) with really great service. We took an overnight bus from Moscow to Riga, and it was easily the most comfortable and spacious bus accommodation we’ve ever had.
Low-cost bus travel throughout Europe (serving hundreds of cities in 20 countries)
Regio Jet (Student Agency)
Bus travel throughout Europe. We should note that, of all the bus companies we used, this was our least favorite (worst customer service, extra fee for luggage, least punctual). We used them as they were significantly cheaper for traveling from Bratislava to Budapest.
Train service across Europe
High-speed train service throughout Italy (we found this company to be cheaper than TrenItalia, listed below).
High-speed train service throughout Italy
Rail service around the U.K.
Connecting towns and villages of the Swiss Alps in an East-West route, the Glacier Express is an immaculate train running along an incredibly scenic route. The trains have panoramic carriages with huge windows running the length of the cars as well as along the roof, so you’re guaranteed an uninterrupted view of the stunning alpine scenery. If you are doing a significant amount of train and bus travel in Switzerland, consider purchasing a Swiss Pass or Swiss Half Fare Card. Depending on your itinerary and length of stay, it could save you quite a bit of money: https://www.swiss-pass.ch/.
Ferry service between Holyhead, Wales and Dublin, Ireland as well as a handful of other routes between Ireland and the U.K. or northern France.
Helpful tip – if traveling from the U.K. to Ireland, don’t forget you’ll need Euros and not GBPs. When we arrived in Dublin, there was – shockingly – no ATM at the ferry terminal. Consequently, we had no cash for cab fare and the shipping port is several kilometers outside the city. Make sure to see the bursar on the ferry if you need to make an exchange.
Also, if traveling from the U.K. to Ireland, you could save some cash by purchasing a Rail & Sail combo ticket from Virgin Trains. We took a train from London to Holyhead, Wales, and then hopped on a ferry to Dublin. The advance fare combo price saved us a good chunk of change, and Virgin partners with both Irish Ferries and Stena Line.
Zermatt Mountain Lifts
Tickets for lifts and scenic mountain railways. Many of the mountain lifts are covered under the Swiss Pass. If you’re considering the Switzerland pass for other transportation, see if the lifts you’re interested in are covered under the pass… individual tickets are pretty pricey (as are individual tickets for most transit in Switzerland), so the lift cost could help make the universal pass an even better value.
Dolomites – Val Gardena Lifts
Pricing and timetables for individual lifts throughout the Val Gardena region. If you’re staying in the area for a while, and depending on how many cable cars you’ll be using, consider purchasing the Gardena Card – the three-day pass offers unlimited lift service (check listed lifts) for € 65, while a six-day pass is € 85.
Overland travel across Asia is certainly an experience. While cheap flights can be had in most countries (air travel in Thailand is a bit more expensive than in neighboring countries), ground transit is still often cheaper and, really, it makes the trip really feel like an adventure. From trains to buses to slow boats and ferries (or the back of a stranger’s pickup), you’ll find a number of options to suit your needs and budget. And while many of the public buses and trains will require you to show up at the station to purchase your ticket, a number of coach services (as well as Vietnam’s rail service) offer online, advance purchase. If you need help getting started, these were some of the companies we used, and we were generally satisfied with each.
Bus travel within Cambodia and internationally to Bangkok & Ho Chi Minh City (good prices and really nice service).
Futa Bus Lines
Bus travel around Vietnam. If you read reviews from many travelers who’ve visited Vietnam, the overwhelming consensus is overall dissatisfaction with bus service, with Futa Bus receiving the most glowing of the mediocre reviews. Having done a few trips with Futa Bus, I have to say we were generally pleased with their service (save for one minor incident in Quang Binh province). The seats are set up kind of like bunk beds – little reclining pods – which are quite comfy for a long trip.
Bus service from Bangkok to Southern Thailand (Phang Nga & Krabi)
Train travel around Vietnam
While we did some local car rentals in various cities across eastern and southern Australia, we did a lot of air travel during our two months in the country… it’s a big country and most major cities are quite far from one another. Australia’s two major carriers, Qantas and Virgin Australia, were universally excellent (as expected, as both are considered some of the world’s best airlines). Conversely, we traveled around New Zealand’s two small islands almost exclusively by campervan (except for an Air New Zealand flight which also offered exceptional service). While we didn’t use much in the way of private transportation services, we did want to list a couple of the ferry services we used, as well as our campervan hire (they were great), for those who may be interested:
New Zealand campervan rentals (offices in Christchurch & Auckland)
Cook Strait ferry service between Wellington and Picton
Spirit of Tasmania
Ferry service between Melbourne and Devonport, Tasmania