Trains, Buses or Planes When Traveling around Europe? What You Need to Know and a Sample Itinerary.

The pandemic put a bit of a “hold” on Europe travel over the past year, particularly international travel. With things beginning to open up, many of us are likely planning, or at least daydreaming, of our next adventure. My last big, international trip was in February/March 2020, right at the beginning of the pandemic. It was a quick but exciting trek around Europe, which I’m extra thankful I was able to squeeze in.

When you’re visiting multiple countries in Europe, one thing that you’ll have to consider when planning your trip is how you’ll be getting from point A to point B. Luckily, you will likely have a variety of options to choose from.

My personal favorite choice for traveling through Europe is the train. Trains in Europe are much more abundant than they are here in the United States, with some companies – such as Thales – offering bullet trains that can get you from country to country in a couple of hours. Of course the bus is a fun and scenic mode of transportation as well, but I’ve generally only gone this route when I either had extra free time or when the ride was 3 hours or less. While I prefer trains when traveling to major cities that border each other, such as going from Paris to Amsterdam, this isn’t always the best, or most budget friendly, choice. Also, unfortunately, some parts of Europe have no trains.

When a train isn’t an option, either because there isn’t one or because I’m on a limited schedule and a 14-hour train ride just doesn’t fit in, I look at small regional airlines.  I ran into this issue myself when planning to go from Amsterdam to Vilnius, Lithuania and actually found that  flying around most parts of Europe will not only save you time, but it’ll save you money as well. You don’t have to pay for extra nights at midpoint hotels and or extra meals during your 15+ hours of travel time.

Here is my recent Europe travel itinerary (with transportation prices and travel times) for a quick trip around Europe, where planes made the most sense the majority of the time but I was able to squeeze in one train ride:

Amsterdam, Netherlands to Vilnius, Lithuania

Flying from Amsterdam Schiphol to Vilnius via airBaltic

Departure 10:20am

Arrival 1:35pm

Total travel time: 3 hours 15 minutes

Cost per person:

Ticket 78.99 EUR

(includes one small personal item that can fit under a pretty small seat)

Checked bag 69.98 EUR

Total: 148.97 EUR

The ride from the Vilnius Airport to the Tensley Blogger House was a long but interesting one. Our host gave us a really great overview of all of the local area attractions, history, and food that we could expect to find. After spending a few days in Vilnius, it was time to head across the continent to Rome, Italy. Due to the distance, flying was the only option that made sense for this leg of the journey.

Flying from Vilnius to Rome Fiumicino with a layover in Riga via airBaltic

Departure 10:40am

Arrival in Riga 11:30am

Layover 1 hour 20 minutes

Departure 2:50pm

Arrival 4:55pm

Total travel time: 6 hours 15 minutes

Cost per person:

Ticket 74.99 EUR

(includes one small personal item that can fit under a pretty small seat)

Checked bag 73.98 EUR

Total: 148.97 EUR (yep, the exact same as the last flight!)

The layover in Riga was planned and we took advantage of the short break to grab a bite to eat in the airport. It’s crazy how many American-themed restaurants you’ll find during your Europe travels!

One thing that I didn’t plan for (or research – oops!), was the ride from the Rome airport to the city center where we were staying. You know those nights where you are so exhausted that you have sleep for dinner? This ended up being one of those. Despite the exhaustion, I was still content knowing how much time I saved by opting for this flight. 

It just so happened that I visited Rome in February 2020 when things were starting to get “interesting” with Covid. We didn’t have a ton of information at this time, but we were already wondering how traveling was going to be impacted for our trip home. Things around the city seemed pretty normal for the time being.

Then, we headed to Paris.

Flying from Rome to Paris Charles de Gaulle via Vueling Airlines

Departure 12:10pm

Arrival 2:25pm

Total travel time: 2 hours 15 minutes

Cost per person:

Ticket 121.79 EUR (including a checked bag)

Total: 121.70 EUR

When we got to Paris we were starting to see more masks. People still didn’t seem too concerned in public. It just so happened that after we visited the Louvre they closed their doors due to Covid. This was also the day that we heard about the first lockdown in Italy. We spent most of our time walking around and seeing sights outside, which there are plenty of.

To complete our trip, it was time to head back to Amsterdam. Since Paris and Amsterdam are connected by a great train system, we decided to take a train for the last leg of our trip.

Train from Paris to Amsterdam via Rail Europe

Departure 8:25am

Arrival 11:44am

Total travel time: 3 hours 19 minutes

Cost per person:

Ticket 85.97 USD

Total: 85.97 USD

After spending a couple of days in Amsterdam, it was time to head back to the states. I had no idea what to expect at the airport, but had my fingers crossed. Luckily for us, they were only asking about people coming from Iran or China at the time, so we got back home as smoothly as possible. 

When traveling around Europe, you have a lot of great options for getting from one country to the next. While the trains and buses provide beautiful views, flying is often the best choice if you’re looking to save both time and money.

What are your favorite ways to get around when traveling through Europe?

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