Traipsing Through Europe

Cars & Buses
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Driving is an innate facet of American culture, and accordingly, it's what U.S. travelers tend to want most when they travel—the freedom of the road and flexibility afforded by your own set of wheels. But driving is not the cheapest way to travel through Europe, and certainly not with petrol (gasoline) prices hovering at about €5 a liter (yes, that's still about four times higher than even today's rising U.S. gas prices!). That said, there's no denying that car travel is the most flexible. If you have any plans to get off the beaten track once you reach your chosen destination, a car allows you to go where you want, when you want.

Although established names like Hertz, Alamo, and Avis all have a big presence at major urban centers across the continent, rental rates can be quite pricey. If you're traveling in the UK, however, the Easy chain recently set up easyCar, which offers rental cars from as little as $11 a day. The company recently branched out into mainland Europe and it's possible to take advantage of its low rates all across the continent—from concessions at Malaga, to cruise the Costa del Sol or the white villages of Andalusia; or Dublin for its emerald-green countryside and that black gold known as Guinness. While easyCar offers much cheaper rates, the bigger companies have more presence, and thus, increased flexibility. AutoEurope is also a good choice for travel within the European Union.

If you're planning a cross-border, overland trip on the continent, it's probably best to go by rail rather than road. Different countries have different rules, and while one country acknowledges your U.S. driver's license, another might not. Of course, if you do plan on driving, it's a good bet to organize an International Drivers Permit to cover all your bases, available for a nominal fee from outlets like the American Automobile Association (www.aaa.com).

Although not as quick or comfortable as going by plane or rail, buses can be a great (cheap) way of getting from A to B. One of the best-known operators is Eurolines, which runs services to and from various European cities (Paris-Madrid, Spain-Krakow, Berlin-Copenhagen). There are frequent deals to be had and it can sometimes be cheaper than flying. The flipside is that it takes a lot longer than flying, and unless you're under six feet tall, you might spend the whole trip eating your knees. As with the trains you can get a special Eurolines pass, which starts from around $300. This gives you a choice of 15, 30, or 40 days' unlimited coach travel on Eurolines services between 35 cities. You can book your tickets before you even get to Europe by visiting www.eurolines.com.


Published: 13 May 2005 | Last Updated: 7 Nov 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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