Should You Rent a Car or Take the Train in Europe?
One of the best things about traveling to Europe is that it’s so easy to hop from country to country in order to experience a variety of different cultures, locales, cuisines, and more during your trip. This is not only because traversing the continent can be done in a relatively rapid manner, but also because the transportation options are diverse, abundant, convenient, and affordable. So whether you want to take the Grand Tour, you’ve got a 2-week itinerary planned out that will let you see fourteen countries in as many days, or you’d like to hit up just a couple of countries so that you have time to linger and explore, you’ll find that getting from here to there in Europe is a lot easier than travel in some other parts of the world. The only real question is whether you should rent a car or rely on the train system when it comes to transportation.
In truth, this will depend entirely upon you. But there are several factors to consider, and cost and convenience generally top the list. If you’re working with a tight budget you’ll likely find that purchasing an extended rail pass during your vacation is the most cost-effective option, although the number of cities you plan to visit could affect the price. The reason is because there are generally different levels of passes you can buy. Unless you want to get your tickets piecemeal as you go (a much more expensive choice that buying, say, a month-long pass) you’ll have to abide by certain restrictions.
In general, long-term rail passes only allow you a certain number of rides over the duration of the pass, and there may be blackout dates to contend with, as well as set numbers of days between travel or restrictions by country. While you can get passes that limit such restrictions, you’ll certainly pay more for them. And then, of course, you’ll have to deal with the slow progress of train travel, what with frequent stops to let passengers on and off. But aside from certain concessions you’ll have to make, this is often a far less expensive option than renting a car. Basically, you’re looking at cost versus convenience.
On the other hand, there are some situations in which renting a car may be preferable. Naturally it allows you unfettered freedom to traipse from country to country, provided you have your International Driver’s Permit and rental car insurance (or other insurance coverage) nailed down beforehand. While you will almost certainly pay more for a rental car than train travel, what with the rental fee, insurance, and fuel to cover, you can dispel the cost somewhat if you travel with a group and split expenses. And if you have a limited time in which to see several locales, you might actually need a private car to squeeze it all in. You’ll have to learn the rules of the road wherever you go in order to abide by laws and customs, but there are plenty of cheat sheets online to help you here. As you can see, the mode of travel you choose in Europe depends entirely on your budget, schedule, and personal preferences.
February 16, 2013 Saturday at 6:55 am