In my opinion, traveling within Europe is much more easier than across USA or Asia. In Europe, there are several alternative for transportation.
1. Car (rental, sharing car)
First of course by car, which you can rent as soon as you land in Europe, such as sixt, hertz, and europcar. If you are going with family or in a group, this can be a good choice. You can also find share car, which mean, you find person who has car and will drive to the place and the time you want to go (mitfahrgelegenheit), and you can pay quite less amount of money.
My favorite is to use public transport, either train or flight. Europe is easily connected by rail system, inside the country and between the country. There are many option for train ticket in Europe, specific for the country you want to visit or cross country, or combination.
There are train ticketing system which allow you to travel to many different countries in several days, such as rail pass and eurail. You can travel as much as you want using participated train at the counted days according to the ticket you have. For example you can buy 10 days rail pass (which cost 781 Euro for adult and 509 Euro for young traveller age 12-25). With this ticket you can travel for 10 days to any country participated (Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland (includes Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland), Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Romania, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and Turkey). You do not need to travel 10 days in consequence, but must be within validity of the ticket (about 2 months). Those rail pass and euro rail not only offer “across Europe” train, but also only for specific country. Check the website, as they have so many different offer and flexibility. If you have 2 weeks holiday and want to travel to all over Europe, this could be a choice. I am not in favor of this rail pass as normally taking train except Germany, Netherlands, and Belgium took quite long journey, so I prefer to take flight instead of train. But many young traveller love this because if you really have few days and want to explore a lot of place, this rail pass is a good idea.
I have some list of the website to check the timetable and price for each different country. If you do not travel that much in a limited time and prefer to enjoy specific city/country, the normal train ticket should be your choice. Many train ticket offer certain discount, especially Germany and Belgium. Almost every train in Germany has a lot of discount on ticket, good to book early if you already have plan. Booking early or travel on certain date/day give you the possibility to get cheaper ticket. If you do not have plan and just want to go anytime, there are group ticket (normally for traveler of 5 people), weekend ticket, day ticket, and combined ticket (train and bus) to get cheaper ticket. Senior traveller (over 60 or 64) and kids have special discount. Just check in the website, they often have cheap ticket for certain day/date.
- Germany: www.db.de
Rail system in Germany is very very good. The train is good and comfortable, the timetable is good, precise, and clear and reach to almost any part of Germany. My favorite is ICE, the train is fast (can reach about 300 km/h), elegant, clean, and cozy.
Pictures of ICE train
Remember that if you have ICE ticket, normally you can use it for public transport (bus, tram, metro) in the city of departure and destination, check your ticket!
DB (Deutsche Bahn – Germany train) can really give cheap ticket if you check their website and book early enough. However if you do not get the cheap fast train, you can have several alternatives. Weekend ticket is the cheaper way to travel in Europe, especially if you are not alone, This ticket cost only 42 Euro and valid for 5 people travel together from anywhere to anywhere in Germany. If you travel on the weekday, there is Länder ticket, which cost start from 22 Euro. This ticket is valid for 5 people for each region of Germany. For example if you buy NRW region ticket, you can travel from one corner of NRW to another corner of NRW region. Those discounted ticket work for normal train (RE, S), not the fast train (ICE, IC). Similar to länder ticket, but Quer-durchs-land ticket valid for a whole region of Germany. This ticket cost 44 Euro for 1 person, and each additional person add 6 Euro each.
Pictures of RE train
Pictures of Regio or S train
If you do not mind spend the day on travel (you can hop on hop off though), or your destination is not that far, I would suggest to take those discounted ticket. However, if you travel from one corner of Germany to other (example Münich to Hamburg, it can take 14 h by normal train), so the best is to take the ICE (the fast and best train, can take only 5.5h from Münich to Hamburg with speed 300 km/h).
- There are two classes of seat in each of the train, first class and second class. They are not that much different in service, however for rush hour or busy day (e.g. weekend, holidays: christmas), the second class seat is often full while first class normally never full.
- Other than ICE train, you do not need to reserve the seat. In normal day, you even do not need to reserve for seat, there always available seat for you (remember that you need to pay extra about 2 Euro to reserve a seat).
- There is bistro car in ICE train, where you can enjoy your meal and get some drink in a high class service.
If you want to travel across the country, you can also combined the cheap ticket from each country with the border ticket. For example, you want to go from Dusseldorf to Brussels, the normal ticket will cost at least 45.2 Euro/person or 135.6 Euro for 3 people. As an alternative, you can take weekend ticket/länder ticket from Dusseldorf to Aachen (NRW day ticket 39.5, 42 euro weekend ticket, 20 euro per person), and then take cross border ticket to Hergenrath (Belgium) which cost only 4.3 Euro, and then with rail pass, you can take the train from Hergenrath to Brussel (rail pass 7.6 Euro, normal ticket 20.1 Euro), in total from Dusseldorf to Brussel will cost 75.2 Euro (60.4 Euro cheaper). If 5 people travel, you save 127 euro!!!
Pictures of the antique train which will take you cross the border between Germany and Belgium.
In some area, the train can be different, some private company train is available.
- Belgium: www.nmbs.be
When you travel inside Belgium from one city to another, I like to use rail pass (10 journey card) which cost 76 Euro (or go pass ticket 50 Euro for young traveller) and you can use it for 10 trip, from and to any station in Belgium. You need to write down the day, date, from and to the station you are going. If you are two people, write it down 2 times, and if you are three people, write it down 3 times. As an adult, if you want to travel for example from Brussels to Brugge will cost you 13.5 Euro/per person/one way or 27 Euro/person return journey. By using rail pass it will cost you 7.6 euro/person/one way or 15.2 Euro return journey. So you save 11.8 Euro/person. Very convenient and cheap.
Attention, if you want to travel to and from the airport of Brussels and using the rail pass, you need to pay extra for the diabolo fee which cost 4.4 Euro.
Pictures of Belgium train
Thalys is another train that can accommodate you through Brussel (Belgium) – Paris (France) -Amsterdam (Netherlands) – Cologne (Germany). It is a fast and comfortable ways to travel between those cities.
- Netherland: www.ns.nl
Netherlands also have a day/weekend ticket. Day ticket is useful if you want to hop on hop off or return in one day. For example if you want to go from Eindhoven to Amsterdam and then to Groningen in 1 day, it will cost 41.7 Euro one way or 83.4 Euro return journey. Meanwhile the day ticket cost 47 Euro/person and valid for return ticket for the same day.
Spain have Renfe Spain Pass which allow you to purchase 4-12 journey in one month for 163-392 Euro.
- Switzerland: www.sbb.ch
To connect London with other countries for example France (Paris and Lille), Belgium (Brussel), Eurostar is good choice
If you do not want to waste your time in the traveling, city night line (CNL, train with option of sleeping bed) can be an option. One cabin consist of 4 seat and at night, those seat can be transfer into bed.
You can find toilet in almost all type of train.
Other option for public transportation is by flight. My favourite airline is Ryan Air. The flight is so so cheap, and extreme cheap as long as you book it early . It is right that you have to pay extra for the check-in bag (15-35 Euro/15 kg) and reserved seat (10 Euro/one way), but with the price they offer, who care? Moreover, normally, I do not need check in baggage for traveling within Europe. Cabin bagagge with no more than 10 kg is enough for me.
Bus is another choice if the journey is not that far. For some people who do not want to take flight or the train is quite costly, Eurolines can be an alternative. Eurolines also good if you do not want to waste time in travel, because normally the bus depart in the evening/night and arrive in the morning. So you can sleep a whole way and when you wake up, you arrived in your destination. Unlike CNL, Eurolines only have a sitting place, but in my opinion, it is comfortable enough.