The long uni holidays are upon us, and that means hordes of Singaporean students are going to be heading to Europe with their backpacks, determined to visit 10 countries in 2 weeks. Working adults will be flocking to the old continent in search of designer goods and on long-awaited honeymoons.
Don’t expect your trip to Europe to be as cheap as a weekend getaway to Bangkok or Bali. While the Euro is much weaker vis a vis the Singapore Dollar than it was 10 years ago, most of Western Europe is still expensive in terms of food and accommodation, doubly so if you’re hitting up all the big capitals.
Here are two key tips to help you reduce the cost of your Eurotrip:
Trains tend to be the most expensive option
Singaporeans in Europe for the first time have usually heard a lot about Eurail Passes, and often end up using trains to travel in between cities or countries.
But trains tend to be the most expensive option available. If you have a lot of time and no money, the cheapest way to travel is hands down inter-city buses. These can be booked online—just google “x city to x city bus” and comparison sites will pop up, enabling you to compare the various bus companies.
Bus travel can be three times cheaper than train travel, and also less price sensitive—if you’re booking tickets at the last minute, you’re less likely to have to pay 5 times the price. They do take a much longer time than travelling by train or car, though.
Other than buses, plane travel tends to be inexpensive thanks to low cost carriers like Ryanair, often cheaper than trains. It helps to book in advance, though, as the prices fluctuate in much the same way as our own budget carriers.
Another option is car sharing through sites like Blablacar. You will, however, have to contact your driver using your mobile phone, usually by SMS, and depending on where you are some drivers might not speak English. Drivers also tend to avoid the city centre, so you will need to figure out where you’ll be picked up and dropped off.
If you’re prepared for the hassle, however, Blablacar can sometimes be almost as cheap as buses while being much faster, and many rides get offered one or two days before departure, making it a great option for last-minute planners.
Beware of ulu airports when flying on budget airlines
Singaporeans get to enjoy the fact that Changi Airport is close enough to the city centre to be reachable by cab.
But the same is not true of many airports in Europe, especially smaller airports that serve budget airlines. Often, these airports aren’t even located in the city at all, but in smaller towns miles and miles away.
For instance, the deceptively named Paris Beauvais Airport is actually nowhere near Paris. It’s 90km away in a town called Tillé, and since a taxi would cost you a ton of money, the only affordable way to get there is to take a 1.5 hour shuttle bus ride there, or to charter your own Blablacar ride. But surely the most annoying factor is the fact that the bus ride costs 17 euro (26 SGD) one way and 34euro (53 SGD) two ways.
Another example would be Modlin Airport in Warsaw, not to be confused with the city’s main airport, Chopin Airport. The former has no train or metro connections, so you’ll have to endure a bus ride of approximately 45 minutes to get there. A one-way bus ride costs 33 zloty (12 SGD), which is expensive by Polish standards.
So don’t get all excited about the cheap tickets you found on that budget airline’s website. The actual travel time, when you add up trips to and from the airport, can really balloon, and you’ll have to factor in the cost of shuttle buses or other transportation options into the cost of your ticket.
When planning your route around Europe, you’ll thus want to check all the available transport options including buses, car sharing, trains and planes, always being careful to check the distance and cost of travelling to your pick-up points, whether they be airports, bus stations and so on.
Have you ever gone on a Eurotrip? Share your travel tips in the comments!