Step 4: Book
From which flights to book and which pass to activate, I got ya covered!
We live in a world of over-information, and this is as true for travel as it is for any other industry in the world. This is why, writing about travel apps for Europe, especially for first-time or new travelers is much needed. As someone who not only travels to Europe...
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In this section, you can find all the links you need to plan and book every step of your travel journey. You can always search for more options, but I have carefully selected the most trusted and loved providers in this section, to save you time and effort in conducting this research yourself.
The first step of your trip will no doubt start here. Before you can jump into planning the rest of your trip, you need to find and book the best possible return flights.
Here’s the only platforms I suggest for you, no matter where you live.
A multi purpose flight search and booking platform. The biggest advantage this platform offers is the Kiwi guarantee. This means if your flight gets delayed, postponed or cancelled, Kiwi provides you either an alternative flight or refund the cost of the flight. I don’t know any other provider that offers such a guarantee.
A popular flight search engine, when you can’t find what you need on Kiwi, you should check Skyscanner. A very handy tool is the ‘Everywhere’ function which shows you the best deals across the globe for your chosen month. This function is also available on Kiwi under ‘Anywhere’ function.
Another amazing platform I discovered recently, aimed at students under 26, but functional for people of any age.
Student Universe has special offers with multiple international airlines, and offers excellent discounts for student travellers.
BONUS #1: You can use a NEWFOR20 code here to get $20 off your first Student Universe flight.
If you plan on flying from Spain to let’s say Greece, you probably need a fast flight connection. Flights within Europe, especially the non-budget carriers, can be $100-$200 more expensive than the budget carriers mentioned below.
The only catch with booking these flights is the ‘compulsory online checkin’, ‘limited luggage (usually 10kg and specific dimensions) and overall crappy service.
But, hey, if you can find a connection across the continent for $50 return, and you don’t mind the above mentioned discomforting elements, definitely consider these carriers.
I have also added a link for checking the appropriate connection since all these carriers fly into limited (oftens special) airports in the country.
By far the cheapest, and most well-connected flight, this should be your first search option for booking flights within Europe.
A new carrier, popular for connections to Eastern Europe. If you are planning to hit eastern Europe, this is definitely worth checking out.
Useful Link: Destination Checker
Flying to over 100 destinations, this is another cheap flight provider worth checking out for connections.
Useful Link: Destination Checker
An excellent way to explore Europe, is by train. You may choose to travel solely by train or combine it with flights, buses or rentals. In this section, I will take you through some different ways in which you can travel with a train.
The best place to start planning, searching and booking for individual connections all across Europe.
Rail Europe also sells Eurail passes (that we’ll cover in detail later), sometimes they may run discounts, but other times it may be cheaper to buy it at the Eurail website directly.
This is also an excellent site to find more information on country-specific regional trains, high speed trains and reservation policies, which may differ from one place to another, and is often difficult to find on local train websites.
Another good alternative to plan trains, buses and routes across Europe is GoEuro. The advantage this platform has over others is that it offers a comparison between flights, buses and trains, telling you the best option to get from point A to B.
A Eurail pass, as a non-EU resident, allows you to travel for a specified period of time to a specified number of cities, in the Schengen zone at a predetermined bundled price.
You can shop the pass that fits your need online. Some of the various types of passes include: individual country passes, multi-country passes and global country passes.
The countries that participate in the Eurail pass program along with the national train providers include:
Austria (including Lichtenstein)
SMCB, NMBS,Thalys, Eurostar
France (including Monaco)
SNCF, Thalys, Ecostar
TRAINOSE, Attica Group, Minoan Lines
MÁV Start, GYSEV
Trenitali+ Attica Group, Minoan Lines
SBB, CFF, FFS, BLS
*Please note that there may be more train providers than those covered in the program, although each country’s main or largest provider is usually covered. Trains that are high speed and have fixes routes, such as Thalys, often run under their own unique name. You can however, use this chart to look up country specific websites and timetables, should you be feeling lost.
As you can see a large number of countries you may wish to travel to would be covered under the Eurail pass scheme, and some not. There are special discounts for travellers under the age of 26 (usually with second class travel), and everyone above the age of 26 needs to buy a first class pass. As a group this can really add up, especially if you travel Europe only for a short time.
Even if you do have a Eurail pass, certain high speed trains (depending on the country), especially overnight ones will require you to reserve a seat. This can be done online or at the train station at a nominal cost of $5-$10 depending on the country. Do keep in mind these additional costs when you consider buying the pass.
Eurail pass is best if you meet at least one of the following:
- You plan to take at least one or two high speed trains
- You are under the age of 26 and can avail a special discount
- You plan to travel slowly and cover more than 3 countries using the train
- You love train travel (which I can totally understand especially with the amazing landscape)
If you’d like to check out the various passes, click here and see if one of them would fit your budget and itinerary. The presence of a Eurail app also makes planning trains a breeze, although I would highly suggest to double check the time of trains, as sometimes due to strikes, public holidays, etc., the trains change last minute. This may result in lost connections and longer than expected delays.
Tips before you use Eurail pass
- Do activate your pass before your first journey at the local information desk. The officer will stamp your pass to activate it.
- Fill out details of each train BEFORE you board a train with a pen with all the information required in the pass journal.
- Carry your passport with you at all times, along with the Eurail pass (hard copy). An online copy of either of those documents will not work and may result in a hefty fine.
If you are a solo or a budget traveller, an excellent way to plan your trip is with buses. It will take you longer than it would with a high speed train or flight, but you may save a lot of money especially during peak season travel.
The advantage of bus travel is that it is a) cheaper than trains on average, b) needs less planning in advance, as buses are often available upto a few weeks earlier as well.
My favourite and most comfortable bus service I have come across, Flixbus is my go-to bus planning and booking service. They also offer a 5-trip pass for $114 that is valid across all their bus routes, provided you don’t circle back to where you started.
If you book early enough (at least a month in advance), you may even find one-way tickets for $5-$10 and this is also an excellent way to take day trips, on an impulse!
I also love that Flixbus offers a WIFI (free) and drinks (paid) service onboard, which makes it a lot more relaxing to travel by bus during long distances.
A good alternative to Flixbus, for looking at bus options. You can search and buy tickets for Eurolines network both online and offline, although I haven’t come across many of their offices, in my last few years in Europe.
One large office exists in Paris main station, but you can look others up easily online.
Road trip fan? Driving in Europe is a breeze, especially with relatively little border control if any. An excellent way to explore a region, especially if you plan to see the countryside, is by renting a car for a certain period of time. The car rentals can be picked up directly from the airport where you arrive, or designated centres in the city and dropped off wherever you fly out of.
Do make sure to double check this with whichever provider you choose to go with. Carrying an international driving permit, in addition to your national driving permit is also an excellent idea, as many companies would not rent you out cars without these documents.
Two good platforms for renting cars across Europe are:
Popular in the US, this platform also offers regular discounts for early bird and specific location bookings.
Originally from Europe, Sixt has emerged as one of the best rental car providers in Europe with an extensive network.
The best and most convenient platform to look for hostels in Europe, if you can’t find it on Hostel World, you most likely won’t find it elsewhere. I also love that you can book most hostels with a very nominal fee to hold you reservation, although cancellation policies depend entirely on the hostel.
The top hostel chains I recommend in Europe are:
- Generator Hostels: London, Berlin, Vienna, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Copenhagen, Dublin, Hamburg, Madrid, Paris, Rome, Stockholm. Venice.
- Christopher’s Inn: Barcelona, Berlin, Amsterdam, Bruges, Copenhagen, Interlaken, Prague, London, Edinburg.
- PLUS Hostels: Berlin, Prague, Florence
- Wombats: Vienna, London, Berlin, Munich, Budapest
- A&O Hostels: Berlin, Frankfurt, Munich, Amsterdam, Venice, Stuttgart, Salzburg, Vienna, Copenhagen, Dresden
A platform I very often use to find hotels, guest apartments, luxury hotels, et al. Booking is the largest online travel aggregator and one where you can almost always start your search. The hotels listed here are generally listed at the best prices and offers and many of them can be booked at a 100% refundable cost or free cancellation.
As it is hard to give recommendations for hotels that suit everyone’s budget and style of travel, I will stick to a few promising chains that will not let you down, should you decide to stay with one of them. Here’s my top hotel chain recommendations:
Ibis: With over 1000 hotels in 28 countries, you can expect a comfortable stay with free buffet breakfast and wifi.
Holiday Inn: Famous globally, you can stay at these family friendly hotels in over 33 European countries.
Novotel: Another popular and standard chain of hotels present in over 33 countries, Novotel makes for a good stay, especially so for corporate travellers.
Mercure: With prices averaging over $200 a night, this is not a budget hotel chain, but nevertheless a very reliable on, present in 24 European countries.
Citizen M: A popular design driven affordable luxury chain, present in big cities across Europe, is also quite a stunning and comfortale property to stay at. You can find these hotels in Amsterdam, Glasgow, London, Paris, Rotterdam, Copenhagen and Zurich.
Another popular option to explore a region, is through the shared rentals platform called airbnb. If you book far ahead, you can access beautiful private apartments in city centres for a cheaper price than a hotel. Airbnb also offers shared apartments, where you are expected to share the space with other guests or the local hosts. Choose the experience based on how much privacy you need.
Some of the best practices while looking for Airbnbs are:
- Search for hosts who have at least 10 good reviews. You don’t want to go to a brand new place to a new host or apartment that has no reviews. Take risks in places you are already familiar to. This is also highly recommended as a safety tip for solo travelers.
- Communicate in advance with the host to tell them your expected time of arrival and some personal background. You should also arrange a fixed time to exchange keys and an address (if different from the property), as you may not have accces to a working phone in the first few hours of your arrival.
- Leave the apartment as you find it, the cleaner, the better. The way airbnb works is that both hosts and guests are vetted through mutual reviews. In order to be accepted for a booking, you also need to maintain an excellent profile.
BONUS #2: You can use this first time travel credit of $40 when you book your first Airbnb stay.
Another popular way for solo travellers to travel, practially for free is to use couchsurfing. As the name suggests, you are offered a couch or an extra bed by a local host for free.
It is a network to meet other like minded locals and save money while travelling. For solo travelers, I would advise to carefully review and vet out the hosts you do stay with.
The only insurance I recommend and use when I am traveling solo, is the World Nomads Travel Insurance.
It is easy to get a quote, to redeem online and has one of the most flexible travel insurance policies I have come across.