Living in the UK, we are lucky enough to be able to get cheap flights over to mainland Europe. Once you are on the mainland, it’s really easy to travel between countries as well. I have a long list of countries that I want to visit and as the cost of travelling between European countries is so reasonable, I decided to cross a few off them off. In June, I spent a week in Eastern Europe, visiting Krakow and Auschwitz (Poland), Budapest (Hungary) and Bratislava (Slovakia). I managed to do this on a very small budget.
Planning my trip
First of all, I looked on a map to help me decide where I wanted to go. Krakow was somewhere I had always wanted to visit, so I decided to use that as a starting point. I then had a look at the surrounding countries to see which other cities were nearby. I chose Budapest and Bratislava and then looked at flight prices to see which one was the cheapest to fly out from. Bratislava was the cheapest, so I then knew that my trip was going to start in Krakow and end in Bratislava.
Once the two flights were booked, I looked at ways to travel between the different countries. There is a direct flight which goes from Krakow to Budapest and takes just over an hour, however this was looking to be around £55 and I wanted to travel on a budget. It was around the same price to fly between Budapest and Bratislava, however with no direct flights there were waits of around 9 hours in Stansted, Prague or Brussels.
Train travel in Europe
I’ve travelled on trains in Europe before – from Dusseldorf to Cologne and I’ve also travelled between Luxembourg City and Vianden (with an accidental trip to Belgium when I got on the wrong train). I’ve also travelled between countries on the train. I got a train from Dusseldorf to Rotterdam (changing once at Utrecht) and then from Rotterdam I got another train to Amsterdam. I only booked one of these journeys in advance (Dusseldorf to Rotterdam) using the bahn.de website. Whilst these journeys were fairly easy (ignoring the Belgium incident!) travelling at a decent time, seemed to be quite expensive. I wanted to travel in the morning, so that I would have the rest of the day to settle in to my hostel and explore my surroundings.
Coach travel in Europe
As I am no stranger to travelling by coach (I’ve done a few 10 hour trips between Birmingham and Edinburgh!) I decided to see what the European version of Megabus is. Google pointed me to Flixbus which offers low cost travel across Europe. You can travel from London to Paris for just £11.99! Krakow to Budapest takes 7 hours and Budapest to Bratislava takes 2 hours and 20 minutes.
I wasn’t sure what the protocol was with passports and border control when travelling by coach. I had a quick google and there wasn’t a definite answer, however I made sure that I had my passport on me at all times. When travelling from Krakow to Budapest, we were stopped just before the Slovakian border and were asked to show our passports. There wasn’t any warning, we just stopped and a couple of people in camo/army uniforms got on the coach. This caused a bit of trouble for a family who had left theirs in their luggage which was being stored underneath the coach. I expected the same thing to happen when we reached the Hungarian border but it didn’t. There was also nobody checking passports when I travelled back to Slovakia a few days later.
While the coach was obviously not as comfortable as a train would be, both journeys were absolutely fine. I managed to sleep for a bit on both of them. Travelling by coach saves a lot of money, I would definitely recommend it. It takes a while but I set aside days for travel, so the length of the journeys didn’t affect my trip.
The cost of travelling between European countries
London Stansted to Krakow – £35
Krakow – Budapest – €19,90 (£17.68)
Budapest – Bratislava – €11,99 (£10.65)
Bratislava to London Stansted – £15
Total = £78.33
As you can see, I managed to visit three cities in three different countries for just under £80. I stayed in hostels in each city which kept the cost down as well. In total, my whole trip cost me only £201 for transport and accommodation. I definitely recommend choosing a coach to travel between European countries to keep the cost down and you’ll probably know about my love for hostels too.
Do you like to travel on a budget?