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How to see the very best of Europe this summer

Forget flying! The best way to see Europe is via bus and rail. Oh, and it’s usually cheaper and often faster than taking to the skies. The Local rounds up some top tips for planning your next European adventure.

How to see the very best of Europe this summer
Credit: Unsplash

“It’s not the destination, it’s the journey,” mused the American scholar Ralph Wado Emerson back in the 19th century. While travelling has changed beyond all recognition since Emerson’s day, his message still rings true for eager explorers of all ages.

Investigate all options

It’s doubtful Emerson would have suggested that going through all the airport rigmarole was a part of travelling to be savoured. But did you know that numerous European routes are quicker to navigate by bus or rail than by plane? London – Paris and Munich – Frankfurt being just two compiled in a list by search and booking platform Omio.

Omio (formerly GoEuro) was founded back in 2012 by a former backpacker who was determined to make life easier for wannabe travellers. It streamlines the entire travel planning process enabling users to see all their options, such as departure times, transport operators and prices, before booking their ticket on the site or via the app.

Click here to start planning your trip to Europe

Other routes that are quicker by train than by plane are Brussels – Paris (2hr 39min faster) giving you plenty of extra time to explore the Louvre, and Madrid – Valencia (1hr 28min faster), which is almost enough time saved to watch a football match at Real Madrid’s famous Santiago Bernabéu stadium.

Read Madrid’s famous Santiago Bernabéu stadium. Photo credit: Deposit photos

So spend some time investigating all your travel options to grant yourself some added time in your destination of choice.

Look out the window

Experiencing Europe by rail and bus opens up the path for routes through the Swiss Alps, criss-crossing between Spain and France down to the Italian Riviera and trekking across Scandinavia to name but a few.

With eye-watering scenery often on display, put down your paperback or tablet and glance out the window. Rail and bus travel offers the chance to see a great deal more of a country’s natural landscape and to also become au fait with new-fangled words such as couchette and hauptbahnhof.

Copenhagen. Photo credit: Deposit Photos

Wow your friends with random travel anecdotes that will surely pepper your trip. Try taking the Deutsche Bahn service from Copenhagen to Hamburg where you can marvel at how a train rolls seamlessly onto a ferry. And no trip aboard a German train is truly enjoyed without eating a meal in the bistro complete with table service and cute table lamp.

Have cash, will travel

Back in the old days, travelling across Europe involved changing currencies with every new country you visited. And while there was a certain charm in collecting new notes and coins, figuring out how much things cost compared to your own money was a nightmare; 1,500 Italian lira for an espresso anyone?

Let’s face it, queuing at the currency exchange for Deutsch Marks and pesetas was a hassle. Now with a single European currency, card payments and mobile banking apps, you can spend your hard earned money with ease.

But that’s not to say there still isn’t a place for old fashioned notes and coins…in certain places. In Sweden, for example, cash is practically dead but in Switzerland it reigns supreme. Buy yourself some time by having some cash in your wallet as it will come in handy for paying for luggage lockers and even to use the toilet in some bus and train stations.

Got your adblocker on? Pause it on this page to use the Omio widget below and find the best deal:

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Planning your trip in your own currency is made easy with Omio. Users can compare prices in 15 major currencies and in 18 languages. Omio is used by 27 million users every month to help organise their travel plans.

Click here to start planning your trip

What our readers say

We reached out to The Local’s readers via Facebook to get your travel tips. Below is a selection of your comments.

“Travelling by train especially from Perpignan to Paris, passing through all the different regions, is an easy and cheap way to experience the French countryside and villages. Easy travel.” (Sue Chamberlain)

“For Americans, make sure your credit card has a chip and ask your bank for a PIN. Before you get on the train, make sure you are getting on the right part; German trains sometimes split in two. Then relax. European trains are far better than those in the US.” (Doug Urquhart)

“Pack light!! Enjoy traveling like a local, the lighter you travel, the easier everything is!” (Jill Greenlee)

“Country roads or regional trains in the south of Germany, Alps and southern” (Luis Schlappkohl)

“Don't get off the train at the wrong city.” (Tom Roelke)

The Local's Assistant Editor in France Evie Burrows-Taylor also conducted a Twitter poll on travel in France see the results below.

This article was produced by The Local Creative Studio and sponsored by Omio.

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TRAVEL

Could Oslo-Copenhagen overnight train be set for return?

A direct overnight rail service between the Norwegian and Danish capitals has not operated since 2001, but authorities in Oslo are considering its return.

Norway’s transport minister Knut Arild Hareide has asked the country’s railway authority Jernbanedirektoratet to investigate the options for opening a night rail connection between Oslo and Copenhagen.

An answer is expected by November 1st, after which the Norwegian government will decide whether to go forward with the proposal to directly link the two Nordic capitals by rail.

Jernbanedirektoratet is expected to assess a timeline for introducing the service along with costs, market and potential conflicts with other commercial services covering the route.

“I hope we’ll secure a deal. Cross-border trains are exciting, including taking a train to Malmö, Copenhagen and onwards to Europe,” Hareide told Norwegian broadcaster NRK.

The minister said he envisaged either a state-funded project or a competition awarding a contract for the route’s operation to the best bidder.

A future Oslo-Copenhagen night train rests on the forthcoming Jernbanedirektoratet report and its chances of becoming a reality are therefore unclear. But the Norwegian rail authority earlier this year published a separate report on ways in which passenger train service options from Norway to Denmark via Sweden can be improved.

“We see an increasing interest in travelling out of Norway by train,” Jernbanedirektoratet project manager  Hanne Juul said in a statement when the report was published in January.

“A customer study confirmed this impression and we therefore wish to make it simpler to take the train to destinations abroad,” Juul added.

Participants in the study said that lower prices, fewer connections and better information were among the factors that would encourage them to choose the train for a journey abroad.

Norway’s rail authority also concluded that better international cooperation would optimise cross-border rail journeys, for example by making journey and departure times fit together more efficiently.

The Femahrn connection between Denmark and Germany, currently under construction, was cited as a factor which could also boost the potential for an overland rail connection from Norway to mainland Europe.

Night trains connected Oslo to Europe via Copenhagen with several departures daily as recently as the late 1990s, but the last such night train between the two cities ran in 2001 amid dwindling demand.

That trend has begun to reverse in recent years due in part to an increasing desire among travellers to select a greener option for their journey than flying.

Earlier this summer, a new overnight train from Stockholm to Berlin began operating. That service can be boarded by Danish passengers at Høje Taastrup near Copenhagen.

READ ALSO: What you need to know about the new night train from Copenhagen to Germany

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