Getting to Europe is easy. There are many airports in all parts of Europe that can be reached with direct flights from overseas. But of course, if you take the longhaul flight to Europe, you usually don’t want to spend your precious vacation time exclusively near an international airport. Thus, the options to connect to the destination you really want to go to is one of the most important factors in choosing the hub you fly into, if you plan your European vacations yourself.
Many of the European hubs have their specific advantages:
- Amsterdam: Good intercontinental access, but somewhat limited in transfers outside of Western Europe.
- Frankfurt: Located in the center of Germany, Frankfurt is a busy hub with good connections to continue to many destinations particularly in Western and Central Europe. It is complemented by Munich, which has grown to offer about the same variety of connections.
- Istanbul: The brand new airport is heavily subsidized by the Turkish government and the national airline has an abundance of flights connecting overseas travelers to various European destinations.
- London: Excellent connections particularly to and from North America and within Great Britain. However, many European destinations you may want to transfer to may be offered from another of the four area airports around the city, often requiring complicated transfers between airports.
- Paris: There are two major airports in Paris and transferring between them is not really an option due to the distance and the heavy Paris traffic between them.
- Vienna: The Austrian hub traditionally has a great number of connections to Central and Eastern European destinations.
The above list has only a few of the options available to overseas travelers. If you travel from Africa, Asia or America, there are usually more airports available with direct connections.
Once you have arrived on European soil, there are various options available to travel on to and between places.
Distances between places are usually shorter here than what American visitors are accustomed to and airports are often far away from city centers, so air travel may not always be the best option. The big three of the airline alliances, Skyteam, Oneworld and Star Alliance, all offer European air passes. These passes allow you to purchase up to ten coupons for travel within Europe. However, these passes do not always mean they are are cheapest option out there, so if you travel on a budget, rate comparisons are often helpful.
Recent years have seen the arrival of long-distance bus lines; something that hasn’t been too common before. Today, Western and Central Europe have an acceptable network of coach lines and there are also a number of connections to large cities in Eastern Europe. Coach travel isn’t exactly the most comfortable travel option out there, but for many city pairs you want to connect between, they are a good alternative if you travel on a budget.
Travelling by car is most common in most European countries. Rental cars are available everywhere and there are many options and categories to choose from. European cars tend to be smaller than those in America and since streets are often narrower and parking lots are smaller, you will be thankful that they are. The road system is extensive and very well usable throughout all of Western and Central Europe. But be aware that in Eastern Europe outside of large cities, roads may sometimes be in less than optimal conditions. Also, if you rent a car, please ask specifically whether crossing borders is permitted. Several rental car companies will not allow their vehicles to be driven into some Eastern European countries.
Throughout Western and Central Europe, train travel is often the best-fitting options to move from one place to the other. There are many different options to choose from, from high-speed connections to regional trains that will bring you even to remote places. While there is no pan-European rail network, each country’s railway will most often seamlessly connect with neighboring countries and there are a lot of border-crossing connections available. Also, most European national rail companies cooperate closely enough, so they will in most cases be able to get you tickets to final destinations in other countries than the one you start in.
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