In case you don’t know me, I live in Estonia, a tiny country of 1 million and 300 thousands of people, in northern Europe, near Finland, Sweden, Lithuania, in this middle. I moved here especially because of the opportunity to travel through Europe more easily and because it is a country where the English language is very widespread, so I would not have much difficulty. And at this moment I’ve been here for 4 years!
Except at this lock-down moment, usually there are a lot of people backpacking and traveling in different styles around Europe. In order to cover traveling styles, today I’m going to talk about the main transportation found here in Europe, so maybe I can help travelers to plan their trips the best.
Let’s start with the trains.
You may have heard of trains in Europe, right? And really, there are a lot of routes that connect capitals from different countries. Just like buses, and this is an advantage of trains and buses compared to airplanes: it is possible to and board in and out at different cities and villages along the way.
There are tons of train and bus routes available on the web that you can check out!
Generally the train is a good option for medium distance journeys, for example to do a trip reaching up to 1000km and at least for a week. Or also because there might not be an airport to wherever you wanna go.
Train is a good option to stop along the way while traveling a longer distance, for example, mapping 1000km with stops on the way. When my sister and I did a half marathon in Italy we were in Milan, northern Italy, close to where the race was and after the race we set up the following train route of 720km in total:
Milan to Venice: 245km
Venice to Florence: 225km
Florence to Rome: 250km
And also a friend of ours who lived in Dublin, Ireland met us in the middle of the trip and still participated in the race! It was awesome! Running and traveling is such a great combination! Plus, we have time to plan and get ready for it! Set the date of the race, arrange the vacation, start a training plan, in other words: everything can be organized ahead!
The ticket purchase for the journey. It is important that it is done when we are already in the city, for example when my sister and I were in Milan we didn’t buy the train tickets for the second route which was Venice to Florence. Because LOTS of things can happen: miss the train for some reason, decide to stay in the city a bit longer. Usually there are trains every 2h, 4h, 10h, so buying the ticket too much ahead might not be a good idea.
Once I had an air ticket from Riga (capital of Latvia) to Frankfurt in Germany while I was still in Tallinn I bought the train ticket from Frankfurt to Würzburg which was where I needed to go after arriving in Frankfurt, further south of Germany, and which I would have a race by the way. However, my flight in Riga was canceled! Canceled! I missed the train ticket in Frankfurt and the race… Since then, I only buy up to one day’s early train ticket and when I’m already in the city of origin.
Seats. The trains have the seat number on the proper ticket and looking at the wagons from the outside of the train many times it shows the range of seats per wagon. But don’t worry about finding your seat outside of the train, get on the train right away and walk inside through the wagons connections, even while the train is already moving. It reminded me of this situation which happened to my sister and I on this same running trip abroad in Italy… Listen to this.
On the route from Florence to Rome we were standing outside the train holding our tickets and looking for which wagon our seats were. And it was very confusing. We kinda spent some time trying to figure it out which wagon to enter, when suddenly the train honked meaning “I am leaving” while we were still outside with our tickets in hand and desperate!
My sister screamed, “Hey! We don’t have seats! We don’t have seats! ”
Hahahaha… The guard who was at the door of the train scanning tickets signed for us to come in from there. We ran and jumped in, he scanned our tickets and pointed the direction saying:
“It’s over there, just walk from the inside.”
It is like, so obvious, but sometimes we just get stuck but an unfamiliar situation, and that’s one of the beauties of traveling, we expand, we learn, we experience, it is a life school. And so the train was already in motion while we were passing by the other passengers and looking for our seats. Eventually there they were, empty and waiting for us.
So as a review, when waiting for the train make sure you are on the right platform, confirm the train destination which says on the monitor and usually on the front of the train as well. Once the train is there don’t waste time looking for the seats from the outside of the wagon, get in, scan your ticket or wait for the guard to scan it, while you find your proper seat. It might sound like a cliche but, you never know…
We did this backpack in Italy after the half marathon in Stresa, by the Swiss Alps, a beautiful and amazing race. Once done with our running challenge, we were ready to explore, to walk all day, sleep late, eat the local food, try different dishes, have fun and enjoy our vacation. And that’s what I recommend, to arrive a couple of days before the race, concentrate on it, and after the race, start to tour around. We then headed from Milan to Venice, then to Florence and to Rome. Everything by train, staying at hostels, getting lost at Venice streets, eating tons of pizza and carbonara pasta, trying to communicate in Italian somehow and having a blast of an experience.
Now if we look a bit north of Europe, such as from Estonia, currently the main transportation option is by bus, there are not yet railroads. So still, just take buses to explore countries like Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Czech Republic, Slovakia. The buses are super safe and comfortable with individual TV with lots of movies available, including many times coffee machines, with cappuccino and hot chocolate available for free.
You can buy train and bus tickets online or at the central station from where you will depart from using cash, a debit or credit card. You can also buy it from the ticket machines yourself, which are spread in the central station, just be sure to select the correct route!
The geographical location is already a way to establish which transportation to take: train or bus. It will depend on the region, the countries, the distance, the time frame available. It is also possible to merge, for example, a train route from Germany to Poland then a bus to Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia and then a train to Russia, St Petersburg. Imagine? With stops on each one of these countries? I should do that…
Airplanes! It has a lot of airplane options too, and good prices. I already bought an airplane ticket from:
Tallinn to Dublin in Ireland for 65EUR
To Berlin for 80 EUR
To Malta for 110 EUR
And the winner so far: to Oslo in Norway for 25EUR
But for me it only pays off when it’s really far so I would get there faster. For the bus, train and airplane we can research the ticket prices beforehand and also decide taking this into account.
And ship! This is another great option to get around and take routes between coastal cities, for example, to go from here Tallinn to Helsinki in Finland, or to Stockholm in Sweden, or to route south to Lithuania, Denmark, Germany for example. The ships are super cool like a mini cruise and with the same price range as bus, train and airplane! It is worth trying one of the routes on a ship, it is amazing!
So getting around Europe, by train, bus, airplane, ship, is a heck of an experience.
Of course you can always rent a car or a motorhome and drive on your own, but that will be a topic for another video!
If you are going to travel in Europe, remember and try to combine these 4 transportation: train, bus, airplane and ship.
Ah! One trip which I have mapped but not done yet is this one: take the ship from Tallinn to Stockholm with our bikes, take the bus to south of Sweden and cross the border to Denmark, get off on the first city stop and cycle to Copenhagen which is about 50km. Imagine? I already looked for bike accessories to use and carry our stuff, oh it would be amazing!
All right, this is it for now. I hope I could add some information for you to use on your next race abroad!
If you have any comments please write it below or send me a msg on facebook or instagram, I will be happy to hear from you and reply.
Thank you and I will catch up soon 🙂
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