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How To Reach Europe
They say, soon nostalgia will be another name for Europe. A continent that has some of the most steep arcs of progress in history, one that has cradled the western civilisation, become the ground for crusades as well as Magna Carta; Europe is a delight for travellers today. In the old days, reaching Europe from Asia or anywhere else in the world was a long, tiring journey by road or sea. That’s however changed today, what with regular flights connecting all over, cutting your travel time to Europe into a couple of hours.
So if you are hunting for ways to reach Europe, here we have sectioned the modes of transport for you, designing a zone-wise guide to reach different parts of Europe.
Northern Europe (Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Iceland)
Northern Europe includes some amazing tourist hotspots like Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Iceland. The crown of Europe is called the Nordic region, transitioning seamlessly into the Arctic Circle. These countries are also known as Scandinavian countries and of boast some of the world’s highest standards of living and GDP. You will find yourself lost in the northern lights, midnight suns, Santa Claus villages, mountain hikes, saunas in the middle of nowhere and sledge rides in these countries.
Now, most Scandinavian countries are signed on the Schengen Agreement, which means that travelling between these countries is pretty easy and hassle free. However, to reach one of these countries you can avail the following modes of transport.
Flying is one of the best ways to reach Nordic countries. You have regular direct and stopover flights from Indian cities like Mumbai and Delhi to airports like Arlanda (Stockholm, Sweden), Oslo International Airport (Norway), Copenhagen Airport (Denmark) etc. Some of the regular airlines on these routes include Air India, SAS Scandinavian Airlines, Emirates etc. You can then take flights to the city of your choice by using any of Europe’s budget airlines.
Due to the Schengen Agreement, road travel through all of Scandinavia is very easy. Most borders don’t even have checks when you are traveling cross-country. You can board buses like Nettbus, Eurolines, Flixbus etc to go between countries like Poland, Estonia, Finland, Norway, Denmark etc. Russia, Germany and Austria also have regular coaches. From India, however, you don’t have any way of taking the road right up to northern Europe.
Thanks to the EU and other pacts between most European countries, train travel has become a cakewalk across the continent. You can reach the northernmost reaches of Scandinavian countries from down south in Portugal or Greece. There are Eurail trains that have special tourist passes that you can avail, other rail services like the Norwegian State Railways and some private ones also run in the Nordic region, connecting all small and big cities like Berlin, Malmo, Gothenburg, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Hamburg, Oslo etc .
Most Nordic countries boast of ports or harbours where ships, cruises and ferries dock. Sweden has ports such as Malmö, Stockholm and Gothenburg, Norway has Bodo, Bergen and Ålesund, while Finland has Helsinki and Turku. You will find ships and ferries plying to these ports from all over Europe, including Germany, UK, Iceland and Russia.
For traveling cross-country in the Nordic region, the best bet is flights. Some budget European airlines like Ryanair are quick, easy on the pocket and readily available. You can also drive from one country to another pretty easily as most borders have very light checking owing to the Schengen Agreement. While in a country or Nordic city, getting by is easy with taxis, hired cars and bikes.
Western Europe (Ireland, Scotland, England, France, Netherlands, Belgium)
The western part of Europe, with countries like Ireland, Scotland, England, France, Netherlands and Belgium, is blessed with green pastures and isles that are shockingly beautiful, mountains and passes that drain with rivers and streams, glens with meadows of flowers and a mild temperate climate to bless it all. Here’s how to reach western Europe.
The best and most convenient destination in western Europe is London. The city is basically a beacon of world domination, sitting in the southern part of UK, and shining brighter than all others. You have regular flights from India to London. You can also catch flights to Edinburgh, Dublin, Paris, Amsterdam, Brussels, Bruges, Antwerp etc, depending on where you want to go.
Travelling by road across the west of Europe is a pretty scenic way to travel. From the countryside of England to the isles of Ireland and moors of Scotland, tulip fields of Netherlands and open, meadow-winding highways of Belgium; road trips are too much fun here. There are buses and coaches run by every country and you also have the option of hiring a car with chauffeur or drive yourself.
There are quite a few rail services operating in western Europe, from the famous Eurail that goes cross country to the British Rail Network that traverses the length and breadth of the UK and the high speed Euro Star trains that are express and connect major cities like London, Paris, Amsterdam, Berlin etc. You can pick any, depending on your itinerary. Most of these train services offer special tourist passes and group discounts too.
Western Europe is very well connected by high speed trains, amazing roads and highways as well as luxury and budget airlines; so cross country travel is a cakewalk. If you are on a budget, go for the buses and check out the specially discounted Eurail passes that are available at certain time slots for certain days. Within cities like London and Paris, there are the usual hired cars, taxis, trains and buses to get around. Another great way to explore cities especially the smaller ones, is by walking or biking. Amsterdam in Netherlands is the best example of cycling in everyday life.
Central Europe (Germany, Switzerland, Austria)
Central Europe is mainly the heart of Europe, studded with tourism gems like Germany, Austria and Switzerland. The region is ripe with dark forests and alps, ice-capped hills and idyllic mountain villages. There are some amazing cities too, so transport is not an issue when traversing the region of central Europe.
You can fly into any of the major airports of Germany (Berlin-Tegel, Frankfurt, Munich, Hamburg, Dusseldorf), Austria (Vienna International Airport), or Switzerland (Geneva, Zurich). Regular direct and connecting flights ply from Mumbai, Bangalore, Delhi to these cities. Lufthansa is the most preferred airlines on these routes, followed by Air Berlin, Austrian Airlines, Air India and Jet.
The roads in all of Central Europe are well made and maintained, as is the case with the rest of the continent. Since all there countries have some or the other agreement, it is not very difficult to cross into their borders by road. You can take one of the Eurolines buses from any other major city like Budapest, Paris, London, Amsterdam etc to German, Austrian or Swiss cities. Or you can drive a car yourself. Swiss borders do have a stricter passport and visa check as compared to other neighbouring countries.
Railways are scenic and quite value for money for traversing the region of central Europe; what with regular Eurostar High speed trains and Eurail trains criss-crossing the countries. Deutsche Bahn or DB service also operates out of Germany to many countries like Austria, Switzerland, France, Denmark and Czech Republic. There are also ICE super high speed trains and EC for intercity travel. Austria has the OBB network for internal travel.
Germany has access to the North Sea hence it is quite possible to reach the country by sea. There are regular daily ferries and ships sailing to Germany from Nordic countries like Denmark, Norway etc. From Germany you have quite a few rivers flowing up and down the region to travel by water. Even so, this is not a preferred mode as land/air travel is more preferable and convenient.
The best way to get around Germany, Austria and Switzerland is by road. You can also fly between countries just as easily, or take the train. Within cities like Berlin and Geneva, where the traffic is gruff, moving around in public transport is preferable. While smaller cities are best traversed by hiring bikes.
Southern Europe (Spain, Portugal, Italy, Greece, Croatia, Andorra)
The South of Europe is a more exotic part of the continent, what with the bright Mediterranean and Aegean seas, warmer climes and a unique set of cultures extending from countries like Portugal and Spain to Croatia, Italy, Andorra and Greece. These countries are easily reached by air, though sea routes are also quite pleasant.
You have the option of flying from Indian cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad etc to Spain’s Madrid, Barcelona or Malaga. There are regular flights to Lisbon (Portugal), Athens (Greece) and Rome (Italy) from India. Dubrovnik and Pula in Croatia are also easily accessible by one-stop flights from the Indian subcontinent.
Road travel is preferred between countries like Spain, Portugal, Andorra and France as they share land borders. However, between Italy and Greece, not much road travel is possible. There are the usual bus services operating between the rest of south-European countries, and cars are also available on rent if you want to drive yourself.
Eurail is the best option to reach any of the South European countries, except for probably Greece. Spain, Portugal and Italy all have hubs for the routes of Eurail trains. Greece though has a few rail routes that connect it to some countries in Europe and Eurasia, train travel is not highly preferred.
The sea routes between all the countries, viz a viz Spain, Portugal, Italy, Greece etc are exceptionally well developed and honed. Most Mediterranean cruise ships stop at one of every country’s port, depending on their itinerary. Some important ports for ferry and ship transport include Venice, Sicily, Athens, Lisbon etc.
For countries like Spain, Portugal and Italy the best way to get around in a city is by hiring cars or hailing cabs. While in Greece, Athens follows suit, but smaller islands and towns are best explored on foot. The same goes for the Naples region of Italy and other smaller, quainter places. In fact, exploring on foot or by hired bicycles is a better experience than in cars when traipsing small towns in any European country.
Eastern Europe (Hungary, Czech Republic, Poland, Russia, Ukraine, Slovakia)
If you’ve always wondered over the elusive term of ‘Eastern Europe’ and what it encompasses then here it is - geographically this region is not demarcated but it does make for the Slavic region of Europe and merges seamlessly into Russia. Some important countries in this region, from tourism perspective, include Hungary, Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia; and Russia and Ukraine too. So how do you reach Eastern Europe?
The best bet is to fly into the capital cities of East-European countries; like Budapest (Hungary), Prague (Czech Republic), Moscow (Russia), Kyiv (Ukraine) etc. Mostly one-stop flights ply from India to Eastern Europe and when travelling internally, you can go for low cost airlines like Germanwings, Airberlin, Ryanair etc.
Eastern Europe is a cold region, very difficult to traverse in winters. As you go north, the traveling in winter goes bleaker. However, summers being the best season to visit, road travel in this season is obviously quite pleasant. And since most countries on this list have one or the other agreement with the neighbouring lands, there is minimal checking. Bus operators like Volunbusz and Orangeways have services from Hungary to Germany, Russia, Czech Republic, Austria etc. Eurolines and Flixbus also run services.
Train travel between destinations like Hungary, Czech Republic, Romania, Croatia, Slovakia, Serbia etc is very comfortable and a good way to enjoy the landscape of the region. Trains are also quite cheap, so budget travellers must opt for this mode. You will find high speed trains connecting major cities like Prague, Berlin, Hamburg, Budapest etc.
Countries like Hungary and Czech Republic are pretty small in size, so one corner to another is not more than a couple of hours by train. Hence instead of flights, road and railways are a better fit for going cross country. For cities and towns, the public transport is well developed in the form of trains, trams and buses; Ubers and cabs are also available in most cities. Hitchhiking is not advised.