Is Ryanair The New Eurail Pass?

Ryanair is Cheaper than Eurail
Courtesy of kevinpoh of flickr

When traveling through Europe most people are excited to travel by train.  The cabin’s size allows you to walk and stretch and even the smallest European towns have a train station, which makes things easy. And for Americans trains are a romantic European novelty.  Many travelers purchase a “Eurail Pass” which is an unlimited train pass.

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Eurail is Expensive and Not the Best Option

Eurail is for the most part an out-of-date way to travel except if you are planning to travel very frequently over short distances during your trip to Europe.  As idealistic and quaint as train travel sounds, they can be very expensive.

If you’re on a tight schedule (as most people are) flying will decrease your transit time, increase your vacation time, and leave you with more cash in your pocket.  Additionally, if you want to explore several different regions that are far apart (think: London to Brno, Czech Republic) Ryanair will be your best bet.

Ryanair Explained

Hands down Ryanair has the lowest airfares in Europe.  Although you will save money, you may have to deal with a few unpleasantries.  Being prepared for this will make these nuisances null-and-void.

Consider Flying Ryanair to Save Cash
Consider Flying Ryanair to Save Cash

Ryanair’s customer service is sub-par at best.  (Be ready for this especially of you’re from the States.)  But if you plan your trip well, you’ll probably never have to talk to them.  The seats have little legroom and are not as comfortable as those found on inter-continental jets, but in Europe things are generally smaller so no surprise here.  If you are travelling light (which we suggest anyway) then Ryanair will be a perfect fit.  There are extra charges (and steep ones, the cost of a checked bag could be as much or more than the ticket) for: ALL checked bags, extra carry on bags, food, water, seat reservations, and any other amenity.

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One reason why Ryanair has such low airfares is that they often times use second-tier airports, which are not popular with large airlines (think United, Lufthansa, etc.).  However, these airports have buses and trains that will take you to city centers and even first tier airports (like London Heathrow). So there will be no problem getting to where you want to go.

Sample Ryanair Month in Europe

Ryanair for Cheap Flights in Europe
Courtesy of “Paolo Margari” on flickr

If you are planning a trip to Europe and have considered buying a “Eurail Pass” then you are probably going for at least a month.  We certainly recommend a month trip, as this will allow you to sample a variety of European countries.  In our example itinerary, you could spend 33 days and party it up in an eclectic mix of beautiful Euro-capitals.

Let’s say you want to visit the following cities during your trip: London, England; Madrid, Spain; Rome, Italy; Budapest, Hungary; Brussels, Belgium.  You would initially book your ticket from your home airport to fly into London and then fly out of Brussels back home.

At the time of writing your flights between these capitals would set you back a measly $166 dollars and a total of 8.5 hours in the air.  To do this with a “Eurail Pass” you would pay around $600!!!  This painful price tag is only part of the problem given all the valuable time that you would waste sitting on a train.  For example London to Madrid would include at least two train connections and around 15 hours of travel! Just think about how many hours you have worked to save up to go on this awesome trip; Ryanair is clearly the best option for any savvy traveller.

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Be aware, however, that it will be important to book your Ryanair flight early.  If possible, book the flights when you book your main flight to Europe and it will be smooth sailing (or flying!) from there.  Playing it smart by using great travel hacks and you’ll get to see a great and diverse selection of European destinations while savings hundreds of dollars … not to mention many, many precious hours.

Here is an example itinerary we found to get around Europe on Ryanair:

  1. Start your trip in London (stay in London August 29th – September 3rd)
  2. Fly London>Madrid (September 3rd – $50 – 2.5 hour flight)
  3. Fly Madrid>Rome (September 11th – $50 – 2:15 flight)
  4. Fly Rome>Budapest (September 14th – $38 – 1:40 flight)
  5. Fly Budapest>Brussels (September 23rd – $28 – 2 hour flight)
  6. End your trip in Brussels on September 30th and fly home.

(All prices include taxes, but must be booked well in advance. Prices change all the time, so YMMV, literally.)

Have fun and travel safe.

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