Got the travel bug? Explore Europe with our top tips
By InterRail and Lisa Hansson at Education UK, 12 February 2014
So you’ve decided to take the plunge and travel to the UK for your studies. But why stop there?
This is your chance to see a lot more of Europe. Only a small stretch of water away, you’ll find a continent with incredible diversity – from iconic landmarks to friendly villages off the beaten track.
Whether you have a weekend or a whole summer, read on for our top tips…
How to travel
From the UK, it’s easy to see more of Europe. You could rent a car and hit the open road (via the Channel Tunnel), or travel by:
Plane: There are a lot of cheap flight operators for short flights all over Europe – you can sometimes get return tickets for under £50 if you’re flexible (try early morning and mid-week flights)!
Many UK campuses have student travel agencies in the Student Union building – pop in for ideas and student discounts on trips – or try websites such as SkyScanner to compare flight prices.
Ferry: There are many daily ferries connecting the UK with destinations across Europe, including Ireland, France, Spain, Holland and Denmark. Try DirectFerries.co.uk to browse tickets.
Coach: It can take a bit longer, but travelling by coach (long-distance bus) can be a cheap and easy way to get anywhere in mainland Europe. Try Eurolines, part of the same group as the UK’s National Express.
Train: Trains are a great way to explore Europe – the high-speed Eurostar will take you direct from London to Brussels in just two hours, or to Paris in two and a half hours, and there are excellent rail links across mainland Europe.
InterRail and Eurail
If you really want to see it all, an affordable way to see lots of different countries in Europe is with InterRail – a ticket that allows you to travel by train through up to 30 European countries.
You could start your trip in romantic Paris and make your way south, via the wonders of renaissance Italy in Florence and the eternal city of Rome – and that’s only the beginning! Stroll through the old town of Lisbon in Portugal, see the northern lights in Sweden or discover the beaches of Croatia. One of the best things about living in Europe is how quickly you can travel to see the culture and landscape of a new country.
- The InterRail pass is for European students, or non-European students who have lived in Europe for longer than six months.
- The Eurail pass is for non-European students who are new to the UK.
Take a look at the InterRail and Eurail websites for more information about tickets and prices. Customer service agents are available by email or Facebook – find InterRail help here and Eurail help here.
Where to go!
Many European cities are ideal for students, with exciting nightlife, shopping and food – even if you’re on a tight budget! These are some of our favourites:
- Berlin is hip and happening, with exciting art and party scenes.
- Find some peace in Vienna, the city of music, outstanding beauty and, of course, Wiener Schnitzels.
- Soak up the sun in southwest France, where you’ll find beautiful beaches and wild mountains.
- Historic Budapest has something for everyone, from centuries-old spas to the famous Sziget musical festival.
- In Prague, be sure to visit the Charles Bridge and the majestic Pražský hrad (Prague Castle) before immersing yourself in the city’s vibrant nightlife.
- Other cities in eastern Europe, such as Krakow and Riga, are often overshadowed by more famous European sights. Get away from the tourist crowds and you’ll find affordable prices, friendly locals and beautiful historic sights.
- When you’re revitalised, move on to Copenhagen – the Danish capital has the atmosphere of a relaxed student town, with Scandinavian style, buzzing cafés and streets that were made for exploring.
Don’t worry if you don’t have a whole summer to spare. There are countless trips you could take for a week, a weekend, or even a single day – Amsterdam, for example, is only a one-hour flight from London! You could leave early, spend the morning strolling along canals across the town centre, snack on 'Poffertjes', see world-famous art at the Rijksmuseum or Van Gogh Museum, and be back in the UK for a late dinner.
There are also a lot of great destinations within the UK – see Visit England, Visit Scotland, Visit Wales and Discover Northern Ireland for ideas. See Travel in the UK for advice about transport within the UK.
If you plan in advance and do a bit of research, you will find a range of affordable options. There are many hotels and hostels where you can kick back and meet fellow travellers – this is a great opportunity to make new friends from around the world!
If you’ll be travelling over longer distances, consider overnight bus, train or ferry journeys. Most are very comfortable, and will save the cost of a night’s accommodation.
Students from within the EEA (European Economic Area) can generally visit any European country with a valid passport. If you are from outside the EEA you may need visas – look up the regulations for each of the countries you’ll be visiting. It’s never too early to check, as it can take several weeks to process each visa. You should also ensure that your passport is valid for at least six months from the end of your trip.
Europe is generally a safe place for tourists, but wherever you are in the world, it’s important to be careful.
Read the Creating confidence guide for advice about staying safe in the UK, and remember – don’t take any risks while you’re on holiday that you wouldn’t take at home. Travel with a friend or group of friends, and keep a close eye on your belongings.
If you need advice while you're travelling, look for tourist information desks in large train and bus stations – most have English-speaking staff who are happy to help you find your way around.