Europe and Beyond
The expansion of low cost airlines in Europe has literally taken off in recent years. It is now possible to find inexpensive flights all over Europe. It is important, however, to confirm the location of the airports, as some of these companies have based themselves far outside of city centers to cut expenses; they rely on shuttle buses to connect them to the city, which can add to the cost and duration of travel. When you book a flight through a budget airline, take into account the extra expenses for bus or train transportation and perhaps an extra overnight stay. For example a 6:00am flight from Pisa will do you little good unless you plan to drive yourself or stay overnight in Pisa. The low-cost airline guide will help you find the best price to and from just about anywhere in Europe. Ryan Air flies from Perugia’s airport (look for the schedule in Piazza Italia) to London Stanstead, Brussels, Barcelona Girona, Cagliari, and Trapani.
Trains are a great way to travel around Europe; they are fast and go into the hearts of more than 30,000 destinations all over the continent. Trains are also relaxing, safe, and comfortable. Though it is not necessary, some people chose to purchase Eurail passes before arriving in Europe. This can be a good choice if you have a defined itinerary, as the Eurail ticket must be used within a certain time frame. Use the easy planner at www.ricksteves.com to decide which pass to use. Otherwise it is possible to purchase tickets online or from any of the central train stations both for local and international trains. Visit www.trenitalia.it for information on trains in Italy. For train travel in Europe, check out Rail Europe for itineraries from Italy to other countries.
Whether you love them or loathe them, buses have been running long distances between European cities for years. They are usually less expensive than a plane or train ticket, but require long hauls to reach most far away destinations. Unless you are dealing with very long distances, it is surprisingly difficult to find good bus information in Europe because many of the services are local. Remember that reservations need to be made in advance, and be sure to understand your arrival times –2am arrivals have been known to happen, when travelers were convinced it was 2pm. Look for links below for more information. These are just a couple of the bus companies that run lines across Europe:
Given that students tend to travel to as many foreign cities as possible while studying abroad, we can guess that you will be heading north, south, east and west in search of exotic new places. Remember though that arriving in Barcelona one day and leaving the next may give you bragging rights, but anything short of a three-day stay is really just passing through. Quality is better than quantity, so it’s best not to try and see all of Europe in a semester. Choose your trips wisely and give yourself ample time to explore, soak up, and enjoy your destination. And remember before you book any flights, we encourage you to make the cities in Italy your foremost destinations.
As the largest port city on the Mediterranean, Barcelona is one of Europe’s most vivacious, dynamic and quickly expanding cities. It is also home to the famous artist and architect, Gaudi, many museums containing Picasso’s works, and a Gothic center almost fully intact. When touring Barcelona, don’t miss strolling along Las Ramblas, admiring the spires of the Sagrada Familia, exploring Park Guell, or sitting down to Paella, a sumptuous seafood dish typical to the region. If anything, make sure you see the city with the red or orange hop on-hop off buses that leave from Placa Catalunya and stop at all the best sites. And of course try the tapas and Serrano ham!
The city of lights, and reputedly the most visited city in Europe, Paris lives up to its name of being the European capital of love. The symbol of everything French, this stunning capital is a noted center for fine cuisine, culture, and couture. It can be an expensive visit, especially during the high season when the locals vacate and the city becomes an international melting pot for curious tourists. Between museums, exhibits, restaurants, shows and just wandering the city streets, Paris deserves all the attention it gets.
Amsterdam has become many travelers’ favorite hangout. It is a city that thrives on juxtapositions: radically modern art installations can be found in 17th century buildings; bicycles and BMWs ride side by side; and thick beer is enjoyed in funky, alternative cafes. Amsterdam is a tranquil and pretty place with antique houses, cobbled stone alleys and tree-lined canals all contributing to its pleasant Dutch atmosphere.
How to get there: www.transavia.com, www.klm.com, low-cost airline guide
The capital of the once-most-powerful empire on the globe has become Europe’s largest melting pot and a year-round tourist destination for hundreds of thousands of travelers. Big Ben, the London Bridge, William and Kate, and the National Gallery are a few things that come to mind when picturing London, but there are also red phone booths, yoeman warders, and those famous red-suited guards. There is no off-season in the city, and very few of its attractions close or reduce their hours during the winter.
Called “The City of hundred Spires”, Prague has a stunning cityscape and was largely unscathed by the battles of WWII. Despite that, it suffered the worst floods in two centuries in 2002; now it is in good shape, and has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The town was once an old stomping ground for Kafka, Mozart, as well as Soviet tanks. Prague, in fact, was under communist leadership for more than 40 years, and has maintained that distinctly eastern European feel. The city’s exquisite medieval center is fascinating, and though it is rapidly transforming, you can still find local treasures like the many traditional pubs where pork dumplings are washed down with great Czech beer.
So much can be said about Germany’s second most popular destination, only after Berlin. It is the largest city in Germany’s southern region of Bavaria and lies at the foot of the German Alps. It makes a beautiful postcard for envious friends and family, but what Munich is most noted for is the famed Oktoberfest. Beyond its proud beer-lovers, however, Munich has a staggering array of museums, a vibrant art scene and an impressive Gothic center. Unless you’re a fan of below-freezing temps, the best time to visit Munich is late spring to early fall, keeping in mind of course that the height of summer will also be the most crowded time of year.