… instead of in the air.
Here are some stories of our members, travelling by alternative travel means instead of taking the airplane. Get inspired and do the same: stay grounded!
Tübingen – York
„I was in Plymouth, UK for my ERASMUS semester and also travelled by train at that time (another advantage: you can take as much luggage with you as you like!). As I really found this way of travelling very pleasant, I decided to take the train also when I travelled to the UK again last Februrary to do a lab visit at the University of York.
Tübingen – Stuttgart – Paris – London – York
The train route is really convenient. Except from Stuttgart I only had to change trains in Paris and London with enough transfer time each. In Paris I also had to change train stations, which was a 10 minute walk (well sign posted!). In Paris I got on the Eurostar to London. Before you can get on board, you have to go through a control similar to the one at the airport (but less strict). For the train through France and the Eurostar you need a reservation. On my outward journey, I booked the reservation via the Deutsche Bahn office in Tübingen and on the way back via the „Rail Planner“ app. In addition to the Interrail ticket, there was a total of 80 € for the reservation. Everything worked out perfectly and I would do it again! You always meet nice people and in my experience, the international long distance trains are much more punctual than the trains in Germany. The one-way journey takes 11 hours, so I only needed two days of the Interrail ticket for outward and return journey. One day was left over to make a trip in the UK. I also liked the fact that I could handle my return time completely flexible. Therefore I was able to decide in the morning to go home a day earlier because the weather was bad.“
Tübingen-Sofia by train/bus/ride-share
„When I had a paper accepted for the 13th Pan-European Conference on International Relations, I wondered whether it would be feasible to attend the conference whilst staying on the ground. After all, Sofia/Bulgaria is almost 1600km from Tübingen, and it soon became clear that the journey would take several days. But with a bit of planning, it turned out to be not only a smooth, but also a very enjoyable (and very recommendable!) experience. I made this journey together with a fellow PhD student and another friend of hers which made the experience even nicer.
First, we traveled from Tübingen to Munich, by regular RE and IC train. From Munich, an ÖBB night train took us to Zagreb, where we had time for breakfast and a quick look around before meeting the driver of our Blablacar ride-share to Belgrade. If we hadn’t found a ride-share, there would also have been a direct train from Zagreb to Belgrade, but traveling by car reduced the journey time by half and meant we had the entire afternoon to enjoy Belgrade. We spent the night in Belgrade, staying in a modest accomodation and treating ourselves to a celebratory dinner. The next morning, we took the direct train to Sofia (daily during the summer months), where we arrived in the evening.Costs
All in all, our mode of travel was not necessarily more expensive than an air journey would have been. We paid roughly 140 Euro for transport from Tübingen to Sofia, plus 13,50 Euro each for the accomodation in Belgrade.
Advice for fellow travellers
1. Seat61.com is a fantastic resource for planning international train travel. Also, bahn.de provides timetabling for trains all over Europe, even when the journey does not originate in or cross Germany, and even when national tourist offices and similar entities do not know about a train connection (which came in handy in Belgrade). For booking (and finding) night trains, the Austrian train company’s website oebb.at was of great help.
2. Belgrade Central Station is currently being “remodeled”. There are very few (international) train connections from Belgrade, and the majority of them – including the train to Sofia – leave from Belgrade Topcider Station, a tiny station in the outskirts of the city. The tourist office may not know about this train, but don’t let them deter you. To get to Topcider Station, take Tram 3 from the centre.
3. Advance booking can get you really cheap tickets. The night train from Munich to Zagreb cost us 70 Euro for a ticket in a four-berth compartment (and there was even a cheaper option for a compartment shared by six), and the night train from Bucarest to Budapest only 59 Euro (for a “real” bed in a three-bed compartment). ÖBB night trains can be booked via nightjet.com. Romanian trains, including night trains, can be booked in English and using an international credit card via www.cfrcalatori.ro/en/ – but beware that you must pick up the ticket in person in Romania, so this is only viable if your international train journey starts there, not if Romania is your final destination.
4. Blablacar ride-shares are a common, safe and cheap mode of travel in Southeast Europe and can be booked via www.blablacar.de. We paid 20 Euro each for the ride from Zagreb to Belgrade and got interesting conversations with our driver for free. The only downside is that ride-shares are usually only offered a few days in advance, so it is advisable to have a back-up plan. (With special thanks to the Croatian friend who told us about Blablacar!)
5. Making the most of it: our slow way of traveling was not only relaxing and full of new impressions – we had never been to Belgrade, Sofia or Bucarest – but it also provided us with a lot of time to get work done, especially to read papers and monographs. This meant that although the journey took longer than a plane journey would have, it wasn’t time lost, but actually time gained for focused reading.“
„My girlfriend and I took the bus to Budweis, were we’ve visited the local brewery. Afterwards we did a bike tour to Prague (~1 week). It experiences a beautiful landscape while we were cyceling next to the Donau. Also, since we always had our bikes with us, we were very flexible, saw countless small villages, interacted easily with local citizens. Furthermore, since we were traveling rather slow, we had more time to really experience the czech country with all of its beauty. I can highly recommend this trip, since it was rather cheap and much more exciting that just traveling from one city to another by plane for example.“