A Quick Guide to Transportation in Europe

Who knew traveling abroad would involve so much traveling?

Moving around has been one of the more noticeable constants taking place while living abroad. It’s been so prevalent I can almost say I’ve been living a nomadic life. I still have sedentary tendencies i.e my apartment, possessions, and friends, but cannot ignore the fact that I am always on the move. However, this type of moving around is not the type I have been used to. A month ago, I would’ve relied on my car to get me everywhere, even if it was just down the street. But here, I’ve accustomed to tapping the walking or public transportation symbols on google maps instead of the driving one. From this experience and opening myself to new methods of transportation, I have learned quite a bit about the European transportation systems. 

Planes, trains, and automobiles

For starters, gas is expensive here and now that I think of it, I’ve never actually seen a gas station. Europe has the worlds highest gas rates and as a result fewer people own or drive cars. There are still some taxis but they are rather expensive. When my friend and I first arrived, a 4-5 minute taxi drive costed us 30 Euros. We had 6 bags so that played a role in the calculation of the price, but still, that was a major shock. In general, automobiles are not that popular in Florence. The densely concentrated city center and richness of culture in the medieval roads and buildings are truly made for pedestrians and tourists. Larger cities such as Rome, Paris, and Madrid had more extensive roads and cars but that’s to be expected of such wide metropolitan cities. Overall, in all the places I’ve been to, taking a car/taxi/uber has always been the last resort.

You can probably imagine the distance traveled everyday within all these cities. It’s a lot! The health app on my phone will testify to that. However, if google maps said the destination was more than 30 minutes walking, public transportation has been the holy grail of getting around. Again, Florence has been more compact and generally allows for walking everywhere. But for special occasions that call for leaving the city center, Florence provides trams and buses to transport people around town. You can get a ticket for 1.5 Euros and it will work on any bus or tram for 90 minutes after activation. The buses stop at many main streets in the -ins of the city and wherever you are, there will always be a bus stop nearby. The tram also stops every five minutes throughout the city. For longer destinations, these are the preferable modes of transportation within Florence for their cost efficiency and convenient location. The stops can get annoying but hey, paying 1.5 euros in comparison to 30 euros for a taxi is a win.

The bigger cities I’ve been to (Rome, Paris, Madrid) have metros for in-city transportation. These are underground trams and are probably my favorite mode of transportation. There isn’t a view because you’re underground but they are so fast, reliable, and easy to use. Tickets varied by city, for example, metro tickets for Rome lasted 12 hours whereas Paris and Madrid tickets were by entrance to the platforms. The 12 hour ticket is obviously preferable but didn’t come to the expected convenience because there were less lines and stations in Rome. We only ended up using the metro once so that sums up THAT deal. I’d say Madrid and Paris definitely had more variety with public transportation that were also more accessible. There were randomly located electric scooters and bikes hanging around the cities available for rent and metro stations on every other block. Toktoks, carriages, ferrys, and bikers would also offer to take us around the main attractions offering a fun alternative to walking. These were pricer but the experience and guided tour was worth it!

Now that concludes the in-city transportation methods. Going out of the city means trains or planes. There is at least one train station in every city and woah are they big. It’s funny because we started off at the Florence train station and were amazed saying “this is like an airport”! But every new city after that really showed off and would keep surpassing our expectations. While Florence doesn’t have the best station, let me just say it’s still not your typical station. It has a Victoria’s Secret, McDonalds, pharmacy, and other shops. Others had multiple levels, beautiful architecture, and an abundance of places to eat and shop. The trains are convenient, cost efficient, and will literally take you to any city your heart desires. The Italian rail system has really made it so easy to tour the country (as long as there is not a strike going on). Ironically, there’s a strike tomorrow and a fire on one of the rails near the Florence station that delayed/cancelled many trains. 🙂 woops… Trains can also cross countries. We took a train from Paris to Florence and it was interesting. Because the train was long distance it had cabins with 6 bunk beds and a big restaurant in one of the coaches. My friend and I got separated in different cabins and the people in both our cabins spoke little English SO that’s what happened but I’m proud to say I took part in a Harry Potter-like experience.

There are also planes in Europe but you already knew that. They’re different though. I typically love going on planes but something has changed over the past month. I’m not sure if it’s European airlines, the cheap ticket, or the fact that we weren’t traveling long distances but the planes were tiny. I’m almost certain that if I were sitting outside on the wing of the plane, I would still hear and feel the same occurrences. It was definitely a painful experience; the pressure being so strong that I could feel the veins in my forehead pulsing, seeking to get out. 10/10 would not recommend, especially when you’re sick and have a stuffy nose. But, you know, you have to do what you have to do, and at the end of the day, planes are the fastest alternative. Basically, what I’m saying is you have to suck it up and appreciate the trip you are on and the city you are going to because that experience will make EVERYTHING worth it.

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