Best way to see Europe: Campervan Hire vs Interrail pass vs Contiki bus

Posted on 01/09/2015 by Michael Arthur

One of the hardest decisions young travellers have to make is which mode of transport to choose to see Europe. What to see, when to see it and how much to spend are are all important questions that come up when thinking about doing a Euro trip.  

Currently the 3 main options for young travellers include the train (for those who want a fixed itinerary on a fixed time frame), the bus tour (bus, guide and group. For those who want everything planned ahead) and of course the Camper (the perfect choice! Everyone should do a Euro van tour once.  If you dont know why.. we will try and convince you).

Below we have detailed a small comparison between the three options (bias aside of course). We have tried to outline the pros and cons of each. Underneath we have compared the real costs for each.




Rail is the option to choose for those who want to sit back, relax and watch Europe fly by. Interrail passes can be purchased from and covers most of the rail networks in Europe, depending on which rail pass is purchased. Eurail offer passes, but only to non-European citizens. With a fixed itinerary and structured time frame for most rail passes flexibility is not something you will get. Services run by Eurorail and Interrail cover most of Europe however it can be confusing which pass to choose from and in which time frame to use it.



* Relaxing way to travel

* Great for those train spotters out there



* Limited flexibility on itinerary

* Limited flexibility on timeframe

* Does not include accommodation

* Can be costly for longer trips

* Additional costs for night trains & busy periods.

* Most trains have to be pre booked.

* Passes such as those offered by Eurorail are only available to non EU citizens.


EUROPE BY BUS TOUR (eg: Contiki, Topdeck or Busabout)

If the train is not for your then maybe a bus tour is a better alternative. Companies such as Topdeck, Contiki and Intrepid have been running trips throughout Europe for over a decade and are popular with those seeking a pre-planned trip. They may provide a little bit more of an adventure than the train (providing you with a guide, bus and group), however you are still working with a fixed itinerary in most cases and are at the mercy of your coach and guide. Privacy and independence are also things you should expect to live without and while bus tours can be social, being stuck with the same group of people for 3 weeks in a crammed environment isn't everyone's cup of tea.



* No need to drive as your ticket pays for a driver/guide

* Opportunity to meet new travelers



* Limited flexibility on itinerary. Want to see that famous gallery that your best friend mentioned? If its not on the itinery or route chosen forget about it.

* Limited flexibility on time frame. Most companies have a strict day to day schedule meaning from the moment you wake up your day is planned. 

* No choice on your travel companions.

* Feeling you're part of the tourist trail.

* Many companies apply age restrictions.




Of course we are going to argue that a Campervan is the best option to see Europe. We can however put our money where our mouth is. No other travel option provides the flexibility of a campervan. Flexibility in terms of the what and where (where do i want to go and what do i want to see?), but also the flexibility of cooking your own meals and bringing your bed with you wherever you go. If you want to stop at the famous waterfall, visit the french guys you met in Lyon, stay a couple of nights at an old Villa, stop for a coffee or heck even stop for a toilet break, the choice is all yours. Want to make the trip social. Grab up to 3 friends and hit the road for your very own Euro van tour. 

If you are looking to travel with 4 people than a great option is to grab a 2 berth campervan and one of our camping kits. This allows you to seat and sleep 4 people. If you're on a budget (which most of us are these days) this is one of the cheapest ways to see Europe. The rental hire, petrol and even food costs can be split between 4. This allows you more money to spend on the things you really want to experience and see.



* Stop where you want

* Stop when you want

* Sleep in.. if you want. Accommodation included.

* Grab some friends and split the costs between 4.

* No need to eat out every night with your very own cooking facilities and fridge

* Ability to extend your hire if required


* None that we can think of ;)



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The following comparison is based on 2 people travelling within Europe for the month of August, for a duration of 21 days. We have looked at the outright costs for each mode of travel. Prices are per person for an individual rail pass, buss pass and campervan hire.

Specfically we have compared the Topdeck Europe uncovered (£2,025)Eurail Global Pass-Continuous (£616) and a 21 day Spaceships Alpha 2 berth hire @ £48 per day.













£1008 (£504 pp)

@ £48 Per day







£30 per day approx

Based on 17 nights & 3 overnight rail journeys


YES (Fee to upgrade)


Based on 11 nights staying at campsites @ £7.50 pp & 9 nights free camping.




£200 per person

NB: based on 2000 mile trip @ £80 per tank/400 mile range.



£20 per day approx


Most meals


£10 per day pp approx Based on 2 people sharing/using own cooking facilities