When planning self-guided travel, there are many options for getting from A to B. But how to choose? As for selecting your luggage, there are some guiding principles to consider. This time, it all comes down to your time and money budget, and the amount of countryside you want to see…
Taking the plane is usually (but not always) the fastest option. And usually (but not always) the most expensive. The moral here is, don’t just automatically assume that the plane is the best option!
Plane travel is ideal when are you wanting to move from place to place as quickly and easily as possible without paying attention to what lies between. It’s ideal for a city-hopping tour or, obviously, for those long-haul distances that would take months by other methods of travel. Whilst the bird’s eye views can be incredibly beautiful, it’s not ideal if you are wanting to explore the countryside!
Tip: Before booking a flight between nearby cities, ensure that you check it against taking a train. Include the time and cost of travelling to the airport (which is usually a fair way out of the city) as opposed to the station (which is usually in the centre) and the time taken to check-in to the flight when making your comparison.
The train is probably the most variable option when it comes to speed and cost. It can be mighty fast and mighty expensive (Europe is the master of this) or relatively slow and usually relatively cheap.
When given the choice of a long-haul train versus a long-haul bus, choose the train every time! The primary benefit of the train is the ability to stand up and stretch your legs, and have a walk around for a change of scenery. You will usually have great views of the scenery outside too.
Tip: If you score a snorer in the seat next to you, remember there is usually a place to go hang out in the dining car or maybe a spare seat in another, non-snore-infested carriage.
The bus is always an interesting travel option, especially in less-developed parts of the world. There are few better(?) ways to get up close and personal with the locals than being squeezed in amongst them like the proverbial sardine as the bus wends its merry way along not necessarily the shortest route to the next town.
The biggest drawbacks of the bus are its reliance on the general flow (or un-flow) of traffic and the lack of ability to get up and move around. If you are taking express buses, you will sometimes find the scenery department a little lacking (freeways don’t always pass through the most beautiful parts of the country), but it usually wins hands down on cost.
Tip: Night bus trips, while they always seem like a good idea at the time you book them, are usually nothing short of a nightmare!
The car comes into its own in the mobility and taking-in-the-scenery stakes. Far from ideal in cities, it is the ultimate accessory in rural travel, allowing access to more remote locations that aren’t accessible using other methods of transport. And for all you photo addicts out there… Yes, you can stop for photos whenever you please!
The primary benefits of a car are that you can go where you want when you want (traffic permitting) and you only have to put up with the body odours of those whom you choose to be in the car with you. Fuel is becoming increasingly expensive and car hire prices are often beyond the realms of reasonable, so it isn’t necessarily the cheapest option, but it definitely gives great options in terms of mobility. Unless there are oceans involved. Then you might want to consider making another choice.
Tip: If you need a GPS, it is often cheaper to buy one outright than to hire it at the extortionate prices charged by the car hire companies.
Let’s just make it clear. Ocean cruises are not a form of self guided travel. In fact, given the limited time they usually allow in each passing city, they can barely be considered travel at all!
Boats are great if you want to get across a body of water (d’uh) and take your car along with you for the adventure. And they are often necessary if you want to include a trip out from the mainland to some off-shore islands. An overnight ferry can also be an option over longer distances and, like with the train, you have the benefit of being able to get up and stretch your legs.
Tip: Beware of sea sickness! Even short journeys over rough waters can cause issues for those more prone to this malady. If you know you are likely to suffer, be prepared with anti-sea sickness medication to save yourself and those around you!