The most frugal way to travel 300 kms in Europe (when you don't own a car)

Last updated: November 13, 2015

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Three weeks ago, Mrs MP and kids went for a longer weekend from Thursday on.
I had to work until the end of the week so we looked at the options for me to join them on Saturday morning.
We hence looked for a way of transportation other than our own car (as my wife had it) to take me on a 300 kms trip from Lausanne (Switzerland) to Lyon (France).

Below are the three options we evaluated. Hopefully this little frugal experiment can make you discover some new ways of getting from A to B at the cheapest fare possible!

Option 1: Train - 50€ + local transports fares

As a Swiss common transport addict since five years (yeah yeah, it took me two years to get rid off my old French wrong habits), my first check was obviously to see train possibilities.
The lowest price I found to get to my destination was around 50€ (~ CHF 55).
A bit too expensive for a 300 kms travel.
Moreover I would have ended up in a station from which I would still have had to use a taxi cab or local public transport…

My cherished Swiss trains!

My cherished Swiss trains!

Option 2: Bus - 11€ + local transports fares

I just found out this second option while searching back prices for this article!
I’d never have thought it was possible to do a cross-border bus trip in Europe.
And if possible, I would have bet on the same fares as the train.

While googling for a price example, I stumble upon an ad that was saying “Lausanne-Lyon for 9€”. This catchy title intrigued me. I clicked and I landed on a website named “Flixbus”.
It seems it is a German company that recently joined the French market, which I learnt was already full of other long distance bus solution like Eurolines (Transdev), iDBus (SNCF), Starshipper (French cooperative) and Megabus (Stagecoach).

Long distance bus aren't reserved to you US fellows ;)

Long distance bus aren't reserved to you US fellows ;)

I checked all websites and although they all provide cross borders trips, FlixBus appeared to be the only one proposing a Lausanne-Lyon itinerary.

The one-way price: 11€ only! Honestly I couldn’t believe it at first.
But by reading The Internet I found it was true and that other people even had better deals like a trip from Lyon to the South West of France for 1 or 2€.
They normally provide USB chargers and Wi-Fi onboard for free but that last point seemed to not always work, if at all (N.B. info found on rating websites).

I will definitely keep this option in my frugal cross-borders travel list! Special thanks to you dear readers, you made me discover something today!!!

Option 3: Carpooling - 15€ all included

This was initially the reason of this blogpost: sharing my carpooling experiment.
By discussing with some family members recently, they reported to use extensively the famous (via TV ads) BlaBlaCar carpooling service.
When my wife told me the price of the train, I decided to check this frugal thing and downloaded the app.

Five minutes later I had found a guy proposing a similar trip than mine. Click. Boom. Reservation made!
Less than an hour afterwards, the guy confirmed the booking. I then got him on the phone to sync about the pick-up place. Done. 15€.

Easy, fast and frugal! BlaBlaCar FTW!!!

Easy, fast and frugal! BlaBlaCar FTW!!!

You may say that this solution is more expensive than the newly found bus one, but all in all, this carpooling is still way cheaper because I could ask the person to drop me exactly where I wanted, without having to pay any taxi or local bus to get me at my final destination - not taking into account the time lost by doing so.

Regarding the experience itself, it was really fun to discover someone new.
We discussed all the way long about our jobs, hobbies, Indian Summer colors (yeah, I know Canadian readers, I’m addicted!), etc.

He also explained me some tips and tricks about the BlaBlaCar system like for instance with the review system: the users can or cannot accept comments from other people, but they don’t have the choice about the stars’ rating.
Hence if you find someone with an average of 3 stars on 5, but without any comments, then you better think twice about carpooling with him/her as it’s very common that everyone leave comments on the platform.


In three words, I could conclude with “Sharing economy ftw!”.

I’m always surprised (and glad) to discover that what makes most sense pragmatically and ecologically, as well as what makes us most happy, is very often (if not always) the most frugal option.

Again with carpooling, for the minimum price, you get all the advantages of having your own car like deciding (almost) exactly where you want to be dropped off. You fullfill one of your most basic human need with someone who accompany you, which implies social interactions. And be sure that it’s a lot of fun too, to get to discover someone else’s life!
Also, if you get easily tired by driving on highways as I do, you have someone to talk to. That helps to not fall asleep.

For a longer distance - e.g. from Spain to Germany - you might prefer to choose the bus as it could be a cheaper option although you might loose some other advantages of carpooling.

What are your frugal travel tips for such a 300 kms distance trip?!?

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