Air might be the quickest and most convenient way to travel the world, but there are also a myriad of alternative options when it comes to travel that can not only be more planet-friendly, but might also be more fun. Jasper Baines discovers the top ways to get around that don’t involve flying.
With 4.1 billion recorded flights last year, the inexorable rise of the aviation industry has opened international travel to more people than ever before. In spite of the increasing awareness of the harmful effects that flying can have on the environment, many of us fly for both leisure and work.
There’s no doubt that air travel brings the previously impossible, the untouchable, into our grasp. Yet there are there so many beautiful places on our doorsteps that can be reached through alternative means of transport, which undermines the increasingly monomaniacal obsession of getting as far from home as possible, as quickly as one can. Whether that be soaring high among the panoramic views aboard The Glacial Express or van tripping around Cornish coves, there are heaps of fantastic alternative ways to air free travel; perfect to lower your carbon footprint, explore more local communities and avoid dreaded airport mishaps.
Dive in and find out more!
As noted most famously by Greta Thunberg, the most energy and time-efficient way to travel long distance is by rail, with rail emissions per passenger significantly lower than those of air transport. Luckily for the environmentally-conscious traveller, it’s both easy and affordable to travel by rail, with a plethora of trainlines that snake through the countryside and bisect cities. Whether that be on the Trans-Siberian railway or aboard the Hogwarts Express, few things elicit wistful wanderlust like watching the world go past you through the window.
If you’re interested in a train-based holiday, one option is the famous interrailing experience, an all-inclusive rail ticket which allows you to make train voyages in 31 different European countries, therefore opening a wide range of potential destinations, from €168. The joy of the interrail ticket is in its flexibility, at the last minute you can decide to go literally anywhere. Contrast this with the strict, infamous inflexibility of flying, and you can see why more people than ever before are enjoying rail-based holidays.
International trains are generally reliable and affordable (if booked in advance). The most famous is the Eurostar, which departs regularly from London to Paris or Brussels, but other trainlines offer fantastic discounts. Czech Railways offers Brussels-Prague tickets for €22 each way, and continental routes from Paris to locations as varied as the Basque Country or Austria for as little as €20, it’s entirely possible to be sampling pintxos and enjoying a caña within 12 hours of leaving Kings Cross St. Pancras.
These are only a few examples of the multitude of train routes to choose from, both national and international! For any train-related queries, The Man in Seat Sixty-One is a comprehensive hub with all the non-fly knowledge you need.
As I have touched upon, there’s nothing quite like the sheer, liberating joy of being behind the wheel. The unspoilt, unexplored corners that you can access and the distance you can cover in a relatively short time makes road tripping the perfect no-fly alternative. Why not consider a van trip? The problem of ownership (or lack of!) is circumvented by Yescapa – a van rental app which functions as an Air BnB for mobile homes. Simply arrive by ferry or train to your preferred destination and realise the romance of your very own van trip.
Travelling with your own vehicle is still simple, if more expensive due to the charge levied by car ferries. Yet you can always offset your costs by filling up spaces in your car. The uncomplicated mobile and desktop apps Bla Bla Car or Liftshare offer facile carpooling services which can cover your running costs, and potentially introduce you to some interesting new travelling companions!
Finally, the humblest of our modern-day travel means: the coach. Coach travel is often given harsh treatment; unfairly so if you consider both how cheap and high-quality bus services invariably tend to be nowadays. For example, with the Interflix bus pass, you can choose from a myriad of destinations in up to 24 countries, all while relaxing in reclining seats with WIFI and air conditioning. Find out every corner you can get to with the application Rome2Rio, a comprehensive search engine that offers all potential routes from A to B, making your trip as smooth as possible.
On the Seas
The original long distance-r, there’s something intoxicatingly exciting about drinking in the salt air on the deck of a ferry while cliffs creep slowly into view. Ferry links are ubiquitous in Europe, and relatively cheap if you consider the addons and extras associated with flying.
Fancy a pint of Guinness, Irish-brewed? With Virgin Trains ‘Rail and Sail’, you can get to Dublin Port (through an integrated train/ferry experience) from any trainline station that serves Virgin Trains, from just £39.00. Furthermore, children go half price, so this is a perfect and inexpensive way to explore the beauty of Ireland without flying.
If you’re craving continental vibes, ferries are an inexpensive way of reaching mainland Europe while cutting down those pesky airmiles. The Netherlands is a popular choice, and an effective staging post for onward trips towards Scandinavia and Central Europe. With daily ferries from Harwich in east Essex, it’s possible to leave early in the morning, grab the ferry and be in Amsterdam by the evening, all on an integrated Rail and Sail ticket from £55.
Another option is the classic French connection; for as little as £78 you can be sampling croissants in no time. Island hopping is a fantastic way of experiencing the unique identities of the Channel Islands, for as little as £29.
On a bike
The most energy-efficient of them all – the bike. Cycling has exploded in popularity in the UK since the glorious days of 2012. Luckily for bike enthusiasts, there are holiday agencies which are mirroring the bike boom, such as the Bike Express, which transports you and your bike to and from cycle routes of your own choosing in France and Spain in comfortable club class bus transport.
The UK also offers fantastic cycling paths, from the Lake District to Cornwall. For less hilly terrain, Holland is an amateur cyclists dream, with long, meandering cycle paths running parallel to dykes, rivers and quaint villages. It’s also very simple to bring your bike over on the ferry or if you prefer, bike rental is ubiquitous throughout Europe.
Read our guide to the best UK staycations
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If you’re planning a road trip, check out our guide to road tripping – sustainably