Multi-country holidays in Europe (based around France)
There is no doubt that France makes a wonderful holiday destination in its own right, but it is also ideally located to be incorporated in a multi-country holiday. The building of the Chunnel, the high speed rail line underneath the English Channel , means that travellers can be in Paris less than two and a half hours after leaving London. And the advent of numerous budget airlines servicing France from the UK and other European countries are another means of combining many countries in your holiday itinerary.
For lots of Australians, France is high on the wish list of places to visit but with so many other diverse and interesting countries so close, it seems a shame not to experience a little more of what Europe has to offer. Most of the international airfares from Australia allow you to fly into one city and out of a different one for no additional cost, providing the ideal opportunity for a multi-country holiday.
Traditionally, London is the starting point for Australians, particularly those visiting Europe for the first time. Perhaps it’s because of our ties to the UK or maybe it’s the fact that, as an English-speaking country, it’s a gentle way to begin a holiday that is going to include many different cultures and languages. Whatever the reason, once the sights and scenery of London and the UK have been visited, travellers flock to the continent.
Whilst the Chunnel, with its super-fast Eurostar service, has proved immensely popular since it opened in 1994, numerous ferries still cross the English Channel every day, taking passengers between England and France. Both rail and ferry services allow travellers to reach the French capital, Paris, and northern France easily, but for those heading straight to the south of the country, a flight on a budget airline may be just the ticket. Most low cost carriers fly out of London’s lesser-known airports, Gatwick, Stansted and Luton, as opposed to the extremely busy Heathrow. Ryan Air, FlyBe, BMI and EasyJet are just some of the budget airlines that service French cities including Marseille, Nice, Toulouse, Carcassonne and Beziers.
Coach tours are a popular way for first-time Europe travellers to see the continent, offering a plethora of itineraries and durations. Most commence in London and include all the famous sights in each city visited, with accommodation and some meals included in the tour price. Escorted tours offer a stress-free way to see Europe as you sit back and let your driver and tour guide get you from A to B.
Those wanting a little more flexibility with their itinerary often opt to get around by train or car. France, and indeed most of Europe, is serviced by an excellent rail service with fast trains and regular services. Whether visiting just one or two countries or half a dozen or more, rail passes offer an economical way to get from one destination to another. Single and multi-country passes are available, as are passes that allow travel on (for example) five days in two months – these are great if you plan on staying a while in one place. Eurail passes must be purchased in Australia prior to departing.
If you plan on getting off the beaten track a little, perhaps visiting towns and villages that aren’t serviced by rail, tax-free car leasing is an excellent option. Through an arrangement with the French government, French car companies Peugeot, Renault and Citroen offer non-EU residents the opportunity to lease brand new vehicles at tax-free rates. Basically you purchase a brand new vehicle which the car company agrees to ‘buy back’ at the end of your holiday. With locations in all of Europe’s major cities, one way hires are popular. Collecting a car in Paris and returning it to Rome or elsewhere in Europe is common. Tax-free leasing is only available for periods of 17 days or more and must be pre-booked and pre-paid in Australia before your departure.
So, which other countries should you visit? Of course it all depends on how much time you plan to spend in Europe and what you’d like to see. A fairly traditional itinerary starts in the UK, then includes visits to Amsterdam, Paris and rural France, Switzerland and on into Italy, taking in the lakes area in the north, Venice, Florence and Rome. If Alps and Germanic customs appeal, why not include Austria and Germany, or perhaps the newer tourist ‘hot spots’ of Croatia or Slovenia, and the ever popular Greece, are on your wish list. No matter which country or countries you decide to add to your itinerary, France is well-placed for easy access.
Article by Carolyn Schonafinger, founder of www.HolidaysToEurope.com.au, an online directory and travel service specializing in European holidays. Carolyn has travelled extensively in Europe and has first hand knowledge of the many holiday options available including coach tours, rail travel, self-drive holidays, apartment stays, camping and more. Carolyn is available to assist with your European travel plans – phone her on 03 5722 1245 or visit the website for more information.