Want to take a language course in Europe without going by plane?
Monday, 7th June 2010
With so much disruption caused to air passengers this year with strikes and the volcanic ash crisis, getting abroad using other means seems a lot more appealing than previously.
Yes, it can take longer, but the peace of mind that comes with travelling by ferry or train can be worth the extra effort. In addition, travelling by land or sea can often be much more environmentally friendly, and sometimes also cheaper than going by plane to short-haul destinations. The key when it comes to getting good deals is to book as far in advance as you can, and to look for any special offers on train and ferry companies’ websites, or sites that flag up travel-related offers, such as Travel Zoo.
Anyone in the UK or Ireland wishing to do a language course somewhere in Europe has plenty of options to explore. There are lots of ferry routes to and from Great Britain and Ireland, and of course the option to take the train through the Channel Tunnel to Paris, Brussels, Lille, Avignon and soon Amsterdam and Cologne too. All of these stations are well connected to other cities in Europe, making it easy to go on to your final destination if it’s a different European city.
In actual fact, travelling to Europe can be a real adventure. If you look at the journey over as part of your whole overseas experience, it doesn’t have to be tedious or stressful. You can take the time to read a book, watch a dvd on your laptop, take in the scenery from the comfort of your chair or even brush up on your grammar and vocabulary prior to your course! If none of this appeals, then there’s always the option to book your ferry crossing or train journey overnight so that you can sleep during the journey and wake up fresh as you approach your destination.
Here are some example routes that we have put together to show the kind of options available:
Travelling from the UK to do a course in Montpellier
This journey is really quite easy and inexpensive. All you would need to do is take the Eurostar from London to Paris Gare du Nord (roughly 2 hours 20 minutes), make your way over to Gare de Lyon and get a direct train to Montpellier (around 3 hours and 20 minutes).
Travelling from the UK to do a course in Cologne
In the not-too-distant future you will be able to get a direct train from London to Cologne, but in the meantime you would need to take the Eurostar from London or Ashford to Brussels Midi station (around 2 hours), head to Brussels ‘Nord’ station and hop on a direct train to Cologne from here (about 1 hour 40 minutes in duration).
Travelling from Ireland to do a course in Brest
There are a few ferry services operating between Ireland and France, but a good option to get to Brittany would be to take the ferry from Rosslare (south east Ireland) to Roscoff (leaving at 16.00 arriving at 10.30am), and then a train from Roscoff to Brest via Morlaix (1 hour 30 minutes). A cabin for the overnight crossing would give you a decent night’s sleep, with just a short train ride to contend with at the other end.
Travelling from the UK to do a course in Frankfurt
There are good Eurostar options to get to Frankfurt, either via Paris or Brussels, but for something a little different - especially if you live in the north of England-you could take an overnight ferry from Hull to Rotterdam (11 hours), and then jump on a train (via Utrecht) to Frankfurt (4 hours in length).
Travelling from the UK to do a course in Munich
A very cost-effective way to get from London to Munich is to take the coach. Eurolines operate a service that takes 21hours and costs in the region of £30-£50 one way.
Travelling from the UK to do a course in Barcelona
Getting from London-Paris with Eurostar and then picking up an overnight train from Gare D’Austerlitz to Barcelona (11 hours 50 minutes) is a great alternative way to get to Catalunya’s capital.
Travelling from the UK to do a course in Florence
Just as with Barcelona, you can take an overnight train from Paris (Gare Bercy) to Florence, which takes around 12 hours.
Particularly useful resources if you want to plan a non-airborne trip to Europe are:
Rail Europe - an information and booking engine for all European rail routes.
Seat61.com - an award-winning website with tips on train travel all over the world - what to expect, how to book, where to find the best deals.
Direct Ferries - details of all European ferry routes, along with times, prices and booking facility.
Cactus offers language courses all over Europe at a variety of levels, and for varying lengths of time. Please visit the Cactus Language website for further information on locations, prices and how to book.