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Inspiration > Ideas > Independent Touring

fly drive, inter rail, coach tours

This type of travelling is generally for those who like to tour in reasonable comfort but don't want to be shepherded around by a guide. We've all seen the coach-loads of tourists who hop off, take photos, then hop back on and promptly move to the next attraction. Some people like fixed itineraries and being told what to do, while others prefer to enjoy the sights at their own pace and have the flexibility to go wherever they please, whenever they please. Independent touring combines the flexibility of backpacking with the comfort of organised coach and rail tours. The method of travel may be by car, train, coach or campervan.

Fly-Drive

Touring by car might involve taking your own car across the channel by ferry or Channel Tunnel to France and beyond. However, taking your own car is not practical for holidays further afield - you will need to fly to your starting point and hire a car from there. This is known as a fly-drive holiday, and is offered as a flights + car hire package from online agents such as Opodo, Expedia, ebookers or Last Minute and can work out as better value than buying them separately. However, if you have the time to do a little more research, it can be worthwhile searching for your flights and car hire separately - for example, Holiday Autos usually offers car hire cheaper than the bigger, internationally renowned companies used in package deals because they use local companies in the destination country. Read more and see our list of car hire companies here.

Inter-Railing

As a flexible and budget alternative to organised rail tours, inter-railing makes use of the rail network to move about a country or continent at your own pace. Popular with backpackers in Europe, it usually involves buying a rail pass that gives you unlimited train journeys within any number of countries. You're free to choose where and when you travel, and it becomes more cost-effective the more journeys you make. It can be cheap and quite fun taking a long distance overnighter if it fits your plans - you save money on accommodation and save time by waking up at your destination. However, you will almost certainly have to pay extra for a sleeper carriage (a bed in a shared compartment). There may also be additional fees on certain 'premium' services such as the French high-speed TGV. Generally, though, it's a great way to get about in relative comfort with total flexibility (unlike organised tours, you get to choose the standard of accommodation to suit your budget). You could use inter-railing as a way of avoiding flying, if you take a ferry or the Eurostar onto the continent where your inter-rail pass will become valid (assuming you get one that covers France or Belgium).

You can buy an inter-rail pass very easily over the internet, from Rail Europe.

Independent Coach Touring

This is basically the same as inter-railing, but using coaches instead of trains. It's a coach tour without the accommodation and fixed itinerary. You can hop on and hop off as you please and make up your route as you go along. The drivers may act as guides too, giving some commentary on the journey and perhaps also helping you to book accommodation and activities at your destination. Like inter-railing, you buy a pass that covers multiple journeys and it works out pretty cheap. And you're not limited to Europe - Oz/Kiwi/Fiji Experience is a network of scheduled coach journeys in Australia/New Zealand/Fiji respectively. You buy a route with a start and finish point but with the flexibility to stop off any number of times along the way. Their fun drivers and detours via tourist attractions appeal to the young backpacker market, but there are alternatives for those who prefer a standard point-to-point service. However, the latter would be public transport that is not specifically intended for tourists and therefore may not serve all places of interest, so carefully check their routes before booking. Although not designed for travellers, these companies may offer deals and passes for tourists, which often work out a good deal so do look out for them. What's on offer and how it works varies between companies, so you'll need to do some research, but to start you off, here are some of the main coach companies around the world, with national networks that can get you about...

You can buy coach passes very easily over the internet from Eurolines or Busabout.

Touring by Campervan

You don't need to be a hippie or a backpacker to travel around in a campervan. It's particularly popular in some countries such as Australia, New Zealand and the USA. Why? Because it allows you the ultimate in flexibility and fairly cheaply too. Drive wherever you like and overnight wherever you like. There's no need to book or find accommodation, which saves time, hassle and money. Furthermore, you can self-cater on board, saving even more money. On the other hand, you'll have to fork out for the rental of the van in the first place. Some backpackers, particularly in Australia, actually buy a campervan on arrival and sell it just before flying out - this is fine for long stays, if you have time to buy and sell, and if you don't mind the risk of it breaking down in the middle of nowhere with no support. If that isn't for you, fortunately there are companies that can rent you one. Some of these are listed below, but if you can recommend others to us, please get in touch, thanks.