As I’m writing this both Franca and I are sitting in back of someone’s car, someone we’ve never met before we both threw our backpacks into the boot and jumped in to the back seats about half an hour ago.
How did we come to be in a stranger’s car travelling from our last Couchsurfing host’s apartment in Nantes to our next host in Rennes just over an hours drive away? Some of you might be thinking that it’s obvious, we’re surely hitchhiking, right?
In fact, we’re using what’s turned out to be the cheapest alternative to taking the train or bus across country, and also (as we’ve found out for ourselves), across Europe. How? We’re been carsharing with BlaBlaCar.
A Cheaper Way To Travel
Over the past few months we’ve travelled from Croatia to Germany, through Germany and on to Switzerland, Switzerland to France and from there on to Spain. Following on from that we’ve gone through Spain and now back into France and the saving we’ve made is huge, in fact, BlaBlaCar has been a budget travellers dream alternative.
During the months leading up to this we’ve used the car sharing site 13 times and for each of those, the lifts we’ve taken have been a mixture of short and long distances, cheap and almost always quicker than the alternative route via the bus or train.
The lifts of course vary a lot from ride to ride, from the size of car, the departure time and the starting and arrival points. The type of driver, however, is the greatest variable and as we’ve found you can meet people and talk with them about their local life in the country you’re in with greater ease than you might do from trying to talk with people on the street.
More Than Transportation
We tend to imagine BlaBlaCar a little like Couchsurfing; you never know who you might meet.
For example, some of our most notable lifts have been with other people who share the same desire to travel and – aside from the financial advantages – use it as a great way to learn about the world, sharing stories of their travels in times gone by or by eagerly learning about the world by listening to us rattle on about the places we’ve been over the past 18 months.
One driver from Zurich to Bern spent the entire journey eagerly telling us about his travels more than 30 years before as he attempted to hitchhike around Europe, telling us of the people he met, the situations he found himself in and of the places we should see. A viewpoint that beats any travel guide hands down.
Another was driving from Germany to Spain over the course of two days, picking up travellers on the way at pre-determined pick-up points organised through the website and the mobile app that he could easily use at rest stops along the way. Not only did he share his stories of his squeezing in as much travel as possible during his holidays, but also of his time learning to speak German back in his native Spain and sending himself to Munich to put it all into practice.
What made our experience even better and forever more memorable was his eagerness to leave us at the door of our Couchsurfing host’s house in Geneva. What happened next is a tale that can only be described as the incredible potential and hospitality of human beings.
Not only did he drop us off at our intended location, but after mentioning to our host on the phone that our lift would be heading off to find a hotel for just a few hours to sleep before heading off really early in the morning; he offered his house and couch open to him to use if he wished. Simply incredible.
There we were, all sitting down to an incredible dinner freshly made by our host, all talking about our experiences of travelling the world, the cultures we’ve seen and the fantastic people that make it so special. We ate, we laughed and we slept, but not before our BlaBlaCar driver had given us his thanks for introducing him to his first Couchsurfing experience, something he was certain he’d be doing more of from now on.
So How Much Was Saved?
For each of the lifts we’ve shared in big people carriers to the back seats of a Mini, we’ve been keeping a note of the expense we’ve had for the lift, but also the potential expense of the lift via public and private transport on the bus and train networks of each journey. The saving is staggering, and we’re really keen for you to see just how much you can save too whilst travelling on a budget around the world, or even just from one city to the next on business.
Here for your enjoyment are the finances:
note – prices are in € and for one person
|Route||Distance (km)||Bus||Train||Blablacar||SAVING (via Bus)||SAVING (via Train)|
|Siena to Ferrara||222||35||27.6||10||25||17.6|
|Zagreb to Berlin||1071||110||131||65||45||66|
|Berlin to Hamburg||289||30||59||10||20||49|
|Hamburg to Frankfurt||492||18||100||25||– 7||75|
|Cannes to Marseille||182||13||30||13.13||– 0.13||16.87|
|Marseille to Montpellier||168||25||30||13.13||11.87||16.87|
|Montpellier to Toulouse||243||30||40||17.55||12.45||22.45|
|Toulouse to Barcelona||396||40||43||26||14||17|
|Barcelona to Zaragoza||313||16||25||20||– 4||5|
|San Sebastian to Bordeaux||236||40||30||11.5||28.5||18.5|
|Bordeaux to Nantes||348||35||55||25.94||9.06||29.06|
|Nantes to Rennes||107||20||20||4||16||16|
|Rennes to Paris||354||50||60||20||30||40|
Per person, we made a huge saving against the alternative transport offered to us either by using the train or the bus. Against the bus we saved approx. €200.75 per person, or around €400 for the both of us. Car sharing against the cost of the train on the same journeys, we saved €389.35 each, or approx. €780 for the two of us travelling together. A huge saving whether you’re a budget traveller or not.
Couldn’t You Hitchhike For Less?
People have asked this of us occasionally when we explained how we got to their doorstep and the short answer is that hitchhiking isn’t what it used to be.
Whilst you can still score a lift occasionally and there is a huge community still that uses their thumb and a witty cardboard sign to catch a free ride, there are fewer people doing it than ever before as international transport becomes cheaper and people less keen to pick up a traveller from the road due to safety concerns, which we understand.
Appreciating the safety concerns, we can see why BlaBlaCar is becoming such a strong alternative to traditional public and private transport on the train or bus. Not only can you feel safe with the added advantages of a pre-arranged lift, but using the reference and review system on the website, you can just see what kind of driver you’ll be travelling with before hand. Add on to that the certainty of a ride without having to hope that you’ll be picked up, the fact that the option to car share is also quite cheap really adds to the brilliance of the service.