Studies prove it: traveling by plane or car has a much greater impact on the environment than other modes of transport. “A round trip per person Paris-Venice consumes 540 kg of CO2 in a thermal car, 456 kg by plane and 20 kg by train, i.e. 23 times more by plane than by train”immediately quotes Ophélie Cohen, referring to figures from the Greentripper association.
This young quadra runs Viatao, the publishing house of the TAO* travel guides, which have specialized in sustainable tourism for fifteen years. Based in Morbihan, it has just published the very first ethical and ecological guide devoted to Europe. It lists 1,300 eco-responsible addresses in 10 countries, unearthed by local authors, and practical and economical information for getting around without a plane or a car in each country. And the alternatives abound. Here are a few.
The train, the greenest
1,000 km by TGV means emitting 74 times less CO2 per person than by plane, according to Ademe. It is also the safest and fastest mode of ground transportation. “Amsterdam, Geneva, Brussels or London can be reached by train in a few hours from Paris. You are in Madrid in 9 hours via Barcelona. Same for going to Berlin by connecting in Frankfurt », points out Ophelia Cohen. And for Greece? You can take the TGV Inoui Paris-Milan (7h) then the train to Bari (7h to 9h) in the south of Italy, with a possible stopover in Ancona, then direction Corfu with the ferry.
A bit long, right? “It’s not about making the trip in one go, but about getting back to the very essence of travel, that of taking your time, taking advantage of stopovers, encouraging encounters” defends the director of Viatao.
To avoid blowing your budget, Ophélie Cohen recommends booking your journeys in advance, thinking about SNCF flash sales, free tickets for 18-year-olds to win on DiscoverEU, going through resale sites such as Trocdestrains.com or Passetonbillet.fr. “Use the Interrail Pass. This ticket allows you to travel on most European trains and some ferries in 33 countries, with a discount on purchase for those under 27, and valid for 4 days to 3 months.. To be ordered on Interrail.eu.
And why not travel by night train?“You save one night in a hotel and reduce your carbon footprint even more than by using the TGV”, argues Ophelia Cohen. Prices vary according to comfort. From 30 to 90 euros for the Nightjet Paris-Vienna. Good to know: the SNCF plans to open the Paris-Berlin at the end of December and Midnight Trains will connect Paris to more than ten European cities (Barcelona, Rome, Copenhagen, Porto, Madrid, Venice, etc.) from 2024.
The bus, the most economical collective
This transport is ideal for small budgets and the greenest after the train. “The European bus network is very well developed. And stops are frequent to buy food and drink. You can also travel at night. It may seem long, but when you sleep, you don’t see the time passing.supports Ophelia Cohen.
The Flixbus company, leader in Europe, offers connections between Paris and nearly 350 cities. More than a hundred from Lyon, Marseille or Lille. Allow 16 hours for a Paris-Barcelona trip, 12 to 2 p.m. for a Paris-Milan. Also consider other service providers such as BlablaCar Bus and Alsa, for Spain and Portugal. “The easiest way to find your route and book your tickets is still to go through a coach ticket comparator like Comparabus, CheckMyBus or Tictactrip”.
Carpooling and hitchhiking, the most user-friendly
These two means of transport allow you to meet locals, save money and reduce your carbon footprint. Spontaneously, of course, we think of BlablaCar for carpooling, present in around twenty countries. Count between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. for a Paris-Porto, 3 hours for a Grenoble-Turin, 7 hours for a Lyon-Bologna.
For hitchhiking, its practice varies according to the country. “Fairly easy in Western and Northern Europe, more difficult in Southern Europe” indicates the guide* which advises to get information on Hitchwiki.org. This collaborative site for “thumbs” also offers a section dedicated to hitchhikers.
The ferry and the sailboat, the most nautical
The ferry is far from being an ecological transport, but it is often the only alternative to the plane to go to European destinations such as Great Britain, Ireland, Sardinia, the Balearic Islands, Norway… “It is even possible to reach Iceland, with a stop in the Faroe Islands, departing from Denmark (count 1 day and a half), with Smyril Line” indicates the guide*. Preferably book your ticket via a comparator such as DirectFerries, Aferry or Ferryonlines.
For a trip by sailboat, try the boat-hitchhiking (or cobaturage). It’s about finding a captain who agrees to welcome you on board in exchange for your help. “It’s not always easy and it takes time and perseverance” warns Ophelia Cohen. And to quote stock exchange sites for team members: Findacrew, VogAvecMoi or Stw.fr/fr/bourse.
And also : cycling, on foot, canoeing, kayaking, stand up paddle, donkey, horse, rollerblading, scooter, Nordic walking…