My better half is currently hanging out in Europe, after 2 plane cancellations, 7 train journeys and a ferry, so I’ve been spending a fair amount of time online to try and help her out while our Icelandic volcano friend does its thing. I thought it might be useful to share what I’ve learned, in case it helps anyone else in a similar predicament.
1. Planes are unreliable (duh). Even now there’s no consensus as to when they’ll start flying properly again. Even if it’s this week, it’s possible that the backlog will be so great it will break the system and chaos will ensue.
2. Trains and buses are chock full but worth trying. There’s over a million displaced people around the world, so expect to stand on trains and change trains a lot, as the railways appear to be making things up as they go along. Improvising I believe is the term. They’re doing a great job actually, under impossible circumstances.
http://www.raileurope.co.uk/ - trains
http://www.interrailnet.com/ – trains
http://www.bahn.com/ – trains
http://www.eurolines.com/ – European bus
There are a number of other ways you can try and beat the system if you’re adventurous enough.
Twitter. Use the #ashtag #getmehome #roadsharing and #stranded tags to broadcast your needs to see if anyone can help out. This applies to urgent accommodation if you’re running out of money, or travel help via lifts etc.
Facebook. If you’re running a smartphone, Facebook is another place where you might be able to get help, although that’s obviously more problematical the further away you are from your home base.
Here’s a list of 9 car ride sharing services which might be able to help you move from place to place. Do be sensible about your choices though eh, just to stay safe.
Roadsharing. Nicely designed ride sharing site with a good selection of journeys clearly on offer. Links to Twitter, Facebook and RSS also make it easier to find a ride.
Compartir. Another nice clean ride sharing service, which covers all the main countries in Europe. Also gives you a breakdown of your ecological savings if you ride share, which may not be interesting if you’re just trying to get home, but is a nice touch nonetheless.
Ride4Cents. Carpooling as an unconventional means of travelling around Europe. Not such a large choice of journeys on offer here, which may reflect a German bias. You pay a contribution (or fare) for the journey.
MitFahr/RideShare. Currently only in European languages (English site coming soon), but if you can enter in city names (or use Google translate), you can use it. Has a very good selection of journeys on offer.
eRideshare. Uses a more clumsy interface, which makes it more difficult to find what you’re looking for straight off. Probably more useful for car-pool information.
Hitchhikers.org. Deceptively spartan interface, masks a great little service linking hitchers to drivers. The listings are basic and informative. Kind of the Craigslist of car sharing. Use advanced search for specific needs.
AutoStopp. Pan European ride sharing site with 10,000 plus users. Basic interface, but there’s useful journeys in there. Definitely worth checking out.
LiftShare. Not just ride sharing, but find people to share your bike, walking or taxi journey. Hear that John Cleese? Not a huge number of journeys on offer, but it’s a start.
Drive2Day. Pretty rough and ready user interface doesn’t exactly inspire confidence, and the database is not exactly teeming with journeys, but let’s add it here for the sake of completeness, OK?
Finally, AirBnB.com has a page up offering to help people out with cheaper accommodation offers if they’re stranded. It’s not hugely altruistic, you’re still paying hotel/shared room rates, but there’s a $40 discount offer for users, which is nice.
Remember also, that in real desperate circumstances, there’s always your embassy or high commission or consulate or whatever representation your country has in your location. Good luck.