Author: Ana Alibegova
Regular trains, fast trains, Intercity Express, regional trains, buses, taxis, etc. – more than enough means of transport. But sometimes, especially when you are abroad for the first time, this “transport system” can be quite confusing. Even more confusing, if you don’t know the “tricks” that you should buy the tickets in advance, or that you should look for some special offers, as getting from one place to another can be very expensive. Probably inspired by this, some “smart guys” invented a way of travelling with somebody and sharing the costs. This method is really popular in the European Union, especially in Germany, and until recently available on the Balkans and in Macedonia.
The German people are well-known for their pragmatism easily discernible even from small things. “Mitfahrgelegenheit” (or “Opportunities for travelling together”) is surely one of them, a project, a website, where you can find your travel-buddies and reach your destination, without spending lot of money. Using this service is unbelievably simple, you just go to the website, choose your desired destination, the date and the place where you want to start your journey. With just one click you have the list of people who have a car and also plan to travel in the same direction. The system gives you the opportunity to see the name or nickname of the driver, the type car he/she is driving, and the most important thing – the price.
“People should be more informed about this type of service”
The price is the biggest advantage of this service. To illustrate this with an example, if you want to travel from Cologne to Hamburg in Germany, you can find good “Mitfahr” from 20 to 30 euros in one direction. Taking a fast train to arrive at the same destination would cost around 80 euros. The train ticket can be cheaper than “Mitfahr” only for travelling during weekends, only by regional trains, and only with a group of 2-3 people. Still, instead of arriving in Hamburg in 4-5 hours as you normally would when going by car, you will have to make at least four transfers arriving at your final destination in no less than 7 hours. You can do the calculation yourself! The advantages of using this service were recognized on the Balkans as well. Serbia and Macedonia are now among the countries that have own “Travelling together” service. Patuvajzaedno.mk is the name of this service in Macedonia. Trajche (22), a student from Skopje talks about this idea:
“I think this initiative is really good and pretty rational, as well as interesting. It is also cheaper than travelling by bus, and it is also faster, it has lot a of advantages. In my opinion, in Macedonia, travelling with other people should be a safe way to get somewhere. Websites similar to this one are cool, but I think people should be more informed about them. I can easily find at least 10 people among my friends, who don’t have a clue that something like this exists in Macedonia, but I think that they will find this “travelling together” quite useful.”
Sarah (22) from Germany, currently making Erasmus in France, finds this idea also quite useful and good for international students:
“Although I come from Germany, personally I haven’t had a lot of experience in “Mitfahrgelegenheit”. But I have many friends who use it regularly to visit relatives or friends in different cities in Germany. Currently studying in France, I discovered that “Mitfahrgelegenheit” is also available here and I think that I am going to start using it too. As it is often the case, train tickets can be quite expensive and also with the railway strikes being not that uncommon, “Mitfahrgelegenheit” is particularly useful to get to another city without paying a lot”, Sarah concludes.
Good advertising is a must!
The efficiency of the service still depends on the number of customers. For developed European countries, such as Germany, Austria, France and Switzerland, the efficiency of the service is not brought into question at all, due to a satisfying level of supply and demand of the ‘travelling together’ service. The things are a bit different in the western Balkan countries, such as Macedonia and Serbia, where this project is not very popularised, and the supply is quite low.
In addition, one of the advantages of “Travelling Together Service” should also be the connection between the bordering countries. Namely, a lot of people from Germany or elsewhere, use the “Mitfahrgelegenheit” to go to France for instance, because usually the international train or bus tickets are more expensive and the travelling can last for ages. The service can even be discussed from a political or economic perspective: if you want to “foster regional cooperation”, perhaps you can start with building a network between the neighbouring travelling together services. Providing a larger number of connections and offers available can help increase the number of customers. Bear in mind that the most important element would be to advertise it well, to do an effective promotion of this service and make it popular especially among young people, students, employees, and all the social categories that travel frequently.
How secure is it?
Security is one of the questions that needs to be discussed more. Most of the people are afraid to use this service, claiming that “you never know who is driving you and where you’re headed”. The only thing you can do is to just trust people, or… travel with a friend!
“I’ve heard about “Mitfahren” or “Travelling together” but have never used such service. It sounds like a good idea of travelling without spending too much money. However, I’m not sure that I would take advantage of it. Perhaps, I will travel with a couple of friends, but definitely not alone. Just a few days ago, I found out that it’s available in Serbia as well, but I’m not sure when it was introduced. I believe that the main advantage of this service is the price, especially for the long distances in countries where fast trains are quite expensive”, says Danijela (26) from Serbia. Concerning the security, she adds: “Still, I am a bit sceptical about it because you never know who you will run into. Therefore, safety is what I am most concerned about. I would not say that there is difference in safety between Germany and Serbia for instance, but I would feel more secure in Serbia probably because it is my country. Since travelling in Serbia is pretty cheap already maybe “Mitfahren” will not be that successful here, but who knows, we’ll see.”
However, this type of services can be of great use to young people that want to travel a lot. It you want to save some money, reach your destination more quickly and if you are open to new challenges, then “Travelling together” is the thing for you. The choice is yours, whether you would like to travel alone, or recruit your friends and set out on an adventurous journey!