Plane travel vs train travel

Flying can seem like a quick and easy way of getting around Europe, but are the budget prices as good as they look? Trains are a fast, comfortable alternative to cheap flights in Europe, especially when you’re visiting multiple destinations. A Eurail Pass gives you unlimited, borderless travel across Europe with just one ticket, so you can go a lot further with your money – and you’ll be doing your bit for the planet, too.

No need to wait in line – just turn up and hop on board

Enjoy frequent, reliable services with no lengthy check-in or waiting around.

By Plane

Airport security lines can be long and stressful, and with airlines asking passengers to turn up 2 hours before a flight, you end up spending a lot of time waiting around in the airport. You could be out there exploring!

If you’re late for your flight, it’s not as simple as just boarding the next one – you may have to pay full fare for another flight, which is unlikely to leave for at least a couple hours.

With Eurail

With trains, there’s no checking in or waiting around – just turn up 15 minutes or so before your departure time, find your platform and jump on board (unless you’re travelling to or from London with Eurostar, who ask you to arrive just 30 minutes before departure).

Missed your train? No problem – your Eurail Pass gives you unlimited flexible train travel on travel days, so grab a quick coffee then hop on the next service. Easy!

Sit back and enjoy a much smoother ride

Relax with more leg room, no luggage restrictions, wifi and great views.

By Plane


It’s no surprise that plane travel isn’t very comfortable. Seat space is tight, leg room is limited, and you can’t just get up or switch seats whenever you feel like it. Don’t forget the turbulence!

There’s no wifi or power sockets, no fresh air or scenic views, and let’s just not mention the food.

As well as limits on liquids and other items, you’ll encounter strict size and weight restrictions on your luggage and you’ll be asked to pay extra if you exceed them, even if it’s just by a small amount.

With Eurail

With much more space on board the train, you’ll have room to sit back, relax and enjoy the scenery and the freedom to get up and stretch your legs whenever you like.

You can choose to travel in 1st or 2nd class, and things like reclining seats, power sockets, wifi and refreshment services are fairly standard features on board high-speed trains and many regional trains too.

There are generally no luggage restrictions, and there are plenty of places to store your bags safely with you on board. On night trains, you can reserve a bed for a good night’s sleep.

Should you fly or take the train around Europe? It depends…

Berlin's Hauptbahnhof

A few months ago I had to make a key decision while planning a trip from Paris to Berlin. Plane or train?

I could take a €50 budget flight on easyJet and be there in about two hours. Or I could take the TGV to Germany, and then board an ICE train to Berlin (with a one-hour break in Frankfurt for lunch). The trip would take about ten hours and cost about €120. Which way should I go?

Many budget travelers wouldn’t think twice, of course. The flight was faster and cheaper, right?

I chose the train. First of all, I prefer the experience. I like boarding in the center of Paris, hopping on board with only minutes to spare, and rolling off toward my destination. I like moving down the aisles, grabbing a bite or coffee in the snack car, and watching the world zip by.

Aboard an Ave train from Cordoba to Grenada.

But, romantic details aside, I priced it out and the plane and train journeys weren’t that far apart. But wait, I hear you say, wasn’t that flight ticket only €50? Yes, but when I calculated the “real costs” of the flight, the ticket had become €89.

Now that the difference between the train and plane was only about €30, I could focus on my own travel preferences. I wanted to see the French and German countryside. I wanted to have time to read and daydream. I wanted to disembark in Frankfurt and have lunch. I considered the train a highlight of my trip—and didn’t look forward to the prospect of adding extra airports to my vacation.

Choosing between trains and flights

Of course, everyone’s trip is different. My decision was based on my own travel preferences, and I also happened to find a deal on the train tickets. Ticket prices for both rail and flights fluctuate quite a bit, and they both offer great deals, especially on advance bookings.

Which mode of transportation makes the most sense for your trip? It gets down to time, price and preference. Here are a few things to keep in mind when making the decision:

1. Is your trip really open to both planes and trains?

First, and most obviously: Are you really open to either mode of transportation?

If you need to get between two distant cities and you’re pressed for time, flying probably makes the most sense. (Thanks for reading!) Check out our guide to Europe’s budget airlines and book well in advance. If, however, you need to get between two distant cities and you’re not pressed for time, either method could work for you.

If you’re traveling between two cities that aren’t a great distance apart (for example, Madrid and Barcelona), either mode could work. However, you should still ask yourself the following questions:

Frankfurt central station

2. What’s the real travel time of the trip?

How long will it really take you to fly or ride between the cities?

When calculating the time spent flying, add up the time to get to the airport, time for check-in and security, flight time, time for bag retrieval and customs (if applicable), and time to get into your arrival city.

The flight from Paris to Berlin might only last two hours, but you’ll need to be at the airport an hour early, and it will take about an hour to get to and from both airports. Thus, the flight’s total travel time will be about five hours, minimum. Flight delays can easily make this much longer.

Calculating time for a train trip is a bit easier: How long does it take to get to the station and how far in advance would you like to arrive? Do you need to be extra early to pick up tickets, or do you already have them? In most cases, the train stations will be located in the center of both departure and arrival cities.

My train trip, including an hour for lunch in Frankfurt, was ten hours. I arrived at the Gare de l’Est 30 minutes before departure, and it took me about 30 minutes to get to the station. A friend picked me up at Berlin’s Hauptbahnhof. Total travel time: about 11 hours.

3. What’s the real cost of the flight?

Europe’s budget airlines are notorious for tacking on extra charges to compensate for their bargain-bin rates.

The €50 Paris-Berlin ticket I found on easyJet was just the base charge. However, a bag costs €14 to check in online (which is cheaper than checking the bag at the airport!), and the airline charges a fee to pay by credit card (a whopping €16 in the Paris – Berlin example). Add the Orlybus (bus to Orly: €6.90) and the Airport Express bus from Schonefeld to Berlin (€2.10). And voila! That ticket had become €89.

Let’s take another example: A Ryanair flight between London to Madrid on January 17, 2012.

  • Ticket price: £11.99 ($19)
  • One checked bag (up to 20 kilos): £25 ($38)
  • Paying by credit card: Add £6 ($9) : £9 ($14)
  • Metro from Madrid’s airport into town: €2 ($3)
  • TOTAL: £54 ($83)

Even after adding in the extra charges, however, these flights are still cheap: $89 for Paris to Berlin, and $83 for London to Madrid.

4. What’s the best deal you can find on the train trip?

Finding the best deal on the train trip can be tricky.

If you’re American, you can always consider one of the Eurail passes geared toward American travelers. These sometimes offer savings, although this is usually only the case for travelers who are spending lots of time traveling by train (for example, cramming in as many rail journeys as possible to make the pass “worth it”).

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We also know travelers who purchase rail passes because they offer some peace of mind—their tickets are taken care of (although, in truth, passes still require seat reservations on high-speed trains).

We recommend searching directly on the official Web sites for the rail companies, most of which allow advance booking. These include:

  • Austria: OBB
  • Belgium: SNCB
  • Czech Republic: Czech Railways
  • France: SNCF
  • Germany: Die Bahn
  • Ireland: Irish Rail
  • Italy: Trenitalia
  • Netherlands:
  • Poland: Polrail
  • Spain: Renfe
  • Sweden: SJ
  • Switzerland: SBB
  • United Kingdom: National Rail

Check multiple countries: For international trips, check on sites for both departure and arrival countries for availability or to try to find a deal. For example, for a trip from Paris to Madrid, check ticket prices on both the SNCF (French) site and the Renfe (Spanish) site. The ticket prices may not be the same.

International trip note: Be aware that some railway Web sites don’t offer booking for international trips. For a Paris – Prague trip, for example, you can buy tickets from the SNCF, while the Czech Railways site doesn’t offer online booking for international trips.

Break it up: For international trips, also try breaking up the journey to find a deal. For example, for my Paris to Berlin trip, I found a €49 ticket from SNCF from Paris to Frankfurt, and a €71 ticket from Frankfurt to Berlin on the ICE. Added together, these tickets were less expensive than the direct Paris – Berlin tickets I found on the SNCF or Bahn Web sites.

Book in French: On the SNCF site, stick to French if you can. (Read our tutorial on how to book SNCF tickets in French.) If you switch to English, you’ll be redirected to RailEurope, which is a ticket agency geared to foreign visitors. RailEurope is a helpful site and sells the same train tickets as the SNCF, but they don’t always have the same sale rates.

Book in advance: As Hidden Europe previously explained in their post, you can normally book up to three months in advance for most high-speed trains in Europe. Searching in advance for high-speed rail will increase your chances of finding a sale fare. Ticket prices for slower regional trains do not normally fluctuate.

Make up your own mind

Once you know how long each method will take and how much they’ll really cost, make an informed decision.

In my case, I had to choose between a 5-hour flight experience that I wasn’t looking forward to, and a 11-hour train trip that excited me. The flight was €30 cheaper. I chose the train. Many others would choose the flight. That’s the beauty of travel—you can choose your own adventure.

Your advice?

What else do you consider when deciding between flying and taking a train? Do you have any advice to share with other budget travelers? Tell us in our comments section.

About the author

Tom Meyers

About the author: Tom Meyers created and launched EuroCheapo from his Berlin apartment in 2001. He returned to New York in 2002, set up office, and has led the EuroCheapo team from the Big Apple ever since. He travels to Europe several times a year to update EuroCheapo’s hotel reviews. Tom is also a co-host of the New York City history podcast, The Bowery Boys. Email Tom. [Find Tom on Google Plus]

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25 thoughts on “Should you fly or take the train around Europe? It depends…”

An AIRPLANE takes 1.5 hours for all the passengers to board, all filing through one tiny door loaded with luggage. Passengers board TRAINS thru about 40 doors simultaneously. So trains don’t have to delay everyone 1.5 hours… they stop only 1 to 5 minutes at a station.

One must drive about an hour out of town to reach an airport. (No neighborhood wants the noise.) Train stations are in the center of towns, and they are much more numerous — these 2 factors make train stations closer to your home. The closest airport is 2+ hours away for many Americans. In Europe (and formerly in the US) every town has its own train station, and cities have several.

One must arrive at the airport 2 hours before departure. You can arrive at a train station 2 MINUTES before departure!

After finally boarding your plane, you sit for another half hour or so before the wheels begin to slowly turn. You taxi at snail’s pace a long way, then stop again. The captain announces, “We’re fifth in line for take off, thank you for your patience.” Within about 2 minutes of boarding a train, you’re at full speed toward your destination.

Finally your turn to take off comes and the engines begin to scream, about 20 feet from your ears. They continue their high decibel screaming throughout the flight. On a train the engine is far away from your wagon; usually it cannot be heard.

On a train you can have a huge suitcase or two without having to check them. Wheel them on yourself. And no charge for any luggage.

Upon arrival, no waiting 45 minutes for your bag(s) to show up on the luggage carousel.

Airline seats recline only 1″, making sleep impossible or uncomfortable, but you can get real bunk beds on a train. The most popular train trips in Europe, as they used to be in the US, are those that depart a major city around 10pm and arrive in another major city around 8 a.m. These Schalfwagons allow one to travel while sleeping in a real bed with sheets, rocked to sleep by the gentle rolling of the train. So much for trains being “time consuming.”

You see so much from the huge train windows, whereas from the tiny plane windows you see only cloud tops. You really can’t see anything of the towns & cities of Norway or Croatia from 30,000 ft. If you don’t have a window seat you don’t see even the cloud tops.

It’s important that train wagons be divided into several compartments with bench seats facing each other, as they have historically always been until recent decades. These compartments are vastly superior to having airline style seats, especially when these seats are arranged like on an airliner all facing forward. Some of the most interesting people can be met on a train if the seating is right. It’s nice to have your own little compartment, 3 people facing 3 people, a large window, a folding out table, 6 bunk beds that fold down at night, and a door that locks at night to keep out the sneak thieves!

Another article included a quote from couple who said: “We were crammed into a night train compartment with a woman who spoke neither the local language nor anything they could speak, and who was traveling with a vast assortment of baggage, including what appeared to be a sewing machine.” These intolerant travelers are missing the point: Traveling together with other people is one of the things that makes train travel such fun.

Also in these old wagons from Europe, passengers can open the window in their compartment. This is good for saying goodbye to your friends & relatives standing on the platform to see you off. In former Soviet countries, at many stations private women sell home cooked food & beverages thru the windows to passengers.

Jet liner windows don’t open and they have stuffy, recalculated air because of the high cost of heating the below zero outside air at 30,000 feet. (The stewardess’ union is always complaining about the unhealthy air, but airline executives refuse to spend the money to heat enough fresh air.) Trains don’t have this problem since they are at ground level where the air is warm.

Trains are hugely more fuel efficient than planes or cars. For the same gallon of fuel one may travel 7 times as far by train as one can by plane. So planes pollute the air 7 times as much as trains.

And most important about train travel is that it is a lot of FUN!

High Speed Trains

I don’t like the new high speed trains. Their stations look & feel like airports, with all the mouth-breathing over-security presence. They won’t let your friends & family onto the platform to meet your train or to see you off. I don’t like the self-important paranoia and restrictions of airports or high velocity train stations.
High speed trains have airline style seats, all facing forward. They don’t recline.

I don’t like the new high speed trains also because of their speed. I don’t want to travel from Lisbon to Berlin in 3 hours. I want to enjoy it, see the forests and beautiful towns go by, catch up on my reading, meet new people in my compartment or bar car, eat a real meal in the rolling restaurant, & fall asleep at night in a real bed with linens, to the rolling cadence of the train on tracks.

You have to sleep the night anyway, why not do it on a train, while moving toward your destination?

Train station ticket window clerks are usually rushed, and just assume without asking that Westerners want the fastest train. If you want to travel at normal speed rather than on the new high tech 100+ mph “bullet train,” before you get in the ticket line look in your guidebook and find the word for “high speed train” in the local language. Tell the ticket clerk firmly “No / Nein / Nyet [word for high speed train].” In Italy the high speed trains are called Frecciarossa (red arrow). In France, Train à Grande Vitesse (TGV). In Germany, ICE. In England, British Rail Class 395. Tickets on these high velocity trains cost much more than normal trains, so you’ll save money and have a better time.

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@kiki. Toured Europe last summer. Trains were comfortable and gave us time to relax and unwind. There was space right at the entrance for our oversized luggage. Though I must admit that it was my husband who hauled these suitcases onto the train! If I had to travel solo I wouldn’t take those massive bags – just a small carryon should do…..
We got deals on train tickets e.g the super fast train from Paris to Brussels. As it was our first time in Europe we were a bit sceptical. …but almost every one tried to help and guide us.

hidden europe November 17, 2012 at 1:38 pm

There are generally no restrictions on how much luggage you may take on a train in Europe. It is limited merely by how much you can reasonably carry.

Thanks for your suggestions everybody. Am planning atrip next summer and shall try to use the train for travelling within Europe. I like to feel the ethos of the country….the people… ambling along in a train would suit me….Incidentally i wonder if there any luggage restrictions…Any suggestions?

I travel a lot by train, presently mostly by TGV between France/Switzerland/Germany and there is NO restriction at all – but an address tag on each piece of luggage. It is however quite often an achievement to be able to place your baggage as there is not a lot of storage space and the overall racks are simply minuscule and suitcases hardly ever fit… so be prudent with what you take with you. Happy travelling! Travelling by train is SO rewarding!

@kiki : thanks. Shall be travelling for at least a month so possibly shall have to factor in laundry costs… I want to ‘experience’ Europe and here i am thinking about luggage! Anyway, from what you say, I shall opt for trains. More rewarding!

I would rather choose a train especially if I am not pressed with time. The experience of having to sit and watch beautiful scenes from the outside while enjoying a cup of coffee or tea adds up to my overall travel than having to sit for several hours on plane doing practically nothing. It is far more worth it despite the longer journey and the added cost.

I need to know about the luggage allowance on the train from Barcelona to Madrid. Both of us will have one 26 inch bag and one carry-on. Is there a limit to luggage?

Jan, here it is March, and I just saw your post. There’s a nightly sleeper from Paris-Austerlitz to Barcelona-Franca, no change in trains. There are also a couple of high speed day trains from Paris-Lyon that, for now, do require a change in trains at Figueres, north of Barcelona, arriving at Barcelona-Sants. And my guess is that these are across-the-platform transfers, so pretty easy. (Spain is building a high speed line between Figueres and Barcelona, so in a year or two this transfer will be eliminated.)

The French Railways website offers through tickets for both the day and the night trains, whereas the Spanish Railways website seems to offer online purchase only for the night train. Neither website is particularly easy to use, especially in English. However, they do offer bargain fares with substantial advance purchase. A good guide to using those websites can be found at Seat61:

Hope this helps!

This is a great article. I really like how it takes into account the real costs of travel, both financial costs as well as time costs. In talking with people, they often seem to omit the hidden time costs of air travel: travel to the airport, arriving two hours early, waiting for luggage, travel from the airport to the city. Though each of those will vary from city to city, a two-hour flight never takes just two hours.

We are trying to book a train from Paris to Barcelona. Supposedly you have to change trains in Barcelona. Most sites will not let you buy a ticket for the second train. Do you have to buy a ticket onsite? Thanks.

just a comment for people booking travel between France and Germany- I highly recommend comparing the fares offered on both the French and German sites. I recently booked a ticket from Paris to Nürnberg and after going through the French site and finding none of the ticket pickup options suited me, I went to the German site since I know they allow printing your own ticket (and my foreign cc works there).

Much to my surprise, the ticket for the exact same trip was 40 euros cheaper, and for a minimal price difference I could even book a first class ticket. I expected some price differences but that much of a gap was a big surprise to me.

Another reason I love the train travel is I almost always end up talking to such interesting people on the longer train rides. If I’m with a companion, the rhythm of the journey makes us both philosophical, and if I’m alone there’s usually some friendly seatmate in my car or in the cafe car. It’s definitely my preferred way to get around in Europe!

Fully agree with everything you wrote. I too – if I can permit myself the extra time – prefer taking the train, and I never arrive stressed-out at the city of arrival.

I LOVE travelling by train for umpteen reasons, not lastly the possibility of sightseeing, reading, sitting in the bar wagon and talk to strangers over a drink, going to the loo when I need and not when and if it’s convenient for my seat-neighbour….

I also can take my suitcase with me without fearing to be marched off for a forgotten nail clipper or – heaven forbid – a container holding more than 40ml of anything for my precious beauty! And I can take my food with me if I don’t feel like eating a train-meal; I can share my wine with another person on the same train. I met one of the nicest people ever on a TGV from Paris to Zurich. We had both a reservation for the same seat and got talking over this… Until the ‘conducteur/controlleur’ remarked that the man’s reservation was for the very same train a month later….. But over all this we kept in touch and are only waiting to be on the same train once more. You never have this kind of experience on a flight.

Sadly, my flights amount to a much higher number as very often there is a discrepancy far too important on either time or/+ money matters.

@ person planning Paris-Venice-Rome-Switzerland, try and rig your plans so that you can take the train for long overnight runs- book a sleeper. Saves you funds for lodging and you arrive rested at your destination. I did this going from Vienna to Venice a few years ago. Booked a bed in a shared compartment, no problems with others in the compartment. Look at site

hidden europe January 18, 2012 at 6:18 am

Russian leaders on trains….

Did Lenin not famously take the train from Switzerland via Berlin to Petrograd?
And in summer 1945, Stalin kept Truman and Churchill waiting in Potsdam for a couple of days (at the start of the Potsdam Peace Conference) because the Russian leader preferred to take the train rather than fly. Truman memorably used the free time to do a bit of sightseeing in Berlin.

After a grueling flight into Frankfurt, a woman ahead of me in line to catch a croatian airline had had a hip replacement. So we all had to wait while they took her into a Dr’s office for examination. This was only the beginning. Turned out the Russian president was in the airport, so all others like me were routed to walk with luggage down 3 flights of stairs, out into the rain, and quite a hike to another connection. Russian presidents don’t take trains apparently.

Insightful article but i wonder if trains are practical for an Indian tourist tra travelling all over Europe. How should I plan if i want to tour Paris, Venice, Rome and Switzerland?

Unless it’s a really long distance or too complicated a routing, this American chooses rail for European travel whenever he can. It’s a combination of how relaxing rail travel is and the fine scenery vs. the hurry-up-and-wait one finds in air travel, not to speak of the cramped seating found in the air (I’m tall at 180 cm).

The most recent exception was flying from Istanbul to Paris in May 2011. The ancient infrastructure of southeastern European railways makes for a slow and grossly inefficient trip by rail. However, with our advance booking and paying a small premium, Air Pegasus allowed us to chose more comfortable seats for that long trip.

My wife and I travel to Italy every year but we always travel with two large suitcases.
Can we use train travel with this sort of luggage?
Thanks for ur insight
Love ur letters and information

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Hi Tom,
Enjoyed reading your post and the thoughtful responses. My favorite words in your post were, “Choose your own adventure. ” (like those fun books of your childhood!). Anyway, I agree that trains are the fun, rewarding way to travel in Europe; and we try to utilize the train systems as much as possible when we are in Europe.

I really like the trains and seeing the country side. It is a nice way of changing from one country to another. Flying has become so much more tedious. Trains have a way of letting you relax and enjoy the passage of time.

hidden europe December 21, 2011 at 8:17 am

Super post, Tom. Point well made. It is worth bearing in mind that a train ticket booked when bookings first open (typically three months prior to travel) will almost always undercut a plane ticket purchased at the same time. You paid €120 for your Paris-Frankfurt-Berlin rail trip, but the same journey – booked now, for example, for travel in mid-March – could cost as little as €39 one way.

Even when the cheapest lead-in fares are sold out on the fastest premium train services, you can often still secure great deals on slightly slower services, often even just a week or two prior to travel.

For us, a real plus with rail travel is that most tickets allow stopovers at no extra cost. We have made three journeys from London to Berlin (or vice versa) over the last month, each time taking the opportunity to spend a night somewhere along the way (once in Strasbourg, another time in Brussels and last week in Bonn).

Nicky and Susanne
editors of Europe by Rail: The Definitive Guide for Independent Travellers (from Thomas Cook Publishing)
and editors of hidden europe magazine

I have mixed feelings depending on how quickly I need or want to get somewhere. But if I have the leisure, I would totally opt for train travel over flying. It’s the novelty and riding past all the scenery really is its own sightseeing experience. But if it’s a holiday and I just want to get there already, I might pay a bit extra to fly – especially if travel time to and from the airport accounted for – I’m still making it there quicker. Train travel is certainly less stressful though, and there aren’t those annoying airport patdowns to deal with! Don’t forget about all the time it takes to get through security these days. is a good site for discounted train tickets in the UK.

I’m with you on this one, Tom. I’d rather spend hours in a train station than five minutes in a major airport. And taking a train from Paris Gare de l’Est to Berlin Hauptbahnhof is like departing from the 19th century and arriving in the 21st.

Why is Flying Cheaper Than Taking a Train in Europe?

Why is flying cheaper than taking a train in Europe, usually? Let’s find out why trains are often the more expensive option compared to flights.

It took awhile for me to wrap my head around the fact that plane travel within Europe is often the cheaper option for getting from Point A to Point B, train travel being the more expensive option.

Flights are much faster than train travel, so why is that?

inside a train car in Amsterdam

Cheap Flights Within Europe

With deregulation of flights within Europe since the mid-90’s, low-cost airlines have sprouted like weeds. And with so many competing low-cost carriers throughout Europe, flights have gotten cheap within the continent. Flying, save for the time it takes to go through security and board, is already known to be the faster option, and the time savings increase exponentially as the distance increases.

Other than due to the competitive nature of the constantly growing number of airlines, prices are also kept low for flights within Europe due to their no-frills services. Most of the budget carriers, such as Ryanair and WizzaAir, maintain no or few customer service locations and kiosks. Booking and administration of flights are done by each passenger almost completely online. Though flights being cheaper than riding the rails is not always the case, as I saw on a trip aboard the Berlin-Warszawa Express last year from Germany to Poland, many times it is, especially between popular city pairs.

Here are some examples:

London to Frankfurt Ryanair Example 1

This is a round trip ticket with Ryanair from London Stansted to Frankfurt Hahn. Notice, the ticket is about £46 (~$71), which is quite a bargain for a return international flight, even if the distance is not great. The dates are for Aug 1, 2013 to Aug 8, 2013, and each nonstop flight is a mere 1 hour and 20 minutes in length. However, keep in mind that because security is involved, add at least 1 hour and a half to the start of each segment. Also, the worst part of booking with Ryanair, and many budget carriers, is the baggage allowance.

The baggage (dis)allowance policy grants few options at exorbitant fees. Each passenger is allowed one free carry-on baggage, but checking luggage is where it becomes costly and tricky. During their low season (which they define), the first checked bag (up to 15 kg/33 lbs) costs £15 (~$23) if you purchase it when you purchase your tickets. If you wait until later, but still book it online, it costs £20 (~$30).

And if you wait until you get to the airport to check in, it is a whopping £60 (~$92), more than the cost of the flight. And, just to add to the nausea, these are per flight fees, so you pay them going each way. And I gave you the low season rates. They charge £100 (~$154) per bag for what they define the high season!

Budget airlines are notorious for charging for everything. Just look at the next photo for the fee for just getting a simple text or email before the flight departs, something that does not cost them a dime and that most other companies would provide anyway, free of charge.

London to Frankfurt Ryanair Example 2

Riding the Rails in Europe

Though train travel is often the more expensive route, I still prefer the rails when going from city to city in Europe. There is a civilized feeling on board European trains, a night-and-day difference from the no-frills attitude that has come to define the budget carrier experience. Aside from the much more luxurious appointments, you are able to see the different small towns as you travel from one city to another.

Using the above example for a round trip ticket from London to Frankfurt, on the dates of Aug 1, 2013 to Aug 8, 2013, here is how train travel would work:

Since there is no direct train route from London to Frankfurt, you would have to transfer; in this case, the two main train routes from London to Frankfurt are via Paris or Brussels. The photo below shows the full fare of a ticket from London to Frankfurt and back with a quick stop in Brussels.

London to Frankfurt by Train Example 1

As you can see, the price, €248 (~325) is significantly higher than the Ryanair version. The total trip time, including the stop in Brussels, comes to about 5 and a half hours each way (there is a 1 hour time difference between London and Frankfurt/Brussels). However, if you are carrying much more than a backpack on this trip, the train price is not much greater than the Ryanair price including the baggage fees.

Also, the five and a half hours barely requires any extra “boarding” and “security” time.

You Get What You Pay For

In this situation, pitting train travel with plane travel within Europe, the age-old adage holds true: you get what you pay for. Cheap flights must still make each company a profit. Train travel, though longer in time, is more civilized due to the levels of comfort provided and the amenities offered.

As opposed to being crammed into a Ryanair plane like livestock, train travel in Europe is relaxing: many seats, including the cheapest “2nd class” services, offer compartmentalized cabins with 4 or 6 seats, reading lights, large, reclining seats, and a dining car, allowing you to walk around and stretch your legs while en route.

When not separated into compartments of 4 or 6, usually trains have one center aisle with 2 seats on one side and either 1 or 2 on the other, compared to the cramped feeling of 3+3 on a narrow-body plane.

For more like this, check out a brief commentary on the Eurail Pass.

Christian Eilers

Christian Eilers is a travel and career advice writer who constantly loves to learn about the world through traveling, cultural stories, reading, and education. A native of New York City, when he is not traveling, he can find an abundance of cultural influences right in his own city, enough to keep him satisfied until the next country’s beckon cannot be ignored any longer.

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1 comment

Christian, ( Great name by the way! Same name as my older bro.)

Awesome job on your blog article. I did a similar but mind was more of a goof (satire) than valuable information.
I like how you laid out the part about the benefits of Ryanair. they truly are a superb airline although they can get you with the baggage fees.

Just really wanted to compliment your work. You will be successful with this one! It’s a perfect niche for you.

Anyway, I’ll be back over here and you come visit me some time. Don’t be a stranger.




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