Trains, planes, and automobiles. What’s the best way to get across Europe?
Growing up spending many summers taking the train from Paris to Poitiers, I thought trains were one of the only ways to travel across Europe but then this past year I took advantage of a few hopper flights to get across the continent in a bit more timely manner.
Trust me, I do love both and both in their own way. There’s a time for a train ride from one city to the next, then there are times where a quick flight is ideal.
I made a criteria list that I use for when deciding whether or not to choose a plane or train when traveling across Europe.
Train or Plane
Questions to ask:
Do I want to see scenery? If so, a train is probably the best choice in this scenario. I love taking the train from Paris to Poitier because of the rolling countryside hills and all the villages I get to see. However, if the scenery is not important, perhaps a flight could save you time.
Am I crunched on time? Trains or planes both take time in their own way. A train ride may be longer, for instance from Paris to Zurich then a flight, but keep in mind flying also means arriving to the airport 1-2 hours before, checked baggage, etc. Take into account all that goes into taking a flight versus hopping on and off a train.
What’s the most direct route? Just because you’re flying, doesn’t mean the airport is close to your destination. Often major airports lie 45 minutes outside of major cities, like CDG in Paris. When I return to Paris from other cities like Geneva, or La Rochelle, I choose the train as I end up right at the heart of the city. Take a look at the maps before making a choice.
Cost, which is more effective? With the cost of fuel going down, a flight may be more in your favor. The trains in Europe can also be painfully priced between the long hauls, so I have found some of the local airlines to be cheaper. Take a look at both and keep in consideration that sometimes a flight may be more cost effective.
Tools for booking trains:
I have always relied on Rail Europe for all of my trains. You can put in your itinerary, buy a rail pass, or individual legs.
Compare prices on flights by taking look at Kayak’s booking grid. You can play with dates, see possible times, and have the best tool for booking.
*All tips are my own personal opinion and are in no way in affiliation with travel brands as listed. This is not professional advice, rather opinion based on own experience.