Before starting to plan the type of transport you will use, it is necessary to define the places you want to visit. This is important as it will go a long way in helping you decide which transport is best for you.
Is it convenient to travel by train, bus or plane in Europe – pros and cons
For example, if you want to travel for two weeks in Europe and visit different and distant cities, there is no doubt that the best for you is a plane.
On the other hand, if you know which cities or places you want to visit and you have more time to travel, between a month or two, then the bus might be the best option for you.
However, if you don’t know which places to visit or plan to visit small towns far from major European capitals, the train will be for you as it allows you to be flexible.
Do you understand why it is better to travel by train, bus or plane in Europe? Why isn’t there an absolute answer?
Train: Pros and Cons
If you want to visit small towns that are in the middle of the mountains or in the middle of nowhere, it is likely that the only way to get there is by train. Europe was built to use trains and small towns that do not have access to buses and even less to planes.
Punctuality: this means of transportation is 90% punctual on average while planes are only 68-78%.
Replacement simplicity: in case you missed or had a canceled flight, and had to go through the hassle of moving or being assigned a new one. On trains, this does not happen, if you miss or have your trip canceled, finding and assigning a new one is quite simple.
To sleep, you have a bed. Ever tried sleeping on a bus? Even with those that have more spaces to lie down, they are still small and uncomfortable.
You don’t have to worry about traffic. The train stations are usually located in the center of the municipalities, if you can find a hotel nearby, you will only have to walk a block or two to get on the train.
The views from the trains are spectacular. At least in Europe, the vast majority of the views are incredible.
Food: on the train you can take all the food you want and there is a decent table to eat.
If you’re tired of sitting, you can get up and stretch your legs walking around the train or just stand to look at the windows between the cars.
Heavy Luggage: If you are one of the people who definitely cannot carry heavy luggage, then you will have to be careful with this means of transport.
Socially awkward, if you are not a person who likes to socialize a lot then it can be quite a challenge for you as you try to avoid strange looks.
The food is expensive and bad, if you are unlucky again to have taken enough food, you will have to buy something to eat that will probably taste bad and cost you dearly.
Airplane: Pros and Cons
You can carry a lot of luggage with little trouble. No matter what, you just arrived at the airport, checked in and that’s it, pick up your luggage at your final destination compared to trains where you have to take care of all your own luggage handling.
Some plane deals are very good. If you are constantly monitoring flight offers, you may find flights VERY, VERY cheap.
Airports are always far from the center of the municipality. Regardless of whether you use a low-cost airline or not, the airport will likely be outside the municipality.
The hours are not the most convenient. If you are planning to fly on low-cost airlines, it is best to prepare to fly at 6 am or 10 pm.
“Cheap” lines may not be so cheap. If you add the price of the airport transfer plus the costs you don’t realize there are until you are paying, low cost lines may not be as cheap at the time you are paying.
Checked bag up to 15 kg from 20 to 40 Euros depending on the season and route. From 35 to 75 euros paying at the airport.
Badly dispatched 20 kg from 30 to 50 Euros depending on the season and route. From 45 to 80 euros paying at the airport.
Excess baggage: 10 euros per kilo
Seat reservation: 8 euros
Priority boarding: 4 euros
Bus: Pros and Cons
The main advantage of traveling by bus, in general, will always be the cheapest means of transport there is. You can buy the ticket on the spot. Another advantage is that, unlike buying plane or train tickets, bus prices vary if you don’t buy one day or one month in advance.
There are stops to eat; drink and a decent break to be able to go to the bathroom. Buses in Europe make regular stops at special rest areas where you can buy cheap food and have access to a decent restroom.
Very few international routes or small towns. In Europe, the use of trains is so widespread and common that buses are not well positioned and do not have routes to international destinations or small towns.
Information is sparse or in the local language. For the same reason that tourists hardly use the bus to travel around Europe, the information available on the internet or elsewhere is much less.
The stations are not always in the center. European municipalities were not designed for the use of cars, much less buses, because of this, the stations are a little further from the center. Not as far away as airports, but rarely as central as train stations.
Sometimes they don’t have a bathroom. Most European buses don’t have toilets, hence the issue of regular stops, so if you have an emergency it’s best to ask the driver to make a stop.
Travel times are longer. If you plan to travel for long distances, the bus is not recommended, because, in general, your travel times are longer, the simple fact of having to avoid the traffic of municipalities or highways, this already significantly increases your time.
Buy a train ticket or a one-way ticket? cost comparison
After explaining the pros and cons of traveling by train, bus or plane in Europe, let’s move on to the cost comparison. Really, what’s more convenient when it comes to money?
If you don’t like math, I suggest you read this part slowly, it’s quite long, but I tried to detail it as much as possible to make it easier to understand. I hope I do well with this.
Buying a ticket from one destination to another or buying a pass to travel around Europe?
The first comparison I’ll show you is whether it’s better to buy a Eurail pass to travel around Europe or just buy a ticket from one destination to another. If you don’t know what a Eurail pass is or how it works, I highly recommend reading my article about it: The Complete Guide to Rail Passes for Traveling Europe.
In summary form. The Eurail pass allows you to visit all or some countries in Europe by train, paying only the cost of the pass. One of the disadvantages is that in some countries you have to pay for the seat reservation. That is, in addition to your pass, you will have to go to the train station counter to request a reservation on the train you want to use.
Things to take into account:
Use 2 Eurail Passes. 15 days travel pass in 2 months and 10 days travel pass in 2 months. This allowed me to travel 25 days in 4 months, but because of the route I took, I only used 20 days of travel and wasted 5 days. I suggest you plan how many days you will have to travel, otherwise you could be wasting money. If you haven’t read the article about Rail Pass Guides for Exploring Europe, which I recommend, I explain what they are and how Eurail Pass travel days work. The cost of buying a train ticket from one destination to another is calculated one month in advance. This is enough to take advantage of all available offers or find the lowest fares between destinations. The closer your travel date, the more expensive it will be to buy an individual pass.
Whenever possible, train prices are taken from each country’s train page. In some cases, these prices were not available, especially in international destinations, and I had to use prices from RailEurope, a concessionaire whose fares were more expensive than theirs. This will be your only option if you plan to buy a train ticket before departure, otherwise you will have to wait until you reach your destination to buy a train ticket, which will make the price equal or higher. In other words, buying them online in advance through retailers or waiting to buy them locally for a short period of time will keep prices pretty much the same.
The route from Istanbul (Turkey) to Bucharest (Romania) is only available to Eurail Pass users (the service has been replaced by the bus for Eurail users). If you want to travel on your own between these destinations, you will have to fly as it is not possible to buy train tickets, as the train tracks, at least in 2015 and early 2016, are under reconstruction.
How can you know if buying the Eurail Pass is personally right for you?
It’s very simple. The real cost of 20 days of travel, that is, 20 transfers between destinations is: 1,560 Euros.
Now 1,560 divided by 20 is 78 euros. This means that on an average, at least, each trip taken should have cost less than 78 euros.
There are cheaper tickets, but there are also more expensive ones and it is difficult to predict the cost you will pay for each trip unless you do a thorough planning and that is precisely the advantage of Eurail passes