Travel News

Planes Vs. Trains in Europe

Locations in this article:  Berlin, Germany London, England Rome, Italy Venice, Italy

train tracksOnce you get all the way to Europe, you can’t help but want to experience more than one country.

But how do you get around without blowing your budget?

Until recently, traveling by train seemed to be the least expensive way to go.

While this may have been true at one point, some low-cost European airlines have recently made jetting around the continent more efficient and economical.

We’ve checked out European air carrier and train routes, and compared prices to see just how much cheaper it is to fly through Europe today, rather than travel by train.

(Note: All price quotes are based on those available on the date of this article, and are subject to change).

Ryanair and EasyJet are two major carriers that target budget travelers. For example, on Ryanair, a weeklong, roundtrip flight in early March from Rome (Ciampino) to Frankfurt goes for approximately $19, not including tax and additional fees.

On EasyJet, the same flight… well, doesn’t exist. But you can fly from Rome to Berlin for about $37, at the cheapest. In comparison, a point-to-point train ticket from Rome to Frankfurt starts at $333 each way and takes about 14 hours of travel time.

In terms of train travel, the Eurail pass has long been popular among budget travelers for its flexibility and inclusive coverage of various countries. A Eurail Select Pass allows you to visit 3-5 countries with various stipulations on how many days you can travel within a two-month period. This pass ranges from $404-$892.

The standard Eurail Global Pass provides you total flexibility among 18 countries for travel within 15 days to three months, with prices ranging from $636-$1,785. So depending on the number of countries that you plan on visiting, you can make a Eurail pass comparable to a discount carrier. However, this may not always be the case.

For instance, a weeklong roundtrip from Frankfurt to London by train through RailEurope starts at $453, while the same roundtrip flight on Ryanair costs only $0.02. All you have to pay for are baggage fees, taxes, and other charges, bringing the total cost up to $49.96. Now, that’s a considerable difference in price.

Of course, there are other pros and cons to consider when deciding whether to go via plane or train in Europe. In some cities, such as Venice, Ryanair and other low-cost carriers will fly into an airport (i.e.., Treviso, in Venice) that is reasonably accessible. For other cities, like Frankfurt, flying on a low-cost carrier means that you’ll probably fly into an airport dozens of kilometers from the city center.

Train stations tend to be closer and more accessible to the city center. And while taking a train takes much longer than flying, it does offer a much more in-depth travel experience… not only are you able to witness the changes in landscape as you travel from country to country, but you can get off the train in out-of-the-way places that you may not otherwise be able to visit.

The good news is that now you have options, so it just comes down to whether you want to save time and money by flying, or you prefer to take the train — and your time — to soak up all the sights of Europe.

Want more help saving money in Europe? Check out Tourist Discount Cards: Deal or No Deal?