Although a vast, expansive collection of nations, Continental Europe is made that whole lot smaller by modern, efficient public transport. The main two being high speed rail and planes. The implementation of the border free Schengen Agreement makes hopping between European countries a breeze.
High speed rail networks criss-cross Europe making flying the longer option in some cases once the travel time to/from airports and check in and security times are taken into account. This leaves many travellers faced with the dilemma of deciding whether to fly or catch the train. Various factors influence decisions and I am going to share some of those with you in the hope that I spare you the headache of this decision!
High Speed Rail In Europe
As I mentioned, a vast amount of continental Europe can be accessed by extremely fast high speed rail. By high-speed, I am talking 300km/h plus. Italy is even doing testing on trains that will travel at up to 400km/h! Germany, France and Italy are at the forefront when it comes to high speed rail in Europe but, that doesn’t mean that you can’t find quality, efficient systems in other countries. The truth is, you can.
The one downside with high speed rail is that you can generally only book 60-90 days in advance. As with airfares, train ticket prices in Europe start cheaper and get pricier as more seats are booked. Most of the time, the cheaper seats on convenient travel times will be booked out on the first day they open by those in the know and eagle-eyed travellers. Compare this scenario with airline bookings opening up almost a year in advance.
Air Travel In Europe
Despite the vast high speed rail network, air travel is still extremely popular across Europe. The advent of low-cost airlines such as Ryanair, Vueling and Whizz has reinforced this fact over the past 20 or so years. As opposed to trains, airlines open up their bookings much earlier. This makes it easier to secure a seat at a reasonable price giving you piece of mind. There are however some sides to air travel that are more tedious than trains.
Airport security lines which can be excruciatingly long, waiting around in departure lounges, boarding, waiting, waiting, waiting…… These are things that travellers least enjoy on their adventures. One positive note is that in a lot of cases, flying is actually cheaper than travelling on a train in Europe! It may be hard to believe but, it is true.
So, High Speed Rail Or Plane?
There is really no definitive answer for everyone. Some prefer one or the other or, a combination of both. My personal preference is for flying. I am one who likes to have all my travel plans in order, booked and paid for well in advance. This almost always rules out train travel for longer trips and those which require advance booking. I have also found that if you look hard enough, it is possible to get a flight on a full-service airline for the same price or cheaper than a train, especially on major, competitive routes.
So, it all comes down to personal preference, how willing you are to take a punt on prices within two months of travel and of course, your budget. Nevertheless, I hope these tips can help in your decision process the next time you are booking travel through Europe.