Train vs. Plane for Traveling Within Europe

January 13, 2013

A vacation to Europe, for many of us, entails visiting many cities during one trip. And why not? When you live thousands of miles from Europe, it makes sense to visit those places that you can reasonably fit into your itinerary.

Fortunately, the distance between many European countries is relatively small, making quick hops between them feasible. A multitude of flights is available at super low fares for these short trips. Also, driving is an option for traveling within Europe and is often the best way to get to some places, such as wineries and the coast. However, high-speed rail provides an enjoyable, generally hassle-free travel experience.

Here are some reasons why we tend to opt for taking the train for traveling within Europe when we're planning trips.

Benefits of Taking the Train

When you have a limited amount of precious vacation time, you don't want to waste time getting from place to place. Even if you are flying and have a short flight, you have to factor in time getting to the airport, arriving a couple of hours before the flight, going through security, checking-in and collecting bags. Trains, on the other hand, save time because you can arrive at the station within 30 minutes or less (if you're brave) before the train departs.

The high-speed rail system in Europe is fast, with trains clocking in at speeds of 200mph (TGV line of France). You can get from London to Paris or Milan to Venice in a little over 2 hours. And because the trains depart and arrive right in the center of the cities, you'll have quick, easy access to your hotel via subway, taxi, buses, or on foot.

The trains' long carriages hold more people than planes. Couple that with the frequency of departures, and you have a high degree of flexibility in your travel plans.

Because they're longer than planes, trains offer more legroom than flights and the seats recline. You can walk around the train and have meals in a dining area as opposed to your seat. There's also more space for storing your luggage without the hassle of weight restrictions or baggage fees.

Part of the enjoyment of taking the train in Europe is the ride itself. You can enjoy views of the countryside and have conversations with other passengers or your traveling companions as you would at a dinner table, provided you are in a section of the train where the seats face each other.

Among other amenities, the brand new high-speed train in Italy the Italo line offers WiFi onboard.

The Negatives

While traveling by train in Europe can often be more enjoyable than flying, it's not entirely stress-free.

For one, when you connect between trains, you have to carry your own luggage. The ever-present threat of union strikes in Europe can cause train delays and, even, cancellations.

Lastly, train trips lasting longer than four hours can be a drag. For instance, people who crave privacy and luxury may find overnight trains a challenge in terms of cleanliness and comfort. However, first class cabins and rail lines that specialize in luxury travel offer more comfort. We recommend booking only first class trains for longer duration trips.

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