decisions decisions! with choices come headaches right? haha. when you want to get from one city/country to another, what transport option do you go for?? well, i can’t give you an answer for sure, but here are the factors to consider:
– departure/arrival timing
– time/distance to travel to the train station VS airport (accessibility) in both your arrival and departure city
this is gonna be quite a long-winded post, but it’s really quite useful (at least i hope it is :p haha) if you need to know ;)
i’m very biased :P i hate taking planes because i get air-sickness (no i don’t puke but i just feel terribly uncomfortable), so i’ll tell you planes take and take trains FTW!!! but of course, you should make the decision yourself (: anyway, taking planes around in europe was actually a better experience for me as compared to long-haul flights because they were over so fast! all the flights i took were all less than 2hrs. i just fell asleep before the plane took off and woke up when it landed (Y). shiok. haha especially considering the unearthly hours i had to wake up to catch the plane, i was often so sleep deprived that i would concuss on the plane.
so, where to start? one of your favourite websites on exchange (it should be on your top visited sites haha) is skyscanner where you can check out the CHEAPEST flights from one place to another ;) they include all the possible airlines in the world i think. haha. it’s super awesome. i’m sure you know this by now. if you haven’t, you’ve been living under a rock (i’m just kidding :p) or you haven’t been talking to people about your exchange at all. anyway, the CHEAPEST flights you can get are usually from Ryanair, but here are other factors (i.e. the not-so-nice parts) that you need to consider:
– the website of Ryanair is pretty long-winded. because their flights are so cheap, they have the longest forms for you to fill in where they suggest all sorts of add-ons which are really of no use at all. except maybe the airport transfers, but you can find that by yourself too
– Ryanair has one of the smallest luggage size allowances!!! (see below) i was SHOCKED when i saw how small it is. even if you try to measure your luggage at home with a ruler, i don’t think it works. the good thing is that if you carry a backpack, they are less likely to ask you to fit your luggage in the cage and usually let you breeze through quite easily. differs from one airport to another.
– it has pretty weird flight timings. the really cheap ones are at the oddest hours, and you might have to stay overnight at the airport to catch your flight (saves one night of accommodation cost too!) which is not the most comfortable feeling ever. haha, but it’s an experience you’ll only get on exchange i suppose ;) once/twice, why not? haha.
– Ryanair’s flights usually depart from the less accessible airports, so you have to consider the costs of getting to the city from there and whether it’s still worth it to take a flight
– no assigned seats (unless you pay for it), so there is usually some chaos when you board the plane
– you need to get your boarding pass stamped at the airport, which means that you need to reach the airport around 1.5hrs (i would say, for the first few flights you take, around 2hrs to be safe, because anything can go wrong in europe :p) before the last boarding time (not the departure time!) to get this done, and also to have some buffer time for queues.
– Ryanair never ever opens its gate till the “last boarding time” -.- doesn’t make sense to me at all haha. but make sure you’re there before that anyway. the plane isn’t going to wait for you
Easyjet is usually the other option for cheap flights, though it’s more expensive than Ryanair! but it seems to have slightly more humane timings, and the website is easier to navigate. plus they don’t require you to stamp the boarding pass, which makes the whole process easier! their luggage size allowance is also slightly bigger than Ryanair’s, and they have assigned seats.
the best way to get cheap flights would be to fly on weekdays and book way in advance. prices can increase exponentially as the flight date draws closer so don’t procrastinate!!! i spent a bomb on flights sometimes, which honestly could have been better spent on an additional trip, so don’t make the same mistake as me!
taking a plane might seem cheaper and faster, but here are “hidden costs” to consider:
1. How long does it take for you to get to the airport? And how much time before the flight do you need to be at the airport? Include these durations in to get an actual idea of the total duration.
2. How much does it cost for you to get to the airport from the city centre? It might be expensive sometimes, and remember, you need a round trip for both your departure and arrival country. Consider this in calculating the total cost for your flight.
3. How much luggage do you have? Excess luggage on budget flights can be REALLY EXPENSIVE. If you think your luggage might exceed the weight limits, buy excess baggage allowance while you are booking your flight for the best rates, or before the day of your flight. if you are forced to check-in your luggage at the airport itself, you can be sure that it’ll cost a bomb! Include excess baggage costs in the total price as well.
our terribly vandalized train in Lake Como
what about trains then? it’s usually the alternative option to planes (: they take a longer duration, and are sometimes more expensive. depending on what country you’re in, and what type of train you are taking. there are quite a number of options for trains. and i’ll be doing a post specifically for italian trains soon! (: because their train system is SUPER complicated. i spent the longest time trying to figure it out xP anyway, i heard that trains traveling within germany are really expensive, so you might want to consider other transport options.
So, if trains take longer & are more expensive, what factors would make you consider them over planes then?
– accessibility: usually train stations are located in the heart of the city. which makes them much more easily accessible via public transport within the city itself, compared to airports which are so far away
– no extra time needed: you don’t have to reach the train station thaaat early. but of course, don’t reach there with 10min to spare, cos it’s highly likely that you’ll miss your train unless you’re really familiar with the station/it’s a small station. an important thing to note is that trains are V.E.R.Y. punctual. they leave right on the dot. when it says 10:36, the train starts moving the second the clock changes from 10:35 to 10:36. and it will not wait. so DO NOT BE LATE!!! i’ve had to chase trains countless times, and believe me, you do not want to go through this. it is a harrowing experience!!! :O especially when you have to run with a luggage. it is no joke. i’ve run 1km through a whole city, only to miss the train by seconds. i’ve had to climb over rail tracks to catch a train, which is super dangerous – do not try this. i’ve gotten conned by those idiotic italian people who help you carry your luggage onto the train (when you don’t even need their help at all. i merely let go of my luggage for a second and they grabbed it!!!) and make you pay for their (unsolicited) “service”. all not good experiences at all, so please learn to avoid it!! the lesson is to be at the train station at least half an hour before your train departs, so that you can check which platform your train is departing from and search for that platform (especially if the station is really huge, like in Rome).
– usually there are more options for train timings, as compared to planes. and it’s at more humane hours ;)
– no luggage limit!!!! this is a super important factor to consider, especially if you are planning to shop :D
of course, if you’re traveling between countries which are quite far apart, it makes pretty obvious sense to take a plane, because long hours on a train can be exhausting. but i heard the eurostar trains are not bad (:
question: to get a rail pass or not?
Rail Europe has rail passes for traveling within the country itself, for two countries and for a region. i really can’t give advice on this because it depends. haha. the best advice is to calculate how much you can get your train tickets for, using that country’s rail website, and see whether its more worth it to get the rail pass. for me, i didn’t purchase the pass because it wasn’t cheaper for me. but if you’re doing a lot of traveling in a few days, then it might be good to get the pass.
the last option is to take a bus! prior to exchange, this wasn’t something i considered. but i realised it’s actually a very good transport alternative!!!! for one thing, it’s the CHEAPEST. usually. and it’s pretty darn comfy! you can get snacks and drinks included too! how amazing is that. almost like a long haul flight without the air-sickness. needless to say, this was my favourite travel option, though i only took the bus once haha.
there are two common options for the bus: eurolines and student agency. student agency seems to be better from what i’ve heard. they have television screens for each seat (in-flight entertainment! wow :O really like a plane eh?) and even some sort of “flight stewardess” who goes around serving the snacks and drinks haha! how cool is that?!
the downsides would be the duration (this transport option takes the longest. but if you take an overnight ride, it shouldn’t be that torturous i suppose? fall asleep and wake up in a new city hehe ;)) and also, these buses operate in quite limited countries. i think they’re more common in the eastern europe area. but definitely something to consider if you’re going there! :) oh, and the departure/arrival timings are at rather unearthly hours :/ but the redeeming factor is that they deposit you right in the middle of the city (usually), so you can find your way to your accommodation relatively easily.
yepp! so these are the pros & cons of each mode of transport ^^ i wish there was a teleport machine option. i’ll be the first to try it!!!!! :P