Plane v. Train

How long have you been hearing about a Eurail pass that will whisk you away to every country in Europe? I’d been hearing about this magical ticket my whole life. When it actually came time to go to Europe I looked into it and was a bit disappointed. It’s not magic. It can’t teleport you from Warsaw to Venice, it takes 22 hours to travel that far. Now, of course you’ll want to stop in Berlin and Paris on the way but even those take 5 + hours in between. If you are backpacking across Europe and you are under 26 years old it may be completely worth it. However, once you hit that magical age of 26 all prices in Europe shoot up. I was 25 for the majority of our travel and my husband was 30, so while he’d pay adult prices I got away with 30% less.

Using a Eurail pass makes sense if you are planning on starting on one side of the continent and working your way across, with plenty of stops. Breaking down each journey into 5 hours segments is doable (we did 6 hours from Munich to Venice and it was fine).  Just make sure you use the ticket correctly as we witnessed several people getting yelled at by scary German conductors. There are also supplements that you may be required to buy, especially in Italy. The ticket also requires a good deal of planning prior to your trip and doesn’t lend itself to being spontaneous – which is part of what makes European travel so wonderful.

We were tempted to take the train often but after looking into the price and the duration of the trip usually chose to fly instead. We didn’t not use a Eurail pass because for us living abroad for a year it would have been ridiculously expensive.

We thought about taking the train from Munich to Berlin, but it was 6 hours and 130 Euros each – one way! Our flights were only 75 Euros and only an hour in the air. True, you don’t have to deal with the hassle of going through security, or checking a bag, or wondering about what liquids they’ll make you throw out. Nor do you have to journey far to get to the central station (it’s 45 minutes and an extra 12 Euros from the Munich HBF to the airport).

The best part about train travel is you can show up 3 minutes before the train leaves and hop on… one can’t really do that with an airplane. So maybe by the time you calculate the time it takes to get to the airport, get through security, fly, wait for your bag, and get to your final destination from the airport it could have been quicker to travel by train.

My advice would be to not assume that train travel is the best option. But if you are going to train, try to use Deutsche Bahn (the German rail) as much as possible as it is the highest quality in Europe. And never, ever, calculate RyanAir as a possibility.

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