To travel by train or by plane? That is the question. Each has it’s pro’s and cons. As a South African, I don’t recommend our public trains system. For one, it’s never on time. It’s over crowded (picture people falling out of a moving train or even hitching a ride on top of the train, because it’s over crowded). Possibility of kindly being asked to hand over your phone and wallet is fairly high. I will not recommend a tourist to take this route. However there are luxury trains, that are worth the splurge. namely The Blue Train and Rovos Rail.
So that covers South Africa, but what about the rest of the world?
Here is my pros and cons list
Why train travel:
Price – trains are almost always cheaper than planes. All depending on what kind of train you take and class category.
Comfort – I find trains are way more comfortable (not talking about the London Underground at peak times). Long distance travel by train, especially in Europe, is way more comfortable than a seat on Mango or Easy Jet.
Food – The food in the food carts may sometimes be a little pricy, but it’s still better than airplane food. Most train services do allow you to take your own food, but I do recommend checking with them first. When travelling Europe by train, you will see a lot of people unpacking a cooler bag and opening a bottle of wine and sitting back enjoying the scenery.
The scenery – Even if you have a window seat on a plane, you still don’t get to see as much of the countryside as you would’ve by train.
Why not train travel:
Time: This is probably the most obvious con of train travel. It does take you a bit longer to get from point A to point B, than it would’ve via plane.
Price: I know I said this earlier in the con’s, but do check flights and compare with train rates. With the increase of low cost airlines, you might just miss out on a great deal. Luxury trains can equal prices of that of a 5 star hotel in some countries.
Food: Some airlines may include food in your fare, for both local and international flights. This can save you a few Rands, so be sure to check if your flight has meals included.
Luggage: If you find it difficult to pack light and just cannot leave that extra pair of shoes, getting your luggage on and off a train can be a hassle. Most of the time you will have to load your own luggage into the train and into the overhead compartment. Unlike on a plane where you check your luggage in, it gets taken away on a belt and then ‘poof’, it comes out on the carousel on the other side. With only your hand luggage to worry about , it takes care of most of the heavy lifting.