In the hot seat: negotiating Europe’s crazy travel costs

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Does anyone else find the cost of travel in Europe pretty crazy right now? Not so much for how expensive it can be, but also how cheap, none of which seems to take distance into account. As of this moment, from my home here in England, I can travel pretty much anywhere in Europe by plane for under £100. There’s plenty of deals for under fifty too. Paris, Rome, Madrid, Berlin…well, near enough anyway- the budget airlines won’t fly you right to your doorstep in the city centre, but Easyjet and Ryanair all offer flights to smaller airports close by for next to nothing.

Astronomical Train Fares

What’s crazy about it is, to get in a plane and be there in under three hours, costs usually about a third of the price of getting there by coach and roughly a fifth of the price of the train. The cheapest deal I could find to Madrid on the coach was £125 return and the train was £220. Granted if I booked in advance, I could probably lower those prices, but it just seems strange that cheap airline tickets are so much cheaper than buses or trains.

Clapham Junction, waiting for train

Will It Change?

I don’t know about the rest of Europe, but the British government is beginning to address this issue, in light of the hordes of business people jetting up and down the British Isles for next to nothing. Despite the damage it does to the environment, they can’t really be blamed when doing it by bus or train would take price as long and usually cost three or four times the price. High speed rail links will soon be in place which will make the journeys quicker, but it remains to be seen whether prices will come down. They’ll have to pay for the expensive new lines and their trains somehow.

Slow And Unreliable

In my experience, a prohibitively slow, expensive and unreliable train system is strictly a British problem. Having travelled extensively on the European railway networks I can say that they are a much cheaper and easier ride. Plus the European companies seem to be getting on board with the idea of competing on price. You can get from London to Amsterdam on Eurostar for £70, not much more than the plane, it takes three comfortable hours and you arrive in the city centre. Furthermore, Eurolines bus service IS cheaper than the cheapest budget airlines, but it remains a slow and uncomfortable way to travel. Having said that, once you reach mainland Europe, I’ve found that getting around by road or rail is a much more pleasant way of doing things. You see more, and you arrive much more relaxed than you would do had you negotiated a busy airport and a grumpy Ryanair stewardess.

Are We Cursed?

To be honest, being in the British Isles, I think we’re cursed by our inefficient transport network and the fact that we’re an island nation. If I lived on the mainland I think I’d rarely visit an airport to travel on the continent. As it is though, sitting in a traffic jam or waiting on a platform for a delayed train thats cost me an arm and a leg isn’t my idea of a good start to a holiday, so I’ll probably just keep jumping on a nice cheap flight.

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