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Thoughts on traveling by train vs. plane

Thoughts on traveling by train vs. plane

Old Feb 10, 20, 8:57 am
  #1  
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Thoughts on traveling by train vs. plane

Hello, all. I'm working out the details of a longish trip to Europe this summer. Most of the itinerary is worked out, but I have about a week to work my way from Barcelona to Warsaw, which I have decided to spend mostly in Amsterdam, though I would also like to visit Bruges and, if possible, Ghent.

I am debating whether to take trains for planes. As far as I can tell, after factoring in security screening and transportation to and from the airports, the Barcelona–Bruges (Brussels) leg of the trip will not take much longer by train and should be very scenic. Am I right about this, and if you're familiar with the journey, would you recommend going by train or plane?

Also debating taking the train from Amsterdam to Warsaw (I will be visiting Berlin later in the trip so do not need to stop there en route). I have ancestry in the region so thought it would be interesting to at least have a chance to see the countryside...but it's quite a long trip, and perhaps my time would be better spent flying to Warsaw and spending the extra time there?
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Old Feb 10, 20, 10:21 am
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The distances are big, I might be missing something but google maps suggests 10+ hours from Barcelona to Brussels and 12+ hours from Amsterdam to Warsaw. (and not to mention having to change transport method couple of times)
That is vs. 2 hours flying in both cases, add 2-3 hours before and maybe 1 hour after to get to/from the airport and you're still looking at half the time flying.
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Old Feb 10, 20, 10:38 am
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You're not missing anything, I messed up. I confused myself by originally looking at breaking up the journey from Barcelona by overnighting in Paris, and Seat 61 recommended the train in that case given the extra time needed for flight check-in, etc. I've been to Paris, however, so decided against stopping there...but then forgot that advice related to that journey, not the journey all the way to Amsterdam. So, um, never mind, and thank you. Definitely flying out of Barcelona.

I do know the Amsterdam–Warsaw journey is very long and requires a change in Berlin. I thought if it was scenic enough it would be worth a train trip (I might also need a slow day given how much I'll be running around in the two weeks before and two weeks after). So if anyone has any thoughts on whether it is worth it for the views, I will definitely consider the train even given the time commitment. Otherwise I expect resting up by sitting in a Warsaw cafe will work, too.
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Old Feb 10, 20, 10:43 am
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Amsterdam to Warsaw via Berlin is not particularly scenic. Nothing wrong with it, just a lot of same-ish flat countryside. I take the train a fair bit, and I honestly don't mind it, and it can be far more relaxing than flying, as you just sit and read or look out the window, or eat and drink. You can get up and walk around, the toilets are big enough to properly move around in...you get the picture.
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Old Feb 10, 20, 10:52 am
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Thanks, LondonElite. I am no fan of flying, so, your point is well taken about the attraction of train travel even when the scenery isn't exceptional. I guess I'll work out how much time I need to do what I want to do in Amsterdam/Bruges/Ghent and then decide how much time that leaves to get to Warsaw and go from there.
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Old Feb 10, 20, 10:58 am
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If I were taking such a trip for leisure reasons, I'd pack a nice picnic with a good bottle of wine and have a long feast at my seat, then a little snooze.
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Old Feb 10, 20, 11:06 am
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That does not sound like a bad day at all. I got me some decisions to make...
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Old Feb 10, 20, 3:38 pm
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While i fully appreciate that you now have your solution, i do feel that travelling greater distances by train has a certain charm and its advantages - in mainland europe at least. It could have been fun going from Barcelona to Warsaw in a week by train.
The high speed rail network is reasonably well connected and time wise compares well to flights over the shorter distances. Longer routes, not so much.
You generally can go from city centre to city centre, and if you have the time spend a little at each to take in a mini-tour.
Although, i'll concede it's often not the cheapest method for longer journeys, but to offset that i do understand it is substantially more environmentally friendly than flying.
As mentioned above you can walk around, it's more spacious than flying, no turbulence nor seatbelts and safety demonstrations, a bar to visit, and after several hours you often find yourself in conversations with other travellers, making it much more of a relaxing experience.
For us, on european leisure trips a train is likely involved somewhere. Work is often a mix of train and plane.
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Old Feb 10, 20, 4:02 pm
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All of your reasons for focusing on a longer rail trip are appealing, MalFr—particularly the point about not having to worry about turbulence, which terrifies me.

If I can get my luggage down to a single backpack, a rail trip would be incredibly appealing. I am determined to keep myself to carryon luggage but will likely have a small roller bag and a backpack and would not want to lug that around while trying to enjoy a city for an afternoon. I am not a very experienced traveler (this is probably obvious by now, ha). Are there good and safe options for securing luggage during a rail stopover that may not include an overnight stay?
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Old Feb 10, 20, 6:35 pm
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I am a huge fan of traveling by train in Europe. I even celebrated by birthday once by having a nice breakfast in London, lunch in Paris and dinner in Zurich. Add some good wine and beautiful scenery and it was one of my best birthdays

If you have time, do it!
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Old Feb 11, 20, 8:10 am
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I wouldn't do Amsterdam to Warsaw by train in one go.

I did do London to Warsaw by train last year because I found the perfect itinerary for some business I needed to conduct in a few cities.
For 80 euros I did the following
- London to Amsterdam 11am - 4pm, 3 hours in Amsterdam
- Amsterdam-Duesseldorf 7pm-9pm, 2 hours in Duesseldorf
- Duesseldorf-Potsdam 11pm-5am (seated!), 6 hours in Potsdam and Berlin
- Berlin-Frankfurt(Oder) 11am-noon, 1 hour in Słubice
- Frankfurt(Oder)-Warsaw 2pm-7pm

The scenery during daylight hours was not particularly interesting and to be honest the last leg just dragged on and on. Although on that train, you could pass the time in the dining car as recommended by Seat61. I walked through it and the food looked pretty good, but every seat was occupied the entire journey.
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Old Feb 11, 20, 12:00 pm
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My rule of thumb: if you're travelling up to 3h, train is a no-brainer. Up to 4h, and it's got a strong case for being faster. Over 4h, and you're doing it for the enjoyment of train travel. Over 6h or overnight, and you're treating it as an adventure.

For longer journeys, unless I know I have a specific thing to do (i.e. work) then I'll be looking at breaking it up. That's the nice thing about train travel, you can be off the platform with your bags in a locker, and slap bang in the city centre in 5 minutes. Even a break of less than an hour can involve a leg-stretch and a coffee-and-local-delicacy break. Colon-D-exclamation has a good sounding itinerary.

If you want to get an idea of how to get from one point to another and what's inbetween, the German Railways' journey planner is extremely helpful.
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Old Feb 11, 20, 12:19 pm
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Thank you all so much for the tips. I am now overwhelmed by the possibilities and lost some sleep last night sitting up with my tablet looking up timetables and wondering whether, if I take the train, I should consider making a stop (or two) in Switzerland and spending a night in Geneva or Bern before heading north to Bruges and Amsterdam. It is really tempting to try to make this work, though it may mean I end up flying from Amsterdam to Warsaw (the rail trip I originally expected to make a priority!) so that I get enough time in Amsterdam. It would be a bit rushed, but given that I don't know when I might get another chance to visit these places, I should probably take advantage of the opportunity while I have it.
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Old Feb 11, 20, 12:21 pm
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That's the beauty of travel!
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Old Feb 11, 20, 3:55 pm
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Originally Posted by Nayli View Post
All of your reasons for focusing on a longer rail trip are appealing, MalFr—particularly the point about not having to worry about turbulence, which terrifies me.

If I can get my luggage down to a single backpack, a rail trip would be incredibly appealing. I am determined to keep myself to carryon luggage but will likely have a small roller bag and a backpack and would not want to lug that around while trying to enjoy a city for an afternoon. I am not a very experienced traveler (this is probably obvious by now, ha). Are there good and safe options for securing luggage during a rail stopover that may not include an overnight stay?
I think most of the major stations across Europe have some kind of left luggage storage - either an office or lockers - but you'd have to check.
I've never personally used any of them, but did help a Japanese colleague try to use the coin lockers at Brussels Midi last year and it took a few attempts to find a working one. Not a major issue, just took a little time and patience.
If you're spending just "an afternoon" , it may help to plan your route to choose stations that are close to where you want to visit, that has the facilities you need.

Mal
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