TTT: Train v. plane in the UK

February 24, 2009 at 9:42 pm 1 comment

Friends of mine are visiting Ireland and the UK in early June.  They’re flying in and out of Dublin and want to drive around in Ireland, blitz through London, check out Edinburgh and Loch Ness, and see Canterbury, Stonehenge, Bath, and Birmingham.  Wow!  They have to be in Birmingham in the middle of the trip, so they’re in the process of laying out a plan.  One of the biggest issues with their planning is the big train v. plane debate.  You ask, “It’s really a debate?”  Yep, it sure is.  This Travel Tip Tuesday, I’m going to share my view on this debate.

Why should I be so passionate about this issue that I’m not only inserting my opinion into my friends’ travel plans but also writing a blog post about it?  Because I made the choice to fly on our 2004 Europe trip.  We flew from Rome to Paris, and I flew from Paris to Barcelona.  The flight from Rome to Paris was a mistake.  We flew Ryan Air from Ciampino to Paris-Beauvias.  It pretty much took all day.  We had to get to the airport in Rome pretty early because of all the stories I read about people getting bumped from Ryan Air flights.  And then it turned out the alleged 45 minute bus ride from BVA into the city center of Paris actually took over an hour and a half.  Then we got dumped at a metro station after midnight – which meant that we had to take a taxi to the hotel.  We wasted a whole day and had to pay for a hotel stay on both ends.  A better choice would’ve been to snag a sleeper in an overnight train.  Then again, my trip on EasyJet from Paris Charles de Gaulle to Barcelona was just fine.

On to the question at hand!  When one of my friends was listing the places they want to visit, it sounded like they’d need to get from London to Edinburgh.  The train v. plane option for that trip is an important choice.  Usually I’m all about flying, so I thought about that first.  They could fly RyanAir out of Gatwick less than 80GBP total.  The flight will take less than 1.5 hours, so that sounds pretty awesome.  That’s not everything they’d need to consider though: (1) be honest – airports are a hassle with all the lines to wait in, and they’d be going through two; (2) add a minimum of an hour to allow for check in, and probably more like 2 hours; (3) don’t forget the time to get to and from the airport (a minimum of 30 minutes on either end); and (4) there’s also the time spent collecting luggage once you get to the second airport.  That 1.5 hour flight is really going to be about 5 hours total. And they’ll be paying for a hotel stay on either end of that trip.

Let’s look at the train option.  There are actually two good options here – the GNER from King’s Cross, which leaves at various times and takes only 4.5 hours , and the Caledonian Sleeper from Euston, which leaves a bit before midnight (boarding permitted starting at 11pm) and gets in at 7am.  The former will run about 65GBP, and the latter about 100GBP total.  The trains are neat because: (1) train stations are far less hassle than going through airports; (2) you’ll be picked up and dropped off in city centers; (3) there’s no waiting around – you just get on and go; and (4) there’s no fear of losing your luggage.  Also, if you take the sleeper, you miss a night of paying for a hotel room.  So… I’d pick the sleeper option.  There you have it – my travel tip is for travelers to take the sleeper train between London and Edinburgh.

The funny thing is that, thinking more about what they want to do and see, my friends probably won’t end up needing that info after all!  I’m thinking it’ll be safer for them to plan most of the Ireland portion of their trip at the end so they’ll have some flexibility to ensure they’ll catch their flight home without any problems.  They can hang out in Dublin and rest up a bit the day they arrive and then fly RyanAir from Dublin to London Stansted the day after they arrive in Dublin for under 75EUR total.  They can see London and then snag a car (yes, they’re willing to drive on the wrong side of the road!!) to visit the places they want to see in England.  It’ll probably be easiest and most fun for them to then just drive to Birmingham.  They can do their couple days in Birmingham, and then train it up to Edinburgh and run the Loch Ness trip from there.  Next up, back to Dublin (via RyanAir for 30GBP total) where they can buzz around for a couple days in Ireland before heading home.  Doesn’t that sound like fun?

Images: London from Prediction Markets Cluster and Edinburgh from Virgin Media.


Entry filed under: Europe, Planes, trains, autos, boats, Travel Tips.

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. self catering edinburgh  |  February 25, 2009 at 4:09 am

    Agree with most of your analysis about the train v plane option for London to Edinburgh, but woudl say having done the sleeper, it’s not an pleasant trip – and I’m small and can sleep anywhere – except the London Edinburgh sleeper!
    A good train option is to travel at weekends in et day when you can get a cheap upgrade to 1st class and enjoy the scenery – which North of Birmingham is very pleasant.


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