Tripologist
Travel Planning. Expert Advice.


Planning

January 17, 2013

7 Reasons to Ditch the Airport and Travel By Land

The sunsets over Inner Mongolia Province in China as the Trans-Siberian train passes through.

I love to travel, but man, I hate flying. And it’s not just because I tend to convince myself that every plane I’m on is about to do a nose-dive into the ground. I just really hate the whole experience. From spending hours trying to get the best price months before you leave, to dealing with getting to an airport that’s further outside of town than Neptune, it’s just such a hassle.

While I realize that it isn’t always practical to travel by land, especially when traveling across oceans, here are seven reasons why you should travel by land whenever possible.

It’s Easier to Travel By Land

No really, it is. While you have to buy plane tickets months in advance and then show up about four days ahead of your flight, you don’t have to do that with most ground transport. In fact, if you are traveling outside of the tourist season, it’s often possible to walk up to the counter and buy a ticket minutes before departure, and, big surprise, you probably won’t pay more than you would have if you’d planned ahead.

All of this, of course, doesn’t even mention that bus and train stations are often located in the city center, making them significantly easier to get to by public transport. Heck, sometimes you can even walk to the train station. How often can you do that for an airport?

It Saves You Money

When traveling on a budget, going by land can really save you a ton of money. With airfares continuing to rise, taking the bus, train, or even boat can often save you hundreds of dollars on your route.

“But wait,” the doubters say, “this isn’t always true.” And to a certain extent, they are correct. If you plan far enough in advance, you can usually snag some good prices on airfare. However, what if you want to take more than a carry-on suitcase? And what about getting to the airport? Since they are usually located about half-way to your intended destination, it usually costs a lot more to get to an airport than it does to get to a train station.

Not to mention that a well-timed overnight train ride can save you a night’s accommodation. That right there can sometimes more than cover the ticket.’s cost. Plus…

Train connecting Athens, Greece to Sofia, Bulgaria

Train connecting Athens, Greece to Sofia, Bulgaria

Traveling By Land Can Save You Time

Ok, I admit it. This one sounds a bit a weird. I mean, how can a plane that’s traveling at 600 mph not get there before a train that’s going, at absolute most, 185 mph or a bus going 65 mph? However, I didn’t say it would get there faster, I just said it can save you time…sometimes.

Think about this. Let’s say you want to travel between New York City and Washington, DC. In just travel time, it takes one hour and fifteen minutes to travel between the two cities by airplane, three hours and twenty minutes by train, and three hours and fifty minutes by car or bus. So, yes, it technically takes more than two hours more to travel by land; however…while it might take you ten or fifteen minutes to get to the train station, it will usually take you at least twice as long to get to the airport. Also, when you travel by train or bus, arriving fifteen minutes early is usually more than enough time. However, with airplanes, it is recommended that your arrive at least two hours before your departure. Add to the fact that buses, trains, and cars have a much better on-time record, and your left with the trip between NYC and DC taking you several hours less by land.

Plus, if you take an overnight train or bus, you are losing even less time, going to bed in the center of one city, and waking up in the center of another. A great choice for longer distances.

You Don’t Have to Get Violated

I mean, have you been to the airport recently? I’m surprised you are even allowed to wear pants on the flight at this point. While I’m all for security, it’s just ridiculous.

If you take the train, you might have to go through a metal detector in some countries, like China, and you might see a bomb/drug-sniffing dog walk by, but overall, you won’t end up feeling dirty and violated or in therapy.

It Saves the Environment

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a huge environmentalist, but I’m all for doing the little things that make this world a cleaner place. And, it’s a very simple fact that traveling by train or bus is cheaper than flying. If it wasn’t, you’d see people lining up to buy carbon offsets for their train trip.

Several of the 4000 Islands in the Mekong River.

Several of the 4000 Islands in the Mekong River.

You Can Experience the Culture

In many countries, flights are just too expensive for locals, so they are forced to take the bus or the train. And, couple that with the fact that trains and buses seem to encourage conversation much more than airplanes, and you have a recipe for a cultural explosion. In fact, during my six months of travel, some of the most memorable moments happened during my bus, train, and boat journeys. Things that I never would have experienced had I flown.

It’s not that they were all good, like the chinese kid peeing on the bed in our shared four-berth cabin, but they all made for interesting stories. After all, if I hadn’t traveled by land, I wouldn’t have gone out to dinner with a Chinese man who didn’t speak any English, done vodka shots with Russian soldiers, or witnessed a man smuggling bags and bags full of ferrets in Laos. There are somethings that the sterilized airplane just can’t show you.

You Can See the Space in Between

In my opinion, this one is huge, which is why I saved it for last. If you fly, you are getting, assuming you have a window seat and no cloud cover, a very distant, over-head view of the world. However, if you take a train, you are frequently traveling through the heart of local villages, passing through pristine forests, and over raging rivers.

Despite my A.D.D., I can sit beside a train window and stare out for hours and hours. The beauty of the passing scenery is fantastic, and you never know when you’ll pass a spectacular waterfall or beautifully preserved old town that will make it all worthwhile.

What do you think? Is it better to travel by land or by air? Let us know in the comments section below.

 






7 Comments


  1. Travelling by land is the best. Being in a train or bus gives you a much better feeling of a culture. Flying everywhere makes it impossible to enjoy the landscape, unless you’re really into clouds.
    Some people say it’s too much trouble. But it isn’t. As long as you just go with the flow everything will be all right.


  2. Took the Adirondack from NYC to Montreal and the scenery was spectacular. Another benefit to going by land is you can bring any food or drink you want.. saves money and beats those dodgy plane stews hands down


  3. Thanks for your interesting article. I agree that the land option can be both a richer experience and in total a faster trip!

    I have used Eurail a couple of times now and there is nothing better than just hopping on and off a train as you feel like it.


  4. I totally agree – Land and sea travel is the way to go!!
    More and more so i find being inside an airplane stressful, the air compressed and my body doesn’t seem to understand whats happening! I love buses and trains when there is enough leg room but it’s also a cultural experience being on public transport cramped up against a local!
    You say you aren’t an environmentalist but I tend to lean toward green and try to avoid flying as much as possible (unfortunately work has sent me on many long hauls this year) as it is incredibly bad for the environment!
    Less is more – less distance but more of an experience!!


  5. I spent a lot of time on trains in Germany and it was incredibly relaxing, staring out the window was also one of my favorite parts. Great list!



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *