We have shared a lot of tips about traveling by plane (we are Flytrippers after all) but in many situations, buses and trains have their advantages, especially for shorter distances. And sometimes even for longer distances.
Once you’ve made your way to a faraway destination by plane, hopefully, you want to move around and see more than just one spot! In my many travels, I often use buses and trains myself for shorter routes. But mostly only when it’s cheaper than flying (I love flying.)
Many travelers are making travel by bus or train a part of their journeys to reach their destinations. This is why we just launched our new bus & train travel resources page, with our favorite search tools for both (as we already had in our top menu to help you find the cheapest flights/hotels/car rentals/etc.)
It may sound counterintuitive to take a longer mode of transportation, but remember that the “journey is the destination” and sometimes, even for medium- to long-distance trips, buses and trains can be more practical than flying. And renting a car rarely makes sense financially when traveling solo; and even as a couple, it’s often a bad choice if you want to save money.
So here are 10 reasons to travel by train or bus. Consider this list next time you have the option—this might change your stance on what the best method of travel is for your journey.
1. Buses And Trains Can Be Less Expensive Than Flights
Okay, the first point is the only long one, because it’s the most important: cost and price is at the center of all we do here at Flytrippers (because saving = traveling more… and traveling more is awesome).
It’s no secret that this is the best reason to choose to travel by bus or train: it’s often cheaper. It’s great if you value saving money over convenience; if you want to travel more often. Remember, traveling isn’t expensive: it’s wanting travel to be convenient is expensive.
Depending on where you’re headed, the cost of flying could be substantially more than going by train or bus.
- nonstop flights will be the most expensive
- flights with layovers will be a bit cheaper
- trains will be even cheaper
- buses will be the cheapest
That’s simply because like everything else, convenience has a price: flying nonstop is usually the most convenient, while the bus is the least convenient.
Flight prices aren’t based on distance, so it’s not an absolute rule, but when the route is shorter, bus and train travel is often a better option.
Compare these three different options for getting from New York City to Washington DC:
- Nonstop flight: $98 (Momondo)
- Flight with layover: $67 (Momondo)
- Train: $57 (Omio)
- Bus: $11 (Busbud)
In other words, it’s 400% more expensive to take the train, 500% more expensive to take flights, and 700% more expensive to take a nonstop flight.
Not to mention that $100 saved right there can buy you so many things in the world of travel, like more than 4 full days of ALL your travel expenses in 40 affordable countries. Extend your trip by 4 days, or get a little more convenience for a short amount of time? Your choice.
But like anything in the world of travel, it’s important to always compare. Because throughout my journeys to 60 countries and 46 US States, flying has often been cheaper than both other options, and sometimes trains have been cheaper than buses (and a lot more comfortable).
And another aspect that many never think of, and therefore pay more and then believe the myth that travel is expensive: often it is so much cheaper to combine a flight with either a bus or a train than to just fly to your destination. I’ll give you many concrete examples in a separate article (sign up for free to make sure you don’t miss it) because we’ll keep this one shorter.
It’s true that a bus or train ride will take quite a bit longer than a flight. But if time is a major issue for you, don’t forget to factor in arriving at the airport 1–2 hours before your departure or getting to your destination from the airport on the other side.
2. Arrive In The Heart Of The City
Another perk of traveling by bus or train is that, typically, you arrive right in the heart of the city you’re traveling to.
A lot of cities have train and bus stations closer to the city center, but most airports are further from the action, much further away from cities as they need large spaces for their operations.
3. It’s About The Journey, Not The Destination
If speed isn’t a priority, taking the scenic route across a country is bound to be a much more pleasant experience than a closed-off flight. Many railways and bus routes will take you along some of the most beautiful areas of the country as you make your way to your destinations.
You’ll usually see parts of the country you would have never seen otherwise. This is especially true for train travel: train tracks often run through areas untouched by vehicle traffic. I got to go where very few travelers go on my recent 1,000-kilometer 35-hour train journey across Zimbabwe and Botswana and these are landscapes and places I definitely would not have seen otherwise.
Some trips are even oriented explicitly around the experience of witnessing breathtaking valleys, mountains, canyons, rivers, foothills, and forests. We’ll soon share a post about the most iconic train journeys in the world (again, sign up for free to get it first).
4. You Don’t Have To Arrive Super Early
Train and bus stations are a lot less strict about their pre-departure rituals than airports. As I said, in general, a flight may get you where you’re going more quickly, but that is based purely on travel time.
For example, domestic flights in the US require that you arrive at the airport 1 hour before boarding, plus an additional 30 minutes if you haven’t yet joined us on #teamcarryon and decide to check baggage.
And in many countries, they suggest arriving even earlier, and many people are quite scared of missing their flights and arrive a lot earlier, wasting a lot of time compared to arriving 20 minutes before your bus or train leaves. And again, since the stations are in the city center—where you’re probably visiting anyway—you’ll save on time to get to the station too.
Then, of course, once you arrive on the other side, there’s the waiting time to collect your luggage, assuming that all has gone according to plan, and your bags haven’t gotten lost in the process.
5. Better For The Environment
If you’re trying to reduce your carbon footprint, then taking the bus or train is definitely a more responsible choice.
Diesel trains, according to the BBC, would produce around 28% fewer carbon emissions than what a flight would create on the same journey. Furthermore, electric trains would produce roughly 64% fewer carbon emissions than the equivalent plane ride.
In all cases, you should absolutely not stop traveling, as the positive impact of travel for you as a person is so great. Keep things in perspective: the fashion industry pollutes 4 times more than the aviation industry and there are a lot of other ways that you can have an impact.
And switching a few flights to trains or buses is one way. Even I—the biggest aviation geek out there—managed to do it a few times in 2019. But I also flew for literally no reason, so I’ll cut those out and do better in 2020. That said, I can’t wait to share my travel year in review post with you shortly, and answer your many questions about how I travel.
6. The Comfort Factor
As many people have varying degrees of sensitivity to different modes of transport, trains and buses can often be more suitable options.
While there isn’t a lot of legroom on a plane, trains usually come with more freedom to move about and get comfortable. You can also get up and walk around, visit different compartments, and stretch your legs. Some trains have dining cars, too, so you’re not really confined to your seat like on an airplane.
I really love flying, but I also love train travel. It’s a lot more comfortable for me at almost 6ft tall and even being a super cheap traveler (that’s how you get to go on 12 international trips in a year), one of the rare things I splurge on is when a train is just a few dollars more than a bus. I’ll soon share stories about my best train rides too.
To me, the difference in comfort is huge in a train versus a bus. But I travel by bus too, I recently took an 8-hour overnight one because it was cheaper, and it was fine. And when the bus ride is under 4 hours, there’s no problem at all comfort-wise.
If you are more sensitive than me, trains and buses also mean you won’t have to contend with the stomach-turning turbulence that some experience on flights.
7. Better Availability
Plane routes are very limited. There are only so many airlines making trips to certain areas, based on the number of people traveling to that region. It’s hard to make many routes profitable.
With the bus, though, you can easily find a ride to almost anywhere for a reasonable price. Almost all cities in the world are connected to nearby cities by bus. I don’t remember many places with no bus service.
There aren’t as many train routes as bus routes, but in many places, you have a lot of options. This is obviously not the case with flights, at least not nonstop flights.
Generally, there are also multiple buses and trains departing throughout the day, meaning you have much more freedom when it comes to picking the appropriate time for you to travel. With flights, if you want the cheapest ones, you are usually offered just a few flight times.
8. Staying Connected
As we live in a digital age, most people prefer having the full functionality of their devices whether they’re traveling. As signals can interfere with the plane’s instruments, you won’t have access to your data unless you purchase Wi-Fi onboard, but it’s usually expensive and not very fast.
Some older planes (or narrowbody planes for short-haul flights) also don’t even have power outlets to plug in. On the other hand, a lot of bus and train services provide power outlets so passengers can charge their phones, iPads, and laptops (but not all).
Many of them also supply free Wi-Fi so that passengers can entertain themselves, stay in touch with friends and family while traveling, or even get some work done while they’re on the move.
9. Better Booking Experience
There are two types of pricing mechanisms in travel: fixed or dynamic. Almost all airlines have dynamic prices, meaning booking at the last minute is often super expensive.
But in many countries, prices for train and bus trips are fixed. And even when they are dynamic, they don’t vary as much as they do for flights.
So if you want the convenience of booking last minute, buses and trains are great for that. For peak season travel, it’s the same thing: bus and train prices are more regular and don’t shift so drastically like flights, so you can travel for less.
And seeing as trains and buses have more departures throughout the day, it isn’t necessary to book your trip months in advance, giving you a lot more flexibility.
Ticket cancellation rules are less restrictive, too. Some bus services offer a refund or at least the option to change the date and time of your ticket for a small fee. Cheap flights are never refundable or modifiable (and that makes sense, even if it’s a hard pill to swallow for many).
10. Fewer Luggage Restrictions
Of course, we encourage you to stop overpacking and try out traveling light. It makes trips so much more convenient. And cheaper.
But for those who don’t want to try, luggage fees can often add a significant amount to the price of your plane ticket, especially on ultra low-cost carrier routes. Furthermore, you’re more limited when it comes to the amount of luggage you can carry with you when traveling via plane.
But buses allow you to bring bags for free most of the time. Luggage policies for trains are even less restrictive than on buses. However, before every trip, you should always check what and how much you’re allowed to bring, as, like most things in the world of travel, it can vary.
Being on a bus or a train is usually a more friendly environment, as well. People aren’t as stressed out as they are when traveling by plane. And they have more time on their hands to relax and interact with the people around them. More space, too: that helps to be more open to socializing.
To some degree, bus and train travel preserves the fleeting aspect of human-to-human interaction that is slowly diminishing more and more in air travel. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing: the more people airlines can cram onboard, the cheaper flying is. In fact, flying—and therefore traveling—has never been cheaper in history!
Want more travel tips—and our 4 follow-up articles listed below?
Our 4 upcoming follow-up articles:
- Tip about combining flights and buses/trains
- The world’s 10 most iconic train journeys
- Flytrippers’ detailed travel year in review post
- My most memorable train rides
While planes are a remarkable testament to advancements in travel, buses and trains have a lot of advantages and are perfectly fine options to get to your next destination.
Would you add anything to the list of reasons why buses and trains are great? Let us know!
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Featured image: Train in the UK, bus in Iceland (Photo Credit: Unsplash)
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