These days there are many ways of getting from A to B. With the rise in recent decades of low cost airlines, and the effect this competition has had on the prices of other transport options, many modes of travel are now available to travellers with any budget. But which is the most economical?
Travelling by plane is definitely the best option for those wishing to get to their destination as quickly as possible. For example, the flight time from London to Barcelona is just two hours. The truth is that the amount you pay for your flight will depend on a great variety of factors. Popular destinations can attract a premium, as can the day you travel (Mondays and Fridays generally have a higher price). The key to securing the cheapest deal for your flight is to book well in advance and be flexible on the day you travel. No frills airlines are the cheapest option (although they do not fly long-haul), although you will be sacrificing a certain level of comfort for the reduced fare. Online comparison sites such as cheapflights.co.uk allow you to compare offers on different dates and between different airlines and show you the flight time of every route.
Rail is not as quick as air travel (and, apart from the Channel Tunnel, can’t take you overseas) and, compared with the no frills airlines, is more expensive. However, many travellers choose the train because of the chance to relax on the journey in more comfortable surrounds than a plane, and to watch the scenery. To take the train from London to Barcelona, utilising the Eurostar and changing in Paris, takes an average of 14 hours.
Buses are still the cheapest form of travel, but the gap is lessening all the time. With low overheads and easy access around the continent, they are the budget traveller’s best friend in Europe. However, the low fares are compensation for the time to it takes to reach your destination. For example, to travel from London to Barcelona by bus takes 29 hours! This is the same if you drive, although you obviously have to be ‘active’ when piloting your own vehicle, as opposed to the ‘passive’ nature of being a bus passenger. Hiring a car is rarely as expensive as a train ticket, but you will need to purchase petrol and, often, overnight accommodation. If your trip is one-way you could consider signing up for a car-delivery service. You get a set amount of time to deliver a car and a fuel allowance. However, you will probably need to be flexible with your dates to take advantage of this option.
Of course, cost is not always the only consideration for travellers when weighing up their transport options. As mentioned above, speed is an important factor, although it is not always getting there quickest that is the preferred option. Some travellers opt for an overland or rail journey over air because of the leisurely pace it offers and the time this affords the traveller to appreciate the surroundings and the journey itself. Besides, travellers must remember that, while the actual flying time may be short, the process of checking in at the airport and passing through security can add hours to a journey. Linked to this is another consideration: comfort. Unless you fly business or first class (and if you are reading this article, chances are you won’t be), air travel, particularly long haul is not particularly comfortable, compared to rail and overground. Air tops the table, alongside rail when it comes to safety (the roads are much more dangerous) while travellers concerned about their carbon footprint should choose a bus; much less environmental impact than the other forms of transport.
At present, if it comes down simply to cost, bus travel is the way to go. But factoring in other considerations such as speed, air travel is, understandably, more and more popular as a way to get to your destination.