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Train vs plane? Any advice helps

In April my wife and I will be flying into Amsterdam, then going to Munich, Venice, Cinque Terre, and Rome. Any advice on the best ways to get to each stop? I'm assuming traveling through Italy will be easiest by train, but how about the first few stops on the trip?

Posted by
23472 posts

My preference is always for the trains - so hassle free, no inspections, no carry on limits, often cheaper, generally city ctr to city ctr., etc. My benchmark is around six hours for a train ride. More than that I will consider flying.

Posted by
16894 posts

I'm OK with an 8-hour train ride, but Amsterdam-Munich does require a train connection, which is another strike against the train. Both the Amsterdam and Munich airports have very easy and frequent public transport, which helps the flying argument. Try www.skyscanner.com for flight searches.

Posted by
650 posts

My general rule of thumb is that unless a train is over six hours, I don't even consider flying, and even then I go by train if it's scenic or I can take a night train. Some people hate night trains. This is a matter of sleep habits and taste. If you sleep well on night trains, a night train will get you a whole extra sight seeing day.

Amsterdam to Munich is about seven and a half hours but could be scenic if you go via Koblenz. Or, you could do what I'm doing this June and take the sleeper leaving Amsterdam at 8:30 pm and arriving in Munich about a quarter after 7 am. Whether the night train is a good idea depends on how well you and your wife sleep on night trains. Me and mine sleep very well on them. Many people don't, in which case, you will lose a day recovering from the night train.

From Munich to Venice is closer to nine hours but spectacularly scenic. So much so that you might consider it a sight seeing day in itself. Alternatively, you could depart from Munich at 11:30 pm and take the night train arriving in Venice at 8:30 am the next morning. Again, how well you sleep on night trains is important.

The day train options are likely to be more comfortable and cheaper than flying though a few hours longer. The night options will cost about what a hotel overnight might if you sleep in six person couchette compartments (sharing with strangers). Pay for a two person sleeper and it will be more like an expensive hotel overnight in cost, but with spartan quarters.

Both night trains are being discontinued in December of 2016 which makes me sad.

You can find the details for prices, times, and how and where to purchase at www.seat61.com.

Posted by
2532 posts

Some random dates in early 2016 reveal that flying from Amsterdam to Munich versus taking the train are similar as to prices. KLM has direct flights for $169. While I love training, I'd fly this leg.

Posted by
3342 posts

Jeremy - I like to plot out my trips on rome2rio.com. It shows trains, planes, buses and driving routs on a map, along with the costs and time investment for each option.

Posted by
650 posts

Rometorio is very useful.

But, when considering train versus plane, I always look at the time and cost of travel from the airport to the city center. Seat61 won't answer that question and neither will the very helpful rometorio. You must research it for coming and going from every city. Often it is either expensive or time consuming or both to get from the city center to the airport. In some cases the main train station isn't in the city center either, and that too carries a time and money cost though never nearly as high as the airport to city center cost. Munich, Venice, and Amsterdam, however, have low from train station to city center and from airport to city center costs. But all are as easy or easier to reach from the train station.

Again, it's a matter of traveling style. Look at train costs and times, then plane costs and times. Consider the extra hassle and discomfort of planes and decide.

Posted by
2485 posts

I would fly Amsterdam - Munich and Munich - Venice ( I have done that portion ). I like taking trains, but those sections are too long.

Posted by
8245 posts

KLM is who you would check with about flights from Schiphol to Munich. It's a 500 miles drive, and I drove it 2x in 2 years. Fly, not take the train on that leg.
You could easily take the train down to Venice from Munich, but make sure it's during the day time. The Austrian Alps and Northern Italy are incredibly beautiful places.
The question is whether you have time to go to Cinque Terre. It's pretty much out of the way from Venice--to the west and north of Pisa (on the other coast of Italy.) Florence is on the route from Venice to Rome and it'd be wrong to miss that fabulous town if in the area.

Posted by
14580 posts

Hi,

You're going in April 2016. I'll be there a few weeks later, ie the end of May. While one can certainly fly Amsterdam to Munich, I'll be taking the CNL night train Düsseldorf ( a few stops after the departure in Amsterdam) to Munich.

Posted by
32269 posts

Jeremy,

On a couple of the longer segments, it's a bit of a toss-up on whether to travel via flight or train. In the same situation, I'd still travel by train, for the reasons mentioned below.....

  • Amsterdam to Munich - I'd use a departure from Amsterdam Centraal at 06:35, arriving Munich Hbf at 14:04 (time 7H:29M, 1 change at Frankfurt). While a flight may be slightly faster, when all is considered (travel to airports, check-in, security, waiting, boarding and de-planing, travel into city which is about an hour in Munich, etc.) travel by train will be an easier choice. You'll also have to contend with tight baggage regulations, which will most likely have a cost associated with them, as well as the usual hassles of air travel. Contrast that with a relaxing ride on a train, enjoying the scenery, having lunch in the dining car and with more spacious seats than a plane and no extra luggage charges (keep your luggage with you when you go to the dining car, so that it doesn't "vanish").
  • Munich to Venice - Travel by train will be at least as quick as by air, and probably quicker if you use the direct departure leaving Munich Hbf at 11:38, arriving Venezia S. Lucia at 18:10 (time 6H:32M, no changes). That trip goes through the Brenner Pass, which is very scenic, and a trip I always enjoy (I was through there again a few months ago). I haven't checked prices for April, but they currently have prices listed as low as €59 PP, which is probably considerably cheaper than a flight.
  • Venice to Cinque Terre - it would help to know which if the five towns you plan to stay in? In any case, the trip is relatively straight forward. The two usual routes are via Florence or via Milan (I find Florence is usually a bit quicker). The trip will be about 6 hours with 1 or 2 changes.
  • Cinque Terre to Rome - the quickest and easiest solution will be to take one of the direct trains from La Spezia Centrale to Roma Termini. There are several each day, and many other choices which are slower and with more changes. Without knowing which of the five towns you'll be in, it's difficult to offer more specific details.

If you haven't travelled by train in Italy before, there are some potentially expensive "caveats" to be aware of. If you need further information, post another note.

Posted by
11613 posts

I spent 15 hours on trains yesterday rather than fly. I don't recommend it, but I hate flying. I do sometimes fly from mainland Italy to Sicily and back, so I try to figure if six or more hours on a train will be better for my sanity than four hours on a plane, counting getting to/from airports, security lines, etc., not to mention the possibility of delays/cancellations.

Posted by
9898 posts

Jen -- Your note that the night train is being discontinued makes me want to go take it before it does!! It's been years since I've taken a night train but I'm guessing that Deutsche Bahn or the Dutch rail system, whichever runs that train, runs a nice train rather than the nasty French/Italian one I took from Paris to Rome about 5 years ago (my other night trains were way back 20 years ago in the then recently-reopened-up Warsaw Pact countries, and that train compared poorly with those!).

Jen makes a good point -- it's NOT only the price of the air ticket vs. the train ticket -- it's the price of the air ticket PLUS the shuttle out to the airport and the train back IN from the arrival airport and the TIME on both ends etc etc etc. People have different preferences, but that's an important consideration for me (and many others).