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Train vs. Plane- Six of one, half a dozen of the other?

Two friends and I will be enjoying a week in Germany for Oktoberfest before our Europe 14 day My Way tour starts in Paris. An earlier post helped us to decide NOT to rent a car for our inter Germany travel- we'll stick to the trains. However, we are still in a quandary as to our travel between Munich and Paris, and maybe there is no "right" answer.

We want to enjoy our morning in Munich on Sunday (Sept 17th) to enjoy one of the Oktoberfest parades. Our tour begins on Monday in Paris. We are finding flights in the afternoon for between 60-100 Euro, depending on time and amount of luggage. The flights are 1 hour 45 minutes. Train prices are between 75- 120 Euro (depending again on time and choice of seat). Train transport time is 5 1/2 hours. The dilemma is maximizing time in each city without breaking the budget. Because of camera equipment, laptops, etc. we would have to check luggage on the discount flights, taking the price to the higher end of the comps.

I guess the real question is, if the two forms of transportation are about the same, which is the better/faster option? The flights (airberlin, airfrance, etc.) are only 1 1/2hours, but how soon to we need to be at the airport? How far away is the airport? Is it really faster than the train with those add on times? How early do we need to be at the train station if we're going from Munich to France? Our hotel is right by the train station in Munich. Is one mode of transportation better and/or faster than the other? Each time we think we've made a good decision, something pops up to make us 2nd guess ourselves.


Posted by
2393 posts

I would train it. you can arrive 5 minutes before your train will depart and be fine (but make it 15 to find your way) vs the 2 hours you need before your flight. Plus there is the time getting to & from the airport to city center, the waiting in lines to check bags, go through security, board...

Train...arrive at station, get on train, relax for 5 1/2 hrs! Have a beer or two, lunch, take a nap - arrive relaxed.

No brainer for me

Posted by
32272 posts


I'd also suggest using the train, as it will be much more relaxing trip, and also probably cheaper and faster. Keep in mind that while the flight may only be 1.5 hours, you also have to allow for time to & from airports, check-in, security, waiting, boarding & deplaning, etc. The overall trip will probably be at least six hours.

You'll also probably find that your 'budget' flight won't be as cheap as you thought, once you start adding charges for checked luggage, something that won't be a concern with trains. Train may also be a bit faster, as you'd be using the IC trains in Germany and TGV for the France portion (which travels at up to 300 km/h).

If you want an afternoon departure, you might consider a train leaving Munich at 14:47, arriving Paris Est at 20:41 (time 5H:54M, one change in Karlsruhe). Using an arbitrary date, they currently have fares listed at €139.90 PP.

Posted by
27447 posts

I'd take the train even if it clearly took longer (which I believe is not the case), because you absolutely, positively need to be in Paris for the beginning of your tour, and though a major disruption is unlikely in either case, I think the odds of a canceled flight are greater than the odds of a canceled train.

But I admit that I much prefer trains to the stress of figuring out how early I need to leave the city to get to the airport on time.

Posted by
20479 posts

Figure like this. You can get to the station 20 minutes before departure, check the the big board for your train's departure platform, walk there, find your carriage, get on and take your seats. Ten minutes later, you're on your way to Paris.

Or, take the S-Bahn to Munich airport, about 45 minutes and be there at least an hour and a half before the flight, check bags, go through security, get to your gate, wait, board the plane. 1 1/2 hour later, land, wait, get off the plane, walk to luggage carousel, wait, pick up your bags, take the shuttle or walk to the train station, depending on what terminal ( I am assuming now it is CDG, but similar at ORY) and buy 10 EUR tickets and ride the train into central Paris, which takes another 45 minutes. Or take a taxi, similar time and a bit more money.

It will be about 5 hours all in all from city center to city center. So factor in the cost of getting to and from the airport, 20 EUR to 40 EUR per person for airport transfers depending on your mode.

It will be about 90 EUR per person if you get Sparpreis tickets as soon as they are on sale for your date of travel and take 5 1/2 to 6 hours. Early morning departures can be as low as 40 EUR per person.

Train is starting to look pretty good.

Posted by
533 posts

If it were me, I'd take the train, no question. Riding the train is part of the travel experience: You can look out the window and see things you haven't seen before. Airports and airplanes, on the other hand, look more or less the same the world over.

Posted by
14288 posts

Plus on the train you can take stuff for a picnic including wine! There are several of you traveling together so one person can stay with the stuff and the others can wander thru the cars a bit.

This is going to be a great trip! You do want to travel on Sunday so you can settle in.

Posted by
4637 posts

For me to start thinking about plane the train ride has to be over 7 hours. Let's say 7 hours is a distance between Prague and Budapest and I would still prefer train. But Budapest - Berlin plane would win. Paris - Munich less than seven hours by train, therefore train.

Posted by
11613 posts

Train by a wide margin. You won't save that much time by air and there could be delays which are more difficult to resolve than train delays. And much less travel stress.

My cutoff is theoretically six hours, but I will happily spend eight on a train rather than fly.

Posted by
333 posts

Thanks everybody for your input! I was willing to fly if it gave us more Paris time and cost less. However, I'm not a fan of flying, so the train sounds great to me. One travel mate has extra luggage, so wanted the train for that purpose. The other travel mate doesn't want to waste any more time than necessary to get from point A to point B and figured flying was the best bet. So I appreciate hearing everybody's opinions!


Posted by
14580 posts

I don't accept the notion of no "right" answer. In your case I would take the train, obviously. Instead, I would board in Frankfurt Hbf rather than Munich, unless there is also a direct connection from Munich Hbf.

Posted by
795 posts

I would choose the train. Airports can be nightmares and you can't tell when a flight will be delayed or cancelled. Since your hotel is right by the train station in Munich, that will make it even easier.

Posted by
11613 posts

Use the train time to read, look at the scenery, or write a trip report!