I am considering using discount airlines to travel between European cities in May 2016. When I am weighing the pros and cons vs. train travel, how much time does the immigration and security functions in the airports add to each stop? We are considering trips to Berlin, Paris, Rome, Vienna, and Amsterdam. Any other tips regarding the discount airlines? Thanks for the help. Rich
Security at airports isn't obvious in terms of uniformed agents walking around with automatic fire weapons and dogs, but I suspect that European security forces are on-site. As travelers, security is more along the lines of TSA type screening and agents except that you can keep your shoes on.
Rail security is pretty minimal with no inspection checkpoints that I have encountered. At whistle stop type stations of local routes, the station will not even be staffed, let alone have a security force on the site.
If time is a concern, keep in mind that major cities typically located major rail stations at city center. It's typically easier to get to the central station than the airport which tends to be on the outskirts of the populated area.
The distances between the great cities you're wanting to visit are pretty great. I would fly one of the budget airlines. My best suggestion is to read the terms of the airline and understand them. And to just travel very light. When they say one bag, they mean one bag. Pocketbooks, computer bags and backpacks are also counted as one.
Once you are in the Schengen zone there are no further immigration checks. The airport screening (security) for flights is to the same standard as the US with about the same degree of inconvenience and time. It varies greatly depending on the size of the airport and number of planes. My benchmark is roughly six hours. If the train ride is around six hours or long then I will consider an airline. Train travel so hassle free when compared to any airline travel. When comparing the two be sure to add in the travel time and expensive to get to and from the airports. Most trains go city center to city center with a comfort level that is so much higher.
Amsterdam and Paris are linked via the high-speed Thalys rail line. This offers your most hassle-free method of traveling between the two.
The rest of your locations are spread out far enough that you should probably consider flying. Beware, however, that some discount airlines may fly to second-tier airports located a considerable distance from the cities whose name they bear (Frankfurt Hahn is particularly notorious example).
As noted, there are no immigration checks once you enter the Schengen Zone... for now...
The only real difference in security that I've noticed between the US and Europe is probably fewer random checks in the latter. Otherwise, it's mostly the same dance.
Great advice. Thanks a bunch. I hadn't considered the convenient location of the train stations.
I use the 6 hour guideline too. You could do some of your travel by train if you order your cities carefully. I am assuming you are tied to these particular cities. It might be Paris-Amsterdam-Berlin by train. Berlin to Vienna is going to be a pretty long train day. It's about a 9 hour ride so you might want to fly that leg. You'd probably have to fly from Vienna down to Rome as well.
One idea is to drop Rome from the trip and add Prague in between Berlin and Vienna. You could do it all by train then. Open jaw air into Paris and out of Vienna.
If you fly from cit;y to city, you have to get from the city center to the airport, which can often take significant time (in Munich, for instance, about 40 minutes), then you have to check in, go through security, and wait at the gate for boarding. After the flight you have to wait to deplane, wait at baggage claim, unless you are one of the few people who can travel with carryon only, look for ground transportation, then spend time (often ½ hr or more) getting from the airport into the town. For a one hour flight, you'll probably spend five or more hours, right out of the middle of the day, prime sightseeing time.
My experience has been that to take a plane, at the front end I allow 2 hours from hotel to flight time and at the back end I anticipate 1.5 hours from arrival time to hotel. Total 3.5 hours plus flight time.
For trains, at the front end I allow 1 hour from hotel to train departure and 30 minutes from arrival to the hotel. Total 1.5 hours plus train time.
So flying comes with a two hour penalty.
A common trip where people argue about the best way:
Train from Budapest to Prague is 7 hours + 1.5 = 8.5 hours, about $100 I believe.
Flying from Budapest to Prague is 1.25 hours + 3.5 hours = 4.75 hours, Czech Airlines for about $200
Train from Vienna to Prague is 4 hours + 1.5 = 5.5 hours
Flying from Budapest to Prague is 1 hours + 3.5 hours = 4.5 hours
I would still rather fly. I would much rather be in an airport bar for an hour waiting for a flight instead of sitting on a train for 4 hours. But it is very borderline.
Also, the regular search engines don't pull up the Discount Airlines. You have to hunt for them. For instance Blue Air flies from Bonn to Bucharest for under $100. Wizz goes Kyiv to Budapest for under $100 and Air Serbia has a lot of flights to really interesting locations.
As noted by Edgar:
"Security at airports isn't obvious in terms of uniformed agents walking around with automatic fire weapons and dogs, but I suspect that European security forces are on-site. "
They do a very direct profile so don't be surprised by some very direct, in your face, type questions. No profile concerns seem to apply & imo, that's a good idea the USA should implement stateside.
Lots of good points made above. Train station in heart of city, step off and go. Longer distances, might be worth risking air travel (which just seems to be always delayed nowadays). Combine the two.
You might also look at some of Rick's tours to see how he handles these kinds of distances. You might decide you're bitten off too much and make stops along the way.
We train and fly on inter europeon carriers.. every time we go to Europe. I have a 5-6 hour MAX.. time for trains.. after that I just want off.. no matter how nice my picnic is etc..
Paris to Rome is 1.5 hour flight.. add 2.5 hours from time you leave paris till time you board plane.. and an hour after.. so Paris to Rome by flight.. 5 hours.. 6 at most.
Paris to Rome by train.. like 12 hours.. Shoot me.. lol
We are taking 5 flights soon.. London to Mykonos Greece, Greece to Barcelona, Barcelona to Mallorca, Mallorca to Dublin, Dublin to Paris.. obviously would not be able to train between some of these spots because of distance and or water .. lol
We use or have used Easyjet, Vueling, Ryanair, Tuifly and Aer Lingus.. so far no horror stories.
The point about airports if import.. for instance.. Ryanair uses Beavais for Paris.. that sucks.. much farther out and way less easy comute.
However.. Easyjet uses Charles de Gaulle airport.. which is easy peasy..
So check which airport whatever airline you look at uses.. if not sure ask on this or another forum.
I flew from Budapest to Munich to Houston about 10 days ago. In Budapest I was told I had to get the next boarding pass in Munich. We arrived in Munich, made our way to the gates and found about 6 gates roped off with one entrance guarded by a smiling woman. She ask where we were going and we told her, she asked for our boarding passes and we explained we still needed to get them. She then directed us to the first gate counter. When we got there she re appeared, took our passports and began typing on the computer. During all the typing she just chatted away, one question after another. I am sort of private and at one moment wanted to tell her my life was none of her business. After a few minutes she hand the passports back and told us to go to the next gate counter. I guess I looked confused. She smiled and told me she didn't work for the airline. She said she was security and we passed the interview.
When I flew out of CDG in December, at the front of the line there was a gentleman (security) that asked for my passport and boarding pass, then started the "interview". When did I arrive, where did I stay, had I been in other countries, what did I do for a living, where did I live, etc. etc.? After answering all the questions, he put a little stamp on my passport and stickers on my bags. I was in line before United opened the counter, but I can't imagine how long this would take once there were hundred's of people in line.