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Plane vs Train to Eastern Europe

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I wanted to go from Bristol to Krakow with my bike, returning from Prague a fortnight later. I’m flexible on the travel dates (within a couple of days). I prefer not to fly, so as to reduce environmental impact and because overland travel is more of an adventure.

This is what I found when making the booking 23/2/2012:

Costs and durations of journeys:
  • Prague-Bristol, departing 15/4/2012:
    • Fly: £125 (incl. bike) depart 18:29, arrive 23:00 (airport-airport, excludes check-in and check-out time)
    • Train: £207 (plus bike) depart 21:55, arrive 15:23 next day (centre-centre)
  • Bristol-Krakow/Wroclaw, arriving 31/3/2012:
    • Fly: £84 (incl. bike) depart 10:10, arrive 13:40 (airport-airport, excludes check-in and check-out time)
    • Train: £156 (plus bike) depart 13:30, arrive 21:53 next day (centre-centre)
  • The cost of taking the bike on the train is hard to find out in advance for some parts of the journey. It’s not insignificant for Eurostar but free (generally) for ferries; in the UK bikes go free but in Poland you need a bike ticket (costs about a quarter of a person ticket, which is very little as Polish train fares are so low).
Carbon “cost” of each means of travel, estimated by various online calculators:
Ease of booking:
  • Flights – a few minutes to find airlines which fly the routes, a few minutes per flight to find prices on each of EasyJet and RyanAir, a few more minutes to book each flight, online ticketing send by email to print at home – total about 30 minutes
  • Rail – provides the information needed but it takes longer to check prices; bikes can’t be booked onto some trains online – this may be possible by phone – total about 2 hours.
  • I cycled to Bristol Airport, packed my bike in a reusable polythene bag and then flew to Europe. Flying wasn’t fun, lots of queueing and waiting  but it was easier to book, cheaper and faster.
  • Whilst in Poland and Czech Republic, we did put out bikes on trains on occasions; it was never a problem – more details elsewhere on my blog.

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