As I have recently found a job in London, the question of how to travel cheaply and efficiently between London and my parents' house in the Netherlands becomes a lot more interesting. So far I have always taken a flight to London and in this article I'm going to outline why I'm taking the train next time.
The conventional wisdom seems to be that flights operated by cheap airlines are the way to go. This may be true if you live near an airport (e.g., Schiphol Airport, Eindhoven Airport, Rotterdam The Hague Airport) but if you don't then it turns out the train is worth considering.
Let's consider some examples:
- a flight by KLM, our national airline, costs a few hundred pounds but you fly into London Heathrow Airport. This makes for a convenient onward journey as this airport is connected to the Tube. Unfortunately, the price alone makes me look for alternatives.
- a flight by, e.g., RyanAir or EasyJet is cheap but these airlines fly into airports further away from the city (e.g., London Gatwick, London Stansted and London Southend). This means you need to pay for a bus or train to get to central London. These flights can be cheap but you don't get to choose the exact time and date: you simply need to fly whenever it happens to be the cheapest. Furthermore, you need to deal with additional costs if you wish to fly with checked baggage rather than just hand luggage.
You may be able to find a flight of around 50 euros (hand luggage only) and the costs to/from the airport can be up to 20 euros on each side of the border. Depending on the airport I would also need to take a train and bus to get there (Eindhoven Airport) rather than just a train (Amsterdam Airport).
Let's say the price sums up to about 100 euros for door-to-door travel. This looks reasonable but can we travel to London for a similar or better price and without the restrictions on luggage and times?
It turns out that we can.
We first take the train to Roosendaal and then to Brussels, Belgium. From there we take the Eurostar train to London St. Pancras station. The price for a single journey ranges between about 80 euros to 150 euros depending on the travel time. The cheapest fare I've seen is actually 50 euros (about 40 pounds at the time of writing) but that does include a delay of eight hours at night in Brussels.
This price is almost door-to-door as it will take a few more stops with the Tube to get to my destination in London. The price may not differ that much but, taking everything together, travel by train appears to make for a much more convenient door-to-door journey (several trains and the Tube versus several trains, bus, plane, bus/train, Tube). It looks like I'll be giving the train a try on my next journey to London.
On a final note, it really depends on where you live and where you need to go. If you happen to live near an airport then I can imagine that a cheap flight is the best choice.