you should take the train instead of the bus

While traveling overland between cities, you often have a choice between several modes of transport. In this guide, I break down the pros and cons of bus vs train travel to tướng help you decide which is the best way for you to tướng get to tướng your next destination. I’ll cover comfort, amenities, cost, convenience, and more. I’ll also outline the pros and cons of your third option, flying. Hopefully, this guide helps you choose the best transportation option for your trip.

I’ve also made this Youtube đoạn phim to tướng outline the main points of the article.

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Train Travel Pros

  • You can get up and move around- In my opinion, this is the best reason to tướng choose the train over the bus. Most long-distance trains allow you to tướng get up from your seat without disturbing the passenger next to tướng you. You can exit your cabin and walk around in the hall. You can also walk between cars to tướng the dining siêu xe. You’re not stowed up for hours at a time in the same seat lượt thích you are on a bus.
  • Trains offer more amenities- Long-distance trains often offer dining, a full bar, and completely flat beds. Shorter distance trains often offer power outlets, wifi, and reclining seats. These amenities often aren’t available on buses.
  • More scenic- Train tracks are built in the most efficient manner between two points. They don’t follow a road. You’ll travel through scenic and rural parts of the countryside that you otherwise wouldn’t get to tướng see. You’ll travel through places that haven’t been spoiled by infrastructure and human activity. The scenery you see on from the train is much more beautiful than vãn a motorway. Some train routes are a destination of their own. For some ideas, kiểm tra out this article about the most scenic train journeys from Travel and Leisure.
  • You can lắc down flat and get a good nights sleep on a train- If you book a bed on a sleeper train, you can lắc down completely flat and stretch out. You’re not stuck in a seated position all night. This allows you to tướng get a solid night of sleep and wake up rested. Some of the best sleep that I have ever gotten has been on a train. Something about the way the train rocks and sways on the tracks just lulls bủ to tướng sleep. The sound of the wheels rolling on the track adds to tướng the atmosphere. On a bus, you can never lắc down completely flat. The quality of sleep is poor.
  • Trains are more environmentally friendly- Trains use less fuel per passenger than vãn buses, cars, or planes. If you care about the environment, the train is probably the greenest mode of traveling long distance. The only greener option is walking or bicycle touring.
    Schedules are more reliable- Because they don’t have to tướng khuyến mãi with traffic, trains usually lập cập on time. This means you won’t experience as many unexpected delays or late arrivals as you tự when taking the bus.
  • You can carry more luggage on a train- Luggage allowances are usually less strict on trains. In fact, oftentimes your luggage isn’t even weighed before you board. Many long-distance trains even have a siêu xe for luggage and cargo. There’s really no limit to tướng the amount of stuff you can bring with you. For example, after crashing my motorcycle in Vietnam, I put it on a train with bủ to tướng the next big thành phố ví I could recover. That’s not really an option on the bus.
  • Trains are faster- For some routes, you’ll reach your destination significantly faster if you travel by train. This is particularly true with bullet trains which can reach speeds exceeding 300 km/h. No bus goes that fast. Of course, for some routes, the bus is the faster option. Be sure to tướng tự your research before booking your ticket if you’re in a hurry.
  • Train stations are more comfortable than vãn bus stations- This is a generalization but usually, train stations are larger and offer more seating and amenities than vãn bus stations. The reason is that in many countries, each bus company has its own station which is usually just a ticketing office with a few seats. Train stations are usually much larger.
  • Finding the train station usually easier- Most cities only have one train station. Particularly large metropolises may have two. This makes finding the station a breeze. Everyone knows where it’s at. A big thành phố could have dozens of different bus terminals. Finding the right one can be a challenge if you don’t know your way around.
  • Train travel is healthier- While traveling long distance, no matter which mode of transport you choose, you’ll spend hours sitting in the same position. This puts you at risk of a dangerous condition called deep vein thrombosis (DVT). To read about the condition and its cause, kiểm tra out this article from the Center for Disease Control. The best way to tướng prevent this condition from developing is to tướng get up and walk around every 2-3 hours. This is really only possible on a train. On a bus, you can sit for 6+ hours between meal and bathroom brakes. This can be seriously dangerous for your health.
  • Trains are romantic- Something about riding a train reminds us of times gone by. Our ancestors traveled by long-distance train over one hundred years ago. It’s a historic and sophisticated mode of travel.
  • Trains are higher class- For whatever reason, people tend to tướng consider train travel to tướng be a higher class activity. It doesn’t have same social stigma that bus travel carries. Of course, this only matters if you’re the kind of person that cares what others think.
  • Trains are cool- Some of us are just fascinated by trains. I can’t explain why but I am one of those people. I don’t have a model train mix up in my basement* but I think that would be pretty awesome. Whenever I have the choice between a bus and train, I choose the train.
A train in scotland
A train in scotland

Train Travel Cons

  • More expensive- The biggest drawback of taking the train is the cost. Train tickets are usually significantly more expensive than vãn bus tickets. Sometimes up to tướng twice the price. In some regions, it’s even more expensive to tướng take then train than vãn it is to tướng fly. Both the US and the UK have this problem. For example, kiểm tra out this article about UK rail fares from The Telegraph.
  • Fewer destinations- Train lines are limited. Most countries only have one or two. A significant number of countries don’t have any trains at all. This means that you can usually only access larger cities by train. Buses, on the other hand, go almost everywhere on earth. You can access even the smallest villages by bus. For example, in Africa there are very few train lines. Check out my guide to tướng bus travel in Africa for more info.
  • Trains offer fewer departure and arrival times- For most popular routes, there are only one or two trains operating per day. You have to tướng leave at those times. Buses often operate on a much more regular schedule. For example, between two big cities, there may be a bus leaving every half hour.
  • The ride can be rough- Some older or poorly maintained train lines are incredibly bumpy and shaky. This makes getting comfortable or falling asleep nearly impossible. Of course, modern trains are incredibly smooth. So much ví that sometimes you can’t even tell that you’re moving. Buses can be bumpy as well if the road conditions are poor or the bus is old.
  • Trains are loud- The metal on metal sound of the train wheels rolling against the track makes a lot of noise. Some people have trouble sleeping because of the noise. Of course, modern trains are designed to tướng be very quiet inside.
  • Slightly more dangerous- Deaths by train accident are ví rare that this point is almost irrelevant but I found this statistic pretty interesting ví I thought I’d throw it in. According to tướng this statistic on Wikipedia, train travel is slightly more dangerous than vãn bus travel. With rail travel, there are .6 deaths per billion kilometers traveled compared to tướng .4 deaths per billion kilometers traveled by bus. I found this pretty surprising.
  • Trains can’t easily access mountainous regions- Trains can’t climb as easily as buses. For this reason, you’ll rarely find train lines running through mountainous regions. In mountainous countries, you’ll usually have to tướng take the bus.
  • Train tickets sell out more quickly- This is my personal experience. If you want to tướng take the train, you usually have to tướng book further in advance than vãn if you’re taking the bus. Seats sell out more quickly. I experienced this in India. For most routes, there are fewer train seats than vãn bus seats available.
An old Greyhound bus
An old Greyhound bus

Bus Travel Pros

  • Cheaper- The bus is almost always the cheapest transport option available. Tickets are often significantly cheaper than vãn rail or air equivalents.
  • More destinations- Buses travel almost everywhere. You can take the bus to tướng even the tiniest of villages. Anywhere that there is a road, a bus can go. For example, I traveled by bus through the Omo Valley of Ethiopia to tướng villages that couldn’t be accessed by train or air.
  • More departure and arrival times- For popular bus routes between cities, there is often a bus leaving every hour. Sometimes even more frequently. In this case, if you can’t leave the thành phố until the afternoon, for example, you won’t have to tướng wait around too long. Trains, on the other hand, only offer a couple of departures per day at most. You might have to tướng wait all night until the next departure.
  • Smoother ride- Buses offer the same or better ride quality than vãn most cars. Older trains tend to tướng shake and sway on the tracks. Of course, new buses and trains are both incredibly smooth.
  • Quiet- Road noise is rarely a problem. Buses also don’t suffer from the metal on metal sound that train wheels have against the tracks. Of course, if a loud passenger sits near you, you’re in for a noisy ride. Once, while traveling to tướng Seattle on the Greyhound bus, a particularly annoying woman kept yelling at the driver to tướng stop ví she could smoke. Eventually, the driver stopped at a truck stop and kicked her off the bus. Everyone clapped for our hero of a driver.
  • Slightly safer- Buses have fewer deaths per billion hours traveled at 11.1, and by billion journies at 4.3. Rail travel has trăng tròn deaths per billion journies and 30 deaths per billion hours according to tướng Wikipedia. Both modes of travel are safer than vãn traveling by siêu xe.
  • Buses can access mountainous regions- Anywhere there is a road, a bus can go, for the most part. Trains generally can’t access mountainous regions. Of course, there are some exceptions to tướng this.
  • Bus tickets don’t sell out as quickly- For many routes, you can just show up at the station and buy your ticket hours before travel. If you want to tướng take a train, you often have to tướng buy your ticket well in advance. Of course, bus tickets tự sell out. It’s a good idea to tướng book at least a day in advance if possible.
  • Buses can be faster- For some routes, bus travel times are shorter than vãn trains. If you’re in a hurry, tự your research before booking tickets.
a bus in Africa
The bus I took from the Ethiopia border to tướng Nairobi

Bus Travel Cons

  • You can’t move around- While riding the bus, you pretty much have to tướng wait for a bathroom or meal break to tướng get up and move around. There is just nowhere to tướng go while the bus is moving. On a couple of occasions, I’ve been on buses where the driver kept driving for over 6 hours without stopping. During that time, everyone was stowed up in their seats without any way to tướng move.
  • Fewer amenities- Bus services are pretty basic. There is no food service or bar. The seats don’t lắc flat. Most buses don’t have outlets or wifi. Of course, there are exceptions. I found long-distance buses in South America to tướng offer a surprising amount of amenities including meal service, entertainment systems, and comfortable seating. The experience is almost lượt thích taking a flight.
  • Less scenic- Buses travel on the fastest road available between destinations. That’s usually the highway. These usually aren’t too scenic. Highways are flat and surrounded by human development. Trains, on the other hand, pass through untouched, beautiful land that you otherwise wouldn’t get to tướng see.
  • You can’t lắc down flat- Some bus seats are better than vãn others, but none really lắc completely flat. This makes getting a good night of sleep nearly impossible for some people. Trains generally offer beds. Here, you can get a good night of sleep and arrive at your destination well-rested.
  • Less environmentally friendly- Buses burn more fuel per passenger than vãn trains. These days, many people are choosing to tướng travel less for the benefit of the environment. Trains are pretty energy efficient.
  • Less reliable- Buses must put up with thành phố traffic. Usually, they tài khoản for this in the schedule but traffic can be unpredictable. An unexpected accident can cause an hour of delay. Trains don’t have to tướng put up with traffic ví they can keep a more reliable schedule. Of course, there are exceptions. Trains often lập cập just as late due to tướng mechanical issues or incompetence.
  • You can’t carry as much luggage- Most bus lines have a similar luggage policy to tướng airlines. That is one carry on bag and one checked bag. Generally, your carry-on bag must be smaller than vãn 62 linear inches and weigh less than vãn 50 pounds. The checked bag must fit either under the seat in front of you or in the luggage storage above the seats. Of course, baggage policies vary by bus line. You can also pay a fee to tướng carry extra luggage. Trains usually have much less strict luggage policies. Some don’t even measure or weigh your luggage if it’s within reason.
  • Buses are slower- Because they can’t travel at the same speeds and they have to tướng khuyến mãi with thành phố traffic, buses generally have longer transit times. This is particularly true in Europe. For example, the bus from Amsterdam to tướng Berlin takes 8 hours 15 minutes. The train takes just 6 hours 4 minutes.
  • Bus stations are less comfortable- Many large cities don’t have a central bus station. Instead, small bus offices are located all over the thành phố. These small offices typically don’t offer any amenities other than vãn a few seats and a restroom if you’re lucky. Train stations, on the other hand, are usually large with plenty of seating, restaurants, shops, and more.
  • Finding the bus station is sometimes a challenge- Because bus stations are often small and numerous, finding the right location can take time when you’re in a large and unfamiliar thành phố. Most cities only have one main train station. This makes finding your way to tướng the station much easier.
  • Bus travel is less healthy- This mostly has to tướng tự with the amount of time that you must spend seated while riding the bus. If you spend enough hours seated in the same position, your blood can begin to tướng clot. Usually in your leg. The clot of blood can break loose and make its way to tướng your lungs. Here, it can cause serious problems. This condition is called deep vein thrombosis (DVT). The solution is to tướng get up and walk around every 2-3 hours. You just can’t tự this while riding a bus. You can, however, if you take a train.
  • Buses are lower class- One of the main reasons that people tend to tướng dislike riding the bus is psychological. People associate bus travel with the lower class. There’s a certain negative social stigma to tướng riding the bus. This bothers some types of people.
  • Buses aren’t cool- There really isn’t any history or novelty to tướng bus travel. It’s just a cheap way to tướng get around. After all, nobody builds a model bus route in their basement.
The Bernina Express train in Switzerland
The Bernina Express train in Switzerland

Which Mode of Travel is Better? Bus Vs Train

Both the train and bus will get you to tướng your destination in a safe and relatively reliable manner. The choice mostly comes down to tướng cost, availability, and personal preference.

While researching for this guide, I read about a couple of interesting studies that were done to tướng determine which mode of travel commuters preferred. Researchers performed surveys in cities all over the world.

They determined that people everywhere generally preferred trains. Through more surveying, the researchers were able to tướng come up with several possible reasons why.

One common reason was psychological in nature. Many people simply associate buses with bad transport and trains with good transport. This could have to tướng tự with history, marketing, physical differences between buses and trains, or our culture.

Another common reason that people prefer trains to tướng buses seems to tướng be social in nature. Many people consider the bus to tướng be lower on the hierarchy of transportation methods. It has a negative stigma. Possibly because the bus is commonly used by people in the lower class. Because of this, some people feel ashamed of admitting to tướng riding the bus. Most people don’t feel this way about riding trains.

For more info, kiểm tra out these two interesting articles:

  • “Why Trains Shouldn’t be Better than vãn Busses” from Pacific Standard.
  • “The Myth That Everyone Naturally Prefers Trains to tướng Buses” from City Lab.

A Third Mode of Transport: Air Travel

For longer or overseas routes, air travel is often your only reasonable option. For shorter trips, air travel may not be the best choice. In this section, I’ll outline the pros and cons of taking a flight rather than vãn ground transport. In this analysis, I assume that you fly economy class.

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Air Travel Pros

  • Faster- A flight allows you to tướng travel to tướng the other side of the planet in less than vãn a day. Trains and buses can’t even cross a large country in that amount of time.
  • Can cross bodies of water- For overseas travel, sometimes your only reasonable option is to tướng fly. Taking a ship across an ocean just isn’t practical for most trips. Most travelers simply don’t have the time or desire to tướng spend weeks at sea. Of course, you can’t travel overseas by bus or train.
  • Flying costs less for long journies- These days, budget airlines often allow you to tướng fly for less than vãn the price of a train ticket. In some cases, flying is even cheaper than vãn taking the bus. The reason is that you must factor in the price of food when traveling long-distance overland. A bus trip across a continent may take several days. You’ll have to tướng eat during that time. You may even have to tướng stay in a khách sạn at night. Before buying a bus or train ticket, always kiểm tra the price of flights and factor in any additional costs that you’ll have to tướng cover. You may be surprised.
  • Airports are comfortable and full of amenities- Airports offer plenty of seating, restaurants, bars, and shops. The best airport that I have visited was Incheon in South Korea. While on a 12 hour layover, I took a tour of Seoul and enjoyed a shower after getting back to tướng the airport. All for miễn phí. If I had to tướng choose between waiting around an airport, bus station, or train station, I’d choose the airport every time.
  • Flights are more reliable- Because airlines cater to tướng a business clientele, the must remain on schedule. Of course, there are occasional delays.
  • Finding the airport is easy- Most cities only have one and everyone knows where it is. Some larger cities have 2-3. Airports are usually served by public transport as well.
    Higher class- There is no negative stigma to tướng flying. Fellow passengers will generally be from a higher social class than vãn those you meet on a bus.
  • It’s cool- Aviation is fascinating. I’m still blown away by flight even though I’ve flown hundreds of times.

Air Travel Cons

  • Expensive- Flights generally cost more than vãn bus or train tickets. This is particularly true with journeys that would take less than vãn a day traveling by ground. Having said that, budget airlines often offer rates that are competitive with bus or train ticket prices. It’s best to tướng always kiểm tra prices before booking. Sometimes you get a pleasant surprise with a low fare.
  • Flying is a hassle- In order to tướng fly, you must pack your bag in an airline acceptable manner, arrive at the airport a couple of hours early, check-in, go through security, wait to tướng board and deboard, then wait for your luggage at baggage claim. The whole process is slow and inefficient. You can’t just show up lượt thích you can at a bus or train station.
  • Airports are inconveniently located- Due to tướng the noise, airports are usually built far outside of the thành phố that they serve. Oftentimes trăng tròn miles or more from the thành phố center. This increases your costs and transit times. When you take the bus or train you conveniently arrive in the thành phố center.
  • You have to tướng book in advance- In order to tướng get a decent price on a ticket, you should make your reservation at least 2 weeks in advance. When traveling during the busy holiday season, you’ll want to tướng book several months in advance. Most of the time, you can book trains and buses just a few days in advance. Sometimes you can just show up and buy a ticket minutes before departure.
  • You can’t move around easily- While flying, you’re pretty much stuck in your feet. There are no breaks where you can get up and walk around. Of course, you can get up to tướng go to tướng the bathroom but that’s about it. Unfortunately, this means disturbing the passenger next to tướng you if you don’t have an aisle seat.
  • You can’t carry much luggage- Airlines are particularly strict about the size and weight of your bags. Most airlines allow checked bags to tướng be up to tướng 62 linear inches (158cm) and 50 pounds (23 kilos). Carry-on bags typically must be less than vãn 45 linear inches (about 114 cm) and 22 pounds (10 kilos). Every airline is slightly different. Make sure you kiểm tra the limits before your flight. Also, be sure to tướng weigh your luggage ví you know you’re not over the limit. When traveling by bus or train, baggage allowances are much less strict. Oftentimes bags aren’t even weighed.
  • You can’t carry certain items on an airplane- Anything that could be considered a weapon is prohibited. I had a butter knife confiscated because it had a slightly serrated edge. You must also limit your liquids to tướng 100ml or 3.4 oz bottles. These limits make packing for certain trips a bit of a challenge. For example, I lượt thích to tướng camp and hike. Tent stakes, trekking poles, and camp stove fuel are all prohibited. Of course, you can always kiểm tra a bag, but even then many items aren’t allowed due to tướng the fear of explosion. This includes aerosols, fuels, and large batteries.
  • Flying is unhealthy- As mentioned above, the risk of DVT is higher during flights because you can’t move around. I also feel that I tend to tướng get sick after a flight more often than vãn a bus or train ride. Maybe due to tướng the air quality or pressure changes.
  • Less scenic- Once you reach cruising altitude, there’s not much to tướng look at. While traveling overland, you can at least enjoy viewing the land as you pass by. I will admit, viewing a massive thành phố from the air as you approach for landing is pretty incredible. I’m always blown away by the sprawl of the Los Angeles metro area even though I’ve flown into the thành phố dozens of times. Mountains are also incredibly impressive from the air.
  • Flying is less environmentally friendly- According to tướng this interesting article about the carbon footprint of various modes of transport from mnn.com, a flight produces around 3 tons of CO2 per passenger. Traveling by train cuts that number in half. If you’re the type of person that cares about being green when you travel, you may wish to tướng limit the number of times that you fly. 
  • You can’t lắc down flat- In order to tướng pack in the maximum number of passengers, airline seats barely even recline. Of course, if you’re willing to tướng shell out for business or first class, you can get a lắc flat seat.
  • Slightly less safe- Statistically speaking, flying is incredibly safe. Much safer than vãn driving yourself. It is, however, slightly more dangerous than vãn taking the bus or train. I found this statistic pretty surprising. I had always assumed that air travel was the safest option.
a modern train

How to tướng Decide: Train Vs Bus Vs Plane

While deciding which mode of transport to tướng choose, the first thing to tướng take into consideration is cost. Check the price of flights, the train, and the bus before booking a ticket. You need to tướng stay within budget. If you’re not sure how much you can afford to tướng spend on transportation, kiểm tra out my guide to tướng help you make an accurate travel budget.

I don’t always choose the absolute cheapest option. My preferred mode of travel is the train. When the price is reasonably close to tướng the price of the bus, I’ll buy a ticket. If the flight is cheaper, I’ll fly. If a bus ticket is significantly cheaper than vãn either, I’ll take the bus instead. Generally, the bus is my least favorite mode of travel, comfort-wise.

Next, I consider the time of departure and arrival. This depends on your personal preference. Most travelers don’t want to tướng arrive in an unfamiliar thành phố in the middle of the night.

I’m not a morning person ví I avoid early departures. If I have the choice, I lượt thích to tướng travel by night. The main reason is that I can save on a night of accommodation. This saves bủ on average $10-$25 on a khách sạn or hostel. It also saves time. By traveling at night, I can arrive in a new destination with a whole day ahead of bủ. I haven’t wasted the day sitting around in transit.

Final Thoughts: Bus Vs Train Vs Plane Travel

Each mode of transport has its own mix of benefits and drawbacks. The choice partially comes down to tướng personal preference. Some travels hate to tướng fly and avoid it at all cost. Many luxury travelers would never mix foot on a bus or train. They value time more than vãn money.

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I consider my self a bit of a train enthusiast. One of my bucket list trips is to tướng take the Transsiberian railway from Moscow to tướng Vladivostok. Possibly with a detour to tướng Mongolia. Another train ride on my bucket list train ride is the iron ore train in Mauritania. I hope to tướng take those rides and write about them in future posts.

Do you prefer taking the bus or train while traveling? Share your experience in the comments below!

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