Friday, March 12, 2010

Plane vs bus/train/other options

On Wednesday I indicated that there was more to the cost of air travel than just the ticket. This was prompted in part by a blog post I read recently: in Why I cancelled a subscription to Lonely Planet Magazine blogger Natalie was disappointed that said magazine seemed to overwhelmingly support air travel to the point that alternative modes of travel were rarely, if ever, addressed, and therefore wasn't helping in reducing the negative environmental impact of travel.

I like her principled stand, especially considering the UK has connections to the mainland other than by air. I've yet to take the chunnel, opened in 1994, but thanks to is existence, one could go from London to Paris in as little as 2h 15m. The Man in Seat Sixty-One even offers ferry/train suggestions for folks in the UK who want to make their way to Europe but without having to go via London or by air. I also have a vague recollection of perhaps having crossed the channel by ferry, way back when.

Of course, if your destination is further away, then you need to make a decision about how much time you want to spend traveling there and back, versus time you'd be able to spend in the destination itself. This is one of the reasons it's highly unlikely for Kosh to be able to take a trip back to Malaysia with me anytime in the next 5 years or so: he can get one week off at a time, so when you factor in the 4 days total for to/fro travel, that's a measly 3 days he'd get to spend getting used to the humidity and time change, only to have to get right back into that plane. Ugh!

Where am i going with this?

If you recall, my plans this time around include Singapore. An island just south of the tip of the Malay Peninsula, Singapore is easily gotten to by train or bus as well as by air from Kuala Lumpur. I won't be a rush to get from KL to Singapore, so long I get there withina reasonable amount of time is fine with me... and yet the non-air options flitted only briefly across my attention:

Bus? I look back to my bus journeys, from the time I lived on the east coast and needed a cheap trip back to KL, with amazement mixed with horror that I actually did numerous trips without accidents. Such buses are notorious for being poorly maintained and driven in an unsafe manner. Sure, I've heard of the premium air-conditioned coaches that do the KL-S'pore journey safely, but I'm still leery of putting my life in the hands of a Malaysian bus driver.

Train? I've done the KL-S'pore by train once, back in the early 90's. Perhaps it's because we'd gotten the cheapest seats, but oh boy it was a terribly uncomfortable journey made bearable only by the company of my other two pals. On one of the directions, I recall we just hung out in the restaurant car, everyone ordering a drink in succession once the other was done with theirs so that we were legitimately at that table, in order to have some level of comfort. I vaguely remember having a much more comfortable trip by train up to Penang, so it's not like that one trip has colored my perception of Malaysian train travel. I don't recall how one passes through customs & immigration when going by train, though, and didn't feel like finding out just yet.

... as such, I succumbed to the lure of the plane. I'm kicking myself a little, but what's done is done. Perhaps next time I'll remember to include Singapore in my travel options: now that I think about it, I have the impression that a round trip flight via S'pore plus a return train journey to KL might be cheaper than my usual itinerary via KUL. We'll see what the online ticketing sites have to say, whenever it is that I start planning my next Malaysia trip!

What about you? Do you consciously try to reduce/minimise the impact of your travels on the environment? ... And what of the blog post that sparked this off: do you think Natalie was right to cancel her subscription in order to express her dissatisfaction, or do you think she should have stayed a subscriber but then actively lobbied LP for a change in their practices?

Drop me a comment, I'd love to hear from you.

Image credits: plane by goa_s; bus and train by hisks.

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  1. As much as I'd love to reduce my travel carbon footprint, I have to remain more concerned about money. In this society, you just have to. And I don't have a lot of money to be throwing around on eco-friendly travel. I wish I could, but I don't. So we shop for whatever is a good deal. If it works out that it's eco-friendlier, great! But otherwise we worry more about the pocketbook.

  2. Dear Lynne,

    The good news is, there's more than just one airline that service the route. Jetstar is (almost always) cheaper than the premium bus service. If you can't be asked to go all the way out to KLIA (presuming you are not connecting directly), Fireflyz flies out from Subang airport. Then there is Tiger....(and as a result MAS and SQ tend to offer good dicounts too).

    Good luck and enjoy your time here :)

  3. I'm amazed too that I remain unscathed by my numnerous trips on buses going back and forth during school holidays all those years. I'm not getting the express buses now though!
    With the bus fares being comparatively the same as budget airlines, I chose flying to S'pore without a thought. Money and time are precious!


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