London ←→ Dublin: Train & Ferry vs. Flight

I purchased two one-way tickets between London and Dublin because I couldn’t decide which mode of transport was better: a romantic train and ferry journey to span the day or a tidy plane trip for easy travel. The result? This post which can help you to decide whether to travel from London to Dublin by RailSail or a simple plane ride. Perhaps I am retrospectively justifying my decisions, but I am glad for both experiences. I enjoyed the sense of adventure and anticipation as I peered out of windows as the train rolled through the countryside and the ship cut across the Irish Sea, but I also appreciated the convenience of jetting back to London.

Read on for my descriptions and pros/ cons list for both journeys.

Road trippers will particularly enjoy the drive through Dublin and West Cork

RailSail* (13 hours, 10 minutes)

5:15 PM: Train (and Trams) from work to London Euston
7:10 PM: Train to Holyhead
2:40 AM: Ferry to Dublin Ferry Port
6:10 AM: Bus to City Center (BusAras Station)
6:25 AM: Arrival.

I picked up my RailSail ticket after reading poetic travel memoirs in which the authors praise slow travel – transport that allows voyagers to comprehend the transition from one country to the next, to notice the changing landscapes and to appreciate the physical distance that separates countries and cultures. People that travel slowly can savor the act of traveling as part of the trip; it feels more meaningful than taking to the air and simply hopping over the varied terrain.

(*Note: I did not take the advice of ManInSeat61; I dragged my luggage to work, darted out at the day’s end and started my journey on Friday evening… with many, many other weekenders. This undoubtedly affected my experience since the train was packed for the first part of the journey, and I traded a superb window seat to escape a cadre of four chatty gentlemen. Also, night fell halfway through the journey, so I missed out on some of the other sights.)

RailSail Cons:

– The long journey really was wearing. After freezing in the train, ferry port station and ferry respectively, I was deliriously tired soon after I landed in Dublin.   (The cold affected the quality of my sleep since I am unable to hibernate like a bear.)

– I had to wait a loooong time before checking into my AirBNB because I arrived so early. I trekked around for a few hours with a sack of food packed in my trusty Osprey, thank goodness for my hubby’s thoughtfulness and my rucksack’s awesome weight distribution.

– Daftly, I thought I may be the only weirdo to travel at this hour, but everyone else raced aboard cadging the best spots in which a body could lay flat. I pushed two chairs together to nap uncomfortably. Surprisingly I would have been able to sleep better in an airline seat with a tall back.

RailSail Pros:

– Going through security was painless. I didn’t have to unpack liquids, etc., and the immigration officer was friendly.

– I sensed camaraderie with other bleary-eyed passengers. I was chatted up and welcomed by an Irishman right away, a gregarious fellow who engaged with everyone around him (even haranguing the greying musician with soulful Richard Gere behind him to play a tune on his guitar.)

– Were I not so sleepy, the opportunity to stretch my legs would have been more appreciated. I did enjoy exploring the huge ferry, which is probably even more pleasant during the day.

– Sunrise on the open sea and as the sun climbed over Howth was worth getting unmercifully whipped with the frigid wind. My fingers and face unfortunately remained sentient, acutely aware of the cold, but the serenity of the sunrise both excited and calmed me. (Even lots of crew members popped out on deck, content to marvel at the same sunrise day after day.)

– I didn’t pay for an extra night at the AirBnB since I arrived early in the morning. Although tired, I arrived just in time for a full day of exploring (but I wasn’t able to purchase a discounted tourist travel ticket, since it is only available at the airport.)

– I felt like a pro, money-saving traveler because the train and ferry journey is unique, but the money-saving argument is still up for debate.

Once you immigrate into Dublin, why not check out the Irish Emigration Museum?

Air Travel (5 hours, 30 minutes)

4:30 PM: Coach to airport
6:55 PM: Flight time before delay
7:25 PM: Actual flight to London
9:38 PM: Train home
9:55 PM: Tram home
10:00 PM: Arrival.

Since traveling by plane is the norm, it seems strange for me to evaluate the journey home because it didn’t seem like much of a journey at all. A bus ride took me to the airport, where I went through security and waited at the gate. I boarded the plane and waited to take off, then to land. I ran through immigration and rushed home. Although 5.5 hours is a decent chunk of time, the return journey seemed rather quick.

Flight Cons:

– Going through airport security is always a minor hassle.

Flight Pros:

– Getting from point A to B as quickly as possible.

– The provided in-flight magazines offer good entertainment before nap time.

– Plane views can also be great. I witnessed a spectacular sunset, with the rich colors reflecting brilliantly on fluffy cloud tops.


Now what will you decide? Will you travel from London to Dublin by plane – or by train and ferry?

Planning a trip to Dublin? Pin it! 

London to Dublin RailSail Pinterest

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