A train from Sheffield to Essex cost £50… So I flew home via BERLIN to save £8

Jordon Cox

By MoneySavingExpert's Coupon Kid, Jordon Cox

International flights with some budget airlines can be cheaper than a rail trip to the next town – crazy right? This means if you have the luxury of time, your MoneySaving can really take off when you fly between UK destinations via a European city rather than taking the train.

I always go the extra mile to save money, but in January 2016 I went the extra 1,017 miles and saved £7.72 by getting back to Essex from Sheffield via Berlin – I even had enough Euros spare for a currywurst sausage by the Brandenburg Gate… Wunderbar!

I know that flying is not very environmentally friendly and I won’t do this every time I travel, however this was the cheapest way for me to get home and I got to enjoy a ‘free’ mini holiday to a city I’ve always wanted to visit.

Why did I do it?

Even by my usual standards, I’ll admit this is a rather extreme way of saving money. I was teaching a class on couponing in Sheffield and I had booked a cheap train up there from Essex, but coming back home the cheapest one-way rail ticket was £47, so it needed some blue-sky thinking.

It turned out that flying out from East Midlands Airport to Berlin, spending seven hours exploring the city and then flying to Stansted and getting the bus home was cheaper than a single train journey in England. But that’s not all, I also figured out I could buy a return train ticket to Berlin city centre, enjoy a free tour of a government building and lunch while I was out there and STILL save money.

Berlin for seven hours

Want to know how much I got to see in Berlin in just seven hours? Check out my (very cold) video below.

Does it always work?

I have included more examples below to prove that this was not just a one off. I am not saying that you should always fly as there will be an effect on the environment, these are simply showing you how flying can be cheaper than high-cost trains.

It will not work 100% of the time and since the writing of this blog post, a lot of train fares have gone down in price (see our Cheap Trains Guide). I wonder if the transport minister took note!

MSE Update, Mon 29 Jan: While this blog was first published two years ago, the principle still applies. These are examples we found on Mon 29 Jan of how doing this sort of thing will save you money or give you a nice day trip at a cut-down price:

  • Glasgow to London – Ryanair direct flights: £10 (on 12 days in April). Virgin Trains: £65 cheapest advance ticket
  • London to Edinburgh – Ryanair direct flights: £10 (on 11 days in April). Virgin Trains: £40 cheapest advance ticket
  • Southampton to Newcastle – Flybe direct flights: £36 (on 3 days in February). South Western and Virgin Trains: £50-£71 cheapest advance ticket
  • London to Newcastle – Ryanair flights via Dublin: £27 (on 27 March). Virgin Trains: £36 cheapest advance ticket

Please make sure to factor in your cost of travel to airports as well.

Your main questions answered

This blog sparked a lot of debate when it went viral. Here are some of your questions answered:

Why would you do this if it takes hours longer? You are right, it does take quite a bit longer than it would in the UK, but I had the time and if you do as well, you could see a different country while saving money at the same time. It might take a bit longer for you to get there and back, but you might never have the chance to go there again. I got to see a lot more than I would have done peering out of the window of a train in the UK.

What about the APD, taxes and chargesThe flights that I went on included all taxes and charges. Ryanair says: “Ryanair offers the lowest fares, inclusive of all taxes and charges, as part of our load factor active/yield passive pricing strategy.”

Is it worth it?

Ok, this isn’t for everyone as it can take a whole day to get to your final destination, but if you’re not in a rush, your focus is saving money and you fancy a little walk around a European city, it’s worth a look. Many of these airports are close to city centres, with cheap buses or trains taking you into the heart of the action, so you get to do a bit of exploring rather than waiting in an airport terminal.

Mark contacted me to say: “This has opened up a whole new world to me – I am loving seeking out these savings I never even knew about. I also now have a day trip adventure planned via Milan, which I am going to have to mini-vlog. Inspired…!

So the next time you are looking to travel around the country by train, have a look at the flight prices too (see our cheap flights guide and our Cheap Trains Guide). Be sure to factor in your travel to and from airports to make sure you’re still saving. And don’t forget your passport!

Have you ever plane-hopped to get to somewhere in the UK? I’d love to read your stories in the comments below, on twitter @MSE_Deals or on Facebook.