Travel Guide: Travel between Scandinavian Capitals-Train vs Plane

Getting between the Scandinavian Capital Cities of Copenhagen, Stockholm, and Oslo is easy. Unless you want to drive, you’ll likely end up in a plane or on a train. Both options have benefits and drawbacks. One thing to note, is you’re unlikely to take the train between Copenhagen and Oslo, that route is best flown.

Copenhagen to/from Stockholm and Oslo to/from Stockholm are both well served by SJ trains and a few airlines with SAS and Norwegian being the most popular. The biggest deciding factors between trains and planes between the Scandinavian Capitals are often cost, travel time, luggage rules, convenience, and comfort.

If you’d like to see a full review of the various options, check out my other reviews.

SJ Train First Class between Stockholm and Copenhagen

SAS A320 Neo Economy Flight Review between Copenhagen and Oslo

Norwegian 737-800 Economy Flight Review between Oslo and Stockholm

In This Review

Scandinavia Train vs Plane: Cost

When traveling, the biggest deciding factor is often cost. Getting around Scandinavia is no different, cost is important. Copenhagen, Oslo, and Stockholm are all well served by local airlines. They are also served by train companies, with SJ being the largest. The one route you’re unlikely to take is a train between Oslo and Copenhagen. There is no direct train service, it’s a long distance, and it’s pretty time consuming.

Cost of Flying

Flying between the Scandinavian capitals is cheap. With just a little bit of advanced notice getting flights for less than 50 Euro equivalent each direction is not difficult. That would be an economy ticket, no seat reservation, and no baggage. If you want to included a seat and some sort of bag expect to pay 80-100 Euro for a flight within Scandinavia.

Flying within Scandinavia also has a few hidden costs in comparison with the train. Getting from the city center to the airport costs some money. A cab is not cheap, depending on the city, the train will cost between 10-20 Euro equivalent.

Cost of Train

Taking the train between Scandinavian capitals is not expensive. An economy seat can cost as little as 30 Euro equivalent, 50-60 would be more common. First Class on the train between Scandinavian Capitals is a cheap as 65 Euro equivalent, with about 100 Euro being more common. The train also doesn’t charge for luggage, as long as you can carry it yourself you can bring it along. The trains depart from the city center so getting to the train station is cheaper/free in many cases.

Cost of Travel Winner

In most cases, traveling on the train will be cheaper than flying in Scandinavia. It’s not entirely down to ticket prices, but more on the ancillary fees that airlines charge for things like bags and seat selection. It’s also a little more expensive to get to the airport than the central train stations. It will be close, but the train will be cheaper.

Scandinavia Train vs Plane: Travel Time

I’m often willing to pay a little bit more money for a faster trip. Usually this means fewer layovers or a more direct routing. In the case of getting around Scandinavia it mostly comes down to the speed of the train vs the plane. CPH, OSL, and ARN are all well serviced by each other with direct flights. Getting between Stockholm and Oslo is easy on the train, as is Stockholm to Copenhagen, but Copenhagen to Oslo isn’t great, you’re unlikely to take that trek via train.

Travel Time Flying

When flying between the Scandinavian capitals the flight time is about an hour. They are just not that far apart and it’s a pretty brief trip in the air. The larger consumer of time when flying is getting to and from the airports. You also have to budget some time for getting through security, boarding, and baggage drop if needed. All of the Scandinavian capitals are well connected to their respective airports via public transit so 15-20 minutes is usually sufficient.

Door to door, with 2 trips to/from the airport at 20 minutes each, 70 minutes before departure arrival at the airport, then 60 minutes in the air the total time would be about 3 hours of total transport time between any two of Stockholm, Copenhagen, and Oslo.

Travel Time Train

Traveling on the train between the Scandinavian Capitals is pretty fast as long as you’re not going between Oslo and Copenhagen. The train service between those two cities isn’t amazing.

The great thing about train travel is that it’s city center to city center. There’s no need to commute out to the airport before departure. You simply arrive at the train station, in the middle of town, about 15 minutes before your departure, get on the train and that’s it. The train ride from departure to arrival between Stockholm and Oslo and Stockholm and Copenhagen is just about 5 hours. So the total travel time would be just about 5.5 hours from door to door.

Travel Time Winner

Clearly flying is faster when you’re traveling between the Scandinavian Capital cities. The Swedish trains will make up the bulk of any rail journey between the Scandinavian capitals. While they are very pleasant, the SJ trains are not the fastest trains in the world so they will loose a race to an airplane.

At 3.5 hours, a flight is going to be faster than 5.5 hours on the train, there’s just no way around it.

Scandinavia Train vs Plane: Luggage

When traveling between Scandinavian capitals, you’re likely to need luggage if you’re on vacation.

Luggage While Flying

When flying between OSL, ARN, or CPH the vast majority of the airlines are low cost carriers and as such, charge money for baggage. Not only do they charge for checked luggage, SAS and Norwegian(the largest and most popular airlines flying these routes) have fees for carry on luggage too. These prices often are not excessive, but larger bags to carry a larger price tag.

The other down side to luggage while flying is that you need to arrive a little bit early at the airport to check in your bags at the airline desk. Then once you arrive, you’ll need wait at the baggage claim area for the bags to be delivered.

Luggage On the Train

Like most trains, baggage on the SJ trains between Oslo and Stockholm and Copenhagen and Stockholm is self serve. You bring you’re baggage onto the train with you and stow it in the baggage areas at the ends of each train. There is no charge for any type of standard luggage, so long as you can transport it yourself. This is not only a money saver but a time saver too.

Luggage Winner

When it comes to bringing luggage, as with most cases it’s much easier to take the train instead of flying when you’re in Scandinavia.

Scandinavia Train vs Plane: Convenience

When trying to decide between the train and flying in Scandinavia Convenience is a huge factor. Both have positives and negatives and really it’s just about a dead heat between the two options. The train is super easy, show up at the station, in the middle of town, about 15 minutes before your scheduled departure time and get on the train. You bring all your own luggage and don’t need to deal with check in or security. The convenience of the process cannot be overstated, it’s just an easy process.

When flying it takes a bit more effort. You need to get to the airport, check in, drop bags, and deal with security. Flying is always a bit of effort to deal with, but it is faster. Some, including myself, consider a time savings a major convenience. I’m just not sure it makes up for the effort of dealing with flying. Trains are just so easy and I love that.

Scandinavia Train vs Plane: Comfort

When it comes to comfort, there’s really no comparison. The train will be more comfortable than flying. And not just the individual seats the whole experience of using the train is more comfortable than flying. The train seats are arranged in a 2-2 configuration in coach and then the 2-1 in first class. The planes flying between the Scandinavian capital cities are pretty much always 3-3 and are much tighter in pitch than trains.

When you’re on the train it’s easy to get up, get a snack or drink or use the bathroom. You can easily walk around and the windows are much larger so viewing the countryside is available from pretty much every seat. An SJ train is pretty much always more comfortable than an SAS or Norwegian plane.

Scandinavia Train vs Plane Final Thoughts

Both flying and riding the train are great options for getting between the Scandinavian Capital Cities. Flying and the train are about the same price while SJ is the main train operator in this region, when flying you’re have a few options with SAS and Norwegian being the largest and most used.

The planes will be faster, they just cover the distance more quickly. While it takes more time to get to the airport, pass through security, and deal with the entire airport process the short flight times more than makes up for the difference. The trains are easy to get to, being right in the middle of town, but the trains are just a little slow. It’s not a huge amount of difference but the trains are slower than flying.

The trains are certainly more comfortable than flying along with the convenience of city center to city center. Scandinavian airports are very good, in fact they are some of my favorite in the world, but train is just so easy.

At the end of the day I’d recommend both flying and using the train in Scandinavia. I’m glad I did both, the train is a fun experience but flying is fast. I’d do both the train and flying again.

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