I’m just about to set off from Montreal on a Via Rail train to Toronto. I have lots of fond memories of making this trip frequently during my studies as an MBA student at York University. In fact, I’ve made the trip in all modes of travel: train, plane, bus, and automobile. The only thing I haven’t done is walked or biked!
In keeping with the travel theme of my blog, here’s my opinion of each of these four modes of transportation.
Automobile: I love road trips. But for me, the conditions have to be right. I could probably travel nearly any distance by car if I’ve got the windows down and the wind in my face, radio blaring my top travel tunes, and ideally a travel partner with whom to stop at Tim Horton’s coffee shops along the way. My last road trip was in the USA: from Chapel Hill, North Carolina to Tampa, Florida via Charleston, South Carolina. A great time! But, I rarely travel this way. This is mainly because I haven’t owned a car since the late 90’s. I could rent but my drivers license recently expired and I can’t get another one until my work visa is renewed. So, the trouble factor is too high. And of course parking would be a burden in a city like Toronto. Renting a compact car for this trip – three nights and four days, plus fuel, and parking, would probably have taken me to about $200-250. There are options to ride-share. Check places like craigslist or simply ask your friends on facebook!
Bus: My global travels started by bus, and although its probably my least favourite mode of transport, it’ll always be a fall-back for me and I like to think it keeps me grounded to being a frugal traveler. Bus travel takes a long time: at least a nine hour trip to Toronto. Advantages include affordability and I sometimes like being able to travel overnight (you save on a hotel and can maximize your daytime hours in the city). Greyhound buses have a seat-side socket for your laptop and wi-fi on board, though on a recent trip from New York to Montreal I found it to be quite slow. For me, the major cons to traveling by bus are the frequent stops, the bumpy ride which makes it difficult to get any rest, and the usually crappy dining options along the way. But sometimes its still the best option in comparison. My most recent bus trip was from New York’s Port Authority Bus Terminal to Montreal on a Greyhound bus. I paid $78 for a one-way ticket and the journey took eight hours door-to-door. The money saved lets my travel dollar go even further and that keeps me true to my roots as a budget backpacker. :)
Plane: Usually the fastest way to go of course. But don’t forget to add the travel time to and from the airport, check-in and security clearance, boarding time, and the extra costs of a taxi. Consider flying into Billy Bishop Toronto City airport which is much closer to downtown than Pearson International. Remember that flying by plane is the least environmentally friendly way to travel. Don’t be fooled by those airlines which allow you to purchase “credits” or “offsets” so that you can be carbon-neutral. Some carbon offset programs may not be having the impact we seek (more on that in another blog post). A return flight from Montreal to Toronto can be anywhere between $250 and $600, depending on when you book, who you’re flying with, and what time you’re flying. I last flew this route in January, as the first leg of a journey to Ethiopia.
Train: My favourite way to travel to Toronto is by train, mainly because I can sit comfortable with lots of leg room and work while on board using free wi-fi. Travel times ranges from five to eight hours, depending on the number of stops. There are fewer security hassles too. Getting to the train station in Montreal is easy and fast and likewise in Toronto. And fares are usually quite reasonable: I paid $116 for this trip, tax in. Another huge plus is that its much more environmentally friendly than taking the plane or traveling by car.
Via Rail still has Economy Escape fares available to Toronto for the upcoming Labour Day weekend, at $90 all in, return trip. What are you waiting for? :)
If you’ve done this trip before, please share your thoughts below! Thanks!