Survey: Getting around the U.S. costs less than many countries worldwide

A survey conducted by the on-line platform shows that trips by train, bus and plane in the U.S. are below the middle of the range when compared to 50 other countries across five continents on a dollars-per-distance basis.

GoEuro surveyed the cost of travel by each of the modes of transportation for its Global Transportation Price Index, taking into account factors including distance, scheduling and taxes, and compared the cheapest bus, train and flight connections between two of the most populous cities in each of the countries. The survey also looked at other routes and analyzed the data in the price index to arrive at an average price per 100km for each transportation type.

Inter-City Express Train in Germany
In the U.S., the survey used New York City, Chicago and others to account for the geographic size of the United States compared to other countries. In Canada, the survey included Toronto and Montreal, among others, a GoEuro spokesperson told TheTravelPro in an e-mail.

On average in the U.S., bus journeys cost $7.92 per 100 kilometers traveled; train journeys $18.61/100km; and flights $10.36/100km, meaning 29 of the 51 countries have travel costs that are more expensive than the United States. The calculations for train and bus took into account several cities to get an average of long and short distance travel, the spokesperson said, noting that the only transport mode where the two most populous cities were compared was for flights.

Overall, the most expensive country for transport is Switzerland, where bus journeys cost $18.67/100km; train journeys $38.28/100km; and flights cost $125.07/100km. Others in that rarefied air include Denmark where train travel averages $39.84/100km, Austria where train travel averages $32.16/100km and bus travel $23.45/100km, and the Netherlands where bus travel averages $28.58/100km. Bus travel in Norway is also among the priciest, at $21.61/100km. Finland has the most expensive air travel, at $138.90/100km, and Lithuania is third-most expensive at $116.72/100km.

The cheapest country for transport overall is South Africa, where an average bus journey costs $3.67/100km and train journeys cost $1.88/100km. Others on the list of most economical include the Democratic Republic of Georgia where train travel averages $2.39/100km and Egypt where train travel averages $2.49/100km. Egyptian bus travel averages $1.88/100km, followed by Ukraine at $3.07/100km and Thailand at $3.11/100km. India has the least expensive air travel, at $10.36/100km followed by Malaysia at $11.43/100km and South Africa at $11.63/100km.

The full results and data from the GoEuro Transportation Price Index can be found here.

While the survey’s cost comparisons are interesting, I’m reminded of something a former teacher was fond of saying about averages: “You can drown trying to walk across a lake an ‘average’ of two feet deep.” His point was that averages can be fairly meaningless without context.

For example, in the U.S., a flight between Los Angeles International (LAX) Airport and John F. Kennedy Airport (JFK) in New York will be cheaper on a per-mile basis than many shorter flights for reasons that include passenger demand, the economics of the aircraft used, and other factors.

The lowest price quoted on United Airlines’ web site for a non-stop round trip ticket between LAX and JFX leaving Sept. 14 and returning Sept. 21 was $405. The cost of a round trip between LAX and Seattle (SEA) on the same dates was $260.

The LAX-JFK route is 2,475 miles each way – a round trip of 4,950 miles – which translates to a cost of $0.082 per mile. For comparison, the LAX-SEA flight is 954 miles each way, or a round trip of 1,908 miles, which works out to a cost of $0.136 per mile. To create an “apples-to-apples” comparison, multiplying the per mile cost by 62.18 – the number of miles in 100 kilometers – yields $5.10 per 100km for the LAX-JFK route, and $8.45/100km for the LAX-SEA route. Both figures are less than the average U.S. flight cost of $10.36/100km indicated in the GoEuro survey. Other flights may cost more than the average.

Bottom line: average costs can be useful in providing an overall sense of which countries are more expensive and which are less so, but don't plan your travel budget based on "average." Decide what you want to do and how you want to travel, do your research, and plan accordingly.

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Photos by Carl Dombek
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