How to compare the best airport transfer for your needs

Young people on a road trip by private ground transport in summer

Various airport transfer options for your needs

In my last blog, 8 reasons to pre-book an airport transfer, I talked about pre-booked private airport transfers and my reasons behind it as a frequent traveller. In this blog, I am going to compare private airport transfers against other modes of ground transport that are available to us at most metropolitan airports around the world.

We know that booking an airport transfer is often the last task or completely ignored one on “to-do” travel list. Afterall, booking a flight and accommodation takes up significant amount of time as you browse through various websites and scroll through numerous pages on search engines.

It becomes even more tedious and time-consuming job to work out what is the best mode of transport and whether you are getting value for money, no matter how less or more you spend on transfers.

Airport operators around the world invest bucket-loads of money to ensure their passenger experience is as stress-free as possible – and yet, there are always gaps in the process that need attention.

So, what is the best ground transport option for your airport transfer? Below is my take on the options available at most airports across the globe. I’ve used my own experiences as well as experiences of our solo travellers, business travellers, a group of family and friends and the most difficult one, a large group that requires planning.

Trains, trams and metros

This mode of transport is a great option for the budget-conscious traveller, as this type of transfer is generally more cost effective. However, the availability and punctuality of trains and trams in many cities around the world is questionable with delays and last-minute cancellations due to variety of reasons. Does “planned engineering works” and “rail replacement bus service” ring a bell? Overcrowding is another major problem. Navigating the unknown transport system is complex and can be overwhelming for even seasoned travellers.

Using trains and trams to get to and from airport often involves considerable walking to the nearest station. At many destinations, it requires a last mile connectivity where one needs to take a taxi from the nearest station to the destination and vice-versa.

When travelling as a family or a group, trains often turn out to be more expensive than a private airport transfer as costs and problems both multiply.

Shared shuttles

A shuttle transfer is the most economic method for airport transfer. This is usually done by a shared bus or a coach. It entails waiting for other passengers to get on, making stops at additional locations on route to your destination or drop off point. On many occasions, this also involves collecting passengers from two to three flights.

Shared shuttles are mostly available in popular tourist destinations and from airport to various resorts and hotels. They are scheduled, run during peak tourist season for the area and will only pick you up at designated resorts and hotels within each destination to go to airport. Shared shuttles tend to run off of schedule, which is nearly always caused by other travellers not being ready for the shuttle.

Taxis

Picture this. You’ve just stepped off your flight and like most travellers, you’re tired and agitated. If you are lucky enough to have passed through an efficient airport, your customs and luggage reclaim was quick and painless, and as you walk towards the exit, the feeling of relief passes over you – you’re nearly there!

Travellers and tourists in Barcelona waiting for the taxi in queue in front of the El Prat International Airport

But as you step out into the fresh air in search of taxi, you are confronted with what seems like the world’s longest taxi queue. Your feeling of relief is suddenly replaced with frustration and anger – and this is possibly the last contact you’ll have with the airport. Sadly, this is a standard scenario for passengers.

The emergence of app-based ride hailing services come with their own baggage and the troubles are well documented all over the world. Many cities and airports don’t allow them to operate from airport. When you try to book one, the fares always tend to be much higher due to airport in your ride planning. Wait time can also be 15-20 minutes or even more. At many airports, these cars are banned from using taxi ranks. So drivers tend to pick up rides from nearby locations or many times airport departure areas as meet and greet is not offered.

The reason for the strict rules is that taxi and limo drivers must have city licenses or permits and pay fees. There are financial repercussions too while booking an app-based ride. If you cancel the ride, chances are you will be charged a fee of around £5 or equivalent in local currency where these firms operate.

My personal experience in many cities around the world is that, even after booking the service at last minute, I tend to end up calling the driver to find out where (s)he is at, how (s)he can recognise me from numerous passengers who are also waiting for the ride outside the terminal building. On a few occasions, the driver has even cancelled my ride as the GPS took him to the wrong route and I ended up ordering the ride again.

Private transfers and chauffeur services

Two happy boys and a mother are buckled with safety belt in a chauffeured MPV

Private transfers are scheduled and based on your trip. They are door to door and drivers can pick you up and drop you off at the airport. You and your travel companions are the only passengers. You can arrange transfers to or from any land-based destination. They track your flight arrival time so that even if your flight is delayed, they will adjust the pick-up time accordingly.

These drivers are professionals and know local areas very well. If you ask them what you want to explore, where you can find good restaurants and local cuisine, where you can go shopping, where is good night life etc. they will be like a concierge who can give you the information you need.

There is also an allowance of a generous one-hour free wait time for international arrivals without you having to pay them if you get stuck at immigration. Sometimes they allow a quick stop along the designated route too. Common reasons to stop include stopping at a deli, a souvenir stand, take photos of scenery or wildlife, or just to simply stretch. In some cases, you can add side trips such as a stop by a national park, waterfalls or other attractions for an additional fee.

Private transfers are perfect for families, couples, honeymooners, business travellers, those with extra luggage and groups. They are most reliable, affordable and offer peace of mind due to their on time every time service. Once you’ve decided that private transfer is right for you, it’s time you compare and book your next airport transfer.

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