I have traveled two month long Eurotrips solely by train and I have gotta say that I am a big, BIG fan of train travel. Here are a few reasons why:
1) Location. Location. Location.
Train stations drop you smack in the middle of the city. I have yet to encounter a train station that puts you out in the ‘burbs, With an airport, it could take you an hour and a wad of cash to get anywhere of interest.
Sure you can go to major cities on flights, but what about the picturesque smaller places? Your choices are car and train, that simple.
Interlaken, Switzerland - try finding an international flight that drops you at this spot
Trains don’t have luggage allowances, at least in my experience. There is no one sitting there measuring or weighing, just hop on the train and find a place for all your crap.
my first ever overnight train from Budapest to Prague
Some seats require reservations, some don’t. It all depends on which company, where to, etc. But that’s not my point. See those special seats in the background of the photo where four people can face each other? They are awesome – particularly since I always seem to be in a group of four. It makes conversing, playing games, drinking (see #5) more convenient and the ride more enjoyable. Additionally, seats are larger and provide more room than an airplane.
Why yes, yes you can BYOB and drink on trains. Someone told me it is actually not allowed, but after countless train trips problem-free, I partake complete unconcerned. Train trips can be long, so why not have some fun with it. We even once encountered a Bachelor Party who brought along several cases.
When I’m rich and engaged (two things that are not even fathomable right now), I will take all my bridesmaids to Europe and the party will begin on a train from Munich to some unknown location in Eastern Europe.
6) Night trains.
You mean you can go to sleep on one train and wake up in another faraway land? If you are a diva, you will probably HATE overnight trains so don’t even bother. I love them though.
7) Time tables.
Do you want to leave at 8 am? Or did you party the night before and are thinking a noon departure sounds better? Oh heck, lets decide in the morning, because with trains, you can! There is usually a huge selection of route times and travel times to get you wherever you want to go.
Eurail 2011 Time Table Catalog
8) Train stations rule.
Stations are rarely a sight for sore eyes and always historical. You know what also rules? People watching.
São Bento Train Station, Porto, Portgual
9) No security/early arrival.
What! I don’t have to be at the train station 2-3 hours before the departure time? I don’t have to go through security? You mean I just walk on? I cannot emphasize the joy in this enough.
Train companies offer all sorts of deals. Whether you go for a rail pass (i.e., Eurail or Interrail), single trip tickets, weekend passes, or a frequent traveler card, train prices are competitive and usually better than airline prices. Watch the train sites just like you would check an airline site for special deals, they’re alway there and changing.
Bonus points for train travel:
- environmentally friendly
- always free to “move about the cabin”
- reduced motion sickness (compared to cars, at least)
- trains are (almost) always right on time