Travelling by train is a wonderful way to see Europe! Travellers can rest assured that their carbon footprints are significantly less than if flying to-and-from each destination, while getting to enjoy the views from the window along the way. If you know when and where to book tickets, train travel can also be much cheaper than other forms of transport. Here are our top tips for visiting Europe by train.
Check in with The Man in Seat 61
The Man in Seat 61 is an incredible website with a comprehensive guide to planning train travel all around the world. The man behind the website, Mark Smith, is a keen train traveller who has travelled all around the world via train. Most of his adventures start by taking the Eurostar from England to France, sat in his preferred seat number 61. Most of his European guides start in London, showing you how to book the cheapest, most scenic and most efficient routes to different European destinations. There’s also plenty of useful information, talking you through everything from the different kinds of trains and tickets to when is the best time to book your train.
Buy your tickets in advance
If you turn up to book your tickets at the station, they are likely to be much more expensive than if you book in advance. Do your research online to find out when is the optimum time to book specific tickets. There are often a limited number of cheaper tickets available, so you need to know exactly how far in advance tickets go on sale. These initial cheaper tickets can be up to four times cheaper than the cost on the day.
Look into Interrail passes
An Interrail pass is a paper train ticket that allows you to travel on most trains in Europe, choosing your own route. The pass includes access to 38 railway and ferry companies in 31 countries, connecting over 40,000 destinations.
There are different passes available, whether you want to travel around just one country or explore as much of Europe as possible. You can then choose your personal pass, based on how many journeys you wish to take or how long you plan on travelling for.
Stop along the way
The beauty of travelling by train is that you don’t have to just travel from A to B. You can make stops along the way and see things that you would miss if taking a flight. When planning your journey, try to combine several destinations to see more of the world in one trip, or do a little research to plan interesting stops along the way. You could even hop off a train for a couple of hours and jump onto another later that day, enabling you to make the most of your journey.
Take advantage of night trains
Many train companies around Europe offer night trains with sleeper berths, allowing you to combine a night’s accommodation with a long train journey. Booking a bunk on a night train (private or shared rooms are usually available) is often much cheaper than booking your train journey during the day and separate accommodation. Utilise night trains to make the most out of longer journeys, enjoying the excitement of waking up someplace new.
Choose the slow trains
If you’re worried about cost, slow trains that take longer and stop at more stations are often much cheaper than the fast trains that go directly from A to B. Take advantage of these slower trains to enjoy the view out of the window or to stop off at a destination you may have otherwise missed.
Take the scenic routes
Some of Europe’s most scenic train journeys take you out of your way at an extra cost. If you enjoy admiring the view from the window and want to make the most out of travelling by train, it is more than worth your time to take a slight detour or book an extra journey that adds a little time to your trip. Try out the Glacial Express in Switzerland that weaves through tunnels and over bridges high in the Alps, or the Flam Railway in Norway, that takes an incredibly scenic detour from the busy Oslo-to-Bergen route.
Emma Lavelle is a UK based writer and photographer and has her own blog Field and Nest.