Travelling by train is a wonderful way to see the countryside. My favourite bonus – no turbulence! Trains often travel where vehicles can’t. I’d recommend sitting in a seat which faces direction of travel. You somehow see more. I’ve travelled from Canberra to Coffs Harbour numerous times and have also done it by train. The scenery is definitely more picturesque by train.
Unlike airplane travel, there’s no long queues or check-in deadlines and security is less stringent. You can virtually turn up a few minutes before the train is due to depart. If you’re transferring between trains, give yourself at least an hour before next departure in case of delays. Some train stations are also very large and you need time to get from one platform to the other.
Trains generally have big picture windows so people sitting in the aisle, still get to see the scenery. Seats are more spacious and comfortable on modern trains. There are some trains I’d definitely avoid such as in India where they’re so crowded that you’ll even find people sitting on the roof from one end to the other! They’re also prone to having more accidents in third world countries not to mention they’re not as clean.
In a train, you can get up and stretch your legs and move between cars. They also usually have dining cars so you don’t need to pack food, although it’s still worthwhile taking snacks with you. I recall many, many years ago when I first started travelling, I was on my way from Germany to Italy and we had to take a detour via Innsbruck due to avalanches. The journey took several hours longer and they had run out of food in the dining car. Fortunately, a girl in our compartment had a cake she shared with us. The downside was that no-one had a knife so she cut it with her comb which had a metal tail (cringe!).
A lot of long- distance trains also have tables so you can play cards, spread out maps and eat your meals in comfort at your seat. If it’s going to be a long journey, make sure you take along a good book or Kindle.
A real bonus of train travel is that you can embark and disembark in the city centre so you’ll save on cab fares. The luggage allowance is also more generous than airplane travel (unless you’re travelling business or first class).
Train travel can often be cheaper than flying. You’ll get more value out of rail passes if your itinerary includes at least three or more journeys. Some passes are discounted if two or more people are travelling together and you can buy either continuous or flexi passes. They would need to be purchased before you leave Australia. Work out how many trains you think you’ll need and compare costs between flying and one way train fares as well as against rail passes.
Some people like to take overnight trains to save on hotels, however, I’m not a huge fan as I’ve travelled on overnight trains through Europe and Vietnam and you really don’t get a good nights sleep as you’re constantly being woken by trains stopping and starting. If you’re a good sleeper then go for it.
Sleepers aren’t necessarily cheaper than a hotel (or Airbnb) night and prices will vary depending on the train. The other downside is that you don’t get to see the scenery at night. I would only take an overnight sleeper these days unless it’s really necessary.
Of course, there are some trains like the Rocky Mountaineer or the Ghan for example, which offer double beds and would be more comfortable. Some trains are just downright luxurious such as the Orient Express and South Africa’s Rovos Rail.
Below is a list of unmissable train journeys (in no particular order):
. Rocky Mountaineer from Vancouver to Banff
. Glacier Express – Switzerland
. Glasgow to Mallaig – Scotland
. TranzAlpine – New Zealand
. Trans-Siberian Railway – Russia
. The Ghan – Australia
. Belmond Hiram Bingham from Cusco to Machu Picchu – Peru
. Rovos Rail’s Namibia Safari – South Africa
. Golden Eagle Danube Express from Istanbul to Prague
. Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad – Colorado USA
. The Flam Railway – Norway
As great as train travel can be, you do need to be aware of pickpockets at stations, especially in major cities. Also, when putting luggage up into an overhead rack, keep any other luggage in front of you.
Please feel free to share and if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact me.
Image 1 by Felix Mittemier on Unsplash
Image 2 by Matthew T Rader on Unsplash
Image 3 by Sai Kiran Anagani on Unsplash
Image 4 by Dmitry Sovyak on Unsplash
Image 5 by Tommaso Pecchioli on Unsplash
Image 6 by Thijs Degenkamp on Unsplash