I’ve made no secret of the fact that I am a massive fan of rail travel in Europe. From exploring Provence by rail to the home-grown Settle to Carlisle Railway, I am addicted to travelling by train.
But what are the advantages of travelling by train?
In no particular order, here is why train travel is better than flying.
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15 Advantages of Train Travel
1. Centre-to-centre journeys
One of the major advantages of travelling by train is that you often arrive in the heart of the city.
In contrast to most airports which are far outside the city centre, train stations are in the centre of town. No costly and time-consuming transfers from the airport are required.
2. Railway stations are destinations in themselves
There are some European train stations that are architecturally magnificent or have historical significance. Ones that immediately spring to mind are Rotterdam Central Station, Helsinki‘s wonderful art deco station, the train station in Delft and São Bento Train Station in Porto, Portugal.
In my home city, St Pancras Station is one of London’s most iconic landmarks.
3. Travelling by travel is comfortable
Forget being scrunched up in an airplane seat waiting for that ‘Fasten Seat Belt’ light to be turned off. Say hello to stretching your legs and walking around at will.
4. You can wave farewell to airline security queues
At the best of times, airport security can be stressful, queues can be long and the requirement to arrive at the airport two hours (or more!) prior to your departure slot extends the total journey time. Who wants that?
No hanging around European railway stations is needed. You just rock up a little before your scheduled departure, flash your ticket and you’re done. Decanting toiletries into teeny weeny bottles is a thing of the past.
5. There are few luggage restrictions
As well as not having to stress about the size of your sunscreen bottle, there are no restrictions placed on your luggage size or weight. As long as you can lift it yourself, you’re good to go.
6. Say goodbye to turbulence
Who amongst likes to be jiggled around when in the air? Not me, that’s for sure, and you don’t have this problem when exploring Europe by rail.
7. Greater flexibility
Have you ever managed to change a flight reservation for free? No, I didn’t think so.
Train travel in Europe is often more flexible than flying. On many routes you don’t need to make a reservation, meaning that you change your plans on a whim, travelling where you fancy.
That type of freedom is priceless.
8. You can settle back and enjoy the scenery
I’ve been lucky to experience some of the world’s most scenic railway journeys, including the Glacier Express and Flam Railway. But you don’t need to be on one of these bucket-list railway journeys to experience the joy of watching Europe’s landscapes unfurl from the comfort of your window seat.
The journey becomes part of the holiday which, for me, is one of the biggest advantages of travelling by train.
9. There’s the opportunity to ditch unwelcome neighbours
Have you ever been seated next to the person on the plane who has BO/hogs the armrest/talks about themselves incessantly (delete as appropriate)? Yep. A few hours can seem like an eternity.
When travelling through Europe by train, if your neighbour is not your ideal travel companion, you will often be able to move to an alternative seat.
10. Or make new friends
That said, train rides are perfect opportunities for meeting people when travelling.
Most of the time I travel alone. Although solo travel has multiple benefits, the loneliness of travelling alone can rear its unwelcome head from time to time.
11. You can dine in style
This is one of the very best benefits of train travel.
Have you ever been faced with eating a salt-laden airplane meal, precariously balanced on a tray table, usually with the seat in front of you reclined? Many European trains offer delicious regional and local cuisine on board, sometimes in relatively opulent surroundings.
12. Or bring a picnic
One of the joys of European rail travel is that you can bring what you like on a train, including booze. Therefore, stop at a supermarket before you board the train to assemble your perfect picnic.
Just don’t forget the wine or beer.
13. Stay connected
Although I am someone who embraces the idea of a flight being a mobile phone-free zone, others do not share my view. European trains will usually have mobile data or Wi-Fi coverage, and plug sockets at your seat. No excuses for not posting selfies of your train journey on social media.
14. You can break up your journey into a number of stops
Are you travelling from London to Locarno, Switzerland and fancy stopping in Brussels or Basel en route? Not a problem with rail travel.
15. Rail travel is kind to the environment
Last but by no means least, train travel is reported to contribute less to climate change than aviation.
Independent research commissioned by Eurostar concluded that choosing the train over flying between London and Paris cut CO2 emissions per passenger by 90%. Although the cynics amongst us would say that is in Eurostar’s interests to promote train travel, there is a growing academic consensus that trains pump out less carbon dioxide than an aircraft flying the same distance.
Be Inspired to Plan your Next Train Journey
I hope that these benefits of train travel persuade you to plan your rail trip. To help you on your way, here are my favourite resources for planning rail travel in Europe and beyond.
Researching global rail travel
Man in Seat 61 is the king of rail travel resources and my first port of call when I am planning a rail itinerary. Mark Smith’s excellent website is an up-to-date and comprehensive guide to global rail travel.
Booking rail travel in Europe
If you are travelling by train in Europe, ask yourself will a European train pass will save you money. In addition to country-specific rail passes, there are train passes that cover multiple European countries. These are Interrail (for European residents) and Eurail (for non-European residents).
To book point-to-point tickets or to interrogate railway timetables, go to the national rail operator’s website or to Omio.
Although you will be charged a small administration fee when you purchase your ticket through Omio, it is often much easier to use than the rail operators’ websites.
For effortless train travel between London and the European mainland, head to the Eurostar website.
READ THIS NEXT: Eurostar Standard Premier Vs Standard: Is an Upgrade Worth it
Booking rail travel in Asia
My go-to resource for booking transport in Asia is 12goAsia. This also searches for buses and flights.
Get the lowdown on the Japan Rail Pass here. It remains one of the world’s biggest travel bargains.
Train travel inspiration
Finally, here’s a selection of the favourite train journeys that I have taken.
- Riding the Magical Harry Potter Train in Scotland (The Jacobite Steam Train)
- Sensational Settle Carlisle Railway (+ What to Do in Carlisle and Settle)
- Caledonian Sleeper First Class Review: Is The Club Room Worth It?
- 7 Essential Tips for Riding The Glacier Express, Switzerland
- Fabulous Flam Scenic Railway! A Guide for Cruise Passengers
- 7 Amazing Day Trips from Bern, Switzerland by Train
- A Perfect 1-Week Belgium Itinerary by Train