Before airplanes, cars and cruise liners took over the way we travel, rail was the ideal way to travel cross-country, both at home and overseas. And for many it still is.
>> read also How to travel by train across Europe <<
Peter Lynch from Silver Travel Advisor has come up with his 10 tips for travelling by rail.
1. It’s the journey, not the destination
Unlike flying from A to B, travelling by rail allows you to plan a route that allows you to visit other destinations en-route, or break the journey with a few hours, or overnight, stay.
2. Don’t rush
There’ll always be another train and as rail travel doesn’t have the urgency of flying it is a relaxing way to go. A delay is an opportunity to see or do something unexpected. 'Leaves on the track' and 'the wrong kind of snow' are the kind of expressions only ever heard in the UK.
3. Lighten up
Take just one suitcase. Most people pack far too much, there are few places in the world where you can’t pick up necessities. Even if the wonderful shampoo bought in a Greek supermarket turns out to be fabric conditioner.
4. Cut the costs
Slow (or non-express), trains in Europe are often half price or less. Look out for bargain priced off-peak trains and rail passes.
Overnight sleeper trains save on accommodation costs and reduce the perceived length of a journey. They also provide opportunities to experience local life – don’t just think TGV and croissants in France, how about tea and chapattis for breakfast in India?
6. Pack up a picnic
Unlike a plane journey, it’s allowable to bring a bottle of wine on board a train, and a picnic packed from the local food shop. M&S at St. Pancras sell wine in plastic glasses so no need to bring the crystal onees and a foray into regional food shops will provide interesting snacks. Be aware that In Japan the picture on the packet rarely bears any resemblance to what’s inside it.
7. To pass or not to pass
European rail passes can be good value but there are many rules like having to make a seat reservation on many routes which reduces the simplicity. Buying local tickets can work out cheaper and good value, for example a slow train from Venice to Rome costs from €42 second class & €53 first class.
8. Packaged rail holidays
For maximum simplicity some UK rail providers offer rail & accommodation packages where all rail tickets, timetabled itineraries, accommodation at stopover destinations & emergency backup are provided before departure.
9. Rail & Sail
Cruise lines such as luxury river cruise operator AmaWaterways and tall ship sailing specialist Star Clippers offer cruise holiday packages that include rail travel direct to the point of embarkation. Or if you are considering a cruise, maximise your eco-miles by arriving at the ship by rail. For example, luxury foodie cruise line Oceania Cruises has six ex-UK cruises this year from Dover.
10. Packing on track
Wherever and however you travel, ensure you pack a roll of Duct Tape and several metres of string. They will find numerous uses, from impromptu washing line, to on the spot luggage repairs, improvised window shades to silencing snoring passengers.
Do you agree with Peter? Which of the above do you think is the best tip? What's your top tip? Leave a comment below!
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