Train travel offers a scenic, comfortable and exciting departure from the "typical" European vacation. The romance of traveling by train continues to enthrall tourists as it has for more than 170 years, and nowhere is this felt more profoundly than in Europe. Rail travel is the best way to get close to all that Europe has to offer, from big cities and quaint hamlets to scenic beauty and fascinating people. It is also the one form of transportation that conveniently and efficiently takes travellers practically anywhere and everywhere they want to go...in style.
If you are still wondering whether or not travelling by train is a better alternative to air and car travel read the points below.
When travelling for distances less than 400 miles, train travel via the European high-speed train lines, can be faster than plane travel. Train travel is the safest means of transport allowing discovery of hidden corners of the European continent. Compared to train travel in North America, European trains are faster, more punctual and serve more destinations with a rail network of over 100,000 miles across Europe.
Environmentally, train-travel wins again. European trains use seventeen times less fuel than airplanes and rail travel is five times more efficient than travelling by car when transporting the same number of people. Rail travel is the most cost efficient means of experiencing all Europe's offerings, from major cities and sleepy villages to vast expanses of Europe's countryside and its spectacular mountain views. Rail passes allow a cheap, convenient and relaxing way of travelling Europe from city-center to city-center without the headaches of foreign traffic signs and chaotic roads. The Europeans take a pride in their trains, which are not only fast, but are also clean and reliable.
For shorter journeys, fast day European trains link major cities, usually at a regular interval, with good catering enhanced at meal times with a restaurant car or a meal served at your seat. At other times, a well stocked bar car will provide hot and cold light meals and drinks and provide a pleasant meeting point. Many now offer baby changing facilities, a children's play area with games and puzzle books provided. Because all seats can be reserved you need to book in advance, but this does often mean you can take advantage of reduced fares.
A range of sleeping accommodation for both budget and those looking for comfort is available on longer routes. This is the ideal way to save a nights' hotel accommodation or travelling by day when you could be sightseeing. Starting with 6 bunk 'couchette' compartments you are provided with a sheet sleeping bag, pillow and blanket with washing and toilet facilities at each end of the carriage. Sleepers are available for 1,2,3 or 4 occupants depending on the route always have a washbasin in the cabin and a steward to make up the bed. At the luxury end, major routes such as Paris - Madrid offer Single and Double cabins including shower and toilet and usually an evening meal included.
With a new generation of European trains now in service you can travel with comfort and style - single, double or 4 berth sleepers with air-conditioning, showers and WCs are all available - the delights of Europe have never more accessible.
The most popular European Trains include:
The Eurostar operating between London and Paris/Brussels is now a firm favorite with European;
The Thalys service in Belguim connects Brussels to Paris, Cologne, Dusseldorf and Amsterdam;
The ICE (Inter-City Express) service operates primarily in Germany serving 32 destinations, though there are also some ICE rail links to Switzerland and Austria;
The AVE trains of Spain operate on the Madrid-Cordova-Seville route, covering the distance from Madrid to Seville in just 2h30.
The network of high-speed TGV trains, which have been in existence since 1981, connects 150 destinations in both France and the rest of Europe. Providing a high-speed connection between France and Italy is the Artesia train running along beautiful countryside routes, such as those between Paris, Lyon, Milan and Turin.
One of the world's premier trains, the X2000 of Sweden is famed not only for its magnificent speed but also for the provision of a service to match.
The relatively new ES trains in Italy provide high-speed connections to all major Italian cities and towns including Rome, Florence, Venice and Naples.
Riding the rails in Europe isn't difficult, but planning well will save you precious vacation minutes. Especially if you're planning to use a Eurail pass that offers discounted travel for a limited number of days, good train planning can save you lots of Euros.
Timetables and Finding Your Train
In most stations poster timetables show departure, arrival and platform numbers. They can be recognized easily by the background color. As a rule, the rail timetable specialists print departure timetables on a yellow background and arrival tables - on a white background. Major rail stations provide this information on computerized boards. All trains are listed chronologically from 0 to 24 hours. Fast trains are shown in red rather than black ink. Next to the time you'll see the name and number of the important intermediate stops, as well as track and platform number at which the train departs and arrives.