Speed with style could be the new slogan for Europe’s rail system. It’s never been easier, more cost efficient or eco savvy than now to travel Europe by train. Trains in Europe are faster, equipped with wifi, larger seats than you will find in most aircraft and a good selection of foods and beverages.
The primary advantage to rail travel lies in the city hub to city hub location of stations. You’ll save both time and money not having to take expensive taxi or shuttle rides to and from airports.
Another “hidden” cost saving is that so far the rail systems have not adopted all those user pay fees so beloved by airlines.
Trains are faster than ever. It is possible to base yourself in London and take a day trip to Paris (it will be a long day, but it is possible). Or you can zip between Paris and Brussels in under an hour and a half.
Rail travel is becoming even faster than before. The LGV Rhin-Rhone High Speed Line has cut travel time between several cities by up to 90 minutes. Many lines have also increased the number of trains available between destinations by up to six additional trains a day.
With careful planning of the places and sites you want to see you may find that staying in one place, such as Zurich or Paris, will provide a perfect hub for day trips to many areas.
My favorite rail journeys to date have all taken place in Switzerland. From short little journeys between Zurich and its suburbs to all day ventures between Geneva and Zermatt, travelling by train is a truly pleasant way to experience the spectacular scenery.
However, in Switzerland schedules are taken very seriously so be sure to leave yourself plenty of time to change trains in various destinations, or you could end up sprinting at high speed to catch your connecting train.
To take full advantage of rail fare savings it is still essential to purchase your tickets before arriving in Europe. You can book directly online by going to eurail.com, or using a rail booking service such as railbookers.com for complete packages.
Many special services such as the Eurostar or some TGV trains require reservations and additional fees for premium services. However, rail service remains a bargain for the traveller.
The best part? You get to see Europe from the ground, rather than simply flying from one airport to another.
When to go? The crowds of tourists and prices are lower in spring (March to May) or autumn (September to November), and the best bargains are to be had in winter if you don’t mind a bit of snow or chilly days.