If you are visiting Europe from North America, you will have to rethink everything about train travel. Because Europe is more condensed population-wise, and they have a longer history of rail travel, there are many advantages to train travel in Europe as opposed to air or highway transportation. For convenience, cost-effectiveness, and environmental efficiency, when considering your mode of Europe travel, train travel in Europe is a great option.
Convenience. Compared with train travel in North America, Europe’s trains are faster, more punctual, and with a rail network of over 100,000 miles has the ability to service more diverse destinations. We have found when going to Paris from London we save a great deal of time on Eurostar, as the trip from St. Pancreas to Gare du Nord takes about two hours, fifteen minutes and run more-or-less hourly. But the time savings on either end of the trip is where you really make up the time. Almost all airports in Europe are located quite far from the city centers, but train stations are near or in the centers of town, where you can easily and quickly link to the convenient metro transportation systems. Plus going through airport security is much more time consuming than rail security. Generally speaking, 400 miles could be considered the cut-off distance when air travel is overall the faster option, depending of course on many variables.
More energy efficient. When transporting similar numbers of people, rail travel is five times more efficient than traveling by car, and European trains use seventeen times less fuel than airplanes, so from an energy conservation standpoint European train travel is much more efficient. An added advantage is they rarely suffer from weather delays.
Cost-effective. If you have a well thought out itinerary and book in advance, the cost savings can be enormous. For example, if you were to book a one-way train from Paris to Venice, leaving at about 8:30 PM, you would arrive in Venice about 9:30 the next morning within a short walk to St. Mark’s Square, which is the center of Venice. Booking for one adult three months in advance, the cost was about $75, but booking only one week in advance nearly tripled the price. You may book ninety days in advance, therefore if you can keep within that time frame you won’t have to contend with trains being sold-out. Back to the interesting concept of overnight travel possibilities, leaving Paris a little before seven in the evening, you could arrive the next morning in Bologna at 6 AM, Florence at 7:16 or Rome at 10:12 AM and save the price of one night’s hotel cost. We have found that making reservations with connections in France we use RailEurope, as their pricing is equal to others, and you will find bargains on their website, which is very easy to navigate.
Specialty trains. These are not cost-efficient, but for romance and glamor there are still options that bring the traveler back to a bygone era. The Trans-Siberian Railway, possibly the most famous rail journey in the world, links Moscow with Beijing in about six days, crossing the vast wooded wilderness of Siberia and the sands of the Gobi desert, or link up with several other East Asian destinations. The Bernina Express is the highest rail crossing of the Alps, and takes you from glaciers to palm trees in two hours. Then there is the famous Orient Express, but it can be said only remnants of this famous old line exists. The Venice Simplon Orient Express could be considered one of these running from London to Venice and other European destinations.
For effectively using train travel for Europe, since many long distance tourist trains operate on lines used by other services and don’t always have first priority, there may be some delays in connections. Also, especially in Western Europe you will need to buy your tickets well in advance or pay the price on substantially higher rates. But hopefully you will feel comfortable with using train travel for your transportation through Europe.