We realize we may be slightly biased, but we are huge fans of European train travel. In fact, we would go so far as to say that train travel is, by far, the most enjoyable and efficient way to travel through Europe! We are so confident in this belief that we’ve created this handy infographic that breaks down a few basic facts about train travel and even compares its efficiency against that of air travel and car transport.
After you scroll through the infographic, read on for more information and useful tips related to the information we’ve included in the graphic.
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1. Trains save you time when traveling between destinations.
Trains generally arrive in and depart from the city center, whereas airports are often located outside the city. With air travel, you need to factor in the time it takes to get to the airport, and then the time it will take you to check in and make it through security. Train stations aren’t located in the middle of nowhere, and trains don’t have check-in times (with the exception of Eurostar and certain night trains), so you only need to be there 15 or so minutes early!
2. Trains are environmentally friendly.
High-speed trains are 3x more energy efficient than regional trains, and even the slowest train is 20% more efficient than a car.
3. Traveling by train is how the locals travel.
Train travel in Europe is the norm precisely because it’s so cost effective, quick, and convenient. If you want an authentic travel experience, do as the Europeans do and travel by train!
4. Train travel can save you money on a hotel room.
Overnight trains are available for many destinations that are about a 10 hour ride away from each other. Overnight trains offer several different types of accommodations to fit any budget and preference: reclining seats, couchettes (smaller sleeping compartments), and double or single occupant sleeping compartments. The type of accommodations offered per train varies per train company and per country, but generally they will all include some version of each option listed here.
5. You can usually kiss those baggage fees goodbye.
It almost sounds too good to be true, but most trains don’t charge baggage fees! Of course, this is partially because you don’t check in your baggage on a train as you would on an airplane, so whatever you bring with you, you’ve got to carry. Luckily, there are baggage carts present to assist travelers who may be transporting a good deal of luggage. Occasionally fees will apply for bicycles or over-sized luggage.
If you are traveling in Switzerland, there are also convenient baggage services that will take care of your luggage for you (sometimes even before you arrive in Switzerland!).
The only time you may need to pay a baggage fee or check in luggage is for the Eurostar, Thalys, or a couple of other high-speed trains. If you want to check with us about the particular train you’re taking, say hello on Twitter at @raileurope or send us an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
6. Rail Passes can help make your travel easier and less expensive.
If you’re traveling by plane 5 times in Europe, you’re going to have 5 different tickets, confirmation emails, baggage tickets, etc. However, if you’re taking several different train rides throughout Europe, a rail pass could be your best friend! It will cover the ticket price of your trains and all you’ll need to do is book your seat reservations for each ride. (Also please note: you should always, always price out your train trip in both tickets and rail passes to see which option is more cost-effective for your personal itinerary.)
7. Train tickets are different than plane tickets.
It’s easy to assume that everything these days is electronic, but there are certain train companies that will only issue tickets as paper documents, not as e-tickets. Rail passes, for example, are always issued in paper format — and it’s a specific, authentic paper, too, so a simple photo-copy of your pass won’t suffice. You need the real thing! Think of it as cash — a photocopy of a five dollar bill wouldn’t be accepted in a store, and a photocopy of a rail pass or paper ticket won’t be accepted on the train.
In addition, sometimes train tickets don’t have assigned seats. This is either because a seat reservation is optional and can be purchased as a supplement, or because that particular type of train simply doesn’t offer assigned seating. For trains that require seat reservations, however (like high-speed trains, overnight trains, and most long-distance trains) it is very important to make sure you have reserved your seat before boarding the train, or you could face a fine.
8. Your rail pass could get you discounts.
That’s right! Most rail passes come with bonuses, which can be anything from discounts on hotels to walking tours, or boat rides and bus transport. If one of the bonuses offers you an entirely free activity, like a free river cruise, you’ll need to mark off one day on your pass. If the bonus is a discount rather than a freebie, then you won’t need to mark off a day on your pass.
9. Groups can save money on train travel.
If you’re traveling in a group of 10 or more people, you could be eligible for discounts and personalized travel services.
10. Trains are an experience in themselves.
It’s true — there are few things more romantic than the thought of beautiful European countrysides passing by your window. Trains are outfitted with restaurant and/or cafe cars, which could transform an otherwise uneventful 3 hour commute between cities into a relaxing dining experience in the restaurant car! On trains you are free to get up and move around; there are sometimes quiet cars or sightseeing cars; more and more trains are offering WiFi (usually in first class) and power outlets…. basically, can you even imagine sitting on a plane for three hours when you could be enjoying all that the train has to offer, instead?
We hope you like our new infographic all about European rail travel. Share it with your friends and use it as a guide the next time you are planning a trip to Europe. Let us know what you think about it on Facebook and Twitter (@raileurope) and, as always, happy traveling!