WHY TRAVEL BY TRAIN?
There are many advantages to travelling by train. Flying to far-flung destinations or taking a boat can be stressful and hurried, while train journeys are far more relaxing and allow you to feel immersed in a new country and culture as you journey through.
There’s a certain romance and a sense of uniqueness about train travel. Boarding your train and rolling slowly off from the station feels like the beginning of a grand adventure.
Then there’s the freedom that train travel presents. How appealing does it sound to sit, lay or dine in comfort and watch the world go by from your advantageous view? And, when you do arrive at a station you are already in the heart of the action and can begin exploring from the moment you disembark.
Train travel is often more sustainable than other forms of travel. Trains use less energy and produce less noise, so it makes for a wise (and fun-filled) choice.
An excellent option for families and groups
Train travel is extremely adaptable which makes it suitable for all ages, stages and abilities. Whereas families might find the thought of long haul flights daunting, train travel offers a fair amount of freedom. The right train and itinerary will allow the kids ample space to stretch their legs and expand their mind.
And because train travel is comfortable, it is also practical for those who might be more limited in movement.
Ideal for solo travellers
For single holidaymakers, train journeys are the perfect way to spend time absorbed in your surroundings and stop off en route to explore cities and sights. Of course, if you choose to, train journeys can also be a sociable experience where you mix and mingle with other passengers on tours and in the lounge.
Many single travellers choose to travel by train simply because they love the flexibility of train travel and can pick and choose many elements as they see fit or feel on the day.
But it’s not all about the scenery and sights! All of these train journeys present a fantastic opportunity to eat the best in regional food and exquisite wines too.
We’ve handpicked 8 of the best train journeys to experience and have outlined why below!
OUR 9 BEST TRAIN JOURNEYS
The Rocky Mountaineer
Duration: 2 days
If you want to travel through the breathtaking Canadian Rockies and across Western Canada, there’s only one way to do it. The luxurious Rocky Mountaineer (pictured above) train runs in both directions to Vancouver from Banff, Lake Louise or Jasper.
Running from April through to October, the two-day rail journey includes an overnight stop off in the city of Kamloops, a popular destination due to its natural beauty (plenty of trails) and its unique climate that makes it the home to some award-winning wineries.
Rather than sleeping on the train, guests stay in a hotel in Kamloops, or, if they choose to extend the journey to three days will also stay overnight in Quesnel and Whistler. A further extension to this trip is made possible by The Coastal Passage which begins or ends in Seattle.
The days spent on the Rocky Mountaineer offer comfort and luxury as you watch the stunning scenery from your window. Passengers can choose between the Silverleaf package which includes oversized windows, reclining seats, temperature control, all meals and drinks served at your seat, commentary from your attendants, overnight hotels and transfers. Alternatively, the Goldleaf package which also has full-length, dome windows, separate dining area, complimentary alcohol and an elevator to dome level.
The Orient Express
London-Paris-Venice: 2 days/1 night
Just the name is enough to take you on a journey! The Venice-Simplon Orient Express takes passengers across Europe, travelling between London, Paris, Verona and Venice in a time-honoured style harking back to the Golden Age of travel.
There are several different options when it comes to travelling on the Orient Express with London – Paris – Venice the most popular. This journey begins in London where passengers board the Belmond British Pullman and pass through the Kent countryside before moving onto the Eurotunnel for the Channel crossing between England and France. Upon arrival, passengers join the blue and gold carriages of the Venice Simplon-Orient Express.
Offering the highest levels of comfort, passengers rest and relax in the fully restored, handcrafted 1920s cabins which by day are your seating area with luxurious sofas and by night, become your sleeping quarters. Passengers are attended by a steward throughout the journey who will also escort them from their compartment to the restaurant cars (there are three on board) and the bar with live piano music.
On Day 2, passengers wake up to the view of the Swiss Alps and get to enjoy breakfast from the seat of your compartment and to mix and mingle with other passengers. We suggest you leave your cabin door open at this stage, so that you can see the scenery on both sides. In the afternoon, the train travels through the Italian countryside while you enjoy lunch and afternoon tea before crossing the Venetian Lagoon and arriving at Santa Lucia station.
Travel includes single, twin, double or interconnecting cabin suites, day and night configuration, bathrobe and slippers and all conveniences.
Beijing, Lake Baikal and Moscow: 15 days
Travelling from Beijing through to Lake Baikal and Moscow, the Trans Mongolian Railway is the perfect way to see three of the world’s largest countries from the comfort and safety of a carriage – all with an enviable view of the changing scenery, continents and flavours.
Travel includes nights spent sleeping on the train and in hotels; an ideal chance to explore cities. Hotel stays include two nights in Beijing, one night in Ulaan Baatar (optional Yurt/Ger – traditional tented accommodation), one night in Irkutsk and one night in Moscow.
Accommodation ranges from standard through to the Bolshoi Platinum which has a sizeable two-berth cabin with private facilities.
Highlights of the Trans Mongolian train journey include visits to Beijing’s Forbidden City, a visit to Tiananmen Square, a boat ride on Lake Baikal (deepest freshwater lake in the world), overnight stay in ger, traditional Bread and Salt welcome with balalaika & caviar tasting.
Golden Eagle Trans Siberian
Moscow – Vladivostok: 15 days
Considered by many to be the world’s greatest train journey, the Trans Siberian Express travels East and West between Moscow and Vladivostok with the possibility of a shorter route between Moscow and Ulaan Baatar.
Journeying on the Golden Eagle Express, passengers enjoy a cinematic view from their carriage as they race through majestic Russian landscapes, across the Urals and alongside Lake Baikal. Travel on the Trans Siberian offers opportunities to explore cities and destinations with plenty of time to relax and enjoy the comforts of luxurious train travel.
While onboard, passengers can relax in their en-suite cabins and enjoy the first-class customer service of this luxury hotel on wheels. Throughout your journey your needs are catered to by your cabin attendant, who is on hand to assist.
The Winter Wonderland version of the train journey promises a stunning Siberian winter much like a scene from Dr Zhivago. Running along the Trans Siberian route, Winter Wonderland includes an iconic horse-drawn sleigh ride and the chance to watch ice fishing all while rugged-up in authentic Russian hats, boots and gloves.
The Ghan Expedition
Darwin-Adelaide: 4 days/3 nights
Starting in Darwin, travellers on the Ghan Expedition must prepare themselves to see some of the most remote yet bewildering Australian landscape from the comfort of their carriage.
Operating between March and October, the Ghan Expedition runs from the North to South coast of Australia and v.v, straight through the centre of the outback’s fiery red centre. Dramatic, spellbinding and at times adventurous, the journey is all-inclusive and features regional food, fine wines and beverages.
Off train experiences include stops in Katherine, Alice Springs and Coober Pedy. As well as a unique dinner under the stars at the historic Telegraph Station, travellers can choose between a cruise along the Nitmiluk Gorge or, an authentic horse and working dog demonstration.
While racing through the desert, you can enjoy the luxury of your private cabin, connect with fellow travellers or sit and take in the sights playing out beyond your window.
The luxurious Chairman’s Carriage is considered Australia’s finest, and is the perfect opportunity for small group private charter. The Gold and Platinum service cabins feature comfortable and stylish accommodation with the latter having access to the Platinum Club carriage. The demand for Platinum cabins is high with most selling out within days.
Perth, Adelaide, Sydney: 4 days/3 nights
Taking passengers 4352km between Perth, Adelaide and Sydney and vice versa in the utmost comfort and style, the Indian Pacific links two oceans and while doing so creates countless moments of pleasure. Passengers can sit back and relax as the view changes from mountain ranges to desert to goldfields, rocky valleys and subtropical savannahs.
Adelaide – Brisbane: 3 days/2 nights
Brisbane – Adelaide: 4 days/3 nights
The Great Southern is Australia’s newest rail journey promising all the laid-back luxury of the Ghan’s premiere service as you pass through the Grampians, Canberra, Coffs Harbour, northern New South Wales and finally, Brisbane.
Commencing its inaugural service in December this year, there are only 15 services available over a 2 month period.
Both the Pacific Indian and the Great Southern journeys feature all-inclusive fine dining, premium wines and world-class hospitality.
Quito – Guayaquil: 4 days/4 nights
The Tren Crucero, South America’s leading luxury train, journeys between the Andes and the Pacific coast taking in a spectacular array of changing and diverse landscapes from highlands and tropics to the fertile coastline.
With just 50 passengers on board the two luxury carriages, a journey on the Tren Crucero guarantees personal service and total comfort. The carriages are Colonial and Republican-themed and include two observational lounges and an open terrace – all with a boutique feel.
Passengers travel on the Tren Crucero by day and stop overnight at hotels in Laso, Riobamba, Alausi and Guayaquil. A Gold Class service is optional and includes nights at the prestigious Plaza Grande Hotel, Hotel del Parque, Hacienda La Danesa, Hacienda Andaluza and Casa Gangotena.
East & South Africa + New Angola Tour: 15 days
Travel on Rovos Rail and enjoy the luxury of a bygone era and the beauty of Africa – the land of the sun, sea and safari. The train boasts Royal, Deluxe and Pullman suites, the former with private lounge and full bathroom.
Guests are at leisure to enjoy the space and privacy of their cabin or take the opportunity to mingle with other guests in the restaurant cars and lounges. Dinner time is a formal affair and requires attire to match. So, this is a trip where you will need to shop beforehand to make sure you have 15 suitably elegant outfits.
Journeys on Rovos Rail include Cape Town, Durban Safari, Victoria Falls, Golf Safari, Namibia Safari, Dar es Salaam with varying number of days. The new 15 day Angola tour from East to West Africa is called the Trail of Two Oceans and visits Tanzania, Zambia, Democratic Republic of Congo and Angola.
The Eurail Pass is the most flexible way to travel by train throughout 31 European countries. The pass is therefore ideal for travellers looking for the freedom to explore as much, or as little of Europe as they wish. Passes include one- and three-month options and there is a first-class option for more comfort.
The countries participating in the Eurail Global Pass scheme are:
Austria, Belgium, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, Slovakia, Spain, Switzerland, Sweden, Turkey, Great Britain, Lithuania, FYR Macedonia.
It is important that you make seat reservations in First class. If you don’t have a seat reservation you may miss the chance to travel on that service. Most high speed rail journeys require a seat reservation which can usually be done up to 2-3 months in advance depending on the train.
Japan Rail Card
If you are going on a trip to Japan make sure to buy a Japan Rail Card (also known as a JR card) before arriving. Available to buy in Australia, the rail pass entitles non-residents to unlimited travel in certain areas as well as round trips on bullet trains, some express trains, local trains, ferries and buses.
The green card version entitles travellers to first-class coaches on trains which have more spacious seats. Cards last for 7, 14 or 21 consecutive days.
This pass will allow you to explore Canada from one end to the other, or traverse Canada and/or a USA Railpass. This pass allows you to go a long way on a limited budget.
Choose from three 60-day Economy class formulas: enjoy a set number of one-way trips with the System Base or System Extra passes, or unlimited travel with the System Unlimited pass!
Amtrak USA Rail Pass
The Amtrak USA Rail Pass is simply the most adventurous and efficient way to see the United States. Experience North America including New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Miami, Seattle and more. The Amtrak Rail Pass is in Economy Class but you can upgrade to a sleeper car for an extra fee.
It is important to note that seat reservations (when in conjunction with a USA Rail pass) can only be made locally.
WHAT TO PACK
While you are on board the train you will want to wear something casual yet smart. In the evening, it is recommended that you have a jacket and tie for dinner. Depending on the weather, you might like to consider different footwear for day trips and excursions.
How much room will there be for my luggage?
The amount of storage at your disposal will depend on your train, the journey’s length and the service level of your accommodation. It’s advisable to pack lightly due to limited space in your cabin and also for independent rail travel where you will be hauling luggage yourself. It can be quite a task trying to place a 30kg suitcase in the overhead storage!
If you are continuing to travel after the train journey, your larger bags can often be stowed in the baggage car but are generally not accessible during your trip. Please check the baggage allowance.
Here’s to unforgettable train journeys and memories that last a lifetime!