Last year, I embarked on a two-week round the country journey through Germany. I bought a 10-day Railpass so I can travel around the country which turned out to be far less expensive than airline travel. I immediately noticed a big different between traveling by train and traveling on short flights that I decided to do it again when I returned to Germany the following summer. This January I did the very same thing traveling from Madrid to Barcelona with the AVE train system.
Europe seems to have train travel down to an absolute science. Europeans has been doing it for almost two centuries and for good reason. But I would like to point there are the very good reasons of taking the train instead of flying from one place to another especially in Europe. I for one, am very excited to see the California high-speed train system from San Jose to Los Angeles built and completed during my lifetime. Here are some of the reasons why I find train travel is better than flying.
No security to check into – When I traveled from Munich to Salzburg for the first time I was very surprise to see no customs or border patrol officer when I arrived at the Salzburg Main Train Station. I had the impression that when entering a new country, you would always have to declare yourself as a visitor, present your passport and get it stamped. But this is not the case in some European countries belonging in the European Union which made traveling a whole lot easier. However, there are customs agents in train station in some cities (i.e. Paris Gare du Nord and Madrid Atocha Station).
There is no check-in or boarding pass needed – the only thing you need is a validated ticket. Train conductors will occasionally visit your car to check and stamp your validated ticket. But for the most part, all you have to do is go the car you bought your ticket for and select the seat of your choice.
You can bring as much bags as you want – You can bring practically everything plus the kitchen sink that is if you are willing to haul it all yourself. Some trains in Europe have compartments or racks for luggage aside from the ones above the seats. There is no fee to bring your luggage onto the trains primarily because you would have to load and unload it all on and off the train yourself.
There is a lot of space for passengers on the train – even on the second class cars. There is a lot of space on seats and legroom where you can almost spread out. The seats even at the second class cars are often wider and more comfortable than an economy class seat on the plane and they don’t feel cramp. The seats can recline as well.
There are tables on the train – the Deutsche Bahn is a perfect example of this. For families and groups of people traveling together, they can select seats with tables so they can sit across from each other. They can dine family-style or work similar to a boardroom setting. If you would like to avail of these seats, it is often best to reserve them in advance as they are very much in-demand.
Some trains have private cabins – On some of older European trains, you can sit in any available seat in any of their cabins. However, on high speed trains, you might have to reserve one for yourself prior to departure. For a small fee, you can get yourself into a private cabin, that can accommodate four or six people, ideal for those traveling in groups. Some even have tables inside the cabins. If you want peace and quiet during your train journey this is the best way to go. It may cost extra but often worth the money, especially for overnight trips.
Window seats on trains are far better than on a plane – Bigger and wider windows on trains allows passengers to see and enjoy the view of the rest of the country. This is particularly true with the Deutsche Bahn ICE trains and the Spanish AVE trains.
It is one of the best ways to see the rest of the country – I had a very unexpected and surprising experience when I took the train from Frankfurt to Cologne. I got to see the Rhine River and some of the villages located in its banks. I also saw old fortifications that were atop the hills and mountains surrounding the Rhine. I was not planning to see this famous river on my trip to Germany but I am very glad I did by taking the InterCity train (IC) instead of the InterCity Express (ICE). During this trip, the train made several stops in towns such as Koblenz, St. Goar, the famous Loreley and even Bonn. For this experience, I am very glad I took the train to Cologne.
They have dining cars – where you can purchase meals and dine in comfort. Some of these trains even have a bar complete with bartenders and waiters to serve passengers. In Europe, one dining car per train is dedicated to this service and passengers have the option to dine here instead of doing it on their seats. Some of these dining cars are even more spacious than others.
The city’s main train station is in the city – Since trains has been widely used in Europe since the industrial age, many of the central train stations are actually located or close to the city center. This is far more convenient that going to the airport often located in the outside the city. In some major cities, the subway system has a stop in the central train station which makes it very convenient navigating the city.
The next time you travel in places in Europe, consider taking the train to get around the continent. This is one of the easiest ways to travel in good comfort though it takes a little bit of time to get there. On the way, you might find yourself passing through places you’d never thought you’d see. Just be sure to keep your eyes open .