Here at Cycle Cities, our two-man team are travellers. We’ve been travelling for years, whether it’s an extended backpacking trip that can last months or over a year and traverses a whole continent, or a short city break for two or three days to get a glimpse of a city’s culture and personality (and to do a bike tour of course!).
But while exploring new places and cities takes much of the acclaim and appeal, for many of us there is just as much excitement to be had in the travel, in the ‘getting there’ – in short, the journey rather than the destination. It’s no lie that whole trips can be made or broken by the methods we use to travel, and for many of us it can pose a big issue to get from A to B – overinflated fares, delayed arrivals, check-in times, diversions, you name it – we’ve experienced it. So we thought we’d put our heads together and write a couple of articles about our favourite way or travelling – taking the train!
Arguably, the best way to travel between European cities is by rail. I can say that because I’ve done it many different ways, all over the continent. The European rail network is extensive, frequent, easy to navigate, and reliable.
Here are some of our reasons why it beats flying or taking a coach.
- Train stations are generally always in the centre of a town or city; there’s no need to transfer out to airports or suffer the long and arduous journey to get into the city after already having been on a flight for several hours.
- Train stations are always easier to find relative to bus or coach stations
- Train stations themselves are often beautiful buildings that reflect the culture and history of a city through incredible architecture, and serve as tourist attractions in themselves! (see Antwerps’ Central Station).
- It’s more environmentally friendly travelling by train, and you get a better view out of the window!
- There’s a huge selection of sleeper trains if you want to travel overnight, with comfortable options for sleeping.
- More legroom and better food (unless you can afford business class flights)
- Usually cheaper than an economy flight – nuff’ said!
- High speed networks all through Germany, France, Spain and Italy that are arguably some of the best in the world (see the below image, a map of the high speed rail network for trains throughout Europe)
- No annoying motorway tolls to pay
- You can sleep, eat and drink when you want (as opposed to when you are driving) and don’t have to worry about keeping your eyes open and on the road!
- No excess baggage fees on trains, or worrying about the size and weight of your bags
- It’s safer than driving, and there’s no need to worry about differing road rules from country to country (did you know that in winter in Croatia you have to drive with your headlights on during the day, regardless of weather?- neither did I!)
- Most European trains don’t require reservations, providing the flexibility to change your plans as flights generally always have to be pre-booked further in advance.
- Less security checks/the hassles of airports (some bigger stations particularly in Spain have security checks but they are much quicker and simpler than airport security checks) – although prepare to see the odd imposing-looking guard jump on to check your passports if travelling by train through the centre of Europe!
- Ticketing is easy with English speakers at all international ticketing desks, as well as English speaking ticket inspectors on most trains
- Eurail or Interrail passes are also great for extended backpacking journeys through multiple European countries and, depending on the type of pass you use, can be valid for unlimited train journeys – meaning there’s no need to worry about buying tickets.
Hope you enjoyed our top reasons for taking the train for your next European journey! In Part Two of this train-themed series of blogs we’ll be looking at the Eurail and Interrail passes – what they are, how they work, and why you should think about them for your upcoming excursion into Europe’s heartland. Look out for it on cyclecities.tours/blog!
See you then – we’ll be here, ‘train or shine!’
Kiwi & Steve