At a recent press conference the German Green party proposed a new night sprinter train service connecting Europe, in an effort to curb the use of short haul flights. From Lisbon in the west to Istanbul in the east, this would provide an affordable, simple service with one booking system and a real alternative to carbon-heavy flights. Fall asleep in Stockholm and wake up in Rome? We’re into it!
Until then, Europe by train may not be the most efficient way to travel but it is certainly romantic, and it allows you to get a much more in depth experience of a place than flying in and out. However, arranging tickets can get a little tricky as each country has its own national rail system. If you have the time it is definitely worth persevering and we have lots of tips to make life easier. Here’s the low down on traveling Europe by train right now.
Arrive in the city center
Unlike airports, train stations are almost always in the center of town, saving you time and money and meaning you can hop straight off the train and into some sightseeing without ever having to google ‘best way to the airport’.
Did you know trains emit up to 70% less carbon than cars and planes? Aside from walking or cycling it is the most eco-friendly way to travel and also wins on noise levels, use of space and energy consumption.
No luggage restrictions
There are no baggage limits or weight restrictions on trains – as long as you can carry it, it can come with you!
There is something special about going to sleep in one country and waking in another, and if you want to travel a longer distance sleeper trains cost about the same as a night in an average hostel. You can bring your own food and drink, or visit the buffet cart, say cheers to Paris and wake up to an espresso in Nice. Take a Solgaard Carry-On Closet with USB integration to charge your phone and keep your things organized and you’ll feel like you have a hotel room on wheels.
Cost and forward planning
Train tickets can be expensive, especially high speed services. However, if you plan ahead it is possible to get good deals. Many travelers decide to buy a Eurail pass as it saves you money and allows great flexibility if you are more of a see-where-the-wind-takes-you kind of traveler.
Can be a headache
Working out train schedules in multiple different countries is never going to be easy but luckily there are apps available to simplify the process. Rome2Rio is a useful tool as you can type in any destination large or small, and it will give you routes, estimated travel times and costs. To book and pay for tickets we recommend Omio and The Trainline. Both sites are easy to use and don’t charge a mark up on fares.
Can be slow
If you’re in a rush or plan to travel very long distances, train travel is probably not the way to go but if you have a little more time, it is much more comfortable than flying. You can read a book, chat to fellow passengers, or just sit back and enjoy all the beautiful views.
Top 3 Scenic Routes
The Glacier Express
The views on this route are so spectacular that the train has specially designed panoramic windows so you can take in every gorge, mountain and valley on this 300km trip through the Alps. The route requires an impressive 291 bridges and 91 tunnels and the railway is now a UNESCO world heritage site. Known as Europe’s slowest express train, you will actually travel at a leisurely 24km an hour so you will have eight hours to sit back and take in the awesome scenes.
Rome to Palermo
One of only a few railway journeys in the world that involves a train ferry, this route also passes through beautiful scenery as it makes its way down the coast from the capital of Italy and crosses the Straits of Messina to Palermo, Sicily. From only €39.90 you can book a bed in a sleeper compartment, take a picnic and a bottle of wine and enjoy views over Vesuvius and the Bay of Naples. Once the train is on the ferry you can leave your luggage behind, go up on deck for a cappuccino, and then take in views of the north coast of Sicily as you head towards Palermo.
Stockholm to Narvik
Narvik in Finland is one of Europe’s most northerly railway stations and this 12 hour sleeper train will take you from beautiful Stockholm right up to the Arctic Circle with stunning frozen vistas along the way. Go in summer when there are only a few hours of darkness per day and you can experience the midnight sun over vast open landscapes. In the winter you might catch the Northern lights illuminating the sky above the north’s mountains and lakes.