Trains around Europe

Old Dec 8th, 2022, 11:37 PM
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Trains around Europe

Now, having travelled the world more or less continually for the last 14 years, we have finally given up our nomadic lifestyle ( well almost) and bought a permanent home and settled down. Looking back at where we have been over that time I realise how little we have seen of our own continent.

Our trips will now be a lot shorter, probably < one month. I had though of a series of long weekends, then, browsing the web , I stumbled across the Interrail site https://www.interrail.eu/en and it occurred to me that, rather than a series of weekends, it may make more sense, both financially and time wise, to combine a series of locations into one long trip. The concept of being able to buy one pass and being able to travel where and when we want seems like a no brainer.

I know a lot of Americans do multi destination trips to Europe and wondered if anyone here has used Interrail , or indeed trains generally, to get around Europe? Does it seem like a reasonable way to explore Europe or am I missing something?

Any tips, thoughts or opinions would be much appreciated as would suggestions of favourite places to visit. I have not tagged this post with any destinations as I genuinely have a completely open mind! TIA.
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Old Dec 8th, 2022, 11:45 PM
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We used the train last spring to travel from Paris to Berlin to Zurich to Prague. The tickets were purchased individually because if you do it early enough, it's probably less expensive than a rail pass that includes multiple countries.
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Old Dec 9th, 2022, 12:12 AM
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Interrail has been around for a very long time and has only been available to people who live in Europe. I suppose I could have used it when I was a University student in England but I used the Eurorail pass instead. If I recall correctly it was about $160 for 2 months of second class rail but that was a very long time ago. I think you have to do the work to compare the price of the pass with individual tickets purchased in advance. The one benefit of a Pass is that you can change your mind along the way in almost any way which gives you freedom.
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Old Dec 9th, 2022, 12:22 AM
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We are considering an Interrail pass for next year.
There are excellent sites to help you plan you journey, and generally you do need to plan. You still need to reserve seats on some trains, and pay a surcharge on some as well both of which need doing in advance. Some trains are excluded.
I admit the planning part is what is holding me back.
My niece Interrailed through Europe a few years ago, getting as far a Sicily and ending up with us for a few days before heading home to Kent.
Only available to people legally residing in Europe (including the UK), but not valid in your home country. You can choose how many countries, and for how long depending on what you want to pay.
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Old Dec 9th, 2022, 10:33 AM
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Train travel in general... It can be "a reasonable way to explore Europe," but there are many, many places/areas that do not have comprehensive or any rail service. If your interests are city-centric, good. If you prefer to visit small towns, you'd have to research bus services as well in order to fill in the "blanks."
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Old Dec 9th, 2022, 11:49 AM
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Originally Posted by Jean View Post
Train travel in general... It can be "a reasonable way to explore Europe," but there are many, many places/areas that do not have comprehensive or any rail service. If your interests are city-centric, good. If you prefer to visit small towns, you'd have to research bus services as well in order to fill in the "blanks."
There are plenty of slow trains serving smaller places, but yes it can be city-centric if you don't plan carefully.
The Guardian has some great railway trips on their site, visiting smaller places.
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Old Dec 9th, 2022, 12:37 PM
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https://www.eurail.com/en/get-inspir...w-about-eurail

The pass that is for non-Europeans is Eurail. I haven't used one for decades but it can be good in that you can be absolutely spontaneous about where and how your travel. For instance, if you arrive somewhere and there is no accommodation in that town, you just get your pass and go to the next town. You pay only in certain very limited circumstances such as some (rare) boat journeys and if you have to reserve seats. It can be cheap if you take many long train rides. However, if you are a planner, you might find that planning certain rides and paying simply for point to point is cheaper. You are paying for flexibility. So yes, a good thing but not cost-effective in some respects. There are also rail passes for individual countries; I often used to have a German rail pass when I was spending longer in Germany and if you plan to be in one country a lot they can be helpful, but you need to fill in the date of travel and then the conductor clips his stamp onto your pass on that date. Again the longet the journey you can take, the better the deal it is.

Rail travel generally - just do it, it can be very liberating not having to worry about traffic on the Autobahn or those rotten parking fees in the hotel carpark. Comfortable, spacious (just remember to reserve a seat), cheap, so cheap that first class is within reach for most people. The train usually takes you to the centre of town (yes I know there are exceptions). And it's green, too. Use www.bahn.com for timetables, and if you are new to trains, read up with www.seat61.com .

Last edited by lavandula; Dec 9th, 2022 at 12:40 PM.
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Old Dec 9th, 2022, 04:31 PM
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Hi crellston, I've done a fair amount of train travel, but I've never used a pass for Europe, only for India. I highly recommend spending time on https://www.seat61.com/index.html - Mark Smith used to work for British Rail, but his site now covers the world. For passes see: https://www.seat61.com/how-to-use-a-eurail-pass.htm

I once traveled from Scotland to Saigon by rail, with a fair amount of time in Europe, see: Rails Around the World 2004 -- Wilhelm's Words - you can't do the same route now, since I went across Russia, but trains in Central Asia have improved - Uzbekistan now has high-speed rail. Also, I believe you can now extend the trip into Laos.
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Old Dec 10th, 2022, 07:38 AM
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Thanks for all the input everyone. Very helpful. There are a whole range of tickets on offer on the Interrail site from a five days of travel that you can use on any separate five days for €650 through to a month of unlimited travel for one month €1700 both 1st class. First class seems good vale compared with 2nd. I guess whether it is worth while will depend on how much we want to move around and I imagine we will end up with something in between once we decide on where it is we want to visit. Like hetismij2, I am struggling to get to grips with the planning. One key benefit for us is that we can travel right form London on the Eurostar which is included in the pass which really adds some value. I will compare the passes with independent booking on a fe specimen trips.

Some of the Trip Suggestions on the site are helpful to an extent, although none are really grabbing me. would love to have done a trans Russia /Asia Trip like Thursdaysd but that is clearly out of the question in the current political climate. Istanbul is is included so an end destination there may be interesting or, as some ferries are included, maybe Greek Island hopping. Because of house-sitting commitments it is likely that this would happen in September when it should be cooler and cheaper.

I have been an avid user of seat61 for years so that will likely end up being my preferred resource (how that guy keeps on top of everything I really don't know!).

I am not too bothered about the lack of trains to smaller , out of the way, places as this started off as an alternative to a series of city breaks. On of my problems and I am not sue why, is that I can't work up any enthusiasm for the "Germanic" countries like Germany, Austria. I guess I could whizz through those countries or just get over it and give them a try!

Thanks once again all.



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Old Dec 10th, 2022, 08:18 AM
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I'm not that keen on Germany myself, but do consider the Rhine area - could be combined with Alsace - love Strasbourg and Nancy. On the other hand I quite like Austria, especially the mountainous bits. I am also a big fan of Budapest which can be combined with Vienna, although I think it is a lot more crowded (with river cruise passengers) these days.

If you want to whizz through somewhere there are still a few night trains around, although fewer than in the early 2000s. I found a hard copy rail map invaluable for planning, the Thomas Cook version is now this:
Amazon Amazon
The authors also publish "hidden europe" magazine.
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Old Dec 10th, 2022, 10:20 AM
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There is an ever increasing number of night trains covering much of Europe. You have to reserve and pay a surcharge with your Interrail/Eurail card.
You can for instance get a night train from Amsterdam at 8.30 pm, change in Basel and be in Milan at 10.40 the following day for €100.
Or Hamburg to Stockholm.

There are plenty more and new ones coming on line all the time.
They are operated by various companies so it can be tricky to find them.

https://www.interrail.eu/nl/plan-you...e/night-trains

Shows you some but not all of them
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Old Dec 10th, 2022, 10:31 AM
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Interesting topic. We have always rented cars but now is the time to explore trains.
Crellston, I donít know why either but we have no interest in traveling to Germany, Austria etc. No a fan of the food. The only place I enjoyed in those areas was Berlin.

Last edited by HappyTrvlr; Dec 10th, 2022 at 10:38 AM.
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Old Dec 10th, 2022, 11:44 AM
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Bother, part of my last post seems to have got lost and I can't edit it.

This should have followed the amazon link: Also suggest reading the book available here: https://europebyrail.eu/
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Old Dec 10th, 2022, 11:45 AM
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The Dutch motoring organisation ANWB has a train/electric car holiday on offer. Train to Milan, then electric car around the area with pre-booked hotels, and train home again.
Renting an EV ( or an ICV) during an Interrail trip is always an option of course unless you are at a small town which is unlikely to have EVs for hire.

I hate planning and it is the main thing that puts me of doing it if I am honest. Not so many hotels you can just walk up to for room for a night nowadays, same with B&Bs. Online booking rules, and in some ways has ruined spontaneity.
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Old Dec 11th, 2022, 02:03 AM
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Good to know I am not alone in my ambivalence toward Germany etc. maybe it is the food. I find it hard to get excited about sausage and cabbage .

hetimij2 You are so right about online booking etc. ruining the spontaneity. When we first started our full time travelling we would just turn up in a place and find somewhere to stay 90% of the time. I put it down to getting older and choosier!

Thanks for the link to the night trains. I had just been looking at heading south for some sun but a couple of those routes in Scandinavia look interesting - my wife has always wanted to see Northern Lights so maybe go later in the year and check them out . So many choices....
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Old Dec 11th, 2022, 06:12 AM
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In the years we traveled--mostly Italy and France--we usually traveled by rail. If rail wasn't an option, we took a bus or took local tours. We hired a driver once, and once "adopted" a taxi driver. As you, crellston, we neglected the U.S., Canada, the Americas.

​​​​​​Airplanes dominate train travel in the US it seems, but there are Fodorites who do quite well on trains. If you search Daniel_Williams, you will find great examples of train (and bus) trips.

Pre-covid, I used Amtrak's Guest Rewards program for trips from Maryland to Philadelphia, New York City, and Florida. For Florida, I took the Auto train. See if this link works for my second trip:

Auto Train Revisited

Please let everyone know how your new travels work out! If you are now in Europe, you are lucky to have the options mentioned above!

Last edited by TDudette; Dec 11th, 2022 at 06:23 AM.
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Old Dec 11th, 2022, 07:39 AM
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Train travel in the US is indeed in a sad state, but long distance trains, where they exist, can be good. Taking the train from NC to DC I can expect significant delays because freight has priority, but I once did a long distance trip - New York via Chicago to San Francisco and up the Pacific coast, and back across Canada, that I enjoyed. I thought Via Rail did a better job than Amtrak, partly because they have single sleepers, but the food was also better.

See: https://mytimetotravel.wordpress.com...shore-limited/ - links at the top of the page.
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Old Dec 11th, 2022, 08:01 AM
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German wine is astounding
German beer is good, not as good as Belgian but up there with Czech beer
If German food was just cabbage and sausage...... I wouldn't be eating Stollen today
German old town centres are fascinating
Missing out Germany is like missing out France
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Old Dec 11th, 2022, 09:45 AM
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TDudette _ I will of course, as I always do, repay the generosity of Fodorites with a full trip report. your link works and I shall have a read later.

BilboB - I was of course being ironic re sausage and cabbage though I have to disagree re German wine. perhaps though I haven't given it a fair crack. the last German wine I taste was probably Blue Nun or Black Tower back in the seventies! Also, sacrilege to some I am sure, but I would be quite happy missing out France too ( though their wine and food is clearly enough reason to go!)

Thursdaysd - As we discussed off forum a US rail trip is/was also on the cards as some American friends offered us the use of there place in Minnesota and I did consider combining some time there with meeting up with some other friends in NY state/ Chicago/ and also meeting up with yourself. Maybe another year..

As far as rail travel generally is concerned, after years of commuting 4 hours a day for many years into and out of London it took a while for me to "fall in love" or even consider train travel as an enjoyable method of travel. I have done it at both ends of the spectrum from corporate entertainment on the Venice Simplon Orient Express to Hanoi to Saigon, three times on Vietnam's Reunification Express. I really envy Thursdaysd's trip from Scotland to Vietnam! I wonder if that will ever again be possible?

Thanks once again for all the input. It is helping a lot in re-engaging the travel planning areas of my brain.
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Old Dec 11th, 2022, 11:38 AM
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German cooking is NOT sausage and cabbage, thankyouverymuch.
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