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Travelling through Europe by train

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Mar 31st, 2013, 03:11 AM
  #1
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Travelling through Europe by train

Hello, my husband and I are planning a trip to Europe, mainly to Paris, countryside France and Italy, (Rome, Florence, Venice and the Amalfi coast). We are travelling from Australia. We may even venture futher into Germany or Switzerland if we knew it was easy to do via train travel connecting from France or Italy.

Neither of us speak a second language. We are aged 48/54 and are looking at a leisurley trip for about 6 weeks including London and Scotland, either at the start or end of our Europe leg. We are not interested in driving as it is on the other side of the road to what we are used to and would rather just relax in buses and trains.

Firstly I would love some suggestions on how to bunny hop over to Europe the best way as my husband will not be able to stay in a seat for longer than 8 hours maximum and we do realise this will take us longer to get there and on the way back. (My husband has neck and back issues)

For this reason we are not doing a larger tour as we need the freedom to stop and rest and travel at a leisurly pace. What I would like to know is how is the best way to get around via trains and buses throughout Europe. We would like to stay in accomodation close to train stations to limit dragging luggage all the time.

I have found a company called French Cottages which seem ideal, they offer self contained accomodation staying in different regions of France for a week, run by expats which does make planning easier as I do not speak any French or Italian. This is the type of thing I am looking for.

Has anyone used the company mentioned above or know of similar places in Italy we can stay a week such as the Almafi Coast and get there by train. Should we buy a Eurail pass for the 6 weeks if we intend to travel by train to most places?

I appreciate your help and advice and am open to any suggestions as I am just beginning to plan and have no set itinery as yet.
Cheers!
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Mar 31st, 2013, 04:39 AM
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First, don't worry about the language, every hotel, etc has web sites in English, you can book any kind of accommodation without speaking the local language. And once you get there almost everyone in the tourist industry (hotels, restaurants) will speak enough English for you to get by. Just learn a few (like about 10)words in each language - learn how to say 'do you speak English' in each language plus please, thank you, hello, etc.

You could do something like: 10 days UK (a little short to see much of England and Scotland but you could do it) then eurostar train to Paris (about 3 hour trip). Another 10 days France split between Paris and one 'countryside' destination (Provence). Then fly to Naples (easyjet flies Nice to Naples) and do Amalfi Coast, train to Rome, train to Florence, train to Venice. None of those are more than three hour trips. You could easily spend all your remaining time in Italy but if you want a quicker pace you could do those four areas in two weeks and then you'd have a week left to go up to Switzerland and/or Germany and fly home from there.
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Mar 31st, 2013, 06:12 AM
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Isabel's comments seem right on. Do want to see if you can manage one carryon w/wheels. We are 60+ and travel only with one carryon each. Leave Wed for Tampa (temp 70's), then transatlantic cruise from Tampa to Bermuda, Bahamas (more 70's), Spain (60's), we go to Paris (60's) then Dublin (50's) and possible rainy weather. I do have to be aware of carryon bag regs as we are flying Delta, Aer Lingus and Easyjet. Then you are not so limited to stay by a train station which in some places are not the nicest places to be after dark.

Raileurope.com would be a good source to rough out the plan as well as the easyjet schedule.

Fodors destination is great to find the historical weather and searching for other posts.

Sounds like a great trip.
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Mar 31st, 2013, 06:38 AM
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It's very easy to travel around Europe by train. Use this site to look at schedules and duration although you can only book when going to and from Germany. It's the easiest site I've used for train information.

http://www.bahn.de/i/view/USA/en/index.shtml

You can also look at seat61.com for further information on trains.

It's very easy to book rentals for a week. There are many agencies that do this. vrbo.com is for rentals by owners. In France look for Gites for countryside accommodation but check first to see accessibilty.

I would first determine your itinerary and then look to see pricing on point to point tickets before considering a rail pass. If you book ahead (about 90 days) you can get great discounts.
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Mar 31st, 2013, 06:50 AM
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You can get to many places in europe easily via train. However, getting into the deep countryside is often not possible - and even bus service can be very limited (1 or 2 per day for locals). Also, you will find much less English spoken in deep countryside.

So - if you are talking about visiting sizable hill towns in Italy, that is fairly easy with most - but real countryside will usually require a car.
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Mar 31st, 2013, 08:29 AM
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RailEurope doesn't have all the trains. And their fares are expensive. Better to use the Deutche Bahn site for general planning, the country-specific train web site for detailed planning (and looking for cheap tickets). In France with a railpass you'll still need to buy a seat reservation on the faster trains; there are a limited number of these available per train to pass-holders.

Very often cottages, villas, etc. are in the countryside, not convenient to public transportation. You'd be better off in an apartment in towns with train stations. However, consider taking taxis from the train station. Desireable apartments are rarely located close to the train station.

The Amalfi coast is not on any train line. The only public transportation there is bus and boat. You can take the train to Naples and get to the AC by commuter train and bus. Or train to Salerno and take the bus or boat. (Note Sorrento is not on the AC but on the Gulf of Naples -- around the corner from the AC. But it's a good center for public transportation: train to Pompeii/Herculaneum and Naples, boat to Capri, bus to the AC.)

What time of year do you plan for this trip? Hotels and restaurants shut down for off-season along the Amalfi coast, as do the coastal boats. And Scotland, in particular, is best, say, May through September. If you plan to spend any time in Scotland, then a car there (on the right side of the road!) would be useful. Also nice in England.

Can't help you with how to take short hops from Australia to Europe. But some Fodorites from Oz will know.
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Mar 31st, 2013, 09:59 AM
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For lots of great European rail info I always spotlight these IMO superb sites - www.seat61.com; www.budgeteuropetravel.com and www.ricksteves.com. And do consider some kind of railpass if taking several trains and especially if you like flexibility to chose which trains to hop once there - discounted fares generally much be booked weeks or months in advance as they are sold in limited numbers and tuypiclly cannot be changed nor refunded and also can take hours of times to book on sometimes fickle sites like trenitalia.com or wwwq.renfe.com (Ialian and Spanish railways sites).
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Apr 1st, 2013, 01:16 PM
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Should we buy a Eurail pass for the 6 weeks if we intend to travel by train to most places?>

Well look at a flexipass where you have 2 months of total time to use 10 or 15 unlimited travel days - spread out over two months - can be consecutive or not - but there is no 6-week Eurailpass - only 1-month and 2-month or 15-days for consecutive passes. Also investigate Eurail Select Passes where you can chose 3 to 5 countries for your pass to be valid in and is significantly cheaper than a Global Eurailpass - if you can narrow your train travels down to five adjoining countries.
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Apr 2nd, 2013, 12:10 AM
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Short hops to Australia? It depends a little on where you are flying from, and where to. We travel with a small child nowadays, usually between Sydney and Frankfurt, and like to break up the trip in Singapore - with Singapore Air to Singapore it's about 8 hours 25 mins from Sydney and then with Lufthansa to Frankfurt another 12h 35 mins.

We have also recently flown from Sydney with Korean Air. to Frankfurt. It's about 11 hrs each leg, and on the way there, as there is no connecting flight, Korean put you up in an excellent airport hotel in Incheon and give you generous vouchers for meals in the airport. We won't be flying via Dubai with Qantas / Emirates as each leg is about 12 hours and we think that's just too much. Singapore is a good stopover - things just seem to run on well-oiled wheels - and the airport is fantastic, especially if you have children. You can even shower in the airport. You could also think about Thailand, but it's been a while since I flew that way (more than 10 years) so I can't comment on that airport or Thai Airways service any more.

I would not think you'd want any shorter legs of the journey than that, without the trip turning into a milk run, but some search engines (Expedia?) allow you to select flights with more than 1 stop and that might allow you to get some shorter legs.

Lavandula
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Apr 2nd, 2013, 01:05 AM
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You are going to have to search for ways to avoid any flight longer than eight hours when getting from Australia to Europe or UK.
Where are you leaving from?
Direct/non stop to Singapore is not too long or even maybe a non stop to Hong Kong?
It is nine and half hours from Sydney to HK.
Have a look at Cathay as they have a lot of European destinations and some of these are from Singapore.
Also from Hong Kong you can take Finnair to Helsinki - and then have a stop before going on to your European destination.

Think about planning a stopover en route so that you can stretch and rest and get the back recovered.
Also consider Premium Economy for that extra seat space given the neck and back issues.

Rough out a favorite places to go plan, check these on the map, look at the bahn.de website - it is easy to use in English.Just remember to not put in dates too far in advance.

After looking at all of the train possibilities then search for countryside accommodation.
Others on this site will probably give you suggestions for buses as well.

We have not bothered to drive in Europe and have had many trips using trains and buses, and just recently flying between cities as we wanted to jump around a little and had limited time!

Also search through this forum as there is an amazing wealth of helpful information.

Enjoy your planning.
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Apr 2nd, 2013, 06:34 AM
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ttt
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Apr 2nd, 2013, 07:26 AM
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If you can afford it, business class on some airlines, British Air for one, allows you to lay flat. That should help your husband in flight.
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Apr 4th, 2013, 06:51 PM
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>Also from Hong Kong you can take Finnair to Helsinki - and then have a stop before going on >to your European destination.

Finnair is a good idea too - I've flown them from Japan. But I'm not sure how long the legs last. I did it a long time ago and wasn't overly conscious of that aspect of the trip. They fly over the North Pole, differently to other airlines. Another stop you might investigate is from somewhere in Asia to Turkey. I don't know routings or airlines but it might get you another break. And from there, guaranteed easy flights to western Europe.

I also like the idea of a flat-bed flight in business - would your husband's back and neck problems cope with that?

Lavandula
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Apr 8th, 2013, 09:13 AM
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Helsinki makes a great stop for a few days - not only to see it but to take the short ferry ride over to Tallinn just across the water and an easy day trip.
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Apr 10th, 2013, 01:08 PM
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Well Helsinki can make a sweet stop but in winter or late fall it can have abysmally bad weather with incredibly short hours of sunlight - you can see the sun rise and sun set practically at the same time it seems!
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Apr 10th, 2013, 09:31 PM
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Sorry for the late response, (I forgot what password I signed in with) what wonderful responses!! I shall read all with interest and get back with more questions. Again thank you so much for your time - I love this forum, its just so helpful.

Cheers, Dreams64
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Apr 11th, 2013, 07:22 PM
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Ok, I have read through all responses now and am most grateful for all your suggestions. I will look at the links you have provided and investigate other airlines in particular the lying down business class. Thankyou I thought they all did that so I will definately check. We are saving to get my husband a business class ticket as it is the only way he will travel well. My initial thoughts were a stopover in Singapore for a day or two then fly to Paris or another European city then train from Paris to the UK. We are from Melbourne AU. A few people mentioned Helsinki, so I will look at this option also and we are travelling in the European summer.

You have given me lots to think about and a starting point with Train tickets and websites - so much useful info

I will let you all know what we decide Stay safe with your own travels xx
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Apr 12th, 2013, 01:55 PM
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Paris or another European city then train from Paris to the UK>

this ticket should be booked ASAP when you know what date you will be going at www.eurostar.com - tiers of fares with the deepest discounts selling out months early - non-changeblenon-refundable however so be sure. But the early bird does get the worm when taking Chunnel trains to London. You print your own ticket out at home. Just show up and pay hundreds of bucks more.
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