If you want a more relaxed travel experience, it’s worth looking into rail travel, increasingly used by business travellers and those looking to reduce their carbon footprint. The knock-on effect is holidaymakers can now benefit from more affordable, frequent and comfortable travel too. And best of all, trains bring back some of the romance of travel.
Holidays are meant to be about slowing down, after all, so if you don’t need to get somewhere in a hurry, it’s worth looking into rail options. Forget about rushing to and from the airport and spending time in a pressurised cabin; on a train you can move around and even sleep comfortably in transit, and arrive feeling less exhausted. Even if your flight is only an hour or so, the air pressure is tiring,
Plus, with airfares currently so high and great rail discounts for seniors, a train journey is no longer the more expensive option for many trips.
Train travel within Australia
For a memorable Australian rail journey the classic choice has to be the Ghan, winding its way from Adelaide up to Darwin. But there are more choices, from day trips to luxury experiences – visit the website and you’ll find options for incredible journeys such as Darwin to Alice Springs, Adelaide to Brisbane and Sydney to Perth, and opportunities for further travel to wine regions or classic holiday destinations like Rottnest Island in WA.
The trains are comfortable, with charming timber-panelled sleeper cabins and a restaurant service, so you can experience the luxury of old-fashioned train travel while taking in some of Australia’s most iconic sights from the window.
Another long-distance option is the Indian Pacific, which journeys from Sydney Central Station to Perth and back, covering 4,352 kilometres across the Nullarbor Plain over four days.
You can also discover Queensland by rail with Spirit of Queensland offering picturesque journeys along the coast between Brisbane and Cairns. We can’t wait to travel and take the RailBed option, a large seat that converts to a bed for overnight travel.
And for a great journey with free Wi-fi, why not take a trip on the Brisbane to Rockhampton Tilt Train?
Shorter journeys are also worth investigating – at just over two hours, Sydney to Kiama is an easy trip with wonderful coastal views, while the Sydney to Newcastle train, taking up to three hours, runs three times a day, passing over and along the Hawkesbury and then Brisbane Water for most of the trip. Melbourne to Bairnsdale to the east is another scenic trip that takes you through rolling hills and historic towns.
Hot tip: If you’re over 60 and hold a Seniors Card and a senior metro travel card (in NSW at least and most likely the other states and territories as well), you can get great discounts on rail travel. For example, a sleeper from Sydney to Melbourne, normally $234, is just $179 with your Seniors Card discount. In Queensland, anyone with a valid Seniors Card from any state or territory is eligible for a 50% discount.
What about train travel overseas?
When it comes to overseas travel, there are so many options for rail journeys it’s probably best to think of where you want to go first and then see what’s available. Having said that, some train journeys are worth going out of your way for.
Classic train journeys
If you’re travelling from London to Paris, the Eurostar is definitely the more affordable option if you book well in advance, considering you’ll arrive and depart from city centres. But you can also be in Amsterdam in four hours, or Brussels or Rotterdam, and book hotels along with your train fare on the website.
Amazing fact: Travelling by train rather than plane from London to Paris means 90% lower carbon emissions.
Hanoi to Da Nang in Vietnam is another bucket list trip, taking you from atmospheric Hanoi in the north to Danang, jump-off point for the beautiful and historic Hội An. It takes 17 hours, so it’s worth booking a sleeper cabin, and enjoying beautiful views of the Vietnam countryside and clifftop coasts when you’re awake. This review gives a great summary of the experience and some useful tips.
Hot tip: If you can’t manage the whole 17 hours, leave from Huế, the ancient capital, to Da Nang. And if you can, sit on the left side of the train for fabulous views of the South China Sea.
The Berlin to Prague train journey is just four hours long, but the scenery is incredible, and the train has a wonderful old-fashioned dining carriage so you can enjoy a schnitzel or beer before an afternoon nap. Travelling from Berlin’s central station to Krakow in Poland takes around six hours, but again, there’s a restaurant car and it’s a relaxing experience compared to flying. The Deutsche Bahn website is reasonably easy to navigate and you can book tickets well in advance.
If you’re in the UK and want to travel north or south, an overnight train beats battling the roads. From London to Scotland there’s the beautiful Caledonian Sleeper, which will deliver you to Edinburgh in time for breakfast. And from London to Cornwall there’s the Night Riviera, which leaves from Paddington.
Speed demons will appreciate the world’s fastest passenger train, which goes from Beijing to Shanghai in just over four hours, travelling at 350 kilometres per hour. China Highlights is an excellent website for planning and booking journeys throughout China.
Hot tip: Check with overseas rail authorities for seniors discounts. The UK, for example, offers great discounts as long as you book from Australia.
Train tips from an insider
It’s no secret that some people really love train travel. And thankfully, many of them will generously share their hard-won knowledge.
One of the most reliable and densely information-packed websites on train travel is Seat 61. Researched and maintained by former Charing Cross station manager Mark Smith – who always books seat 61 – it’s a fantastic resource for anyone planning a rail journey.
Here you can explore by country or destination, including Great Journeys of the World, with a huge amount of useful information about booking and planning your routes. His enthusiasm is contagious and the site is regularly updated – it’s now his full-time job – so you can rely on the information he provides.
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