Around the World: Time to Train in Europe!
Now’s the time to plan summer adventures in Europe, and there’s no better way to explore the continent than by train. Use Europe’s advanced and affordable rail system to customize your own version of the grand tour. Select several of your favorite cities or resort areas and design a sweeping itinerary that lets you garner greater value from your long distance transatlantic flights.
Most likely, if you have a week away and you choose three cities -- whether they‘re the major tour triangle of London, Paris and Rome for one example, or a less frequently traveled city grouping such as Brussels, Berlin and Milan for another, you’ll find that the best and most scenic way of getting from place to place is to take the train.
Europe has a fabulous rail system that stretches throughout the far corners of the continent. You can connect from one city to another easily, and that extends not only through Western Europe, but into Eastern Europe, as well.
You can travel from one European capital to another, take side excursions into charming suburban environments, explore mountains and wilderness areas, or head for the beach.
Throughout the entire system, the trains are high speed, always clean, and they are staffed by conductors who will take time to answer your questions about the towns, attractions and natural wonders you might be passing along the way.
And, they really do run on time, arriving and departing exactly when they are supposed to. So, you won’t miss a connection you’ve booked for ongoing travel.
Not only that, European train routes continent-wide have a single booking agency in the United States: Rail Europe. That makes one stop sourcing for figuring out the best routing, finding the perfect schedule for trains with easy connections and purchasing tickets for the entire trip.
In fact, the Rail Europe Website (at www.raileurope.com) provides a wealth of information and suggestions -- and some excellent current promotional deals.
For example, Super Saver Fares are currently available for popular routes in Germany, including those between Berlin and Munich, Frankfurt and Dresden and between Heidelburg and Stuttgart or Hanover and Munich. Specific route information is posted six months in advance, and that’s the time to book to take advantage of the promotional offers. It’s too late to get these discounts for travel this summer, but fall follows quickly – so book now to get up to 90 percent off regular ticket prices.
But, in addition to the promotional discounts offered on the Rail Europe Website, you have the tourists’ advantage of being able to opt to purchase a Eurail Pass that is competitively priced for travel in one, two or up to 31 countries and allows you to be a bit more spontaneous with the particulars of your itinerary.
Eurail Passes are priced according to the duration of the validity of the pass and how many countries you’re going to visit. For example, a one day pass for unlimited travel within the borders of France is priced at $87, two days costs $132 and three days costs $165. The pass must be used with a month of the first ride.
For another example, the Central Europe Triangle Pass covers two itineraries – Vienna to Budapest to Prague to Vienna or Vienna to Salzburg to Prague to Vienna – that are priced from $141.
Additionally a Eurail Pass allows two kids to ride free with an adult, and discounted prices are available for seniors and students.
Eurail Pass variations seem limitless, but the Website is easily negotiated and you can find what you want at the right price. And, with a Eurail Pass,,train travel is extremely flexible so you can pick and choose various routes, schedules that best suit your wishes and give you best value for your money. When doing your Eurail Pass research, remember that the variables are number of days and number of countries. Or, schedules are as varies and you might get awesome deals when booking tickets from point A to point B on specific days at specific times.
There are also two classes of service available for Eurail Pass travelers and for individual point A to point B ticket purchases. You can reserve a specific seat, or wait to pick one from those that are unreserved. And, there are really nice sleepers that you can book for overnighting on the train instead of in a hotel.
That said, Rail Europe’s full fare prices are, in general, not always the cheapest way to get between point A and point B. On certain routes, Europe’s discount airlines may actually sell tickets for lower prices, and you do get to your destination faster. However, when you take the plane, you have the inconvenience of having to get to and from the airport, arriving there early enough to go through security which, however efficient it might be, is always exasperating.
And, there’s always a chance that your flight will be delayed, which will leave you stranded in the nondescript environment of an airport, when you could be sitting comfortably on the train, gazing at beautiful landscapes, passing castles, farmlands, villages and getting a sense of life on the ground.
There are other advantages, too. In general, European trains provide a smooth ride and comfortable ride. The seats are more spacious, too. And you can walk from car to car, which allows you to get up and stretch your legs rather than be confined to a cramped seat.
Dining and concession cars, and the seating configurations in semi-private compartments create good opportunities for you to meet fellow travelers, both local folk and those from around the world. Even if you don’t all speak the same language, there are always good tales to be shared, and you can gather some good tips about your destination -- and perhaps even an invitation to be shown around.
If you want quiet time, there’s that, too. Trains are great for reading a book you’ve always wanted to delve into and/or for writing a journal about your trip. Most European trains are outfitted with Wi-Fi, so you can also keep in touch with friends and family back home -- even sharing photos or video that you take along the way.
The flexibility of scheduling and various price options allow you to zero in on your specific travel goals. For example, if your intention is to spend a week seeing as many museum exhibits as possible, or touring a variety of castles during the daylight hours, and you want to get to as many museums or castles during your week-long stay as possible, you can choose to overnight on a train, actually booking a sleeper or just dozing in your seat, as you might on an overnight flight. This will save you the cost of a hotel room, although there are additional fees for sleepers. But the overnight train plan might help you to realize your goals. Museum or castle by day, train by night.
Another advantage is that you can hop on a train from any airport in Europe, and begin your ground itinerary as soon as you clear immigration. That gives you more flight options from the U.S. Say, for example, that you want to go to the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, and you want to use a frequent flyer ticket to get there -- but your frequent flyer airline doesn’t fly to Amsterdam, so you must fly to Brussels instead. You can book your flights to and from Brussels, and take the train from Brussels to Amsterdam. But before you leave Belgium for Holland, you can take a break in Brussels and see the city’s famous Comics Museum, as well. It’s easy, effective, affordable, flexible travel. A good deal, all around.
The bottom line is that Europe is a great place to train. And the best place to train for taking the train is at the Rail Europe Website at (at www.raileurope.com).