If you don’t fancy tackling a left hand drive car and road signs in foreign language, journey by rail is a hugely underrated means of exploring a country.
Some countries offer double decker trains that leave on time and are very fast – a great way to take in the countryside whilst sipping a glass of something nice!
Closer to home, Eurostar is a natural starting point for anyone opting for hassle-free travel across Europe; departing from St Pancras, travellers are asked to arrive just 30 minutes before the departure of their train. The journeys take just a couple of hours and stop at Lille and Brussels or Paris, from where passengers can transfer by train to innumerable destinations across Europe, including Bruges, the south of France or Madrid. Booking online in advance will offer you the most competitive rates.
Train passes can be bought for a certain number of days in a month, offering you the chance to travel around Europe at your leisure. EuRail and Rail Europe are a great place to start looking at potential routes and buy tickets. The Balkan Flexipass offers a great deal; five, ten or 15 days unlimited travel in one month on trains in the Balkan area (Bulgaria, Greece, Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia, and Turkey). With a wealth of history, culture and stunning coastline in the region, the pass is good value and yields a truly unique experience.
Outside of Europe, trains can be the most practical mode of transport. In India a vast network of trains lines the country and provides a time and cost-effective way of getting around. One true train fanatic, Mark Smith, writes a blog on train travel around the world. He describes India’s rail system as comfortable, safe and the best way to see the country. When travelling large sections of the country, an overnight sleeper train – complete with clean bedding, saves money on hotels whilst dropping you in the city centre at the end of the trip, thus providing a seamless transition to your next destination.
National Geographic has also produced a list of the top 10 train journeys in North America, highlighting the three-and-a-half hour voyage between Durango and Silverton, Colorado, for its beautiful scenery, vintage train and steep climb. For some serious wildlife spotting, why not try the Amtrak Cascades journey that links Eugene, Oregon, to Vancouver, British Columbia? During the 11.5 hour journey passengers are treated to rain forests, mountain peaks, farms and islands, and are advised to bring binoculars to spot the wide variety of animals. Although such trains in the USA give passengers a fantastic means of exploring the scenery and wildlife, more practical journeys around the country are unfortunately often inconvenient and more expensive than driving. Lonely Planet gives astute advice on travelling around North America, which swings in favour of a trip by car if you are hoping to explore outside of cities.