9 Reasons to try European train travel

Lizet Wesselman - 04/07/2023

9 Reasons to try European train travel

Lizet Wesselman - 04/07/2023

With budget airlines in Europe offering dirt cheap plane tickets, it’s often the go-to option for a budget traveller. And I get it, I used to be like that as well, and sometimes I still can’t afford the train tickets and fall back on those budget flights as well. But since I started to my European train travel, the charm of train travel just grew on me and nothing really beats that. Aside from the obvious sustainable travel reasons to take a train, there are so many reasons you should consider your next Europe trip to be a train trip. At least once, choose for train travel over budget flights and let its charm win you over.

1. Unparralelled scenic beauty

Europe is the second-smallest continent on the planet but houses such a diverse range of landscapes, from mountains to coasts and everything in between. Train travel provides an uninterrupted view of these stunning views. Whether it’s the breathtaking Swiss Alps, the enchanting vineyards of Bordeaux, or the quaint villages of the Italian countryside, the train’s large windows offer a front-row seat to nature’s finest.

2. Wellconnected railway Europe

One of the biggest advantages of European train travel is its well-connected railway network. The continent’s efficient train system allows you to effortlessly hop between countries and cities, making it an ideal option for exploring multiple destinations in a single trip. High-speed trains like the Eurostar, Thalys, and TGV make travel between major cities swift and convenient.

3. Flexibility and freedom

Because of the great European rail network, European train travel allows for a degree of flexibility that is often lacking in other forms of transportation. Unlike flights, train schedules are more flexible, and you have many more options. Aside from the choices for travel times, as a train generally leaves at least once an hour, it also gives you many more options on where to go.

This freedom allows you to go to undiscovered places, but also to get out for a quick stop in between. Sure, you’ll have to adjust your ticket to that, but you can make stops wherever you want to. Have an 8-hour journey ahead of you? Why not take 2 hours for lunch somewhere halfway down the line, to break up the long journey into 2 manageable 4-hour trips? Plus, you got to see an extra location that a plane would have flown over. Even a cross-country bus wouldn’t give you this type of flexibility.

This is how I discovered these cute little towns around Hamburg, Germany. 

4. Social interaction on your journey 

Although I have much appreciation for airline staff, the social interaction on a plane is quite limited. Unless you’re a very extroverted, chatty person who’ll talk to the person sitting next to you, chances are small you’ll meet someone on a plane. While trains somehow give more room for chitchat. One reason is of course the placing of the seats, where you’re sometimes in a booth with random strangers in front of you. But also, the fact that everybody is on their own journey. You have the benefit of the option of the easy icebreaker conversation starter “where are you headed?” While on a plane, chances are quite big that people are on their way to the same destination, with the occasional one that has a transfer elsewhere.

5. A peek into the local culture

Travellers aren’t the only ones taking a train, so are locals. Especially on long journeys past small towns, you’ll be accompanied by many locals commuting to work, visiting family for the weekend or anything else “mundane”. Which means you get a little peek into people’s daily lives. You’ll learn more about a local culture just by observing, but it also gives you a chance to start a conversation.

6. Comfort and relaxation

Train travel offers a level of comfort and relaxation that air travel simply cannot match. All nice and well that those budget airlines are so cheap, but obviously that comes with sacrifices. Switch the cramped, small aeroplane seats out for spacious seats, proper legroom, and the freedom to move around. In many countries, trains also come with an onboard restaurant with local dishes or a coffee cart for your caffeine shot.

7. City centre-convenience 

Unlike airports, train stations are often situated right in the heart of cities, increasing the time you get to enjoy the place. You slowly roll into your next destination and already get a sneak peek of what you’re going to explore for the next few days. Plus, it makes it so much easier for you to get to your accommodation. Next time you think flying is faster than train travel, keep in mind the fact that you still have to get from the airport to the city centre and add this to your travel time.

8. Better luggage allowance

Unlike those budget airlines, a train ticket doesn’t come with all sorts of hidden extra costs like extra luggage. Just like legroom is getting more limited, so is luggage space. More often you need to pay for luggage, even if it’s carry-on. Because everyone started travelling with carry-on only, they ran out of space and had to find different solutions. Some airlines lowered the allowed weight or sizes, some make you pay to bring more than a daypack as carry-on. On trains, you can often bring whatever you want. Some trains do have limits, but it always includes a big suitcase that you’d have to check in on an aeroplane already. Want to bring even more? Then it’s often only €5 for another 20 kg suitcase.  

9. Slow travel option

Yes, train travel usually takes a bit of time. Although it doesn’t have to be, plenty of train routes in Europe are faster than a plane, because of ever-evolving fast trains and the fact that flights include check-in times, bag pick-up, and a lot of waiting. But this also encourages you to relax. Isn’t that why you’re on holiday? To relax and wind down? Train travel gives you a few hours to just sit back, relax, enjoy the view and get super excited about your trip. As I said, your train slowly rolls into your new destination, giving you those few minutes extra to enjoy the sights and let it sink in. You’ll notice that it changes your whole mindset about your holiday when you arrive, relaxed and unhurried.

Are you planning a train trip through Europe, coming from a different continent? Read all about the Schengen agreement to understand European visa rules.

Train travel is sustainable travel

I think it’s clear by now that train travel is the most sustainable means of transport you can choose. So, if the points above couldn’t convince you of the beauty of train travel, then I sure hope your love for our beautiful planet could convince you to swap planes for trains. So next time you plan a Europe trip, consider the train to save the environment, save you from airport stress, lack of legroom and enjoy the stunning views that are passing by the train window.