Turn your long train ride into a train trip

Lizet Wesselman - 14/02/2023

Turn your long train ride into a train trip

Lizet Wesselman - 14/02/2023

When I ask people why they prefer travelling by plane over travelling by train, 1 of the answers is “because train travel takes so long and I don’t want to be on the road for so long.” But what if you make that long journey part of your train trip? International train journeys aren’t just there to get from A to B, like you would with a plane. Instead, when you travel by train, you have the option to add extra activities to your trip. For example, turn it into a full Europe tour. I’ll give you some ideas!

Croissants in France or a beer in Germany

Another downside mentioned about train travel is the fact that you usually have to switch trains a lot, while a plane is more often a direct trip. However, you can take advantage of those train transfers! Usually, a transfer is either so short that you have to hurry, or you’re waiting around for an hour. Not enough time to do anything, but much longer than you need to catch your transfer.

Why not take a train later? Or 2? And have a nice lunch somewhere nearby. Or sit down in a pub before boarding an overnight train. Or take your time for a full breakfast after your night train, before heading into the last leg of your journey. That way, you won’t even spend a particularly large amount of extra travel time, but you’ll have an added experience.

If we’re talking about a Europe tour, how about a real croissant in France? Or a good cup of coffee in Italy? Or a good pint of beer in Germany? This way, you get to experience countries or cities that weren’t even on your list. But since you pass them by, why not enjoy it?  

A (few) pitstop(s)

Want to spend more time in a location than just a quick lunch, but also don’t want to dedicate a full holiday to it? Make it a pitstop! You can redirect your train trip however you like, and take a little detour if you want to.

If you have a 2 or 3 week holiday, you can easily visit several places or countries. Break up your long train journey into several sections with a travel time you are comfortable with. For example, take an overnight train somewhere where you’ll then stay for 1 or 2 days. Then you take another train to a location further away, again with a travel time you are comfortable with, and stay there again for 1 or more days. This way, you can immediately cross a number of locations off your wishlist and you can, for instance, combine beach, mountains and cities, instead of choosing 1 option.

I personally love spending a few days in a city and a lot of time in the mountains. But the beautiful nature spots are not always near the cities I want to visit, so I can’t visit nature as a daytrip. I rather include them in my journey so I get the most out of my trip.

Take the journey with the best views

Talking about redirecting your train route, you can of course also redirect your train journey past amazing views. For me, this is a big advantage over flights where I usually end up staring at the clouds for hours. By train, you will pass through different landscapes and can have beautiful views. There are several train journeys known for their views and people take these trains for fun. For example, if you don’t like hiking, but can enjoy mountain views immensely, this is a perfect solution!

In Switzerland and through the Pyrenees, among other places, you have such trains, so they are quite an experience in themselves. Want to go to countries surrounding Switzerland but don’t have the budget for a stopover in Switzerland itself? Then stay in the surrounding countries but plan your train route so it crosses some spots you’d love to see in Switzerland.

A night train as accommodation

Want to go to several places but preferably spend as little time travelling as possible? Then a night train really is a fantastic solution. In night trains, beds are built so you can sleep in them. No hassle of trying to sleep upright like on a long flight. Most people get enough hours of sleep on a night train to use it as an alternative to accommodation. You sleep anyway, so you don’t miss anything from your holiday, but you can continue travelling.

Moreover, you save the cost of your accommodation. Of course, you’ll have to check accommodation prices to see if this is actually true, but it’s definitely a way to both save time and money!

An example of my upcoming Europe tour

Let me share you an example of a trip I’m doing this year, where I use above mentioned means to make it as amazing as possible.

I am going from The Netherlands to Budapest. Quickest route: a 13 hour night train to Vienna and a direct train from there to Budapest, which is about 2.5 hours. I could then choose to spend some time in Vienna. But I’ve been there, didn’t feel like going back and there were spots on the way that I wanted to see. Like Salzburg in Austria, which was scheduled for 2020, but, well.. We all know that story.

So my trip now brings me to:

Leiden (NL) → Cologne (DE) → Salzburg (AT) → Bad Gastein (AT) → Graz (AT) → Budapest (HU)

I still had a few spots that I missed during my Germany trip that I wanted to visit, so I’m taking the train to Cologne, where I’ll spend 3 days visiting castles! Then I’m going to Salzburg with a daytrip to Hallstatt. I will also go a bit more south to Bad Gastein, where I had found an amazing spa hostel in the middle of the mountains, which has been on my bucketlist as well. There are amazing hikes from here.

From there I’ll head to Graz (Austria) because it’s a very sustainable city, so I had to check that out. And again, I was avoiding Vienna so this was a perfect alternative. From there I will take the train to my final destination, Budapest!

This whole trip takes me 14 days. Of course, I have a lot of flexibility as a digital nomad. But if you’d have a 3 week holiday, this would be a perfect train trip. You can spend a few more days in Budapest and then take the night train from Vienna back. If you’d have less time, you can always choose to fly back. A one-way flight is still more sustainable than a return flight. Small efforts do make a difference.smile