Travel

Rail Renaissance: Why Train Travel Is Back For 2024

By Melissa Mason
30th Nov 2023

a person sitting inside a train looking out the window

Maybe you’ve taken a speed train in Japan, or the Eurostar between London and Paris. Travelling by train has always felt like a convenience thing, something you save a bit of cash, throwing on an audiobook or playing Candy Crush to get through. But there is more to train travel than just being a mode of transport, it’s fast becoming about the journey, not the destination. 

Famous train trips are popping up all over TikTok and Instagram, and affordable travel options like Eurail, which provides single passes that access over 33 countries across Europe, are making travelling by train a way better option than flying in many cases. Plus, the vibes are impeccable. This year, Pinterest searches for “Train trip aesthetic” were up by 205 per cent. Like, why zoom over whole countries when you could cruise through them, romantically staring out the window pretending you’re in a Jane Austen novel?

Here are five reasons why you should rethink all those plane trips and book some trains instead.

Train Travel Is Way More Affordable

A myth about train travel is that it costs more – we look at those discounted flights and think, “Well, it’s going to take me 50 minutes, and it’s basically the same price as the train”. But travelling by train is all about pre-planning. Here’s one example – if you book a sleeper train, which runs overnight and lets you snooze in a basic bed, you save $$ on a hostel room that night. Huge win.

Remember that Eurail pass we mentioned? We used one in Europe, and usually, you could just jump on any train by locking in the trip via the Eurail app, even right before travelling, so you could play it by ear instead of organising an entire day around getting to the airport. When you did need to book in advance, it was a small fee for a seat reservation. If you’re doing a big Euro trip, those savings can be a godsend.

Here’s another thing, those cheap plane tickets also come with heaps of sneaky fees. How often have you booked a cheap flight only to cop surprise baggage fees, usually exorbitant ones. Trains don’t have luggage fees, so if you’re hopping around before your long-haul flight, it can save you a lot of money, especially if you’re just hopping between cities or nearby countries before a long-haul home since those flights are usually more generous with baggage weight (and don’t charge for it, either).

The Views Are Fab, And You Actually Get To See Them

So you’ve been to LA, and you’ve been to San Francisco, but have you seen any of the coastline in between? We’re so used to flying between popular cities that we forget there is so much to see outside of them. We’re not just talking about those spectacular train routes people take simply for the journey itself. Even a speed train between Glasgow and London gives bulk green, rolling hills, sheep-filled paddocks and small country towns.

Since loads of us will head to Europe in 2024, let’s talk specifically about it. Flying between your Euro destinations will have you ticking off plenty of countries, but have you really see the Czech Republic if you just stop in at Prague? On the other hand, if you train it from Berlin to the capital, it’ll take you around five hours – but you’ll get to see way more of both countries, parts you wouldn’t notice from 30,000 feet in the air. Hell, maybe you’ll want to make a spontaneous pit stop at one of the idyllic villages along the way. Basically, your European experience will be all the more richer.

There Are Train Trips That Are Even Better Than Their Destinations

Okay, we HAVE to talk about the train travel that’s not even about where you’re headed. Got loads of cities and destinations on your bucket list? It’s time to add some train trips. Here’s a perfect example, this year, we used a Eurail pass to hop on the Oslo to Bergen train. It’s an eight-hour trip, which might seem intense or even wasteful when you want every day to count. 

But travelling from Oslo to Bergen by train is like going through four seasons in one day. In Oslo, the sun was shining. Slowly, it hid behind clouds, and as we climbed into the mountains, little flecks of snow started to fall. By the time you get to Myrdal, snow flurries cover the station. You can hop off here and enjoy the beautiful scenery, even taking the scenic Flam Railway, which only takes 30 minutes each way. Then, on the descent into Bergen, we were met with drizzly rain making rivulets down the windows.

Bergen is a beautiful city to visit, but the day spent travelling there was the real highlight.

Train Travel Is Really Sustainable

Look, travelling by train isn’t going to be as sustainable as, say, bike riding across a country. But when you’re after a more environmentally friendly option for getting around that is practical, trains are a pretty great choice.

Primarily, it’s because they’re energy efficient. According to the European Environment Agency, aside from walking or cycling, travelling by train is best from a greenhouse emissions context. This is because on a passenger-vs-kilometre basis, trains carry more people with less environmental impact compared to driving and flying. There is also the rise of electric trains powered by renewable energy, which makes them even more sustainable.

It’s Slow Travel At Its Finest 

Can we all agree that we’re rushing through life way too fast? This goes for travel as well – how often do you find yourself frantically Googling the next place to eat, historical site to visit and mapping yourself through winding foreign alleyways? Sometimes, you get back from a holiday and can’t even remember what you experienced. 

Train travel is beautifully slow. It makes you appreciate your surroundings, it gives you time to think and reflect. You don’t need to map your journey, you’ve got ample time to prepare for what you’ll do in the next place you’re visiting. You can relax, lay back, and just enjoy the adventure. We don’t get a lot of opportunities to slow down when we travel, so if getting from A to B by train gives us that gift, why not take it?

Read on for the best train trips in Australia.

Image credit: Mark Anthony Foz | Instagram

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