Sunday, September 28, 2014

All About Trains.

Trains are the epitome of traveling. They have been getting us from one place to another ever since covered wagons were in style. Now with the emerging technology of Mag-Lev (Magnetic Levitation) and other high-speed trains, trains still remain the king of efficient and fast transportation. 

Unfortunately, in the United States, trains are not at all used like they should be. One of the main lines is Amtrak, which tends to be rather expensive. It’s usually cheaper than air, but quite a bit more expensive than driving, and some bus lines. Most of this is due to limited regions of train stops, and American’s desire to drive their own cars whenever humanly possible. In Europe, on the other hand, train travel is much more common and heavily implemented. Here are some reasons that train travel may be for you.
  1. Trains are on time. Except for a few instances and places, trains generally pride themselves on being on time. Unlike the air industry, there is a strict adherence to the clock and you can usually rely on it being there when you need it to.
  2. Trains are easy. Gone are the days of intrusive security measures and awkward baggage checks. All you have to do is show up at the station and hop on the train. Your ticket is checked once on the train, and possibly before you get onto the terminal, but other than that, you could show up ten minutes before your train leaves and have nothing to worry about. Now with digital tickets, I don't even have hassle with printing tickets. I can keep it all on my phone. Most trains also have electrical outlets, snack carts and occasionally Wi-Fi.
  3. Trains are fun. I personally love trains. The seats are generally comfortable, and if you are lucky, you might get one with a table. My favorite is getting a six-person room with a bunch of friends. Taking a train can be like getting a bonus tour of the countryside that you would normally never see. I will never forget the amazing ride along the French/Spanish coast, on my way to Barcelona. Absolutely amazing. Looking out those enormous windows was like being inside a national Geographic magazine.

In terms of prices go, it all depends on where and when you are going. I have found that the earlier you reserve/buy tickets, the cheaper then tend to be. Keep an eye out for discount memberships, such as the VorteilsCard that I got while in Austria that took 50% off train tickets  in Austria and 25% on participating trains outside of Austria. 

In addition, there are rail passes, that are great for extend stay trips or long distance travels. I used the Eurail Pass while in Europe. There are numerous options and plans available. I purchased the “15 days of travel within 2 months” plan, I didn't end up using all of the days, but it definitely was a great purchase. 

One word of WARNING: Just because you have a Eurail, doesn't mean that you can travel wherever you want for free. Many times the high-speed trains will require a reservation ahead of time, which usually costs money, especially on over-night trains. I found that both France and Spain were especially difficult about making reservations and were pretty expensive, even with the Eurail pass 

PRO-TripTip: Use Trains in junction with planes. I found that it was MUCH cheaper to train to cities that had cheap flights to other cities. For example, I took trains from Austria, to Paris, to Barcelona, and then took a $55 flight to Brussels and then trained back to Austria from there. Not only did I save TONS of money, but I saved time and got to see cities that were farther away from each other. Definitely worth looking into. I will be discussing air travel next week, so stay tuned!


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