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10 Reasons we Love Train Travel

Updated: Jan 20

Plus books about trains for you and your kids to read onboard!
train travel rail travel reasons to travel by train

Train Travel is Slow Travel

I personally am a huge fan of slow travel and recently I've convinced my wife to try becoming one too. Hope it works... Slow travel is very important to mental health, to get some downtime for one's self, to be present and connect with the people and the surroundings at one's destination, to disconnect from devices, wearables and day-to-day routine and responsibilities. And there can be no best representative of slow travel than the all-time favourite clickity-clack train!

What's wrong with aeroplanes then?

Admittedly, aircraft can take you into the most magical remote places of the world, however, it's not always about the destination, but what lies between, too. When you fly the focus is almost all going to the arrival in the destination rather than to the trip itself. While there's no such fun as this, one can argue that flying takes you there faster. Moreover, flying takes you to worlds you wouldn't be able to see by train. Agreed and accepted. But again, nothing compares to what's happening on a train as opposed to what's happening when flying: absolutely nothing!

Train travel is better, it's an addiction, a ritual if you want; for some, a way of living and for others a sweet memory of childhood. For those not convinced, here are my top reasons to support my argument about why train travel is the best!

1. Train Travel is Stress and Hassle-free

First and best of all: no travel to remote suburban airports required, no strict security screenings and long lines and no 2-3 hours waiting in lavishly boring halls required. A long train trip disconnects you from all sources of stress. You are no more interested in what time it is and you've got someone at the front driving and reminding you which station you're getting off. That leaves you with plenty of time to sit back and relax, read your book, eat and drink stress-free.

Did I also mention train is the best mean of transportation to beat flying anxiety?

2. "You see more when you don't fly"

This is our favourite Eurostar campaign motto, which has been proven spot on!

Sit back, relax and dip into the surrounding scenery such as our adventure a couple of years ago crossing the Peruvian Andes. Gliding over majestic feeding meadows and icy summits and passing through Juliaca street market that folds and unfolds itself to make space for the train.

Greece, not least because I'm Greek, admittedly is a beautiful country for train travel too. Although not largely developed throughout the whole country (only a few cities are connected), the route from the capital, Athens, to Thessaloniki is spectacular (around 4-5h fast ride or overnight) and one that I always enjoy. For those that have only known Greece for the islands, check this article out about some great scenic rides on the mainland.

3. It's Green!

It is well known that taking the train (wherever possible), and not a plane, is reducing your carbon emission footprint. Planes are responsible for almost 5% of all human-induced emissions and 12% of all transport-related emissions. Google it.

4. It's comfy

Its comfortable seats are nothing like Ryanair's 'sardine in a tin' style travel. There's always a bar around for you to unwind, stretch your legs, have a coffee and socialize. The windows quite often can open providing good ventilation (to avoid coronavirus), not to mention the spacious toilets too (in most cases). The best part ever, the glass-domed observation carriages or the common areas before the carriage connections... In some countries, smokers can even have a puff there!

Train travel Peru
The observation car at Belmond PeruRail Titicaca to Cusco

5. City centre to City Centre

Train is ideal for city breaks. Usually located very centrally, major city train stations have loads of transport options to get you anywhere fast and cheap. On the contrary, airports are almost always far from the city centre and sometimes you may spend a substantial amount of time, money and effort to get to one. A new trend is growing for city centre-to-city centre train services, like the expansion of Eurostar to more destinations (Amsterdam recently made it to the list), the introduction of low-cost Regiojet connecting some central European cities or Lufthansa's Rail & Fly integrating rail and fly by significantly lowering the costs (and emissions). One of the best legacies of the post-pandemic era is also the revival of overnight sleeper trains... check the French Midnight Trains startup that plans to launch (in 2024) overnight services to major European cities. Fascinating!

Trainline is a great search engine that integrates all the different providers!

6. No luggage allowance restriction

No need to restrict your liquid-containing bottles to the minimum struggling to fit them all inside this small plastic bag; no sweat when your suitcase goes into the check-in scales dreading the overweight. This inevitably means shopping with no limits: wooden goods, bottles of French wines or Scotch single malts, and other oversized items are a few of the things we have brought back home with no weight limits... Bring it on!

7. Kids love it

Our little one's first baby favourite chorus was 'chuff-chuff' and he still loves mimicking the sound of a train's engine. His eyes have been glowing with excitement since every time he spots a passing train and when he rides one, a great adventure unwinds before him; in the corridors, on the seats and of course gazing from the window!

8. Clickity Clack

Nothing compares to the mesmerizing 'clickity-clack' sound of the carriage sliding on the steel rails and the sweet stress relief (and sleepiness) this sound brings along.

9. Iconic rides

There are still train rides on (refurbished) trains that magically transfer you to a theme (Harry Potter Jacobite train) or to an era (Belmond Orient Express). Spectacular rides with epic views and iconic foods. Put simply, there's no aeroplane of an old era but even if there was, nobody would be keen on riding it ;-)

Train Travel Peru Andean Explorer Belmond
Dining at the Peruvian Andean Explorer train

Which train rides are the best in the world? Read this artcile for some insights and inspirations.

10. The man in seat 61

Last but not least... The man in seat 61 is a blog of a seriously mad train addict. He has travelled to different parts of this planet (if not the whole world) by train and has conceived the absolute encyclopedia of trains in his blog. I recommend browsing his website to get some off the beaten tips and train hacks when planning your next train trip.

Happy train travels!

Recommended Reads

The product links used below are affiliate links mainly from Amazon (deactivate your ad-blocker if you can't see them). By buying through the links I may receive a commission for the sale. This has no effect on the price for you. For Amazon shopping, and if you are not Amazon prime member already, I recommend signing up for the Prime membership to get special discounts in almost every product, free shipping and other goodies like prime TV channels. Get a 30-day Free Trial of Amazon Prime and give it a try.

Train Books for Grown-Ups

Now, to get you started with train travel, I highly recommend getting Lonely Planet's Amazing Train Journeys, the best resource to learn about the train trips in the world along with some top-notch photos to convince (or seduce) you.

I was also thrilled by the "Around the world in 80 trains". An awarded book, written by a brave Indian-English female journalist who travelled around the globe, hopping on and off 'long haul' trains. It's not a classic novel, but more like a journal, blog-travelogue kind of writing which is so engaging and fun to read. It makes you feel you're part of the adventure. Something like Paul Theroux's 'Great Railway Baazar' (another one that I recommend) but with a more modern twist.

A very nice coffee table book (not to be taken on board) that I found fascinating and inspiring is "Slow Travel: reconnecting with the world at your own pace". Not only this book introduces you to the slow travel world but also has great photos to browse and recommendations for off-the-beaten-track places and things to do.

Train Books for Kids

And something for our little explorers. Toddlers just love trains and most likely books too. Basically, they love anything on wheels, but trains are something that deeply fascinates them. First of all, a great start with trains for younger folks (1-4 years) would be a "push, pull and slide" type of book like Thomas and Friends: Busy Railways. Another good suggestion for these ages, very informative on the evolution of railways and train engines is Lonely Planet's Train How it Works series. For the same age group, one of the best activity books I've found (to keep these fingers busy) is Usborne's First Sticker Book series for Trains with tons of stickers that can be added anywhere on the book's pages. If you are reading this and plan for the festive season, you might also want to consider something like "Santa and the Goodnight Train". Great book with a lovely story and amazing graphics

For older kids (4 years+), the "Look inside trains" board book is for curious minds wanting to learn about how trains work, as well as the Train Coloring and Activity Book for Kids" with mazes, dot-to-dot, and colouring. Speaking of colouring, I usually prefer short travel size wooden colouring pencils (like these) or non-toxic wax crayons (like these) as opposed to plastic markers that stain and end up in more plastic pollution.

Kindle Editions

I personally like carrying my physical books around, love the feeling and the smell of paper. But for some, carrying hundreds of books in one device sounds more convenient and cheaper. A 30-day Amazon Kindle Unlimited Free Trial is a great way to explore my recommended books and also other over 1 million books, thousands of audiobooks, and popular magazines on any device.

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