For my trip I spent a short amount of time considering my options before deciding to travel by train through Europe. At one point, I was looking at the possibility of Trek America but have shelved this for another time.
Now that I’ve got everything booked and can relax a little, I’ve unpacked my decision to choose interrail. A famous film quote comes to mind from Hitchcock’s North By Northwest, as Roger says to Eve on an overnight train ride, “Sure beats flying, doesn’t it?”
It’s more or less the cheapest way to explore Europe. £488 gets me everywhere for thirty days and as I opted for the continuous pass, I can travel as many times as I like and at any available time, backwards and forwards. Apart from the occasional bus, this is my ticket for all travel expenses! It’s more if you go first class but second class, whilst busier, is better value; some trains won’t have first class available and it would feel like wasted money. There are also other benefits as you can catch ferries in some countries to vary your mode of transport.
I also think it gets you into the ‘budget mind set’ and helps you think of other ways to cut costs. Most of your time will be spent with fellow travellers also aiming for value on their trips, so it’s a good chance to pick up further tips.
Seeing more of each country
When you’re sat in the window-seat of a train carrying you from one European hotspot to another, not much can get better! It’s a good way of seeing more of the world and I plan to have one eye looking out the window and another on my laptop as I blog away. The Bergen to Oslo route actually features a viewing platform, perfect for photos.
Ease of travel
Trains are something I find easy; you turn up, you’ve got your ticket and you get on. If you get there in good time, it can all run smoothly. In Eastern Europe the timings are more flexible than in the West so it might involve some hanging around stations but I don’t have set hours to arrive at any destination. This appeals to me over flying as it’s such a chore to get on a plane but in this instance, it also makes more sense to take longer trains than a series of short flights. Flying everyday is not a good lifestyle choice!
Overnight sleeping options
Travel pillow in hand (under my head) I’ll be taking several night trains on my trip and saving on accommodation fees, however you do have to reserve. Sleeping on trains is something I do on roughly a monthly basis at home so I’m already prepared.
A few of the trains I’m on provide a hot drinks service so I’m hoping to get quite cosy. In Canada I took a 14hour bus journey – Greyhound – and got to sleep easily. The only thing was, I woke up with someone different sat next to me as my travel partner had moved to two empty seats to stretch out… that was a scary half asleep moment!
Usually faster than buses, it’s the best land option, especially over cycling which I’d also be capable of doing (joke). In another way, it saves time because you can enjoy the experience and incorporate it into your collection of travel memories. Seeing the sights outside, chatting to other solo passengers and the staff, as well as using it to reflect and plan your next move in your upcoming destination.
In my visions of the trip, I use time on the train to read travel novels, write blog posts, catch up with family and friends on FaceTime, Skype etc, as well as nap to recuperate for the city ahead. Now, I’m intrigued to see how I actually use this time and if it’s this productive.
Importantly, as the point of this trip is to use my confidence to go out on my own and see what I’m capable of, I won’t hold myself to these expectations if I fall short. Down time can just be down time, a recharging of the batteries.
So, I choose trains for a number of reasons and am looking forward to seeing what happens. If anyone has any experiences to share with me that would be helpful. For example, I’m not sure what the toilet facilities are like and if the temperatures are kept agreeable!