TRAINS are emerging as the preferred mode of transport for Australians visiting Europe in 2018.
With wait times at airports increasing – a 2017 study by Airlines For Europe reveals travellers can now spend up to four hours queueing in terminals from Madrid to Paris and Brussels to Milan as security checks and understaffed airlines slow the departure process – holidaymakers are abandoning the friendly skies to ride the rails.
International Rail director Jonathan Hume says early indications show inquiries and bookings for 2018 are stronger than the past two years with customers suggesting they are eager to return to Europe after coming to terms with the unrest of recent times.
“We are finding there’s a trend towards smaller bookings with fewer sectors and it’s likely due to well-travelled customers returning to favourite countries to see them in depth rather than longer itineraries stretching across multiple destinations,’’ the rail expert explains.
“We’re also noticing travellers keen to book trains well ahead of time to guarantee they can move on preferred dates and at convenient times while also ensuring they benefit from the advance-purchase fares which are generally cheaper the further ahead you make reservations.’’
Roaming around the Continent by train also lets passengers move from one city centre to the next, avoiding the need to pay for costly airport transfers to distant airfields, and savour the view from big windows and spacious seats while gliding between destinations.
Another advantage is the fact European train travel promises exceptional value for money and the iconic Eurail Pass is still an economical arrangement for those keen on flexibility with a Eurail Global Flexi Pass covering all 28 countries priced from $84 a day.
“They are particularly good value for families or groups of friends and Saver Passes, for two to five adults travelling together, are discounted 15 per cent while children under 12 travel free of charge,’’ Hume says.
“Those with set travel times can take advantage of the advance rail purchase fares available from most rail companies and, for example, Italy’s Trenitalia offers super-cheap fares from Venice to Milan from just $29 per person in second class with similar prices from Germany’s DB Bahn and OEBB in Austria.’’
While the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express, Norway’s lofty Oslo to Bergin service (above), and the Koblenz to Mainz run through the Rhine Valley are three famous routes they are far from the only options with the International Rail boss highlighting other possibilities that make a day of travel about the journey rather than the destination.
“The Swiss Scenic trains are a must and the Glacier Express (below) winds its way through the Swiss Alps with incredible scenery along the way,’’ he says.
“The Italian high-speed services are also wonderful because they are fast, efficient, remarkably comfortable and in first class food and drinks are served to your seat as you whisk through the landscape at over 300km/hour.’’