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Riding the Rails – The Joys of Train Travel

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Taking to the tracks is such a joy. I know that we are Flying Fluskeys, and flying also makes me a happy girl, but there is something special about a train journey. (I don’t mean my morning commute). People say romantic, honestly, I’m not sure I could call it that, but it is kinda special. Here are some of my absolute favourite train journeys.

Rosie poses by the carriage door of the Blue Train in South Africa
The Blue Train in South Africa

Why I Loved Trains Then

My parents have never had a car and so we got the train from Brighton to London and around Sussex on a semi regular basis. Back in the day, they still had slam door trains with compartments. We took up a whole compartment, shut the door to the rest of the train and broke out one of my Mum’s famous train picnics.

I also caught the train to my Dad’s house by myself when I got a bit older (10/11 years old) which was pretty thrilling. A few years on and I commuted to college between Brighton and Lewes by train five days a week. It was quite liberating. I never had to rely on the parents for a lift and it gave me a real sense of independence.

Why I Love Trains Now

Pimms can
Couldn’t fit this in my liquids bag!

If we compare taking the train to flying, there is no liquid restriction, you can have your seat back reclined, and tray table down the entire time and you don’t get DVT. Plus, you don’t have to check in three hours before you leave. All plus points in my book. Compared with driving? Well for one, my visual impairment means I can’t drive so not killing myself is a big plus, but let’s pretend I could. On a train you can go to the toilet whenever you need to (admittedly, not always if you’re in a station). You can watch a video, do work or sleep, all of which are pretty inadvisable if you’re driving. You can also really enjoy the view without having to stay alert for potential hazards. Sit back and watch the world roll by. Rolling hills or rolling waves all from your rolling stock. Finally, being among humanity is one of the real joys of travel. Sitting in a car, you are shut off from the wider world, not sharing the experience with anyone. Even if you are travelling alone on a train, there’s still a train full of people with you.

No selfies in the car!

The Best Trains I’ve Taken Around the World

Eurostar, London to Europe.

We love the Eurostar! We took a trip from Germany using Eurostar (read all about London to Germany by Eurostar). I’ve taken it a few times and I think it is by far the best option for those travelling from the UK to nearby Western European destinations. It is fast, comfortable and takes you from city centre to city centre. When travelling from London to Paris, compared to flying, you can save a surprising amount of time.

Reunification Express, Vietnam

This train route runs the length of Vietnam, from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City. It was built by the French in the 1930 but was sliced in two when civil war broke out. When the country came back together, it was reopened, hence the name. It will take you 35 hours or so to cover the whole distance. We only caught it from Hanoi to Hue, one night of merrily bumpy sleep. Jungle slips past the window as you wind your way south and we were lucky enough to have the compartment to ourselves for most of the journey.

Read about our travels in Vietnam

Getting comfy on my bunk

Bangkok to Chiang Mai, Thailand

This night train is full to bursting with excitable backpackers. The social aspect of this journey was what I enjoyed so much, in contrast to the trip above. It was a very humbling moment when I looked around, at people from nine different countries, who were all conversing in English. Truly English is the language of tourism! A tip, if you are going to take this train, the air conditioning is pretty fierce and feels colder on the top bunk. You will pay more for the lower bunks because they are at least a third bigger than those above them.

Read all about our Night Train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai

Many Trains, India

India has, undoubtedly, one of the most exciting rail networks in the world. It connects almost the entire country; no mean feat. India is quite a lot bigger than you think! We have been on at least ten different train journeys around the sub-continent. In fact, there is too much to say about Indian trains.

That’s why I wrote a whole blog post about travelling India by train

Nuwara Eliya to Ella, Sri Lanka

Another British built railway system; the trains in Sri Lanka are slow but exceedingly pleasant. One of the finest stretches weaves its way through spectacular hills and valleys en route to Ella from Colombo. The trains are not the height of comfort, but that isn’t why you take it. Stock up on snacks ahead of time because there is no buffet car or hawkers. There is a bathroom, which is lucky, as our train was running two hours late. At Ella, the train stopped in the middle of the tracks and we all had to clamber down in the dark. Not such a problem for us, but tricky for the older generation behind us.

There are a few different classes of service, including observation cars with huge windows that gaze back along the tracks. These only cost an extra few pounds, with none of our journeys costing more than Β£10, bargain!

For more tips read 6 Reasons You Will Love Travelling Sri Lanka on a Budget

New York to Niagara, USA

I took this train in autumn and as the industrial town of Buffalo came and went, it made me realise just what a glorious route it was. The fall foliage was truly beautiful and it makes this journey one to stay awake for. It is a whole day of travel but the train is very comfortable and you don’t have to worry about paying the luggage fees that are often added onto the cost of your plane ticket in the USA. The line actually goes all the way into Canada so you can travel all the way up in comfort.

Read about my Day Trip To Canada

Shinkansen, Japan

Travelling at a staggering 186mph between Kyoto and Tokyo on the Nozomi was pretty exhilarating. It was slightly too hard on the eyes to try and look at anything out of the window that was close and so we just sat back and enjoyed the ride. The trains in Japan were super clean and unlike anything we had been on before. It almost felt like being on a plane, no danger of turbulence though!

The distinctive nose of the Shinkansen slides into the station.

Maglev Train, China

Between Shanghai airport and the city, you can experience 8 minutes of magnetic levitation. We jumped aboard before catching our flight home from China. Karl had been singing the praises of maglev technology for years and so he was buzzing. I’ll be honest, watching the numbers top 268mph was cool, but it was surprisingly bumpy around corners. I would be a little cautious about going for a wee on one (luckily, it takes less than 8 minutes to reach the airport).

Read How to Enjoy One Day in Shanghai on a Budget

No rails to be seen

Lviv to Odessa, Ukraine

These Russian built trains are warm and charmingly old fashioned. Each carriage of the older trains we took had compartments with four berths and a samovar at the end (a hot water dispenser). The tiny table had a sweet little tablecloth, just like your Babushka’s front room. We took these three times in Ukraine and had no problems at all. We really enjoyed the vintage feel of it all…budget charm.

Bar to Belgrade, Montenegro to Serbia

This train has some wonderful mountain views as it travels from the Balkan coast in Montenegro, to the heart of Serbia. Sadly, the last hour of the journey was on a coach but the other nine we spent lounging in the wonderfully comfortable cabins and gazing through the murky windows at the view.

Read about Getting to Know Bar, Montenegro

The Trans-Siberian, China to Russia

Probably the most famous train ride in the world. Taking this epic journey, over 6,000 miles, surely has to be on every traveller’s bucket list. Whether it’s camping in a yurt in Mongolia, visiting gulags in the heart of Siberia or watching the snowy vista slip past, there are amazing experiences to be taken all along the way. Even just staying on the train you will have an ever-changing cast of interesting other people sharing your cabin. Read all about travelling on the Trans-Siberian here.

We finally got to ride these rails in January 2019 and it was freeeeeeeeezing outside and booooooooiling inside, but great fun! Read our Trans-Siberian Reflections – The Good, The Bad and The Yummy

The Blue Train, South Africa

There aren’t many places that I would splash out on a real luxury train, but South Africa really tickled my fancy. The Blue Train has suites with comfy armchairs, en-suite bathrooms and even a writing desk. It drips with the glamour of a bygone era. There are two lounge cars you can even try hand-rolled Cuban cigars! We spend an amazing couple of days on the Blue Train in August 2019 and it was amazing.

Read all about our two magical night on the Blue Train here.

Trains I Still Want to Take

Coast Starlight, West USA

I can’t drive and so road-tripping the USA becomes a little tricky. The train ride from Seattle to Los Angeles passes from mountains, down to the coast where it hugs the ocean. It can take 35 hours non-stop and so I would probably hop off in Portland, to enjoy some hipster coffee (if I hadn’t drunk my fill of Seattle’s most famous export).

The Devil’s Nose, Ecuador

This train ride is quite short, just two hours, but very exciting. It descends 500 metres in 12 km with a series of sharp switchbacks. It passes through cloud forest and so there’s fabulous flora and fauna passing just by your window the whole way down.

Tren Crucero, Ecuador

Another luxury train and this one is in Ecuador too! There isn’t a huge amount of train travel in South America which is why these trains are so very special. This is a seriously deluxe, heritage

Indian Pacific, Australia

How do you get from Sydney to Perth if you have four days to spare? You take the Indian Pacific! The pleasure of this train is all in riding the rails. For hours at a time, you may not see anyone, or anything out in the expanse stretching to the horizon. This is another journey that costs a pretty penny, If you are in the two higher class of cabin, you are required to dress in smart casual attire and bear in mind that despite the large luggage allowance, you can only have hand luggage when you’re actually on the train (the rest is stored elsewhere on the train).

Riviera Sleeper, UK

I am making plans to take this train later this summer. It goes from Paddington Station, West London, to Cornwall in the South-West of England. Taking a train to do a long walk that ends at a Rick Stein fish restaurant…yes, please! Plus, you can use your railcard so it shouldn’t cost an arm and a leg.

The Canadian

This train runs from coast to coast in Canada. That means it trundles over 2500 miles from Toronto to Vancouver. It passes some of Canada’s most stunning lakes and mountains and does so in lovely 1950s cars. It is surely the most relaxing and enjoyable way to travel from one side to the other!

Luxury Trains, India

Sure, we have been lucky enough to criss-cross India on many a train but never in luxury. If there is one country that can muster a sense of palatial luxury, it is India. There is something about the sumptuous colours, lashings of gold and truly indulgent food that speaks to us. Hopefully, we will have the chance to travel on one of the six amazing luxury trains that travel the sub-continent.

If you’ve enjoyed this article, why not read all about our train travels around the world

What has been your favourite rail journey? Do you have a dream of taking any around the world? Let me know in the comments.

Rosie xx

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42 thoughts on “Riding the Rails – The Joys of Train Travel

  1. Such a great post! Love trains too, it gives the opportunity to see more of the country. Love to do The Trans-Siberian route. Did your brother go and how did he find it?

    1. He changed his plans but just went coast to coast in the USA instead. He had an amazing time, and met some real characters πŸ™‚

      I think I am having night train withdrawal. I keep planning mini trips, that I can’t afford to take, in my head. I may travel up to Scotland or down to Cornwall here in the U.K. over the summer. Fingers crossed!!

  2. I haven’t done a single one of these. BUT I’m headed to SE Asia after the new year, so now I have a few to check out!

  3. I love taking train rides as opposed to planes too! I like that you don’t need to check in 3 hours prior (what a waste of time!) and that you get to see beautiful scenery along the way! I would love to take the one in Sri Lanka one day – I have seen so many beautiful photos of it!

  4. I completely agree that train travel is amazing. I can’t drive either, but I never mind because I can take a train. I very much enjoyed the shinkansen too! But it was neat seeing about all the other trains you’ve been on.

  5. All of this is so true! I love flying for the timing efficiency aspect, but trains allow you to see your surroundings. You have taken so many trains – I’m kind of jealous!

  6. Wow this is such an interesting post. I’d like to do the Reunification Express, Vietnam train trip as Vietnam is on my list for this year! I’ve done a fast train from London to Paris but Japan also sounds interesting!

  7. I wish I’d known about the Sydney to Perth railway sooner! Train travel feels so romantic and just relaxing. Although it’d be a long time to spend in a vehicle, I definitely agree with you and I loved hearing about all the places you’ve been by train! I’ve only been on shorter trips and from NYC to Boston. πŸ˜›

  8. I don’t drive either and so we rely on public transport wherever we go. Trains are definitely my favourite way to travel though. We did three in Thailand and in a few days are travelling to Kuala Lumpur from Singapore via train! We’ll be in Vietnam and Sri Lanka later this year so I’ll be sure to keep a note of your tips! πŸ™‚

  9. Hi! Me, as well, just love trains, maybe because I don’t like planes because I’m afraid of heights but other than that, as you said, the sightseeing from trains is just incomparable! Thank you so much for sharing your experiences in so many trains!

  10. I love that you’ve taken so many trains! It’s such a cool way to see parts of the country you’re in, that you wouldn’t otherwise. My partner and I recently returned home from Japan, and caught the Shinkansen 5 times! It’s such an awesome experience! Super fast and you definitely do get dizzy looking out the window for too long, haha. This was such a fun post to read!

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