Slow-mo is the new FOMO – Whether it’s day trips or overnight train journeys, get ready to experience breathtaking sights on these amazing rail travels!
Not only is rail transportation one of the most carbon-efficient ways to travel, it’s also one of the rising travel trends of 2020!
What better way than to take in magnificent sights and rest in the comfort of your train carriage? If that sounds good, hop on this train and sit tight as we take you on a ride of the best rail holidays you can have in the world!
Why Should I Consider Rail Travel?
The environmental benefits of rail travel are enormous and in terms of carbon emissions, it’s far better than flights. Take a look at the comparison between a commercial flight and a Eurostar rail for a London-Paris trip:
|Commercial flight||Eurostar rail|
|Carbon Emission (CO2) per Passenger||122.1kg||15.8kg|
|Time||3h 3m||3h 25m|
A trip from London to Paris via the high speed Eurostar rail only emits 15.8kg of CO2 per passenger, while an airplane emits 122.1kg of CO2 per passenger – more than seven times the amount! What’s more, the duration for both is similar: Eurostar rail takes 3 hours and 25 minutes, while the flight only shaves off a measly 22 minutes.
But I digress. This guide is all about taking it slow and easy; rail travel is the best way to do that!
Day Trips: Best Rail Holidays & Train Journeys
1) Bernina Express, Switzerland (Day Trip)
What’s so good about it: The Bernina Express is arguably the most scenic train ride you’ll ever take in your entire life. It winds through the Alps, picturesque alpine forests, majestic castles, quaint European towns, and icy glaciers, among many other sights. The route goes through many cute European towns and you can choose to get off any one of them depending on your ticket choice. For the best value though, do the entire journey, from Chur to Lugano.
What to expect: There’s a free infotainment system that doubles up as a digital guide, and there’s food carts going around in case you want the munchies.
When’s the best time to travel: Spring is the best time to travel because of the cool temperatures, abundant sunlight, and beautiful blooms. Try to get a window seat during this 4-hour ride because the reason you got on this train is for the views.
How much is it: Tickets start from 88 francs (~S$126), but you can always check out their website for more offers.
2) The Jacobite, UK (Day Trip)
What’s so good about it: Many would know this as the Hogwarts Express, but how many of you could put the actual name to it? While The Jacobite is most known for its epic scene in Harry Potter, there are other things to appreciate as well – take in the vast Scottish lowlands, pass by the deepest freshwater and seawater lochs in the UK, and even the quaint interior of the train, as pictured in the Harry Potter series.
What to expect: If you pony up the pounds to upgrade to First Class, you’ll be able to purchase The Jacobite Cream Tea – an English tea set with the most scrumptious of English pastries. If you got Second Class tickets however, worry not, because you can also bougie it up with purchasable champagne, chocolates, and flowers.
When is the best time to travel: The Jacobite is only open for 6 months from April to October. The return journey is about two hours. During this period, there are two sessions: morning and afternoon, and they have specific periods as to when they operate. Generally, we recommend going with the morning service because you’ll get to make the most out of the sunlight to capture better views and do more activities during the stopover in Mallaig.
How much is it: Tickets start from £36 (~S$65) for a one-way ticket, while return starts from £43 (~S$78).
3) Bergensbanen, Norway (Day Trip)
What’s so good about it: You have to give credit to the engineers and construction workers of The Bergensbanen. They’ve endured the near-inhospitable Norwegian terrain and weather to build the line during the 19th century to give you the experience of riding on the highest train line in Northern Europe. There are multiple stops, the highest being Finse, a town that’s 1,222m above sea level. While you’re on your way to Bergen, you’ll be treated to Norwegian fjords via the Flåm line, vast lowlands, and remote tundras.
What to expect: Because this is a 7-hour journey (one-way), there’s a dedicated dining car. Also, the facilities are really clean!
When is the best time to travel: It’s recommended to commence the journey in the daytime to see what Norway’s nature has to offer. There are three trains that depart from Oslo, the earliest being 8:25am, while the latest is at 3:32pm. The earliest train in Bergen departs at 7:57am, while the latest departs at 3:57pm.
How much is it: Return journeys cost 1,298 kr (~S$187) but if I were you, I’d just top up another 200 kr (~S$29) for the Comfort seats. This is a 7-hour journey after all!
Overnight Trips: Best Rail Holidays & Train Journeys
4) The Canadian, Canada (Overnight)
What’s so good about it: The Canadian is an epic 4-day, 3-night journey that traverses 4,466km of temperate Canadian landscape. The great thing about the North American continent is not only do you get the typical mountain and forest views, you also get views of deep canyons. The scheduled stop at Jasper lasts for 1h 30mins for servicing, and during this period, you’re encouraged to stretch your legs and walk around the town. At Jasper, you’ll find the Jasper Raven Totem Pole, an homage to the Native Americans who have inhabited the land for a millennia.
What to expect: Think of this as a hotel on wheels – there’s a cafe, free Wi-Fi, and entertainment system for everyone. If you choose the Sleeper Plus class ticket, you get access to the shower facilities, business lounge, activities for kids, and meals are provided for!
When is the best time to travel: If you’re all about the views, the best time to travel would be during spring as you get abundant daylight and beautiful blooms. Fora cheaper alternative, winter is the off-season but there isn’t much sunlight to go around. Also, Canadian winters are brutal, temperatures can go below -20°C, so you’ll want to pack a good coat at least.
How much is it: Economy fares start from C$454 (~S$478) for the entire journey but we don’t recommend it because you don’t get access to shower facilities and you’ll be sleeping on a reclining chair for 4 days. I’ll rather pony up for Sleeper Plus class because of the privileges mentioned above, as well as your own bed to sleep on. This will set you back at least C$1476 (~S$1,554) but you can check for last-minute deals that go up to 50% off!
5) The Ghan (Overnight)
What’s so good about it: The Australian Outback might sound like a hard place to many, but The Ghan promises to change that. This 3-day, 2-night journey treads the harsh Outback, from Darwin to Adelaide, with a lot of decadence and luxuries.
What to expect: Included in the cheapest fare are 10 off-train experiences centered around the Australian outback, the most interesting of which is visiting the Umoona Opal Mine and Museum, where you get to learn more of Australia’s national gemstone and the artifacts that they were carved from. There are also three outdoor barbecue dinners included as well, and a cabin to yourself!
When is the best time to travel: Avoid the summer season, or wildfire season, which is from December to February. Also, the transition months of November and March might prove a tad too scorching for many, so I’d avoid those too.
How much is it: Tickets start from A$1,919 (~S$1,771) and that gets you the luxuries mentioned above, as well as 7 meals – 3 of which are the outdoor barbecue dinners. The cabins are well-appointed and maintained. If you’re hawk-eyed, you’ll want to check on this page for the latest offers.
6) The Trans-Siberian, Russia (Overnight)
What’s so good about it: The Trans-Siberian is the longest train journey in the world, at a staggering 9,286km. It crosses 10 different time zones and it takes a week to complete. Due to the distance, you’ll be exposed to different geographical landscapes – from the isolated tundras and deciduous forests in Siberia, to the towering Altai mountains and the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Lake Baikal. At 25 million years old and 1,700m deep, Lake Baikal is the oldest and deepest freshwater lake in the world!
What to expect: If you pick Second or Third Class tickets, you won’t get access to a shower. It’s also worth upgrading to First Class because you won’t be on the same train throughout and First Class almost always comes with a power socket. Some trains come with Wi-Fi too, but it really depends if you get the newer trains or not.
When is the best time to travel: It’s a recurring theme here – you’ll want to travel during spring if you want the views, but if you want cheap prices, go during winter. Also, because this is Siberia, you’ll get extreme weather. Travel during summer and you’ll find that you’ll be getting very short nights; travel during winter and you’ll get very short days. Also, it’s recommended that you stretch the trip over 2 or 3 weeks so that you get to rest and walk around a little, if you can juggle lots of tickets.
How much is it: You can’t really buy direct from the Russian train provider’s site so you’ll have to go through an agent. I found Real Russia, an agent website that’s highly accoladed that’s based in the UK, and tickets start from £425 (~S$772).
Enjoy a travel experience with no fees worldwide!