Reflecting on our recent 5 week journey through Europe – Switzerland, France & Italy – my wife and I agreed our decision to choose a train for all of our intercity travel, and most of our day trips, was a major contributor to what proved to be a thoroughly enjoyable and hassle free trip.
Our first and best decision was to rely heavily on the advice of a European based train expert, Andy Brabin, email . For his A$80 consultancy fee, Andy provided many great suggestions in line with the brief we gave, as well as advice on the many discount and travel cards available, when to buy, and the best apps to use.
Along with our Seniors discount, the Swiss Half Fare pass proved to be a great buy and included 50% discounts on all our Swiss train travel , as well as the cable car to the top of Mt Titlis and a lake cruise from Lucerne to Rapperswill. Apart from the Gotthard Pass Line, which was stunningly beautiful, we travelled second class all the time, and could see no reason to pay the extra for first class.
When booking our accommodation, mainly relying on Trip Adviser reviews, we chose boutique hotels in the “old town” which meant we were always close to the train station.
As an example of the time efficiency of train travel, within 20 minutes of leaving our hotel room in Lucerne, we were sitting on the train to Chalon in France, luggage safely in view, wondering why we’d ever choose the time consuming and security-intense alternative of planes. Even our longest trip from Nice to Venice took no more time than would have been required for the taxi rides to and from the airports, queues to book in, queues for security checks, waiting at luggage carousels and the extra time allocated ”just in case”.
Based on our experience over many train experiences, the one caveat to be aware of is the amount of luggage you travel with, if you intend to use a lot of trains. If as a couple you require 100kgs of luggage, or your big case weighs more that you can lift, you will have some difficulty.
Overall, we started this latest trip mildly concerned that we may have been over-committed to trains, but arrived home more convinced than ever of train’s many advantages in terms of cost, time and relaxed sight-seeing enjoyment.