Train travel in Europe is easy. For example, take this summer, when World Traveling Mom lived for 6 weeks in Austria. From her home base in Graz, it was easy to jump on a train and travel inexpensively to other parts of Austria, like Vienna and Salzburg. Also, international train travel was easy. Her family took trains from Austria to Budapest, Hungary and to Ljubljana, Slovenia. They even took a train from their apartment directly to the train station. Seriously, door-to-door travel is inexpensive, clean, efficient. And relaxing.
Travel by train in Europe is my favorite way to explore. Train travel in Europe is clean, fast, inexpensive, and punctual.
Train Travel in Europe: Fast and Inexpensive
In Europe, I have to pay a hefty extra fee to rent an automatic car because I can’t drive a stick. While renting a car in Europe can be pricey, train travel in Europe is inexpensive.
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For example, the train from Vienna to Graz, Austria covers 125 miles in less than 2 ½ hours and costs about $30. From Graz to Ljubljana, Slovenia covers 150 miles in a little over 3 hours and costs $36. (And for why you want to visit Ljubljana, click here).
Great Way to See the Country
Train travel in Europe can be a wonderful way to get a sense of a country outside the areas we are staying in. While I wouldn’t want to stop at each farm, ski hill, or village in the green rolling hills of the Austrian countryside, I loved watching them zip by my window.
Train Travel in Europe is Relaxing
Fresh brewed cappuccino, check. Delivered directly to my comfy reclining seat, check. With sandwiches ordered from a menu – now, that’s nice service.
Whether we traveled economy, business, or first class, on Austrian trains a friendly waitress took our order at our seats. Then, she brought drinks and food directly to us. For a $20 upgrade to business class, we got more legroom, better head and leg rests, complimentary bottled water, and a full menu of hot food options that arrived at our seats in real dishes. While we didn’t try it out, several trains had dining cars. With tablecloths.
Enjoying Downtime on a Train
Train travel in Europe means the journey to the next place is a chance to enjoy downtime. On a train, if we want to read, we read. If we want to take pictures, nap, or alternate enjoying the view with surfing the web, we can do that too. Although internet access was spotty in the mountains, Austrian and Slovenian trains we took had free wifi.
Train Travel in Europe is Less Stressful Than Driving
Forget wrong turns, unexpected traffic, or getting lost. Thankfully, the logistics of train travel in Europe are straightforward.
For example, in Austria, the train company OBB publishes its website in English. Just click on the British flag to see train schedules and other information English.
Each time we took a train in Europe this summer, few days in advance, we went online to buy our tickets. If we wanted, we paid a few dollars extra for assigned seats. We showed up at Austrian train stations about a half-hour before departure to get our tickets printed. Then we had time to savor a coffee and a pastry before getting on the train.
Austrian trains let us board about 20 minutes before departure. Austrian trains also announce information in both German and English. Compared to the zaniness of boarding Amtrak in Penn Station in New York, boarding a train in Europe is civilized.
Similarly, my family has enjoyed no-stress logistics on trains in France, Spain, and Slovenia. For example, last summer in France, the high-speed train zipped us across the country. It took less than 4 hours to travel from Paris to Arles in the south of France, a distance of 465 miles. Several years ago, traveling from Seville, Spain to Madrid, our high speed train seats had individual screens that showed movies in English. And it took less than 3 hours to cover 325 miles. I wish American trains were so fast, clean, and inexpensive.
However, not all train travel in Europe is so easy. For example, the train station in Budapest confused us when we visited this summer. Unlike Austrian train stations, which translate announcements into English, Budapest did not. We had to scramble to figure out why our train was missing. Luckily, a friendly Hungarian passenger explained that our train was late and told us where it would arrive.