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5 Reasons Why Traveling by Rail is the Best Way to See Europe

Trim travel costs, tap into the local culture and enjoy striking landscapes by train.

U.S. News & World Report

5 Reasons Why Traveling by Rail is the Best Way to See Europe

A Young Woman Riding In A Train

Taking the rail can be an affordable, convenient and comfortable way to explore many destinations across Europe.(Rowan Gillson / Design Pics/ Getty Images)

Traveling Europe by train allows you to immerse yourself in different cultures and see multiple countries with the ease of one rail pass. You can travel from Brussels to Paris in one hour, pass through charming hidden towns, take a night train in Germany and wake up in Sweden. And best of all, you can explore at your pace. Here are five reasons why exploring Europe by rail is a great way to travel and some smart tips to get the most out of your trip.

1. You'll Travel Like a Local

Traveling across Europe by train is an especially popular mode of transportation among Europeans. In fact, traveling by rail is so popular that many trains sell out of tickets weeks in advance. Besides the convenience factor, taking the train allows you to avoid a lengthy airport check-in process or slow security line, and allows you to enjoy spectacular landscapes throughout the journey.

2. A Rail Pass Allows You to Travel at Your Own Pace

By picking up a rail pass, you can often take advantage of unlimited train travel across Europe for several days or even months, depending on the pass you purchase. If you want to explore multiple destinations within one country, consider obtaining a Eurail One Country Pass. Or, if you want to travel farther afield, consider picking up a Eurail Regional Pass to travel within two bordering countries. Alternatively, a Eurail Select Pass allows you to travel within four bordering countries, such as Germany, Italy, Spain and France. If you would rather visit remote destinations, consider purchasing a Global Pass, which grants unlimited travel to 28 countries. You can purchase a Global Pass that offers rail travel for 10 to 15 days within a two-month period or a continuous pass that's valid for 15 or 21 days or a one-, two- or three-month period. And aside from seamless travel to multiple places across Europe, Eurail passes also often yield discounted train tickets on Eurostar, which operates between London, Belgium and France.

3. You'll Discover Hidden Gems

Picture yourself sitting in your seat enjoying a dramatic mountain scene, breathtaking coastline or a quaint town in Italy. This is the beauty of traveling Europe via rail. And, if you are most interested in taking in striking backdrops by train than getting from point A to B, there are many scenic routes to choose from. For example, one popular route is the Bergen Railway in Norway. This train takes passengers through Bergen and Oslo, allowing riders to experience Norwegian fjords, waterfalls, frozen lakes and mountains.

4. High-Speed Trains Are Quick and Hassle-Free

When you factor in getting to the airport, checking-in to your flight and going through a long security line, it's easy to see how traveling by rail is sometimes an easier and more convenient option than flying. Plus, most trains drop passengers off in the center of town and usually within close proximity of tourist offices, which is particularly helpful if you're traveling to a country where you don't know the language.

Also, high-speed trains in Europe are quick and efficient. For instance, the AVE high-speed train in Spain goes upwards of 193 miles per hour and gets passengers from Barcelona to Madrid in only two and half hours.

5. You Can Save Money on Your Travel Expenses

Booking night trains can help you trim down travel costs without compromising on comfort. For one thing, you don't have to worry about paying for a pricey hotel room. And for another, you can book a night train with luxuries like reclining seats and private sleeping cars with personal bathrooms. The Intercités de Nuit night train, for example, takes riders from Paris to the French Riviera, allowing you to wake up on the pristine coastline and turquoise Mediterranean waters of the Côte d'Azur without breaking the bank.

Know Before You Go

Before you book your rail pass, compare the benefits of each type of rail pass. Also, keep in mind that by booking far in advance, you can often get rail passes on sale. In addition, you can often secure better bargains if you're traveling with companions. For example, groups of two to five passengers can receive a 15 percent price reduction by purchasing a Saver Pass. You can also take advantage of free trip-planning assistance online, including suggested itineraries and information on secret gems. It's also a smart idea to download the handy Rail Planning App, which offers timetables without requiring an Internet connection.

Tags: travel, Europe

About En Route

Practical advice on the art of traveling smarter with tips, tricks and intel from En Route's panel of experts.

Contributors have experience in areas ranging from family travel, adventure travel, experiential travel and budget travel to hotels, cruises and travel rewards and include Amy Whitley, Claire Volkman, Holly Johnson, Marsha Dubrow, Lyn Mettler, Sery Kim, Kyle McCarthy, Erica Lamberg, Jess Moss, Sheryl Nance-Nash, Sherry Laskin, Katie Jackson, Erin Gifford, Roger Sands, Steve Larese, Gwen Pratesi, Erin Block, Dave Parfitt, Kacey Mya, Kimberly Wilson, Susan Portnoy, Donna Tabbert Long and Kitty Bean Yancey.

Edited by Liz Weiss.

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