Glenfinnan, Scotland (Image; Bigstock)
Journeys by Rail: Take a Train
If you are considering a self-guided tour for your next vacation, check out the options for rail travel with your travel professional. Touring by rail is not only convenient but can also take you places in comfort and style. The journey itself can easily be your vacation.
In the early twentieth century, train journeys were not only the norm but also the desired method of travel. Back then, just like in the ocean liners of the day, there were classes of travel. Regular fare put you in with the masses, uncomfortable and crowded. Today, though there are still different options, the standards of travel have changed recognizably, and regular fares (depending on the country) are quite acceptable. First class and luxury trains still have their benefits.
Let’s consider a few exceptional train tours from the Rockies in Canada to the famous Orient Express.
Touring Britain, or part thereof? Rather than struggling with unknown, and often very narrow roads off the beaten path, and – for North Americans – coping with driving on the “wrong” side of the road that a car rental brings, buying a rail pass is a no-brainer. Having toured Britain both ways, jumping on and off the train when and where I liked, travel was a breeze. With first class passes, our group of four had whole compartments or carriages to ourselves. If you prefer to mingle, regular rail travel is still superb. (A few trains did not have first class.)
British trains go almost everywhere you would want to go! Worried about the trains being on time? Remember you are on vacation. And with BritRail, you can currently get a deep discount for off-season travel. Price varies depending on the type of pass and date of travel but is quite economical. A Flexipass which allows days of travel per your choice during a fixed period is the recommended option for the free-spirited planner.
Image courtesy of Rocky Mountaineer.
There’s probably few more breathtakingly scenic areas than the Canadian Rockies. Traveling there by train, you can experience the wilderness – forests, lakes, and mountains – in a manner that you can not rival by car, especially if you are the driver!
Rocky Mountaineer specializes in creating train journeys in this often-inaccessible part of the world. With glass-domed carriages and a leisurely pace that lets you take in the 360-degree view, your neck will be on a swivel! Add to that: comfortable seating, gourmet meals paired with local wines and beers, and first-class service – and your journey is a pleasure. You can choose from a few days to almost two weeks guided tours with lots of stops to explore cities, towns and attractions along the way. A popular choice is to combine your visit to the Rockies with an Alaska cruise. Packages start at CA$1,629 and up, per person, plus GST, for a 2-day journey (current 2020 rates). Consult with your travel professional for any current offers and book ahead.
Leaving Pretoria Station
Rovos Rail touts itself as the most luxurious train in the world. In keeping with that, travel on board is limited to a small number of passengers, dress is more formal, and modern life is kept low-key – no televisions or radios here! Dine on gourmet traditional, often local game-based, recipes with South African wine. Ambiance is Edwardian, and opulent. There are observation cars for viewing, but you can also relax in the lounge car with open windows to bring Africa “in” close. Even the least expensive suites on board have adjoining bathrooms with all modern conveniences. There are various destination and theme packages available as well as private hire. Imagine a 3-day safari or golfing tour! Or an 11-day journey to Victoria Falls. It’s an incredible way to see this part of Africa, and an unforgettable rail experience. The fare, well let’s quote the old saying, “if you have to ask, you probably can’t afford it” but what a dream vacation!
A carriage on the Venice Simplon-Orient Express
Hop aboard the Venice Simplon-Orient Express (Belmond) to experience 1920’s style luxury and the original route famous in literature and history. Decorated in Art-Deco, it is a step-back in time with vintage-inspired cabins, dining and entertainment. There are “bar” cars, several dining cars each with their unique styling, a boutique, and more. Because the line has been kept true to the original, modern facilities such as showers and hair dryers are not available, no ensuite baths, and if heating is required, it is provided by small coal stoves in each car. One modern touch: there is air conditioning. Dress is smart casual, and evening attire semi-formal to formal.
There are various routes available from London to Istanbul, and the journeys can be relatively short depending on your package, starting at just one day. The Paris-Istanbul (or reverse) happens only once per year and is a six-day package of which three are on board the train. Pricing for that journey starts at £15,500 and up per person, double occupancy (current 2020 at date of publication) but fares can be as low as a few thousand pounds per person, single, London to Paris. Room service is additional to fares, hotel stays and transfers are included depending on the route. Discounts are available for frequent travelers and off season. As in all forms of travel, check with your travel professional at this agency.
A journey by rail is an oft forgotten form of vacation but well worth it for the experience alone.