A rail holiday through Europe is such a wonderful summer experience – trains are much more comfortable and relaxed than air travel, making the whole “getting there is party of the fun” a truism.  However, this year there are a couple of significant changes to those popular rail passes available for holidaymakers.

  • France has opted out of some rail passes.  This post explains it – in short, it’s kind of complicated, and it’s a huge problem considering you need to go through France to get to a lot of places on the rail network!
  • Turkey is now part of the rail pass network, meaning you can literally go from Great Britain all the way to Asia on a rail pass.  (That is one heck of a rail journey though – I’m not sure I would be up for it.)

Trains in France are run by SNCF, who has partially pulled out of the rail pass network.

Given all the additions and subtractions going on in the pass network, I’d like to share some creative ideas for holidays you might want to consider this summer.  It all depends on whether you want to include a flight in your trip (which of course, depending on where you live, adds cost), and what you’re looking for in your trip.

  • Explore Turkey:  There’s no rail connection into Turkey (it’s being built), so you might as well fly there.  But once there, how about a rail journey around the country? Some high speed lines include Instabul to Ankara, and Ankara to Konya, but other cities like Ephesus, Konya, Mersin, and Samsun are all on the rail network.  And these days, rail travel is comparable to Turkey’s famed bus network.
  • Northeastern Explorer:  Here’s a rail journey in northeast Europe that hits 3 of my favourite cities, and one I haven’t seen yet:  start in Helsinki, then head around the gulf to St Petersburg (yes, Russia), then back across in Estonia for a visit to quaint Tallinn, and then if you have the time, head south to Riga.  (If you’re short on time, you can take a ferry from Tallinn back to Helsinki and then catch a return flight home.)
  • Madrid Daytripper:  Madrid is a favourite city of mine in Spain, and with a variety of high speed options, you can cover  lots of ground and yet remain in Madrid each night.  Toledo, Segovia, and El Escorcial are my top 3 suggestions, but there are many other smaller towns as well to choose from.

Are you considering a European rail trip this year?  Where will you go?

Photos by LWY & Phil Richards

Andy Hayes

Andy Hayes is based in sunny Portland, Oregon. When not soaking up the Pacific Northwest lifestyle or enjoying life on the road, he works on his own lifestyle publication, Plum Deluxe.

Posted : Tuesday, April 30th, 2013 at 10:00
Category : Holiday Tips
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