Traveling through Europe by train is sustainable, relaxing, inexpensive, fun and adventurous! Europe has no less than two hundred thousand kilometers of railways to discover. A new adventure starts at every station. And with every country, because with the Interrail pass you can travel to no less than 33 European countries by train. You can read more about why traveling through Europe by train is attractive in this article.
Historic places, bustling cities, quaint villages, mountains, forest, beach… And there are so many different places to admire when you travel through Europe by train!
In this article
1: Traveling through Europe by train is sustainable
Train is the most climate-friendly way to travel. Unless you go walking or cycling, but that is (unrealistically much) more time-consuming and intensive for longer distances. By train you can see a lot in a relatively short time, without unnecessarily burdening the environment. After all, we only have x number of vacation days a year and we want to see something, don’t we? Just like by bus, you travel by train with several people at the same time, which makes a big difference anyway.
Transport is an important – if not the most important – factor with which you, as a traveler, burden the climate with CO2 emissions. For example, a one-way ticket from Amsterdam to Paris by plane produces about 260 kilos of CO2 emissions. While making the same journey by train only produces 30 kilos of CO2 emissions. That makes a difference of more than 88%. With a trip from Amsterdam to Barcelona you emit 5 times as much by plane as if you would travel by train.
In Europe, only 7% of passengers are transported by train. Despite the fact that traveling by train is climate-friendly!
According to some sources, the difference in CO2 emissions from air travel vs. train is not more than 75%, but that also depends on the distance you travel. In short flights, a relatively large amount is emitted per mile or kilometer traveled. After all, taking off an airplane consumes the most fuel. If you were to replace traveling by car for traveling through Europe by train, the C02 gain would be a maximum of 66%, partly depending on the type of fuel. So a big climate gain!
Many European train companies are working on climate innovations. For example, all German long-distance trains are electric and more and more stations are becoming climate neutral. In The Netherlands, all electric trains run on green energy from wind turbines. Trains in Switzerland and Sweden run on hydroelectric power. And so on. To conclude, they are doing pretty well!
2: Traveling Europe by train is relaxing
When you travel by car, you have to constantly pay attention. Navigating, driving in traffic jams, watching out for fellow road users and speed cameras… Driving can be quite tiring and sometimes even frustrating or stressful. Especially as a driver. Being in a rush is really a disadvantage of traveling by car. While you really need that relaxing holiday after all that stress at work.
When you travel by train, you can quietly read the newspaper or a book. Just stare outside and enjoy the beautiful views that pass you by. Or blogging, just like I do now.
Of course you want to catch a certain train, and you may have to buy a ticket, so that can be a moment of stress. But once you’re seated, you can relax in your seat while the train driver takes the train to your destination. Personally, I find train rides of at least an hour to be the most relaxing.
Arriving at the station on time also saves a lot of stress. And when you travel with an Interrail pass, you don’t have to get separate train tickets at every station. That also saves hassle. Relax!
3: Traveling through Europe by train is cheap
With the rapidly rising fuel costs for cars and airline tickets, traveling through Europe by train is becoming an increasingly affordable alternative. To be fair, the cost of a separate train ticket also rises every year, but not nearly as strongly as the fuel prices now. Not to mention the planned tripling of the flight tax on Amsterdam-Schiphol airport for instance.
The difference in price increases the earlier you book and/or a rail pass. Moreover, the price of a train ticket is much lower in many European countries than in The Netherlands.
If you want to travel through Europe by train for more than three days, the Interrail only becomes interesting from a cost perspective. A train pass can be a lot cheaper than buying individual train tickets. It also depends on your age, the distances and the countries you want to travel. You can also get discounts on other things with an Interrail pass, such as ferries and the Hard Rock Café.
It is also advantageous that you do not have to queue for the ticket machine or ticket counter at the station. You can easily book a train ride via the Interrail app. And let’s not forget that by train, unlike the car, you don’t have to pay tolls or fines! Provided you have bought a train ticket of course…
And sometimes less…
Pay attention to which trains you take. This applies not only when you travel with the Interrail pass, but also, for example, when you travel through Japan by train with the JR Pass. Many journeys are included, but there are always exceptions. For a number of European trains you need to reserve a seat or berth, such as high-speed trains and night trains. Additional costs are charged for this.
To keep your trip as affordable as possible, you can of course simply choose to avoid such trains. A night on the train also saves costs for an overnight stay elsewhere. Or your night’s sleep, if like me you can’t sleep as well on a train.
4: Traveling through Europe by train is fun
Whether you are traveling with a group of friends, a travel buddy, your partner, child(ren) or alone, traveling by train can be a lot of fun. Going on an adventure together, chatting, looking each other deeply in the eye… But don’t be too fussy, so that other passengers are not inconvenienced by you. Then we keep it cozy and pleasant traveling for everyone. Tip: bring a travel game!
For solo travelers, traveling through Europe by train can also be a fun way to meet new people. Don’t be naive and don’t just go along with everyone. But there will undoubtedly be more travelers like you, who like to have a chat, exchange travel tips, etc. Just like in a hostel, that’s how you meet someone! You can also get a discount if you travel through Europe with an Interrail pass.
5: Traveling Europe by train is easy
No driver’s license or own car? You’re not the only one. It is estimated that about 39% of adult Dutch people do not have a B driving license. Especially young people often do not (yet). And about half of the Dutch do not have their own car. Young people, residents of large cities such as Amsterdam, climate-conscious people, etc.
Then traveling by train or an Interrail pass offers a solution. That is easier than getting your driver’s license or buying a car. Moreover, due to global scarcity, rental cars are becoming more and more expensive, if not almost unaffordable for many people.
6: Traveling through Europe by train is adventurous
Every country is different. Europe has so many beautiful places! Traveling around Europe by train is something different than by car or plane. You will undoubtedly have a lot of beautiful moments and places. So that’s pretty adventurous already, isn’t it? Who knows, it might be your first solo trip, exciting!
The degree of flexibility you can maintain for traveling by train through Europe, for example with the Interrail pass, does depend on a number of factors. A train ride back and forth to Leuven for a weekend trip is different from a tour of 6 European countries in 4 weeks during the summer holidays. That requires a little more planning. Especially if it matters a lot to you which countries you are going to visit, you travel in high season, you have a limited budget, how long it takes you to travel by train, etc.
Plan or on spec?
Traveling on spec through Europe by train is also possible, but it is possible, especially in high season, that certain trains turn out to be fully booked. The more flexible you are, the more adventurous the journey can become. Planning your adventurous train journey can be part of the anticipation. The choice is yours!
It is easier to travel on schedule in some European countries than in others. In Scandinavia, for example, trains can be fully booked weeks in advance during the day. I myself had to wait many hours for a train from Seville to Jerez de la Frontera. What I hadn’t realized beforehand is that October 12 is Fiesta Nacional de España, Spain’s national holiday, on which apparently many people travel by train to family or friends… The same often applies to high-speed trains. While in Eastern Europe it is almost always possible to get a place. I have never had to book a train in advance in Poland or the Czech Republic.
Anyway, a bit of thinking in advance about the trip you want to make can in any case not hurt. It can also save a lot of time and hassle on the spot if you go prepared. So you can enjoy your train adventure more!
Try not to plan your trip through Europe by train too full. I appreciate when people are enthusiastic about getting the most out of their trip, but don’t overdo it. I would really advise against wanting to see 10 countries in 2 weeks for example. But that depends on the mode of transport. Traveling through Europe by train is not a race. Although you can get from A to B quite quickly with a high-speed train, especially in Japan. In Europe, the fastest train is the TGV in France, which travels up to 320 km/h! Pretty cool, isn’t it?
On the website of NS International you can book train tickets from The Netherlands to/in for example:
- NS Hispeed (NL)
- Thalys (via Brussels to Paris Nord)
- ICE / ICE International (Germany)
- Eurostar (from Rotterdam via Brussels to London)
- IC Brussel / InterCity Brussels (Belgium)
- IC Berlijn / InterCity Berlin (Germany)
- City Nightline (Switzerland night train)
- TGV (France)
- Interrail (Europe pass)
Would you like to know more about traveling through Europe by train with the Interrail pass? Check out the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page about Interrail Europe, where you will find answers to questions such as:
- Which Interrail rail passes are there?
- How long can you travel with an Interrail pass?
- How much does an Interrail pass cost?
- When and how much do you pay for seat reservation?
Traveling by train is traveling like the locals do! In this way you see a lot of daily life in a country.
Some of the arguments in this article may be a little contradictory. For example, it may be slightly cheaper by bus than traveling through Europe by train. However, on average, traveling through Europe by train is even more climate-friendly than by bus. Also attracts a different audience I think. I hope this article helps you to make an informed choice that suits your travel needs. Feel free to leave a comment below this article, additional tips, etc. and feel free to share it on social media. Have a nice trip!
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- Why I do not want to travel to all countries world-wide, particularly not North Korea
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Last Updated on 11/08/2022 by Elisa Flitter Fever