At one time, traveling by railroad was the best way for a first-class experience. Today, fewer people ride the rails, as it is often easier and more luxurious to fly. Did you know, though, that you can still find complete sightseeing vacation packages that have you travel via private railcar? These experiences can be quiet rewarding, allowing you to actually see the countryside and interesting tourist destinations without having to drive yourself. If you are interested in a private railcar journey, check out the following options for a unique travel experience:
The Orient Express
Contrary to its name, the famous Orient Express was actually a trans-Europe journey to the gateway of Asia: Istanbul, Turkey. You may be familiar with the romanticized tale of this famous journey from novels and movies such as Bram Stoker’s Dracula or Agatha Christie’s 1934 Murder on the Orient Express. Travellers could start in London, cross the English Channel and board the train in Paris, travelling through Munich, Vienna, and Budapest, Hungary. From Budapest they could choose the route from Belgrade (Serbia) to Athens, or alternately, through Bucarest, Romania, to Constantinople – what is now Istanbul, Turkey. From Turkey or Greece, world leisure travelers could opt to continue their journey by boat or other trains to destinations in the Middle East, India and beyond.
Today you can relive a taste of the past through at least one company that operates service along some of the same rail lines in restored vintage rail carriages. The Venice-Simplon Orient Express offers regular trips from London to Venice and less frequent trips between Venice and Istanbul. The same travel company also offers similarly-themed rail vacations in Malaysia/Thailand and across Australia.
The Trans-Siberian Railway
Another Europe to Asia rail journey is the Trans-Siberian Railway. This is the longest continuous rail line in the world, running over six thousand miles. You can start your seven-day journey in Moscow and see the countryside and a number of Russian and Asian cities on your way to Vladivostok, or you can opt for a much longer trip, with stops in locations like Irkutsk and Lake Baikal. Most people tend to think of a vacation as a trip to somewhere warm and sunny, but this railcar journey takes you into a beautiful winter paradise instead.
The Blue Train, Africa
Luxurious fine dining and unique African scenery come together on The Blue Train. Running through South Africa, this train is all about five-star luxury. The private cars are perfect for guests who like the finer things in life, and the dinner service, complete with fine local wines, is second to none. You can, of course, expect to pay more for a journey on The Blue Train, but overall, the experience is well worth the money.
Canada and the Canadian Rockies
VIA Rail of Canada likes to boast of « The Most Spectacular Train Trip in the World, » and they might be right. If you choose the full cross-continent journey across the world’s second largest country, you will experience a wide range of terrains from forests and farmland, rolling prairies and lake sides, to the majestic Canadian Rockies. On some trips you sleep on the train, while others you ride the train by day and stop for land tours and then stay overnight in a luxury hotel. The full-blown Coast to Coast vacation is 16 nights and 17 days – but well worth it if you have the time. Canada offers a rich variety of natural wonders and hospitality as well.
South America and the Andes
PeruRail is one of the highest railroad lines in the entire world, and these routes take travelers to a variety of destinations, including Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley, Lake Titicaca, and the historic city of Cuzco. The spectacular views from your railcar alone are worth the trip, and if you love culture, this is a great way to explore the ancient world of the Incas.
Almost all countries in the world, including India, Canada, Spain, Mexico, and, of course, the United States, offer railway tours. While some, like the Tran-Siberian and others listed above, can take up your entire one to two week vacation, others are great for simple day trips, or even just afternoon trips. For example, the scenic Stroudsburg Railroad on the east coast of the United States takes you into Pennsylvania farm country over just a short afternoon ride. Opportunities like this are available around the world. So, even if you do not want to spend your entire time on a train, you can add a railcar journey as part of your vacation.
When booking a trip by rail, keep in mind that not all trains offer private options. If you plan to make this the bulk of your journey, make sure that the railcar you are booking will allow for you to have a bit of privacy with your travel companions. Some trains only offer traditional seating, which can be uncomfortable and cramped on longer trips. Also, make sure you check on the accommodations for sleeping and eating. Although many lines offer eating and sleeping facilities, for some, this is about function not comfort. If you want a luxury vacation, make sure you do your research and choose a true five-star option.
The world is changing. With our fast-paced daily lives, most people are looking for the quickest way to get from point A to point B. Sometimes, though, the actual travel is the best part of the vacation. Do not overlook rail travel when planning your next vacation. If you are not sure which rail journey is right for you, work with a travel agent. Although we typically think of a travel agent as someone who plans cruises and resort vacations, they can also help you book a private railcar journey. These train trips can help you make memories that last a lifetime.