The best no-flight travel tips for getting around Europe by train, from an insider

Catherine Livesley is a sustainable travel expert who has traveled nearly every country in Europe by road. She has established Dream Tours for some of the world’s leading sustainable rail and travel companies and has worked as a consultant for independent travel companies. She is the founder of No Fly Travel Club, the tour operator and travel club.

While working as a tailor-made travel specialist, frequent flights were as much a part of my life as a beer after work. But when the pandemic hit, I had to stay on the ground much longer than expected. This slowed the revelation. Growing concerned about the climate crisis, it became clear that my flying habits had to change. Not only that – I wanted to help others make the change, too.

In November 2020, I quit my job to start No Fly Travel Clubusing my experience of road travel to help others switch wings on the railroad.

We specialize in road trips that start and end in the UK – as well as offer a membership club for those looking for flightless travel advice and inspiration.

If you’re looking to lower your carbon footprint without controlling your adventures, here’s all the lowdown on how to travel to Europe without flights.

Train travel is great value for everyone – but especially one type of traveler

When planning a road trip, ask yourself these two questions: How much time do I have and what kind of vacation do I want?

Are you looking for a city hop? Stroll in beautiful surroundings? Or just relaxing on the beach?

The more you plan in advance, the cheaper your trip will be. Ideally, you should book trains two to three months in advance. This will give you the best option at the lowest price.

Another way to save money is to be flexible with dates. For the best deals aim to travel outside of school holidays and weekends. For multi-legged flights, it should also be considered whether a file Interrail pass It will be cheaper in the end.

With a little inside knowledge, train travel can be especially economical for families, since many train operators offer free and discounted child seats.

Taking a train with children can be much cheaper than flights

Most European train companies offer free tickets for children (exact age limits vary but may be up to 6 years old). There is no need to buy a ticket – just buy a ticket for any other passenger and take your children with you on the flight.

If you want to reserve a seat for your young children, you can do so with the “Child Seat Supplement” from only €9 per person.

Some trains in France, Italy and Switzerland have wagons specially designed as play areas, so that children can run freely.

For children under 12, discounts are usually around 50 percent off the discount. Simply add the ages of each passenger when booking and you’ll see the prices automatically. This is especially useful if you are traveling on a night train as you can secure all the beds in the cabin for your family at a reduced rate. It’s a great way to take advantage of the extra privacy that rail travel provides.

How to travel to the best destinations

France – the land of cheese, wine and idyllic villages

France has spent decades investing in its high-speed rail network, perfect for exploring by train.

French high-speed trains, known as TGVs, connect major cities at an astonishing speed of 320 km/h. When you consider travel time to the airport, check-in and baggage collection, traveling to France by high speed train becomes more or less compared to flying. The most popular route for UK travelers, of course, Eurostarconnects London with Lille in 1 hour 15, and Paris in just 2.5 hours.

Both of these Eurostar hubs offer plenty of options for forward travel. The connection in Lille is ideal if you want to avoid having to cross crowded Paris. Big cities in regions like Brittany The Alsace Loire Valley is easily reached within 4-5 hours from London, and you can sip Pastis in the Mediterranean region of Provence in less than 7 hours.

Regional trains, known as TER services, connect smaller destinations as well as offering a cheaper and slower option for intercity travel. There are also a small number of night trains connecting Paris to southern France (destinations include Nice, Toulouse, Marseille and Perpignan). Reclining seats are the cheapest option – starting at about 19 euros per person. Alternatively, opt for a “wagon” for budget stays (and family), or upgrade to a sleeper cabin for the ultimate in comfort during the night.

Italy – easily accessible beaches, vineyards and pizza

Once you are in France, it is easy to get to Italy. High-speed connections run directly from Paris to Milan and are offered by both SNCF and TrenItalia. With road prices to rival low-cost airlines, there are plenty of bargains to be found. Prices start at 39 euros per person and the journey takes about 7 hours.

If you live in London, it is possible to go to Turin or Milan in one day – or for those coming from further afield, I recommend cutting the trip with a stopover in Paris or Lyon.

From Milan, traveling to most parts of northern and central Italy is fast and easy thanks to the excellent high-speed rail network. Night services also run to the south, letting you drift to Rome, Naples or Sicily in style. Tickets can be purchased from TrenItalia, as well as from the private high-speed train operator Italo.

Greece – Hop from train to boat to explore hundreds of Greek islands

Have you arrived in Italy? You are just a boat ride away from Greece. Ferries cross the Aegean Sea from many destinations along the eastern coast of Italy.

High-speed railways connect major Italian ports such as Ancona, Bari and Brindisi. These cruises offer daily sailings to Igoumenitsa (on the west coast of Greece) and Patras (from where you can take a bus to Athens). There are also frequent sailings to Corfu and the other Ionian Islands – but check your dates as they don’t run every day. Most travel offers overnight, taking between 8 and 24 hours depending on the destination. As with night trains, you have various options at different prices. You can sleep “on the deck” at the cheapest rate, or book a cabin at an additional cost if you want to ensure a comfortable night’s sleep.

Turkey – Stay grounded until you reach the Cappadocia Hot Air Balloons

While it might be best booked for the more adventurous traveler, it is possible to get to Turkey by road from the UK. The easiest option (available in late April – early October) involves traveling from London to Munich via Brussels. From here you can take the night trains to Budapest and then to Bucharest, with a final overnight trip taking you from the Romanian capital to Istanbul – and the ends of the continent – on the fourth day.

While it might not beat a 4-hour flight in the race, you’ll get to enjoy the scenery of three of Europe’s most exciting cities on the way – something no airline can offer.

Leave a Comment