2022 is increasingly the year of The Great Travel Rebound, and in Europe this applies as much to trains as planes.
The continent is extremely well connected by rail, with Italy, Switzerland and France set to return to their role as long-time favourites of Australians. Topping them all is the Eurostar, which hurtles not just between London and Paris but onwards to Brussels and Amsterdam.
“Eurostar is probably the number one” reflects James Dunne, CEO of Australian booking service Rail Online.
“It's simply the convenience of having a Eurostar sector – it’s about two hours and 20 minutes with the convenience of going from city centre to city centre – versus traveling by air which involves trekking to and from the airport.”
But Dunne cautions would-be riders of the European rails not to leave it too late to book their tickets.
While all European rail operators have embraced the convenience of instant e-ticketing, and accept app-based tickets and Eurail passes, increased demand over the approaching northern Summer season makes it better to tick this box on the tip planning to-do list as soon as you can.
That’s especially important given the variety of routes and connections available on what you might think would be a simple ‘get me from A to B’ exercise.
Not all trains travelling between two points on the map make the same stops; and, depending on your destination, you may need to change trains and leave enough time to change platforms, while navigating yourself (and your luggage) around unfamiliar territory.
You’ll also need to reserve seats in advance for when you’d like to travel – which can involve which way you’d like to face (most people like to face the direction of travel), whether you’d like a window or aisle seat, if you’d like to be near the luggage rack, or have access to a table or AC power outlet.
“We try to keep the process as simple as we can,” said Rail Online’s Dunne.
“It’s making sure that all of the essential information is there, as well as giving options in terms of different fare types, pass types and making sure it’s all visible within the one screen, so the customer can then make a more informed decision about whether a service is non-stop or involves some connections.”
And while a quick Google search will return hundreds of overseas websites ready to take your booking, only a small number of locally-based rail retailers charge in Australian dollars – meaning one less headache in planning your trip, especially when comparing different types of fares across several rail operators.
Additional reporting by David Flynn