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Venice Simplon-Orient-Express

Why you should choose the train...

...for your next Europe holiday

Article content

6 November 2019 by David Warne

Wexas Commercial Director David Warne explains why rail journeys to Europe should be high on your holiday agenda.

Reduce your carbon footprint

As much as we all love travelling, there's no escaping the fact that flying is one of the biggest contributors to our personal carbon footprint. A recent survey from the Committee on Climate Change estimated that for the average Briton, flying accounted of 12% of their total personal carbon footprint in 2014, rising to 22% by 2030. If you fly more than average, then this figure would, of course, be higher.

As awareness continues to grow, many of us are looking to balance our desire for overseas adventure with the impact of our travels. One option is to offset the carbon emissions from your flights and we would certainly recommend this for long-haul flights, where there generally isn’t generally any feasible alternative to flying. For a more detailed analysis, see our article on carbon offsetting

However, short flights emit almost twice as much carbon per passenger kilometre as longer flights and anything up to 15 times the emissions created by travelling by train for a comparable journey. As there are convenient rail options from the UK to more European destinations than many people realise - particularly so if you live in the southeast of England - changing from flying to travelling by train needn’t be inconvenient.

Travelling by train to Europe - greener and often more convenient than flying

A convenient alternative to flying

In fact, when comparing total journey times to some French and Belgian destinations, travelling by train can actually be just as quick as flying; not only are most stations located in city centres – airports can be anything up to 50 miles outside of the city - but check-in times are shorter, immigration procedures quicker (where applicable) and there is no need to wait for your baggage on arrival.

Since the pandemic - and partly as a result of Brexit - Eurostar has made some significant changes to its network, which sadly include the end of its former direct services from London to Lyon, Avignon, Marseille, Disneyland Paris and its winter ski services. However, there are usually convenient connections via Paris, Lille or Brussels to most of these destinations,  so the South of France remains relatively conveniently accessible by train.  Indeed, the high speed line from Paris to Bordeaux also makes it possible to reach the South West of France in as little as five hours and 45 minutes.

Eurostar has also added Amsterdam to its network from London, albeit this service is being temporarily suspended in the second half of 2024 due to development works at Amsterdam's terminus.

Marseille - a lot closer by rail than you might think

Explore our Eurostar holidays

Beyond Eurostar’s destinations, the extensive network of national rail services means that many places in Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Germany and the Benelux countries can be reached comfortably within the course of a day’s travel.

And this isn’t just about taking the train rather than flying for short breaks. With longer holidays in Europe you can even make the journey part of the holiday. For example, you can consider breaking your journey - essentially taking a ‘stopover’ - en route to or from your final destination.

Quite apart from the obvious stopovers opportunities offered by Eurostar - Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam, Lille etc - there are some superb and unexpected combinations available with a little bit of imagination.

Why not stop in the Champagne region en route to Bordeaux and beyond to France’s West Coast using the daily direct high-speed train between the two regions? Or perhaps stop for a couple of nights in France’s foodie capital of Dijon en route to Italy or Switzerland.

There are also several ‘bucket-list’ rail journeys that can be incorporated into a longer rail-based holiday in Europe. For example, travel in one direction on the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express between London and Venice and then take Eurostar and national rail in the other direction, stopping of at any number of interesting cities, including Verona, Munich or Lyon. Or include one of Switzerland’s incredibly scenic rail journeys aboard the Glacier Express or Bernina Express as part of a longer itinerary.

Discover Switzerland on the Tracks

Switzerland's Glacier Express is truly spectacular

Many train services in Europe have received significant upgrades in recent years, making travelling by train a real pleasure. Which is not something that can be said of shorthaul flying now that virtually all airlines have adopted a ‘low-cost’ flying model, where less legroom, seats that don’t recline and overpriced snacks are now the norm. Not to mention the experience at some airports, which can often be the low point of any holiday.

For even more comfort, upgrading to First class within Europe at off peak times often costs little more than a standard class ticket. Similarly, upgrading on Eurostar to Standard Premier or Business Premier, where complimentary meals and wine are served, can turn the journey into an occasion. Indeed, there are many good reasons to consider taking the train for your next holiday to Europe, quite apart from reducing your carbon footprint.

Inspired? Below you’ll find a selection of our favourite European journeys by rail. Or, talk to one of our specialists today to help you plan your perfect rail holiday.

Related offers

La Maison Estournel Vineyard

Champagne to Bordeaux: Wine regions of France no-fly holiday

7-day no-fly holiday from £2,515 pp

Explore France's fabled wine regions on this no-fly itinerary from Reims to Bordeaux. Taste Champagne and wine direct from the source with included tours throughout.

Glacier Express (© Glacier Express)

Switzerland on the Tracks

9-day no-fly rail journey from £3,270 pp

This no-fly journey combines the best in Swiss rail travel with the delights of some of Europe's favourite regions. From Zurich to the Alps and even one of France's wine-making capitals, Dijon, you'll enjoy spectacular views, charming city culture and great food and wine.


Eurostar holidays

Tailor-made rail journeys from £1,090 pp

Discover our finest Eurostar offers, with options across France. Each has been tailor-made to feature fantastic hotels, private transfers and unique tours – get in contact to start designing your own trip.

Why book with Wexas Travel?

At Wexas, we specialise in bespoke travel experiences. Our itineraries are just samples of what we can arrange, and can be changed depending on your precise needs, finances and ideas by our experienced destination specialists.

Contact one of our consultants on 020 7590 0610 to discuss how we can tailor your holiday.

Learn why Wexas is the leader in creating luxury holidays. What is tailor-made travel?

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