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TOP 10 Advantages and Disadvantages of Train Travel

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Many times the wrong train took me to the right place.
  - Paulo Coelho

Sitting on a train on a sunny morning and reading a book, I came across Paulo Coelho’s quote which read as 'many times the wrong train took me to the right place'. I suppressed the binge to check out my ticket, whether I had boarded the right train and started wondering what I would find at my final destination, which might just turn out to be that magic right place. Would it be worth the long ride? Would I enjoy the journey more than the actual fact of getting there? Would I have fun with people travelling with me?

Like many other train passengers, I dived into my book and became totally focused on my reading. Strangely enough, it did not happen for a long time that I caught myself thinking that I was strangely curious to observe what other travel fellows were doing. I realized I wanted to strike a conversation with a perfect stranger about the places our train passed. God blessed me I wasn’t on one of those scenic trains, that take you to mind-blowing places and you can be lost for words to describe the beauty of the landscape outside.

Bernina Express, Switzerland.

Bernina Express, Switzerland.

'Many times the wrong train took me to the right place...' I was contemplating the meaning and wisdom of Mr. Coelho’s words some more time when my eye caught the image of a sweet, little girl staring out the train window. Her black hair was tied back with a green ribbon, her arms wrapped around the train railing next to her seat, her soulful eyes taking in everything around her. The image reminded me of the wondrous feeling I got as a child when my parents took us on vacation by railroad. The European trains offer a great variety of travel options. 

Who of us can forget those feelings of anticipation, child-like enthusiasm and excitement as we stepped onto a train; the parents put away our luggage, dad taking out his newspaper, mom keeping busy with some knitting? My siblings and me would stare out of the window, admiring the changing views of the landscape as it swept fast and furiously past us.

"Look mommy!" The young girl suddenly said excitedly. "There is a windmill." Her mother barely noticed; her fingers fervently typing away on her laptop. "Mmmmmm," the mother mumbled, not taking her eyes from the screen. The mom looked so unperturbed with the girl’s excitement that it reminded me of my own disappointment with adults that I felt as a child. Why don’t adults take time to enjoy the precious feelings generated by sights, experiences and things around them? Being an adult now, I wonder whether we have lost our passion for life, for the beauty of nature. Why do we think small mundane things are not worthy of our attention?

"Oh wow!" I said aloud. The wisdom and inspiration of the moment hit me straight into the head. That very moment I put down the book I was reading, and focused my attention on everything around me. The sights, the other passengers, and the beauty of the countryside as it was passing by.

I noticed things I had not noticed in years taking the very same train. The feeling was incredible. I realized then that it was that feeling that you have when you are crossing a country, watching outside and seeing all that beauty accelerated, thinking about the past, the future, and of course the present, mostly when you travel alone. That sensation of sucking in the life around you, like a sponge, is more worthwhile than earning a million dollars. It’s as if the mind enters a state of appreciative meditation. As if you are able to grasp wisdom that has not been within your reach before.

I am thankful that from there onwards traveling by train became something I love doing, something I treasure and look forward to.

Highspeed train in front of Mount Fuji, Japan.

Highspeed train in front of Mount Fuji, Japan.

Traveling by Train

Each type of travel has its own advantages and disadvantages. Traveling by car gives you an opportunity to stop whenever you want, stay over for a night and follow your own time schedule. Trains do not offer the same flexibility, but they certainly have various other advantages.

TOP 5 Advantages of Traveling by Train

  1. More Luggage
    Traveling by train, ship or airplane is often the preferred modes of travel when one needs to go long distances. Although, the advantage of train travel is that it can facilitate the transportation of larger and heavier luggage pieces, compared to planes - even if the dimensions of the luggage do not fit the other transportation alternatives.
  2. Use time more Productively
    While you are travelling by train instead of cars and other wheeled vehicles, you have an opportunity to work or do other things. You can read, watch the landscapes, write, design, contemplate about things in life the same way our ancestors did, talk to other passengers you would have never met otherwise, or enjoy a train picnic with family and/or friends.
  3. Safety First
    In terms of accidents and breakdowns railways are the safest form of transport
  4. Best Value for Money
    Compared to other transport alternatives traveling by rail offers the best value for money. Most countries, especially in Europe and Asia, have an excellent railway system. You can reach even the smallest town by train, which is most often much cheaper than paying for gas, accommodation, and foodstuffs along the way if you should drive by car.
  5. Helping the Planet
    Last but not least is it a more sustainable travel mode compared to cars and planes.

Other Advantages:

  • You are able to stretch your legs or walk along the carriage corridor.
  • When the kids start getting bored or irritated, are you able to keep them busy with board games, cards, other games such as, 'I see with my little eye...'
  • It’s good for the whole family. Grandparents, adults, kids – the whole bunch can travel by train.
  • Sleeping is much more comfortable, with various trains providing blankets and pillows when traveling long distance. Check out the night trains in the European Fast and Furious article.

Italian Frecciarossa

Italian Frecciarossa

TOP 5 Disadvantages of Traveling by Train

  1. Fixed Schedules
    Compared to cars that provide the maximum flexibility, and planes that have much more time and travel alternatives, railways are not as flexible. They often have fixed schedule that cannot be tailored for a single individual.
  2. On board Comfort
    It depends on the budget you have and the country you are traveling in. There are super expensive and brand trains, as well as super cheap alternatives. If you chose to travel during the evening time, you will want to find the most comfortable option, especially if you are traveling for long hours on end.
  3. Sharing your Space with Foreigners
    Traveling by train means that you will have to share your journey with strangers, which might not be so nice when the passenger next to you is a crying child or someone who speaks loudly on their telephone while you are trying to sleep.
  4. Slower
    Traveling by train can take longer. Traveling by plane is often considered the fastest way. (Still, some European trains offer you the travel options that take you across Europe faster than a plane)
  5. Public Toilets
    Toilets, bathrooms and other public areas on trains can often be dirty or non-functional.

Train at Sunset

Train at Sunset

Traveling by train can be paradise; while in some cases it can become hell. But do not worry, there is a solution for everything, and since there is not really something as the 'wrong solution,' we recommend not to get stressed out if your train ride is not going as planned. The wrong train can bring you to the right place after all.

P.S. If you don’t know the place, take out the PeakVisor app, have a look at the landscape around you and if there are mountains present, you will learn where you are in no time!

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