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Rail EuropeSeptember 9, 2011 By: Maureen Jones Travel Agent
|Eurostar and other high-speed trains provide a fast, convenient and comfortable means to get around Europe.|
Having grown up in Europe, we never flew anywhere—we always went by train. Even today, family and friends still travel by train since it’s much easier. The main European airports like Heathrow, Paris and Rome are a madhouse at any time of year.
I always say that the shortest flight, even a 45-minute one, really takes five hours when you count travel to and from the airport, check in, security and waiting for the flights—not to mention a cramped, uncomfortable environment of the aircraft.
With the latest high-speed train traveling at 200 mph, it is now the fastest mode of transport in Europe. Travel time between 30 destinations has been reduced by a third to half. Services have increased 20 percent.
You now step on a train in Paris and 45 minutes later, you are in Reims, in the heart of Champagne country. Reims is famous for its magnificent cathedral where 26 French kings were crowned. A very important point is that the hotel prices in Reims are up to 40 percent lower than in comparable Parisian hotels. With these fast trains, you can now stay in a less expensive area and do your day trips.
By comparison, here are some sample train times, which are always city center to city center:
Of course, you can always get a point-to-point ticket locally. However, the railroads are now implementing airline-style yield management, which means that, in general terms, last-minute tickets tend to be expensive just like last-minute air tickets, so you must plan in advance.
When the high-speed line is complete, you will be able to travel from Seville in southern Spain all the way to London. Rail passes still have enormous potential for savings. However, be warned that the railroads are limiting the number of seats available to pass holders, so it is important to make the reservation as far out as possible.
Today, I always pay the extra and reserve a seat. I don’t want the bother of trying to find a seat in a crowded train. As a student, I spent many nights traveling across Europe in a couchette (sleeper) or sitting on my suitcase with my skis in a corridor. I hated having to keep producing my passport as we kept crossing borders on the way from England to Switzerland. Because of the European Union, travelers don’t have to do that today.