We jumped into 2020 with the revival of the slow travel trend. It all started with the increased demand for the sustainable tourism, the desire to be greener and to experience more and immerse oneself deeper into the local culture. As we ditch fast food, the same happens with the fast tourism, that leaves no time to fully appreciate the surrounding world. Adding Covid-19 to the mix, Rail travel seems to be the perfect alternative to flights that really are simply bad for the environment.
Here’s our guide to slow travel ...
WHAT'S SLOW TRAVEL ANYWAY?
The same as Slow Food movement aims to preserve the value of local food and traditional cooking methods, the slow tourism tries to show us that the journey means as much as the destination itself. We can take the motorway and get from point A to point B quicker ...but it’s so much better to go the scenic route. Our daily life seems like a constant race; let’s allow ourselves to slow down at least during the holiday time! It’s all about taking the time to explore the forgotten locations, experiencing authentic local life and making genuine connections with the people and places we encounter on route.
SOUNDS GREAT! HOW DO I DO IT?
Simple! Start slow (no pun intended 😊). UK has plenty on offer and booking a train ticket in advance can save you a lot of pennies. However, the real fun begins when you venture out of the Great British isles! Let’s begin the slow travel by exploring the small but mighty Europe. This culturally rich continent offers a myriad of destinations! All can be reached easily by train from London. In just a couple of hours you’ll find yourself in Paris, Brussels or Amsterdam! If you ever dreamed of visiting German Christmas Markets, we’ve got a perfect trip planned for you: London to Frankfurt with a change in Brussels take 6h, then board the 5* Winter River cruise in Frankfurt and spend 6 nights onboard the elegant and luxury boutique cruise vessel with stylish decor and comfortable surroundings! Treat yourself to a true European Christmas, visit the oldest festive markets nestled in charming cities; walk on the cobblestones streets illuminated by holiday lights; listen to the angelic songs of strolling carolers and admire the fairytale snow-capped castles on the riverside.
HOW FAR CAN I GET BY TRAIN?
Up to 90% of regular international trains in western and central Europe are now back to normal. Some trains are offering extra capacity, aimed primarily at ensuring trains are not too crowded. There’s also the special summer season ICE direct service running from Berlin to Innsbruck and a twice-weekly link from Stuttgart to the island of Rügen on the Baltic coast.
Direct high-speed services from France to Spain were also reinstated, as were services from Serbia to Bulgaria and Hungary to Romania. Eurostar is running services to Paris, Brussels and Amsterdam, possibly adding later Lille and Rotterdam as well. Booking conditions are getting more flexible to allow passengers to change travel dates if they wish. Best to check what’s on and the health and safety rules directly on the Eurostar website.
There will be no direct trains from London to the south of France this summer but with France restoring Paris to Nice direct connection, you can travel to the south of France with a short Paris stopover! Direct services to Moscow from western and central Europe, as well as from Finland and the Baltic states just now remain on hold. Nonetheless, it is perfect timing to be planning the 2021 Epic Rail Journey: London to Paris, Paris to Moscow, then the Trans Siberian adventure all the way to Vladivostok or Beijing. We can tailor make the trip of a lifetime for you.
WHAT ABOUT THE NIGHT TRAINS?
Most night trains stopped running during the pandemic. Anticipated demand for summer holiday travel has prompted operators to introduce new routes for July and August. A new direct night train from Salzburg to Germany’s North Sea coast launched on 4 July. Also new for this summer is a sleeper service from Hamburg to Innsbruck, which also carries vehicles. You won’t miss the Croatian sun either: the independent rail operator RegioJet announced a special summer programme of direct night trains from Prague and Bratislava to Rijeka. The first train on this new route ran on 30 June and has been since upgraded to daily service due to popular demand. The route passes through five countries and takes 15 hours.
Many operators of overnight trains are this summer selling only entire compartments, so it’s often not possible to purchase a single berth or couchette in a shared compartment. For example, on Nightjet’s popular routes to Italy (such as Vienna to Pisa or Munich to Rome), families and couples can be accommodated together in one compartment, but solo travellers will get a compartment to themselves. The aim is to ensure maximum social distancing.
The Swedish government announced as well that it would provide funds for two new routes to connect the cities of Stockholm and Malmö with Hamburg and Brussels. Although these new daily routes are due to start operating by mid-2022, there are others that will start this year.
The popular direct route between Brussels and Vienna recommences in September with tickets starting at Euro 39.90 one way! That way you can easily travel by train to Vienna and board a small Danube River Cruise that will take you all the way from Vienna, to Bratislava, Budapest and back to Vienna. This is by far the best travel idea of the 2020 holiday season.
WHAT ARE THE HEALTH AND SAFETY RESTRICTIONS ON BOARD?
Many train operators scrapped the bicycle space service or introduced a booking system to take bikes on board (like in Netherlands for example). Eurostar has cut the catering on board but you can still dine in style in many trains on the continent. It’s business like usual in Czech Republic and Switzerland.
And what about the masks? Travellers certainly wear them while boarding and disembarking the train but many passengers will have them off during travel. The advice is constantly changing. Make sure to check it before entering a country.
ARE TICKETS EXPENSIVE?
No! Normally, buying a ticket for Summer in July would be an impossible feat! However, since this year travel literally just started, there are plenty of deals to be found. Let’s name just a few:
*Border deals: Berlin Lichterfelde Ost to Szczecin in Poland Euro12 (cheaper than stopping in the German city of Tantow before crossing the border)
*Are you between 12 and 25? Get a 1 month unlimited travel pass for €29!
*Have you dreamed of visiting Czech Republic? Get a 7 or 14 days unlimited travel pass, no age restrictions! Price respectively: €29 and €45
*From 1st August you’ll be able to travel cross border from Austria to Italy on Euregio Ticket: for €39 for a family of two adults and three children you can travel between the Austrian Tyrol and the Italian South Tyrol and Trentino regions
*Interrail’s first ever mobile app pass is being launched this summer (one-country pass for Italy with prices for three days’ travel within a month starting at €127 for adults)
*Interrail again: are you over 28 and have a month free to discover Europe? The Global 1 month pass, covering 33 countries will cost you only €670
*Brussels Midi direct to Venna Central from €39.90...to connect with the Danube River Cruise!
HOW TO BOOK?
If you start looking for the best ticket deal you’ll quickly discover there is no one website that would collect the cheapest deals. Each European country has its own national train operator with its own ticketing system and its own website. There are private operators too. Our advice? Get in touch with us and we will help to tailor your European trip and get the train tickets!
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