Figuring out the basics of train travel In the United States, most folks hop in the car or book a plane ticket for long-distance travel, but in Europe, everyone and his grandmother take the train to get where they’re going — and you’ll probably get into a interesting conversation with that grandmother along the way (bring a picnic and offer to share it with your neighbors to jump-start conversa- tions).
Though no-frills airlines (discussed earlier) are now the best way to cover great distances between far-flung countries, the train is still king when it comes to exploring a single nation or smaller region of Europe.
As a rule, European trains run on time, are clean and comfortable, and have a vast network that covers almost every major and minor city.
For average travel times by rail between the destinations in this book, see the appendix.
Because the old train-ferry- train route (through Dover and Calais) takes all day and costs almost the same, the Eurostar option is a great deal.
Many high-speed trains throughout Europe require that you pay a sup- plement of around $10 to $20 in addition to your regular ticket price.
Updated monthly (but rumored to go quarterly soon), the timetable contains the daily schedules of all major European train and ferry routes.
I find looking at Rail Europe’s Web site to get an idea of schedules much easier — or, even better, go directly to the sources and visit the Web sites of the individual national rail systems in Europe, which always have the latest schedules and prices (occasionally even in English).
The phenomenon started in London, and many are still based there (although they now also have smaller hubs across Europe).
The two big boys in the business are easy Jet ( which has hubs in London, Liverpool, Bristol, Barcelona, Amsterdam, and Paris; and Ryanair ( which flies out of London, Glasgow, Dublin, Shannon, Frankfurt, Stockholm, Brussels, and Milan.
S.; runs through the Channel Tunnel and connects London’s Waterloo Station both with the Gare du Nord in Paris and Central Station in Brussels.
Both trips take about three hours (plus or minus the one-hour time-zone difference).
Aside from those, there’s no need to buy or reserve individual train tick- ets through your travel agent before leaving the United States.