As an enthusiastic and regular traveller, I love to make use of all modes of transport when travelling. Train journeys are so much more than getting you from A to B, they allow you to see the local environment, save money, reduce carbon emissions and if you are lucky, you may get to meet some locals and get a great insight into real life. My top highlights and tips to train travel around the world are:
1) The bullet train (Shinkansen)
Japan's iconic bullet train lives up to its reputation. Fast, clean and always on time, the bullet train (Shinkansen) travels up and down Japan's main rail network, transporting you from hub cities like Tokyo and Kyoto in a matter of hours. Trains travel at speeds up to 300 kph and are a great travel experience. The city to city centre network means that they can be time saving as well, much quicker than travelling via Japan's notoriously remote airports.
The downside is that train travel can be very expensive, particularly at today's exchange rates. A single ticket from Tokyo to Kyoto starts from GBP100! However, there is a solution... if you are a visitor to Japan then before you travel you should get yourself a Japan Rail Pass. Available in 7, 14 and 21 day flavours, you can save a huge amount of money if you plan to travel more than a couple of times on Japan's rail network. A 7 day Japan Rail Pass costs around GBP235 at current exchange rates - just slightly more than the price of a return journey.
More details can be found at www.japanrail.com/JR_shinkansen.html
Your local travel agent or www.japantravel.co.uk can sell you a Japan Rail Pass
Remember, you have to get a Japan Rail Pass before you leave for Japan and it must be validated once you arrive in Japan. My recommendation is that get yourself a reserved ticket whenever you travel, as services can get quite busy at times. You can get reservations just 30 mins prior to travel. When you get to the Shinkansen station, go to the ticket office and ask for a reserved seat or go to the English speaking Tourist Information centre in the main stations for further help.
One additional tip, if travelling with a group of friends, also note that the seats also spin around so that you can sit face to face. Just place your foot on the lever under the seat and spin (thanks to a local passenger for showing my friends and I this!)
London to Paris in just over two hours? Yes we can with Eurostar departing from the newly redeveloped London's St Pancras station. The grandiose building solicits great thoughts of the history and romanticism that is linked with a train travel. Train travel for this popular route is recommended over air travel as it is quicker, cheaper and all the more comfortable. There are different classes of service available depending on your desires and travel times. My personal recommendation is to double check the price of leisure select ticket - the business class travel for leisure travellers. It often is available for just a small supplement and adds to the journey experience with food and a shorter minimum check-in times. The great thing about the Eurostar is that it goes straight into Gare de Nord, right in the heart of Paris. Here you can join the metro system and get to wherever you want in Paris.
My top tips would include being flexible with times to get the best deals and consider visiting some other of France's cities like Lille which offer an interesting alternative to Paris. Also try and avoid restaurants near the station, they tend to be more catered for tourist but as a result more expensive and less authentic.
Book tickets on www.eurostar.com but also look out for special offers.
3) Maglev - Shanghai
I had to end the tip with the world's fastest train. Shanghai's Maglev airport train shoots you across 30km at over 500 kph - the world's fastest. Take it for an experience rather than ease, unfortunately it doesn't take you right into the city centre but the station is well connected by taxis which wait around the station.
A one-way ticket is just around GBP5 so well worth the experience.
Hope you enjoy your train journey.
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