Hollywood loves train scenes. Some movies depict adventure and action, like the scene where Captain America jumps onto a moving train in the Alps in Captain America: The First Avenger. Others are romantic, as displayed in Romance in the Orient Express by Lawrence Gordon Clark.
My personal train travels have had little resemblance to these fictional stories. There’s nothing romantic about taking a train with only two stinky toilets and no showers for three nights straight. And thankfully, I have never been caught in the crossfire of a superhero trying to save the world.
Although reality won’t necessarily be a blockbuster, I believe everyone should travel by train. Here are 10 train journeys in six continents, six of which I’ve personally experienced:
1. Trans-Siberian Railway
Traveling on the Trans-Siberian Railway was on the top of my travel bucket list and the mere mention of an opportunity to travel made my heart skip a beat. However, after the unparalleled experience, I probably will only do it again if I’m on the Golden Eagle Luxury Trans-Siberian Silver Class private train. That is if I’m willing to pay $16,995 per person for 12 nights on board from Moscow to Vladivostok (flights not included).
That said, I have no regrets going on a second-class train from Moscow to Beijing (4,735 miles) with my husband and two children. We saw and experienced more than we could have ever imagined in a duration of six nights on the train, not including stopovers in Irkutsk (Siberia) and Mongolia. Our train travel didn’t stop in Beijing. We carried on from Beijing to Shanghai (789 miles), Shanghai to Guangzhou(917 miles) and finally from Guangzhou to Hong Kong (121 miles).
Trippy user Mandy R. from Berlin asked:
Trans-Siberian train – how & what to plan?
I’m planning to take the Trans-Siberian train from Moscow to Beijing, via Mongolia. We will start end of July probably.
We are still in early stage, so there are many questions, and I hope you might help me here a bit:
What’s the best way to purchase the train tickets?
What type of ticket would you recommend (which class)
Is it possible to get off the train and take another train a few days later using the same ticket?
Which stops would you recommend to get off the train?
Is the timing (July/August) ok?
Thanks in advance for your suggestions!
Unless you understand Russian, I wouldn’t recommend traveling on the Trans-Siberian train on your own. But if you insist and want to do it on your own and don’t want to go with a group and tour leader, I suggest you check out www.seat61.com for their comprehensive guide.
Per Seat61, the Trans-Siberian Railway:
… is just one part of the massive Russian railway network. It connects the European rail network at one end with either Vladivostok or the Chinese rail network at the other.
There are three routes to take:
1. Moscow to Vladivostok
2. Moscow to Beijing via Mongolia
3. Moscow to Manchuria
All trains stop in Irkutsk and split in Ulan Ude. The Trans-Mongolian goes to Beijing, The Trans-Manchurian to Manchuria and the original Trans-Siberian to Vladivostok. The most famous and exciting is the Trans-Mongolian journey where you get to visit Russia, Mongolia, and China.
Whether you are heading to Vladivostok or Beijing, both are considered an adventure of a lifetime on the Trans-Siberian railroad.
2. The Ghan
The best ways to see Australia’s Outback and Northern Territory is by taking The Ghan. The Ghan expedition is a three-night journey from Adelaide to Darwin via Katherine and Alice Springs. The entire route is 2,979km (1,851 miles).
I did The Ghan from Adelaide to Alice Springs, and the other is Darwin to Alice Springs. All options can be taken either southbound or northbound.
Trippy user Katia Jindrich from Brisbane asked:
I’m planning a little trip (2 weeks max) between Darwin and Alice Springs this December. I’m not sure whether to drive there an stake the train back or take the train both ways.
anyone has taken the Ghan before an scan tell me if its worth it? or if the drive’s worth it? It seems there is a lot to see around Darwin/Katherine but much less so between Katherine and Alice.
I agree with Fay Carne’s answer:
It is a very hot time of year so can I suggest taking the Ghan train to Alice Springs..the train stops for sightseeing at Katherine.
You could then sit back in air conditioned comfort and enjoy the red vast outback. Lovely meals served in the dining car (and a good Australian wine) Many interesting tours available in Alice Springs in air-conditioned coaches. Personally, I would return to Darwin by air allowing more time for sightseeing and perhaps a trip out to Ayers Rock.
You can take one way eastbound or westbound trips or the round-trip journey from Christchurch. This trip starts in Christchurch at 8:15 a.m. and returns to Christchurch at 6:31 p.m. The train leaves Greymouth at 2:05 p.m. I recommend an overnight stay in Greymouth to check out New Zealand’s wild west.
4. The Devil’s Nose (Nariz del Diablo)
Known as “the most difficult railway in the world,” the Devil’s Nose or Nariz del Diablo used to provide the most thrilling and scariest train rides in the world, where passengers could sit on the roof and enjoy the wind blowing in their faces while capturing images of this engineering marvel. Today, sitting on the roof is no longer permitted on the century-old train route, but you can still observe the zigzagging railroad climbing uphill.
The Devil’s Nose journey is only a 12-km train ride from Alausi to Sibambe and back to Alausi. It is a two-hour and 30 minute trip including the one hour stop at Sibambe. It’s available daily at 8 a.m., 11 a.m., and 3 p.m. and is closed on Mondays.
5. California Zephyr
Anyone who hates flying or driving but wants to travel from Chicago to San Francisco (or vice versa) must try the California Zephyr. Amtrak calls it “one of the most beautiful train trips in all of North America.” The California Zephyr takes you from:
The Midwest’s windy city across the American heartland through Denver, over the front range of the Rockies, through the Continental Divide, Glenwood Canyon, the Utah Desert and the High Sierras to the City by the Bay.
The California Zephyr train leaves Chicago at 2 p.m. and travels 2,438 miles, and arrives in Emeryville at 4 p.m. two days later. The train has a wide range of sleeping car accommodations and economical coach seating available. This moving “hotel” has a dining car, a cafe and a viewing lounge called The Sightseer Lounge. The lounge provides large panoramic windows where you can relax, enjoy the views and make new friends.
6. The Rocky Mountaineer
The Rocky Mountaineer offers four unique routes showcasing Western Canada’s breathtaking scenery. They are the Coastal Passage (Seattle to Vancouver), Rainforest to Gold Rush (Vancouver, Whistler, Quesnel, Jasper), Journey through the Clouds (Vancouver, Kamloops, Jasper) and First Passage to the West (Vancouver, Kamloops, Lake Louise, Banff).
Don’t know which to take? I suggest the most legendary route, the First Passage to the West, where you’ll travel from Vancouver to Kamloops, Lake Louise, and Banff. This route takes you through the historic Canadian Pacific Railway connecting Canada from East to West journeying by mountains and canyons.
Tripper user Valerie Stimac took the Rocky Mountaineer from Vancouver to Lake Louise with an overnight stay at Kamloops. Here is her question:
Hi! In about three weeks, I’ll be taking the Rocky Mountaineer from Vancouver to Lake Louise with an overnight stop in Kamloops, and then flying out the next day from Calgary. I’m looking for any suggestions in any of these cities: restaurants, sights to see, ways to get around, other insider tips… My budget is pretty flexible, so I’ll take any and all suggestions!
Trippy user Bryce Campbell, a local answered:
In Kamloops it depends greatly on where you are staying. A lot of the hotels are located outside the city core and transit isn’t so convenient in the evening. So if you are in the main hotel area and want to go downtown, taxi is probably your best bet.
That being said, there are some really nice restaurants all throughout Kamloops, it all depends what you are looking for. The Noble Pig downtown is a great little place for food and beer. Red Collar Brewing just opened a year ago (I haven’t been there yet), and there are other places.
There are also restaurants up near the hotels too. And most are open late.
As for evening activities, shopping is limited. Most stores close by 5:30/6p. There is music in the park from 7pm and goes to 8:30 pm. Might not work out for the train.
One tip, Kamloops is a semi-desert. So expect hot, dry temperatures. Our average summer temperature is about 36-38°C (96.8 to 100.4°F). So pack accordingly. Weather can change quickly and we are know to get intense thunderstorms/showers.
7. The Andean Explorer
It takes ten and a half hours crossing the Andes from Cusco to Puno, the gateway to Lake Titicaca. The Andean Explorer is a luxury train with an open-air observatory car, two 1920s Pullman-style dining cars, and comfortable seats.
The Andean Explorer is one of Belmond’s luxury train routes in South America. It is also one of the world’s highest train routes, at 14,222 feet (4,335 meters) above sea level at La Raya. It runs every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from April to October. And every Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday from November to March.
8. Toy Train – Darjeeling Himalayan Railway
The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway or Toy Train is a British-period train built in the late 1880s in the Indian state of West Bengal. There are two options for the ride – the diesel trains and the steam engine.
According to GoUNESCO:
Darjeeling Himalayan Railway is a 2 feet (610mm) gauge railway that travels 88 km from the plains of Siliguri in West Bengal along Hill Cart Road to reach Ghum at 7407 feet before descending down to 6812 feet to arrive its destination, Darjeeling. When it was built in 1881, the engineers pushed technology to the limit of what a conventional locomotive, relying on adhesion alone, was capable of at that time.
9. Pride of Africa Pretoria to Victoria Falls
Take a three-night adventure from Pretoria’s Rovos Rail Station to the north winding through Warmbaths, Nylstroom, Voortrekkers, en route to the border with Zimbabwe to Bulawayo (Zimbabwe), Hwange National Park (wildlife sanctuary), Thompsons Junction to Victoria Falls. This journey is also available in reverse.
10. Chocolate Train in Switzerland
Take your love for chocolate to the next level with the world’s most famous Montreux-Berner Oberland railway’s Chocolate Train. The train runs between Montreux and the Cailler-Nestle chocolate factory at Broc, with stops at La Maison du Gruyère for Swiss cheese production and a castle visit and to Maison Cailler, a Swiss chocolate legend.
The Chocolate Train has the stately “Belle Époche” Pullman 1915 vintage coaches and modern panorama coaches. All visitors travel in first-class style and the round trip including tours last about nine hours.
When in Gruyeres you might want to check out a fondue restaurant said Jennifer from Zurich:
…you might want to consider stopping off in Gruyeres villages, home of Gruyere cheese. You can have lunch at a fantastic little fondue restaurant called Restaurant le Chalet de Gruyères before visiting the village castle, Château Saint-Germain 1663 Gruyères. While you’re there, be sure to visit Maison Cailler for a tour of the Cailler chocolate factory and a free tasting of all the chocolate you can eat. It’s just up the road from Gruyeres. Have fun!
You have plenty of options for train journeys in six continents. Pride of Africa is on my bucket list. Which one would you choose? Or do you have a question on train journeys? Become a Trippy user and get your questions answered.
Photos and article by Claudia Looi