Are your rail trips just for train enthusiasts?
No! These trips are designed for people who enjoy the journey aspect of a holiday. Our rail holidays attract intrepid travellers who want to experience a different side of travel, but who also want the comfort that comes with travelling by train, and the scenery that they have from their train window. They are not designed specifically for customers who are particularly interested in trains. However, many of our journeys cover some iconic routes or rail experiences, so there is still plenty of interest for rail enthusiasts.
Do we travel as a group?
In general we purchase rail tickets as soon as they come available, which can be as early as 3-4 months prior to departure. In that case, there’s no guarantee that everyone will be seated together on trains, although we endeavour to ensure this where possible. This is easier in Eastern Europe and long-haul destinations where seating arrangements are much more flexible than in Western Europe.
What are the excursions like?
Just like any Explore trip, our rail tours include a range of excursions, each one designed to give you the best overview of the food, culture and history of a region. The nature of rail journeys is that you travel to major transport hubs (normally within big towns or cities), so we have carefully chosen excursions that will get you out to some more unusual destinations. Simply put, without the local knowledge of our Tour Leaders and local guides, some of these locations would take a lot of research to organise. Some of these excursions are undertaken by bus rather than train.
On our London2 trips, we have endeavoured to leave free time in some key destinations (eg Venice, Krakow, Milan), so that those who have previously visited these cities can explore privately, rather than covering the same ground again.
What should I pack?
In general, packing is dictated by the weather of the areas that you are visiting. However, some general rules should be followed for rail journeys.
What type of suitcase should I take?
- Pack light. Some hotels will have laundry services that you can take advantage of. Transportation of your luggage, including on and off the train, into luggage racks and stowing on overnight trains, will be your responsibility so lightweight packing is ideal
- A power bank or portable charger is recommended on tours that have overnight journeys. These are really useful in case there aren’t enough plug sockets for everyone in your cabin
- Check the different adaptors needed if you’re travelling on a multi-country itinerary
- Wear comfortable clothes throughout. There is no reason to bring formal wear, and this will help you reduce packing.
As you’ll be taking care of your own luggage, including stowing it on the trains, it’s absolutely essential that you bring a small suitcase. If you’re travelling in a pair, bringing one small suitcase each is much easier than bringing one large one between you. A suitable suitcase size is approximately 61 centimetres (24 inches) in height. Suitcases with wheels are very handy for ease of transportation. Although our ideal size given might seem small, try not to pack for ‘what if’ scenarios, and really think about what you need to bring.
Where / what will I eat?
Food will, of course, totally depend on your destination and the timings of your trains. For example, if you’re taking a night train then normally we will take dinner nearby, or in the station prior to departure. As you move further into Eastern Europe and in long-haul destinations, the trains don’t tend to have food carts so the tour leader will point out where to purchase snacks if you would like. As well as a bottle of wine or some beers for the night trains! We’ve tried to plan most tours so that you’re not eating lunch or dinner on the train. However, this isn’t always possible (for example on our London2 tours, where the first day is a long travel day from London), and in those cases meals will either be taken from the food car or you can purchase something from the station to take on board with you. This is usually preferable.
We will do our best to accommodate dietary requirements. In the rare cases where you are travelling over lunch or dinner, purchasing something before boarding the train is advisable. The Tour Leader will help make sure that you have something suitable to eat.
What is the cabin configuration for overnight trains?
It varies per tour, but the cabin configuration is detailed in the Accommodation Information of each individual trip. The majority of our trains are booked on a four-person basis, with two bunk beds that often fold back to make a seating area. We do our best to room Explore groups together, but depending on the number of passengers this can’t be guaranteed. You may be sharing with non-Explore travellers in the same cabin, which is all part of the experience! Cabins have wash basins, and toilets are located further along the carriage. Bedding and towels are provided and luggage can be stored underneath the beds or in overhead racks.
Can I travel as a solo traveller?
Absolutely! The beauty of travelling in a group is that you can feel sure that all train logistics are taken care of, and that you’ll be travelling with friendly, like-minded people who also enjoy the experience of rail travel. The Tour Leader will make sure that no one is left out. Find out more about solo travel
What happens at border crossings?
Depending on the country, you will disembark the train to pass through customs (it’s not usually required to take your bags off the train with you). Passports will be stamped and you’ll reboard to continue your journey. In other countries, particularly in Europe where you’re travelling through a Schengen zone, border control agents will board the train to check passports and any visa requirements. On overnight trains, border crossings normally happen in the small hours of the morning. You will be woken to complete the customs formalities but should still have time to go back to sleep before you arrive at your destination.
How does a rail holiday help with sustainable travel?
There is a significant environmental difference between travelling by air and travelling by rail. Opting for a sustainable rail holiday
means reducing the number of flights you’re taking, and therefore the amount of carbon dioxide emitted from your journey. While it’s not always possible to avoid air travel, choosing a rail holiday means you’ll experience your dream destinations at a slower, more sustainable pace wherever possible.