If you ask me, train travel is truly the best form of travel.
Given a choice between getting somewhere by plane or train, I would always choose train travel, so long as my funds and schedule permitted it.
1. It's an adventure in itself
You rarely hear anyone rave on about the super cool plane trip that they just went on. If you're like me, you'll start looking forward to the end of the flight, as soon as you're on the plane (particularly if you're flying long haul.)
Yet, think about how many trips are based solely around train rides. The Blue Train in South Africa. Traversing from one end of Australia to the other. Or, the Trans-Siberian, which would surely be the trip of a lifetime.
I know if I were to go on an extended train trip across many exotic seeming countries (or, even my home country of Australia), I'd be just about wetting myself in excitement.
Safe to say that aside from the first time I flew to Europe at the age of 20, I've never felt that way about a flight.
2. You meet the most interesting people
Trains are a fantastic place to people watch, or strike up conversations.
Not to say that I haven't met lovely people while flying. I once traded tales with the girl next to me on a 14-hour flight for around six hours, which made the journey go so much quicker. I knew her entire life story by the time I got off the plane!
One of my favorite movies ever is Before Sunrise. When I was single, I used to have all sorts of romantically inclined daydreams about finding myself in a similar situation. Now, I still see train travel as a great way to make new friends.
PS. If you're in the mood for some travel-related movies, you can find a good list here (even if Before Sunrise doesn't make the top ten!).
3. It's a good setting for work, relaxation, and chomping through life admin tasks
One reason I've always rated train travel over plane travel is that is a far more conducive setting to get stuff done.
On planes, I feel too tired, drained, or weird about people looking over my shoulder at what I'm doing. Most longer train trips I've been on have left me with two chairs, or even an entire table to myself. Writing on my blog or reading a book then seems to be an excellent method of whiling away the hours.
Of course, it depends on the setting/country you're traveling through. Trains in Europe at least are usually comfortable, with readily available wi-fi, which makes them ideal workplaces – particularly for those of us who work while on the move.
4. There's always far less stress and hassle to train travel than flying
Planes actually wouldn't be that bad if getting onto them wasn't such an upsetting ordeal.
It's universally recognized that if you want to board a plane, you'll have to leave your dignity at the gate.
The rules and regulations imposed on travelers for their own “safety” are getting more and more rigid by the day. (My favorite is when you go through security before getting on the plane and then are forced to go through immediately once you disembark. It's a particularly fun thing to do when you're merely connecting through an airport, in a minimal amount of time.)
Not to mention getting charged astronomical prices for excess baggage and having items confiscated from you going through security and at customs. (Goodbye expensive cleanser that was in a 100ml bottle, taken by staff at Dublin Airport because it did not say 100ml on the bottle itself, a rule I did not know existed previously). Not to mention getting treated like human cattle by airport attendants.
On the flip side, I recently traveled through four countries in Europe, taking on as much baggage as I liked. No one stopped me to confiscate my liquids or gels. I didn't even get my passport checked at either end.
I both embarked and disembarked the train with a smile on my face.
5. You can stop in funky little places along the way
In adding to the adventure of a train trip, you don't have to simply travel from point A to point B.
You can choose to deviate from your initial journey at any point you wish, particularly if you're not on a rigid schedule.
This allows you to leave a train at any point in your trip, particularly if you pass through a town or city that strikes your fancy (so long as you have a flexible ticket!).
So, that's my piece said on the subject. I would always choose train travel. Which do you prefer? Train or plane?