By Ed Povey
Featured Image: High speed train by Jon Curnow.
The popularity of green travel is increasing each year. For some, though, booking a flight is often seen to be the easier or cheaper choice when planning a trip away. Overland travel doesn’t have to be expensive, however, and some trips by road, rail or sea can be cheaper and even quicker than the same journey by plane. So what can we do to cut down on the costs of flightless travel?
Across the globe, there are a plethora of overnight train, ferry and bus services linking key destinations. The majority of these are comfortable and clean, and offer a level of service similar to many hotels. While overnight services tend to be a little bit more expensive than daytime alternatives, travellers tend to be better off; saving on the cost of a night in a hotel at their destination, and making the journey itself into a more memorable experience.
Using Railcards & Discounts
The majority of overland services offer discounts for children, youths and seniors. Special fares are available on many routes, with special youth and senior fares offering savings of around 30%, and child fares normally saving 50%. Students in possession of valid university ID cards, or International Student Identity Cards (ISIC), may also be able to take advantage of similar savings.
For those planning an extended trip, with multiple journeys, buying a railcard may be a good option. Railcards offer their holder free or discounted travel on a range of routes in a number of countries of regions, some even include ferry travel. Railcards are available in Europe (InterRail for EU citizens, Eurail for US/Canadian citizens), Great Britain (BritRail Pass), Japan (JapanRail Pass), and America (Amtrak USA/California Rail Pass). It’s worth bearing in mind however, that rail passes aren’t always the cheapest option; it is worth adding up the price of each journey to make sure buying a railcard would be worthwhile.
Using Local Services
When travelling by train, most countries offer both premium and local services. Most tourists travel on the premium services, as they tend to get you to your destination faster and more directly than local services. Local services tend to be much cheaper however, offering perfectly comfortable trains, and allowing you to immerse yourself more fully in a country’s culture.
Choosing the Right Time to Book
Booking your tickets in advance is one of the easiest ways to save money on your trip. In Europe, most train tickets are only available to buy 3 months in advance. If you know when you plan to travel, work out when the three month booking window will open, and buy your tickets as soon as possible after that point. If you can’t book that far in advance, watch out for special offers from the operators in the weeks leading up to your trip; you never know what discounts you might find.
Ed Povey is the founder of Grounded Travel, the internet’s leading overland travel directory. The site provides up-to-date descriptions, timetable and fare information for hundreds of overland routes throughout the world. You can follow Ed and Grounded Travel on Twitter and Facebook.