I like trains and I love train travel, but not as much as Englishman, Mark Smith!
If you are contemplating a train trip ANYWHERE in the World, then make sure you check out his website, The Man in Seat 61.
Mark turned his work experience in the British rail industry, and his passion for trains and train travel, into his full-time job. What started out as a hobby, and a desire to share his passion for trains, turned into a profitable business for himself, and an incredibly useful travel resource for the rest of us.
I am not sure how I stumbled across this site (possibly wasting time trawling the internet for the next adventure), but I am so glad I did. It just seems to capture everything anyone would need to know about rail travel, all in one place.
- Do you want to travel overland from London to India? Then have a look at this site.
- What about to Japan? Yes, he can help with that too.
In fact, he has gathered train, ticketing and schedule information for just about every country, and every continent, in the world:
The site does look a little amateurish i.e. not as groovy and schmick as many other professional travel sites, but the mountain of quality information and content, outweighs any superficial design limitations.
A trip I am dreaming about is to fly into Singapore and train our way up through Singapore, Malaysia, and then to the very top of Thailand. Of course there is the option to keep on heading north, but I thought this would be a good initial schedule. My thinking is that we simply travel on local trains and buses, hopping on and off as the fancy takes us, and time allows. By clicking on the interactive map, I can see train schedules and fares as well as bus and ferry links. How good is that?
I was interested to read how Mark came up with quirky name for his website/business. Apparently when he regularly travelled on the Eurostar train, he would always book seat number 61 as it is a window seat, included a small table, and faces the forward/right direction. Now that’s handy knowledge to have. Mark says he developed his site to inspire people to travel more often by train, as well as to build a person’s confidence to search schedules and easily book tickets.
In the past I have used a website call Rail Europe to book train tickets all over Europe. I have had good experiences with this site although it will only allow you to book about six months in advance, and it doesn’t like it when you need to book multiple travel legs. It struggles when you require more than two connections.
Perhaps next time I should try booking through the Man in Seat 61?
Another useful site with early travel planning is Rome to Rio. Simply plug in your start and end points anywhere in the world, and the site will show the multiple options to get from Point A to B including bus, train, plane and car. Even on foot. Very handy to get an idea of the most convenient option to suit you.
So, why would you travel by train?
- Low Stress: The responsibility to get to your chosen destination is not yours! You can sit back, relax, and watch the world go by. On one of those high speed trains in France or Spain, it is a bit hard to catch a glimpse of the view adjacent to the train as you are going darn fast, so just focus on the horizon.
- Lost?: It is hard to go too wrong on a train. You have a clear idea of where it will end up and the stops along the way. (Don’t mention my early experiences of train travel in Sydney when I had meant to go to the Northern suburbs and ended up at the foot of the Blue Mountains due WEST of Sydney).
- Comfort: Even second class tickets are in air-conditioned, clean and well-maintained carriages.
- Convenience: Nine times out of ten, the train station is located in the centre of a city, great for moving about and orienting yourself.
- Cost: In most cases, I have found train travel very cost effective. Yes, it may take a little longer to get to your destination, but you may save time traveling to/from airports and waiting for the usual airline delays (and don’t mention the cancelled flights and lost luggage).
- Meet the Locals: Train travel provides the perfect opportunity to strike up a conversation, language permitting, with your fellow travellers. Another fabulous way to connect with, and learn about, a country.
So, next time you are planning a journey, have a ‘chat’ with The Man in Seat 61.
You’ve gotta love a person with a passion!
Is train travel in your travel mix?
What: The Man in Seat 61 can be found at: https://www.seat61.com
When: The site is updated regularly. If you need to double-check anything, just click on the links to the main rail sites for each country.
Why: One-stop-shop for all things train and rail-related.
Who: No age limit.
Related Posts: I haven’t had any major train adventures yet, but I am working on it. In the meantime, there is a little rail stuff (an ABT Rack and Pinion track) in the post about sight-seeing in Tassie.
Related Blogs: Jim Loomis is another fanatical train traveller, with a special focus on different routes in North America. What was I saying about a person with a passion??
Read it: For a train ride down memory lane, get your copy of Bradshaw’s Continental Railway Guide: For Travellers Through Europe, with an Epitomized Description of Each Country, and Maps of Europe, Showing the Lines of Railways Opened, first published in 1913. This classic tome has been reprinted and is available from Book Depository.