Great Railway Journeys: The Trans-Siberian Railway: The Continent-Crossing Journey
Few would dispute that the Trans-Siberian is the supreme king of all things straddling two rails – a leviathan of a railway journey, traversing distances big enough to bring on a headache just thinking about them.
By the time passengers step off at the last stop, chances are that their train will have clanked and jolted its way round a fifth of the circumference of planet Earth. It’s less well known that there’s not just one Trans-Siberian route, but rather a number of sub-species.
The original Trans-Siberian route takes passengers from Moscow to the seaport of Vladivostok, but one of the most colourful alternatives is the Trans-Mongolian route – a trip connecting three capital cities and a world of changing landscapes.
Beginning in the Russian capital, trains trundle their way through birch forests across the Ural Mountains to the town of Yekaterinburg
Within a few days, services swing round the brilliant blue waters of Lake Baikal before plunging southward into the gently sloping grasslands of the Mongolian steppe, dotted with yurts and grazing horses.
The last leg from the Mongolian capital Ulaanbaatar to Beijing is a fitting finale, quickly skipping between the arid expanse of the Gobi Desert,industrial sprawl and green mountains – squint and you may even glimpse the Great Wall itself.
Whilst the Trans Siberian Railroad may not offer all the glamour of other Great Railway Journeys such as the Orient Express it certainly is an experience that is worth shall we say perhaps a little discomfort and a great way to see this fast continent.
If you would like more information on the Trans Siberian Express or if you want us to help you plan and holiday in Russia exploring all it has to offer please contact us.
Great Railway Journeys: Tren Crucero, Ecuador: The Vertiginous New Train Route
The Ecuadorian Andes are a fiendish proposition for any transport planner: a three-mile high spine of mountains that runs down the centre of the country, unfolding into high plateaus, fissuring into canyons and sheltering mist-shrouded old towns.
When a railway was built here a century ago, it was hailed as a technological wonder. One of the world’s steepest, it snaked past snow-capped peaks and inched down precipitous slopes on its way to the Pacific coast – until it fell out of use in the late twentieth century.
Following a massive restoration project, as of this summer the Tren Crucero (Cruise Train) will ply the route. It’s a fitting name – pulled for much of the journey by the original steam engines, the train proceeds at a leisurely pace on its four-day, 280-mile journey from the mountain capital Quitoto the coastal city of Guayaquil
From the gold and green grasslands of Cotopaxi National Park to the desolate, glacier capped Chimborazo,Ecuador’s tallest peak, there are plenty of dramatic moments. But the undoubted highlight, vertigo notwithstanding, is the Devil’s Nose, a half-mile descent of zigzags down a rocky slope, bridging the uplands and the coast.
The Tren Crucero journey also incorporates time off the train to encounter the cultures, food and people of Ecuador a little closer at hand.
For more information on the Tren Crucero in Ecuador one of the Great Train Journeys in the World or for assistance in planning and booking a trip to this fascinating country please contact World of Transport Travel.
Get Set, Go! – World of Transport Travel’s Top Tips For Your Rail Journey Through Europe
Arrive In Style – Travel by Train
Travelling through Europe by rail is an experience many of our clients value and enjoy time after time. There are any reasons why people choose to travel by train, from environmental concerns to the convenience of arriving directly into the centre of their destination. There is no need to concentrate on foreign road signs or to queue at airport check-in desks – and trains to Europe are undoubtedly some of the fastest, most comfortable and reliable in the world.
In order for us to ensure that the travelling experience you have is as hassle-free as possible, we have put together some useful tips in this blog that should help you along the way.
Before You Leave
Remember, you do need a valid passport to travel on Eurostar and for any journey within Europe. We also advise you to take out adequate travel insurance (please contact us for a quotation).
Leaving the UK on a Eurostar?
Many of our clients start their journey onboard Eurostar, before joining a connecting train to one of thousands of destinations around Europe. Here are some points you may like to know.
Whichever Eurostar terminal you are leaving from, you will need to check-in at least thirty minutes before your train departs. On peak trains, for example Friday evening services, it’s advisable to get there earlier. If you are travelling with a Business Premier Ticket, you can check in up to ten minutes before departure and access the business lounges.
Eurostar Baggage Allowance
You can take up to two main pieces of luggage and an item of hand luggage onto the train with you. There are storage areas at the end of each carriage on the train for larger pieces of luggage, i.e. bikes and skis. If you have oversized or additional luggage, you may need to pay an additional charge – Eurostar staff will be available to help at the terminal. All luggage needs to be labelled and there are trolleys at the train station should you need them.
Eurostar Terminal Facilities
Although facilities vary slightly for each terminal, you can usually find the following available:
St Pancras Station
• Left luggage facilities
• Luggage trolleys, which are coin operated
• An information desk
• ATM machines & Currency exchange service
• Porter service
• Shops selling drinks, snacks, refreshments, newspapers, books and a range of other products – these vary considerably depending on which station you travel from
• A dedicated departure lounge for Business Premier travellers and Eurostar Carte Blanche holders
• WiFi hotspots, available for a small charge. Free for Business Premier travellers and Eurostar
Carte Blanche holders
All terminals in the UK, France and Belgium have signs in English and French, making them easy to navigate around.
When you book your ticket with World of Transport Travel, enough time will be built into your journey to allow you to connect with your next train. Connections with another train in Paris may mean you need to change stations, whereas most connections in Lille or Brussels just require a platform change. If you are only going to a short distance from Lille, you may need to change stations from Lille Europe to station to Lille Flandres, the station for local trains, which is a short walk away and well signed.
Make sure you allow plenty of time to board the train. So that services run as scheduled, some trains close their doors a few minutes before departure. It’s not possible to board after this time.
Changing Stations in Paris
There are no less than seven main train stations in Paris. The station you need will be clearly marked on your tickets. It may sound obvious, but please make sure you are heading for the right station before you set off on the Paris underground system and allow yourself enough time to get there – at least an hour.
The stations are:
• Gare du Nord where Eurostar arrives and departs for the UK
• Gare de l’Est a short walk from the Gare du Nord
• Gare Saint-Lazare on a direct RER line from Gare du Nord (Line E)
• Gare du Lyon on a direct RER line from Gare du Nord (Line D)
• Gare du Bercy head for Gare du Lyon (as above) and then change to take the Metro to Bercy
Metro Station (Line 14). Gare de Bercy is a short walk from here.
• Gare d’Austerlitz on a direct Metro line from Gare du Nord (Line 5)
• Gare Montparnasse the furthest from Gare du Nord, but on a direct Metro line (Line 4)
Using the Metro and RER in Paris
The Metro and RER underground networks in Paris operate on a very similar way to the London Underground system. Just work out which line you need and, to make sure you are going the right way, check the last stop in the direct you need to travel. Metro lines are identified by numbers and RER lines are identified by letters.
If you haven’t already purchased your Metro tickets, you can do so on board Eurostar or at the station in Paris from an official ticket office or machine.
Should you prefer not to use the Metro or RER, there are taxi ranks at all of the main stations.
If you are travelling onwards by train in France, you will need to validate your ticket. Look out for the yellow machines – usually just before or on the platform – and insert your ticket. Inspectors on the train will check this and you may be fined if your ticket isn’t validated.
Ticket validation may also be required when travelling within other European countries. Look out for the validation machines on the platform, or check with station staff.
Most trains throughout Europe, particularly those travelling long distance, will have a buffet car or even a restaurant on board selling snacks, drinks and sometimes meals. It is perfectly acceptable to take your own food and drink on board, although there may be some restrictions on alcohol.
When you arrive at your final European destination, you are likely to be in the centre of the town or city, often within easy reach of hotels and car hire companies.
If you would like us to book accommodation and/or car rental for you, then please contact us with your requirements. By pre-booking, we may well be able to offer considerable savings, and you will then have peace of mind knowing that you have somewhere to stay (especially during busy periods).
Experiencing a delay?
Sometimes delays do happen. Once you’re abroad, if you do miss your connection because of a delay on the train, get your ticket endorsed by the train guard to indicate this. Then ask the ticket office at your onwards connecting train station if you can be put on the next available train, showing the endorsed tickets as proof.
We hope you enjoy your journey on Europe’s rail network, and look forward to working with you to plan your itineraries, wherever they may be.
We can also book rail travel in Russia, China, and other countries, as part of a tour. If you want to travel in luxury, such as on the Rovos Rail or Blue Train, in South Africa, the Eastern & Oriental Express between Bangkok and Singapore, the Orient Express from Paris to Venice and Istanbul, as well as many others, then please contact us with your requirements.
Japan is a popular destination for the business & leisure traveller alike and using Japan Rail Pass is a great way to see the country.
Once you have worked out exactly how low to bow and mastered the correct protocol for exchanging business cards, you’ll often find the most challenging task is getting from A to B on time.
Everyone knows how important punctuality is in Japanese business culture, so there’s little margin for error on a tight itinerary.
Both the SUICA and PASMO railway cards provide a great way to get around, but the Japan Rail Pass is another incredibly popular option, which we feel is really worthwhile.
This lets you travel anywhere in the country on the public Japan Rail network, making it an ideal choice for any travellers who need to visit multiple cities such as Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto. That said, even if you’re just staying in Tokyo, a JR Pass lets you move around the city’s extensive Yamanote Loop, as well as other JR lines.
Buying a JR pass
Japan Rail Passes are available for all temporary visitors to Japan – including business and leisure travellers – who are staying for less than ninety days.
You can buy a seven, fourteen or twenty-one day JR pass covering various regions of Japan, for Ordinary (Economy) or Green (Business) classes.
The pass must be bought before you get to Japan, and the usage period begins when you first use the card. It’s then active for all remaining consecutive days.
Prices for all three passes are available, upon application, through World of Transport Travel, who would also be delighted to arrange air travel. accommodation, tours and excursions for you.
If you are a business traveller, we invite you to provide us with your itinerary, so that we can review it to make it as cost effective as possible.
For leisure travellers, we will do the same, but we can be more flexible in sourcing out any cheaper deals for you.
Keep the receipt & check that all of your details on the documents exactly match your passport – otherwise you can run into trouble in Japan, as JR officials are not fond of overlooking typos!
When you arrive in to Japan, head to to a JR Pass exchange office to swap your order for the actual pass and nominate the date you want it to become active.
Once you have swapped the exchange order for a rail pass you have up to one month to activate it and start booking tickets.
Japan Rail Pass vs individual rail tickets?
When it is cheaper to buy tickets as you need them compared to purchasing a JR Pass?
The rule of thumb is that a seven-day JR Pass costs about the same as a Tokyo-Kyoto return trip using individual tickets. Yes, the JR Pass covers the “bullet train” or Shinkansen services, except for the Nozomi and Mizuho trains.
So if you plan on doing any more than that within a seven-day window then you’ll save money with the JR Pass. Even if buying individual tickets is somewhat cheaper, the convenience of your JR Pass can be much more important than saving a few pounds.
Regional JR Passes
You can buy a JR Pass covering one of several regions.
The JR East pass covers everything east of Tokyo, but as it doesn’t include Hokkaido it’s best if you’re heading to Aomori, Tokyo and Kanazawa – an unlikely combination for some travellers.
The JR West pass will get you pretty much everywhere the east pass doesn’t go, although it still doesn’t cover Hokkaido. This is ideal if you need to visit three of either Osaka, Kyoto, Hiroshima, Fukuoka, Nagasaki, Kobe, Nara, Shikoku or Kyushu.
The Kansai Wide Area pass is a variant of the JR West Pass and provides great value for travellers if you need to travel between Kyoto, Osaka, Kobe, Kansai Airport and Nara.
There was a time, less than two centuries ago, when the only trains heading west from Chicago were composed of wagons carrying groups of traders, prospectors and missionaries seeking their fortunes or their freedom in frontier outposts.
Then, on 10 May 1869, came the opening of the first transcontinental railroad across the USA, which finally helped to forge fast routes through to the west, drawing settlers and, later on, sightseers.
The California Zephyr was launched in 1949 to lure the latter, taking them on a 2500-mile journey between the Windy City and the Californian coast in three days. The landscapes that the train crosses along the way remain as dramatic as they always were, ensuring that the longest rail journey in the USA is perhaps also its most beautiful.
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qmVtl5b82xI&w=480&h=360]The Zephyr passes through seven states and some of America’s most famous scenery on its historic route, departing daily in both directions. The train’s sightseer lounge has near-panoramic windows and revolving seats from which to watch as the train ascends, rising over Denver past mountain lakes, pine forest and slopes mottled with snow. The impressive views continue as it speeds alongside the cliffs and canyons of the upper Colorado River, before descending into the deserts of Utah and Nevada. The mountain passes of the vertiginous Sierra Nevada are one final highlight before San Francisco and the Pacific Ocean – a worthy end for cross-country adventurers.
Why not let World of Transport Travel work with you to arrange your travels aboard the California Zephyr, as well as any other rail travel within the USA. We deal with a range of excellent providers with whom we can make your dream in to a reality.
The California Zephyr is a great experience, whether you be an enthusiast, or just want to watch the world go by from the same level, instead of being miles above the earth, in an aircraft.
So, send us an email or contact us by phone and let us help you to achieve your desired trip.
The Orient Express is One of the Worlds Top 10 Train Journeys
Once upon a time train travel was a luxurious prospect that came with a frisson of glamour and adventure. It’s this golden age of rail travel that the Orient-Express company seeks to evoke on its train services.
The same group also runs day trips in the UK on the sister trains of the VSOE – the British Pullman and the Northern Belle, which recreate the same Agatha Christie-era atmosphere without the expense.
Within art-deco interiors kitted out in wood panelling, mirrors and mosaics, guests are served a five-course dinner with wine and champagne; beyond the window, the rolling downs of the Surrey countryside speed past.
Why not let World of Transport Travel work with you to arrange your travels aboard the Orient Express, whether it be Paris, Venice, Istanbul, or just a day trip.
We deal with a range of excellent providers with whom we can make your dream in to a reality. The Orient Express is an amazing experience, whether you be an enthusiast, or just want to soak up the nostalgia of travelling by a mode of transport from an era gone by..
So, send us an email or contact us by phone and let us help you to achieve your desired trip.