London Strategies Travel

Take The Train!

The Shinkansen - Japan's Bullet Trains!
The Shinkansen - Japan's Bullet Trains!

I’m a kid at heart, I really enjoy taking the train and looking out the window.

Sure, you can fly to most places nowadays. But, taking a train during your travels can easily add another story to tell over a few drinks with your friends! It not only provides a different activity to your trip, but it can be a cost-effective solution towards experiencing more of your destination. Here are some examples of different train-taking options that you may want to consider on your next trip (I hope you like maps).

Public Transportation

This is arguably the best way to explore a city. Taking a subway, lightrail and/or train can often provide a great alternative to Buses, Taxis, Ubers, and Lyfts. If you plan for it, you can potentially take various trains to get to a destination within a city for the price of entry!

Check your destination airport for any underground train services. They often take you right into the heart of the city. Depending on your travel plans, it can take you very close to your hotel! Two good examples would be the train from Sydney International Airport to Circular Quay, and the Narita Express (N’EX) to Tokyo.

Getting off a Circular Quay, I was a block away from the Marriott hotel, and within walking distance of the Sydney Opera House!
Getting off a Circular Quay, I was a block away from the Marriott hotel, and within walking distance of the Sydney Opera House!

Trains in Tokyo

Tokyo is known for their train systems, and I can confirm first hand that they are on time, every time, EVERYWHERE.  For those of you traveling into Narita International Airport, you’ll be surprised to find that it is actually somewhat far from Tokyo! Fortunately, the Narita Express (N’EX) takes you right into Tokyo.

You can take the N'EX with the Japan Rail Pass. But that's a topic for another post.
You can take the N’EX with the Japan Rail Pass. But that’s a topic for another post.
It takes about 1-1.5 hours to get to Shinjuku. Perfect for those long layovers!
It takes about 1-1.5 hours to get to Shinjuku. Perfect for those long layovers!

The N’EX links you links you up with the Yamanote Line. For those of you who don’t know, the Yamanote Line in Tokyo is “THE” train line you should familiarize yourself with. It circles Tokyo and gets you pretty much anywhere you need to be. Obviously, for this reason, it is a busy line. Expect to ‘sardine’ yourself with the locals during rush hour.

E.g. "Sardining," New Yorkers are no stranger to this phenomenon.
E.g. “Sardining,” New Yorkers are no stranger to this phenomenon.
The Yamanote Line: The train that gets you just about anywhere in Tokyo at a moment's notice!
The Yamanote Line: The train that gets you just about anywhere in Tokyo at a moment’s notice!
You can get to the Yamanote line taking a local train from NRT, but if you plan to go to Shinjuku, N'EX takes you there direct!
You can get to the Yamanote line taking a local train from NRT, but if you plan to go to Shinjuku, N’EX takes you there direct!

Trains in Melbourne

Obviously, you will have to pay some amount of money to ride the trains in Tokyo. N’EX cost me ¥2650, roughly $26 USD, one way for one ticket. Then, there are fees to use the trains in the heart of Tokyo.

Sometimes, cities provide their train services free of charge! It is definitely not common, but for those of you who want to travel to the ‘land down under’, Melbourne in Victoria, Australia has a FREE TRAM ZONE!

All of this can be explored for the low, low price of $0! Call now and receive an additional train ride, absolutely free!
All of this can be explored for the low, low price of $0! Call now and receive an additional train ride, absolutely free!

Melbourne’s tram system is reminiscent of San Fransisco’s trolleys, but without the hills. The Free Tram Zone is also gridded, which makes the city feel like New York City at times. However, Melbourne is probably one of my most favorite cities I’ve visited, since it also has its own distinct personality. Rather, it has various!  This portion of the city has some really neat alleyways tucked away between the big shops and streets.

Make no mistake – Melbourne is the type of city that requires a bit of exploration on foot to fully uncover its secrets! Various arcades and narrow side-streets actually have their own ‘microculture’ going on. You could stumble into an alley with french cafes, the next might be covered with various graffiti and tags lining the walls. You could honestly spend a couple of days exploring the city, and this Tram system will help you do it. Best of all, its free!

This trolley does a loop around the free tram zone, kind of like Tokyo's Yamanote Line.
This trolley does a loop around the free tram zone, kind of like Tokyo’s Yamanote Line.
"It's an older train, Jonathan. But it checks out."
“It’s an older train, Jonathan. But it checks out.”
The rest of Melbourne's inter-free-zone trams are much more modern.
The rest of Melbourne’s inter-free-zone trams are much more modern.

Trains in London

Taking the Tube in London is also great way to get around. Unlike Melbourne, this one costs money. The good thing about London’s transportation system is that they offer what’s called a Visitor Oyster Card. It not only allows you to use the Tube, but it also lets you use overground and national rails, buses, trams,  light rails, and cable cars, all by using the same card! Best of all, you can order your Oyster card ahead of your travel, and get it shipped to your home before you depart. That way, you can take the Tube right off the plane at the airport!

With the Visitor Oyster Card, the possibilities are endless!
With the Visitor Oyster Card, the possibilities are endless!

Long Distance Train Rides – The Bullet Trains in Japan

You may want to visit a few cities what with all the free time you have. Again, a plane can get you there, but the train can be an experience in itself. Take the Bullet Train in Japan for example – the ‘Shinkansen’.

For the price of a plane ticket, you may just be able to take the Shinkansen close to your hotel!
For the price of a plane ticket, you may just be able to take the Shinkansen close to your hotel!

 

Most tourists take the Shinkansen south from Tokyo as it links you up to Kyoto, Kobe, and beyond.
Most tourists take the Shinkansen south from Tokyo as it links you up to Kyoto, Kobe, and beyond.

The Bullet trains themselves are longer than you think, and are plenty fast! Below is a video I took once we were underway to Kyoto – structures look trapezoidal due to the speed of the train.

The inside of a Shinkansen is particularly reminiscent of being on a plane anyway. You also get assigned seats and an assigned cab when you pick up the tickets at special dedicated Shinkansen booths at the train station.

They also have a nice train attendant who comes out with a cart of snacks for purchase on longer legs of your trip.
They also have a nice train attendant who comes out with a cart of snacks for purchase on longer legs of your trip.

One could take an overnight bus down to Kyoto for much less than the price of a Shinkansen ticket, but what you pay for makes up for the time you save in traveling.  Try weighing your options and budget restrictions when considering taking one. You will likely want to purchase a Japan Rail Pass if you plan to take the bullet train. If you can pull it off, I would highly recommend it!

Japan is not the only country with bullet trains – South Korea and China have them too. When considering visiting other cities and communities, consider a long-distance train ride. It may prove to be less of a hassle than taking the plane!

International Train Rides

If you ever travel to Europe, train rides may be a great way to visit various countries. Distances to major European cities allow for high-speed rail to become viable from both a financial and time-efficiency perspective. If you plan on taking train rides in Europe, plan in advance! The earlier you book, the cheaper the cost of your ticket is. Eurostar is one of the main lines in and out of London. Within France, Thalys is a major provider of service to other cities, both domestic and international.

Take the Tube to St. Pancras Intl. Station and you can get to Paris in a few hours!
Take the Tube to St. Pancras Intl. Station and you can get to Paris in a few hours!
Technically, you could go to Brussels from Paris solely to have lunch and come back!
Technically, you could go to Brussels from Paris solely to have lunch and come back!
You can be a madlad like me and travel London-Paris-Brussels-London all by train!
You can be a madlad like me and travel London-Paris-Brussels-London all by train!

Leisure train rides

You don’t necessarily have to take a train solely for its utility. There are plenty of train tours that you can take just for the fun of it! Sometimes, you may just want to do a day trip, other times it may be a multi-day train activity. A good example of a leisurely train tour would be the Puffing Billy Railway in Melbourne, Australia.

A series of trains are maintained and run for tourists by volunteers purely for its historical significance.
A series of trains are maintained and run for tourists by volunteers purely for its historical significance.

According to the train conductors, these are one of the few, if not the only, trains in the world where you can literally hang your limbs outside of the train while in motion.

Of course, plenty of people took advantage of hanging out the windows!
Of course, plenty of people took advantage of hanging out the windows!

Try taking the train more often!

Taking the train during international trips can be just as cost and time-effective as taking the plane, perhaps event more so!

Have any additional examples of taking the train? Share in the comments!

About the author

Jonny

Jonathan "Jonny" Avila is a chubby young professional with a cat, wife, and a taste for life! Believes in 'paying it forward' by sharing the tools, tips, tricks, and lessons from his own experiences so you too can jump on the Travel Bandwagon and enjoy what this wonderful world has to offer!

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