5 of the World’s Most Exciting Train Journeys

Blue Train, South Africa, Cape Town to Pretoria review: 31-hour journey  beats flying

For those seeking to escape the hustle and bustle of daily life, a train vacation provides a welcome opportunity to slow down, enjoying spectacular scenery from the comfort of your seat or sleeper, experiencing tantalizing tastes of new cultures and the bygone age of rail travel. From Singapore to Switzerland, we explore a selection of unforgettable train journeys.

1. Eastern & Oriental Express, Singapore to Thailand

Traversing the 1,200-mile journey from Singapore to Bangkok, Thailand, the Eastern & Oriental Express is the height of luxury, boasting an observation car, opulent sleeper cabins, and delectable meals concocted by internationally educated chefs.

In the elegant bar, passengers enjoy artisan cocktails while watching towering mountains, swathes of green, and glittering stretches of ocean pass by.

2. Blue Train, South Africa

Gliding from Pretoria to Cape Town, the Blue Train’s exterior is somewhat modest, belying the extravagance waiting within.

One of South Africa’s most iconic, elegant trains, the Blue Train’s dining car presents lavish five-course banquets, with the main car serving all manner of dainty creations at high tea. Deluxe Suites feature either twin beds and a shower or a double bed and a small bath. The bedroom areas can be converted into sitting rooms for daytime use.

Guests have the opportunity to explore vibrant Pretoria, spending the night at the exclusive Castello di Monte hotel. Once the Blue Train arrives in Cape Town, guests are invited to explore the sights, including Boulders Beach and its world-famous penguins and, of course, Table Mountain.

The Blue Train then continues to scenic Mont Rochelle and its internationally acclaimed vineyards. Guests also have the option of extending their itinerary, hitting the Garden Route, or embarking on a safari.

3. Reunification Express, Vietnam

Few stretches of railway boast the storied history of the North-South Railway, one of the best-loved railways in Southeast Asia. Over the years, the track’s fortunes have ebbed and flowed along with the countries it passes through.

Spanning a distance of 1,072 miles over two days, the Reunification Express transports passengers from Ho Chi Minh City in Southern Vietnam to Hanoi in the north. The train rumbles through fishing villages, lush green paddy fields, dense jungle, and even busy neighborhoods, providing spectacular views of the Vietnamese countryside.

Although it offers fairly modest accommodation, the Reunification Express does present a variety of different seating or sleeping options. The cheapest fare is the Hard Seat, providing passengers with a spot on one of the train’s many unforgiving wooden benches.

The next option is the Soft Seat, with plush chairs and overhead televisions playing Vietnamese programming, offering a (relatively) comfortable option for travelers on a tight budget. However, bearing in mind that the journey from Ho Chi Minh to Hanoi takes 30-plus hours, many travelers opt for a sleeper.

As the name would suggest, the Hard Berth is basic, comprised of a room with six beds and no padding. For a few dollars more, the Soft Berth is available, with four passengers sharing. Finally, there are two-bed VIP cabins, which are ideal for couples.

4. Glacier Express, Switzerland

With a duration of 7.5 hours, this somewhat more modest 180-mile journey has earned an international reputation as the slowest, most scenic train journey in the whole of Europe. Winding through the magnificent Swiss Alps, the Glacier Express negotiates 91 tunnels and 291 bridges on its journey through the Oberalp Pass.

With surrounding mountain peaks reaching almost 7,000 feet above sea level, passengers are treated to magical vistas across the surrounding countryside as the train winds its way through valleys, past mountain forests, and along picturesque alpine pastureland.

Updated in 2019, seats in the train’s First- and Second-class panoramic cars feature power sockets and free WiFi. In addition to the audio guide, passengers can also access the newly-integrated infotainment system via their tablets or smartphones, tracking the progress of their journey and learning interesting facts about the region.

5. The Venice Simplon-Orient-Express, Italy to the UK

The world’s most famous luxury train, the legendary Orient Express has been reimagined to emulate the Golden Age of rail travel.

In the dining carriages, passengers indulge in the romance of the railway, dressed to the nines in elegant downs and dinner jackets with black ties. Capturing the hearts and imaginations of guests for generations, the dining carriages are ornately decorated with oriental black lacquer panels inlaid with Lalique glass.

Providing a unique opportunity to experience a world of timeless glamor, the train’s six Grand Suites are the height of luxury and unbridled indulgence that, in days gone by, was known only to royalty.

Journeying along one of Europe’s most scenic rail routes, passengers enjoy their own private compartments furnished with gleaming mahogany paneling and damask bed linen. From the Italian Dolomites to the Swiss Alps, guests are afforded spectacular views aboard this timeless jewel.

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