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The main benefits of travel by rail are the simplicity and the scenery. Rail travel is an old-fashioned way to get around, but it can also be one of the most fun. Trains can also be a practical option, particularly for shorter trips.
One of the main benefits of travel by rail is getting to see the scenery. Instead of flying over the sights, rail travel allows passengers to see countryside or coastline. Often, railways are placed far from busy highways, providing a more picturesque journey than traveling by car.
Another perk of travel by rail is simplicity and directness. Rather than learning directions to a unknown place, taking a train allows passengers to relax and know exactly where they will end up. Unlike car or bus travel, which can be diverted or delayed due to traffic or road works, trains have a direct path and are consistent in their schedules.
Often, travel by rail is simpler than flying. As security measures at airports become more restrictive around the world, train stations are easier to navigate. Generally, it is only necessary to arrive at a train station 10 to 15 minutes before a train is due to leave.
Travel by rail can be a vacation in itself. Often, trains on long journeys will purposefully travel through scenic areas, making the trip ideal for travel photography. Some of the sightseeing trains may provide transport to one or several tourist destinations.
Overnight trains are a popular option for certain long journeys. These allow passengers to board in the evening, sleep aboard the train during the journey, and arrive at their destination the following morning. When booked within long vacations, overnight trains remove the need to book a hotel for a night.
Some might say that camaraderie that develops on trains is one of the primary benefits of travel by rail. During long trips, especially multi-day journeys, passengers may get to know another during meals or on-board activities. Even long trains have a limited amount of space, and passengers will invariably see many familiar faces during the journey.
For short trips, one of the primary benefits of travel by rail is the ability to engage in different tasks. Unlike driving, which requires all of the attention of a driver, trains allow passengers to read, do work, or sleep while traveling. It also gives the passenger the option of standing up and walking around during the journey.
There are some downsides to rail travel. In many parts of the world, it is very expensive to travel by train, especially high-speed train. Trains also take longer than flying for long journeys and sometimes can take longer than driving if the train route is indirect. Taking a train also requires some form of transport to and from the train station at both ends of the trip.
The best part of taking a train for me is the ability to get up and walk around during the long trip. There really isn't any place to go on a bus, and other passengers seem to get a little nervous if someone stands up on a plane these days. My train had an observation car, so I could sit in there and look out at the scenery or just read a book. I don't know if I'd enjoy taking a train from New York to California, but it was great going through the Rockies and back.
One year I wanted to go back up to my home state of Ohio for a school reunion, so I looked up all of the usual travel options: bus, plane, train, etc. An Amtrak ticket from the nearest station was almost a third more expensive than a plane ticket. The station was also two hours away, so there was gas money to consider. I had no idea that taking a train would cost so much. I thought it would closer to a bus ticket than a plane ticket.
The good part was that the train schedule involved a 6 hour layover in New York City. That would be enough time to get out and see a little bit of the area before getting back on the bus for the second leg. I don't know what was in the section of NYC around Grand Central Station, but at least I'd have something to do.
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