Traveling by train in America used to be the only fast and affordable means of getting around when point A and point B were separated by a great distance. While that hasn’t been the case here for some time, train travel is hugely popular abroad. Here, it would no doubt take major upgrades to the American train infrastructure to make it world-class, but between rising gas prices and sagging air travel efficiency, maybe the time is right for trains to make a comeback.
These 10 trains have qualities that make them good models for domestic adaptation. To some extent, attributes like amenities, comfort, convenient routes and access to them, efficiency, reasonable fares, and technology are why these services made the countdown. The rank does not reflect individual trains or routes, but in each case a top route is listed as an example, and it’s one you should try if you happen to find yourself in that corner of the world.
No. 10 – VR
Scandinavia is generally underrated and under-visited, making it an unlikely place to bump into the familiar faces you’re trying to forget on vacation. Finland is one of those countries that just works because it’s exceptionally clean, efficient and trouble-free. The state-owned VR Group is no different. When you manage to pry yourself away from Helsinki, VR is probably the best way to take in the countryside as you tour outlying areas.
Top route: Helsinki – Iisalmi
No. 9 – Great Southern Rail Limited
Australian cities like Perth and Sydney are great to visit, but there’s so much more to the country. You need to see, well, the country. You could rent an ute, but all that driving is going to take a major chunk of time, even if you explore a region each time you visit. Your best bet is to span the continental coast and see a lot of the in-between on Great Southern Rail Limited. Two of its three routes are long, multiday affairs, but given the accommodations and scenery, you probably won’t mind at all.
Top route: Perth — Sydney (Indian Pacific)
No. 8 – AVE
It’s a worthwhile pursuit to live up to one’s name in the transportation game, despite what Greyhound would have you believe. On the other end of the spectrum is AVE. There’s kind of a double meaning going on here, since “ave” is “bird” in Spanish, though this is really an acronym for Alta Velocidad Española (Spanish High Speed). The duality is real, though. For example, service from Madrid to Seville is so consistent, fares are refunded if the train arrives more than five minutes late.
Top route: Madrid – Seville
No. 7 – KTX
The Korea Train eXpress is a modern take on The Little Engine That Could. After the initial Seoul to Pusan route was finished in 2004, passenger numbers were short of expectations. That contributed to overall operational losses, and frequent train breakdowns didn’t help matters. Still, there’s progress. Line expansion is underway, and ridership is on the rise.
Top route: Seoul – Pusan
No. 6 – Russian Railways
If you have a lot of time on your hands and a burning desire to live the experience, you can sit on a train for almost 6,000 miles on the Trans-Siberian Railway. Incidentally, the state-owned railway’s spot on the countdown is largely in recognition of the ability to operate the challenging stretch under frequently adverse conditions. For the rest of us with more limited time, attention spans and vodka than that trip demands, this is still the way to go between the Russian areas you’ll want to cover on a visit. It beats renting a Lada, anyway.
Top route: Saint Petersburg – Moscow
To read about the top 5 trains, head over to Top 10: Trains at AskMen.com
On a side note, I can understand why the writer chose these trains but I was suprised that SBB in Switzerland didn’t even make the top 10.