Luxury Train Travel To Get Your Vacation On The Right Track

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Train travel brings images of old-world opulence and exploration. Trains opened up the American frontier for settlement and expansion. Victorian-era families took the train across Europe to take their summer vacations in France, Switzerland, and Italy.

Today, most trains are commuter vehicles. They have seats, tray tables, and maybe a snack trolley if you are on long-distance services. The romance is mostly gone as you listen to babies cry and business people bat in you in the head with their oversize newspapers.

Some of that historical glamor remains, however, on the world’s luxury trains.

Tourists willing to part with their cash for the experience of luxury train travel can take epic journeys across Europe, Africa, South America, and Asia. If you have the time and money, you can even cross continents on these noble steel steeds.

Are you the type who is more concerned with the journey than the destination? We’ll show you how to get your luxury vacation on the right track.

The World’s Luxury Trains: Where, When, And How

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You can embark on the train journey of a lifetime on almost every continent (bar Antarctica). The trips may last one day, a weekend, or as long as a week or two.

One Day Luxury Trains

Do you have limited time or a limited budget? Get a taste of luxury on one of these incredible day trips and journeys.

Belmond British Pullman London

Take a one-day escape into the English countryside with Belmond’s British Pullman. Belmond curates half-day adventures from the heart of London to some of Britain’s areas of natural, historical beauty.

The service offers regular trips to Folkestone, Canterbury, and Bath. However, you can also book into a themed afternoon out, such as a murder mystery or lunch and tea with The Great British Bake Off’s Mary Berry.

You’ll travel on a steam train straight from the 1920s and completely outfitted with art deco features. All passengers also enjoy a three- or four-course lunch or brunch featuring fine-dining silver service served on the way to your destination. With a few hours of sightseeing under your belt, you’ll clamber back aboard the train and indulge in a classic English afternoon tea as you trundle back to London.

Belmond Hiram Bingham

Take the train from Cusco direct to Machu Picchu on Belmond’s Hiram Bingham service. The service is perfect for guests who book into Belmond’s luxury properties in Peru and offer a seamless transition from the beating heart of the city to the wonder of Machu Picchu.

You can book one or two ways from both destinations. On your way to Machu Picchu, you’ll enjoy a traditional three-course lunch accompanied by Peruvian wine. The return to Cusco comes with a four-course meal inspired by the best of Andean cooking.

Presidential Train Portugal

Enjoy the beauty of the Portuguese countryside on a day trip from Porto to Vesuvio aboard the Presidential Train in Portugal.

You’ll board the train in the heart of Porto at 11:15 AM before the staff whisks you away to the countryside. Onboard, you’ll tuck into a gourmet lunch with wine pairings. Upon arrival, you’ll take part in wine and port tastings in the vineyards of Vesuvio.

There’s no dinner on your way home, but you’ll enjoy onboard entertainment as well as coffee and spirits.

Two-to-Three Day Luxury Trains

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These train services offer overnight services or multi-day journeys from central destinations to some of the world’s most beautiful places.

Belmond Royal Scotsman

Do as the Victorians did and escape to the Scottish Highlands on the Belmond Royal Scotsman. Belmond curates several weekend (and the occasional week-long) trips. Enjoy the best of the Highlands both east and west with stops in Moray, Kyle of Lochalsh, Speyside, and the Cairngorms.

Alternatively, snake your way north along Scotland’s wild west coast past Loch Lomond and up the West Highland Line. Catch mainland side views of Skye’s Cuillin Mountains, as well as Ben Nevis, and the Isle Bute.

Belmond Grand Hibernian

Leave the car at home and take in the legendary views of the Irish countryside on Belmond’s Grand Hibernian train. You can see the highlights or take a southernly grand tour of Eire throughout the weekend.

The Grand Hibernian differs from other trains because it’s brand new. Belmond purchased it in 2015 and built it to their precise standards in County Antrim. The interior features are modern but very Irish as it channels the Georgian architecture of Dublin and uses only locally-sourced, hand-crafted materials.

Belmond Andean Explorer

Finished your visit to Machu Picchu? Book another of Belmond’s tours on the Andean Explorer and fly along the highest train line in the world. You’ll enjoy a one- or two-night journey from Cusco to some of the most beautiful areas of the country include Arequipa, Puno, and Lake Titicaca.

All tours include luxury accommodation, onboard meals and beverages, entertainment, excursions, and bilingual guides.

Belmond Venice Simplon-Orient Express

The Orient Express is old world glam with an air of murder mystery. Each service is two days and one night, but it is one service where the scenery outside the window is equally as beautiful as what’s inside.

Leave London and head towards the continent. You’ll roll through Paris and the French countryside, Innsbruck and the mountains of Austria. You’ll then turn south towards Verona leaving the Alps behind for Venice.

You’ll make a quick stop in Paris, but you don’t have time to get off. Why the detour? Because the head chef personally receives a shipment of freshly caught lobsters for the mid-day brunch service.

Belmond Eastern & Oriental Express

These two-to-four day services on the Belmond Eastern & Oriental Express transport you overland across Asia in style. Journeys include Malaysia to Thailand or Thailand to Singapore over three days and two nights.

Why take the slow train? Like all other Belmond services, you’ll enjoy 24-hour steward service and daily three-course lunches and four-course dinners. Along your journey, you’ll stop to enjoy the essential highlights with the included guided tours

The Blue Train

Imagine watching the large African sun setting from your claw-foot bathtub – aboard a luxury train.

The Blue Train takes passengers on a whirlwind 1,600 journey from Pretoria to coastal Cape Town.

Passengers can book double suites that include full-size bathtubs. You’ll also have access to butlers, who have worked on the train for decades and are available 24/7.

Train Suite Shiki-Shima

bedroom with twin beds in a luxury train travel

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Almost all the other journeys try to transport you back in time on the way to your destination. The Shiki-Shima, however, wants to show you your future.

Operated by the East Japan Railway Company, the Japanese train offers futuristic luxury. It is a hybrid electric-diesel train built with quintessential Japanese features and an eye toward the future.

It began operation in 2017, and it is impossible to get a booking. You’ll need to apply, and in 2019, applications were no longer open.

If you do get in, you can choose from:

  • Four day and three-night trip 
  • Two day and one-night trip
  •  Three day and two-night trip

All journeys begin at Ueno Station.

The Ghan

The Ghan is easily the most luxurious way to travel across the Outback. It whisks passengers away from Darwin to Adelaide (a distance of 2,979 kilometers). You’ll enjoy three nights onboard with scheduled excursions in Alice Springs and Katherine.

All passengers enjoy exotic Australian food, like grilled kangaroo steaks, but those who book the Platinum service get breakfast in bed, five-course meals, and chauffeured transfers.

Extended Train Trips

For many, the train trip is part of their overall journey. But the more intrepid can use trains to cross countries and even continents over one or two weeks.

The Maharajas Express

The Maharajas Express is the ultimate train journey. It continues to pick up the “World’s Leading Luxury Train” award year-on-year from 2012 to 2018.

Journeys aboard the train last seven days and six nights and depart from Delhi. Each takes in a different city along the route and concludes in a different region.

Other trains provide on-call service, but passengers aboard The Maharajas Express have private butlers who serve only one car (three private cabins). These butlers attend to all your needs form a personalized wake-up call to helping you with your luggage. Those who take the journey say the bond they forged with their butler was one of the most memorable parts of the journey.

The Golden Eagle Trans-Siberian

Take the train from Europe to Asia and do it in style.

The Trans-Siberian Express is every backpacker’s dream trip. The train, however, is a wild ride that’s freezing in the winter and an oven in the summer. You can take a two-week journey on the Golden Eagle – a train with temperature control, laundry services, and a resident pianist.

Unlike the Express, you’ll have time to explore at each station. You’ll enjoy Lake Baikal, the largest freshwater lake in the world and take a detour to Mongolia. 

The Trans-Siberian line is the Golden Eagle’s most famous and luxurious line, but the company also offers private services in the following destinations:

  • Silk Road (Beijing to Moscow)
  • Mongolian Express (Moscow to Ulaan Baatar (for the Naadam Festival))
  •  Three day and two-night trip
  • China and Tibet Rail Discovery (Urumqi to Lhasa)
  • Caspian Odyssey (Yerevan to Almaty)
  • Heart of Persia (Tehran to Tehran)
  • Persian Odyssey (Tehran to Moscow)
  • Darjeeling Mail (Mumbai to Calcutta)

You can also book continental European journeys in the Balkans, Italy, Sicily, and the Caucasus.

What To Wear On A Luxury Train Trip

Luxury trains are a taste of the old-world charm we all think we miss in our daily lives. That charm doesn’t just include art deco light fixtures, historical portraits, and antique martini glasses. It also comes with a dress code.

In addition to your general packing list, both men and women likely need smart outfits to wear for evening dining. The details of your dress code depend on your tour provider, but your expected attire usually falls into one of three categories:

  • Smart casual, no jacket
  • Smart casual, jacket
  • Jacket and tie
  • Smart formal (suit with tie minimum)

Luxurious, boutique experiences, like the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express, tend to ask the most of their travelers. They require a suit and tie at a minimum, but you may find you are underdressed. Expect other guests to make the most of their opportunity to dress to the nines and bring either a tux or black tie on your trip.

What Is Smart Casual?

Smart casual means more than no pajamas and slippers. For men, smart casual (no jacket) often means chinos or similar trousers with a casual button up shirt and either a jacket or blazer. A travel-friendly, wrinkle-resistant sports jacket works well and means you don’t need to spend precious time ironing or steaming.

Slip-on shoes and loafers accompany these outfits as well. Leave your tennis shoes in your room for excursions.

For women, smart casual can mean a dress or skirt, well-fitted trousers, and a beautiful blouse and jacket (bolero for dresses). Women benefit from flat shoes and likely find leaving their heels at home is the right choice.

Good-to-Know For Luxury Train Travel

Are you ready to book your luxury train journey? Here are a few things to keep in mind to make sure includes all the relaxation it promises.

Passports And Visas

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Before selecting your journey, make yourself aware of the passport and visa requirements in your destination.

Travel to the UK and EU is visa-free for tourism for U.S. and Canadian nationals. However, you should ensure you have a minimum of six months validity on your passport. While the UK is happy to let you in without it, countries on the European continent may well turn you away.

If you are traveling to South East Asia, Peru, Russia, China, or South Africa, make yourself aware of visa regulations including the requirements of obtaining a visa at land border crossings.

Russian visas tend to take the most time to process and require a visit to the embassy. You also need to provide the dates of your arrival, so be sure to book your trip with enough time to send away for the visa. Don’t forget to book a double-entry visa if you take The Golden Eagle, because the service takes you out of Russia, into Mongolia, and back again.

Do you have specific questions about land border crossings and your journey? Ask your service provider upon booking. Don’t wait until the last minute.

Insurance

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These train services run into the thousands per person even for a weekend jaunt. Illness or another issue could result in you needing to cancel; travel insurance protects your investment, which may be as much as $10,000-$30,000 in some cases.

Additionally, you may enjoy silver-service and 24-hour steward luxury on the train, but many of the luxury trips take you into the wilderness. It is crucial to take out travel insurance with excellent health coverage. It’s always better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it.

Packing and Luggage

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Your travel provider will limit your luggage capacity, so be sure to check the size and weight restrictions before heading to the platform.

Allowances tend to be generous. Longer journeys allow 30 kilograms of luggage per person. If you travel in a Presidential Suite or another exclusive carriage, you may not have a limit.

Typically, you will pack two bags: through luggage and compartment luggage.

Your through luggage contains the bulk of your items for your overall trip. Pack these items in a sturdy suitcase and be sure you retrieve items like medication and toiletries from them to use on the train.

Compartment luggage contains the items you need on your train journey. Expect to pack a carry-on size bag to bring to your room but remember that space in the cabins is limited.

Finally, don’t forget a day bag. You’ll want something light to keep your essentials in as you disembark from the train for your excursions.

Gratuities

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Unlike cruise ships, it is unlikely that your service will automatically include gratuities. Although tips for staff and guides are at your discretion, be sure to have enough cash to provide them should you feel called.

Beds

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In most cases, your cabin will include one or two single beds. After all, these are 1920s trains! Be aware of this before booking to avoid surprises on board.

Check-In To Luxury Train Travel

The world’s luxury trains are five-star hotels on wheels and include views that you can’t pay for. The trains aren’t merely a way of getting from city to city: there is a long-held belief that the journey is just as important as the destination.

You will spend a pretty penny on any of these journeys, but the memories you make and the unique window they provide into some of the world’s most beautiful and remote scenery are worth their weight in gold lighting fixtures.

Have you thought about booking a luxury train? What’s stopping you?

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