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The advantages and disadvantages of luxury trains

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Luxury trains are an important part of the tourism industry. Luxury trains facilitate slow tourism and are more environmentally friendly than other forms of transport, such as flying. Whether you’re thinking of travelling on a luxury train or your’e just interested in learning more about it, I have it all covered in this article! Read on to find out more…

What are luxury trains?

Luxury trains are another fantastic mode of transport. They are designed to be comfortable and enjoyable – an experience in themselves, rather than just a method of getting from A to B.

Luxury trains operate in several countries. A premium travel option, luxury train travel is generally more expensive than general train travel and even short-haul air travel. 

Luxury trains promote a different kind of tourism. One that is slower but has plenty of perks; as time goes by, luxury train travel is becoming much more popular.

In the same way as you might board a cruise ship and visit various cities, luxury trains often offer week-long trips where you can see different places in one holiday!

Some advantages of luxury train travel

As mentioned, there are various advantages when it comes to luxury trains. Below you can find some examples!

Luxury trains are better for the environment than, for example, flying or travelling by car. Trains generally have much lower carbon emissions than most other forms of transport. So for those who are interested in lowing their carbon footprint but still having an amazing travel experience, luxury train travel is a great option to consider.

Travelling by luxury train is also much more interesting than flying. When you are up in the air in a plane, all you can see from the window (if you’re lucky enough to be sat in the window seat!) is clouds. But when travelling on luxury trains, passengers are able to see an ever-changing landscape rolling by. From towns to cities to coastlines, there is always something different to see. This is what makes it an experience in itself! Although you may be travelling from one place to another, you’ll get a glimpse of other cultures and different scenery along the way.

Luxury trains are much more comfortable than planes, and more spacious than cars. With more leg room and bigger seats, you are less likely to get cramp and a stiff neck! There is more space to walk around. You can stretch your limbs during the slow, ambling journey.

Luxury trains have bars and restaurants on them, too. You can sit down for a proper meal or a few drinks during your journey, which just isn’t something people are able to experience with the majority of air travel.

You’ll have your luggage with you on a luxury train. At least, it will definitely be on the train with you! Lost luggage is practically unheard of with luxury train travel, but it can be common when flying.

With luxury trains, you can skip security. There’s no need to arrive 2 hours (or more) before your departure time, and there is no lengthy security process. You can get straight on with your journey!

Disadvantages of luxury train travel

Of course, each mode of transport has its disadvantages. Luxury trains are – or can be – incredibly expensive. This puts people off, because travel can be done on a tight budget nowadays. Trips on the Golden Eagle Trans-Siberian Express, for example, cost upwards of £18,000.

If you don’t want to splash out on a luxury train journey, consider visiting one of the many heritage railways around the world instead!

Luxury trains are slow, too. If you are using a luxury train to get from A to B, it will take you much longer than other modes of transport. But for the most part, those who use luxury trains do so for the experience!

The history of luxury trains

Long-distance train travel was once tedious and uncomfortable.

But in 1865, George Pullman introduced the first sleeping car: The Pioneer. It was the first train, or railway carriage of any kind, with sleeping and dining areas. This was “luxury for the middle class” according to Pullman.

He went on to introduce The President for the elite members of American society and aristocracy, and then Delmonico, or the Palace Car, which was dedicated to fine dining. Pullman hired the best possible chefs. He also hired recently freed house slaves, employing the largest amount of African Americans in post-civil war America.

The President got its name because Pullman had arranged to transport the body of Abraham Lincoln, assassinated at Ford’s Theatre by John Wilkes Booth, in his original sleeper car.

Georges Nagelmackers was inspired by luxury trains in the USA. He returned to Europe and founded the Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits: creator of the Orient Express.

Georges built a fleet of over 30 luxury trains. They travelled to various destinations around Europe, and become incredibly popular.

The Orient Express, of course, was its most famous. It went on to be the setting for Agatha Christie’s well-known Poirot novel, Murder on the Orient Express. It was Europe’s first luxury train, and its maiden journey across Europe began on June 5th 1883.

Belmond Ltd. luxury trains

Belmond owns and operates the most luxury trains in the world.

They run services in Asia, Europe and South America, offering continental and intercontinental travel.

The company was founded in 1976 when James Sherwood bought a hotel in Venice for almost £1,000,000. He then bought the remains of the aforementioned Orient Express. Sherwood restored it in order to offer rides from Paris and London to the beautiful Venice hotel, for his wealthy clientele. At the time, his company was called ‘Orient-Express Hotels Ltd’.

Luxury trains
A look inside the Belmond Luxury train.

Belmond now owns hotels across Italy and the Americas, as well as some in Spain, Portugal, Russia, Botswana, South Africa, and various countries in Asia. T

hey also own five sleeper trains and two day trains. These are:

Sleeper trains

  • The Venice Simplon-Orient-Express, which travels between London and Venice
  • The Belmond Royal Scotsman, which travels within Scotland
  • The Belmond Grand Hibernian, which travels through Ireland and Northern Ireland
  • The Eastern and Oriental Express which travels between Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore
  • The Belmond Andean Explorer which travels within Peru

Day trains

  • The Belmond British Pullman which travels with Great Britain
  • The Belmond Hiram Bingham which travels within Peru

Belmond also owns sailboats and restaurants. They are a major player in the luxury train industry, and are now 100% privately owned.

Luxury trains around the world

There are other private and state-owned companies who own luxury trains. They operate around the world, and provide brilliant experiences to those interested in rail travel and seeing new places in an exciting and low-carbon way.

Luxury trains in the UK

Other than the aforementioned Belmond trains, the UK is home to the Northern Belle.

Introduced in the year 2000, the train carriages have been refurbished to resemble the Pullman coaches used on the old Brighton Belle. Journeys on the Northern Belle depart from all over the UK.

Each carriage bears the name of a British castle or stately home, and they have been decorated with such an incredible attention to detail. The train just oozes classic 1930s British luxury.

There are different routes and special events to choose from, and a journey on the Northern Belle will not be forgotten in a hurry.

Luxury trains
A look inside the Northern Belle

Luxury trains in Russia

Since 2007, the Golden Eagle Trans-Siberian Express has operated the world’s longest train journey.

It travels through two continents and eight different time zones.

The 6,000-mile (9,656 km) journey follows the Trans-Siberian Railway. This connects Moscow and European Russia with Mongolia, China, the Sea of Japan and the Russian Far East.

The company offers other routes, all as sparkling and luxurious as each other.

Luxury trains in Spain

Renfe Operadora operates Spain’s state-owned network of luxury trains.

They run from March to October, mainly in northern Spain and Andalusia.

Al Andalus, for example, is described as a palace on wheels. Originally used by the British royal family for travel between Calais and the Cote d’Azur, this luxury train offers 7-day trips throughout Andalusia. With suites, on-board entertainment, laundry services and more, this really is an incredible way to travel in style! The main route is this:

Seville – Cádiz – Jerez de la Frontera – Ronda – Granada – Úbeda – Baeza – Linares – Córdoba – Andalusia – Seville.

Luxury trains
Al Andalus, Spain

Luxury trains in Japan

The island of Kyushu is home to the Seven Stars, a luxury sleeper-car excursion train. It has toured the island since 2013.

The train has a bar, suites, decent bath rooms, a piano and more.

There are two and four-day trips available, each departing from Hakata Station. The two-day trip takes travellers to Nagasaki, Aso and Yufuin while the four-day tour heads to Yufuin, Miyazaki, Miyakonjō, Hayato, Kagoshima-Chuo, Kagoshima, Aso and Bungo-Mori.

Spacious suites, and seating areas with panoramac windows, make for an unforgettable experience. 

Luxury trains
Seven Stars train, Japan

Luxury trains in Canada

Canada has a few luxury trains.

The Royal Canadian Pacific is based in Calgary; it is a luxury overnight passenger train running along the Canadian Pacific Railway tracks.

In summer and autumn, it takes passengers into the Rocky Mountains of Alberta and British Columbia. Trips tend to last for six days, halting each night so passengers can enjoy the beautiful scenery along the way, such as to the best national parks and provincial parks in Alberta.

Journeys are adult-only, and include turn down services and other little luxuries to make the trip one to remember!

Luxury trains
Royal Canadian Pacific, Canada

Luxury trains: To conclude

As you can see, the luxury train business is big throughout the world! In this article I have shown you some fantastic examples of luxury trains…. are you tempted? I know I am!

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