In 2019, more people than ever before decided to travel by rail in the United States. Amtrak reported a three percent jump in short distance trips via its ever-popular Northeast Corridor route and a one percent increase in long-distance travel. Though small, it could mark the beginning of a new era for train travel in America.
Yes, it seems more and more Americans are becoming wise to the merits of taking the railways instead of flying or driving, but it’s a travel choice Europeans have long known to be the superior option for those wanting to see, taste, and do it all.
“We are always looking to make it easier for travelers to use our services to see more of Europe in a single trip,” Rob Haycocks, the media relations manager for Eurostar, an international high-speed railway service connecting cities all around Europe, shares with Travel+Leisure.
In the fall, I took the Eurostar from London to Paris to see why it’s become such a beloved way to travel over the last 25 years. Here’s what you need to know before booking your train ticket.
Related: More train travel trip ideas
The Eurostar experience is as much about the destination as it is about the journey
Eurostar’s commitment to creating a great passenger experience doesn’t stop once the train pulls into the station. It now offers train and hotel deals so passengers can pair their travel and accommodations all in one package. And truly, all travelers going through Europe should consider this option as it comes with deals for some of the most exclusive hotels on the continent.
“Our hotel collection isn’t about having every hotel in the city – we know our destinations best, so we have developed a collection curated by Eurostar which provides travelers with the best collection of city-center hotels across all price-points,” Haycocks explains. “We have different themes from family to gastronomy, and now also include a selection of sustainable hotels. Travelers that book their hotel and train together will access special rates.”
For me, that meant a more affordable stay at either end of my travels, first at the Hotel Shangri-La, at The Shard, London, then at the famed Hotel Lutetia in Paris. Bookending my trip at these incredible hotels only added to the feelings of romance and decadence associated with train travel, even while scoring a discount.
But, wait, there’s much more, as Eurostar wants to help with your entertainment, too.
“We know that culture is one of the main reasons that people travel to our destinations, and our long-established 2-for-1 program means that Eurostar travelers can gain 2-for-1 entrance to some of the best galleries in our destinations, simply by showing their ticket at the box office,” Haycocks adds.
Speaking of destinations, Eurostar has a few new ones
Though it already travels between London, Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam, and a few other stops along the way, the company just made travel between the Netherlands (stopping at Rotterdam) the United Kingdom even faster. In February, it announced that its London to Amsterdam service will be fully operational starting on April 30.
“Our main focus at the moment is on introducing our new direct return from the Netherlands to the UK, which will provide a seamless connection to complement what is already a very popular direct service from London to Rotterdam and Amsterdam,” Haycocks said, adding, “we look forward to introducing the route as soon as possible.”
The food onboard makes you forget you’re on a train
The feeling of nostalgia, romance, and luxury while traveling by train can only be pierced by one thing — terrible food. However, Eurostar somehow nails this, too, thanks to a strong commitment to creating great food offerings — they even source their own honey to serve onboard.
“Our honey program is led by some of the Eurostar team including a train driver and colleagues from our customer contact center in Ashford. They look after bees which are kept in hives situated alongside the train tracks,” Haycocks says of the rather unique program, showcasing just a bit more of what this route has to offer.
He noted that each year, the honey is collected and is served on the train for tea, and it even makes its way into one of the autumn desserts served in the train’s Business Premier cars. It even gets mixed into Eurostar’s very own gin served in its business lounges.
“It means that travelers can be moving through the countryside at high speed, right past the spot that the honey they are enjoying was made,” Haycocks adds.
It’s a travel experience you can feel good about
Without question, environmental concern is one of the leading reasons more people are deciding to travel the slow and steady way. As Vacations by Rail reports, train travel can use upwards of 30 percent less energy per passenger mile than cars, and it uses about 20 percent less than planes.
“Eurostar has championed the environmental benefits of high-speed rail over planes since its early days of operation,” Haycocks says. “Our long-standing Tread Lightly program, launched in 2007, has seen us reduce our carbon footprint by over 40 percent, and a Eurostar journey emits up to 90 percent less greenhouse gas than the equivalent flight.”
2020 also marks the start of the company’s pledge to plant a tree for every train service they operate, according to Haycocks. This will amount to 20,000 new trees added to surrounding forests.
And it’s not just Mother Nature who benefits, but people in communities around the train routes as well.
“We are working to reduce the amount of waste from our service, and have recently started a partnership with OLIO, a food sharing charity,” Haycocks says. “This means that any unsold food from our café on board is now collected and donated to those in need.”
Oh, and it happens to be a very good deal right now
Scoring a seat on Eurostar trains just got a little cheaper, as right now, it’s offering up to 20 percent savings on travel in Standard Premier between London and Paris, Brussels, Lille, Calais, Rotterdam, and Amsterdam for all travel between March 2 and September 7, 2020. (Just make sure to book before March 11, 2020.)
And, in honor of its new three-hour route between London and the Netherlands, Eurostar is offering 20 percent off on those fares too, starting at just $94 for Standard Premier. So go ahead, take your time, and see more of Europe during your next trip (while saving money) by taking the Eurostar.