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How To Survive Long Train Journeys

Updated on August 25, 2013
Indian Pacific at Cook
Indian Pacific at Cook | Source

Are you used to taking long train journeys and do you know how to survive them? Being from a family that didn't have a car, long tail journeys were a part of my life from a very young age. The journey from our home in Devon to my Grandmothers in the Lake District seemed to take forever and at the time was a very big adventure. It was still in the days when you were dressed up in your best clothes to travel and everything from the drinks and snacks in the buffet car to using the toilets on the train was new and exciting. The journey is probably only five or six hours, but when you are a small child that seems like eternity. But you had to change several times with all the ensuing drama of running over station bridges or through the underpasses to get your connection, sometimes with only minutes to spare.

At what age does travelling and long rail journeys stop being exciting, and just become that annoying thing that you have to do to get from A to B?

I think that with long journeys, especially with long train trips, that you can reclaim the excitement and wonder, and return to thoroughly enjoying the romance of the railroads. Who hasn't dreamt of being wined and dined on the Orient Express, crossing the breathtaking scenery of South Africa on the Blue Train, or ploughing through endless miles of tundra and pine forest on the Trans-Siberian Express?

Of course if you are lucky enough to be going first class on your trip, you don't need to implement any pre-journey survival plans - you can just sink back into the luxury and let it all be done for you. However, most us are of rather more modest means and are likely to be travelling economy when enjoying our long rail journeys.

So how do you survive and have a great time? While I was travelling in Australia, I decided that I would travel from Adelaide to Perth on the famous Indian-Pacific Railway and really get the feeling of travelling through the vast empty spaces of the Nullarbor Plain, where you can literally see the horizon curve away from you. It was a very long trip - one day and two nights - in an upright seat, but it was still a truly magical experience.

The Nullarbor Plain

The Nullarbor Plain
The Nullarbor Plain

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Indian Pacific Train Australia

1) The most important thing is to approach your long train journey with a positive attitude. Remember why you are making you are travelling in the first place. It could be to visit family, friends, to arrive at a holiday destination, to relocate your whole life or just for the experience of enjoying the wonderful countryside and scenery that you are going to be passing through.

2) Thoroughly research what facilities are going to be available on the train, and what you are going to need to take with you on your journey.

3) Make sure that you have plenty of cash on you. There may not be any ATM’s at the stations and card machines on trains can malfunction.

3) If your journey is going to be overnight, check whether or not they provide blankets and pillows, and if not take some with you. It can get cold in the carriages at night, even in hot climates, and two whole nights on the Indian-Pacific with no pillow or covering would have been very uncomfortable and made sleeping even more difficult.

4) Pray that the seat next to you is empty, so that you can stretch out a bit. Move if you have to or if the stewardess allows, as that extra room makes all the difference, especially at night when you are trying to sleep.

5) Make sure that you bring enough reading material, paper, pens, computer games, or your laptop to keep you going throughout your long trip. Remember that in our daily lives we rarely have that amount of time to sit and do nothing, so double up on what you think you may need.

6) Bring some music! Plug yourself into your favourite tracks and just sit back and watch the world go past.

7) Ensure that you have charged up all the batteries on your camera, mp3 player, laptop or game console before you travel. There may not be any facilities for charging in your carriage.

8) Bring food with you for your long train journey, if possible, as food on trains and at stations can be expensive and might not be to your taste. Bring plenty of bottled water with you, as you need to drink a lot of fluid while travelling, and drinking water might not be available unless you buy it, and then it will probably be expensive.

9) Make sure that the toiletries you are going to need for the journey are packed into your hand luggage and not into your suitcase, as on long train journeys cases are usually stowed in the luggage carriage. It's also a good idea to have anti-bacterial hand wipes, facial cleansing wipes and extra loo roll in case they run out!

10) If there are observation or lounge cars available to use, go and chill out in them. It's a good idea to move around as much as possible when travelling. It stops you stiffening up and you can develop a DVT by sitting too long in one position on a long rail journey - it's not just a condition that you can develop while flying.

11) If there are any opportunities to leave the train during your trip - take them! The Indian-Pacific stops at Cook, a tiny halt in the middle of the Nullarbor, to refuel for half an hour, just long enough to stretch your legs. And in the evening there a longer stop at the mining town of Kalgoorlie, where gold was first discovered in 1893. At the Kalgoorlie stop you could take a coach trip that takes you round the town and visits one of the 'super pit' mines. Well worth it to look down into that vast pit and see all the huge trucks and people looking like ants scurrying around under the strong lights.

12) Finally, when you reach your destination make sure that you have already arranged for someone to pick you up or for transportation to your accommodation. There is nothing worse after a long rail journey than to be stuck on a station with no idea of where you are going or how to get there. On the Indian-Pacific, I was able to book a tour of Perth that lasted a few hours and took you to the main points of interest around the city and then dropped you at your hotel. It was well worth the money.

Remember, it's the long train journey that counts, not just the destination. Enjoy!

Images My Own


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