Monday, January 25, 2010

Get on board with these train travel tips

This month’s Viking cover story features the Oslo-Bergen railway, called “northern Europe’s most scenic train ride” by travel writer Rick Steves. If you’re planning to visit Norway, I highly recommend fitting this into your itinerary. Whether you make the trip in as little as seven hours or as much as seven days (as Viking writer Aaron Dalton suggests), you’ll be blown away by the beauty of the experience.

To make the voyage as hassle-free as possible, consider these tips I learned while chatting with Teri Behr, a Scandinavian travel specialist at Brekke Travel.

  1. Make your reservation early. Train travel is a popular mode of transportation in Scandinavia, especially in the summer months. It’s very possible that trains will be full on the days you want to travel.

  2. Consider sending your luggage ahead. If the seats are full, the luggage compartment probably will be too. You can avoid the hassle of traveling with a giant suitcase at your feet by bringing your luggage to the train station the night before you depart. For around $25, you can send a large bag on the (less popular) night train, and it will be waiting in the station when you arrive the next day. This is especially helpful for those planning a “Norway in a Nutshell” excursion, which involves schlepping your luggage on and off the train, ferry and bus.

  3. Find out if you qualify for a discount. If you’re 67 or older, you are eligible for a senior discount. Children under 4 can travel free with an adult and kids 4 to 15 can travel half price. Groups of 10 or more also qualify for a group discount.

  4. Know your options. There are two types of tickets on Norwegian rails: Komfort Class (yes, that’s Komfort with a “K”) and Second Class. Komfort Class includes a seat in a separate compartment, complementary tea and coffee, a Norwegian newspaper, and access to a 2-pin power outlet for your laptop. (Make sure you have the proper adaptor and power converter so your laptop survives the trip!) Komfort Class costs about $18 extra (so, depending on how much coffee you drink, you might come out ahead!). If you prefer to travel overnight, you can book a sleeper car for an additional $170 each way, which will roughly double the cost of your trip.

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