FORGET flying or driving. More and more Singaporeans are letting the train take the strain when they travel between cities on overseas breaks.
The demand for tour packages which include rail journeys has seen a year-on-year increase of 20 per cent to 30 per cent, local travel agencies told The Straits Times. Popular destinations for these include Europe, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan.
Dynasty Travel, for example, has seen an increase in demand not only for its flexible "free and easy" packages, but also group tours. Last year, about 2,800 travellers opted for rail travel options in Europe, an increase of about 30 per cent from 2012.
Ms Alicia Seah, director of marketing communications for Dynasty Travel, said that while some rail tickets may cost twice as much as coach fares, customers do not mind paying more because it helps to save time.
As an example, she said certain rail journeys from France to Switzerland take only three hours, less than half the time it would take to travel the same distance by coach.
Chan Brothers Travel has reported a 20 per cent year-on-year increase for rail holiday bookings since 2011.
Its marketing communications manager, Ms Michelle Yin, said customers prefer to travel by rail because they like to enjoy the scenery while on board.
"It's not just another commute," she said. "Rail holidays allow you to see more of the destination. The journey itself is an attraction as in the case of Glacier Express or Bernina Express, among other scenic rail rides in Switzerland."
Others such as South Korea's East Sea Train, for instance, have larger windows compared to regular trains so passengers can enjoy the view of the ocean, said Hong Thai Travel Services senior manager of advertising and marketing Stella Chow.
Housewife Thuang Seok Cheng, 50, visited Switzerland last month. "The panoramic view that you get on the train is beautiful," she said. "If you take the coach, it will go through tunnels and expressways and you'll end up missing it."
Senior human resources manager Tesse Tan, 39, who went on a trip to Italy last year with her husband, said she likes taking the train.
She said: "The train system there is easy to use and cheaper than taking flights. It's also more hassle-free. Unlike flights, you don't need to check in your luggage."
This story was first published in The Straits Times on Jan 6, 2014
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