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Exploring Europe: Train travel a winner for young Indians

Pooja Yadav
March 6, 2024

Travelers from India now comprise the second-largest market for Rail Europe for the first time in 90 years. DW asked some of them to share their experiences.

Kritika Goel, a social media content creator fascinated by Europe's history, culture, and scenic beauty, on board a train in Europe
Train delays in Europe do not deter young Indians from exploring the continent by railImage: Kritika Goel

"Europe has been so popularized by pop culture so it was definitely on my bucket list to do a Europe trip," 30-year-old Kritika Goel told DW.

The social media content creator from Vellore, a city in southern India's Tamil Nadu state, said that she has always been fascinated by European history, culture and its stunning landscapes.

So much so, that the 30-year-old finds herself returning to explore the continent every three or four months. And Goel is not the only Indian who has discovered the joys of exploring Europe across its railways. 

India is now the second-largest market for Rail Europe, a company that makes European train travel more accessible to international travelers, after the United States — outpacing both China and Japan.

The company provides tickets for some 200 rail operators across Europe.

Devang Sethi, a former software engineer turned Travel Vlogger, on board a train
Rail Europe has seen a spike in global revenue amid the increasing popularity of European destinations among Indian travelersImage: Devang Sethi

Train travel inspired by Bollywood

YouTuber Pratik Jain was introduced to the beauty of Europe through India's Hindi film industry, Bollywood, which features many popular European cities and famous landmarks in its movies.

The 30-year-old from India's financial capital Mumbai last year traveled to five European countries — France, Germany, Belgium, Italy and the Czech Republic — using an all-in-one train ticket known as a Euro Rail pass.

"I spent over €250 ($270) for a four-day pass which is convenient, provides time flexibility and is cheaper as compared to flight tickets," Jain said, referring to the ticket that gives unlimited access to a wide network of trains across Europe. 

"Europe has good railway connectivity which makes the journey smoother and less hassle. However, if you are only visiting one or two countries you can also use other options like [budget bus company] Flixbus and flights."

Devang Sethi, a 35-year-old former software engineer who now works as a travel vlogger, has also found train travel to be a winner. He has traversed most parts of Europe using the railway.

All he needed was his backpack and a Eurail pass, he said.

"This pass covers over 33 countries including Turkey and Bulgaria. I have taken a first-class pass and was offered free food in places like Scotland."

Europe attracting more Indian travelers

Despite hurdles like visa delays and logistical issues, a significant number of Indians have visited popular European destinations — including Switzerland, France, the UK, Germany, Italy, Spain, and Austria with a growing interest in Eastern European countries like the Czech Republic and Hungary.

"Despite challenges like visa delays, the Indian market has displayed remarkable resilience and a strong enthusiasm for European travel," Björn Bender, Rail Europe's President and CEO, told DW.

"The Swiss Travel Pass and Eurail Passes are particularly popular among Indian outbound travelers for their flexibility and convenience, allowing seamless exploration of multiple destinations," said Bender.

Rail Europe has recorded a 60% growth in global revenue amid the increasing popularity of European destinations among Indian travelers. 

Germany's most scenic railroad line

Goel told DW about some of her favorite train journeys across Europe.

"The highlight was experiencing the Glacier Express in Switzerland; I'll never forget the spectacular views of the Swiss Alps on that eight-hour train journey, the content creator said.

"Also, some of the train journeys I've taken around France and Italy have been breathtaking."

Sethi said that her only issues were delayed trains, but highlighted the convenience of not needing to make a reservation.

"During the busy season and at some places, you may need to pay extra for a seat, otherwise, it is very smooth and convenient," said Sethi. "These are only minor challenges."

But that does not appear to deter young Indians from making the journey to Europe and exploring the continent by train.

"With India currently holding the position as the world's fifth-largest economy and its population surpassing that of China, reaching 1.4 billion ... we anticipate approximately 40 million outbound travelers from India in the coming years," said Bender.

Edited by: Keith Walker