Traveling by train is still a pretty nice experience in France, and even though Australia is just as big as the US, long-distance train travel across the continent is quite enjoyable Down Under too. I have taken the high-speed TGV and slower regional TER trains in France numerous times, and when I first arrived in Australia, I took The Overland train from Melbourne to Adelaide. I don’t have much experience with trains in the US, though I would love to hear some opinions on Amtrak.
Most areas of France are well-linked by trains and the TGV routes lead to the major cities. Annecy is only 3.5 hours from Paris on a direct TGV line and tickets can be as low as 17€ or 22€ if you buy early enough. The TER ticket prices never change and you can buy them right before getting on the train. The convenience of being able to hop on a train and get to where you want to go without having to drive (especially if the weather is bad) was always a nice possibility in France. I took the TER to Grenoble last week from Annecy and while it cost 37€, it was probably only slightly more expensive that paying for gas and tolls – which are rather expensive in France – and knowing that I didn’t have to drive through the snow or while tired from traveling/jet lag was worth it.
Even though Australian trains are not high-speed and the journey from Adelaide to Melbourne took 10.5 hours, I would gladly do the trip again to see more of the countryside between the large cities. Australia has fewer major cities (and people! there are only 20 million people in the entire country after all) but they are all linked by railways and tickets can be as low as $50 for some routes. Taking luggage is free though sometimes there are restrictions. For example, the Overland allows 2 checked suitcases at 20 kg each.
I traveled a lot by plane while living in France, but mostly to other countries since France is rather small and taking the train is usually easier. Flying in Europe tended to be a hassle because of the ridiculous liquid ban and always having to go through security at every stopover if you didn’t have a direct flight. Luckily with the Schengen Space nowadays most airports don’t require you to go through security as often as long as you are traveling completely within the borders (similar to flying domestic in the US), and even though you can at least lock your bags (unlike in the US where TSA gets to steal your stuff), friends and family still cannot accompany you to the gate. Plus the US continues to use irradiating body scanners, while they have been recently banned in Europe where they only use non-irradiating scanners. You only have to face the dilemma of get cancer or get groped in North America. So I have never liked flying because of the unpleasant ambiance I find at airports, especially American airports.
And then I flew on a domestic flight in Australia.
What a world of difference:
- ANYONE can go through security to get to the gates.
- You can lock your bags.
- You don’t have to take off your shoes.
- THERE IS NO LIQUID BAN ON DOMESTIC FLIGHTS.
- The security agents are actually nice!
- Qantas still provides free food and free checked luggage.
- Even though Virgin Australia (on a Saver fare) and Jetstar (the low-cost offshoot of Qantas) make you pay extra for food and luggage, it’s still rather affordable to fly across the country.
- DID I MENTION THERE IS NO LIQUID BAN AND ANYONE CAN GO TO THE GATE???
The only thing that I didn’t like was that no one checked my ID at any point so I could have used someone else’s boarding pass to get on a plane. But overall flying in Australia is a very pleasant experience and a thousand times better than flying in the US.