What it’s like to travel by train in Europe on a budget of $96

Mihaila Friel, left, travels through Luxembourg, Belgium and Norway by train.
Mikhaila Friel/Insider

  • I toured three European countries by train and the experience was magical.
  • My trip started in Luxembourg and Belgium, and a few weeks later I took a separate trip to Norway.
  • I would recommend it to anyone looking to travel on a budget.

I traveled through Luxembourg, Belgium and Norway by train and was blown away by the experience.

Mihaila Friel was photographed on a train from Tønsberg to Oslo in Norway.
Mikhaila Friel/Insider

I’m a big fan of train travel and often travel by train in my home country of Scotland, UK. I’ve always been curious to see what train travel is like in other parts of Europe, and in March I got the chance to do just that when I visited Luxembourg, Belgium and Norway.

I spent a week in Luxembourg and Belgium for a business trip at the beginning of the month before spending four days in Norway for a personal vacation at the end of the month.

I traveled by train in all three countries on a total budget of $96 and was blown away by the affordable fares, the quality and comfort of the trains, and the stunning scenery I witnessed on board.

All three countries offered different things, but what they had in common was impressive public transport.

Arrows showing where in Europe Michael traveled.
Google Maps/Skitch

I started my travels in Luxembourg, a small country that borders Belgium, France and Germany and is known for its beautiful scenery and historic castles.

After three days in Luxembourg, I traveled by train to Brussels in Belgium, where I spent another three days. I was eager to visit Belgium as the country is known for its stunning architecture and chocolate. Although the trains there are not free, they were affordable and just as comfortable as in Luxembourg.

At the end of March, I spent four days in Norway, a Scandinavian country that is known for its Viking history and natural landscape, including mountains, greenery and fjords, which are deep inlets of water between high cliffs. During my visit, I traveled by train from Tønsberg, the oldest city in the country, to Oslo, the capital.

I spent a total of $96 on my various train trips.

Mihaila Friel, photographed on a train from Luxembourg to Belgium.
Mikhaila Friel/Insider

I spent $0 on trains while traveling in Luxembourg as the country’s public transport is completely free for residents and visitors from February 2020 as part of the government’s plan to support people living on lower incomes, a government spokesman said mobility department in front of Insider during my visit.

I spent $25 on a three-hour train from Luxembourg to Belgium and had to pay the fare because the train’s destination was outside of Luxembourg. While in Belgium, I spent $44 on a round trip from Brussels to Bruges, which took an hour each way.

Finally, while on holiday in Norway, I spent two days in Tønsberg before catching a train to Oslo. The trip took just over an hour and cost NOK 293, or about $28.

Here’s what impressed me most about my European rail experiences.

In Luxembourg, I was seriously impressed that the country offers free public transport.

The interior of the train from Luxembourg to Ettelbruck.
Mikhaila Friel/Insider

Trains, trams and buses are free in Luxembourg and I used all of these modes of transport. I explored Luxembourg City by tram before catching a train and bus to Clairvaux in the countryside on March 6.

My original plan was to take two trains, which would take just over an hour; my first train from Luxembourg City to Ettelbruck in northern Luxembourg took about 20 minutes and I intended to take another train from Ettelbruck to Clairvaux before I realized it was cancelled. But I needn’t have worried as there was a replacement bus waiting outside the station as soon as I arrived.

The train seats were comfortable, the carriages were spacious and clean, and I was pleasantly surprised that the train operator had arranged for a replacement coach for part of the journey rather than canceling the service entirely.

When I traveled from Luxembourg to Belgium, I was surprised by the snowy scenery.

Mihaila Friel travels on a snowy day from Luxembourg to Belgium by train.
Mikhaila Friel/Insider

On March 8th I traveled from Clairvaux, Luxembourg to Brussels, Belgium. The journey, which was operated by Belgian railway company SNCB, required one transfer in Liėge-Guillemins, Belgium, and took around three hours in total.

All trains in Luxembourg had luggage racks above the seats and a bin at the end of the carriage. There was no dining car or electrical outlets to charge electronic devices, which I didn’t mind as the journeys were so short.

I sat at a table of four with a window seat and was most impressed by the beautiful winter scenery during the trip. It had started snowing in Luxembourg the day before my trip, so I got to witness frozen hills, forests, rivers and fields.

I was a little nervous about driving the train alone in a country where I don’t speak the language, but I didn’t need to be.

The board showing the train stops for Belgium.
Mikhaila Friel/Insider

I was traveling alone and I don’t speak French, which is the main language spoken in Luxembourg. So I wondered if I would run into any barriers as I navigated my way. But it turned out to be incredibly easy as there were digital screens in each carriage that shared all the important information about the journey.

A member of staff who showed up to check my ticket about an hour into the journey spoke to me in English so I felt confident that I would be able to communicate if I needed help.

The trains I took in Belgium had double decks, which is something I haven’t experienced on UK trains.

Michael’s train from Brussels to Bruges in Belgium.
Mikhaila Friel/Insider

My connecting train from Liėge-Guillemins to Brussels took an hour and 12 minutes and was incredibly pleasant thanks to the high vantage point that came with the upper floor. This made the snowy scenery even better and also meant there was plenty of room on the train. I sat at a table of four in a carriage that was less than half full and enjoyed the peace and quiet.

A few days later I took a train from Brussels to Bruges, a nearby city, which took about an hour. This train also had two floors, lots of tables and comfortable seats.

I took my last train trip to Tønsberg, Norway later in March.

Tønsberg, Norway.
Mikhaila Friel/Insider

On March 22, I flew from Scotland to Tønsberg, which is believed to be the oldest city in Norway, according to the Life in Norway website. I spent two days exploring Tønsberg and nearby Hvasser, an island village with beautiful scenery, before catching a train to Oslo, where I spent another two days.

On the train to Oslo I noticed some unique features that I hadn’t noticed on other trains.

The interior of the train from Tønsberg to Oslo.
Mikhaila Friel/Insider

The train from Tønsberg to Oslo took just over an hour and was operated by the Norwegian bus and rail operator Vy. It had many similarities to the trains in Luxembourg and Belgium, including the comfortable seats, spacious carriages and luggage racks.

But there were also some features I hadn’t noticed on other trains, including hooks above the seats for people to put their jackets or backpacks on, and electrical outlets that were also above the seats.

The bathrooms on all the trains I boarded were small but clean.

The toilet on the train to Oslo.
Mikhaila Friel/Insider

I was impressed by the cleanliness of the bathrooms on all the European trains I took, especially the bathroom on the train to Oslo. Each had a toilet, a sink with hand soap, towels and a mirror. I could tell that everyone must have been cleaned regularly as there was never any mess or dirt and there was always plenty of toilet paper.

I can’t wait to visit more countries in Europe by train.

Michael on the train from Tønsberg to Oslo.
Mikhaila Friel/Insider

Overall, these train journeys were pleasant and easy to navigate and I can’t wait to try more train journeys in other European countries.

I would definitely encourage anyone who wants to explore Europe to travel by train, especially solo travelers who don’t have access to a car and those traveling on a budget. It’s fun, convenient, and a great way to see more places without breaking the bank.

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