Of course, Eurostar is just one of the trains that you will travel on – depending on how far afield you are holidaying, you may travel on two, three or even four different types of train.
France’s sleek Trains à Grande Vitesse (TGV) are well known and well liked. They commonly race across the French countryside at a top speed of 186mph, but on the line across eastern France into Germany they can reach an impressive 198mph.
We always book seats for you, in your choice of standard or first class – by upgrading you benefit from more space, reclining seats and the chance to sit at a table for two. On the double-decker TGV Duplex trains, which operate on lines such as Lille to Marseille and which can carry up to 510 passengers, we are usually able to reserve seats on the upper deck so that you enjoy the best views. As regards other seating preferences, we can only confirm forward-facing or backward-facing seats if you are travelling on one of the refurbished trains styled in vibrant colours by Christian Lacroix, which are the only TGVs fitted with a computerised seating system. (These trains mostly operate on routes west of Paris.) One element common to all TGVs is that there is plenty of room for luggage, with generous overhead racks, plus space at the end of each carriage for larger cases.
All but the shortest-distance of the TGVs have buffet cars where you can purchase (either with cash or a credit card) sandwiches and light hot dishes such as quiche, plus a selection of hot and cold drinks, including alcoholic beverages. You can take your purchases back to your seat, or, for a break, you can eat them in the standing area near the counter. Of course, you can bring your own picnic if you prefer, including some wine to sip at as the countryside slips by outside.
Intercité Teoz (France)
Intercité Teoz (formerly Corail) trains are similar to British Intercity trains. Refurbished to offer comfort for longer journeys (not to mention ample space to stow luggage), these trains run at up to 125mph and have a good buffet car. We again reserve seats for you on these services. In both first and second class, there are tables for two and four, plus larger areas that allow groups of six people to sit together. Prices for first class compare very favourably to those for standard class, and give you the benefit of reclining leather seats and a power socket.
French regional rail services
Just as in the UK, the trains that run on local lines are functional first and foremost. Luggage space is more limited, on-board catering is rare, and, on trains operating on shorter lines, there may not be any toilets, so bear this in mind before boarding. We cannot reserve seats on these services, but it is unlikely that you’ll struggle to find somewhere to sit.
AVE stands for Alta Velocidad Española (Spanish High Speed), and these trains whisk you along Spain’s rapidly expanding network of high-speed lines at a top speed of 186mph. So confident are Renfe (the Spanish rail operator) in the AVE’s punctuality record that they offer compensation if your train is more than five minutes late.
There are three options to choose from when it comes to booking seats: standard class; preferente class, with wider, reclining seats; and club class, with leather seats of the same dimensions as in preferente, but with greater leg room. Preferente and club class passengers are served a complimentary light meal with wine at their seat, and can make use of the Club Sala lounge at Madrid Atocha station, with complimentary tea, coffee and soft drinks. For standard-class passengers there is a buffet car selling a selection of drinks and snacks. As you would expect, there is plenty of space in which to stow luggage, both above the seats and at the end of each carriage.
As you would expect of a renowned rail system, Switzerland’s InterCity trains are modern, clean and punctual, travelling at up to 125mph. Some have two decks, and most trains offer a choice of standard and first class, although seat reservations are not usually required. Catering facilities vary, and range from an at-seat trolley service to a proper restaurant car.
Swiss local rail services
The trains which operate on Switzerland’s local lines and narrow-gauge railways are simpler than the InterCity trains, but clean and reliable nonetheless. There are no catering services on these trains.