Have you been thinking about affordable ways to travel? Have you considered the combination of train travel and housesitting? It is a wonderful way to save large sums on your travel budget, and to enjoy new locations from the security and comfort of an established home. Read on to learn more about why this might have benefits that suit you.
Train travel and housesitting – Best value travel
I love trains! Actually, I mean, I really love trains. For example. I would take a 10 hour train journey rather than a two hour flight, any time. The comfort, the ease, the motion and sway of the train on the rails, the scenery…I simply feel good while I am in transit by train.
Your opportunity for train travel and housesitting across Europe and the UK can a wonderful and an affordable experience. Travelling by train gives the added benefit of seeing the countries you visit from ground level. It’s an intimate discovery of a new landscape.
I’ve done the Eurostar many times travelling London to Paris, Brussels to London, London to Amsterdam. And every time I feel this little girl thrill that, even moving beneath the English Channel I can connect with anyone on my mobile. “Look at me, look at me, chatting beneath the sea!”
Advantages of combining train travel and housesitting
Tourism is easy when housesitting in Europe
It goes almost without saying that by combining train travel and housesitting you are combining two of the most affordable best value modes of travel and discovery. When housesitting in Europe you will see that it varies from country to country. Here are some of my highlights –
I love looking out the window and seeing the world. One of my favourite journeys by train is the coastal route along the Cote d’Azur. Glimpses of the sea, so beautiful, and all the little towns along the way. I have hopped off the train to explore many of them for an hour or so. And then simply climbed onto the next train to continue my journey. It’s so easy.
Top tips – French Riviera by train:
Left Luggage – There is no ‘Left Luggage’ in the train station in Monaco. Whereas nearly every other station I have been to when housesitting in Europe, there is nearly always somewhere to leave your bags safely while you take a little adventure in the town. It seems odd for such a traveller’s mecca on the coast. Instead in Monaco, I had to lug my suitcase along with me to visit the sights. And Monte Carlo is very hilly – be warned, wear comfortable shoes! Not so ideal for train travel and housesitting.
Great town for tourism on foot – My favourite town on the French Riviera is, so far, Nice. Very walkable, beautiful shops, gorgeous coast line. And it is an ideal stopping off point when combining train travel and housesitting. Check it out.
Easy access to Europe
Genoa – The Cote d’Azur moves seamlessly into Italy and Genoa is definitely worth a look. The train station in Genoa is right in the centre of town, so easy to get in and out again. The city is like a postcard and the views at sunset are magnificent from up many of the hills.
Cinque Terra – I spent a few days on the Cinque Terra. There is a train that goes between the 5 little towns and all are charming. They are built right on the hillside so walking around takes strong legs. They have stairs built on the streets to navigate up and down. One day I climbed 60 flights of stairs!
Pompeii – This classic destination is worth a visit, though the train was packed and I caught someone trying to put his hand in my purse!
Venice – Venice is like nowhere else. All of these wonderful towns are reachable by train with the benefit of seeing the beautiful Italian country side along the way. The train from Venice to Vienna is spectacular, as is the one from Zurich to Milano.
Major Italian cities – Roma was friendlier than I had expected, Milano less so. Florence thinks very highly of itself. Naples is full of life, from the elegant to the gritty.
Eastern Europe –
Vienna to Prague – My first time going to Eastern Europe by train was from Vienna to Prague. As expected, the train from Vienna was on time, and the platform was easy to find. We were scheduled for a five minute stop in a very small town (was there really a town there?) to change trains.
This turned into almost 3 hours waiting on the platform, in that heat wave of 2019! There were announcements that told us the train would be arriving shortly throughout the whole of the 3 hours!
Prague – Beautiful Prague was worth the travail! One of the loveliest cities in Europe. I am looking forward to my next train trip there. I will be looking to see what routes go direct to Prague without changing trains next time!
Budapest – I have on my list the train from Paris to Budapest and Budapest to Bucharest, which I hear is stunning.
Popular and affordable routes
London to Spain
Moving back west, I travel often from London to Spain. It’s a well worn path for Brits heading for the sun. And I along with many others, catch the Eurostar to Paris, changing stations. I find it pretty easy to do this by Metro and then go on south to Biarritz, St Jean de Luz and Hendaye. These are three gorgeous towns in southwest France, and are all well worth a visit.
Hendaye, France to San Sebastián, Spain
In Hendaye, the most southwestern town in France, you leave the little train station, take a right and walk about a block to the little commuter train that will take you into Spain. Or, as an alternative and a personal thrill of mine, you can walk about 1/2 hour over the bridge… and look I’m walking to Spain! You enter Spain through the town of Irun and then the catch the little commuter train to San Sebastián.
San Sebastián – San Sebastián, once the preferred holiday destination for the Queen of Spain is a gorgeous town in the Basque region.
Top Tips – Check your train station address
Check the address of the train specific station you need because there are two train stations in San Sebastián. The commuter train from Hendaye comes in to one and it is about a 15 minute walk to the main train station for trains to most of the rest of Spain. This could be vital if rushing to catch a train.
Trains in Spain
You can get almost anywhere in Spain via train, and some are high speed trains. These are called Ave. You may not be able to go from point A to point B directly though, as there are hubs you may have to go through. If you have the time I recommend making stopovers to see more sights on your way.
I could do a whole article on the train travel and housesitting journeys in Spain alone, and about the Camino Santiago (which I have walked 10 times). Here are a few highlights of my experiences.
Top Tips – Sun seekers beware
The north of Spain can be cold and dreary in the winter.
Top Tips – Check the festivals on dates you need to arrive in or leave the town
Pamplona is unique but don’t visit during San Fermin (beginning of July) unless you want to partake in a drunken fiesta.
Top Tips – Culture
Madrid and Barcelona are fabulous of course. However, also consider Bilbao. It is gorgeous with a river running through it. The Guggenheim museum and the Basque Museum are real highlights. Salamanca is a lovely university town. Don’t miss the Museum Casa Lis.
Valencia is simply wonderful for the architecture, the fabulous street art and of course the native paella. I also loved the Porcelain Museum. Don’t miss it! But note, that the beach is not that close to the city centre.
I love Madrid, and I always feel at home here. It is elegant and graceful and welcoming. And there are so many museums! I love the house where Sorolla lived, he’s one of my favourite artists. One of the multitude of gorgeous doorways in Madrid
Top Tips – Fast or slow trains?
From Madrid you can catch a more expensive fast train or a cheaper very slow chug along stop-at-every-stop-train to Valencia. Be sure and make note of the duration of the trip when booking! The slow train is not as comfy either, you have been warned..
From Madrid you can also get a fast or slow train to Malaga in Southern Spain on the famous Costa del Sol. Malaga is filled with light, great shopping and eating. Has a castle atop the hill and a harbour filled with boats. You can visit the Picasso Museum here.
From Malaga you can take day trips (by bus) to the other charming towns along the coast. My favourite is Marbella with its beautiful Old Town, orange trees and beautiful coast line. You can walk about 5 km on the boardwalk along the coast to Puerto Banus for designer shopping, nightclubbing and yachting.
Top Tips – Researching trains
The Man in Seat 61 – The best resource for all things about train travel is: https://www.seat61.com/ If you want to explore the idea of train travel and housesitting look it up.
This is put together by a guy who loves train travel and has created a curated site to help us all out! It is pretty easy to navigate, covers all kinds of train routes around the world, and is easy to use. You simply choose your starting place and then select where you want to go from the dropdown boxes. He gives all pertinent information and tips. It’s very user friendly.
Trainline – I often use https://www.thetrainline.com/. You can add your discount cards (such as Senior Rail Card in the UK or Tarjeta Dorada in Spain). You can pay in whatever your currency is and they accept PayPal. I was told by someone that they had trouble getting a refund but I have never had a problem.
You can also go directly to the Train Company you want to travel with and book directly. Sometimes this is necessary, especially when planning for train travel and housesitting Eastern European countries. The man in Seat 61 goes into details like this.
Skyscanner – https://www.skyscanner.net/ has a map with up to date information about travel in times of Covid. Scroll down on the home page and then click on the Live Travel Covid Map button to see what is required. You put in your nationality, if you are vaccinated, and where you are going to see the requirements.
Best value single, multiple or return tickets
Sometimes the best way to get somewhere is to buy individual tickets rather than one. For example for me to go from Madrid to Nice this summer the train that is available has me on an 8 hour layover in Marseilles…in the middle of the night!
If I am going to spend money on a hotel in Marseilles I would like a little more time to see the sights. Instead, I can book Madrid to Marseilles and then a later train the next day to Nice. This will give me a few hours to see Marseille.
Train or plane?
Train travel is generally more expensive than flying, of course this depends on where you are going. The Eurostar can be quite reasonably priced if booked in advance… For example, they often have sales for £ 39 GBP from London to Paris one way. That’s a bargain price! Booking in advance is good to find the best prices.
Top tips – Booking ahead isn’t always easy.
Some companies do not post the routes until 2 months in advance. So hunting for bargains can be restricted when you are planning long term.
Top Tips – Bring the card you paid for with you to collect tickets
If you pay with a credit card and plan to collect the ticket at the train station you must have that credit card with you. One time a friend bought a ticket for me from Biarritz to Paris, Paris to London. She lives in southern Spain. When I arrived in Biarritz I was not able to get my ticket!!! It is quite a story and maybe I will recount it on a video chat with Lamia some time.
Housesitting for affordable travel
It hopefully goes almost without saying to anyone already using Housesitmatch for housesitting and affordable travel options that housesitting reduces your travel costs. It means that for the price of a Housesitmatch membership you can travel without paying for accommodation for the whole year. That really saves you money. I housesit on a regular basis and find it a safer way to travel as a single woman on my own.
It is also a great way to meet friendly collaborative people who can give you real insights to the places you are visiting and where you want to travel. They help you to live like a local for your time in their home.
So why not start your train travel and housesitting adventure now. You can find your house and petsitting solution register with HouseSitMatch:
Register as a House-sitter follow this link
Or to register as a Homeowner follow this link
Final thoughts on train travel and housesitting
Trains in Europe and the UK are plentiful and will take you almost anywhere, albeit not always directly. That’s part of what makes train travel and housesitting so easy, affordable and enjoyable. Trains in the US are sadly lacking. The only ones I have done that I would recommend are along the West Coast or the East Coast.
I’ve gone from Oregon to Southern California – it is beautiful though some of it is at night. I also went from New York to Virginia. The trains in the US are not as comfy as those in Europe. So between the long journeys you need in the States, the lack of comfortable seating, and the cost the US is not so ideal for that combination of train travel and housesitting.
Europeans know how to do train travel and housesitting so well, there are easy connections and they make travel comfortable and convenient! But the best thing about train travel and housesitting with platforms like Housesitmatch and Nomador is that they make long term travel very affordable for the budget traveller.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
AUTHOR – Tiera St Claire is a full time housesitter, and a lover of European travel and all things Spanish. She has been housesitting and petsitting full time around the world for the last 12 years. Tiera is also a housesitter member of the Housesitmatch network.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Useful blogs for homeowners and housesitters
At Housesitmatch.com we like to share useful blogs and practical advice about housesitters, house sitting jobs and pet sitting. These may be helpful if you want to learn how to become a house sitter with no experience. We hope you find this small selection of our blogs on successful housesitting useful.