Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
The Man in Seat Sixty-One (seat61.com)
738 points by robin_reala on Jan 13, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 117 comments

Agree with all commenters here what a fantastic site this is - up-to-date (by and large), information dense, no nonsense.

Has helped me travel from Bali to Jakarta, through Thailand, Namibia, and with the TransSib.

A labour of love. So I wondered how one can support the guy, and was amazed that the only thing he asks for is donations to UNICEF in his name, see link below. Kudos kudos kudos.


Also, he may recieve some support from booking referrals so I would try and use the links from the seat61 website wherever possible.

edit: And to add, I love the site! I've used to plan many trips to and between France, Spain, Estonia, Sweden and Denmark.

Seems to be the main source (as you’d imagine). From About:

> Is the site a hobby or a business?

> Seat61.com is a personal website, started as a hobby. It's grown and grown, and became my full time occupation in September 2007. However, I'm not a company or a travel agency, just an individual with knowledge that others might find useful. All the information on the site is provided free of charge to users, to help people make journeys by train or ship instead of flying, affordably, comfortably and safely. The site generates income through affiliate schemes, and this supports the site, helps fund my travel habit (...er, I mean research, of course) and buys me the occasional bottle of my favourite Chateau Musar...

Used this site for various European adventures that were significantly more fulfilling and stress free vs not having this resource. Donated £30 to the cause. Thank you to the Man in Seat Sixty-One!

FWIW, since this thread (and the link) has been posted here yesterday, there were around 7 donations (including yours).

(Not sure what to think of that... doesn't strike me as huge. Maybe front page HN is not as "viral" as I thought?)

This site has been a life saver on so many trips through places like India and Africa, where the information available through official channels is often difficult to find out understand.

I was just wondering the same thing! Thanks for linking!

I thought the site doesn't support Russia?


Quoting parent comment:

> Has helped me travel from Bali to Jakarta, through Thailand, Namibia, and with the TransSib.

"TransSib" here is the Trans-Siberian Railway, travelled via the eponymous train. You may know: Siberia is in Russia – as is most of the journey via the railway.

And yes, there is support for travel data in Russia: https://www.seat61.com/Russia.htm

Hence the confusing comment

The site clearly has a link to rail travel in Russia on the first page, and clearly any international train site worth it's salt is going to have one of the most famous train journeys of all time on there (indeed it's got it's own page)

So clearly the parent wasn't talking about the site covering Russia as a subject.

>Paris to Nice in 5h37 from €25: See the Paris to Nice page... The impressive TGV Duplex trains from Paris to Nice take just 5h36 centre to centre with fares from €25. A flight takes 4 disjointed and stressful hours of train, airport, flight, airport & bus, as well as pumping up to 10 times the CO2 emissions into the upper atmosphere. As an experience, there's no comparison...

Absolutely right. The site also forgets to mention that crossing France by train is also often even faster than doing it by plane.

Sure, the actual high speed travel part is faster on a plane but :

- train stations are usually inside the city so you don't need to add 30-60 minutes to your travel just to go to them, not to mention the same amount of time after landing. - you can arrive at the train station 5-10 minutes before the train leaves. - once the train stops, you can just disembark in a couple of minutes. You don't have to wait for a bridge to be deployed and everybody in front of you to get up.

On top of that, you have way more space in a TGV than any plane, a nice view of the country and even wifi.

I lived and worked in the South coast of France for a couple of years while my family lives in the North of the country.

Each time I had to visit, I just took a train. It was a way better experience.

Living in Berlin & my wife's family being in Vienna, I'm really disappointed by the canceling of the sleeper train service between the cities - you used to be able get on at the evening on one end, get a good night's sleep in the (comfortable!) bunkbeds & wake up in the early morning in your destination.

I've tried doing the same trip via bus and it was a nightmare, mostly due to me not being able to sleep on bus seats but also bumpier ride & I can't as comfortably read on a bus as on a train.

Additionally there is no high speed connection directly between Vienna and Berlin (it would have went through the Czech Republic which is probably the reason?), if you want that you have to go via Munich which negates a lot of the speed benefit vs taking the direct but lower speed route via Prague.

All around frustrating situation considering these 2 large cities are not all that far apart geographically.

ÖBB restarted night trains between Berlin and Vienna last month.

Oh that's good to know! last I tried I was told this service no longer runs.

From my recent experience TGV's are not that cheap any more.

They are certainly more expensive than the discount airlines, but it comes close when you add up the costs of getting too and from the airport. I easily justify the extra euros for the half day saved by not hanging around in airports and security queues.

Also, book early for better train prices.

I did not want to call it out but yeah it seemed cheap to me too. I just did a quick research and 35 euros was the minimum I could find for Nice -> Paris on a third party website.

Ouigo TGVs are cheap.

Prices are about the same for the last 10 years.

Book early, check different departure times, or check Ouigo. It can quite cheap.

I love this site: it’s such a nice reminder of the information-rich sites of the early 2000s, and it’s been extremely useful in planning journeys over the years.

See also: https://www.fieggen.com/ which I use every time I buy a new pair of shoes.

What do you use it for? I haven't noticed any information on shoe-wearing, but I did notice a whole section on knot-tying.

The real MVP. This is why I come to hn

Related: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18897109 (Ask HN: What was the Internet like before corporations got their hands on it?)

Same. Probably one of the best sites in this category. No fluff, not filled with a dozen ads, simple navigation, and 90% of the time, really accurate information

An insane amount of work must've gone into this, especially considering it is a one man operation! Kudos!

Makes me wonder what I am doing as a corporate cog in the wheel.

This guy posts some really unique information -- I used his site back in 2012 when I first visited Myanmar after the end of sanctions. His site had a full train timetable, cabin descriptions and a guide for buying tickets (accurate, none the less) when there was basically zero other information out there. Took the train from Yangon to Mandalay, and it was definitely an experience! Also, more recently, the Norther Explorer train from Wellington to Auckland.

I've also researched all sorts different train rides, like the journey from Shenzhen to Urumqi and the trans-siberian, neither of which I've gotten to (yet!).

I like that New Zeland trains feature in the same category as ones in Myanmar. Over here in New Zealand we have gone to quite a lot of effort to make a system this bad.

hah! Sorry if it came across that way, obviously those are two very different categories of train -- they do fall under equally scenic IMO but that's where the similarities end.

Don’t be sorry. Our nationalised then privatised, asset stripped then re-nationalised system deserves ridicule.

You probably didn't notice, but he went through and updated each page to work on mobile devices. It's amazing how much effort and love he puts into this site: https://www.seat61.com/mobile-version.htm

His concise monthly European rail news is also great: https://www.seat61.com/news.htm

Whoa I had no idea about the monthly train updates for Europe. Going to have to watch that page! Thanks!

I've been a huge fan of this site for years now. It reminds me of the early internet - personal, full of useful information, and not constantly trying to growth hack, A/B test, optimize and redesign every single part of a website.

This site really helped me get oriented to the India rail system (or at least as much as is possible without experiencing it first hand).

Got a first class ticket from Kolkata to Gaya (why not, was cheap and it was my first time in India). The attendants were very kind, unusually so, and it was only after getting off the train that it finally clicked why one attendant kept saying with a loving smile, "gips, gips" -- he wanted a tip like I'd given one of the other attendants! (who was able to speak basic English and asked for a tip)

It was a nice journey, though the Gaya train station at 4AM, nothing prepares you for that, weaving through 500 homeless people sleeping on the ground; emerging from the mass of humanity to inhale the thick, dusty, diesel saturated air, on the way to Bodh Gaya, the Bodhi Tree, the birthplace of Buddha's awakening -- welcome to India :)

For travel in India, another undispensable site is IndiaMike.com

For rail fanning /trainspotting in India, there is a fantastic community at irfca.org.

The strange part is that I'm Indian and I would never think of traveling to Gaya because of where it's located (the state of Bihar has a poor reputation).

Gaya train station was far and away the most intense experience I had in the 2 months I spent traveling through the north. Well, breaking my hip falling off a scooter trying to avoid a massive black bull cow running at me in Rishikesh was the most intense experience of my existence to-date, but the Gaya station was seriously hard core on the normal traveler's experience level.

On the return from Bodh Gaya the midnight train to Varanasi was delayed...by 5 hours. Being the only foreigner I was concerned for my safety, but then realized the safest place was down on the ground with everyone else, and definitely not wandering outside the station.

Just to give you an idea of Bihar - the state where Gaya is located - its per capita income is $2,170 (PPP), while Delhi's is $18,000+ (PPP). It's absurdly poor and all the old stereotypes about India still thrive there.

Bodh Gaya is actually pretty nice. It's almost like an oasis of tranquility in the middle of Bihar's chaos. But still, there's no way I'm ever going to Bihar again!

Just in case the admins visit this page, it's worth pointing out that the SSL Labs rating for this site is F for at least 3 different vulnerabilities (https://www.ssllabs.com/ssltest/analyze.html?d=www.seat61.co...) and in fact I can't access it at all without changing my browser's settings because it doesn't support TLS 1.1 or above. TLS 1.1 was released in 2006 - might want to get on that.

This website is indispensable and the guy who runs it is such a train fan. It’s amazing and he’s been enthusiastic to receive updates for the site whenever I’ve gone far enough afield to fill in a number or piece of information he hasn’t gotten a chance to track down yet, or grab a photo of a station he hasn’t seen in a bit that’s changed, etc.

Whenever I go to a country I spend some time on seat61 looking up the local train system. For a number of systems without websites, seat61 is the place where you can find the information about what trains go where before you get there and it’s just slowly (actually surprisingly quickly, all things considered) populated as people find out various pieces from ticket agents on site or physical boards posted at stations and email bits and pieces in.

He's not kidding about the joy of traveling by rail. The train from London to Edinburgh was by far the most pleasant travel experience I've had. The low stress boarding, the spacious, comfortable seats, and lack of turbulence made for a relaxing and peaceful trip. It's a shame the options for traveling by rain in the US are so limited.

Glad to hear you had a good experience, I imagine you traveled on the Virgin Pendolino which is a very nice experience indeed when all goes smoothly.

To that end, us Brits don't have a very high opinion of our rail system (reliability, punctuality, price) so it does make me wonder how bad it must be in the US.

> ... traveling by rain ...

I know it's a typo, but I've always thought that would be a cool form of travel.

I've been back-burner-planning a long canoe trip, might just recycle this concept if I wind up writing about it. Thanks!

If you are a cycling person, this is like the Sheldon Brown of trains.

Someone make a golden statue of this guy.

As others have already said seat61.com is a rare gem on the internet. It’s an invaluable resource when traveling by train in any country. The site has helped me prepare for countless trips. Once I traveled more than 10,000 miles through 8 countries from Saigon to Amsterdam and it would have been much more difficult if it weren’t for the man in seat 61.

Love the site and used it often. Recently I realized train is my preferred mean of transportation by far and I'm happy to be able to count on this site. Also a strong reminder of what the internet could be.

In the best case train is like being driven in a Limo on a free interstate

The normal case is far better than that. Smoother, faster, you can’t get up and stretch your legs, walk to a shop (or have the shop come to you in many cases), plug in your laptop, no bouncing up and down, no car sickness when you’re reading

> no car sickness when you’re reading

It depends how sensitive you are. I get nauseous when reading even on relatively smooth inter-city trains.

Amazing, do you have issues on planes too?

And no traffic :)

I took the train from Cairo to Alexandria in Egypt a few months ago and this site had information that even local Egyptians couldn't provide me. It blows my mind how this guy not only provides so much information, but also regularly updates it - even in countries where this information can be very uncertain.

Can we please have more sites like this on the internet.

It's trending the other way.

We're left depending on the few people who have the time/energy/money to produce labors of love and charities like this. Beyond that, we're left with centralized superplatforms.

At least the rail companies are starting to care for their websites nowadays, at least in Europe. In Spain I've heard the running insult-joke when some other fellow programmer will ask you about your experience only to get back to you saying "nah... I know you. You're the guy who made the Renfe website" (Renfe is the Spanish state rail company, and their website is... not great.)

I have the same feeling. But, my guess it that it’s not that those sites don’t exist. It’s more about finding these gems. Content-free sales pages have been search engine optimized the last years. So the SERPs are full of commercial shit. We need better exploration possibilities. That’s one of the reasons I love HN.

To be fair, based on my searches, "Get from x to y by train"-type searches tend to feature this site on the first page of results -- that's how I found it originally. So something in the Google algorithm clearly values this type of content-rich, no-frills site.

You’re right, it’s not completely useless yet

It doesn't index the whole internet, but google scholar often reminds me of how the internet felt a decade and a half ago...

Be the change you want to see.

I kinda want one of these directory websites you could find in the early 2000s that were just collections of websites the author liked. I want a page like that just filled with links to pushed like this. projectrho.com comes to mind as another page I would want to see liked there.

Rather than a website with one person tasked with maintaining it, what about a git site where people can do a pull request for updates?

"awesome" lists are basically this. They often end up with not enough curation.

Love this website!

The train from Bangkok to the Thai/Cambodian border was one of the most wonderful trips I ever took. I watched movies until late at night at a mall movie theater, slept a few hours in the station, and tok t 5:55 train, watching rice paddies pass by for hours...

And there's no way I would have done it without https://www.seat61.com/Cambodia.htm#Siem%20Reap

This site recently helped me a lot in a tourism travel to Europe.

The general info is googlable, but it helped my choose a seat that was facing forward and positioned in the middle of a window. A very relevant information for me and my wife wanting to observe the world while traveling. And an information that we wouldn't be able to google.

I learned about it years ago here in HN I believe. It would be hard to find by myself googling something like this too

This website is one of my favorite resources for traveling. I travel in Europe quite often and I always visit this website when I need tips on how to get from point A to point B. I just used it a few weeks ago to figure out how to take the train from Krakow to Warsaw.

When I was young (until about 8 y/o) I lived in England and we would normally travel to Northern Ireland (where the rest of my family lives) using the ferry at Stranraer. I had some of my fondest memories on the trip there (even if it was much slower than by plane). We then moved back to Northern Ireland.

Now I'm an adult and living in England I always have gone by plane (about 3 times a year). I'm definitely going to try travelling by train+ferry now as it seems to cost about a third of what I would normally pay for a plane. Seems much less stressful too.

Once you are in Northern Ireland, the train from Belfast to (London)Derry is one of the nicest I've been on. It's two hours and you will see some incredible scenery. It's cheap as well (£19/return).

Not to mention the difference in CO2 emissions.

I regularly share this site with friends saying, "This is my favorite website on the Internet."

This site was indispensable for when I traveled throughout Europe. Most useful was the detailed information about reaching Pompeii from Rome https://www.seat61.com/places-of-interest/day-trip-to-pompei... It's easy in retrospect, but finding the Circumvesuviana train is tricky if you don't know what you're doing

Amazing resource. And such a depth of info... we wanted to go from London to Vienna by train, and there is a page on that specifically, and three different options for the journey depending on whether you want a sleeper or want to go through Switzerland or want to go the fastest route. And then specific instructions for booking each trip on the various country's railway websites, and connection info for the train stations. Ridiculous.

I travel from Portugal to Singapore via trains and I wouldn't have survived without this site.

Nice, what was your first trip, the Lusitania?

Whoa, how do you get from Europe to Singapore by train?

Russia -> Mongolia -> China -> Vietnam -> Cambodia (he might have cheated here and gone by bus, Cambodia does have trains but they're not really available for passengers anymore I don't think) -> Thailand -> Malaysia -> Singapore

Cambodia has trains now. Started a few years ago, from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville. There is also a new train line to the Thai border that I think opened recently but it doesn’t connect to the Thai railway.

There was always a line from Phnom Penh to Battambang but it was only a single line and I think there were only a couple trains a week on it. Early 2000's you could bribe your way onto it (or even on top of it...) but from what I recall it was extremely slow.

Interestingly since it was only used infrequently the locals knew when the big trains were coming and would basically build their own mini motorised platforms to zip up and down the line. Two sets of wheels on axles, a bamboo "raft" that sat on top of them with a hole towards the back where a motor ran a chain down to the back axle.

I rode on one circa 2008, because it was a single line, if you met someone coming the other way you basically had to disassemble the entire thing (which probably took less than a minute) and then re-assemble once they'd passed.

Yes Battambang is along the Poipet (Thai Border) line. Never tried the bamboo trains but from what I understand it was a very limited area where it was operating.

It's still slow. And not completely safe; multiple cases of some dude sleeping on the tracks and the train went over them also there was a derailing. But I guess compared to the crazy regional highway traffic it still is safer. Also a great way to see the countryside.

Wikipedia has a nice article with pics on the bamboo trains: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Norry

It's probably not an express.

Doesn't include Portugal, apparently.

Edit: it does (https://www.seat61.com/international-trains/trains-from-Lisb...), just that the country's not listed where I expected it to be.

I vastly prefer taking the train from Lisbon to Porto for business, since I can work and prepare during the trip, with the following caveats:

- Mobile data coverage along that particular line is spottier than a cheetah, with more gaps than a croc's denture and slower than snails. On-board Wi-Fi is even worse.

- For some reason CP (the Portuguese train company) refuses to service the power outlets on 1st/2nd class cars, which means it's a toss-up as to whether you'll have enough battery to work on the train.

This has been going on for years, but I still prefer taking the train to a cramped (and noisy) flight.

Interestingly I found mobile coverage to be excellent within France (Orange), Belgium (T-Mobile IIRC), Netherlands (T-Mobile), Germany (Telekom) and Czech Republic (T-Mobile) during my trip through these countries last October. As I had a EE UK SIM I seemed to roam on Telekom owned networks. Even rural areas seemed to have reasonable service. I also previously (a few years back) travelled through France, Switzerland, Austria, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey with excellent coverage across all roaming on mostly Vodafone owned/affiliated networks (with the exception of a mountain pass for which the lack of coverage is understandable!).

But then again I found looking out the window and/or chatting to my travel companion far more entertaining than using my mobile phone!

This route is notoriously bad, and almost legendarily so. I worked at Vodafone eleven years, and the challenges of providing decent mobile data to a train that cuts through a bunch of dips I radio coverage are... hard.

However, the train company bought hideously expensive 3G equipment to install on some cars that they never bothered to maintain. If they did and upgraded them, the on-board WiFi would be better than having the phone try to talk to a base station through the train car.

Regardless, mobile connectivity in Portugal is, by and large, pretty good, although ai can’t wait until I can stop using MEO and go back to Vodafone to get stable voice calls on urban streets (their dropped call ratio is through the roof, and me and my colleagues have trouble with voice calls every day).

I used this site and the book to plan a rail trip around Europe when I was about 25 (young enough to get the discounted rail card). It was great fun and I used so much of the useful information on the site every day.

Used this several years ago to take the family to Italy via sleeper service from the UK.


Sad that many of these international sleepers have recently shut down.

Doubly painful, now that people are once again more open to the use of a sleeper train to avoid flying (for environmental reasons, or just not having to deal with airports).

ÖBB took over Deutsche Bahn's sleepers, which coincided with the retiring of the last sleeper train from/to the Netherlands (bugger me). But their service does seem to be working pretty well.

I missed an opportunity to travel from Milan to Paris by Thello's sleeper train due to the railway strikes in France this year, unfortunately.

I really wish the EU or collaborating national governments would invest more in sleeper train services by taxing flights. It's much more sustainable, and the real kicker is this: yes, a train takes longer, but in a sleeper train you just wake up with a complimentary breakfast early in the morning in the middle of a city hundreds of kilometres from where you started.

Yes, a sleeper train needs to be compared to a flight + a hotel room, not just a flight alone.

DB going out of sleeper service was so sad. At least ÖBB took over some of it with their NightJet service and are replacing the rolling stock with newer cars, so is Caledonian Sleepers in the UK. Hopefully Trans Metropolitan will begin service as well to take over some of what was abandoned by DB.

> I really wish the EU or collaborating national governments would invest more in sleeper train services by taxing flights.

Why? If sleepers are so desirable, then the market should support them.

Because flights have co2 externalities that trains don't to the same extent. This is econ 101.

Flights are also subsidized at the moment by not taxing fuel at all. Also, the market doesn't care too much about the environment, hence governments.

I found this site very useful in planning a couple of multi-city trips in Europe (flying from the US) a few years ago. (A useful tip I learned from this site: in Norway, for a long trip, buy the first-class ticket; it's about $12 extra but that paid for itself in free hot cocoa.) It's also useful for getting a quick overview of the train system in a country and therefore figuring out which multi-city trips are feasible.

My only complaint is that for most of Europe there's a lot of "how to get there from London", which is fine if you're coming from London or elsewhere in the UK, but I'm flying in from the USA. But this complaint is a bit American-centric.

I wish you hadn't posted it, though, I'm not going to get any work done this afternoon.

I wonder how/where the author gets connection time information. Each country, and sometimes each public transport company, seems to have their own system, sometimes hard to access digitally.

I've been building a mobile app for quick and convenient public transport departure lookup in Switzerland[0], which is doable because there's a free, well-documented public API[1]. Since it's fairly popular, I thought about extending it to other countries, but as mentioned above, the API landscape looks super heterogenous and spotty.

[0]: http://billhillapps.com/billhill/quickov.html [1]: http://transport.opendata.ch/

I'm sure he also benefits a lot from feedback. Someone goes to book a route he suggests, and the connection now doesn't work, they are going to tell him, and he can update his page on it.

Given that he actually travels the routes in question, I imagine he gets the information in the same way he books his tickets - online if its there, in the station if its not.

The people of the European Rail Timetable[0] compile and publish a lot of this information every month (worldwide actually, not just Europe). And he has an entire network of contacts himself now.

[0] https://www.europeanrailtimetable.eu/

The European schedules are published centrally, and you can search them on many websites; the one of the German railways is generally seen as the best. Live data is more of a mess, but you don't need that for a site like this.

There’s a really interesting section on Motorrail trains. You can take your car on a sleeper train!

This site is legitimately fantastic!

I used it to plan a trip around Europe and the information about how to travel between given stations, where to buy tickets, what to buy (even what side to sit on to get the best view!) made my trip significantly less stressful to plan.

That's the internet I love. Way to go Man in Seat 61!

Marketers: I hate your stupid, empty landing page.

Poor guy's server is receiving the HN 'hug-o-death'.

Such a massive amount of custom information is quite impressive. I wonder how a single man can maintain all of it up to date, as it seems to be mostly written by hand.

You get a lot of time to fill when you travel by train

It's his job now (he makes money off of ticket booking commissions, plus probably some other stuff). I'm sure he also gets feedback from public information sources, travelers, and train enthusiasts.

I was just starting to read this page https://www.seat61.com/Canada.htm#Canadian and was thinking, this is a nice resource.

Then it kept going, and going, and going with a wonderful set of recommendations, images, descriptions, a nicely edited video etc

What a great website!

I used this site to Inter-rail around Europe back in 2009, and ever since anytime I get to mainland Europe I try to fly back from another city, and catch the interesting trains and sights.

So impressed that it's been kept not just running, but up-to-date and so well written (enjoyable to read)

And now I want to take a train ride to Morocco...

And then within Morocco.

The existence of a functioning rail network is a big draw for me when I'm planning a backpacking trip. I'm much less likely to be ripped off for the ticket, there will be some sort of timetable, and little risk of being taken to someone's brother's shop in case I want to buy a carpet. Most importantly, it's usually at least an order of magnitude safer.

This site has been invaluable to me in the past, especially when I was traveling by train through India and China.

I wonder how hard it would be to put this all on a map interface?

Wow great site. Rad for 1 hour ...

Very comprehensive. Thank you.

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact