Everybody loves their road films but I think trains are the ultimate film vehicle.
I'd also add better toilets, or more convenient, at least. Most of the buses do not have them and those that do have them are just too cumbersome (you risk half of the bus hearing you doing your thing while inside in there). And "holding it in" (so to speak) until the next stop is no civilised way to travel, especially after a certain age.
It really depends on where you are travelling.
In Canada (or at least Quebec) sure, train was more comfortable than bus in my experience, and I'd expect anything to be more comfortable than the absolutely awful experience I had with Greyhound in the US. Commuter trains in Montreal weren't what I'd call comfortable though, but that's probably the same everywhere.
In France, bus is less comfortable mostly because it's so much slower, but the ride on the highway is smooth (you can't beat TGV but the other trains often ride partially on older, uncomfortable track). And you can't really move in trains if a baby next to you is crying, as seats are reserved (they are on TGV and IC trains but not on TER though). You can always take the risk to go to an empty one but you will probably have to move again next stop (and maybe find yours occupied in turn).
In Vietnam, bus is infinitely more comfortable than rail, on one side you can find cheap enough buses that are very comfortable (both the ride and the on-board amenities) and on the other side the train is definitely not smooth at all. I take the train because I like trains, but there's no question buses are more comfortable (and generally faster as well).
Well-maintained, modern trains on good tracks are comfortable, but they're maybe not as common as you might think.
Depends on the train, for example the British government had a "temporary" solution in the 1980s of putting train wheels on Leyland buses and using them as substitutes for proper trains in the poorer parts of the country. These were about as fast and comfortable as they sound and were only taken out of service for good this year.
Honestly British rail travel in general is about as comfortable as pulling teeth with rusty pliers, it's usually very crowded and unreliable but it's also ruinously expensive to the point you get absurd stories about it being cheaper to get to Scotland via Barcelona or similarly torturous routes by plane than it is to take the train.
(Writing this on a train from Exeter to Dawlish. The sleeper train from London to Penzance is good if you like that kind of thing.)
Given there are many alternatives - including coach (national express + megabus), air, driving, and not going at all - in addition to competition on many lines (for example you can do Manchester-London in first class at high speed for £500 return, or you can choose to pay £45 return and spend an extra hour traveling), it can't be that expensive.
There is no public appetite in the UK for more rail capacity, or for faster services, so the only way to control numbers and prevent people from being (mostly) left behind is to increase costs on the busiest services.
This is fortunate too, the UK does not want to subsidise rail to the same extent as france -- Rail subsidies per passenger km (in euro-cents)
The UK in comparison is 6.75.
The UK makes a conscious decision not to subsidise its rail network to the extent of France and Germany. I'd rather we had spent the last 40 years building high speed lines, but as a country we didn't want that.
My list would be
* HS2 as now planned, extended up the east coast to Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen
* Plymouth -> Exeter -> Bristol -> Birmingham -> Cambridge -> Norwich
With junctions to allow services to run as appropriate for demand (e.g. Swansea-Cardiff-Bristol-Birmingham once an hour, continuing to Manchester or Leeds, Swansea-Cardiff-Bristol-London twice an hour, Liverpool-Manchester-Leeds-Newcastle-Edinburgh, etc)
Had we done that we'd have the capacity to offer cut price, but alas we didn't.
As it stands, trains - especially cross country ones - are massively crowded even with the price as high as it is, because people prefer to take a dog-slow overcrowded train from Reading to Manchester, rather than to take a cheaper coach.
The problem with the UK is that if you compare HS2 to comparable French lines, we are 10 times less efficient at procuring public projects than they are. They can cross the Massif Central for ~€30m/mile, we cross the Midlands for ~€300m/mile. In flat country their costs are much lower, Paris-Bordeaux cost ~€10m/mile.
A reminder to foreigners that this should be read assuming typical British self-deprecation.
Trains/carriages (so seats, noise etc) in Britain are usually of lower quality than their closest competitors in nearby countries (France, Germany, Netherlands, etc), and outside south east England they're also more expensive. However, they are generally more frequent, and the system as a whole is the safest in the world.
With London being so large, there are some commuter/suburban rail routes that cover significant distances, like Bedford to Brighton. I wouldn't choose to travel that route for the sake of the journey, but Høje Taastrup to København H on the commuter train is also less comfortable than on a regional or intercity train.
Trains when I went back to Russia for a couple of years as an adult: mix of soviet and modern cars. In the soviet ones, the bedding is still from those soviet times. It's itchy, you're not sure whether it's clean, it smells a little funny. The toilets are disgusting, and you want to wash your hands and face from a water bottle -just trust me on that. You got some bunk mates in the 4-bed room. They're annoying, they're idiots, and they pretend to drink tea in class, while mostly just drinking cheap vodka. They step out by the car entrance to smoke every ten minutes, but reak of booze, BO, and smoke - so the whole car reaks too.
The new cars are clean, double the price, nice toilets, everything is plastic, everything smells like plastic. It feels like you're on an airplane. There's no magic.
Spent about a month in Kazakhstan, but flew in there from Moscow. Honestly - egh. Nothing special, just a smaller city with fairly friendly people trying to get through the day.
Unfortunately, as I later learned, they are very unsafe too over there. Just two weeks after my trip a train crash happened with multiple fatalities, and months after it happened again.
What was surprising is that they have very modern high-speed trains, and super new train stations (most of them built just a few years ago). The country is huge but very well connected by train (and air; we first flew to the far west, and then came back east by train and visited a few cities along the road).
For one of the trains we bought regular tickets, but the ticket inspector friendly insisted on us to get an upgrade to the "lux" class :) (probably the regular class was busy), which was a good decision; the upgrade was absurdly cheap, and worth it (4-people compartments, very spacious and comfortable) due to the length of travel (several hours).
Another fun story: in another train we've been in an "open space" w/o compartments; it had TVs on the room which first played Michael Jackson concert, and the some TV series :)
Is this from the country being fairly rich and having money to invest, or is this part of China's massive infrastructure project?
Also as mentioned by another commenter: Uzbekistan is more wealthy than other countries of the region; it's a major exported of things like gas, cotton, silk.
Absolutely not. Uzbekistan was the Central Asian version of North Korea.
The poverty was universal, and extreme.
And yes, a change from a braindead Kim Il Sung wannabe who boiled people alive to a plain idiot plutocrat could be considered a "change" to be welcomed.
Kazakhstan is by far the wealthiest Central Asian nation.
mmWave or X-ray?
Edit: the kind of scene I'm talking about: https://www.amazon.co.jp/photos/share/8PiwLfaaWMNCyULYDTAvy1...
The writer traveled from Vienna to Pyongyang by train, giving him 36 unsupervised hours in North Korea.
He hacked the north korea visa entry and used his entry visa in an unexpected way - arriving at a different entry point, which was technically not disallowed, but not set up to handle western travel.
The normal Beijing-Pyongyang train is set up for westerners, and the loophole has since been closed.
Previous HN discussion: https://news.ycombinator.com/from?site=vienna-pyongyang.blog...
I've been to Baikonur to see a proton rocket launch from there, which is not typical Kazakhstan, but a little bit of Russia in the middle of Kazakhstan. Unfortunately the launch was delayed, but I did get to see the rocket itself.
I put some photos here (https://photos.app.goo.gl/W8tkAdjkeZsP3Sqh6), but this includes some of the Energia control centre and a space museum. I do have some better photos on my camera, but I still need to process them...
I see there seems to be a stairway to go into the Buran rocket. Can you go inside and have a look?
I can recommend both museums (interests have to match, of course).
Even the night trains to the north of Finland which are seen here as some kind of benchmark are noisy with earplugs. They stop multiple times in the night so you wake to the beeping of the doors opening and closing.
I think there’s a market for rail travel. I love the idea. But it’s just not comfortable at all, or at least not economical to travel comfortably.
This is one of my biggest bugbears with early trains into and (particularly) late trains out of London: endless overly loud beeping and automated announcements at every single station. I'd usually like to catch up on an hour's sleep whilst I'm on the train but unless I'm completely exhausted even earplugs don't cover the din.
I get that some people have impaired vision or are hard of hearing, and therefore need affordances (which I am strongly in favour of), but is it strictly necessary for those affordances to torture the rest of us? Surely we can do better in the 21st century?
"Oh, but the announcements need to be loud because people who've fallen asleep might otherwise miss their stops." They might. I've done this (on the tube, as it happens). It was incredibly annoying and resulted in a very expensive taxi journey home, but it was also entirely my own fault and responsibility. I took it on the chin, and learned a lesson. Again, is it necessary to torture everyone so a few people avoid this every night? I'm not so sure it is.
The security announcements are the worst offenders for this in my experience, I used to travel by train a lot and the blaring auditory nag every five minutes when you're waiting in a station about reporting anything suspicious combined with the fact many stations are a bit grotty and Brutalist really adds up to an Orwellian experience.
Come to think of it, I'm fairly sure the British government's obsession with three-element slogans started with the trains; "see it, say it, sorted" is massively burned into my brain which I guess is the intention.
Also needing over 2h to book a ticket as things are made extra complicated to accomodate each parties interests in international train lines as well as the systems which are just horrible to use.
Bonus trans-sib option, technically starts in Europe: https://www.goldeneagleluxurytrains.com/journeys/trans-siber...
Japan has also nice sleepers, but they are not bullet trains, plus, way way more expensive, and not a mass phenomenon.
He treks around former soviet countries (mainly) on his own creating commentary travellogs.
edit: having watched a couple more videos, this just reinforces my theory that the most popular youtube channels are also the most mediocre. This guy's formula is basically 'travel to $random_CIS_country; check-in to a hotel; go on a short walking tour within a few blocks of the hotel while acting like an asshat; the end.' And this gets millions of views and subscribers.
This guy basically goes to one poor town after another and then complains that...it is poor and wonders how people can live there.
The videos seem to oscillate from just being obnoxious to being downright rude and insulting. It's depressing that they seem to be extremely popular.
Is he rude? Well, he is certainly much more extraverted than I could ever be, and I suppose he crosses the line at times, but he talks to real people about their real life, rather than putting up a bit of a tourist show with only highlights. I find it fascinating, just like I find "yeah Russia" (youtube channel) fascinating.
I do wonder how his Ethiopian adventure ended though. I'm sure there's a story there...
he lived in india for couple of years and learnt passable hindi.
tl;dr internet sleuths have connected him to a since deleted account on a "pick up artist" forum where that person has bragged about going to Eastern Europe to find desperate women to have sex with, using very questionable methods
That is not at all what the comments appear to be saying. Instead, the comments are saying things like:
> Hmm here he talks about taking a girl to bed with Rohypnol.
It bums me out because I'm looking at doing quite a bit of solo traveling in the next few years and would like to capture some of it for my family and friends, but if I come across anyway like this it's going to be a major fail. I posted some from a recent trip and didn't appear or say a word in any of the videos and it was received reasonably well, but the audience isn't exactly like to say 'bro stop being a douche' lol.
But there are some more Youtubers who seem to travel around to hotspots. I am a little suspicious they work for the CIA or something. Seems like the perfect cover. It may be some of them just get paid not to actually spy but just to verify that westerners can travel and film in those places.
I used to be one of a group of people who other people thought were spies. I was living abroad at the time. At first this aspect was extremely irritating. Some locals would point at me and say "spy".
But the more I thought about it, the more I met people like me who I thought would make terrific spies, and the more I met local friends who I thought I could probably recruit as spies to have local culture on my side.
Then I started to casually explore the countryside like a dumb tourist, and I would emerge from a random forest to see locals' gaping mouths, later to learn it was a sensitive area. I started to think--no wonder they think we're spies!
Later on I went home and found out that a LOT of people who did what I did were recruited as legitimate spy-types. One of them was a childhood friend who apparently drank some magic government potion and became a CIA officer who went on to be extremely visible in US national politics.
It's a fascinating lens on life, superficially at least. Misdirection works for you and against you. You can make just about anything seem true or false. And weirdly while supposedly a hyper-objective effort (go $my_country!) I understand it often has a tremendous personal impact on those who are deeply involved.
> But there are some more Youtubers who seem to travel around to hotspots
These are the ones I'd recruit for a modern-day BRIXMIS. If you watch the BRIXMIS videos, the officers interviewed had a tremendous psychological overlap with traveling Youtubers who are very curious about things, to the point where _touching_ or _going to those things_ feels like a victory of its own. Digging up poop near an encampment because Soviet soldiers used log pages as toilet paper--they did that.
Espionage is still very much alive. Physical presence maintains trust that can later be exploited (most of us would call it "grooming").
I still remember those 2 (some times 4) daily train trips from Modena to Bologna to get to the university (yes, this is in a developed and rich region of Italy) where you had to sit in the floor, where windows didn't work and there was no air-conditioning...
It amuses me to no end how Americans seem to equate lack of air conditioning, something the human race has survived perfectly well without for tens of thousands of years, to unsanitary conditions in a third-world country or some sort of dystopian post-apocalyptic nightmare.
Funny how western media can't resist poking the dead enemy at every occasion:
> Adylet: ‘Anyone who still mourns the Soviet Union today is out of his mind!’
Well, if you'd really talk to people, you'd find out that significant percent of population still mourns the Soviet Union and they have all the reasons to.
It really depends where and who you ask. You probably not going to find any sympathy for the USSR in central Europe. But it is true that in Russia and central Asia, you still find people, those who were mostly kids/teenager during the "golden-age" of the USSR, who fondly remember the USSR. Considering that the USSR got replaced by various dictator in those places, its not that hard to understand.
Just like the opposite opinion.
But percent of people mourning USSR would be quite big. This has nothing to do with western stereotypes about dreadly life in USSR (mostly invalid propaganda) or various dictators (can you, without checking Wikipedia/Google, name the president of Kazakhstan, and say if it is a authoritarian or "democratic" place?).
USSR was destroyed for a number of reasons but none of the reasons had anything to do with the goal to improve life of USSR citizens.
One goal was to destroy a global economic competitor. Another goal was to open huge new market to the western corporations (both goals achieved by shutting down and destroying all the USSR industry almost overnight). Third goal was for the crooks to be able to become super-rich and be able to pass the inherited power and money to the offspring.
All these goals mean that life of the ordinary person in the former USSR states was to become much worse than before. And it happened as everyone born before 1991 knows out of unpleasant and sad experience.
But my comment wasn't about that. It was about that the West is still so afraid of the USSR it still tries to kick the USSR in every article even if it is not really relevant.
I don't know what you mean here, but USA was trying to prevent USSR from collapsing.
The most funny thing is that when they recently conducted a survey in Baltic states, percent of supporters of the USSR was so big, that it surpassed percent of supporters of the USSR e.g. in Russia.
This created quite a big fuss. :)
That's where he made his first money. The train was called "Bazaar on wheels" back then. Amazingly, kids were usually just waved off at immigration at the time.
I'd like to comment to "Astana is quite the opposite. Nothing here is old, large parts of Astana were build within the last two decades. Dirt or waste in the streets was almost zero and the traffic seems pretty civilized. Until 1997, Almaty was the capital of Kazakhstan, due to some complicated political compromises, it was moved to Astana and there began the growth of this boom town."
Actually Astana was that average town just 20 years ago. And of course there's plenty of old buildings in Astana. And some areas are outright poor. Here's link to street view of one example, you can move around, and that's the same Astana: https://yandex.kz/maps/-/CCUqnJEh0C
There's "old city" (or "right coast", contrary to "new city"/"left coast") where ordinary buildings are everywhere. It's not poor, it's just usual.
Of course capital status means much more money for everyone, so people generally are more wealthy compared to other cities.
There's no point for tourists to go to other city parts, though.
1. Maharajas’ Express - https://www.the-maharajas.com/
2. Palace on Wheels - http://rtdc.tourism.rajasthan.gov.in/palaceonwheels
3. Deccan Odyssey - https://www.deccanodyssey.com/
4. Golden Chariot - https://www.goldenchariot.org/
5. Buddhist Circuit - https://www.irctcbuddhisttrain.com/index
> “You can’t even defend yourself if you don’t eat meat. Kazakhs are born to be warriors; that’s why they eat a lot of meat!” she says and promptly challenges me to an arm-wrestling match, which I accept but quickly admit defeat.