FOR THE FIRST time in 90 years, Indian tourists are now the second largest customers for rail ticket network Rail Europe. How can it be?

“Europe is so popularized by (Indian) pop culture, that I definitely want to travel to Europe,” Critica Goel told DW. The social media content creator from Vellore, a city in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, said she has always been fascinated with history, culture and stunning European views.

So much so that this 30-year-old woman explores Europe several times every three or four months. Critica Goel is not the only Indian who is passionate about exploring Europe by train.

India is now the second largest market for Rail Europe, a company that makes European rail travel more accessible for international tourists. The company provides tickets for around 200 train operators throughout Europe.

Inspired by Bollywood
YouTuber Pratik Jain was introduced to the beauty of Europe through the Bollywood film industry, which often features many popular European cities and famous landmarks in films.

The 30-year-old from India’s financial hub Mumbai last year traveled to five European countries – France, Germany, Belgium, Italy and the Czech Republic – using a train pass known as the Euro Rail Pass.

“I spent more than 250-euro for a four-day ticket which is convenient, provides time flexibility and is cheaper than a flight ticket,” says Jain. The Euro Rail Pass does provide unlimited access to the extensive network of trains throughout Europe.

“Europe has good rail connectivity, making travel smoother and less hassle. However, if you are only visiting one or two countries, you can also use other options such as low budget buses from Flixbus and flights.”

Meanwhile Devang Sethi, a 35-year-old former software engineer who now works as a travel vlogger, also finds train travel the most profitable. He had crossed most of Europe by train. All he needed was his backpack and a Eurail card, he said.

“The card covers over 33 countries, including Turkey and Bulgaria. I’ve taken first class tickets and been offered free meals in places like Scotland.”

Europe attracts more Indian tourists
Despite hurdles such as visa processing and logistical problems, a large number of Indians have visited popular destinations in Europe — including Switzerland, France, the UK, Germany, Italy, Spain and Austria. Recently, their interest has also increased in visiting Eastern European countries such as the Czech Republic and Hungary.

“Despite challenges such as visa delays, the Indian market has shown extraordinary resilience and strong enthusiasm for European travel,” Björn Bender, President and CEO of Rail Europe, told DW.

“Swiss Travel Pass and Eurail Pass are very popular among Indian tourists due to their flexibility and convenience, allowing seamless exploration of various destinations,” said Bender.

Rail Europe has recorded global revenue growth of 60% amid rising popularity of European destinations among Indian tourists.

Kritika Goel tells DW about some of her favorite train journeys across Europe. “The highlight was experiencing the Glacier Express in Switzerland. I will never forget the spectacular views of the Swiss Alps on that eight-hour train journey, she said. “In addition, some of the train journeys I took around France and Italy were simply breathtaking.”

Likewise, Devang Sethi said the only problem he faced was train delays, but he emphasized the convenience of not having to make a reservation in advance. “During peak holiday season and in some places, you may need to pay extra to get a seat, besides everything is very smooth and comfortable,” he concluded. [DW Indonesia/photo special]