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Can't decide about the Ghan

Westchester County...
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Can't decide about the Ghan

I'm wondering if you all can help me with a dilemma. I'm contemplating a September holiday trip to the Red Centre with my husband -- a big train fan -- and my 16 year-old daughter. I can't decide if taking the 23-hour ride on the Ghan from Darwin to Alice Springs will be tolerable in the Red day-nighter seats.

If I could bring myself to fork over the big bucks for the Gold Cabins, I know the trip would be comfortable and enjoyable, but I can't see spending the majority of our trip budget on transportation.

Could anyone help me decide? Or is there some kind of discount for gold cabins available through another channel? Thanks in advance.

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1. Re: Can't decide about the Ghan

It's been quite a long time since I travelled on the Ghan. We boarded at Alice Springs in the afternoon and had a gold class sleeping cabin ... double bunk beds. The cabin was clean and tidy but nothing special. What was good was the lounge area where we had a fruit and cheese platter - those in the know made a bee line for it as soon as we departed from Alice.

Food in the restaurant of the dining car was fabulous.

Night soon fell and there was nothing to see out the train windows.

We awoke the next morning to news that some nice person in our carriage left the water running all night and therefore there was no water for showers .. great.

Some nice views of the country side as we headed into Adelaide and a lovely breakfast.

At the time I didn't think it was worth the $$. Since then my B-I-L and S-I-L have been on the Ghan and like me, felt it was good to go on but don't want to do it again.

Any thoughts of a "grand" train such as those you see in the movies (Orient Express) - not at all like that.

The sit up all night seats on the Ghan? Not for me for that length of time ...

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2. Re: Can't decide about the Ghan

Hello,

I've done a few trips on The Ghan, and DougoOz has given you some great information.

There is a lot to consider, as you aren't eligible for advance purchase fares, so going by straight comparison of Gold Class and Red Day/Nighter for three persons, you're effectively paying 3 x the amount for Gold Class in that sector alone. In addition, as there is three of you, if you go Gold Class, it also means one of you has to travel in a Single Cabin.

Some thoughts about Red Class on The Ghan;

* You've chosen a good sector, and you'll miss a bulk of the backpackers who tend to travel over the summer during the wet season.

* DRW-ASP is the most scenic as the timetable and departure ex DRW maximizes day time viewing, and includes the Katherine stop.

* Leaving from DRW or ADL the carriages are very clean and much fresher as it's off a full housekeeping service.

* Doing one sector reduces the chances of being stuck in a carriage full of hygiene deficient travellers. This can sometimes be the case on the second half of the full ADL-DRW journey or vice versa - especially in summer.

So you are travelling in the best possible circumstances for Red Class. If you are big train fans, I'd say that one sector - even in Red Day/Nighter is your best 'value' option. Your daughter may get a concession fare. Just be sure you've got an iPad or some entertainment for your daughter, as the evening sector may become a little long. And the tip is to split your time between your seats and the diner as much as you can. The diner has the most regular and consistent aircon on the whole train, and even when meal service is closed, the seating area is open.

If it's a like a retirement or once in a lifetime and you'll never do it again, the maybe you could justify Gold Class. But if you're thinking that maybe you'll do it again or even try The Indian Pacific sometime later in life, I'd say for a single sector (one night) in Red will be fine.

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3. Re: Can't decide about the Ghan

Two most recent Ghan threads on the Train Travel forum;

tripadvisor.com.au/ShowTopic-g1-i12483-k7604…

tripadvisor.com.au/ShowTopic-g1-i12483-k7632…

Westchester County...
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4. Re: Can't decide about the Ghan

Thank you both for your very insightful responses. I think I can definitely rule out Gold Class.

Can you answer a few more questions about the Red day-nighter service?:

1) How comfortable are the seats for sleeping? Can you actually sleep reasonably in them, like a first class airline seat? Or are they more like typical economy class airline seats?

2) Do they turn out the lights at night for sleeping and keep the cars quiet?

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5. Re: Can't decide about the Ghan

Think about how quiet an aircraft is on an overnight

It just depends on who your fellow travellers are.

Do they snore? Are they insomniac and watch videos on the ipad?

What does your 16 yo feel about the trip

She is olde enough to make it really miserable for you if she is being forced to go

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6. Re: Can't decide about the Ghan

Very good points from GW, and the ambience in the carriage does depend very much on the passengers and how busy it is.

>>>1) How comfortable are the seats for sleeping? Can you actually sleep reasonably in them, like a first class airline seat? Or are they more like typical economy class airline seats?<<<

They're nothing like First Class airline seats. They are like Economy but wider, more leg room (unless you have two and two facing each other) and recline more.

>>>2) Do they turn out the lights at night for sleeping and keep the cars quiet?<<<

Yes they do. Typically between 21:30~22:00hrs, sometimes earlier depending on the general mood and movement. There are individual airline type reading lights above each seat.

Edited: 24 August 2014, 10:48
Westchester County...
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7. Re: Can't decide about the Ghan

So much helpful info here. I read the threads mentioned by KVE and got pretty jazzed. But it's true that my daughter is much less so.

As an alternative way to get out into the Outback and on a train, could anyone speak to how the Sydney-Adelaide section compares? Is that more bushland than desert? Including a trip to Sydney might excite my daughter more.

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8. Re: Can't decide about the Ghan

Hello again,

The ADL-ASP (or vice versa) isn't as scenic, except for the initial stages leaving the city - which is subjective of course.

But the biggest difference is that with the ADL-ASP sector, there's no stops where you can get off (13hrs onboard), whereas the DRW-ASP sector includes the stop of 4.5hrs at Katherine.

If I were trying to 'sell' it to a 16 year old, I'd focus on activities in Darwin like;

* Mindil Beach Sunset Markets - http://www.mindil.com.au

* Deckchair Cinema at the Harbour - http://www.deckchaircinema.com

* Wave Lagoon - …nt.gov.au/darwin-waterfront-precinct/…

And you've got plenty of great, fun, and cheap eats.

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9. Re: Can't decide about the Ghan

Oh dear, I've just completely misread your post 😝

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10. Re: Can't decide about the Ghan

Sorry about that.

Ok, so you're now comparing DRW-ASP on The Ghan, to the SYD-ADL on the Indian Pacific.

It's a very different kettle of fish altogether. First, it's not 'outback' as you're going through Broken Hill, so it's bushland, and second day is farmland. Here are some pro's and con's of the SYD-ADL sector on the Indian Pacific;

Pros -

* It is considerably more scenic than doing ADL-ASP sector on The Ghan, as you go through the Blue Mountains, and you do get to step off at Broken Hill.

* You're including Sydney which is an easy sell to your daughter

* The SYD-ADL sector is cheaper than DRW-ASP

Cons -

* Depending on the length of the train, they split the train over two platforms in Sydney. This means additional time involved in shunting on departure, and if they're running late, it adds the chance of more traffic heading out of the metro area. How does this affect your trip?..

* It affects your journey because with the late running through the mountains, its dark outside. Which means that one of the main highlights of the SYD-ADL leg (view of the Blue Mountains) is gone. Also the track through the mountains is one of the oldest, and it's a very very bumpy ride (some people enjoy it, as they think it feels like a 'train'). The accordion effect is at it's worst on this section of the journey. That magnificent view through the mountains you see on TV is not this direction. It's the outbound to Sydney coming through in the morning. Not inbound to Adelaide.

But, all of that is IF the train is running late.

* Although delays are written into the schedule, traffic through Parkes overnight is the key to the entire journey. If the Indian Pacific gets held up through the night, the Broken Hill stop is shortened the next morning.

So for your partner, I think the DRW-ASP would be better. For your daughter, SYD-ADL would be a much more convincing journey to sell.

Edited: 24 August 2014, 14:11
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