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September 10, 2018||
Traveling by train is one of the most scenic and enjoyable ways to venture through Europe. It may not be the fast route, but you can forget the hassle of airport security, liquid restrictions, and lack of leg room. Though, before hopping on board, there are a few tips that you should know to ensure an effortless and smooth railway journey.
GUIDE TO TRAIN TRAVEL IN EUROPE
1. Book Ahead if Possible –
If you are traveling within a country, you can typically get a way with a day-of spontaneity. Although, be aware that if you are traveling during a high season, that prices can go up significantly the closer to the travel date. If you are traveling internationally via train, you should definitely book ahead of time to avoid sold out seats or exaggerated high prices.
Some of the sites that I like to use for searching train routes and booking tickets are:
- Rome2Rio: Allows you to discover all possible routes from a Point A to Point B and their costs.
- Loco2: One stop shop for train ticket bookings, even when using different train companies.
- Eurail: If you’re planning to travel a lot by train, a Eurail Pass may be worth looking into as a way to save money.
2. Splurge on First Class or Sleeper Cars –
Typically riding in first class is not much more expensive than economy, so it’s always worth checking rates for both. For shorter train rides, anything from 2 to 4 hours, I recommend spending a little extra for a more comfortable and spacious experience. For overnight trains, I would only recommend booking a sleeper car. If budget permitting, I would also suggest the further step of booking a first-class sleeper bunk to allow more privacy during your journey.
Day of Travel –
4. Check News & Weather for Strikes or Delays –
Although European train systems are known for being punctual, there is weather and strikes can throw off the entire schedule. The morning of your train, it’s never a bad idea to check if the train arrival is on time, in addition to any news reports of train strikes.
5. Arrive Early –
Although you don’t have to arrive as early as you would a flight, plan ahead and don’t rush yourself. I recommend being at the train station at least 25 minutes prior to your train departure. This allows you enough time to check for your platform, grab any quick snacks or drinks, and leisurely board your train.
6. Find your Track –
Upon arrival at the train station, the first thing you’re going to want to look for is the departures board. Using the train number on your ticket, locate your train and its’ platform. Your ticket will typically not say which platform, so you need to check for this on the departures screen. Another thing to keep in mind is your end destination is not always the last stop of the train. So be sure to use the train number rather than your final destination to locate your platform.
6. In Case of Cancellations –
Although this is unlikely, train cancellations can happen. And when it does, it’s best to be prepared. Have both Rome2Rio and Bla Bla Car apps downloaded onto your phone. First, check alternate route options using Rome2Rio, there may be a bus that is also heading to your final destination. If not, Bla Bla Car is also an option. This carpool sharing app allows you to pay locals who are driving to, past or near your next stop.
On The Train –
7. Find your Car –
Now that you have made it to the platform, locate the car number on your ticket. You can easily find this displayed on both the train doors, as well as on screens above the platform.
8. Using your Ticket –
Now that you have settled into your seat, kick back and relax. Just know to have your ticket ready for when ticket checkers come through to verify your paid ticket.
9. Food Cart –
Food carts are available, and fairly decent on most trains. So if you forget to pack your own snacks, not to worry. If you are unsure where it’s located, ask a nearby ticket checker or train staff. They have everything for sale, including water, salads, sandwiches, sweet treats, coffee, and alcoholic beverages.