Traveling by train is one of the most delightful ways to get from one city to another in Europe. Its much more comfortable than flying especially since you have plenty of space to move around. One of the best perks is for now there is no charge for luggage, if you can get it onboard the train then you can bring it. The exception is when traveling on the EuroStar which allows for 2 pieces and 1 carry-on of any weight and no fee’s.
Taking the train is something we do at least once whenever in Europe. We love the comfort and convenience traveling by rail. Its so nice to sit next to a window seat with a cool drink and a few munchies and watch the scenery as you get from on place to another.
Here are a few basic tips that may help you understand traveling by train before booking tickets
1. When purchasing your ticket point to point wait until you are in Europe a purchase through the ticket agent. Careful when using the ticket machines, you may end up with a slow regional train that stops at every station. Ask your ticket agent if your schedule is direct. If you are traveling on a tight budget the slower regional trains can have sales. Check with the ticket office for latest sales.
2. Upon receiving your ticket be sure you have the correct dates and times. Most times it won’t be a big deal if you are on the wrong date but if you paid for a regional train instead of high speed if a conductor comes by to check your tickets you will be responsible for fee’s.
3. First Class verses Second, there is not a huge difference between the two on most trains. First class will have a little more room and not as many seats on the car but if you want to save a few Euro’s second class is just fine.
4. European trains are not necessarily on time in fact a few weeks ago traveling between La Spezia and Milan we were almost 2 hours late. Normally the European train system is very good with on-time schedules, but if you have an appointment or need to be somewhere at a certain time give yourself enough time to cover any unexpected delays.
5. Validate your rail passes and tickets before boarding. There will be a validation machine on the platform usually placed before you reach the tracks.
6. Seat reservations take preference over seats. When paying a few dollars for the reservation you have your seat. If someone happens to be sitting there politely ask them to move.
7. Double check your platform and schedule board before getting on your train. Sometimes there are last minute changes you could have missed. You don’t want to end up on a train going the wrong way.
8. Information booths in all train stations are a good stop before leaving the station. You can get information for sightseeing, restaurants and pick up city maps.
9. Airport transfers. Most large cities have nonstop train service that drops you off close or even inside the airport. Its quicker than hailing a taxi and convenient. Although I do suggest if its the first time into the destination I would take a taxi from the airport to your hotel so you won’t get lost on foot.
10. Don’t get off at the wrong station. Sometimes there are two or three stations in a city. For instance Paris has 6. We just got back from Vienna where there were 2 stations we stopped at where we could have got off the train that were closer to our hotel. Research if you have time to find the best station to arrive.