Get the most out of your vacation with these train travel tips.
Know what type of train ticket is best for you, and where to buy it
Know your ticket options for overnight trains
Know what to prioritize before boarding
So you’ve finally booked that trip to Europe. The one you’ve been talking about for years on end but never got around to. You have your bags packed, your itinerary planned, and you’re ready to hop from city to city via the good-old European train.
Good for you! There’s nothing better than an adventurous spirit. But don’t celebrate just yet. Rail travel is a great option and has a lot of benefits, but just like any other form of transportation, it’s a good idea to be prepared before setting off.
So keep reading, and take a look at the best tips and tricks for train travel in Europe.
Pick the ticket that’s best for you
Rail Europe offers a variety of train passes designed for the type of traveling you’re looking to do. Will you be jumping around within one country? Passing through two, three, or four countries? Or perhaps you’re the type of person that likes to keep their options open, and you don’t know how many countries you’ll be visiting.
No matter your plans, Rail Europe will have an option that best suits you (and is the best deal for your wallet). So take the time to read up on all the different possibilities, and take comfort knowing you’ll get where you want to go for the price you’re able to pay.
You should also consider purchasing the tickets in advance, as it is a good idea to get some peace of mind. Just make sure that if you print them, you don’t lose them beforehand. If you plan on having them on your smartphone, be ready to show I.D. as they will ask you for it.
Know your sleeping situation
If you’ve never taken an overnight train before, you might be tempted to buy the cheapest ticket and think you can tough it out.
Don’t be fooled, however. Long train rides can be exhausting, especially after long days of exploring new cities. That’s why you need to be realistic about what accommodations you will need. Failing to get comfortable at night and having your head bob back and forth as you try to sleep will be both painful for your back, and something you will regret the next morning.
Instead, consider opting for a private cabin (sleepers) that are essentially like small hotel rooms on a train. If that’s too much for you, there are also shared cabins (couchettes), or the most basic option of reclining seats if you really need to save your extra change.
Know your eating situation
Similar to sleep, eating is necessary to keep your energy up. While long-distance trains will generally have restaurant cars or snack carts, it’s best to be prepared with some food of your own. Before boarding, take a walk around the train station. You’re sure to find somewhere selling small, transportable food that you can toss in your backpack.
You’ll arrive at your destination in a good mood, and get to know some local snacks at the same time.
Keep an eagle eye on your things
Another good reason to get a private cabin is to properly guard your stuff.
Look, no one wants to think the person next to them would steal their belongings, but it happens. And no one wants to get stuck abroad without a passport. You can take precautions like purchasing pick-pocket-safe purses for money and identification and packing light to make keeping track of your things easier.
Above all, don’t wave money or valuables around carelessly. Keep ’em tucked away!
These rail-travel tips are a good place to start for first-time train passengers. Follow this advice, and you’ll be on your way to having the best possible vacation in Europe — and making the most of your train ticket, too!
A deeper dive — Related reading from the 101:
- Top secrets for scoring travel deals | Lifestyle 101
Tricks to get the best bang for your buck next vacation
- Traveling abroad: Make sure you’ve checked these things off your pack list | Lifestyle 101
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