If you are considering getting around Europe by train, you’re certainly not alone. It’s among the most popular modes of transportation and the choice method of getting around for students, couples, and friends travelling in groups – and for good reason too! Train travel is a safe, affordable and convenient mode of travel in this beautiful continent.
A small heads up though – the European train network may be overwhelming for the first time visitor. But don’t fret, we have a few curated tips to help you with train travel throughout Europe:
Approach the Information Desk
Head for the Information Desk at any train station, as opposed to the ticket machines, if you need a little extra assistance in planning your route. The ticket agent on duty will have the best travel information at his/her fingertips. Remember to ask if you qualify for any discounts, or find out if there are cheaper alternative routes to your destination.
If you’re on a budget, you can definitely reduce your train travel costs with a few clever hacks. Firstly, consider that travelling by train in southern Europe is almost always cheaper than travelling by train in northern Europe. Secondly, regular trains are typically significantly cheaper than express trains. This might be a good choice if you’re not on a tight schedule and have some time to spare. Thirdly, travelling on overnight trains is a definite saver – on money, time and alternative accommodation! Lastly, consider a rail pass if you plan to be doing a lot of travelling by train.
Jot the Details
When you purchase your travel ticket, check that you are armed with all the details including the train timings and/or number, and if you’ll be travelling in the first, second or regular class cabin. It’s also important to note if your ticket allows you one-way or return trip travel too!
Planning ahead matters – note that the express trains often require advance reservations, is likely to be slightly more expensive, and might be snapped up fast. If you have an advanced seat reservation, you will be assigned a particular cabin/car and seat. With this, you’ll need to check each track or the wall for the Composition of Trains board when you arrive at the train station. This will tell you where each numbered car will be when the train comes in for boading. If you don’t have a reservation, you’ll be able to sit in any seat available, but do check that it isn’t reserved for someone else!
Eating on Trains
If you’re travelling for more than two hours on the train, you might want to prepare some snacks or finger food for your trip. Although in most trains, if the travelling distance is considerably long, the train may be equipped with a restaurant or a cafe car. For medium distances, you may expect a trolley with a few drink and snacks options, but regional trains probably won’t be equipped with these. Be ready with some of your favourite snacks in your hand-carry to enjoy the journey, and save a few Euros!