I have been traveling around Europe by train for the last three months. I have never took that many long train rides in my life, but I am convinced it is my favorite way of traveling.
Here are some things I learned (the hard way) from my train rides:
- MAIN THING: ALWAYS VALIDATE YOUR TICKET. In certain countries this is not necessary or possible. But in some others is highly penalized (Italy). Please don’t ever forget. There are small machines every few meters at the stations for this purpose.
- Make it on time to the train station. The platform number will appear about 20 minutes before the departing time, be on time!
- Some cities have more than one main train station. Make sure you know which one are you departing from and which one you are arriving to. Some tickets are valid from point A to B without specifying departure station, to be safe take the train from the station you bought it.
- If possible, book in advance. Sometimes this is not an option when having an open schedule. I usually buy the departure ticket to the next place the day I arrive to a city. All countries have an official web site for their train lines (in Italy is www.trenitalia.com) where you can check prices and schedules as well as buy the tickets. There are also other web sited that sell tickets for all countries and charge a small fee (I use www.loco2.com). As always I recommend the site www.seat61.com which is the bible of train travel!
- Reserve your seat if you want an specific one, this will cost you at least 4 more Euros. If you don’t have a seat reservation just hop on and pick an empty seat, be aware that someone else may have reserved that specific seat and you would have to move. If it will be a long ride the seat reservations most of the times is included with the ticket. You may prefer window… I noticed that I never know the direction of the train in the screen when choosing my seat, and I don’t enjoy traveling facing the opposite direction… so what I do is I change to the front seat if nobody is there.
- If your train ride will be long make sure you have food and water. You don’t want to pay the triple for a bottle of water in the train.
- Have your passport or a copy always handy. Sometimes you will be asked for it.
- Use the restroom in the train when possible, these are not bad and you usually have to pay to use the restroom in the train stations.
- Like in a long flight, when the ride is long wear comfortable clothes and shoes.
- Make sure your phone and/or computer are charged before the ride, sometimes the plugs in trains don’t work, if there is any. In any case bring entertainment, like a book 🙂
- You can also try to: Disconnect. To let your phone aside and look out of the window will help you remember that we were born without a cellphone attached to our hands. Remember those good old times?
- The guard will come by and request your ticket, have it handy and in good conditions.
- Always double check before getting in the train, make sure is the right one (train number should be on your ticket if is a long distance one and it should be in the screen by the platform). When you are in a foreign environment you usually get confused very fast. Take your time and relax.
- Put your luggage aside. It is disrespectful to the other passengers to keep it with you, you are taking the space from them. There are spaces between the back of the seats to place your luggage, or a rack at the end of the wagon.
Enjoy your train rides!