There are many methods of traveling around Europe. You could decide to drive, fly or take the bus but one of the most sought after modes of transportation in Europe are trains.
Riding the train in Europe is often seen as a romantic way to travel. I’m sure we’ve all dreamt about seeing church spires peak out from the fog or the Alps from the comfort of our train seat, and yes it is beautiful and can be romantic but only once you’ve found your seat and are able to relax 🙂
Here are some tips to help make riding the trains in
Europe easier and more relaxing!
I won’t get into a debate on whether it’s better to use point-to-point tickets or rail passes because I think it depends on the cost. Just remember, no matter what type of ticket you have it doesn’t mean you have an actual seat reserved unless you pay extra for a seat reservation.
First tip, Use websites for information on trains. My favorite site for researching European trains is the Deutsche Bahn website. This website offers all kinds of information including countries other than Germany. You can check the schedule, get connecting train information including arrival gate and departing gate, buy tickets and seat reservations. It’s important to remember to use the local name for cities, i.e. Wien=Vienna and München=Munich. Also keep in mind Europe uses the 24hour clock (1400 is 2 pm) and dates are day/month (11/03 is March 11).
From the reservation above you can see my train was leaving from the Wien West station and going to Budapest Keleti.
Which leads me to another tip – it is very important that you arrive at the correct station. Most large European cities have many rail stations.
From the reservation, you can also see the ticket was for 2nd Class (klasse) and departs August 31 at 12:49 pm. The train number is 49, car (wagen) is 22 and my seat is number 86.
Next tip, arrive at the station early! Some of the main stations in large cities are huge. The main station in Berlin even has multiple floors. Arriving early will allow you time to check the boards to confirm your train is on time and find the right platform. Once you’re at the platform use the seating chart (example above) to see where you should stand. Using the information from your reservation, this guide will show you where to stand making it easier to get on the right train car. If you don’t have seat reservations, confirm where the right class train is and stand at the appropriate spot.
PACK LIGHT! No matter what, you’ll be toting your bags. Usually there are stairs getting under tracks to your platform then more stairs getting up to the platform and even a few steps climbing aboard the train. Of course, once on the train you’ll be hefting your bag up to the baggage rack above your seat! Today a lot of stations have elevators (but not all) but many times I find it’s easier just to grab my bag and use the stairs than wait for the elevator to arrive.
Using the train for travel is a great experience and one I recommend everyone have! The best tip I could give you is to ask questions if you’re unsure about anything which is another reason arriving early may actually be the best tip anyone could give you!
What’s your #1 tip for making riding trains easier?