You have just booked a trip to Europe, you have 4 weeks exploring by rail and now you’re thinking ‘Wow, that’s a lot of time on trains!’ Having travelled Europe extensively by rail, (multiple times!) I thought I would share some of my top tips to help make your trip more comfortable.
1. Upgrade those tickets!
If you’re planning to do a lot of travel around the continent, I would strongly consider purchasing a first class ticket/Rail Pass. It’s often not too much more expensive but will give you more space, a more comfortable seat and overall a nicer travelling experience particularly on longer journeys.
2. To reserve a seat, or not to reserve a seat… that is the question!
There is no straight answer to this. Some countries or particular trains have compulsory seat reservations. If you are purchasing point to point tickets they will be included in the ticket price, and if you have a Rail Pass you will need to add these separately either prior to travel or at the station. On non compulsory routes I suggest considering how long you will be on the train and how popular the route is. There would be nothing worse than spending 5 hours on a train constantly moving because you’re in someone’s seat, or worse, not having a seat at all! As your personal travel manage I can do all of the hard work for you.
3. Know your weight!
So you’ve chosen your class, booked your pass and reserved your seats.. now it’s time to pack! When travelling by train it’s important to keep in mind how heavy your suitcase is. Some stations have big gaps between the platform and the train, and often there are even stairs up into the carriage. There also might be stairs within the station with no lifts or escalators, and trust me, trying to lug around a heavy suitcase you can barely lift off the ground isn’t much fun on holidays!
4. Prepare for your journey
Sometimes train travel can be long, and food on board might be limited. Before you jump on board, think about what you might need throughout the journey and keep this in your handbag or backpack. Some of my top choices are your travel journal, your laptop/tablet (wifi might be available!), some water, a few snacks and a book. Airconditioning can get cold on board so a jumper or jacket is another good idea too.
5. Know your names!
Often in Europe you might find that cities have another name that sounds nothing like you know it to be. These are written in the countries language and may have funny characters such as accents á or umlauts ä and you will usually see them on the train station signs. Before you travel it’s a good idea to do some research on the cities you’re travelling to so you know if you should be looking out for something completely different. Some examples of this are Cologne is Köln, Florence is Firenze and Prague is Praha. Some cities will have multiple stops with the city name in it. A great example of this is Interlaken Ost and Interlaken West (east and west stations). Before you head to the station make sure you are going to the right one, and when you’re approaching your destination make sure you get off at the right stop!
6. Finding your seat!
So you have made your way to the platform and your train is about to pull up. It has about 15 carriages and you can barely see the end of it… so how on earth do you find your seat!? Step one, get there early! Try and get onto the platform at least 10 minutes prior to the train departure time. When you get there the platform will have a map of the trains that stop on that platform (look for your corresponding train number on your ticket). If you have a reserved seat you will have a carriage number so find your carriage on the map (otherwise just look for your class) and it will be marked in a section A, B, C, D etc. The platform has signs for each of the sections so if you stand near the right sign your carriage will stop right in front of you – voila!
7. Where do I put my bag?
When you get on the train you will have several options for where to put your luggage. At the end of the carriage there will be a luggage storage area which is the obvious option; just make sure you lock your bags and keep an eye on them throughout the journey – and keep any valuables such as your wallet and passport on you. Secondly there are the overhead storage. Often these won’t be big enough for large suitcases but are okay if you have a backpack or cabin bag. If you are lucky to get a back to back seat, there is usually enough space between the seats to slide your suitcase too which is always my preferred option.
Are you thinking of travelling by train? As an expert in train travel around Europe, Emily can help you piece together the perfect rail holiday, so contact me to plan your next adventure! Contact Emily here!