Europe has a fabulous railway network with some of the finest train journeys in the world. With a range of tickets and passes and a network of routes you’ll find great inspiration when planning a journey. Here are some of the best ways to enjoy Europe by train.
- Shop around
When you start planning a vacation you’ll discover a wide range of passes and ticket prices. Some cover all European countries while others just a few. In Britain, for example, booking a ticket in advance via www.thetrainline.com can save you money.
- Discover journeys with a view.
Europe has some of the most beautiful train journeys in the world. Try a journey on the Golden Pass from Montreux to Interlaken or view the Canal Du Midi by riding from Bordeaux to Nice. These are just some of the many routes with magnificent views to enjoy in Europe.
- Pack a picnic
Many European trains don’t have a buffet car or have very expensive items on the menu. Plan ahead by packing a picnic gleaned from local markets and supermarkets. Bread, local cheeses, fruit, and a bottle of water is a cheap and easy to enjoy on a train journey. FYI, yogurt and bananas don’t “travel well” at the bottom of a duffle bag.
- Stay safe
Never leave luggage unattended at stations. Not only can it get stolen but is most likely to be removed as a security threat and possibly blown up. Use a concealed money belt for your valuables especially if sleeping on trains at night. Keeping a little cash or a credit card in an alternate location is a good idea too.
- Check for discounts
In some parts of Europe those over 65 years old can get free rail travel with a European Union passport. Hungary is one example where this works. Do check whether you qualify for discounts with student passes as well and ensure you do this before travelling in case additional documents are required.
- One way travel
You might want to simply walk back, instead of taking the train. Check the walking routes beforehand. By buying a single ticket instead of a round trip ticket, you can save money and get a work out by walking back downhill for all or part of the way following the mountain trails. Ensure you have the correct footwear and kit with you.
- Check out the classics
Europe has some amazing rail routes such as the Francisco de Goya that runs overnight between Paris and Madrid. This sleeper train is just like a fine hotel with gourmet dinner included. Another is the Tolstoy Train between Helsinki and Moscow. Apart from the thrill of this journey the décor is like a journey back in time.
- Do you need a reservation?
On many of the express trains, sleepers and intercity journeys you’ll need a reservation which can be made at the same time when you buy the ticket. Always check the price between first and second class. You may be surprised at how little the difference is, and how much more relaxed you may be in first class (less crowded, different mix of people, etc).
- Get to know the Wagenreihungsplan
In Germany and Austria you’ll find each platform has a wagenreihungsplan. This tells you exactly where to stand to catch your train and where your carriage will arrive. This helps avoid delays and confusion at the stations.
- Leave time to “see the sights”
So many people come to Europe to cram as much a possible into a week. They want to hit 7 countries in 14 days and spend all their time on trains, and checking in and out of hotels. Remember to savor every moment were you are at the moment. Realize that you “can’t see it all”, and just soak in the ambiance, journal, and take photos. Memories can last a lifetime.
So, it’s time to grab a map and start planning that European rail journey. With all those cities and countries to see, where will you go?