Riding the rails in Europe makes for relaxing trips when you know ahead of time how to manage the travel. Reduce stress with these tips and let someone else do the driving while you take in the cityscapes and countryside.
Purchase Your Ticket
Make your reservation and purchase your ticket in advance for optimum ease. Sometimes purchasing your ticket once you arrive at the train station is your only option, but prepare for longer queues and have all your documentation handy, such as your passport. Remember that Europe runs on military time, the 24-hour clock. For first time travelers, 2:30 pm is 1430 hours on the train schedule. Rail pass holders with a reservation, go to your platform and wait for your train. First time initiation of a rail pass means waiting in the queue to get it validated without a guarantee of a seat. However, a rail pass means flexibility and if you don’t get a seat, find another train and hop on.
Check Your Ticket
If you’ve made that reservation or already have your ticket, check the name of the station to make sure that you are in the right place. Cities often have quite a few centrally located stations and when the stations are in another language, especially an unfamiliar language without English translation, first time travelers can find themselves in a train station down the road from where they are supposed to be. Arrive early so you don’t have to rush. Riding the rails is fun, but be prepared that locals who use them all the time don’t always have patience for tourists. And neither do porters who don’t get tipped, so keep some change in both local and U.S. currency on you.
Find Your Platform and Wait for Your Train
All stations pretty much run about the same, get your ticket or reservation, check the departure board, follow the signs to your platform and wait for the train. Don’t forget to check your ticket or reservation for your carriage number and seat number. Keep your passport and other ID on your person, not in your luggage. You can leave other documentation in your handbag, backpack or suitcase, such as your travel insurance information or travel medical insurance information as the conductor won’t be asking you to see it. Even in the quietest of stations with the friendliest people, never leave your luggage for a moment on its own or with a stranger, not even to run to the bathroom or to get a snack. Wait until you are settled on the train.
Once you find the number to your carriage and your seat number, get your luggage situated, then relax and wait for the conductor to come to see your ticket, rail pass, and passport. Once that bit of business is out of the way, find the dining car, get a drink and a snack, chat up your neighbor, read or watch the scenery and enjoy the ride.