If you're considering taking a European vacation, there are several ways to travel. However, one of the most efficient and delightful ways to travel is by train. By purchasing a Eurail pass and taking the railroads in Europe, you'll be able to easily explore different countries and landscapes in a short amount of time at a cheaper cost than other modes of transportation. You’ll enjoy being able to get around by railroads in Europe on your own. It can be very exciting and rewarding and very easy. Here are a few tips to make sure your experience is the most enjoyable:
What to Expect When Taking the Railroads in Europe
What You'll Find at the Train Stations in Europe
The train station can be a little intimidating, if you’re not used to living and traveling by such means in Europe. Even though it’s the best way to travel Europe, you might be a little lost when first getting started. Below are a few tips to make sure you can navigate through the train station easily and efficiently.
- Give yourself plenty of time when planning your arrival to the train station. Street traffic and long lines will really put a damper on your travels, if you don’t plan for them.
- Make sure to talk to a reservation agent, if you have any questions about your trip.
- Grab some food and things to do on the train, if it’s a long trip.
- If you have to use the bathroom, make sure you have coins on you, as it costs money to use the bathroom in the train stations. Once you’re on the train, the bathrooms are free to use.
- Know exactly where the platforms are and where your train is going to depart from. Things are happening quickly, so you’ll want to find a spot under a train schedule which is being updated in real time. The train you’ll need will show up on the train schedule with the platform number about 20 minutes before it arrives, sometimes less, and you’ll want to start walking as soon as you know. There could be over 40 platforms in a train station and they are very crowded.
- Once you’ve arrive at your platform you might have to walk several hundred yards to where your train car will be once it pulls up. With only 10 minutes before the train arrives and leaves again, you don’t want to be caught off guard. Use the signs above the platforms to help you find the right place to stand on the platform, once the train pulls into the station.
- It’s important to get on right away for busy routes to make sure you can find room for your luggage. If you’re running late or arrived late on another train, just jump on the first car you can. Don’t try to walk the length of the platform looking for the right car. Once you’re on you can walk the length of the train to find the right car. Better to do this than watch your train pull away, it happens, they DO NOT wait!
On the trains in Europe
Once you have finally boarded your train, it's time to sit back, relax, and enjoy the views as you pass by. There are several different types of trains you can take to your destination, depending on where you're going and how long it will take you to get there. But no matter which type of train you are taking, you will need to make sure you have some of these same basic things ironed out before you take off.
- Have your passports on you at all times. Not only will you need it to book any reservations, but you’ll need to show it with your Eurail pass on every train.
- Keep your Eurail pass on you at all times as well as reservations. You might have to pull out these documents 10 times a day so make sure they are handy. Crossing boarders may include security agents to come inspect your papers as well.
- Make sure to bring food with you on the train. Food can be purchased on trains, but sometimes you don’t have time if you’re changing quickly to get something from the food car.
- Trains often have free wi-fi connections but it's so slow that it is almost unusable at times.
- All trains have power outlets and some have usb ports for charging, so make sure to have your laptop out and charging as it might be the most convenient charging opportunity you will have all week.
- Some stops sound very similar, especially if you do not speak the language, with only one difference (like North or East), so make sure you know exactly where you're getting off and watch the screens on the train for that very stop, or listen to the announcement, or ask fellow travelers. Most people speak English and are happy to help.
- If you're getting off the train before the final destination, be ready by the door 10 minutes before the train arrives. Intermittent stops happen extremely fast, and often trains only stay in each station for under 2 minutes which is rarely enough time to get from your car to the exit.
- This may seem obvious, but for Americans not used to traveling by train, in order to exit the train car, you need to press the button on the door to open the door. Train doors DO NOT open automatically at each stop.
ProTips: Things You Need to Know When Traveling via Railroads in Europe
- Make sure to have cash and coins wherever you go. Europe still only accepts cash or coins in many places. ATMs are not readily available and exchanging currency will be expensive. If you get off the train in a small town, having cash will be your best friend.
- Be sure to book your Eurail pass and reservations ahead of time - weeks in advance if you have to - especially for overnight trains. International trains are very busy as well and you want to ensure you get a seat. Book trains as soon as you arrive in Europe or even before.
- Sign up for ApplePay before you go, as it is widely accepted and is very convenient when traveling via railroads in Europe.
Traveling by railroads in Europe is one of the best ways to see the beautiful landscapes of the various countries. Using a Eurail pass gives you the ability to travel in and through several countries, giving you the opportunity to visit as many places as possible in such a short amount of time. Depending on which Eurail pass you decide to get, you can travel the railroads in Europe to have a vacation of a lifetime. And these tips can help ensure you are prepared for what it is like to travel the railroads in Europe so you can make your trip as successful as possible.