Thinking about travelling around Europe via train? Many students, couples, and groups of friends choose train travel as their main method of getting around Europe, and for good reason. Train travel can be a very convenient, beneficial, and cost-effective method of traversing this wonderful continent.
However, European train travel can get confusing, especially if you don't know where to start. Here are a few tips to help you with train travel in Europe:
First, opt for a train station information desk rather than the ticket window if you need more information or help in planning your trip. The ticket agent is simply there to help you buy your train ticket. Find out if you qualify for any special discounts, or if you can lower your ticket price by taking a different train.
If you're looking for ways to cut down on costs for European train travel, you have a few options. First, travelling by train in southern Europe is almost always cheaper than travelling by train in northern Europe. Second, slower trains are usually significantly cheaper than express trains. Third, travelling overnight for longer trips will help you save money, time, and hotel/hostel accommodation fare. A rail pass or other train pass may also help you to save money, especially if you'll be doing a lot of train travel.
When you do go to buy your ticket or pass at the ticket window, make sure you know the train time or number, whether you'll be travelling first or second-class, whether it's one-way or round trip, and when you'll be travelling. Keep in mind that express trains often require advance reservations and will likely be significantly pricier.
Whether or not you have a reservation for a train seat will affect your train travel in Europe. If you have one, you'll have a number for a car and seat. When you're at the train station, check each track or the wall for the Composition of Trains board, which should illustrate where each numbered car will be when the train comes in. If you don't have a reservation, this means you can sit anywhere—but check to make sure that the seat you've chosen isn't reserved for someone else.
For train travel in Europe, it's quite common for you to have to "validate" your ticket before you can board through a validation machine that will show you which end of the ticket to put in.
The train's eating options is another matter to think about insofar as European train travel is concerned. The longer the travelling distance, the more likely the train is to have a restaurant or café car. For medium distances, expect maybe a cart with a few drinks and snacks on it, but regional trains likely won't carry anything. Consider purchasing a few snacks at the train station before boarding to ensure you'll be fed, and to cut down on costs as well.