Travelling Europe by train – 6 things you need to know
European landscapes were designed for train windows. You can reach almost anywhere by train – from tiny towns to heaving metropoles. Here are six things you need to know about train travel across Europe to get you on the right track.
1. How to plan your route
The beauty of travelling Europe by train is that you don’t actually have to plan your route at all. Wake up in the morning, go down to the station, and pick whichever destination takes your fancy.
However, if you want to plan your journey in advance, visit bahn.de to create your itinerary. You can search the entire European train schedule, making it the first port of call when you want to create your personal train timetable.
2. When and where to buy tickets
There’s nothing easier than arriving at the station and buying your ticket just before the train leaves. Tickets for regional trains are just as cheap at the station as they are online. In Eastern Europe, it’s almost impossible to buy tickets online anyway.
For long-distance Western European trains, however, it can be a lot cheaper to buy tickets online, well in advance. Buy tickets using your 28 Degrees card from the rail website of the country you’ll be departing from and collect them when you arrive at the station.
3. When to buy a rail pass
If you want to be a free spirit, it can be painful having to pay up to double the amount for a long-distance journey because you didn’t book in advance. There’s no need to buy a rail pass if all your spontaneous trips will only be short and regional. However, if you think you might want to be in Paris one day, Berlin the next, a rail pass is the way to go.
A Eurail Pass is a savvy way to save money if you’re travelling through Europe by train over a few weeks. A single travel document, it allows you to travel by train through up to 28 countries without having to buy point-to-point tickets.
4. How to navigate stations
When travelling in Europe, it’s important to remember that even regional towns can have more than one station. You may arrive at Avignon Ville station in the centre of Avignon, for example, but you might need to leave from Avignon TGV outside town. Check your tickets and the timetable carefully. Even if you think you’ve booked a single journey, it might actually require a dash between train stations in the middle.
5. Consider a sleep over
If you’re travelling a long distance between major cities, consider taking an overnight train so you have more time to sightsee. You can choose between two-bunk and six-bunk rooms, or you may prefer to budget and just book a seat. Just remember that overnight trains do have to be booked in advance.
6. The fine details
A few extra tips:
- You can take as much luggage as you can carry on board a train, so no need to weigh those bags.
- Always check the difference in price between first and second class. You may get a cheap deal, and snag yourself a much comfier seat.
- Don’t be surprised by a border patrol checking passports, especially when travelling in Eastern Europe.
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