Traveling by train in Europe is the preferred method of travel and for good reason. The train system is extremely well established in Europe and it’s very reliable. Train stations are centrally located within cities and even the small towns. The advantage is you won’t spend valuable vacation time commuting back and forth from the city where you are staying. Airports are always located well outside of the cities. We have traveled as much as a hour to or from many airports. Not to mention the cost of that taxi which can be as much as $50 each way.
Check-in & Security
Check in and security is quick. Since at the time of this posting (who knows it could change) there are no security checks. That means you can show up just a few minutes before your departure. Purchase your ticket if you don’t have one already and get on your train. Again saving valuable vacation time.
No Luggage Limit
If you can lift it on to the train, you can take it. But be sure you can lift if, because unless some kind person helps you, you are on your own. One time while traveling with my daughter under some special circumstances, we each had 2 large suitcases weighing close to 50 lbs each. We each had carrying on sized luggage and various other carry-on sized items. It’s all good and there is no fee for extra pieces of luggage or for being overweight.
The European train network is enormous and ItaliaRail is an easy way to make all of your travel by train in Italy. You can travel to almost any city or even tiny towns by train. In fact some locations like Sorrento, Italy, not easy to get to as a tourist, are best accessed by train if time matters to you. There are usually at least a couple of trains leaving the station daily from most destinations.
Sleep On The Train
If you are going far, consider a train with an overnight sleeping car. For about $25-60 you can get yourself a bunk bed. You will be sleeping with others in the same room, but hey, you get to stretch out. Traveling at night also means you won’t lose out on any of you vacation traveling.
More Benefits of Traveling By Train in Europe
- It’s beautiful! Europe has some gorgeous scenery and when you let someone else drive you can really enjoy the view of the countryside.
- It’s comfortable. Seats on the train are usally larger than economy airplane seats. There are also seats that let you sit accross from your travel partner if you have one. You are free to move about the train & it can be a good long walk from one end to the other.
- Trains are reliable. When compared to flights, trains are on time 90% of the time. Flights are only about 65% on time because they are more affected by weather. Trains aren’t usually affected like that. But it doesn’t mean it never happens. That is what accounts for that extra 5%. Honestly we have experience that 5%. Every effort was made in both cases to help us out and get us on our way as quickly as possible. Usually, the next train and sometimes with an upgrade.
- It’s relaxing. Once you get on the train, it’s easy to settle in. Today’s trains are usally very quiet making for a very peaceful journey. You can sit quietly and enjoy the views, read a book, listen to music on your headset, play cards or write some promised postcards.
The Down Side of Traveling By Train
- The cost. While traveling by train is often less expensive than flying, that isn’t always the case. Check airfares for comparison.
- When traveling long distance, a flight might be better. Unless you are planning to stop and get off along your route flying might be a better choice.
- Train schedules can be a little bit confusing. There are so many options, types of trains to chose from. Give yourself some time to learn the routine, especially if you are a beginner.
Tips for Traveling By Train in Europe
- Buy your tickets online for the best price. Usually each rail line has their own website, so you want to start look a little in advance. Like airline fares, prices go up the closer you are to your departure date. As an example: A ticket bought well in advance could cost you $60. The same ticket could cost you $140 if purchased just a few days ahead and as much as $225 on the day of departure.
- As you make your plans for traveling by train in Europe, you will want to consider whether it makes more sense to purchase ticket from city to city or to buy a rail pass.
- Book your ticket in advance. Not only will it save you money, but you will have peace of mind. Do be aware that some of the less expensive fares do not allow for any changes. So if you are unsure or your travel schedule is somewhat fluid, than consider paying a bit more so you can make those unexpected changes.
- Reserve your seat. It isn’t always a must but if your prefer specific seating arrangements, ie, by the window or on the isle or accross from your travel partner, than reserve a seat. If you are solo and don’t really care where you sit than no worries.
- If you have dietary restrictions and your trip will be during meal time, than plan ahead and bring your own. While some train is not to bad in a pinch, it’s not the best. Typical sandwiches, chips and sodas. However on some of the longer routes there can be dining cars which offer a little better selection.
- Be considerate of others. Try to use your inside voice as we were told by our moms. It’s just polite and it’s still a confined space. Enjoy your movie or music with your headset on.
- If it will take longer than 4-5 hours by train to reach our destination, we often chose to fly. It’s somewhat of a personal choice. A 4-5 hour train ride will take about the same amount of time to take a plane. Maybe the flight will only be 1 hour and that is much faster, but add in the time it takes to get to the airport. Also, check-in and security will eat up quite a bit of time for which you must be prepared to do. Don’t want to miss you flight. At some point it kind of becomes a wash. Or how you prefer to spend your 4-5 hours.
Train Travel Apps
More and more rail companies are using apps that can be loaded on to your smartphone. This makes things so simple. I book our train tickets ahead online, but then access everything from the app provided by most rail lines. Don’t even need to print a ticket anymore or wait to have it arrive in the mail. Our favorite is the Trainline EU App.
Traveling by train throughout Europe may not be for everyone, but it certainly is a nice way to relax and see the countryside as you go from destination to destination.