Taking the train in Europe is nowhere near as daunting as it once was, yet for some who have never done it, it can still be an overwhelming experience. The truth is, traveling by train is the best mode of transportation in most of Europe; it is easy, fast, and with a train in nearly every city, it is the most convenient (and scenic) mode of transportation. Plus, traveling by train gives you the chance to meet and hang out with the locals- augmenting your already cultural experience!
5. Use the German Railways Website
There is really only one website needed to check train schedules for all journeys in Europe, www.bahn.de. There is an option at the top of the page to peruse in English, if your German isn’t up to snuff, and everything is very simple yet comprehensive. For train travel anywhere in Europe, this is where you want to check times and schedules for every route across the continent. (although if you are booking a head of time and using a rail pass, you will have to book through local companies!) It won’t give you fares (except for German trips), but it will show you even the most complex, international voyages, all in one place.
4. Buy and Go Tickets
Most tickets for local and regional trips can be bought at the station. The prices are always the same, so it is no advantage to you to book early- often it is impossible to reserve in advance! In Switzerland, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg, domestic trains operate in the same fashion. Buying online merely saves a few seconds; however, if you crave spontaneity, this is the way to do it!
3. Compulsory Reservation Tickets
Trains in France, Italy, Spain, Portugal and Sweden, as well as most high-speed international trains to and from France, require a reservation in advance. It is not uncommon for these voyages to sell out, especially if you are traveling during peak hours. Prices for these trains are cheaper the earlier you books, sometimes by over 100$! Even if traveling with a Euro-Rail pass, reservations on these trains are compulsory. Be warned though, traveling strictly and frequently to and from these countries with a rail pass can be expensive as reservations for popular international routes (like Paris to Milan) are high, so depending on your plans, it is often better to travel without a pass.
2. Advanced Pre-Booking
Traveling to Europe is an exciting time, and most cannot wait to begin planning and mapping out all destinations and mandatory tourist spots. However, travelers can get confused when they are looking fotrr ain routes and nothing is available! Booking for trains in Europe only open 90 days ahead (for some countries in Eastern Europe it is 60). So if you are panicked because there is nothing available, be patient, as it is almost guaranteed more will pop up at a later date.
1. What About Rail Passes?
Rail passes offer the user unlimited flexibility to travel around one or several countries. If you want a spontaneous, by-the-seat-of-your-pants experience, than a pass is the way to go. There are different kinds, some offering a punch-pass type style, others offering a limited number of days of unlimited travel. However, if traveling in Western Europe and across countries, reservations are still mandatory; if you are traveling on the train with frequency, be aware that costs can add up! But for those looking for complete freedom, a rail pass is the only way to go.