Traveling by train in Europe is quintessential. It’s spectacular. It’s romantic. The thought of having breakfast in Paris and hiking along the French Riviera in the afternoon is awe-inspiring.
Traveling through Europe by train is quick and easy. Just choose a few destinations you want to visit and hop on. Not to mention, you will see some of the world’s most spectacular sights right outside your window instead of cruising 35, 000 feet above in an aircraft.
You can have a bucket list itinerary designed for you by Tailor Made Rail, or put together your own. Either way, it’s the adventure of a lifetime.
Take a look at a few suggestions on how to tour Europe by train.
Table of Contents
Top 9 Tips on How to Explore Europe by Train
Buying your ticket
When traveling by train, it’s always important to take some time reviewing your train ticket options with your travel plans. There are different rail passes to meet every traveler’s needs. Eurail is the most popular and gives various options, namely:
- Global Pass – A global pass provides you with unlimited travel on any railway in Europe (excluding the United Kingdom). It will give you access to 33 countries – ideal for those considering extending their travels.
- Select Passes – As the name says, this pass allows you to select the regions you want to explore in Europe. Select Passes allows travelers the option to travel between 2 to 4 countries and gives you between 5 and 15 travel days within two months.
- One Country Pass – One Country Pass is perfect for anyone looking to travel within a particular country in Europe. It will give you access to highspeed regional trains taking you from city to city. You have a choice of 29 countries.
First And Second Class Options
Anyone under the age of 26 years qualifies for a youth pass and can receive discounts from the standard adult prices. Travelers over the age of 26 years no longer qualify, and you’ll need to order an adult pass.
First-class amenities are no doubt better, including snacks, drinks, larger seats, Wi-Fi access, and it’s less crowded. However, if you’re traveling on a tight budget, the second-class ticket is the greater option.
Food on the trains are of high quality but can be expensive. Most trains traveling long-distance will have a dining cart where you can purchase your breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Trains carrying passengers for shorter durations frequently offer snacks and light meals on board.
If you’re on a budget or a fussy eater, you may want to buy food at the local market or the station before boarding the train. You can bring whatever you like onto a train – including alcohol.
It may be tempting to pack your favorites for a long trip, but keep in mind the connections between trains are tight. The last thing you would want is dragging a massive suitcase through Madrid’s Atocha Station.
Keep in mind when traveling by rail that you should pack light. Your luggage will be limited mainly if you’re traveling in second-class. You will have a little more room in first-class but generally, less than you would on an airplane. One way to get organized with your belongings is to invest in a roller suitcase.
Many high speed and overnight trains require you to reserve your place – even though you have a rail pass. You should look for an “R” on the train schedule to see if you need a reservation.
Most of the non-regional trains traveling to and from Italy, Sweden, France, Spain, and Portugal require reservation fees.
Tip: You can make reservations at the station by telling them you have a rail pass, and they will make a reservation for you.
Sleeping on the train can save you valuable time, especially if you’re traveling a long distance. Not only that, there is something magical about waking up to an entirely new place.
For example, you can awaken in northern Italy near the port of Genoa after departing from Siciliy the day before when booking the Palermo to Turin overnight train experience.
Most European trains offer different options, namely a private cabin (1st class), a couchette (2nd class), or a reclining seat (2nd class). A couchette is a cabin accommodating up to six people, great for traveling with a group of friends.
If you reserve a cabin, pillows and blankets are provided. A reclining seat is similar to an airplane seat. However, you would need to bring your sleeping items.
When navigating through train stations, make sure you are at the correct station. Many cities have multiple train stations, and you could end up at the wrong one.
Some stations are massive, and you may have to navigate up and downstairs and escalators. Along the way, you will find many fast-food stores, cafes, and lounges to restock before your trip.
Note: Keep a lookout for pickpockets and scammers. Train stations can get very busy and are full of confused scurrying tourists. Pay attention to your belongings and be wary of “helpful” strangers.
Validate Your Ticket
On many trains in Europe, your ticket needs to be validated before entering the train. Look for a small validation box near the entrance of the platforms to get your time and date stamped on your ticket. Place your card inside the machine to get it stamped.
You can receive a hefty fine if the conductor checks your ticket, and it isn’t validated – they will assume you’re trying to free ride. If you do forget to get, it approved you should find the ticket conductor and explain you forgot to validate it. Otherwise, you could play the “I’m a dumb tourist” act and hope they let it slide.
Note: Electronic tickets don’t need to be validated.
Travel Europe By Train Itinerary
Traveling by rail gives you a magical experience while discovering Europe but also has some impressive health benefits. You could be having breakfast in London and dinner in a world-renowned restaurant in San Sebastian, passing gorgeous countryside in between.
You need to decide on what type of itinerary you want if you wish to take a mountainous route or maybe a coastal path, or both.
Save time running through airports and waiting in ques, instead, explore these stunning countries from a new perspective.