Train Yourself on Train
When should I take a train instead of
If it takes longer than five hours by train to get to your
destination, you should seriously consider flying instead. Look up
the cost and schedules for both methods of transportation and see
which makes more sense for your wallet and your time. If you’re
itinerary includes traveling out of your country of origin, flying
is almost always a time saver and sometimes cost about the same as
taking a train.
How far in advance should I book a
The only time you should purchase a ticket the same day as you are
leaving is if you are traveling within that country and are not
traveling over a long distance. For example, if you are leaving
from Rome to go to Naples, you can purchase your train ticket the
same day. However, if you are leaving from Rome to travel to
Venice, you should book your train ticket in advance because it is
a longer journey and may require an advanced
If you are traveling from one country to another, you should first
check to make sure you can’t find a flight that would be cheaper
and faster! If flights are out of your budget, then you should book
a train ticket as far in advance as you can to ensure a good price.
You can do this by either heading straight to the train station or
by checking out the train company’s website.
Keep in mind, train travel always varies from country to country,
so doing research for your specific destination is always the best
way to decide when to purchase your ticket!
Can I reserve seats on a train?
Reserving seats on a train can be done at the
ticket machine when you are purchasing your ticket, or when you
purchase your ticket online. A small fee is usually associated with
it, ranging from 1€ or 2€. Reserving a seat is a good idea if your
train ride is on the longer side. For shorter trips, it’s not
really necessary. If you do reserve a seat, it will print which
class, car and seat number you are in on your ticket. Once you head
to the designated platform, there are usually signs that will show
you where each car will stop on the platform. For example, if you
are seated in 2nd Class, Car F, Seat 14B, you should look at the
signs to see where the “F” car will stop on the platform. This will
prevent you from sprinting down the platform at the last minute
searching for the right car.
Overnight trains, what’s the deal?
Overnight trains can be an experience. Whether that
experience is good or bad can be debated. Overnight trains are
typically “overnight” because you are traveling for a long period
of time, often 8-16 hours depending on your origin and destination.
The term “overnight” can also be deceiving, seeing as you would
assume that the ride won’t be too bad because you’ll just sleep the
whole time, right?! Well, not so much. If you’ve ever ridden on a
train before, you would know that it’s not the most comfortable
mode of transportation, so staying asleep for the entire ride would
be quite an accomplishment. In addition, you may encounter people
on the train that may not be considered the most upstanding
citizens around, so you should always keep an eye on your personal
What does it mean to “Validate my ticket?”
Prior to getting on the train, you MUST validate
your ticket! Validating your ticket basically means that you have
to get a date/time stamp printed on it. To do this, look for little
machines that are usually painted a bright yellow and slide your
ticket into the open slot and hold it there until you hear the
stamp. Depending on the train station you are in, some ticket
machines also have a slot where you can validate your ticket. If
you do NOT validate your ticket, you are at risk of being fined
when the ticket collector comes around to check tickets. While some
tickets do not require you to validate them, you should always do
so just in case!
How safe is train travel?
There are a few important rules that you should
stick to when traveling by train.
- Always put your luggage where you can see it
- If you plan on sleeping during the trip, secure your luggage to
the luggage rack with a lock in order to prevent someone from
- If you place a bag on the seat next to you, such as a purse or
backpack, make sure you have the strap wrapped around your arm or
leg. This will prevent someone from being able to take your bag as
they causally walk down the
In general, the areas directly around a train station are not
always the safest and are often filled with individuals who are
looking to scam unsuspecting tourists. You should always be on
the alert, especially at night.
Rail Passes...Worth it! Sometimes.
Rail passes exist for group travel, day travel, weekend
travel, multi-country travel and many more. In order to find out if
rail passes are a good option for you, always check out the
transportation websites for the countries that you are in.
Group and Day Passes
If you are traveling with two people or more, you
should seriously look into group or day passes. For example,
Germany’s national train system, “Bahn” is one of the most
extensive in Europe and offers some of the best travel passes
within the continent. Their “Linder” tickets allow up to 5 people
to travel under one ticket within one region of Germany for the
entire day. Averaging around €30 for one pass, it will drastically
cut your costs if you go with similar options. To find out if the
country you are in offers deals similar to the Linder pass, head to
their website or online blogs for tips from fellow
The TRUTH about the Eurail
Although Eurail passes sound great in theory, they
can often be more expensive than individual tickets. Eurail passes
restrict express trains from being considered an option, as well as
limiting departure times. In contrast, purchasing individual
tickets will give you more freedom and keep your travel costs low.
Eurail Passes must be purchased in the United States and require
you to know how many countries you will visit in a set period of
time, leaving no room for spontaneity. There is nothing easier than
walking to the train station, heading to a ticket booth, and ten
minutes later be sitting on a train headed to Munich for some
*If you plan on traveling after the semester is over for a month or
longer, that is the only time we would recommend purchasing a