Touring Europe by rail is romantic, inspiring, and if you’re travelling for the first time, a bit complicated. You get to the station and hop on the right train? No, it isn’t that easy. When it comes to European trains, you need to plan in advance and take a series of decisions before you step on the train, and this is likely to make you feel dizzy! So, before you dream of taking in the unmatched scenery from your cosy compartment, here’s what you must know
1. Rail pass or point-to-point ticket?
- Both has its pros and cons. If you intend to get around frequently and want to stay flexible, a railpass can be an attractive choice; especially if you’re under 26 or travelling in a group; youth and group passes are cheaper than normal passes. At the same time, passes can be a bit expensive than single tickets. Also, many passes are valid for specific groups of countries only.
- Point-to-point tickets work better if you’re only going to make short journeys, or journeys in Eastern Europe where fares are cheap anyway. Whatever you choose, do your homework and compare prices to get the best deals. Remember, the cheapest fares are non-refundable and non-changeable, but if you have a fixed itinerary and are happy to pre-book a month or two ahead, ticket is often cheaper than a pass.
2. To reserve or not to reserve?
You can either purchase an open ticket, good for one month from the date of issue, or a ticket with a reservation, which is valid for a specific train at a specific time. Not all trains require you to reserve a seat before you travel, but this also means you may be asked to leave your seat mid-journey if someone else has booked it. The goods news? Many trains don’t charge for seat reservations. Visit eurail.com or its rail planner app to find out the details. If you’re visit popular countries such as France, Italy or Spain during the peak season (like summer vacations), it’s a good idea to reserve seats well in advance, as there are limited seats allotted to Eurail pass holders.
KNOW YOUR TRAINS
Europe’s rail network is extremely vast, which means you need to become familiar with all the different types of trains that operate within your chosen country. Earlier, there was the TGV and the Eurostar, but now there’s also the the SuperCity (Czech Republic), Le Frecce (Italy), ICE (Intercity Express trains in Germany) and many more.
WHY GO FOR RAIL TRAVEL
> European train stations are located right in the centre of town
> Trains are reliable and mostly on schedule
> You skip the long check-in and security lines
> There is no weight limit or any extra fees for multiple pieces of luggage. Only make sure you can pick your own luggage
> You can pick overnight trains and save on a day of travel
> Lastly, you can absolutely bring a bottle of wine or beer to sip on while soaking in the views