How to plan a train trip through Europe
As more and more travelers aspire to travel slowly and look for ways to reduce their carbon footprint, it is high time to embrace the railways. Unlike the airport experience, there is no need to take off the shoes, unbuckle the belts, fold the strollers, empty the bottles, and endure all kinds of pats, punches and pokes. of scans when traveling by train. On trains you are in no rush and can take as many bottles of liquid as you want – a prerequisite for many long journeys. There are no hidden charges for wider seats, excess baggage, or early boarding, and there is more and more digital connectivity, making it easier to send emails, make phone calls and the end of work before ending with a dinner and a good book. Before you go, find tips and tricks to help you negotiate your train journeys through Europe.
How to book
There is no umbrella operator offering tickets for all European rail services. But Trainline and Rail Europe deal directly with several European operators, allowing you to book trains from the UK to most of Western Europe. Both charge a minimal booking fee, but the websites are in English and accept all credit cards, making it a simple and safe option. Keep in mind that different local operators have different booking horizons from 90 days to six months in advance.
Read more: Seven new luxury train routes for 2021
Note that neither Trainline nor Rail Europe has any links with operators in Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Portugal, Slovenia, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Bulgaria, Romania, Turkey , Greece, Poland or the Czech Republic. investigate national and / or private rail operators in each country. The easiest way to book tickets is with the operator depending on the point of departure of your trip. Be aware that local booking sites may not be in English and may not accept payments from all types of credit cards or in British pounds.
How to get the best deal
If you plan on making a long-distance international trip or a series of high-speed trains, book in advance to guarantee seat reservations and cheaper fares. Flexible fares are more expensive but will allow you to cut and change before departure. For local and regional trains, it is good to show up at the station and buy tickets on the day of travel. In countries like France and Italy, paper tickets purchased locally must be validated before boarding via stamping machines located on the docks. For longer and more complex international trips, it is best to book with a pan-European agent (Trainline or Rail Europe), or if you are traveling to a destination not covered by them, interrupt the trip and book individual tickets for each segment across each country. operator’s website.
Look for sleeper trains
An upsurge in overnight trains means you no longer need to spend money on a hotel when you can snuggle up in a comfy bunk and arrive fresh to face the day. Four of the best overnight routes in Europe include Nice to Moscow, the longest trans-European route; From Stockholm to Narvik, where you have a good chance of spotting the Northern Lights; Brussels to Vienna with lavish Nightjet service; and from Budapest to Bucharest, which includes magnificent landscapes.
Read more: 52 of the best no-flight weekend getaways
Explore Interrail Options
If you plan on making a number of unforeseen flexible journeys, consider purchasing an Interrail pass. After Brexit, UK citizens can still travel on these tickets, unlike the Eurail pass available to non-Europeans. While they’re no cheaper than single tickets, they give you the freedom to travel through 33 countries at will. Remember that in addition to the price of the pass, you will have to pay a supplement of between € 10 and € 20 for high-speed trains, international high-speed trains and night trains.
Don’t forget to pack the essentials
Valuable items to increase comfort while riding include an eye mask, ear plugs, warm socks, bottled water, toilet paper, soap / hand sanitizer and, if you are can, a silk bed sheet that will keep you cool in summer and warm in winter. Remember to buy snacks to keep you between stations, as not all train services have dining cars or trolleys.
Monisha Rajesh is a British journalist and author of the acclaimed Around the World in 80 Trains: A 45,000-Mile Adventure, which won the Travel Book category at the 2019 National Geographic Traveler Reader Awards.
Find us on social media
Facebook | Instagram | Twitter