Just a few days ago – 1 August to be exact – our time in Germany had come to an end, which meant another travel day and two more train rides. I should note all of our travel since arriving in Europe has been made possible thanks to a variety of European trains. In this post, I’ll do what I can to highlight the experience.
First off, know that this is the first time that either one of us has utilized traveling by train as a primary transportation method, as we usually fly or drive. I’ll be honest – I had my apprehensions about traveling by train across Europe. What if we miss a train? What if we can’t figure out the time tables? What if we get separated? More “what if’s” than I care to list. To my pleasant surprise though, the whole process has been incredibly easy and SIGNIFICANTLY less stressful than air travel.
There isn’t really any secret to train travel. You show up, get on your train, and go. For the most part, and assuming you have your ticket/reservation in advance (which I’ll talk about in a moment), you can show up at the platform for your outgoing train pretty much as it’s rolling into the station. I would not recommend doing so, but you don’t have to show up 2 hours early like you would for a flight. On average, we’ve been 30-45 minutes early for each train. And security? With the exception of the high-speed train between London and Paris, there aren’t really any security checkpoints.
Earlier, I mentioned having a ticket AND a reservation. Think of it this way – for a flight, you have to buy a ticket which will also include your seat assignment. For European rail travel, a ticket gets you on the train – and that’s all. Having a reservation in addition to that ticket will get you your seat. Without a reservation, you can sit down, but you are not guaranteed that seat for the whole trip. With that said, if you’re sitting in a seat without a reservation and along I come with the reservation for that seat – I get the seat and you get to move.
The biggest part of traveling by train…or by any method really…is knowing your travel information. This is nothing new but I cannot stress this enough though. You need to know your train number, what coach you’re sitting in, what seat your reservation is for, and where your train is going and where you get off. Not knowing your train info could quickly become a costly error. For example, there was a couple a few rows up from us on our train from Paris to Amsterdam. The train manager had come around to check tickets to find that this couple did not have the correct tickets. The gentleman in the couple was quite sure (see: arrogant) that he was on the correct train, in the correct seats, and was sure the train manager was incorrect. The train manager then pointed out, quite plainly, that the passenger and his companion were to have boarded a different regional train, not the high-speed service between Paris and Amsterdam. The couple had two options: 1) get off the train at the next stop with no penalty OR 2) get charged the full fare for the trip, as if they had joined us in Paris. They got off the train. What can be learned here? Know your travel information and NEVER argue with the man who could boot you off the train.
I can say that Tammi and I have really enjoyed traveling via train during our honeymoon. Most of our trains have been of the high-speed variety or darn close, making our travel days go by much quicker. As a result, I’m actually looking forward to possibly utilizing Amtrak in the future for travel back at home.
Until next time…