5 Tips for Train Travel in Europe

My favorite mode of transportation in Europe is the train. Not only are you more likely to have a much more scenic view when going from one place to another, it’s just easier, and more efficient (especially when you’re crunched for time).

Having navigated trains in several countries, I’ve learned that there’s no “one-size-fits-all” when it comes to taking trains between cities/countries, but there are several things you can do to ensure a smooth experience. Here are a few tips to help you prepare for train travel in Europe!

5 tips for train travel in Europe

Check Schedules + Book Ahead

I’m a planner by nature, but even if you’re more of an impromptu traveler, this is incredibly helpful. If you’re traveling within a country, trains operate a little more frequently, but if you’re planning to travel to another country, you’ll definitely want to be mindful of the timetable. Also, if it’s a peak travel season, chances are the train will fill up quickly! So if you can book ahead, I highly recommend it!

While seat reservations are not always required, it is helpful to make them (especially during peak season travel). While you could board a train and be perfectly fine in your seat, if someone boards mid-journey and reserved the seat you’re sitting in, you’ll have to gather your belongings and move. Unfortunately, there’s nothing above the seat(s) to let you know if it’s reserved, so better to be safe and just pick your seat in advance so you don’t have to worry!

It’s also worth noting that with some trains you’re able to print your tickets out at home, and others you need to print them at the train station kiosk. You’ll be given this information at check-out (if you buy online), so you can prepare accordingly.

Train-Station-Ticket-Kiosk

Know Your Train Station

This might sound like a no-brainer, but some cities actually have more than one train station! We almost learned this the hard way when we were in Vienna! Fortunately, we made our train and it wasn’t an issue, but the city’s two stations were on the opposite ends of town. Plus, the names can really throw you off if you’re in a new city (or country)! To put it in perspective, the two main train stations are named Westbahnhof and Hauptbahnhof. Make sure you pay attention!

Vienna train station

Arrive Early + Pay Attention to the Track

Train travel is much different than by plane! When traveling by plane you can sit at the gate and follow a streamlined boarding process. When traveling by train, it’s imperative that you pay attention to the boards, announcing which track your train will be arriving. And with a 90%+ on-time rate, you don’t have much time to dillydally when it comes to making your train. If you’re unsure where you need to go, ASK! As a general practice, I usually confirm with one of the staff AT the train I’m boarding, “this is the train to XYZ, correct?” (XYZ being the destination).

With a 90%+ on-time rate, you don’t have much time to dillydally when it comes to making your train. If you’re unsure where you need to go, ASK! As a general practice, I usually confirm with one of the staff AT the train I’m boarding, “this is the train to XYZ, correct?” (XYZ being the destination). There’s usually a sign next to the platform to let you know, but there can be last minute track changes or a train coming in quickly before yours does!

Europe train station

Travel Light

As I mentioned earlier in this post, trains usually operate on time. Which means boarding and un-boarding happen FAST! If you’re traveling by train, it’s better to travel light, so you don’t have problems getting your suitcase on or off the train. And with that, you definitely want to limit the number of bags you’re carrying! Keep it to a small suitcase/duffel and a backpack/purse if you can!

Budapest train

Bring Snacks!

Always important with travel! You never know if you’ll experience a delay or what kind of snacks (if any) will be available to you during your journey. If you’re on a long-haul train/traveling between countries, you can usually count on a snack car being available, but if you’re on a regional one (traveling within a country), probably not.

Some trains do have meal service included with the ticket, so if you’re on a longer journey that’s definitely something to consider when you’re booking your ticket. On our train from Copenhagen to Stockholm, we opted to pay a little extra for first class seats (which included a hearty breakfast), since the journey was a little over 5 hours.

First class train meal

Have you traveled by train in Europe? What tips do you have to add? Any favorite scenic journeys you recommend?

Share:
  • traveling by train sounds like so much fun!
    xo, hannah
    hannahwithacamera.com

  • I’ve only done one train journey through Europe and it was beautiful! I want to do more one day.

    • You definitely should! Where did you travel to/from?

      • Madrid to Valencia! I was going to train through Switzerland but we decide to drive instead.

  • I feel like I would get so lost haha. This sounds like fun though. I’ve never been to Europe. :)

    • It’s definitely easy to get overwhelmed with how quickly things move at the train station, but you can always ask if you’re unsure! Time to plan a trip, girl!

  • thesophiadiaries

    these are totally amazing tips! I feel like this is relevant for any kind of train travel, not just in europe :)

    • Thank you! And you’re so right, a lot of these apply across the board with train travel!

  • I don’t have much experience with European trains, but I do plan on using them when my boyfriend and I go to Europe in a couple years. Thanks for the tips!

    • So exciting! Where are you looking at traveling to?

  • I remember boarding a train heading to Amsterdam from Paris, and we nearly hopped on the wrong train with literally seconds to spare before it took off! Thankfully we found our actual train that ended up arriving on the same track not seconds later (hence the confusion initially haha). Otherwise, I loved traveling by train in Europe – it was so convenient!

    • Ahh that’s crazy! I’m always afraid I’m going to hop on the wrong train! We had a nearly similar experience going from Bratislava to Prague since the track numbers weren’t clear and it wasn’t easy to get from one to another, but fortunately we made the right train! A lot of other people were just as confused so we all just banded together while we waited, haha.

  • These are great tips!!! I am actually hearing to Paris and Italy next month!

    • Thanks, Bella! Paris and Italy sound wonderful! I hope you have the best time :)

  • I love taking the train when I travel too! I haven’t been to Europe, but it’s definitely on my travel bucket list so this post will come in handy then! Great tips :)

    • Thanks, Jiawun! Which places in Europe are at the top of your bucket list?

  • mckenna bleu

    the trains can be confusing.. this is helpful for most people who travel!!

    • They really can be! It’s important to pay close attention or you could totally miss your train – or hop on the wrong one!

  • My brother lives in Europe and he and his wife are expecting a baby in January. I plan to take a visit, and these tips will certainly be handy. When I visited London a few years ago, I took trains to get to certain places, and I really enjoyed train travel!

    • That’s awesome! What part of Europe are they in? Train travel really is so much fun! I hope you get to explore some fun places when you visit!

  • Anna Hubbard

    I traveled short trips by train when I was in Europe, and you’re so right when you talk about that immediate boarding! Great tips!

    • Thanks, Anna! Where in Europe did you travel? Any fave places?

  • These tips are great and definitely so helpful! I love traveling by train even in the US!

    • Thanks, Shannon! I traveled by train more when I lived in NY, but it’s something I don’t get to do much of now that I’m back in FL!

  • these are awesome tips! I always get kind of overwhelmed when traveling, but really try to travel light. If I forget something i can always buy it I guess!

    • Thanks, Rachel! Traveling light is the way to go – especially if you’re not staying in one location!

  • I’ll be traveling for the first time to Europe this month but to Iceland so I won’t be taking any trains. This is great to note for the future! Thanks Rachel! :)

    • How exciting!! I can’t wait to hear about your trip. Enjoy :)

  • Amy

    When I went to France a few years ago our only mode of traveling was the subway and it was definitely a learning experience. These are such great tips!

    xoxo,

    Amy | Pastel N Pink

    • Thanks, Amy! There’s definitely a huge learning curve when visiting a new city + trying to navigate their transport system!

  • I’ve never been on a train before, but recently people have started talking up the use of trains to travel throughout the United States which kind of makes me want to test one out!

    xoxo, SS

    Southern and Style

    • You should! I’d totally take the train more often if I lived somewhere it was readily available! It’s such an easy transport method!

  • Snacks are clutch. Once, for a every early morning train, my friends and I bought an entire quiche from the restaurant down the street the night before so we would have a hearty breakfast option on the train. It was fantastic!

    Prerana | http://broadcloth.co

    • That’s a great idea! We scooped up a ton of snacks at a market before a train ride too and they definitely came in handy too!

  • Excellent post. I have not done this yet but I sure do want to. I think my kids will beat me to it.

    • Thanks, Elise! You never know! I hope you’re able to make it happen! Keep an eye on Google Flights because there are some really great international flight deals out there right now!

  • These are great tips! I’ve heard train travel is a great way to get around Europe so I know tips liek these are so helpful. Thanks for sharing!

    • Thanks, Amanda! It definitely is! So easy and really affordable!

  • These are such great tips! When I was in France a few years ago I missed my train to the coast, so I definitely learned this the hard way. Next time I will definitely be much more on top of it!

    • Ah, I hop it wasn’t too difficult to find an alternative or make the next train! Things can change in the blink of an eye at the train stations so you definitely have to make sure you watch out for updates!

  • I love trains as well!! When I studied abroad, I flew to Stockholm and made my way back to Italy via trains! I got to see so much more that way!!

    • That sounds amazing! I totally agree with you about seeing so much more. It’s such a peaceful, beautiful journey! Plus you don’t have to deal with the hassle of the airport – the train station’s usually right there in the city center!

  • These are such great tips! I am a planner by nature, too, so mapping out the route ahead of time and confirming which station is a great idea.

    xx katie // a touch of teal

    • Thanks, Katie! Those are definitely must-dos when traveling by train! The last thing you want to do is hop on the wrong one or miss it completely!

  • Tori Dunlap

    I absolutely loved the trains in Europe when I lived there — makes going from country to country so much easier!
    Tori || Victori Media
    https://www.victorimedia.com

    • It really does! And most of the time I found it was the cheaper option! Where in Europe did you live?

  • Sami Mast

    I totally agree that traveling by train is one of the best ways to travel in Europe!! I’ve done a fair amount of European train travel and your tips are spot on! Especially always confirming the destination of the train if it is not marked on the actual train! A few people on my study abroad trip almost went to another country instead of a city a few miles away because of that mistake!! Always always always pay attention to the track and train!

    xo
    Sami
    The Classic Brunette

    • Ah, what a scary thought! Even if the sign’s there I still ask. Better to be safe than sorry! Where did you study abroad?

  • I love traveling by train too (especially in Europe)! One tip I have is to book an overnight train for longer journeys. On past trips I didn’t mind paying extra for a bed since I had to make the trip anyway. Paying for the “couchette” helped me avoid having to pay for a hotel room. It helped me maximize my time, too, as I didn’t lose any day time to explore. Great tips!

    • That’s a wonderful idea! Did you find the overnight sleeping quarters to be comfortable? I’ve been wanting to try that!

      • Yes, especially on the German trains!

  • I love travelling around Europe via train! Unlike flying with budget airlines you get beautiful views, free wifi, a food carriage (although the items are super expensive so I like your tip to take your own!) and you can pace around in a way impossible on a plane.

    • I couldn’t agree more, Sarah! Do you have any favorite train journey views?

      • I loved the scenery in France! Portugal had some beautiful spots as well. Unfortunately we made the poor decision of travelling from Oslo to Bergen at night which is supposed to be one of the most beautiful routes in the world!

        • Oh I bet that was beautiful! We saw a little of the French countryside on the train from London to Brussels. And dang it for the nighttime travel in Norway! We unfortunately didn’t have time for a stop in Bergen so missed all of the really gorgeous scenery and just stayed in the city (Oslo). I know I want to get back to see more!

  • Totally just pinned this! My fiancé and I are loving traveling by train, and when we go to Europe next year, I know we will be utilizing it to the max!

    • Hooray! I hope you have the best trip :) Where are you planning to go?

  • These are such great tips! I love traveling by train in the US and am dying to try it in Europe!

    Kristin
    The Blush Blonde