By train in Europe: plan ahead or not?

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Trains in any country are not only an excellent means of transportation between cities and countries. This is a special romance of travel. In addition, this vehicle has its advantages. For example, traveling by train does not require as much planning and waiting time as traveling by air. It is safe and environmentally sustainable, with the lowest energy consumption compared to airplanes, buses and cars. In addition, trains depart and arrive at stations that are usually located within the city, which makes it easy to get to them by metro or buses. Many stations offer night trains where you can spend the night and avoid living expenses.

Europe by train

If such a trip is to your liking, we will give you some tips on how to travel around Europe by train. And most importantly, let's figure out whether it's worth thinking about everything in advance, or a spontaneous decision to visit several cities or European states by rail will be a good solution. Some transportation organizers start selling railway tickets in six months, others in 2-3 months. Therefore, it is realistic to plan some trips in advance.

On the other hand, there are railway passes that include an unlimited number of trips within or across countries, depending on the type of ticket. This is an ideal option for those who enjoy freedom or make a long trip, visiting several countries and, above all, if the route is planned on the fly. For those who have not previously used such a ticket, in addition to buying the travel card itself, it is necessary to reserve the necessary seat in the carriage.

First of all, it is necessary to decide which countries will be visited and the number of days on the way. For example, Eurail Global Pass covers up to 31 countries (works for both short and long trips), and in 2019 it added new countries to the list (Great Britain, Lithuania and Macedonia). On the other hand, the Eurail One Country pass, as the name implies, can only be used in one country.

Continuous or flexible? The first pass implies consecutive days during which the subscription can be used continuously from the moment of its activation. If you buy a 1-month continuous ticket, you can use it every day of that month.

Europe by train

Meanwhile, a Flexible pass or Flexipass gives you a number of travel days that you can use for the duration of the travel pass. For example: if you buy a 10-day pass for two months, this means that from the moment you activate the pass, you will have two months to use these 10 days of travel. On the same day of travel, you can take all the trains you want because they are included on the day of use.

Age is an important factor for buying such a ticket. Since people under the age of 27 are considered young people, they can count on discounts. Children aged 4 to 11 years travel free of charge accompanied by an adult (maximum 2 children per adult). Children under 3 travel for free. Those over the age of 60 are given a 10% discount on standard Eurail prices for the elderly.

As for the different seating classes, it mainly depends on the train, but in general, the seats in the first class are larger, more comfortable and with more legroom than in the second class. There is also an additional luggage space. On some high-speed trains, first class can get free drinks, snacks and newspapers, Wi-Fi, self-check-in (available at Eurostar stations) and access to exclusive rooms.

Another issue is booking a seat, the cost of which is approximately from 3 to 39 euros. The most expensive of them are on night trains and can vary depending on the category and type of compartments, which can be two-, four- and six-seater. The reservation can be from 15 to 55 euros.

As a rule, national routes sometimes require seat reservations, but for international routes they are mandatory. And in countries such as Spain, France, Italy, Switzerland or Portugal, high-speed trains require mandatory booking. The opposite is true for regional, local or suburban trains. Just buy a ticket or show a pass, without choosing a place you go on a trip. These are slower and less frequent trains, but if this does not bother you and you have free time in stock, then you can save a little.

On some routes there is a quota for holders of travel passes, which means that they can be sold out. This is found on high-altitude tourist routes, in particular in France. Therefore, a reasonable solution would be to buy such a travel card in advance.

It may also be useful to consider the Benelux Pass: 3 countries in one railway ticket. Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg allow you to use your subscription in all three countries. On the other hand, if you are thinking about moving from Italy to Greece, for example, keep in mind that the passes include transportation on some ferries that cover this route.

Europe by train

Punctuality is necessary in order not to miss the train: arrive at the station in advance to find the right platform and be in the appropriate car a few minutes before departure. When drawing up a map of your trip, take into account the fact that in Europe, although there are small distances between cities, there may be no railway connection.

Finally, you can plan a train trip in advance or spontaneously go on a trip. Of course, both options are possible. If you purposefully decided to travel by rail, then planning the purchase of a subscription and a travel plan will definitely not hurt you, and even save time and even money. A spontaneous decision to go by train is possible, even without booking seats, but it is suitable for those who are not in a hurry and are not limited in time. But, as on Russian railways, tickets purchased in advance will be more profitable. Knowing the fame of low-cost airlines in Europe, many will think that it is more profitable to travel by plane. And there is a certain amount of truth here, except that trains in 90% of cases arrive on schedule, while planes only in 65%. Therefore, the choice of means of transportation in Europe is yours. Have a good planned and spontaneous trips by rail!

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