Your #guide to #Eurail #travel-10 things to remember!

In the train through Black Forest, image©gunjanvirk

In the train through Black Forest, image©gunjanvirk

1. Seat reservation with a Eurail Pass:

Did you know that even if you had a first class Eurail pass for train travel in Europe, you still might need a seat reservation on some of the trains? And did you also know that even with the first class Eurail pass, you still might need sometimes to pay for first class?!  In any case, I always prefer to reserve a seat in advance (first or second class) to make sure that I will have a place to sit especially when the trains are overflowing! I remember once I was traveling from Nancy in France to a small village in South Germany-it was an 8 hour train ride with three changes between France and Germany. On one of the connections I paid €18 extra to travel first class. I could have travelled second class without any charge but it was so crowded there that passengers were literally bundled up in every nook and corner of the coach!

2. On missing a train connection:

Incase you miss a train in Europe, you can usually use the same ticket for the next train-the only thing is that you will not have a seat reservation and will have to find an unreserved seat on the train to sit. It does not have to be the same kind of train either. for eg. in Germany if you miss an ICE train, and if the next train going in that direction is an RE, you can use the ICE ticket for the RE train. 

The German ICE train, image©gunjanvirk

The German ICE train, image©gunjanvirk

3. On train doors and missing stops:

Ok, so this is a fun one! Once I was traveling by train from Rimini, a coastal town located on the Adriatic Sea in Italy to Assisi with one change in between. When the train stopped at the station in Assisi, I was unable to open the exit door. Some passengers tried to help me but we still could not get the door open! Meanwhile the train started to move and it was only too late when we read the sign indisponibile’ written in Italian on the exit door, meaning that the door was not functional! I decided to get off at the next train stop and take the first train back to Assisi from there. As I discovered, there was a little surprise waiting for me. The next train station was very small and dimly lit with just three people on the platform-a man who appeared heavily drunk and argued with a woman and another woman sitting at the far end of the platform. It was late in the night and I felt a little more than uncomfortable waiting there alone in the middle of nowhere with all my money and passport on me. As I started reading the train time-tables, the lady sitting on the other end approached me and spoke to me in Italian telling me that the last train to Assisi was delayed and would be arriving any moment and that she was also on the same train. Then after hearing my story on missing the stop in Assisi, she offered to open the train door for me at Assisi and to help me with my bags. Even as we were talking the train arrived and I reached Assisi safely. In retrospect, if I have to make this trip again, I will be sure not to travel alone so late in the evening and check which door is functional a few minutes before the train arrives at the station. I was lucky I could speak Italian otherwise this kind lady couldn’t have helped me! 

4. Always carry a small inter lingual pocket dictionary while traveling in Europe:

In Europe, it is a must to always have a small inter-lingual pocket dictionary on you all the time. Not everybody speaks English and if you are in trouble or lost or need directions or anything else, you will need to rely on a dictionary to ask for help!

My friend Nicola catches up on her reading in the train! Image©gunjanvirk

My friend Nicola catches up on her reading in the train! Image©gunjanvirk

5. Don't forget to validate your train-ticket:

Always validate your train ticket before getting in the train by punching in the validation machines at the platform itself. If you forget to do this, find the train conductor/ticket checker before he finds you and request him to validate it for you otherwise you can be heavily fined. Incase of Eurail pass, enter the details of your journey on the pass before your travel or before the ticket checker checks your ticket! 

Train travel in Europe. Image©gunjanvirk

Train travel in Europe. Image©gunjanvirk

6. On loosing your ticket:

Incase you have lost your ticket and don’t have time to get a new one, get on the train just the same and look for the conductor to issue you a new ticket (to buy tickets on trains is quite expensive) to avoid heavy penalty. Also make sure you find the conductor before the conductor finds you! Once on a train in France, I lost my ticket and a lady told me to look for the conductor before he found me to avoid penalty. With whatever French I could remember, I told the conductor, ‘J’ai perdu mon billet!’ and he sympathetically issued me a new ticket. :)

7. Always carry with you a hard copy of the train ticket:

For train travel in Germany, make sure you have a hard copy of the ticket. A soft copy saved on your smartphone is only as good as not having a ticket and you will have to purchase a new ticket on the train which is so much more expensive! Once I was going from Munich to Innsbruck in the very comfortable German ICE train and one of the passengers who did not have a hard copy of the ticket, had to buy it again at a much higher price!

VIew of a platform in Germany. Image©gunjanvirk

VIew of a platform in Germany. Image©gunjanvirk

8. Give enough time to change trains:

Incase of train changes in Europe, it is always good to have enough time to get to the next platform! Once when I arrived at Paris Est railway station, I realized my train was departing from Paris Nord which was a different station altogether and a good 10 or 15 minute walk till there! In Germany, one usually has to climb stairs and down again to get to the other platforms and this takes time. If the platform is crowded and you are considering taking an elevator instead of going up the stairs since you have heavy bags, you may have to wait a long time in the queue to get into the elevator. Passengers are waiting there with bikes, babies and baby-carriages and one just cannot rush!

9. Make sure the platform number is correct:

Yes, trains sometimes can change platforms at the last moment, so incase you are changing trains, make sure to check the platform number with the conductor a few minutes before you arrive at the train station. 

10. Keep silence in silent coaches:

Last but not the least, be sure to keep your phone on silent mode and not to speak incase you are traveling in a silent compartment as a sign of respect for your fellow passengers. :) Once I was clicking photos in a train in France and suddenly I heard a passenger lean over from the back-seat and pointing to the camera, say to me, "Ca fait beaucoup de bruit!" (This makes a lot of noise!).

A German train. Image©gunjanvirk

A German train. Image©gunjanvirk