Florence Hotels Articles

July 22, 2010

Train travel recommended for vacationers

While using the train for public transportation may seem very foreign to American tourists not used to taking trains, it remains by far the most effective and practical method of travel throughout Europe. The following guidelines give a bit of insight to the seemingly daunting task of riding the rails Europe.

Train has been the preferred method of travel for Europeans looking to make a trip comfortable and economical. France’s TGV (Train Grande Vitesse) is among the fastest in the world. Traveling at 300 km/hour (186 mph) it can easily transport you from Paris to Nantes in 2 hours flat, all while catching a glimpse of France’s charming countryside. Germany’s ICE (Inter-City Express) can take you comfortably from Berlin to Florence, Italy overnight without the worry of potentially losing your baggage from an airline flight. Once you have established that train will be your primary mode of transportation, there a few simple tips you should try to keep in mind.

~Arrive Early. Trains leave punctually throughout Europe. If your train itinerary shows an 11:37 departure, you can count on the train leaving the gate at 11:38. While there are occasional setbacks on the way, high speed trains usually arrive punctually and thus, makes planning your trip accordingly easy.

~Order tickets in advance. This suggestion is useful for two reasons; for one, there are almost always special offers to be taken advantage of for those who plan awhile in advance. Secondly you will save yourself the hassle at the train station of trying to arrange tickets. All major European train systems have modern websites in English that make booking a ticket and printing it out in advance effortless.

~Know your stops and any train transfers. While high speed trains run between major cities without any transfers, when trying to get to more locale sites you may need to change trains once or twice. You will almost always have adequate time between layovers, however if you miss your stop, you may find yourself hours away from your transfer before you get the chance to change trains again. Be sure to print out your trip itinerary and know when and where you need to change trains.

~Keep tickets/passport handy. Once you’re on the train, the hardest part is over. Now you can feel free to walk around, get a drink or a meal at the restaurant on board or take a nap. However, two things you should always keep on you are your passport and your train tickets. When the conductor sees you, he will most likely ask you for you tickets and when crossing national borders you may be asked for your passport. Be ready to show both promptly!

~Meet people and enjoy. One of the things that surprised me the most the first time I rode the rails in Europe was how open people were and how interested they were in learning more about me. It is also not uncommon to meet fellow Americans who are in the same boat as you and can share experiences, talk about future travel plans and give travel advice from places they’ve already been.

Hopefully these 5 easy tips help enjoy your time in Europe. As always, remember to keep you head about you while traveling and never lose your cool. The only way your vacation can be ruined is if you let it be. With that in mind, enjoy riding the rails!

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