Right off the start, I’m going to highly recommend that you download the train apps for the countries you are visiting at home to ensure you get the English options. I had not done this for one app and found myself muddling through the Dutch app and hoping for the best! You can buy a train pass and your tickets ahead of time but we never do. It’s the way we travel I guess. On our own timeline!
I will also say, don’t be afraid of using the metro (subways) either! They are quick, come often and are totally safe. Always watch for pickpockets, keep your purse zipped shut and in front of you or your hand in your pocket with your wallet (that’s what Sam does anyways) when the metro is packed full. We have ridden many packed full metros, and have not been taken by pickpockets yet! Also as a courtesy please hold your larger bags down by your feet so that shorter people aren’t eating your bag in those tights quarters!
Another little odd moment we had was in Verona, a man offered to help us purchase our tickets at the machine and then lead us quickly to our platform. Then he asked for a couple of dollars. We hadn’t realized that he wasn’t actually staff of the station but perhaps a gypsy!!
Often you can find a vending machine or a coffee kiosk on or close to the platform to enjoy while waiting for the train. I was surprised that on the long ride to Antwerp a lady walked the aisle offering food and drink to purchase. What was really cool is that she made cappuccinos! I had never experienced that before.
Our international train had plenty of space for luggage, and if you have the muscles, the overhead compartment is quite roomy! Remember you need to buy special tickets for international rail in Europe is one piece of ID.
The high-speed rail is the best way to move from a to b if they are long distances between them. The longest I rode one was from Venice to Rome. We reached speeds of 294km per hour! There are also many times when my ears need popping!
We have learnt to go and talk to the Thalys people. We could not book a ticket in Brugge to Paris due to local strikes and then we missed the train in Brussels, which brings me to my next point. Always watch for platform changes. Our platform changed in Brussels and it cost us €100 Euro! It is also helpful to ask what the last station is on the line as that is what is often named on the platform and unlike home, there isn’t always a map of the line!
I do also enjoy regional trains. You can see lots and encounter many local commuters. I love it when there is a busker (I have all the time the world for people who are trying to earn money) working on the train.
I experienced this heading to the Charles de Gaulle airport and when we rode the train from Naples to Pompi (about 9€ each and although the train is covered in graffiti and looks old it is usually full of tourists heading to Pompeii.
Change for toilets (WC) in Europe. Ranges from 0.50 € to 1.00€. Unlike at home public use toilets have a fee. I will say though, I do not recall a time when I paid for the toilet and was disgusted or disappointed in the facilities! So there’s a plus to the fee, at least in my European experience so far!
I love taking the train as it seems easy, fast and relaxing (I often nap on the train!).