This post was updated on February 2nd, 2020.
Train travel is by far our favorite mode of transportation. Scenic routes, spacious seating and hassle free arrival and boarding make train travel incredibly appealing. Lucky for us we've spent the past 4+ years traveling and living in Europe, which offers one of the most extensive and functional rail networks on the planet.
If you're heading out on a Euro trip we've got 5 tips to consider when planning and taking your journey. So pack your bags and get ready to set off on a trip that'll take you to some of Europe's best highlights.
Buy a Eurail Pass
One of the best ways to travel by train across Europe is to take advantage of a Eurail pass. These passes offer unlimited train travel within a region and time duration of your choice. A Eurail pass gives you access to the entire European rail network and saves you money compared to buying individual train tickets. The passes allow train travel in specific countries, regions or throughout Europe depending on the pass type. You can use the pass in up to 33 European countries and durations range from 3 days to 3 months.
Choose Scenic Routes
Besides comfortable and convenient travel, the prospect of amazing views on a train journey often make the trip even better. Making the journey part of the experience adds to the appeal and makes the time going from place to place much more enjoyable.
For example, the Glacier Express route in Switzerland offers captivating views through the Swiss Alps. Between Italy and Switzerland, the Centovalli Railway runs through the Hundred Valleys. The Rhine Valley Line is like a riverside cruise along vineyards in Germany. These and many other great routes are worth considering when planning a railway trip through Europe.
Take Advantage of Night Trains
If you're traveling long distances you might consider taking a night train. For a small extra fee you can travel by night in a cabin complete with a lay flat bed. This makes the trip fly by as you as sleep through much of the duration comfortably. If you're traveling with a Eurail pass, choose a night train that departs after 7pm and it will count as only a single travel day with your pass even though the journey technically occurs over two days.
Don't be afraid to be a bit spontaneous and change up your plans. If you find yourself in a city that you'd like to stay longer, train travel (particularly with a rail pass) usually offers you more flexibility in making changes, often without change fees. While most flights are purchased with non-refundable tickets, train travel is much more flexible so you can simply pass by the station and extend your stay (or depart early) by switching your reservation. This type of spontaneity and flexibility is rarely possible with air travel without completely forfeiting your ticket.
Don't Overdo It
The allure of traveling across all of Europe and visiting the famous and popular towns may sound fascinating and exiting. While this may be true it's important to balance the concept of travel versus vacation. If you spend all your time rushing from one city to the next passing more time on trains than in your destination then you'll miss the whole point. Sure, you can get a Eurail pass that covers unlimited travel in almost all of Europe but it might actually make more sense and be more practical to focus on a region and travel less distance between in each destination.
And even more, why not consider saving some cash and heading to central or Eastern Europe, which is less heavily visited yet equally full of breathtaking cities, sites and experiences. Of course we all hear countless stories of friends and family visiting Paris, Rome, Barcelona or Venice. But many of these destinations (while equally great) can be quite expensive and incredibly busy especially during peak summer travel. Central or Eastern Europe will cost you less in both train travel and costs in the destination and you'll come back with travel stories that few of your family, friends or colleagues will have experienced.
Have you ever traveled Europe by train? What countries, regions or cities are you most interested in visiting? We'd love to hear your thoughts so let us know below in the comments!