By Michelle Campell
This is part of an ongoing blog series by Study Abroad Spring 2012 alum, Michelle Campbell, a current senior at Florida State University. Michelle will be sharing her experiences and advice for the best ways to stay safe while traveling and studying abroad.
In Europe, traveling by train is a basic necessity most often than not. It’s the easiest way to get from point A to point B (or country to country) without the hassle of airport security lines or large cab fees. There are a number of different pass packages or individual destination tickets up for purchase from multiple companies such as Eurail, Eurostar, and InterRail.
The Internet in a great resource to use when planning your trip around Europe. One web site I found useful was www.raileurope.com because you could use their map of train routs to plan your Euro adventure or, if you already have things figured out, simply plug in your itinerary into the site to look up train tickets. Some sites, including raileurope, even offer tips for traveling such as hotel listing, site-seeing activities, and other things you need to know as a tourist abroad.
A few personal tips to add regarding train travel:
1. Make sure to book your ticket early online or at the train station if you plan on leaving on a busy travel day, such as Saturday or Sunday. Plus the tickets are usually sold at a higher price if you wait till the day of to purchase them. It’ll save you some money by planning ahead.
2. Arrive at the train station at least 15 minutes before your train is set to depart. You need to allow enough time to look for your train’s platform and find a seat onboard.
3. MAKE SURE YOU VALIDATE YOUR TICKET!! Unless you are willing to pay 50 Euro or more for an invalidated train ticket, be sure to find the big electronic stands located around the train station that punches a number on the ticket. On the train, a staff member will walk around checking tickets to make sure they are validated. If they aren’t, you will be looking at a very large fine that could be twice what you paid, or more, for the ticket itself.
4. Be respectful while on board. The last thing any passenger wants to hear is a bunch of rowdy Americans singing the newest Justin Bieber single at the top of their lungs. Make sure you and your friends respect the other travelers and keep your voices at an appropriate level.
5. If something goes wrong, don’t panic. If you miss your train or there just happens to be a train strike that day, look at your options. You could take a bus (tickets can be purchased at the train station) or a cab to get to a different train station or set destination. Cities sometimes have two train stations located on opposite sides, so keep that in mind if you find yourself in a bind.
6. Be informed of train strikes. When I was in Florence, the local newspaper would usually have an announcement on the front page about any upcoming strain strikes for that area. If you find yourself at a train strike location when you are in transition of getting from point A to point B, talk to someone who works at the station to see if there are any alternate trains that may still be running for you to take.
Traveling by train is affordable, safe, and a great overall travel option while in Europe. Along with anything else you do while abroad, make yourself knowledgeable of the benefits and risks with traveling. Once you do, you’ll quickly realize that it’s not just about the destination – it’s also about the journey to get there.