Train travel: five tips to make your journey as smooth as silk

Our top five tips for traversing the globe by train.

On a recent family trip to Europe, we caught no less than six trains.  The benefits of train travel are numerous, as my dad, David, is happy to point out. While I am not as avid a fan as him, I will agree that the lack of luggage weight restrictions alone is a major pro!

Somewhat of an expert bow on the topic, I offer my top five tips to make sure your train experience is one you wish to repeat, rather than send you screaming straight back to airports again.

1. The train waits for no one

I cannot stress this enough. All bar one of our trains left on the dot of their departure time and not a second later. Whatever you do, don’t leave yourself short on time or you’ll most likely be left standing on the platform watching as the train speeds off into the sunset.

2. Safety still comes first

While it’s significantly less than what you go through at airports, many train stations will still have some level of security screening you’re required to go through before boarding the train. Make sure you leave enough time to pass through security or you’ll be back at point one – without a train.

3. First on, best stored

Slightly similar to overhead locker space on a plane, luggage storage space is at an absolute premium on trains. With most carriages usually only having a few shelves at either end, it pays to be one of the first on board so you can bags a good spot! On this note, cheeky passengers who get on the train after you may try and move your bags; if you feel they’re being unreasonable and your bag isn’t taking up an unfair amount of space, stand your ground and politely point out you’d prefer if they didn’t. Another tip: if seats are back-to-back, there is often further storage in the gap between them on the floor.

4. Locomotion

If, like me, you have a tendency to get motion sickness, may I suggest planning ahead and having anti-nausea tablets at the ready – I find the bands are fantastic too. Some other helpful hints: I don’t recommend reading or working on a laptop, etc., as this exacerbates the problem. Grab an aisle seat if you can so you’re less aware of the scenery speeding past the window, and if you can, chuck on an eye mask and get some rest – you are (hopefully) on holiday after all!

5. BYO

Forget alcohol. There’s far more important items to BYO on your train journey: namely toilet paper or tissues! Take it from me – the toilets on most trains aren’t great to start with and end up even worse. Get in early and don’t expect there to be toilet paper. Having a back-up option will save you being left high and not so dry. Water, healthy snacks and hand sanitiser are also other good things to have at hand.

Have you travelled by train much? What other tips would you give to ensure the best experience possible?

SJ is a regular travel contributor to YourLifeChoices, and if she had one superpower, it would be teleportation – the ultimate cure for her fear of flying.



    To make a comment, please register or login
    20th Feb 2016
    standing at a bar doing, 180 km/h, having a cold beer, watching the view fly by, is a great experience.
    10th Mar 2016
    As long as you hold on tight!
    20th Feb 2016
    I travelled from Istanbul to Madrid by trains, about a dozen of them in nine different countries. Despite variations in age of rolling stock, the services were very good everywhere, reliable, punctual, friendly and clean. Some toilets were not great so do take paper, but only one was a bit revolting, and I forget which one!

    Trains are a sociable way to travel, with nuggety Romanian men willing to heft suitcases into racks, to porters who tout for work in Budapest and need tips to live on, local passengers doing their market shopping to other tourists - Europeans use buses for intercountry travel because they are cheaper.

    Do plan and book ahead though. Some need seat reservations, all need sleeper reservations for overnight trips.
    10th Mar 2016
    Trains are indeed a very social way to travel and generally a very good way to get around.

    I agree completely, best to book ahead!
    20th Feb 2016
    Thanks for the thumbs up on the toilet paper. I would have never thought of that.....until caught out. Oops!
    10th Mar 2016
    Haha! Happens to the best of us :)
    20th Feb 2016
    before travelling, look at "seat" this will give you information on ALL train travel in the WORLD.
    Train travel in Europe is easy, you travel from City centre to City centre, and meet all kind of interesting people. You have not experienced proper train travel until you travel in Japan, Melbourne in comparison is worse than 'Darkest Africa'. Signage is plentiful, in English. Even the next station is announced in English on even suburban trains. Heaven.
    10th Mar 2016
    Yes - a great site and agree 100% about Japan. Now they're real trains!!

    20th Feb 2016
    It sounds like a truly wonderful experience, but I think I'd rather stick pins in my eyes.
    22nd Feb 2016
    Please do!
    20th Feb 2016
    I heartily agree with Railfan, "The Man in Seat 61" has the best options. We are mature aged and travel independantly all the time, so ease with the fore mentioned site. We've done Turkey, Egypt, Morocco as well as conventional European countries. We love Trains!!
    10th Mar 2016
    Morocco!! I'm incredibly jealous. It's been at the top of my bucket list for the last two years!
    20th Feb 2016
    We went from Paris to Geneve by train and paid an extra $20 to go first class. The service was great - champagne on boarding. Snacks , lunch and a very clean loo. We then went to Venice from Geneva a few days later on an Italian train. It was a seven hour journey but very comfortable with interesting scenery and great buffet. Arriving in Venice by train was magical - one goes over a series of bridges surrounded by sea and when you get off you are at the main vaperetto station. Much better than going by plane!
    10th Mar 2016
    You had me at champagne!

    And yes, trains beat planes every time in terms of soaking up the scenery (unless you're a massive fan of clouds)!
    22nd Feb 2016
    Something to remember is that if you travel first class in Austria (and it isn't that much dearer), not only do you get more room for you and your luggage, but they also have lounges at many major stations where you can enjoy free beverages, fruit and pastries. Also note that different sites have different prices for the same trip - go to or rather than, as you deal directly with the train company, and get a better price (in most cases) but you also get a wider choice of travel times. I have always found it cheaper to get individual tickets rather than get a Eurail pass - the latter never seems to be worth it, unless you want to go from one end of Europe to the other in a few days.
    10th Mar 2016
    Thank you for the great tips. Definitely worth knowing about the lounges and how to get the best priced tickets.
    20th Mar 2017
    Love train travel in Europe , far less nerve wracking than driving and you can really see the scenery.Using the Internet is easy for booking and you can get good prices including first class if you book early. Much better to book point to point if you know your plans rather than the expensive Eurorail card. Major stations usually have escalators or lifts to the platforms and often great waiting areas. Highly recommend ' The man in seat 61' website

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