At home I'm pretty much attached to my car and never take public transportation. I drive 40 miles round trip everyday to and from work. So I'm not surprised that when I travel I love and prefer to move around using mostly public transportation. I love it, mainly because it is cheaper than renting a car and I enjoy having someone else to the driving (or whatever a train conductor does). 😀
I also think that taking public transportation is a great way to meet other travelers and locals along the way which makes for great and fond memories of my trip.
So far, I've traveled by train in the Countries of UK (Scotland), Spain, Italy, Austria, Germany, Switzerland and the Czech Republic. After traveling by train in these countries, I have a few tips to pass on:
– Which Way is Forward: If you are prone to motion sickness pick a seat where you are facing forward when the train is moving. Most of the seats are grouped by fours with a table in between. I always find a seat facing forward. I don't normally get motion sickness riding the trains in Europe but facing forward does help to prevent it.
– Learn The System: Pre-Purchase, Reservations: Before your trip you need to take the time to learn about the train systems in the country/countries you'll be traveling to. Some cities have more than one train station, so make sure you know which train station to arrive and depart from. Decide whether you should pre-purchase your tickets or whether you can just purchase them at your destination. If I learn that I need to take a very popular train, I'll pre purchase my tickets in order to secure my spot on the train. If I learn that I'm taking a not so busy train route I will usually buy my tickets the day before (or on the day of) my trip. Train routes and time of day and year can be key factors in your decision. The above photo was taken on a really empty train traveling early in the morning from Granada to Ronda, Spain.
– Timing is everything: There were a couple of times in both 2006 and 2008 where I didn't consider the Train Schedule and distances I had to travel to get from one town to the other. As a result, I arrived at my distinations way to late which put a damper on my sightseeing plans. My advice is take the time to study the Schedule, the distances, the number of stops and "train layover times", and the arrival times. I have come to realize that it is better to leave early and arrive early. Below is a photo of the little town call Cesky Krumlov in the Czech Republic. I took it while I was exploring around town late in the evening. It's was cool walking around but I would've preferred getting there earlier.
– Train Routes & Stops: In 2006, I had a difficult time knowing what stop I needed to exit while traveling by train in the Czech Republic. I learned about the importance of saving train schedules, routes and stops for all the train travel I'll be doing. I like having different schedule options in case I change some of my travel plans. I absolutely would recommend that you not only make note of the train number, travel times and time durations but also the individual stops the train will make before your destination. This is important so you can anticipate how long before reaching your destination and so can gage when you need to prepare to get off. It's the not knowing the stressed me out in 2006. Now I am more comfortable on the trains knowing what stops are coming up.
Here I'm going to illustrate this point by giving you an example of a train ride from Madrid to Sevilla, Spain:
1. Enter your travel dates and destination:
3. Click on the Train Number and a window will pop up with a list of all the stops the train will make on this route.