After spending a month travelling across 11 countries, on 20+ trains, it is fair to say I have become an expert at the European EURAIL system. Here are my tips to staying sane while in transit!
Buy your pass at least three months in advance.
The earlier, the better. You will have a physical ticket issued (ensure your passport is still valid for at least 6 months from start of Eurail pass date) and all the information pamphlets, maps etc. will be sent to you so you can start planning your trip. I HIGHLY recommend spending the extra for first class tickets- the seats are recliners and so comfortable, there are power plugs on most trains for ever seat (laptop movies yay!) and usually a lot emptier so you can have a lay down in the spare seats.
Reservations are 100% essential.
Give yourself at least a month to start reserving. Reservations need a residential address to send tickets too and this can take 1-2 weeks so make sure you have the tickets ready to go and your plans set in stone so you can start. Many trains get booked out over peak season so you want to get in quick- they always give window seats out first! To reserve trains, you will need you Eurail pass number and to create a login through: reservations.eurail.com/index.html
Make sure you get your pass stamped on day one.
On the very first day of travel, head to the ticket office and ask to ‘activate your pass’. All they do is put one stamp on your main pass. Done!
You do not need to check in on each train
Once you have your reservation passes, you do not need to ‘check in’. You seat numbers, train numbers and carriage are all there on your reservation ticket for you. If you do not have this- you have not reserved a seat and need to book one at a ticket window. The reservation form is your ticket- but you need your Eurail pass (hard copy in cover) and your passport with you at all times.
You need to fill out the form at the bottom of your pass.
The bottom of your pass cover has a number of columns and boxes to fill out regarding each and every train you catch. This is your ‘travel report’. Fill them in as soon as you board as some trains require to sign it off and the ticket checkers get mad when it isn’t done- trust me!
No reservation? Don’t Stress.
Head to the ticket booth of any station and you can book trains with your pass and you can book there and then. HOWEVER your desired train may be fully booked- so reservations are the safest option! I will highly suggest not rocking up and assuming- I did this and had to wait 3 DAYS for the next available train to Lisbon!
ALWAYS be early for trains.
They leave on time, every time. Not one second later. If you running late and cannot find your cabin- just jump on anywhere and walk through the train itself, each cabin is connected and it is better than missing the whole train!
Finding which is your train on the platform is tough.
Almost every European country has their own language, but numbers are universal. Have your ticket reservation out and take a good look, it will say your train number and what seat number, coach/carriage number and time. Every station will have a departure board and you can always find the corresponding train numbers- don’t assume your trains ‘name’ is the same as your final destination (i.e. you could just be one of ten stops) so check the number of the train itself rather than the location it goes.
Do not freak out when the conductor takes your ticket or passport- he will return!
This is standard across many cross-border trains (such as Croatia to Slovenia, Germany to Netherlands etc.) so don’t stress yourself out! They will come back!
Get on and off like your life depends on it.
Okay that is a little OTT- but you do have to be quick! Make sure five minutes before arrival station you have your bags with you ready to chuck on and jump off, like I said- trains are always on time and that means departing smack bang on the minute- with or without you getting off the train!
Store your eurail pass as close as your passport.
You only get one. It is made of paper. It costs a lot and you won’t get it replaced. So protect that baby like it is your precious child!
For more information, check out the Eurail website www.eurail.com
To see more from inside the Eurail trains, check out my Instagram and snapchat accounts: global.roaming