Riding the rails through Europe
Take in the picturesque views as you travel across Europe by train.
Visiting multiple countries while on a European vacation is fairly common thanks to the accessibility of trains. But while you might think it’s as easy as hopping on the subway, it requires extra planning before you even pull out the passport.
Do you need point-to-point tickets or a rail pass? Should you reserve a seat ahead of time? What kind of luggage can you bring on a train? We’ve answered these questions and highlighted some of the more popular train rides below.
Find the right ticket (or pass)
Point-to-point tickets are exactly what they sound like, a ticket to get you from point A to point B, while a rail pass covers train travel in one or more countries over a number of days. If you’re planning to visit multiple countries during your trip, weigh the benefits and cost of a rail pass. Does the rail pass provide more flexibility? Does it cost less than the point-to-point ticket prices for the destinations on your itinerary?
If rail passes turn out to be the better option, planning ahead is a must as non-Europeans can only buy passes outside of Europe on websites like Rail Europe. While point-to-point tickets can be purchased at the train station, popular routes may require a reservation.
Find a seat and stow your luggage
If you made a seat reservation ahead of time, find that seat and take a load off. On the flip side, if you don’t have a seat reservation take a close look at the seat tags above the seats or on compartment doors. These tags will show which stretch of the journey the seat is reserved for, so you may get to snatch a good spot if you plan to hop off before the next guest hops on. For overnight travel plans, research sleeping accommodations on the train for maximum comfort. When it comes to luggage, pack light! You can put bags on the rack above the seat to keep it close or store it at the end of the carriage. Europeans can spot an American based on the size of their luggage.
Best train routes
The London–Paris route is one of the most heavily travelled. The ride is about two and a half hours and operates frequently each day. If you’re looking for more of a train experience with gorgeous European views, rather than just getting from one city to the next, check out the Bernina Express from Chur, Switzerland, to Tirano, Italy, which takes about four hours. If you’re up for a nine-hour trek, the Bergen Line in Norway, connecting Oslo and Bergan, will give you a “top of the world” feeling as the highest major rail line in northern Europe.
For more inspiration, check out this list from Conde Nast Traveler of the best European train trips.