There is nothing better than being on a train in Europe, looking out at the beautiful countryside (or reading a book!) while getting to your destination as quickly as possible. When we traveled in Europe for the first time, we had quite a few mishaps. Here is what we learned:
Book train tickets at least three weeks in advance, especially if you are using a Eurail pass. If you are going to a popular destination like Prague or Paris, book as soon as you can. We had friends who tried to book a night train from Cologne to Prague five days in advance, and they found out every night train was booked for the next two weeks. We always tried to book as soon as we decided on our destination.
Check platforms often.
I will never forget the name Herzogenrath-August-Schmidt-Platz. Never heard of it? Neither had I. Trains can change platforms at the last minute. When we were traveling to Berlin with a big group, the regional train in Aachen arrived before our train to Berlin. We thought it was our train because it was at the correct platform and time, so we took the train and ended up in Herzogenrath-August-Schmidt-Platz. We didn’t make it to Berlin until 2 a.m. (Want the whole story of our Herzogenrath mishap? Read three European travel stories I will never forget.)
Also, be aware that some trains will split off in the middle of the trip and head in different directions. Make sure to listen to announcements that tell you if you are in the right compartment, especially if you are in the food compartment at the time of the change.
Write down the number of the train leaving after yours.
Trains are sometimes late, so you should look up and record the number of the next train to take in the case of a late train. For example, when our train from Frankfurt to Brussels ran 20 minutes late we missed our train from Brussels to Liege. However, we had written down the next train we could take, so we were able to get to the platform in time to hop on the next train to Liege.
Have you ever traveled in Europe by train? What was your favorite destination?