5 Essential Tips for Train Travel

woman waiting on trainAll aboard! If you want to see and explore places you’ve only thought possible, consider using a train for your next trip. While this was the primary source of transportation in the 19th century, many are finding that skipping the overcrowded airports for a trip on the monorail is perfect in the 21st century too. However, if you have never been on a train before, there are a few things that you must know before you go.

The Perks To Train Seating

One of the significant advantages to train travel over airplanes is that you don’t have assigned seating. Forget tripping over people to get to that one seat that is designated as yours. On a train, it’s first come – first serve. So, you need to allow yourself plenty of time and get there early.

Another thing you will be excited to learn is that the majority of trains only have two seats on each side. There won’t be a whole row of people in-between you and the aisle. If you are traveling with a partner, you can have a cozy section all to yourself. Another plus, every section has large windows to view the landscape. Having a window seat takes on a whole new meaning when traveling the railways.

Depending on which railway you use and what country you are in, you may find that the seating accommodations and comfort levels vary. Business or first class is almost always filled with professional travelers, just as in airplanes. You will discover commoners in the coach or traditional sections. The storytelling is almost always thought provoking. You can meet some of the most interesting people on trains.

Train Food Is Pretty Good!

The airline industry has reduced meals to something typical of a purchase in a vending machine. However, railways have a cafeteria car with piping hot foods. Did you know that it’s perfectly acceptable to sit in the café seats-train-window-travelcar for your whole trip? Many people like to hang out in this cart and mingle with other travelers. On a train, you are not designated to one area at any time.

Most train food is surprisingly delicious. However, the consistency of food choices between railways/countries cannot be predicted. In the dining car, there is a full wait staff to attend to your every need. Unfortunately, these options are only available on longer trips.

Thankfully, you can bring along your snacks to keep you satisfied. Did you know that you can even bring along a bottle of wine to share with friends and travelers too? There is nothing that says you must purchase your alcohol from the train company. The rules are much laxer in train travel, which is a welcomed break for many.

You Can Get A Sleeper Cabin For Long Trips

If your trip is going to be longer than a few hours, it’s worth paying for sleeping accommodations. Don’t count on a room as James Bond had in his travels. There won’t be a swish space with a sitting room and champagne on ice waiting for you. In fact, the sleeping rooms are tiny and basic.

The best way to describe these rooms is to say they are functional. They lack privacy and comfort in most situations. They are called sleeper compartments because they are more like a stall or closet than a traditional bedroom. However, those small beds feel great when you are taking a long trip.

Sleeper trains fill up fast. If you want to make sure to have a spot to rest, then you need to book these a few days in advance. During high seasons or around public holidays, you may need to book a week or two in advance. You will pay more for private rooms, but it’s worth the cost. They can put up to eight people in one sleeping compartment.

Thankfully, these rooms don’t cost a ton and will be adequate for some shut-eye. Another plus to purchasing a roomette is that your meals will be included in your ticket price.

Luggage Is Free – Well, Almost

Checking in on your train excursion is surprisingly simple. You can bring two suitcases for free. Amtrak has guidelines that include allowing customers to carry two bags that are no more than 50 pounds each along. Additionally, the suitcases cannot be larger than 28 x 22 x 14. Check with your railway to make sure you know their rules for luggage. However, their policies are not as stringent as the airlines.

train travelSafety Is Key

Though you probably won’t need to worry about a Jesse James or Butch Cassidy style hold-up, you will need to be aware of your surroundings. Pickpockets can steal you blind without you even knowing what’s going on. Wearing a fanny pack and using luggage locks are not a recommendation, they are a requirement.

If you must bring along things like laptops or other electronics, it’s best to keep them close to you. In fact, if you choose a sleeping room, make sure to snuggle those precious items like a teddy bear.

Since trains in foreign countries are often an economical way to travel, you will find people from all walks of life on board. Depending on what country you are in, keep in mind that political uprisings and other relational issues can affect the railways. The last thing you need on your vacation is a protest or disgruntled travel companions where safety may be a concern.

The weather is also something that you need to be aware of. In places where mudslides, earthquakes, and flooding are an issue, it can delay or cancel your trip.

Save Your Money and Take The Train

While there are advantages and disadvantages to traveling by train, it’s still something you should experience at least once in your life. The cost is more economical than flying or driving, and it’s not as bumpy of a ride. Forget about inconveniences like delays and air turbulence. By following these five tips, your train adventure can go off without a hitch.

Have you ever taken a trip by train? Did you love it or hate it? Please let us know in the comments below!