We’re in week two of the transportation series, meaning we’ve arrived at trains – my absolute favourite form of getting from place to place when travelling! I have a deep love for trains and, my goodness, if I could take a train every day, I would (no offence, Winnipeg Transit….but you suck a little bit – at least compared to trains!).
I’ve taken trains in North America, South Africa, India, and all over Europe, and I’m telling you, for a Prairie girl, trains just make sense. They’re quick, they’re efficient, they’re generally environmentally-friendly, and they’re affordable. What’s not to love? I like metros and subways, I enjoy regional trains, and I adore high-speed trains (Eurostar, ICE, La Frecce, the TGV, I miss you all!). Sure, some trains are more comfortable or prompt than others (don’t mention anything about trains being late in Germany…Germans are all about being on time and/or early!), but, all in all, trains are pretty awesome. I very, very much wish Manitoba had more efficient passenger trains – but I suppose that is a rant for another time!
When planning a trip, it’s essential to know what public transportation systems are available and how accessible these systems are to where you are staying – and if these systems are going to help you get from Point A to Point B in the most efficient, cost-effective, and comfortable way possible. Sometimes, it makes more sense to rent a car, and other times, the metro and bus systems are going to get the job done. Sometimes, your metro pass will get you access to bus, metro, and regional trains. It all depends on the city/region you’re in, so you have to do a little bit of research before you make any decisions.
If I could tell you a straight-up answer right here, right now, and make your travel dreams come true, I would – trust me! It would be so much easier that way, wouldn’t it? But, in reality, it’s all up to you and what works best for your trip. I’ve always relied on a variety of transportation methods when getting around different cities and countries, so here’s a few tips I’ve picked up along the way.
- If you’re going to Europe, do your research and see if a Eurail pass is right for you. There are a variety of passes (ex. one country passes, select passes, or global passes) for different ages and groups, and if a pass is right for you, you can save yourself a lot of money (PS: there’s also a deal on between now and the end of April – win!). The last time I went to Europe, I traveled solely by rail between cities (I used what’s called a Global Pass) and it definitely saved me time and money. Rolling with Eurail is best for routes that are close together and trips that are continuous – a lot of passes have restrictions for validity (ex. 22 days of continuous travel vs. only 15 days of travel within two months) so you’ll have to figure out what’s best for you in terms of where you’re going and how often you’re moving from city to city.
- Another Europe tip: a lot of trains require reservations depending on how far you’re traveling and the type of train you’re taking. Night trains and high-speed trains generally require that you book your seats ahead of time – you can’t just use your Eurail pass (if you have one) to secure your spot on the train. Make sure you book your reservations, especially if you’re on a tight schedule!! On my most recent trip, we booked our first few trains the day we arrived at our first destination (Paris), and then booked the final leg of our trip at our halfway point (Bern, Switzerland). You don’t have to book everything all at once, especially if you don’t have concrete plans – but it is important to book your train tickets once you do know (particularly if you have to take a train to a certain destination in order to catch your flight home). One thing to note: regional trains don’t generally require reservations – yay!
- In South Africa, trains don’t always run on time, so don’t bank on the train getting you from place to place by a certain time. If you’re on a strict schedule, you’re best to take a taxi or drive. However, time is pretty relative in South Africa – if you’re late, you’re doing things right! Nobody will be mad at you if you’re behind schedule because the lifestyle is a little more relaxed and most people are late on the daily. I also noticed that you kind of just jump on and off the trains, and the doors don’t close. So just bear that in mind. It’s a worthwhile experience though!
- In India, the trains and train stations are busy and stinky. There are a ton of people (again, I kind of found this to be common everywhere in India), so it’s important to get to your train early just so that you have time to navigate. If you can, try to get a ticket in first class because it really is more comfortable (there’s AC, which is wonderful!). Why is it stinky? I don’t really want to have to explain it to you because I think you can make an educated guess. It isn’t very pleasant and that’s really all you need to know. Just be prepared and you’ll be fine! One thing to note: just don’t use the washroom on the train or in the train station if you can help it. If you can’t help it, bring your own toilet paper, disinfectant spray, and hand sanitizer – you’ll need it.
- Final tip: trains aren’t always the most efficient way to travel. If you’re in a hurry or have destinations that are really spaced out from one another (ex. Berlin to London will take about 11 hours depending on what train(s) you take), your best bet might not be taking the train. And sometimes, you’ll find that busses take a quicker route for less money. Again, my best advice here is to do your research!
Trains are wonderful. I’m sure the novelty wears off if you take trains every day, but I’m pretty excited to head back to Europe and hop on a train or two this time around. My friend Beckie, who’s travelling with me this time, has never experienced the joy that is taking the train, so I’m excited to share that with her!
Next week, I’ll be back with Part 3 of the series. Also, don’t forget to post a travel pic on Instagram every Wednesday between now and March for your chance to win a prize! Tell me where you’re longing to travel to and use the hashtags #wanderlustwednesday and #hopelesswandererblog, and tag me @katrinasklepowich. I can’t wait to hear from you (also, who doesn’t want to win a prize!).
Until next time,