This is the last of my blog posts on our European trip. While it doesn’t touch on my favorite things, I do think there are some general tips that can help make traveling in Europe much more enjoyable.
So … this is for those of you that may be planning a trip to Europe in the near future. You will more than likely use the public transportation, so hopefully some of these tips can help you save some time and money (and avoid some frustrating situations).
Traveling by Train:
- In my experience, you generally don’t need to book train reservations in advance. We’ve had great luck just showing up at the station and purchasing tickets for that day. Exceptions are holidays and popular routes during tourist season (e.g., Florence to Venice). If you are traveling with a larger group and want to get seats together, you may want to book in advance.
- When traveling by train, it’s best to check train schedules before arriving at the train station. It can save a lot of “waiting around” time at the stations. Train schedules are available at the train stations and online (http://www.raileurope.com). Many hotels and apartments have Internet access, so if you have your laptop with you – it’s easy to check.
- You can purchase train tickets via self-serve kiosks in many train stations. This can often save you time … no need to wait in the long lines.
- If you are traveling as a family of four or more, you can often get a family discount. If you are using the self-serve kiosks, select the Promo option.
- When traveling by train, check to see if there are fast train options (e.g., EuroStar). It costs a bit more, but the time savings is usually worth it.
- When trying to find the Bin (or Platform) for your train, you will usually need to identify your train number (on your train ticket). The Arrival and Departure screens show the final destination of the train — not necessarily your final destination. That’s where your train number comes in handy when looking at the departure screens.
- Some trains require that you time stamp your ticket before boarding the train. These are generally the trains where you don’t have assigned seats (or you are sitting in second class). Look for bright yellow or orange time stamp boxes on the bins (platforms). Look around to see if other passengers are stamping their tickets. I’ve gotten two citations in my past travels.
- Be aware of pick pockets at the train stations. I’ve been with family and friends that have had close calls with their wallets and purses.
Traveling by Taxi:
- When taking taxis, make sure you use the city taxis. They generally have a city logo on the car door or something uniform that identifies them. This is especially important at train stations and airports. Wait in the designated taxi lines. There are many “scam artists” looking to take advantage of tourists. They will try to convince tourists to get out of the taxi lines and walk over to their taxi. Then they charge an exhorbitant fare.
- In the cities, if you are having difficulty finding a taxi, ask for directions to the closest taxi stand. In some cities, taxis can only pickup passengers in designated areas.
- If you are traveling with a lot of luggage, you may want to have your hotel call for a larger taxi that can handle more luggage when going to the airport or train station. We had the rental apartment agencies call for us.
Traveling by Bus:
- When traveling within the city by bus (or electric train in Rome), you can purchase bus tickets at the newspaper stands. These are the green huts that are located throughout the city. In Rome, you pay 1 Euro to ride for 75 minutes. You can also get multi-day passes.
- You are supposed to time stamp your ticket when you initially board. I haven’t seen many people do this — especially the locals. But, the alternative could be a citation.
- Check the bus schedules when traveling on holidays or Sundays. There are a lot fewer buses that run on Sundays and holidays.