Last updated: 09:00 PM ET, Wed May 04 2016

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  • Worldwide Scott | May 4, 2016 9:00 PM ET

    4 Tips for European Train Trips

    4 Tips for European Train Trips

    Photo by Worldwide Scott

    There is no better way of seeing Europe than by train, and trust me, I’ve tried the alternatives. Buses are okay — and they are definitely the most budget-friendly, in case you were wondering — but they are, in the end, still buses. Rental cars are also light on the wallet and offer the utmost of flexibility, but driving a rental car down a European highway just kinda-sorta feels like being back home. Europe’s growing fleet of budget airlines are cool, but there’s not much romance in being nickel-and-dimed for every add-on, albeit cheerfully, in the name of low fares.

    Nope, there is nothing like train travel for the combination of romance, relaxation, and scenery. But it’s not just as easy as showing up, so here are a few tips to makes sure you get the most out of your train trips.

    Make Sure You Are at the Right Train Station

    Since most European cities have multiple train stations, mix-ups can happen. Therefore, check, re-check, and triple check, which station your train leaves from so you don’t join the cast of the confused. Most cities have a few “main” or “central” stations, but also plenty of other stations on the periphery that are big hubs too. Also, don’t assume that the train station you arrived at in a city is the one you will depart town from.

    READ MORE: Japanese Architect Designs ‘Invisible' Train

    As far as alighting from the train, this can be tricky too. The aforementioned suburban stations will typically have a name that sure sounds just like a main station, and this can confuse. If I had a dollar for every person I’ve seen exit a train at the Amsterdam Lelylaan station thinking they were at Amsterdam Centraal, I’d probably have 12-15 bucks right now. Again, check, re-check, and triple check the station before you actually get off the train.

    The 20-Minute Rule

    While an “Amazing Race”-esque last minute dash for a train can be a thrill, do yourself a favor and get to the train station twenty minutes before your chariot departs. My 20-Minute Rule breaks down like this: five minutes to identify what track your train is leaving from, five minutes for a snack or water hustle, five minutes to get to the track, and five minutes to leisurely wait at the platform, daydreaming about how great your next stop is going to be.

    Make Sure You Get on the Right Train

    No-brainer, right? Nope, trains in Europe are sometimes split in half, with one part peeling off during the journey to go somewhere entirely different. Usually, there will be a little piece of paper telling you which cars are heading where, but this didn’t stop us from watching our train to Budapest leave the station because we only bothered to look at the leaflets on the half of the train that wasn’t heading there.

    Bottom line: try to never board a train without using a rail worker (who will usually be standing on the platform) as a sounding board. Just glance in their direction, make eye contact, and say “City Name?,” they will sort out the rest, trust me. Well, don’t literally say “city name”— you know what I mean.

    READ MORE: Take Two Minutes To Enjoy India's Longest Train

    Try to Look the Part

    I know everyone told you to pack comfy clothes, but you should still go ahead and put a little effort in. I have never been more embarrassed than when my buddy and I were traveling in Italy and walked into the train in khaki cargo shorts and white t-shirts (hey, we’re American) to be greeted with the sharpest-dressed set of glamorous folks you’d ever seen. I’m not saying you have to compete with them, but maybe throw on a collared shirt for the ride?

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Worldwide Scott The Adventures of Worldwide Scott

Worldwide Scott Born in the U.S.A like Springsteen but trying to see the world like Pitbull, Worldwide Scott is the voice behind the hard-hitting travel site of the same name. Employing a groundbreaking strategy of visiting destinations, coming home, and then writing things about them on the internet, Worldwide Scott only tackles the tough questions that other writers wouldn't dare touch: Is travelling fun? Are there pretty places in the world? Do people in other countries wear clothes? Does Europe really exist? And if so, what's the beer like there? Stick around, he's going places.
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