Long favoured by Europeans over planes (although this has changed recently), the act of riding the rails is a cultural experience in itself.
This is especially true in Central Europe, as many locals continue to rely on this mode of transport for business and pleasure. In this blog, we’ll share several tips which will help you enjoy train travel in this part of the EU with minimal issues.
1) Book as you go with national railroad companies
Many travellers choose to plot out all their movements well ahead of time. In doing so, they will often buy a rail pass before heading to Europe.
However, it is often cheaper to book trains one at a time, as you may end up using a Eurail pass far less than you might expect.
In order to get your money’s worth from these promotions, you need be the type of traveller who madly dashes from one city to the next, trying to see all of Central Europe in a two week period.
If you like to spend at least 3-4 days to get a feel for a destination, you are better off booking one train trip at a time. To maximise savings, travel with national railroad companies over their private competition.
Whilst they may not be as fancy or fast as the young upstarts they operate against, government funding ensures fares remain low, allowing you to save your travel funds for activities, good eats, and nightlife.
2) Download a language translation app
In Central Europe, English signs and speakers can be hard to find. To facilitate communication when buying tickets, ordering food, or attempting to understand train schedules, it is essential you download a translation app on your smartphone.
The person you are attempting to speak with doesn’t even have to type, as these apps often come with voice recognition.
This allows them to speak into your phone, transcribing what they say into English. As for schedules, the optical scanner in your phone can take unfamiliar text and translate it within seconds.
This way, you’ll save valuable time and your sanity when communicating with rail employees, and you’ll avoid the embarrassing mistake of misreading a sign.
3) Ride the rails at night and save money
Although they are disappearing from schedules across the continent, you’ll still find night routes in Central Europe – this includes the train from Prague to Vienna, which departs just before Midnight and arrives in Wien by 7 or 8 am.
Why take a night train? Apart from saving you a night’s accommodation, it is a rite of passage. Nothing is more fun than having the gentle movement of a train carriage rock you to sleep. When you awake, you’ll rise to a brand new European city waiting to be explored.
4) Make certain you are sitting in the right car
Before you get settled into your seat, double check your ticket and the number/name of the carriage you are in. You may think it doesn’t matter, but it does. Many trains in Central Europe will split in half at some point in their journey, with each unit speeding off to a different place.
If you are on the wrong end when this happens, expect to find yourself hundreds of kilometres away from your intended destination – oops!