Travel the Eurail Train Network Like a Pro!
Eurail trains can whisk you across countries in a matter of hours. Imagine the excitement of going to sleep in one country and waking up in another. Perhaps you can have breakfast, lunch and dinner in 3 different countries. Yep I’ve done it all via the European rail system or Eurail. What you’ve heard is true! It’s a huge transportation network unlike anything else. All different types of trains and each has it’s own personality. My goal is to give an overview of what it’s like to travel Europe as the Europeans do – on the Eurail system of trains.
Imagine traveling without hotel reservations. You wake up this morning and say, “Where should we go today?”, but instead of deciding on the attraction that you’re going to see, you are deciding on the culture that you’re going to immerse yourself in today. Sounds scary to many but for many adventuresome souls it’s the ultimate freedom!
No tour group to meet in the hotel lobby at 7AM
No 6 hour bus rides
Leave anytime you please and stay as long as you like
Don’t miss your favorite site because it’s not on the itinerary – Your write the Itinerary!
Freedom to do
What you want
When you want
Where you want
How you want
You might say, “it’s not that easy” and you’re probably right but it’s not as difficult as it sounds either and traveling without restrictions is 100 times more rewarding.
It just takes an attitude adjustment and a little bit of involvement on your part.
Check your Ego at the Door! – Nobody cares about your Gucci bag or your rolex watch.
In fact, displaying your wealth makes you a target in big cities. Most Europeans have a better fashion sense than we ever will and their stuff isn’t knockoffs.
Kindness and Respect begets Kindness and Respect – There’s a reason for the term “Ugly American” and we have decades of pompous Americans who think that the world revolves around them to overcome but luckily many of our European friends are more understanding than we are. Imagine this. It’s “gift time” at the Clinique counter where you work or the Monday after a holiday weekend at your office and a 58 year old woman comes running up to you at 5 minutes before closing, opens her mouth and says,,,,,”Pouvez vous svp m’aider?”. You look at her with a blank stare thinking “WTF? I just counted out my register and I am starving on this diet”. You do everything in your power to put her off for the last 5 minutes so you can get out on time for once. You might even walk away looking for someone who understands her. Finally, the announcement is made. You say “Sorry, come back tomorrow” and sprint out of the store. The moral? People are people everyone. They don’t hate you, they just have lives besides you.
When in Rome, attempt to speak the language – One of the best tips that I can give you is to learn how to say, “Excuse me, do you speak English?” in the language of the countries that you will be visiting. That one phrase shows that you realize that you are in their country. If they speak English, great! If they don’t, they will often attempt to find someone who does. If all else fails, they will generally try to determine what your awkward words and hand gestures mean.
Shut Up! – Screaming is not the European way, except perhaps in Italy. So don’t go into their country in a pushy, loud, ‘I’m the cat’s meow” way. Example: one busy afternoon, my ex and I were sitting in our seats on the Paris metro speaking softly about something. The doors open and 4 Americans sit in the seats across from us. After a few minutes, one of them addresses us with an embarrassingly loud, “Hot damn, Americans! We’re gonna take over this country!”. I can’t tell you how mortified we were as all of the people in the car looked up from their books or magazines at us.
Be a Cork On The Ocean – When traveling across Europe ala carte, nobody has forged the way and you aren’t paying anyone to handle problems that will inevitably arise, so Chill! This trip isn’t about showing your friends how many European landmarks you’ve taken photos in front of. It’s about being an explorer, a free spirit and experiencing things that few people dare to experience. Sh*t will happen! Bank on it! But remember that what seems like today’s crisis turns into tomorrow’s story. With a little preparation, you can overcome about any situation that will occur. I have lost my passport while abroad, been accidentally separated from my travel partner and slept on the streets of Milan but I had a contingency plan to address each possibility and you will too if you stick with me.
Involvement on Your Part
Book Your Own Tickets – When you take a group tour, your tickets are part of a package for which you pay dearly. You’re gonna have to book your own airfare and Eurail passes but I am here to help and in future articles you will learn all about how to get more for your money when booking a European vacation.
Read and LISTEN – If you’re gonna do this, listen to those that have done it before. The number one thing that most people won’t heed – advise on luggage and packing! My job is to share what I’ve learned the hard way. I may advise you to do things that you don’t think are necessary. Maybe you have a friend that has talked to people that have backpacked Europe and you are tempted to listen to them. If your friend has backpacked Europe 29 times, then I’d listen to them. Otherwise, I’d stick with the plan.
Carry Your Own Bags – You need to know up front that this is not a 5 star holiday. There is no valet to carry your bags. This is adventure travel and you will need to be fit enough to walk around large cities and use public transportation. I can dispel the notion that backpacking Europe means walking across the continent and sleeping under the stars. The best way that I can explain it is that you will:
get off an airplane
get your “ONE” bag
get on a train
arrive at a cool city like Amsterdam
go to the Tourist information office (at the train station)
find a hotel
take a bus, cab (if you’re splurging) or walk to your hotel
check in and drop off your bag
go sightseeing via an underground system, bus or your own two feet.
Sleep On The Train – The availability of sleeping accommodations on European trains varies from private rooms on the Orient Express to seats that recline on the Spanish state railway system. For those true adventurers, sleeping on the Eurail will allow you to:
maximize the number of countries and cities that you can visit
save thousands of dollars in hotel and restaurant costs
meet and become friends with people from all over the world
journal and plan the next days fun
make love on a train (LOL)
You’re on Your Way
If you can put your mind in an open state and commit to doing the foot work that it takes to travel Europe like a free spirit, then you are already on your way because the excitement begins now. As you continue to research and plan your trip, you will feel the excitement of anticipation. Each and every day before you step onto that plane, you will learn something new. You will make preparations, shop for supplies, and make decisions regarding your itinerary. There is much to learn and in my upcoming articles, you will learn everything that you need to know including booking, packing, getting around, favorite sights, safety, suggested itineraries, Cork’s favorite places and parties and lots of other stuff.
“If You’re not living on the edge, you’re taking up too much space!”
Cork is a seasoned traveler who has visited 16 countries numerous times on her 27 backpacking adventures. With no room reservations, one backpack, a roundtrip airline ticket and a 15 day unlimited Eurail pass, she sleeps on trains, picnics in fabulous locations, and creates experiences that few people dare to try. In a series of articles, she explains everything that adventurers need to know from planning the basic itinerary to reading train timetables.