In some countries, such as France, having a reservation is strongly advised
Tickets can be bought online, at the counter of a train station, at automated kiosks that take credit cards and sometimes even on the train from the conductor, although in this last case there will generally be a surcharge. Furthermore, on some trains, especially local trains, you are expected to have a ticket beforehand and a substantial fine will be levied if you do not.
Prices vary considerably, depending on when and how you make your purchase, whether you make a round trip or not and whether or not you go first or second class. A little advance planning can make a significant difference to your bank account.
Reservations. In some countries, such as France, having a reservation is strongly advised, even if you have a Eurail pass, because without one you will have trouble finding a seat. In other countries, such as Switzerland, trains will only be full to capacity during peak hours and even then you can stand in the space near the doors. In countries where reservations are advised, the earlier you can arrange them, the better, especially when you are planning a long trip. Although you may be able to do this online or at an automated kiosk, you may be best served by going to a train station with agents who can assist you with making plans.
Keep your ticket ready. You may need to show your ticket, your reservation and even personal identification to the conductor; you should keep these items readily accessible.
Food and drink. Although going to the restaurant car has its charms, sometimes the restaurant car is full, out of things that you want to eat, or closed due to maintenance. Sometimes the pushcart from which you’re planning to buy a coffee never arrives or its selection may be poor. The choices, whatever they are, are frequently more expensive on the train than off of it. Therefore, it is sensible to have a few extra provisions with you, at least for longer trips.
Note that frequently the water supplied in train restrooms is not guaranteed as being safe to drink. You can, however, usually buy bottles of water on the train, or else you can bring your own beverages.
WiFi access. Access to WiFi is changing and can be expected to continue to change. Many railway stations will offer access, frequently for a fee, You may not have access between cities, or if you do, it may only be on certain routes.
Luggage. You can put smaller pieces of luggage in racks above your head, under your seat, or depending on the arrangement of the train, between the seats. Larger pieces will need to be stored near the doors in a section luggage; if you are concerned about theft, you may want to choose a seat with a clear view of the luggage area.
Train types. For those who travel frequently, it can be useful to investigate the different trains in your region. Trains vary considerably. Some offer food and drink; some will have two floors; some will have power outlets; some small regional trains may not even have lavatories.
Cell phones. Cell phone reception has improved dramatically over the last few years, so that service is uninterrupted even in some tunnels. However, if you are entering a part of a country with lots of tunnels, this may not be the time to call any of your clients or your boss.
Note that in some “quiet” cars you are not supposed to use a cellphone. If you do receive a call, you should either end the conversation quickly or move to a part of the train where noise is not restricted. Even in areas not restricted for noise, out of consideration for others it is polite not too speak too long or too loudly.
Remember that even if you do not speak the local language, you should assume that someone around you speaks, or at least understands, English. Be discreet.
Ear plugs or ear phones. Just because you are being considerate with respect to your noise level, does not mean that your fellow passengers will be, especially in cars that are not marked as quiet cars. If you are sensitive you may wish to bring ear plugs or noise-canceling earphones.
Border controls. Just because you’re crossing a border in a train does not mean that you won’t have to show your passport. Occasionally immigration and or customs police check identification and even come through with dogs sniffing for contraband. Of course, most of Europe is control-free with respect to passports, but if you’re American you may still need to show yours.
Train travel in Europe can be efficient, inexpensive, and good for the environment. While on a train, you can view the countryside or read or work. The tips will help make your journeys more comfortable and even fun.