European Train Travel?

Old Oct 30th, 2006, 09:09 AM
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European Train Travel?

I will be traveling in Central Europe this coming spring and have a couple of questions regarding train travel. I'm sure these are pretty simple for the seasoned traveler but not having used the trains in Europe, I'm a little anxious about the process. First off what do you do with your luggage while on the train? Is there a place that it can be secured or is there room to keep it with you? Also, I've read a couple of posts where individuals had a hard time communicating with the ticket agents, any recommendations on how to handle that? At the station are the tracks or departure points marked in a way that an English speaking/reading individual can navigate where to go without too many problems? I will first be traveling from Budapest to Vienna, then a few days latter going from Vienna to Cesky Krumlov in the Czech Republic, which has a train change in Ceske Budejovice. Any pointers would be appreciated.
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Old Oct 30th, 2006, 09:47 AM
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You deal with your own luggage and keep it with you (that's why you'll see a single small rolling suitcases most often recommended for train travel).

There may be room in an overhead rack above your seat, or behind/between seats, or you may need to leave it on the luggage rack that is at the end of each car, right as you get on.

Well nothing's in English, but I have not had a problem finding the correct train, but my experience is not in your part of Europe so I guess I will refrain from answering that part.

I would ask if the ticket agent speaks English, or if they do not, is there another person does (and go to that line).
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Old Oct 30th, 2006, 09:58 AM
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Yes, there is a rack above the seat and I placed my luggage up there. However, I almost watched a few American girls drop their luggage on someone's head, so don't hesitate to ask for help. I have helped many people put their luggage above them. There is also a place at the beginning of the train car, but I wouldn't put any valuables in that suitcase.
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Old Oct 30th, 2006, 10:10 AM
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English speaking agents are common at major hubs but not smaller stations.

Most guidebooks have a section on Transportation, including critical words related to train travel. Get some good books, learn a few words and copy the pages you may need. You'll also want to research finding the platform, punching tickets b/4 boarding, which car-coach?, etc.

The first few times, leave yourself ample time at the station to get the hang of things. Watch what other travellers do when their train is announced. It's not hard, just a little scary at first because there's usually a very short time from boarding announcement to departure.
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Old Oct 30th, 2006, 10:13 AM
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Hi T,

>I've read a couple of posts where individuals had a hard time communicating with the ticket agents, any recommendations on how to handle that?<

Print out the schedule and train number to hand to the ticket agent. See www.bahn.de.

Bring a small spiral notebook and a pen for people to write down numbers and such for you.

Have a nice visit.

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Old Oct 30th, 2006, 11:23 AM
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I told my hotel receptionist what train I wanted, what type (2nd class) and so on. She wrote it all down for me and I simply handed that paper to the agent at the train station. He showed me the ticket through the window and I saw the price to pay on it.
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Old Oct 30th, 2006, 11:37 AM
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Also once you have a ticket in hand and are on a platform, you can show your ticket to an approachable looking local, or someone who appears to be working at the train station, with a questioning look on your face. Likely, they'll point you in the right direction.
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Old Oct 30th, 2006, 11:50 AM
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On my first trip to Europe in late-90's, the level of helpfulness & the effect of language issues worsened from Germany (unbelievably helpful & actually apologetic about not being able to book us all the way to Madrid) to Italy (a lot of pointing) to France (being ignored, then rudely "helped" in Nice) then on to Spain (where my California Spanglish really didn't help much). On our 2nd trip, we bought each leg of our trip individually at the major train stations, and travelled without much incident.

The one tip I'd offer is that - if you're planning to travel by rail pass - be fully aware of your responsibilities for "cancelling" your pass each day of travel. We were scolded, but not fined, at 6 a.m. by a Spanish conductor as we neared Barcelona - all for not cancelling that day's travel on our Eurrail pass that morning after a through-the-night trip from hell from Nice. To call it the worst travel day ever is premature, but it was my wife's worst birthday on record!
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Old Oct 30th, 2006, 12:13 PM
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You won't have any trouble with the luggage, you'll figure that out. Trains are different, but you'll find a place to put it.

As for the other, if you aren't familiar with train travel, I would be a little anxious, also, as I've just taken some trains in the Czech Republic and Poland and even I accidentally got on the wrong train once. And I've been on many trains, and even know some Czech and Polish words. Which was lucky, as when I realized my mistake, I could communicate with the agent and the ticket seller in the small town where I got off to turn around to go back (I got on a train going south rather than north). It was a dumb mistake on my part, I don't know why I was in such a fog == two trains were departing simultaneously and for some reason I got on the one on one side of the platform rather than the other, even though I know better where to find the train numbers (overhead signs). I just wasn't thinking well.

A lot of the information in Czech rail stations is not in English, so you should learn a few words for some things -- like platform. The general method is similar in many train stations, though, you find a board with the trains and numbers on it, it will eventually post the platform number and you go there. You just do need to be careful when there are trains next to each other or platforms with two numbers (ie, 11A and 11B or something) or things like that. Also be careful you don't get on the wrong train when you are on the right platform, as sometimes two trains may be using it within 10-15 minutes of each other.

YOu have to really be careful and find the train number on a door or on the car or something. Some of the words on the train I got on were in Czech and I didn't recognize them, so I just didn't pay attention, which was kind of dumb, as it was the train number but a different one than I needed.

I don't think you'll have much trouble in Vienna, although those guys in there where I bought tickets didn't speak much English and I know German less than Czech. In any case, as for Czech rail stations, I am sorry to tell you but no, all tracks and signs are not marked clearly that an English-speaking person would understand them.
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Old Oct 30th, 2006, 12:26 PM
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I am not sure about that part of Europe but there are areas where the train separates, so you need to pay attention as to which car you are in. Many years ago I had an overnight train from Split, thinking I was going to northern Italy, but I ended up in asleep on a train in a rail yard, still in Yugoslavia- kind of freaked me out to be woken up by the ladies mopping the train!
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Old Oct 30th, 2006, 12:51 PM
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For a good illustrated introduction to the trains of Europe go to
http://www.enjoy-europe.com/hte/chap17/rail.htm.

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Old Oct 30th, 2006, 01:00 PM
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Are you taking the 10:10 departure from Ceske Budejovice? If so, that train originates at that station.

If you have an hour between trains it shouldn't be a problem. You may see the train being pushed (or pulled) into the station.

It will help if you become familiar with the posted departure boards that are found in every rail station (I'm not talking about the elctronic ones although those are the most easily seen and read). Each board lists every departure from that particular staion by time. What you need to do is look down the list of times until you come to yours and you'll see which track the train is scheduled to depart from. This can sometimes change but the boards are usually accurate.
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Old Oct 30th, 2006, 01:27 PM
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Thanks to all of you for the information, it helps but I'm still somewhat anxious about the whole process, however I'm sure I'll figure it out.

unaS: That's a great idea about having the someone at the hotel write out our travel plans for the ticket agent.

Dukey: Yes the train out of Ceske Budijovice departs at 10:10, looks like it arrives there at 09:52, so we would 15+ minutes to make the change, which should give us time to figure it out.
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Old Oct 30th, 2006, 04:45 PM
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One helpful phrase to learn: "Will you help me, please?". It's great when you can spot a local waiting for the same train.

After buying our tickets, we walk along the platforms and familiarize ourselves with how they are numbered. Then, when the board posts our departure platform, we know where to go.

I haven't gone to that website above, but check and see if it tells you how the car numbers are posted on each coach. You want to board the right car as well as the right train.
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Old Oct 31st, 2006, 05:33 PM
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I was in Eastern Europe last week (Budapest, Vienna, & Prague). I did not encounter any communication problems, since the international ticket station for each city was staffed by english speakers. When you look for your destination on the board, it might not be listed, because the train stations list the end destination. When you book your train tickets, pay the extra few dollars and get a seat reservation. We made the mistake from Budapest to Vienna, and the train was full, so we had to sit in the smoking section... Europeans love to smoke. In regards to the train transfer, once you get to the train station, go inside the main building and look at the board for the track number.
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