What Your Clients Should Know About Train Travel

Published on Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Follow these tips to give your travelers a great train vacation.Once while traveling in northern British Columbia, my train stop was a couple of cinder blocks and a piece of plywood, identified to passersby with a simple red flag. The lodge we were visiting was a few miles away and this was the most convenient transportation option. Lodge operators picked us up, literally out in the middle of nowhere, and the train picked us up there again a few days later.  No airline would have been able to provide the service.

That’s one of the great things about rail travel. But many North American travelers, so addicted to their private automobiles, are somehow fearful or uncertain about travel by train – and what a shame! It’s such a scenic, low-stress and economical form of travel.

So, encourage your clients to travel as much of the world does – on rails. Here are some tips that will allow them to be more comfortable with this choice.

Rail Services in North America and Europe

In North America, there are basically two rail providers to choose from: Amtrak in the U.S. and Via Rail in Canada. Historically, both rail lines have a relationship with the national parks and growth of tourism in the western half of the continent. Both offer family-friendly sleeping arrangements, national park and hotel packages, and a unique perspective for some of the continent’s most spectacular scenery.

When traveling in Europe, you have a multitude of choices for rail passes and carriers. Eurail.com and RailEurope.com are the two biggies and will take you to nearly 30 countries in all. Compare the sites for the best rates. For German travel, simplify the situation with a visit to www.bahn.com.

In Switzerland, make sure your clients have a Swiss Pass. In addition to unlimited train travel, the pass includes intercity bus routes, ferry and riverboats, and admission to multiple museums around the country. Discounts are offered on many cog railways and funiculars, some special events and festivals. A number of hotel chains also offer discounts for Swiss Pass holders.

Experiencing European Train Travel

European trains are on time, spacious and smoke-free. There's no major security process, so you only need to arrive at the station about 30 minutes before departure. Although weather may cause a few hiccups, Mother Nature rarely shuts down the entire system. Summer season, of course, is busiest.

Train stations in Europe are a destination in themselves. They are often historically relevant and architectural marvels. There is such a multitude of shops and services, restaurants and vendors that even if clients have a long layover between trains or encounter the rare weather delay, there is plenty to do and see.

And, of course, European train stations are often in the center or near the center of town – not like airports that are miles from anything interesting. Good hotels and major attractions are usually within blocks of the train station making a walk with luggage not difficult at all.

Tips for a successful train vacation:

  • Of course, you’ll want your clients to save money by purchasing before they leave home rather than waiting until their arrival in Europe.
  • Public restrooms in European train stations are often identified as WC (water closets). There's often a charge equal to about 50-cents to use them or an attendant who tidies up after each use who expects a tip for his/her services. So keep plenty of Euro coins on hand.
  • Not all trains have a Wi-Fi signal, and some of the routes, particularly in North America, pass through remote areas where cell phone signals are limited. Plan accordingly. Also, note that many cars are designated cell-phone free zones.
  • The train does move and sway a bit, so if your clients are prone to motion sickness, advise them to pack the appropriate medication.
  • Pack light.  Most of the train stations have elevators, but not as many escalators and they may find themselves dragging luggage up or down a couple of flights of stairs.
  • There’s no limit or additional charge on the number of checked bags on the train. Some bags can be in the room with you, some accessible in a lower level storage compartment and others not accessible until you reach your destination.
  • Protect your rail vacation investment with the appropriate level of travel insurance for your needs.

What are your tips for planning a vacation by train travel?

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