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Changing Trains

Forgive me if this question has been posted before, I'm new to all things train/Europe :)

If I have to change trains during a trip, is anywhere between 8-15 minutes enough time?

I'm currently looking at schedules on the DB Bahn website for a train from Vienna to Ljubljana.

At the point we need to change trains (in Villach), we have 6 minutes to get from platform 4 to 5b. I understand that trains in Europe run on-time and this doesn't seem like enough time to switch trains. Granted all I know are airports and having to transfer between flights, so train stations could be much easier...

Can anyone offer me advice on how much time it takes to change trains? What should first timers in the Europe train system be anticipating?

Thanks in advance :)

Posted by
22977 posts

I would do it because I have done it before but for someone like yourself it could be tight. You would have to be ready to jump off the train when it stopped and find the next platform which could be the next train over. If you have an open ticket and you miss it, you would just get the next train. But if you have reserved seats, then you might plan a little wider transfer time. Tim will probably have a better recommendation.

Posted by
349 posts

What is the downside if you dont make connection. If I had a sleeper car or hotel based on that connection not worth it but I have made many short connections but waited 45 min for a late one also.

Posted by
32104 posts


The time allowed to change trains is normally more than adequate; Europeans deal with this every day. The first suggestion I'd make is to pack light! You may have to reach the next track by going down stairs, through a tunnel and then up stairs to the next platform. If you're using a "wheelie bag", you'll probably be travelling a bit slower than (for example) someone with a Backpack.

I'd highly recommend that you read the "Rail Skills" chapter in Europe Through The Back Door as that provides a lot of information on "all things train/Europe". You could also download the free PDF Rail Guide from this website.

It's always a good idea to quickly check the electronic sign boards to confirm that your train is in fact leaving from the Platform specified. If you're travelling with reserved seats, you'll also have to locate your Car No.

Some trains in Europe run "on time" but not all. I've found that Germany / Austria / Switzerland are usually quite punctual (especially Switzerland!), but other countries that's not always the case.

Hope this helps. Good luck and happy travels!

Posted by
503 posts

Our strategy besides packing light was to sit near the end of the car so we could be one of the first people off the train. That can save you valuable minutes if you are stuck in the middle of the car. We learned very quickly that once off we headed straight for the nearest board to verify the track our train was leaving from. If it's a reserved seat and you are real tight on time and haven't found your car yet, get on the train and once things settle down you can go to your seat (but stay out of others ways so they can get on). Better than missing the train as you walk down the outside of the train!

Posted by
1353 posts

We've traveled all over Europe by train. Many times the connection time is only 3 or 4 minutes. We never missed a train. One of the things I do to ensure this is to go to the DB website before our trip - select the trips we will be taking on the day we will be taking them select view details and then print it out and take it with us. Not only will this tell you which stops the train will make, but it will also tell you the arriving / departing track numbers.

Unless you are elderly and not able to move at a reasonable speed 8 minutes should be more than enough time.

Posted by
15 posts

Thanks for the advice everyone, we appreciate it :D

We're backpacking it, so I'm happy to hear that will provide us an advantage in getting around.

I suppose part of my trepidation was because I was envisioning having to wait around for someone to unload our luggage a la an airplane..hehe...what can I say..Mondays!

Anyway, I'm sure I'll ask many more questions along my planning journey!

Thanks again :)

Posted by
18936 posts

Lisa, in most stations (but not always), tracks 1 & 2 are next to each other, but they have separate platforms. Tracks 2 & 3, 4 & 5, etc share platforms. So, track 5 will be across the platform from track 4 (5b just indicates it will be a short train and only occupy one end the platform). If you have 6 minutes, the chances are that the second train will not even have arrived when you do. When it does, just walk across the platform and get on.

Posted by
18936 posts

I was envisioning having to wait around for someone to unload our luggage .

On a train, you are responsible for your own luggage (so pack light).

Know the schedule. It helps to know when you will arrive at the station, and the previous station. As you near your transfer station, get up, collect your luggage, and move to the end of the car. When the train stops, the boarding passenger will probably allow you to get off first, but after that it will be like a salmon swimming upstream. Get off as soon as the train stops and proceed directly to the next platform. If you stay with the herd, you shouldn't have any problems. The conductor stands on the platform and watches the people board. He isn't going to release the train while people are boarding.

Posted by
473 posts

When you want to exit the train, you'll have to open the door yourself. There is a wide variety of buttons, knobs, and levers on train car doors which activate the door-opening mechanism. Thus, to avoid fumbling with the door, it would be a good idea to observe other people opening the door before you get to your stop. Take it from somebody who's been there. It's a bit embarrassing to stand there, waiting for the door to open, not realizing that since you're closest to the door, you are the person who should be opening the door.

Posted by
386 posts

that's excellent advice, I wouldn't have thought to mention that! Good one!

Posted by
668 posts

All good advice. We did this for teh first time in 2005 and did not believe the short time changes, but we never missed a train, including Milan where we did not realise the local train came in at the "same station" but round teh corner and across teh square from teh intercity we were changing to. We only had 12 minutes, and including finding someone early on a Sunday morning to give is directions, we still had time to buy a sandwich before getting on the train.

Be careful of the "5b" as someone said it may be a short train, but it could also be a long train where only the part that is at 5b is going to where you want to go.

Posted by
1358 posts

Sounds like enough time to me. And based on my experience, it should be. When you arrive at the station where you change, ask someone on the platform
where your train leaves from.

And before you board your car ask someone if it is the correct car to go where you want to go. Watch for the no smoking sign on the side of the car.

As you sit on the train watch how others open the door to depart so you will know how to do it when you leave.

Also ask someone if the car you are in will go to your destination. Never assume anything when traveling in Europe.

Posted by
5312 posts

Hi Lisa,
I changed in Villach for a train to Ljubljana last May. Changing tracks should definitely be doable there. I just have one caution. Check the departures board for Ljubljana just to confirm the track when you got off the train. I happened to be traveling when they were doing work on the track and when I arrived in Villach, instead of a track, the sign read "Autobus". I had to go outside of the station and switch to the bus which took us a couple stops until we got back on the train. I was told the bus is not the norm, but this definitely caught me offguard.