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How do you know when to get off the train?

I have only been on train once (Amtrak to Oregon, non-stop)
So I am not sure how you know, in Europe, when to get off the train. Do they announce all the stops? Is it over a loudspeaker? Is it easy to hear? Do you go and stand by the door? How long to they stop? What if you only have 5 minutes to get to the next train? I'm just a little nervous, haha :) we are leaving in 2 weeks! Thanks!

Posted by
6898 posts

This is the fun part. First, the little window on the top/front of the engine shows the destination of the train. Your destination may be somewhere on the line but you need to know where. Also, when you change trains, your next train is often in the station on another platform. Run, Run. Down the stairs, up the stairs. Don't worry, you'll make it. Mostly, the connection is not there yet. Second, they do not usually announce the stops. You need to know where you need to get off. As mentioned above, go onto www.trenitalia.com/en/index.html and work out your expected schedule. Print them out. While online looking at the schedule select details and click on the train number. A listing of all stops will appear. Print them out. (I have to go to a second message)

Posted by
3313 posts

It varies by train though usually there's a loudspeaker. All stations have signs, spaced along the tracks as you arrive into a station.

You might also find a way to let your fellow passengers know the stop you're looking for. As you stop in one station on the way out of Paris, for example, turn to the woman across the aisle and say "Pardon, Rouen?", even though you know it's not. She'll shake her head no, but I'll bet she'll let you know when you are arriving in Rouen.

The trains stop for only a short time, but there are conductors watching for passengers still disembarking.

5 minutes to connect with another train is usually plenty.

Posted by
389 posts

I've been with you. The length of stop is often related to the size of the station. If you are stopping in a little town between Paris and Munich I'd be standing at the door. A 1 minute stop is not unusual. If you are going to the end stop you can relax although you'll see many people at the doors. They do announce the stops, but I like to carry a rail map (got one with my Eurail pass) so that I know which stops come right before the one I want. Also, if you look up your trip on one of the train web sites they will give you the list of stops. Watch for the one before where you want off and then you can be prepared.

Posted by
1164 posts

In the information offices of many train stations you can also pick up a timetable for the route you will be on. This will list all of the stops and the scheduled arrival times.

Posted by
206 posts

We rode the train in Italy, and almost all stops were scheduled for one or two minutes. We found that the announcement of stops was very spotty. I'm not sure if the loud speakers didn't work well, or if the person announcing just wasn't consistent. Also, the names of places can sound quite different than you had imagined if you don't speak the language. I printed out the scheduled stops from the Italian rail web site before leaving, so I knew pretty closely when we would be stopping where. I found that helpful. Usually the stations names are pretty well marked, so you can see which stations you are stopped at or passing by.

Posted by
32 posts

On some trains you will find train schedules on the seats that explain the whole route of the train. Also, on the side of the trains the routing is usually posted. Asking other passengers about when your stop is a great ice breaker too. Have a great trip on the train and don't be nervous about asking questions at the station.

Posted by
1449 posts

one of the hidden joys of train travel is the chance to interact with locals; on many trains the 2 rows of benches face each other. Unlike most of the US, Europe has a well developed train system and locals take it everywhere. One of my best memories from a recent trip was using a guide book and having a stilted but fun conversation with a couple sitting across from us. And part of talking is saying "I'm getting off at X" and they'll be happy to tell you when it's your stop.

So for the stops, learn in advance how to ask in the appropriate language "is this the X stop?" Also you can look up the train stops in advance; find out the 2 prior to the one you need. If you know when your train arrives then just sit back and relax until 15 minutes or so before arrival, then start looking for the stations. When you arrive in each station look out the window because they will have the station marked on signs.

Posted by
1620 posts

As said previously, getting the train schedules ahead of time is extremely helpful. I print the train schedules using Rick Steves' website before I leave the States. Check out "plan your rail trip" under "rail pass store". I usually have an idea of the route, the day, and the approximate time we want to travel. On the train schedule, when you click on "show details" and then click on "show intermediate stops" you will get a complete listing of all the stops that train will make. One other point, make sure the car you are on is going to your destination. During a longer trip, maybe Munich to Mainz, cars may detach from the rest of the train to go onto another destination. There will be a sign on the outside of the car you are boarding indicating its destination. Have fun!

Posted by
6898 posts

Now that you have your list of train numbers and times, there is this wonderful train schedule posted in several places in the large train stations and at least in one place in every station that provides you with information on every train leaving that station during a 24-hour period. Nobody tells you this but it's on an approx. 30"x30" piece of paper behind glass. All trains are listed by the hour it leaves. Thus, the schedule is displayed in hours of the day. It not only shows the time the trains leave during that hour, it also shows every stop that that train will make on it's journey and the name of the last stop which appears on the train (it's destination). Most importantly, it tells you the platform and track number of departure. It is so informative, you will laugh yourself silly on how easy this is. Just jump off the train, head for the schedule, look up your next time and train number and note the platform and track. Your off on the next one.

Posted by
3580 posts

Know what time you should arrive at your chosen station; there are signs as you approach a station naming the station; the name of the station is at the atation on the wall or depot building. Don't expect stations to be announced. Some stops are very brief. Be prepared before your stop. If you have only 5 min between trains, there is a good chance you will miss your connection, as I have. It helps to be prepared ahead of time to be the first off the train. Often there will be a long slow line of people bearing luggage ahead of you and it may take 5 min to get off the train. Most stations have monitors showing trains and which track to find. In some countries the train schedules are more reliable than others. In Italy, they are often late. If you miss your connection, know that there is always a backup strategy available, even if it means spending the night somewhere besides where you have your reservation. My advice is: leave half an hour between connections. Orient yourself.

Posted by
95 posts

Jenny,

Go ahead and breathe a sigh of relief! Fabulous advice posted here! Your concern perhaps, is the "unknown". Once you arrive and conquer your first trip, you will realize how easy and fun train travel in Europe will be. Then you can sit back, relax, and realize there's no further need to worry.
I live in Maine, a rural area, and never utilized public transport. I truly did not have a clue! My first trip abroad was with my mom, (as much a novice as I was), a backpack, a Eurailpass, and just the first night reservation at a hotel. Looking back, I realized we stumbled around a bit, wasted some time, but train travel was not one of them. We gained some incredible memories from our inexperience, too. Heed the advice given here, relax, have fun, and enjoy!

Posted by
1568 posts

This is what I prepared for our 8 week trip to Europe.
Using a thin Report Binder, I had tabs for each travel day for example:
(Tab) Munich..just prior to leaving home I printed out the train schedules for the day. That way we could depart Salzburg when we wanted. The timetables will show you intermediate stops along the way, the arrival and departure of each stop. Therefore, we knew in advance when we were approaching Munich.
Also under the tab for Munich...I had a copy of the web page of where we were staying, directions, address, telephone # and email address (to reconfirm reservations prior to leaving Salzburg), etc.
And under that tab I had info on sites we wanted to visit.

It took 4 small report binders to cover our entire 8 weeks and what a life saver!! Just prior to leaving Munich we would toss out the Munich section.

Posted by
30770 posts

Jenny,

Lots of great advice so far!

I normally research my transportation options when I'm planning my trip, and list the departure and arrival times of each train I'll be using on my Itinerary (as well as the Platform No., although this always changes).

Since I know the duration of the journey and what time the train departed, I just disembark at the appropriate time. I also "double check" by listening to the PA messages, but often these aren't too clear so can't be relied on (also the "language issue"). I also ask other passengers or officials if necessary.

I try to pick routes that have minimal changes (although I've had as many as 5 changes), but it's a good idea to move quickly when changing trains! Often this involves going down in a short tunnel and then back to a different platform (DON'T cross tracks!). I'd highly recommend that you "pack light"! The time between changes is often > 5 minutes, but it takes a few minutes to locate the correct train & track number.

Posted by
80 posts

Thanks so much everyone! I called EurAide and they helped me with all of my trains on the continent. The trains in the UK I will have to take care of myself. Herman (from EurAide) printed out each train time, number, and changes. He also made reservations for me! I love the idea of taking a folder with all your info in it, thanks!
Now I can relax a bit!

Posted by
258 posts

Thanks for the folder idea! I'm going to do that too...and when I through out the train schedules I'll put souvenier things like fliers and pamphlets in there so I can scrapbook them when I get home and they won't be tattered or bent :)

Posted by
525 posts

Thanks for the ideas of the train schedules. I take all my 8-1/2x11 pages of itinerary and info and reduce it to 75% and put in the plastic sleeves of a 5x7 photo album. It is smaller and compact to carry. When typing your information you need to pay attention to the margins but I've used this method for several European trips.
Asking locals where your stop is opens up to the great conversations you can have and learn more about where you are visiting. Thanks again for the info.

Posted by
342 posts

I print daily schedules on business cards - one copy for my pocket, one for my wife, and one in the suitcase. WHen the day is over, I throw that card away.

Posted by
505 posts

Greetings
A few other pointers:

Occasionally not all cars of a train will end up at the same destination, so double check if there are different signs on some train cars.

Also, quite often in the UK and not infrequently in other countries, you have to press a button to open the door. Usually the button or an indicator next to it will light up when the train is safely stopped in the station.

Trains will generally stop in large stations for up to 10 minutes, but small stations stops can be just long enough to get everyone off and on. If you are concerned about getting off, just make sure you are at the door by the time the train arrives at the station. At the first station, doors often shut up to a minute prior to departure time, so arrive early.

Transfer time depends on the country - 5 minutes is more than enough time in Switzerland, but can be tight in other places.

Have fun!
Kate

Posted by
4699 posts

In addition to all of the good advice, Printing a schedule also gives you the actual name of the station. Many stories about people getting off at a station in the outskirts of town, as soon as they saw the town name on a sign. It also helps in knowing which stations are just preceding your stop, so you are ready to go when there.

Posted by
3580 posts

You can check the Departures (Partenza in Italy) board before boarding your train. Note the towns with times along the way. You can usually figure out which town is the one before your stop.

Posted by
221 posts

these are all good points and I got a few new ones. Packing light is crucial as is expecting there will be some missed connections...and some countries have more efficient service than others. Germany and Austria, the UK and Scotland, all great! I am a little nervous about my upcoming Italian train schedule but some of these tips will help. Also, I know I got a free train travel tips DVD when I bought something from ETBD a few years ago, maybe contact the office and see what the cost is. It was very helpful..

Posted by
30770 posts

JB,

I've found from experience that the Platform No.'s are often just a "guideline" (especially in Italy!). I usually check the large printed chart of arrivals & departures when I arrive at a station, to see which Platform my train is leaving from. I always double-check the printed chart against the electronic sign boards, just to make sure.

The track no. frequently changes for some reason, and I've found that it's often good logic to "follow the crowd". There's also the matter of boarding the correct coach no. and getting the right seat no. (if a reserved trip).

I've also found that the reservations system isn't without difficulties. Last fall I boarded a train (again in Italy) with a reservation and found someone already sitting in my spot. He also had a reservation for the same seat! In that case, I suppose the rule is "first come, first served", so I had to find an empty seat.

Travels in Europe can certainly be interesting!

Posted by
1 posts

A related question -- if traveling first class in Italy, do you keep your luggage with you on the train (is there floor space or an overhead bin like on an airline) or do you "check" it into another compartment (like on a bus)? Obviously, I've never "ridden the rails" before.

Posted by
1568 posts

Ken, glad you memtioned the Platform #s. We also had the platform #s included on the daily train schedules. That way you know what your arrival and departure platforms are and can plan accordingly if your connection is tight.

Excellent advice everyone.

Posted by
103 posts

and you can always ask your seat mates.. we found that the locals who were traveling with us for business or just touring Italy as we were, LOVED to talk to Americans and were extremly gracious and helpful. I only speak "menu" Italian but somehow with enough hand signals and laughter we always found our way.