Eurail day 7: Padua to Innsbruck, How to avoid train reservations
Today is a travel day, making my way on the train from Padua in Italy to Innsbruck in Austria. A lot of people don’t know before they board a train whether or not they require a reservation, and if they’re on a budget they probably will want to avoid them altogether.
One of the greatest challenges of travelling one budget of €15 a day is how to keep all your costs down, which means having to do things the less convenient way. Instead of relying on the convenience of restaurants, you have to buy and cook all your meals. Instead of doing really expensive tours led by guides, you have to do all the research yourself and fashion your own tour. And the same goes for rail travel. You may think that because you have a Eurail pass that you aren’t subject to extra costs, but sometimes you are. Here’s the skinny on fees, how to avoid them, and how to save money without skimping on fun.
Your Eurail global pass covers all of your travel throughout 23 countries. So instead of buying point to point tickets, and blowing a lot of hard earned coinage on them, you save a lot by paying the flat rate for the pass. However, there are some extra fees on trains you may not know about.
The first comes with night trains. I’ve taken many night trains on my adventures throughout Europe, and they are amazing. You get a lovely warm bunk to stretch out in (they call them Couchettes), a great nights rest gazing up at the stars beyond the mountains, and in the morning, you get a filling breakfast. However, that Couchette isn’t included in the price of your Eurail pass. Every time I have slept in a Couchette, I had to pay an extra €20 for the privilege.
The second comes with regular reservations. On most high speed trains (and almost all of Italy’s trains ), you need to make a reservation for your seat, which pays for the privilege of speed and covering a lot of ground in no time at all.
To avoid paying these two extra fees if you’re on a budget, or even if you’re doing a €15 a day adventure like me, here are some tried and tested tips.
No night trains
As much as it pains me to say it because they’re so wonderful, paying for that Couchette is out of the question. €20 is more than my allotted budget per day, so you will have to travel only during the day if you want to save.
Take local trains
It’s the high speed international trains that charge you the highest reservation fees. If you only take the slower local trains, you can almost certainly avoid reservations. Recently, I took only local trains to get from Ljubljana in Slovenia to Padua in Italy. I could have taken the direct route but it would have cost me a reservation fee. My chosen route ended up being:
Ljubljana to Villach Hauptbahnhof
Villach hbf to Udine
Udine to Venezia Mestre
VE Mestre to Padova.
You can read my blog post about that journey here
Take the scenic route
With the slower, local day trains comes huge benefits beyond saving money. You get to enjoy incredible scenery. My journey to Padova mentioned above took me to villages I never would have seen otherwise, and through mountains, valleys, lakes and streams, all the most dazzling colours, featuring wonderful wildlife and quaint stone cottages with terracotta roofs only found in Europe. It’s an experience that you wouldn’t have had otherwise, and your journey will be all the ore richer for having done it. Remember, it’s about the journey, not the destination.
Be spontaneous and flexible
You cannot be rigid with your plans if you’re living off €15 a day! You need to be flexible with your travel times and maintain a positive attitude. Just remember where you are and get in the spirit of things. This is no time to pull a moody because you missed a train or because there’s no direct train to your destination. When you arrive at the train station in the morning, check the departures board. Is there another train headed for another city that will be stopping along the way at your destination? Or, is there a train heading to a town not far from your destination? This is when your Eurail map, which comes with your pass, is really handy. Pull out your map and see what other routes you could take in order to reach your destination.
Have a stopover
Instead of taking the direct train from Amsterdam to Brussels, why not take several trains so you can explore Rotterdam and Antwerp along the way. You’ve heard so much about these cities, it would be a shame to just pass them by without stopping to explore them!
Check the DBahn website
Germany’s national rail service Deutsche Bahn (or DBahn for short) has an amazing website that lists all of the trains schedules in Europe. You can search for direct or indirect routes to almost every city on the continent, and it will also tell you if a reservation is required for any selected route,or particular leg of your journey. It is so detailed, sometimes the website even knows what platform you will depart from or arrive on. It tells you how long your stopovers are, and minute details like if you can bring a bicycle on board. Not travelling with your laptop? Then download the free iPhone app (insert link), which also works on iPads. They also have apps for Blackberries and androids. I have been using that app almost exclusively for my journey and so far every detail has been exact and current and reliable.
For more information on how to avoid reservation fees, check out what Eurail.com has to say here.
Happy travelling and safe journey, my little budgeteers!
Here’s how I spent my money today