Nowadays, everyone is used to taking an airplane to travel the world.
However, I remember that when I was little, my family and I used to take the night train to France for our holidays.
I always enjoyed those trips and when I heard about the Trans-Siberian Express for the first time, I immidiately got triggered by it and it of course got a spot on my bucket list.
Last year, I finally found someone who wanted to go on that adventure with me! 🙂
Now there are a couple of tips I can give you when travelling by train.
Because, like you can imagine, travelling by train is slightly different from travelling by plane 😉
1. Wear comfortable clothing –> Ok, this also counts for travel by plane, but in the train you can even overdo it a little bit. The heating in the train is often generally regulated (or your companions might have a different feeling about what is cold/hot), so even in winter it can be interesting to bring shorts and t-shirts. Oh, and if you don’t like to get changed with others around you or in a dirty toilet, you might consider wearing layers (actually that is what you better always do). Or you can of course just ask your temporary roommates to wait outside for a moment, which already gives you a common subject to talk about as well. Flip Flops also come in very handy, since you can use them to walk around the train and go to the (sometimes dirty) bathroom. Whether you get changed into pajamas at nigth is your own choice of course. Some people prefer to sleep like that or just take some clothes off, others change their clothing completely.
2. Take your time –> Your train ride is probably going to take a while, so take your time to install properly and you will enjoy the ride 10 times more 🙂 Life on a train is relaxed, nobody is in a hurry and everyone can move freely. Enjoy!
3. Be prepared –> It is better to prepare a small backpack with everything you will need during the trip. Sleeping cabins are generally not that big, so moving around with your luggage is not very easy. So if you can immediately put your luggage away, you can just keep your backpack with you and everyone will have enough space to do the same thing. Furthermore, if you suddenlty realize you need something out of your luggage, it will be hard to get it out, taking into account the tiny space and other luggage probably packed on top. What to put in your little backpack? See below.
4. Be safe –> So far, I luckily never had the problem, and I am very thankful for that. However, I have heard many stories of fellow travellers about stealing in the train. People know that when you travel by train, you have all your valuables with you. So keep those belongings closely with you all the time! I used to laugh at the little pockets that travellers wear under their clothes, but they have proven to be very valuable. Even if you are sleeping you can easily keep your passports safe like that. Another option is to put money and passports in the pillow cover when sleeping.
5. Enjoy the scenery –> You do not choose to travel by train because it’s fast. No, you go by train to enjoy every part of your travel, including the journey. If you travel by train you pass amazing sceneries that most people will never see. Many railroads have been built a long time ago and go through almost inhabitant areas. So take your time to look through the window and stare… Start daydreaming, enjoy the purity of nature, enjoy the small villages, the bigger cities, … Enjoy every aspect of your travel!
6. Make friends –> When you are travelling by train, you meet many interesting people. You never know beforehand who you are going to sleep together with, so it is always a bit exciting to see who you will end up with. And I can tell you that all kind of people use the train for travel. I have met fellow backpackers, lawyers, older couples going to visit their children, younger people going back to their homes, doctors, … You will see and meet them all. Try to enjoy this and make friends! Don’t you know where to start or how to communicate in their language? Just start with food! That always works 🙂 Make sure you take some local snacks or sweets with you from your local country, share it wih your roommates and the rest will follow… 🙂
7. No luxury –> Ok, there are a couple of exceptions, but travelling by train is in general not a luxury. In most places you will be able to buy differnt class tickets. The class you choose is of course just what you feel most comfortable with. How many other people would you like to have in your “room”? How soft would you like your bed to be? Do you want a seperate bathroom for your cabin? Do you want to have food included? … My personal choice = when having 3 classes, I travel 2nd class and at the and of the trip I might reward myself with a 1st class. Normally, the price differences for classes are not that big as when travelling by plane, so it is worth checking the difference out.
8. Eating –> Plan your trip wisely! Prepare a breakfast, lunch and dinner (if this is not included), since you will probably find it nice to have a proper meal. I have seen people who were eating whole cooked meals that they prepared at home, others ate fish or sandwiches, but I am more a fan of instant noodles 😉 Normally you always have a free (hot) drinkable water supply in your wagon, so this is a lightweight and easy solution. In more modern trains and in higher classes, meals will often be included. Furthermore there is often a diner-wagon where you can enjoy a meal. Also, do not forget your cuttlery and drinking cups. Some trains provide this, but you do not want to end up without it.
9. Entertainment –> You will spend most of your time talking and watching the scenery, but there is going to be a moment that you will want to do something else. Bring books (or a tablet)! For me, there is not other place where I enjoy reading a book more than in the train. You have all the time of the world, you can lay down and relax completely with the slight movement of the train. An iPod/mp3 or whatever player can also be very nice when staring at the landscapes or trying to fall asleep. And if you want to make some friends, take some games with you! 🙂
10. Little packpack –> What do you need? As already mentioned, we need cuttlery, food (if not included), comfortable clothing, flip flops, drinking cups and enternainment. What else do you need? Toilet paper! There are always wagons that run out of toilet paper and where it isn’t replaced fastly (or not even at all). Wet tissues –> Baby wipes have always been my best friend when travelling, and especially when travelling by train. If you cannot clean yourself properly (if there isn’t a shower and only a dirty sink), you can always rely on your baby wipes to make yourself smell fresh 🙂 Toothbrush and accesories –> If you are going to sleep on the train, you will have to take everything with you in your small backpack. Think about everything, including any medicines that you might have to take. Earplugs and sleeping mask –> Your roommates might not have to wake up at the same time you do, so take earplugs and a sleeping mask with you. By that, your roommates can move around and even put the light on without you even noticing it. Light –> Take some light with you, a torch or a reading light will seem very handy. You do not want to wake up everyone when you have to go to the bathroom and not every train has reading lights… Dry shampoo or a hat –> Very useful to take with you when there is not shower in your wagon.
There if of course so much more to tell about this subject, but that is not yet for now! 😉 Soon you will find out about what happens when you cross borders when travelling by train… 🙂
Do you have some tips yourself? We would love to read about them! 🙂
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