Today we spent over 12 hours traveling from Nice to Barcelona. One would think that after so many train trips we would be experts on the European railway system. We are not. Every time we use it – it is a new confusing adventure. The idea of a train pass seemed simple enough but the logistics in execution are a learn as you go challenge.
Europe has an extensive train system. Everything is connected and there are trains to everywhere all the time. We purchased Eurail passes. They had many different types from the one trip to the 3 months of do whatever you want. Our pass configuration are basically a 2-month time period where you can have 10 days of travel. We can ride the train for 24 hours and it will count as one against the pass. We could take 5 little trips in one day and it would count as one against the pass.
Here is what we have learned:
- We received a train schedule with the tickets and then discovered that the booklet didn’t include regional trains
- It is more cost effective to pay for a day trip rather than use the pass – unless it is over 2 hours away (seriously – our trips to Monaco & Pisa were only around $60 for our entire family)
- Many trains (ALL trains in France) require a reservation – 10 Euros each extra – let’s not talk about night train fees!
- We are never 100% sure we are on the correct train or even travelling in the correct direction
- Some trains have free wi-fi
- Strangers like to sit next to Arden – she pretends to sleep
There is very little quality control on any of the trains or metros. Often we but tickets and they are not checked by anyone. However, if you are asked about your ticket (metro or train) and are unable to produce anything – there is a 70-100 Euro fine. I’m not sure this is the best method of enforcement. For travelers like us, how could they even enforce the fine. Can they collect money when you live in another country? The worse they could do is kick you off the train, then you could buy a ticket and get where you wanted to go. It would be interesting to know the realities of who pays and who is hoping to game the system.
Today we successfully navigated not one but two train transfers. Even with the difficulty figuring everything out we have not missed a train or connection. We did have a nick of time moment on our Florence to Nice connection – but we made it! Surprisingly we have always ended up on the right train. Brenna is the travel coordinator and is getting a pretty good idea about how it all works. Of course each time she about has it down we go to a different country with new sets of rules.