Traveling by train is a fantastic way to see Central Europe. The compact nature of this part of the continent and its extensive rail network mean you can easily move between cities. The trains are cheap, you don’t have to worry about airport check-ins, and there’s no extra charge for suitcases. Even better than all that, while you’re on the train you can watch the world go by as you race through foreign landscapes.
Even for a dedicated flyer, the allure of train travel through Central Europe is strong. Think about it: once you factor in airport transfers, security, boarding, and everything else, flying takes ages.
With trains you merely hop on five minutes before departure and hop off when you get there. It couldn’t be easier. On top of that, train stations are usually located in the city centre, unlike airports, which can be miles out of the city. And you don’t have to throw away your liquids.
It would literally make no sense to take an internal flight in Central Europe.
Have I sold train travel to you yet? Let’s take a look at how to go about doing it.
You Can Get a Rail Pass, But That Doesn’t Mean You Should
There are Eurail passes available to buy which let you board virtually any train in Central Europe for a specified period of time. This sounds like a great deal, but the passes are not as cheap as you might think.
Work out how many trains you are likely to take during your trip and then see how much they would cost individually. It is not unlikely that buying individual trains will work out cheaper.
Know Your Cabins
Most trains in Central Europe will have 1st class and 2nd class carriages. There are also trains that have compartments with two rows of four seats facing one another. They have this on the train from Prague to Vienna and a number of other services.
Naturally, 1st class tickets are more expensive (usually about 50% more than 2nd class). But, the comfort levels are not drastically different. Most trains will be a matter of mere hours – that same train from Prague to Vienna is just four hours, for example. This means that your rail class is not a big deal, 2nd class is just fine comfort-wise and much cheaper.
Should You Reserve a Seat?
Annoyingly, the answer to this is maybe. If you are traveling in peak season (July and August) trains might be all booked up in advance but during other times there may be an abundance of empty seats.
If you have the time, I recommend going to the train station a day or two early to enquire about seats. Usually, this will be enough time to get a ticket. If, however, the train is all booked up already then you will just have to wait in that city until there is a train with available seats.
If you don’t have the luxury of hanging around and waiting then book your seat in advance online. The disadvantage of this, of course, is that you lose some flexibility when you travel.