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Swiss Train by Alejandro Forero Cuervo, Flickr, 2007Photo by Alejandro Forero Cuervo licensed under CC

'Ever since childhood, when I lived within earshot of the Boston and Maine, I have seldom heard a train go by and not wished I was on it', the author Paul Theroux once wrote.

In other words, the rail trip can be just as important as the experience when you arrive.

Are you planning a rail trip or holiday? We’ve put together some ideas and suggestions to help ensure a journey which runs smoothly along the tracks.

Embrace unexpected discoveries

If you are confident, travelling by rail can be an adventure that offers freedom to deviate away from the planned route to discover new places. You can get off and on the trains when you want and linger longer in the places that interest you. However, always make sure that your ticket allows this freedom, otherwise you could face unexpected and unwanted expenses.

Try not to rush

Unless you are in a hurry, try not to rush your journey, and if the train is delayed, then consider this as an opportunity to see or do something new.

Travel light

Try to travel light and buy a few essentials as you go along. It’s hard work carrying heavy suitcases on and off trains, so make do with the minimum. Always keep your baggage near you and preferably within sight. Do be careful about leaving items on overhead shelves as these can slide into the hands of thieves if you are not vigilant.

Save money with slower trains

You can save money in Europe by buying tickets on slower trains (non-express), which are often half-price or less. The slower views from your window also add to the experience, offering an opportunity to take in a living geography and history lesson.

Get better value with overnight sleeper trains

Consider taking an overnight sleeper train, which can be a cost-effective way to travel (no hotel costs), and of course you arrive feeling fresh and rested. It is a real adventure going to bed on a train while listening to the noise on the tracks as the swaying motion lulls you to sleep, then enjoying waking up in a completely different place - even a different country.

Bring your own food

Think about food! The quality on the train can be mixed and expensive, so it’s a good idea to take your own along with drinks and perhaps a bottle of wine. A quick visit to a local food shop on your journey can be an interesting experience.

Read the terms and conditions of your ticket

Read the terms and conditions of your ticket. European rail passes can be good value, but watch out for unwanted terms and conditions, such as having to make a seat reservation on some routes. Make sure you also check the rules about validating tickets – in some countries, there is a ticket inspector on the train, but in others (eg Italy) tickets must be stamped at a machine before you get on board. Forget to do this and you risk an on-the-spot fine, even if you have the right ticket.

A packaged holiday could work out cheaper

For a rail holiday, there are some excellent companies which package together your rail tickets, timetabled itinerary, accommodation at stopover destinations and emergency backup. It can also work out cheaper than booking everything independently on the web.

Are you eligible to a disabled rail card?

Disabled rail users in the UK can take advantage of a Disabled Rail Card which entitles them to a third off their rail travel.

If you have any further queries, please get in touch with us.

Note: The information given is by way of suggestion only. It is correct, to the best of our knowledge, but we cannot be held responsible for any errors or omissions on our part.

This article is brought to you by Silver Travel Advisor

Further information

For more information: Call Age UK Advice: 0800 169 2081