What NOT to Do Whilst Traveling on Trains in Europe

1.) Do not purchase half your train tickets in advance. For example, do not purchase special price, excellent 29 € tickets from Ljubljana to Munich, and then from Vienna to Ljubljana. That means you have to get from Munich to Vienna. And that will cost more than your other two tickets combined. Also do not assume the bus ticket will be cheaper. It will be, but you will likely be standing in line for a long time waiting for the ticket counter to open in Munich at 8 a.m., only to be told that the tickets are sold out.

2.) Do not assume that it is possible to make it to your train on time—even if you have impeccable luck. For example, you should not assume that, while visiting a town outside of Munich, that you will be able to make it to the bus on time by sprinting, and then make it back into Munich on time to sprint across a road with heavy traffic to retrieve your backpacks from the hostel, to sprint across the same heavy-traffic road back to the train station—just to make it onto that million dollar train ride to Vienna. Because even if you make it, you will be out of breath, have developed a headache, and get cranky once you realize that all you’ve eaten all day is a piece of fruit and the sandwich you thought you were ordering on the dining car—which cost more than a sandwich should cost—was actually a small pile of leaves with balsamic dressing.

3.) Do not assume that even if you make it on time to a train, that it will arrive to your station on time. For example in Vienna, even if you get to your train on time, it may—somewhere in Austria—pull over on the tracks for 15 minutes for no good reason, so that it arrives in Maribor late, causing you to miss your connecting train to Ljubljana.

4.) Do not assume that the train that the conductor directs you to board in Maribor will take you straight to Ljubljana, or that your original ticket will work on this train. For example, you will likely have to wait over an hour in Zidani Most for the connecting train to Ljubljana, and will have to pay for your fare from Maribor to Ljubljana again—even though your ticket from Vienna indicates you’ve already paid. (In such a case, it is a good idea to seek a refund from the train station in Ljubljana, which will alleviate some of your annoyance).

5.) Do not assume that the train that arrives on the track two minutes before your train is supposed to leave for Ljubljana is the correct train. For example, it may not be the correct train—and it may, in fact, be moving in the exact opposite direction of Ljubljana… back to Maribor.

 Finally, when you are done traveling on trains, it is wise not to do the following:

– Do not leave your motion sickness pills in the trunk of the taxi that is now taking you down small, winding country roads back to Ljubljana past midnight. You may have a near-panic and puke attack.

– Do not forget to go to the bathroom before getting in said taxi. The train ride might only take an hour, but the car ride—over those winding roads—will take much more than that.

 And, a general piece of ‘what not to do’ advice:

DO NOT plan your train travel so that your original train (the special price one from Vienna, remember?) arrives back home in Ljubljana less than 12 hours before you’re supposed to leave on the plane back home to Boston on Christmas Eve. It may seem impossible that things wouldn’t go according to plan, and 12 hours might seem to give you a lot of room for error… but they’re trains. They will do as they please. And while it’ll have been totally worth it in the end to have seen the Christmas markets in Munich and Vienna, you’ll never, never want to do that again.

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