Episode: 108 |
Will Bachman:
Train Travel in Europe:


Will Bachman

Train Travel in Europe

Show Notes

Earlier this month, I visited London, Amsterdam, Paris, Munich, and Zurich to meet up with independent management consultants.

While I originally imagined I would fly from one city to another, I ended up taking the train from London all the way to Zurich, and it was fantastic.

In this short episode, I share five reasons why you should take the train in Europe instead of flying between cities, and some tips from a train-riding novice.

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Will Bachman  00:01

Welcome to Unleashed. I’m your host Will Bachman. Earlier in October, I had an amazing opportunity to travel around Europe meeting up in person with independent management consultants in five different cities. When I conceived of the trip, I had assumed that I would just fly from one city to another. But when I sat down to actually book all the travel, I realized I’d be able to get around Europe completely by train. And so I ended up taking the train from London to Amsterdam, and then to Paris, and then to Munich, and then to Zurich. These train rides, were in one way, the highlight of the whole trip, and I thought I’d share some observations here in the show on how to travel around Europe by train, but perhaps more importantly, why to take the train. So first, I’m gonna talk about why, and then I’ll share us your five reasons to consider taking the train and then we’ll talk about some tips on how to do it. So for my European friends, you may skip this episode, because it might be second nature, but to folks who haven’t taken the train in Europe before, this is for you. So number one, time, in terms of time, the train is often faster than a flight, particularly in Europe. If you look at the door to door time it takes because the train stations in Europe are generally right in the city center. So you’re probably close to where you’re starting from, and close to your destination. So let’s say that you have a three hour train ride. And maybe that translates into a 30 minute flight in terms of actual flight time. If you take the train, then maybe you walk to the train station, or you take a taxi or an Uber for let’s say 10 euros, and maybe it takes you 10 minutes to get to the train station. So you get there 15 minutes, let’s say before your train departs, and if your train departs on time. So three hours later, you arrive at the train station right in the center of town where you’re going. And from there, it takes you 10 minutes to get to your final destination. So your total travel time was three hours and 35 minutes. If you decide to fly, on the other hand, you take a cab to the airport. And there’s traffic Of course, it takes you 45 minutes to get the airport. And you arrive an hour before your flight and have to endure the hassle of standing in line through check in and security and your flights delayed by an hour. So finally bored, you sit on the tarmac for 30 minutes, you have a 30 minute flight. But when you arrive, your gate isn’t available. So you sit in the plane for 20 minutes unable to get your laptop out do any work. You finally deep plane. And then you walk through the terminal that’s 10 minutes, and then you stand in line for a taxi. 10 minutes, and then it takes 30 minutes to get to the center of town. So if I’ve done the math, right, that’s 275 minutes, or four hours and 35 minutes. Now, Case in point. So I left London, I left in an event in London, I took the train to Amsterdam, a Dutch colleague who was attending the same event and left at the same time, I was heading home to Rotterdam, which is right near Amsterdam. And I arrived Amsterdam at 10pm. And she texted me when she arrived home in Rotterdam was about it was after midnight, so a couple hours because she had some flight delays and so forth. So Case in point, number two reason would be comfort. So if you compare the experience, on the train, you have this really grand seat larger and more comfortable than most business class seats on any airplane. And you can have a table or you can sit on your laptop. And it’s not a little miniature table for leprechauns, but it’s actually a real table. And on the flight, we’re on the other hand, let’s say that whole four and a half hour transit time that we talked about, it’s all broken up into little pieces and you’re standing in line, you’re shuffling around, you’re waiting in line at the airport or sitting waiting to board your flight. And when you actually get up in the air, you have to keep your laptop stowed during takeoff and landing so you don’t have any real extended time to actually get worked on. The train is simply a far more civilized way to travel. Number three culture. On the train, you’ll find many fewer foreign tourists. It’s mostly local residents. And you feel like you’re actually participating in a way of getting around that people have been doing in Europe for 150 years. And you step into what feels like just a distinctive European experience, as opposed to the homogenized and internationalized experience of air travel, where every Air Terminal, you know, pretty much looks kind of the same and you’re doing the same kind of going through security and so forth. Plus, many of the stations are just simply breathtaking. They’re really the cathedrals of our age. The ceilings are multiple storeys high. The buildings are several blocks wide trains arriving and departing. And they’re just one of my favorite places in any city. Number four reason would be the view. So you have these amazing views scrolling by, that you can’t usually get by driving because you’re just cutting right across the landscape. So you actually get to see a lot of Europe. And mostly it’s full of fields, and a lot of farming going on in Europe, in the US, you know, cities blur into the suburbs. And then suburbs and x herbs, particularly driving takes a long time after leaving New York City to come to a respectable farm. But if you leave Paris or Munich or Amsterdam, in about 10 minutes, you’re on the farmland, and it’s really beautiful. Number five, and most important reason for me is reverie. So somehow, for me at least, the reverie that the scenery induces the being able to just passively observe the landscape while it’s going by while you also have a keyboard at the ready, or an open Notepad. It’s just such a fertile environment, for coming up with new ideas. You probably aren’t being interrupted with phone calls, because you’re not really supposed to do phone calls on in the train car. And you’ve got something to observe out the window, you’re looking at small towns, farmhouses, utility lines, fields, cows, lots of cows, and you got the rhythmic calm of the rails and the sensation of motion. And it’s just enough to keep your monkey mind occupied. While you get some real deep thinking done. And every so often, bam, you get an amazing idea. So only in the shower, do I get so many useful ideas, as on the train, and in the shower, it’s much harder to write the ideas down right away. So for the idea generation alone, the train trip is totally worth it. It’s a great time for goal setting, you can stop and you can think about what you want to do in life, what are you’re trying to achieve across your personal life, family life, work life, and reflect on questions to gain greater self knowledge, such as these three questions which are suggested by the school of life, you know, what am I anxious about? What am I upset about? What am I excited about? Or you could just work on your to do list what you want to accomplish, or maybe just Muse over a particular problem at work. So that’s, that’s reason number five. One downside I will mention is that taking the train actually costs more than flying. In a lot of cases, it’s somewhat of a bummer. And a little bit counterintuitive, you think that it would take a lot more energy to lift a plane and to get you and your luggage off the ground than to pull you along on a train. But somehow, and you think that a train ought to be cheaper, but it’s not necessarily a case. Yeah, it is more civilized. My train rides were around $150 or so each. And often flights were available, thanks to easy jet and these you know, super low cost airlines in Europe, often you could get around for $80 from one city to another, but then that doesn’t include the cost of the taxi to get you to and from the airport. So now let’s talk a little bit about the how we talked about the why maybe you’re convinced by this point that it’s a good idea to take the train. So some tips. Number one, definitely buy your tickets in advance online, you really don’t want to just show up at the train station and try to stand in line and buy your tickets right before the departure, the train very well might be sold out. And that would be a total bummer. It was a little confusing to me on how to buy the train tickets online. And I’m still definitely not an expert at it. There’s like multiple sites that sell the tickets. And you can buy them direct from the individual like train authority train company that’s running that particular train. Some of the websites that I found are more user friendly than others. The site that I found that I liked the best is train line.eu and I’ll include that link in the show notes. train line, one word.eu. The interface was pretty straightforward. And it worked without any hiccups. On another site that I tried before train line.eu which was rail europe.com, which seems to have slightly better search engine marketing. I had a little trouble getting through the purchase process. It kind of hiccups with my credit card and it’s just a little bit of a more of a hassle to register. I finally did get through after three attempts. But then I realized that I paid a higher price on that site than I that I needed to. So I like train line. And again, you can Google for for you know Based on this, Rick Steves has some advice on how to buy train tickets. But that’s what I did. Tip number two, print your tickets at home or before you get to the train station. I didn’t test if it’s possible to show the ticket just on your phone, it seems to be the case. However, just to be safe, it’s nice to have a paper ticket, print your ticket at home, you’re gonna have to show your ticket once or twice or three times, depending on the station. In Amsterdam, I had to scan the ticket just to get into the railway station. So I think you could do it on your phone. But then if your phone is like low on juice, are you having trouble downloading your ticket, just nice have that paper copy. at Paris, I had to scan my ticket to get onto the platform of my train. Whereas in Munich, I was able to walk into the station walk all the way up to the train get on the train, I only had to show the ticket when the conductor came by. Tip number three, check how early you need to arrive at the station before your train departs. So in London, um, fortunately, I researched it and I read online, you’re supposed to arrive at the station 45 minutes before your train departs. And this was for that international train through the channel. The Eurostar to Amsterdam. No, I for just the normal train within the UK, this doesn’t apply. But to the international train to Paris or Amsterdam, or Brussels, you want to get there 45 minutes ahead of time, I’m glad I listened to that advice. When I took the train, I had to go through passport control. And you know, you have to send your luggage through scanner. So they don’t make you take your shoes off or take your laptop bag out. But it did take time to staying in line. And I kind of got to the station, you know it just wait about five minutes to spare. The other stations, I could have arrived just you know, 10 minutes before the train left and I would have been okay. At Amsterdam, Paris and Munich, you just go right up to the platform you get on the train. And there’s no passport control, no security checks. Even if you’re going internationally within Europe, you do just you may have to scan your ticket to get onto the platform. But other than that, there’s there’s no like security control.



But you do


Will Bachman  12:18

want to give yourself a few minutes at the station because they can be crowded so people in your way and they can be large, a couple city blocks wide. And you may need to walk all the way to the end of the train to get to your science seat. So you could be in a 10 minute walk once you get to the station to get to your seat. So give yourself a few minutes at the station. So now Tip number four, at least in my sample set of these four train rides. In every case, I had an assigned seat, which which I didn’t choose you know the train line, you just printed it out with the with the assigned seat. The printed ticket will have your train car number and your seat number within that car. So if you’re kind of a newbie like me, you don’t just get on any in any of the train cars, but find the train car number that is yours. And you can usually start boarding 10 to 15 minutes ahead of time ahead of the departure time, if you are at the kind of first stop on the trip if you’re at the first terminal station. So it’s fine to show up a little bit early. And so tip number five, most of the trains will have a luggage rack for your larger luggage usually sort of right when you get on the train, there’ll be a little section there we can steal your luggage. So nice not having to check your bags and then wait for baggage claim. And so on three of those trains I took there was a luggage rack on the Munich to Zurich train, there was not. So it would have been a little awkward putting my big kind of check bag type bag in the overhead there. But there was fortunately it was not a very full train. So I was able to commandeer an extra seat and just put it in that seat. Tip number six railway stations do have coffee and plenty of food options usually not surprising. And all the row stations visit had great coffee options, pastry options so you’d be able to get something to eat. Three of them had a Starbucks, that key marker of civilization. And not much in terms of fine dining, but jelly some options for pastries, sandwiches and other portable food. Also, as you’d expect, most of the all the train stations have bookstores, usually with a decent sized section of books in English and newspapers from across Europe. Tip number seven, do not rely on having Wi Fi or even any kind of good connectivity while on your train ride. So I had been planning that I’d get a ton of work done doing very stuff online. on these trips, assuming that the train would either have Wi Fi, or I could use my phone’s Personal Hotspot. However, the Wi Fi on the Eurostar train from London to Amsterdam was completely worthless. It said that had Wi Fi and I, there was a, you know, a Wi Fi signal, and you could connect to it, but there was no connection to the Internet. Or at least, you know, very, very, very, very intermittent. The train, I guess, was moving too fast to connect to the Wi Fi to connect to the land, or it was too fast for my cell phone to get coverage. I mean, we’re going at 200 to 300 kilometers per hour, I guess. I don’t know, my cell phone can keep up with that. So, lesson learned, if you plan to work, download stuff and plan to work offline. So that’s it. I would love your thoughts if you traveled in Europe. taking the train, love to hear about it. And any other questions you have. I’d love it. If you’d send me a question. I’ll answer it on the show. You can email me at unleashed@umbrex.com. And you can also visit umbrex.com slash Unleashed, sign up for our weekly email and then you’ll get the transcript of every episode, plus some consulting tips plus some recommended reading. And I would love to hear from you. And if this episode has been helpful, I hope you’ll share it with one or two people. Thanks for listening

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