Travel to Italy Tip #6 | Travel second class when riding the trains

Now that we have gone through some important big money-saving topics it is time for a few nitty gritty travel tips.  Today I will be talking about train travel with the biggest money-saving rule as Tip #6.

6. Travel second class when riding trains.

Who says there isn't room in 2nd class?

More than once I have worked with clients who first went through big name travel companies to make travel arrangements and reservations.  They are almost always told to buy first class train tickets.  There is absolutely no better way to waste your money.  First class compartments are a bit roomier and have assigned seating.  That’s it.

The major train connections between big cities have assigned seats whether you choose 1st or 2nd class.  For example, anyone traveling between Florence and Venice will find their seat on the train similar to that of an airline flight.  Why pay more money?  Both classes are heading to the same spot, both have designated seating.

Second class seating might fit more people depending on the style and age of the train you are on.  I have occasionally had to work my way through several cars to find a seat (see my train tips article coming soon) but that has been during peak travel times.  Also, I find I love traveling second class because I have a chance to ride with the locals like a local.  I always bring a make-shift picnic and use the sharing of my food as an ice breaker for meeting others.

If you are a hard-core first class traveler, then by all means feel free to throw your money away.  Just remember that train travel will not be like that on the airlines and don’t expect warmed towels with an aperitif waiting for you.

Check back this week for more tips about train travel, car rental, taxis and public transportation.

I love feedback, so leave me comments!

copyright 2012  Andi Brown, Once in a Lifetime Travel

8 Responses to “Travel to Italy Tip #6 | Travel second class when riding the trains

  • Veronica Viggiano (Ronnie)
    10 years ago

    I agree about train travel with one exception. This past fall we took the train from Paris to Bayeux and could not find a single seat for the first hour of our trip. We made the mistake of sitting in the waiting area instead of lining up waiting for the train to board. By the time we got on board, every seat had been taken so four of us stood between train cars with our luggage (and a bike and the luggage of several other travelers). Next time we’ll get on the line!!!!

  • I visit Italy every May and September. Bit of advice if travelling during peak seasons, buy in advance. Since TranItalia privatized a few years back, I have found that if you buy your tickets right before your trip (as I had done in the past) the fares tend to be more for popular destinations (i.e. Venice etc.). And, if there is a waiting area, DON’T be lazy! Stand on the platform, especially if travelling with more than one other person. Locals know the trains fill quickly, and if it is during the school year, be prepared for groups of students heading to or from school. They want to sit together also. While many routes have assigned seating, not all do. Be certain to check your ticket for a seat assignment. Move about after the train is en route, if you choose. However, be prepared, others with tickets at future stops may also have an assigned seat. You may be asked to move if you have taken a reserved seat. European trains are fantastic. I have never been on a dirty train, nor have I been on a train that has been late arriving by more than a few minutes. Unless you are going to be on the train for an extended period of time, don’t waste your money on 1st or Premium class. I was gifted a 1st class trip from Brescia Italy to Vienna Austria. The reclining seat was nice, but not worth the extra money. I have also found that a Eurail pass is not worht the money unless you are going to be on the train continually. Especially since they are often restricted by number of days of use, and by zone. Be adventurous, and have a wonderful time.

    • Absolutely! I first traveled with a eurorail pass but since then (over 20 years ago) it has lost its value. I just buy each ticket individually since there is no savings in the bundle. Great advice about moving within the train to find your seat. I will be posting a train travel tips article which includes more details as described above. I haven’t found a huge difference in pricing but a good traveler should definitely keep an eye on fares. Those heavy traveled destinations as you mentioned (ie Venice!) Do fill up and those are the connections I would look into buying. I tell everyone to keep a smile on their face as you are right about getting bumped around on some trains. Do make sure if someone says you have their seat, that you just double check the ticket as people can confuse train cars. I have been on a train where a seat was not double but triple booked! One passenger bought at the station, another on the automated machine and the third on=line. As you can imagine we had quite the animated discussion going on!
      Yes! Don’t be lazy, mark your stop when waiting for the train. If you are with a group having at least one waiting is good advice. When I have traveled on busy trains with a group, I am first on the train to grab seats with the others and the bags soon to arrive. You might get a dirty glare, but stand your ground! The best advice of all you said is to be adventurous! Trains are a wonderful way to see the country so don’t be afraid.

  • I look forward to your train travel post. We will be traveling from Rome to Florence via train in the fall and have yet to buy our tickets. How long in advance do you think we should purchase them?

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