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Rail Travel in Europe and England - Questions
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ghporter
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Dec 8, 2019, 01:39 PM
 
Next spring, my wife and I are going on a dream vacation. We’re taking a two week cruise from Florida to Spain, and returning to the states on a cruise from England to New York. We’ll be getting from Spain to England by rail.

From everything I can find online, traveling by rail through Western Europe isn’t a big deal. Eurostar’s web site makes it sound like “if you can move your own luggage, it’s cool.” It doesn’t look like Eurostar/Eurail does “checked luggage,” though. Please correct me on this if I’m wrong.

In England, Eurostar goes to London, and we sail out of Southampton. It appears that one can take Britrail from St Pancras/Kings Cross to Southampton with several departures daily. It is not clear whether luggage might be an issue, though.

I would appreciate any and all guidance on this. All of the rail travel I’ve done has been on various lengths of commuter lines, the longest being on the CN between Windsor and Toronto Ontario, so real cross country rail travel is kind of mysterious to me. I’d like to have this smoothed out as much as possible, so when my wife and I get to that point, it will be a fun experience, instead of a confusing and frustrating one.

Thanks!

Glenn -----OTR/L, MOT, Tx
     
turtle777
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Dec 8, 2019, 01:52 PM
 
Originally Posted by ghporter View Post
Eurostar’s web site makes it sound like “if you can move your own luggage, it’s cool.”
That’s basically it.

Pack only what you are able to move yourself, w/o the help of luggage carts. Carts might or might not be available, and once you board the train, you would have to lug your luggage by hand.

Some trains have dedicated luggage storage areas close to the doors, but this area could be out of sight from your seat.

It’s safer to store the luggage above your seat in the luggage racks.
Ease of getting it up there depends on weight and your physical abilities.

Originally Posted by ghporter View Post
It doesn’t look like Eurostar/Eurail does “checked luggage,” though. Please correct me on this if I’m wrong.
I have never heard about train checked luggage, but it might exist.
Not sure how convenient it is, since picking it up might not be in a convenient location, and then you have to get it from there to your connecting train.

I would avoid this option, even if offered.
Too many unknowns and things that can go wrong.

-t
     
Spheric Harlot
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Dec 8, 2019, 05:56 PM
 
I'm pretty sure "checked luggage" isn't a thing. Riding a train in Europe is like getting on a bus, not like taking an airplane. Unless you've got super bulky stuff like a bicycle or so, you're on your own with your luggage.

At least, it's been that way on any train I've taken in the last thirty years — nationally or internationally.
     
OreoCookie
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Dec 8, 2019, 09:15 PM
 
Thirded: there is no checked luggage and with the possible exception of the Eurostar, there are no security checks. (I haven't been on the Eurostar, but I have passed the Eurostar terminal in St. Pancras a few times, and it looks like there is a security check there.)

Regarding luggage, for your sanity I recommend you limit yourself to one big suitcase per person. There is no limit on trains for suitcases (although some might prohibit oversized luggage), but it just gets very unwieldy.
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ghporter  (op)
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Dec 9, 2019, 06:40 PM
 
We’re probably going to have three cases between the two of us, but all of our suitcases are “all wheel caster” types, that can just roll along upright if you like. They’ve been very convenient in enough different situations that I think I can manage them.

Is riding the train in Continental Europe any different from riding in England? Anything we should know that our limited experience with commuter rail hasn’t prepared us for?

Glenn -----OTR/L, MOT, Tx
     
turtle777
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Dec 9, 2019, 07:37 PM
 
Well, the main difference is that the trains in England run on the "wrong" side ;-)

I don't think there will be any big difference between England and Continental Europe.

One of the things to pay attention to is if you have to get off before the final train stop.
Announcements about next stop might vary in quality and frequency.

-t
     
OreoCookie
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Dec 9, 2019, 09:11 PM
 
Originally Posted by turtle777 View Post
I don't think there will be any big difference between England and Continental Europe.
My comment was specifically about the Eurostar. AFAIK this is one of the few train lines where your luggage is checked, and where you will have a passport check. Within continental Europe that isn't the case, smooth sailing.
Originally Posted by turtle777 View Post
One of the things to pay attention to is if you have to get off before the final train stop.
Announcements about next stop might vary in quality and frequency.
That's true. Fortunately, on the major train lines you will have announcements in at least two, if not three languages.
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Laminar
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Dec 9, 2019, 10:16 PM
 
Originally Posted by turtle777 View Post
Well, the main difference is that the trains in England run on the "wrong" side ;-)

-t
Don't trains in America also run on the wrong side?
     
mindwaves
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Dec 9, 2019, 11:08 PM
 
I had my first travel to Europe earlier this year. I went by train from Vienna to Prague. It was very delightful and very easy. Train tickets were EXTREMELY cheap (to me) and I got the business class (which is strangely more opulent than first class) with plenty of room and nice views. Was surprised and delighted that I didn't have to go through any customs nonsense either.
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Spheric Harlot
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Dec 10, 2019, 10:29 AM
 
Originally Posted by OreoCookie View Post
My comment was specifically about the Eurostar. AFAIK this is one of the few train lines where your luggage is checked, and where you will have a passport check. Within continental Europe that isn't the case, smooth sailing.

That's true. Fortunately, on the major train lines you will have announcements in at least two, if not three languages.
Yes, sometimes at the same time. Or at least, on German trains, the "English" announcements can be an amusing mixture of Saxon and German phonetics, with what is close to a basic English foundation.
     
OreoCookie
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Dec 10, 2019, 08:49 PM
 
Originally Posted by Spheric Harlot View Post
Yes, sometimes at the same time. Or at least, on German trains, the "English" announcements can be an amusing mixture of Saxon and German phonetics, with what is close to a basic English foundation.

(To the non-Germans in the room: Saxony is a region within Germany that has a, well, very peculiar accent. Few outside of Saxony would describe it as sexy.)
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ghporter  (op)
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Dec 11, 2019, 12:12 PM
 
This is really on-topic, at least a little.

My son introduced me to a metal group called Rammsstein a while back. OK, quite a while back. Their lead singer sounds like a Klingon who gargles battery acid for fun. And interestingly, I can actually pick out real words in his “singing.”

So I think that as long as I’m paying attention, I could figure out what a German train’s announcements are supposed to mean. Mostly.

My issues are going to be with Spanish and French, since we’re traveling from Barcelona, through France to England.

Spanish I will probably pick up fairly well, since I do have a bit of the vocabulary, and can get along fairly well with basic stuff. I’ve had some formal instruction in Castilian Spanish, I should be able to get by...

French, on the other hand, will likely throw me for a loop, so I’lll have to pay close attention.

Glenn -----OTR/L, MOT, Tx
     
Waragainstsleep
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Dec 11, 2019, 08:43 PM
 
I haven't spent much time on trains ever but certainly not recently. The French and Germans know how to run a train service. Literally everyone in Germany can speak good English but in France even people who can will delight themselves by not doing so at least some of the time. And its my understanding that they like Americans even less than they like us Brits. That may have changed in the last 4 years thanks to Brexit, but then again Trump so who knows?

British trains are fairly terrible. Expensive, late and there's really nothing impressive about them. Avoid rush hour if like to sit down. Don't be surprised if you reserve seats and don't get them if its busy. I don't think you can check luggage. People normally stuff it in a designated area of the train car and try to sit where they can see if anyone tries to steal it. Its a sorry state of affairs really. Sorry I can't be of more help but if you have to catch a train more than once or twice a year its generally cheaper to buy a car. Often quicker too.
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Waragainstsleep
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Dec 11, 2019, 08:48 PM
 


This is from ~1982 but in all likelihood that train is still in service. Strangely, a woman quite recently emulated Vyvian's foolish actions from the clip (not because she'd seen the show as far as I know) and at or near the same station where this would have been filmed. She didn't fare as well as he does.
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OreoCookie
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Yesterday, 12:02 AM
 
Originally Posted by Waragainstsleep View Post
British trains are fairly terrible. Expensive, late and there's really nothing impressive about them. Avoid rush hour if like to sit down. Don't be surprised if you reserve seats and don't get them if its busy.
Yup.
Just trying to wrap my head around ticket pricing was hard. A colleague of mine gave me very precise instructions so that I could get a decently priced train ticket (it wasn't anything complicated, I wanted to take a two-way ticket for specific times so that I avoided rush hour pricing). I couldn't figure out how to purchase it from the vending machine, so I had to go to the ticket office (like an animal) and ask for that precise ticket. Perhaps with the right incantation, I would have convinced the machine to sell me the same ticket, who knows. In Germany and Japan this is super easy. Also, the trains seemed quite narrow, and it was hard to store my suitcase (I had flown in to Heathrow and wanted to head to Loughborough). And coming from Japan, boy, are English trains s-l-o-w.
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Waragainstsleep
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Yesterday, 06:35 AM
 
It certainly used to be the case that you could save a lot by booking a long time in advance. Try sites like thetrainline.com.
I have plenty of more important things to do, if only I could bring myself to do them....
     
   
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