Traveling to Europe? Here’s the best way to book train and bus tickets

Sep 7, 2022

One of my best pieces of advice for when you go to Europe is do not be afraid of public transportation. Read on for a quick explanation of the easiest, cheapest way to do it and how to use it safely!  

If you live somewhere that you’re accustomed to driving all the time, using public transit may be new and scary for you. And that’s okay! The key is to be prepared, because no matter where you go in Europe, you’re not always going to be able to walk to everything you want to see. 

Ask anyone who has vacationed with me- I’m devoutly pro-walking, much to the chagrin of most travel companions (especially on vacation to balance out the carbs). But it’s not always worth the extra time it takes or working up a sweat in your dinner fit. 

Some cities have their own version of Lyft or Uber, taxis, or you can simply go to any public transit station and grab a ticket. But I think the easiest way to get around is to use the free app, Trainline, and I can’t understand why I didn’t hear about it before I went to Europe! It’s definitely the best option, unless you want to try to squeeze 6 people into a European taxi, which I don’t recommend

How to use public transportation in Europe

In their own words, Trainline is “Europe’s leading train and bus app where you can book train tickets, cheap bus travel and more. Buy tickets to travel across Europe by rail or road. Find cheap tickets for Eurostar, Avanti West Coast, GWR, LNER, National Express, and many other European rail lines. Or if you want to buy bus tickets search and book directly in the app.”

The app couldn’t be easier to use. You just enter some basic information, like where you are and where you’re headed, and it instantly populates with train times and fares. Pick and purchase your fare, then use the eticket, which is a QR code, that it instantly delivers to your phone to scan through the train turnstiles. Easy!

It takes 30 seconds is so much less hassle than trying to haggle with a taxi driver or figure out transportation locally (trust me- I learned this lesson the hard way in Florence, Italy and almost missed a dinner reservation). 

A few important notes for public transportation in Europe:

Easiest way to get around in Europe

  • Crowded public transit is a prime pickpocketing opportunity. Do not put anything in your back pockets and be sure to keep your bag closed and in front of your body.

  • Watch the app while you’re riding. Even if you know the name of the stop you’re getting off at and are counting the number of stops, it’s too easy to get this wrong. And if you accidentally get on the wrong bus or train, it will be immediately evident if you’re watching the app while you’re riding and you see that your dot isn’t moving in the direction of your destination! 

  • If you choose to use a taxi or Uber/Lyft local lookalike instead of public trains or buses, you will need to tip a few euros.

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