Eurail travel - a way to extend a holiday to EuropeWritten by Gareth Powell
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• Keep your validation slip separate from ticket. It constitutes proof of ownership. (If you are a worry wart like me, make a photocopy of both straight away and remember to keep copy in lining of your suitcase.) • Make sure you go to right station. Every city in Europe has several different railway stations. This TGV train I am riding started from Gare de Lyon in Paris. But there are six other mainline train stations in that city of light. The concierge at your hotel will advise you. • When you get to station make sure you get on right platform and into right car. The signs are always very clear and railway staff are always most helpful. There will be a board confirming name, number and time of departure of train at entrance to platform when you get there. • Getting into right car, as opposed to right train, is essential; in modern trains it is car that is sent by computer control to its destination. On side of every car is an identification panel that tells you number of car, where car is heading and names of most important stops on way. Check panel carefully and, if you are still in doubt, show your ticket to conductor of train and explain exactly where you are going. • Limits. An Eurail pass is for x number of journeys over a given period of time. Do not waste pass on short trips. Example: I was in Nice and had to go to Cannes. I went by train and bought a ticket. You do not waste your Eurail Pass on journeys on trips that take less than an hour. • Ubiquity. Every station seems to have a Eurail booking desk. Be organized and try and book as far ahead as you can if you want a sleeper. These trains do get fully booked, especially during holiday season, and earlier you book, more certain you are of getting right train. • Sleep on train. If it is a very long journey take evening train and sleep on board. On a first class Eurail tickets sleeper is part of package. This has great advantages. It saves you cost of one night's accommodation and it gets what could be a longish journey over in considerable comfort and style. For example, I went from Salerno in Sicily right up leg of Italy to Genoa and did it on a night train and slept like a baby. One has to be careful. There is a story about a passionate young couple who used their sleeper not for sleeping. In a moment of ecstasy young lady hung on like mad to nearest object. Sadly, it was emergency stop communication cord. • If possible, take your own snacks. There was a thought in my mind that food on European trains would be a gourmet's delight. In my experience, it is very far from that. On other hand, almost all station restaurants serve good food at very reasonable prices provided you stay away from fast food chains. • Get right stop. As you come into a city make sure you do not get off at a suburban stop which is, typically, stop before central station. If in doubt, ask ticket inspector or guard. No need to be able to speak language. Just show your ticket and they will tell you what to do. • Travel light. If you cannot easily carry your baggage you are stuffed. Porters do not exist. Not at any station I have ever seen. • Use all of pass. When planning your itinerary, be bold. You can go from Greece to Oslo and pretty much everywhere else in between. • Not UK. All of this applies to Europe except for Britain. A Eurail Pass does not work there. Britain is not part of Europe. Whatever made you think otherwise? Sites which can help Eurail http://www.eurail.com/ It claims, correctly, that it is only official Eurail site. This is true. But it is not only site that can give you information. And it is certainly not only site that can sell you tickets. It does, however, make a very good starting point because from here you can sort out potential timings and itineraries. Europe http://www.raileurope.com/us/index.htm This is not official site but it might just as well be considered as such. There is nothing about Eurail that it does not know. Europe by Eurail http//www.railpass.com Again, this is a commercial firm selling tickets but that does not stop it having a load of useful information on site. Boots 'n All Travel http://www.bootsnall.com/eurail/ Would you buy a ticket from a company with a name like that? Let us not be snobbish. It has great expertise on Eurail and its site is very helpful. Eurail Net http://www.eurailnet.com/ Sounds official but it is still a commercial company selling tickets. You will not find much differential in prices between companies but you will find a wealth of information on sites such as this and work out most economical pass for your particular trip.
Gareth Powell is a publisher, journalist and author. His travel writings are mainly on http://www.travelhopefully.com.
Packing: pack light, pack tight, pack carefullyWritten by Gareth Powell
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Packing hanging suit bags is slightly different. If you are using a hanging bag do not believe that your clothes will, as a result, emerge unwrinkled and wearable. They will not, unless you take special care. The best way to load is with bag laid flat, not hanging up. Put shoes in plastic bags, one at each corner, so that they remain at top when bag is folded. Make sure heels are in corners with toes pointing towards handle. Hang trousers with two folds so that you do not have a single fold across knee. Do not fasten jacket, but close it so that one side is about a third of way across. Fold sleeves up at elbow, then pack other garments on top to hold in place. I carry a small traveling iron which even has a steam feature. It is light, in a neat bag and takes little space. It is, in a sense, my one luxury. When you have finished packing try closing case. It should be as tight a fit as possible without needing excessive force. If it is too loosely packed, lay sheets of tissue paper on top to fill gap. Many experienced travelers lay a collapsible carry-all on top for inevitable excess of baggage on return journey. Unpack both suitcases and hanging bags, completely as soon as you arrive. If there are any wrinkles, hang your clothes on shower rail and run a very hot bath. You only need a small amount of water. Do not bother filling bath up. It takes less than an hour to steam wrinkles out. Other points Bottles leak, powder spreads, creams escape and make too much of themselves. The only way that you can be sure that these dread happenings are not among your travel memoirs is to keep all your toiletries in a zip up plastic bag that you have tested for air tightness. Try never to carry any glass bottles. Decant into small plastic holders wherever possible. Always carry a large bar of soap. The little tablets issued in most hotels are not suitable for cleansing of grown-up bodies.
Gareth Powell is the author of several travel books, has been the travel editor of two metropolitan newspapers and has a travel website - http://www.travelhopefully.com