Sara visits Europe

Staff member: Sara // Trip date: Mar 2008

Underground Metro/ Heathrow Express

The underground metro was quite easy to get round. As you check out of Customs there is a big sign that will direct you to the Heathrow Express or the Metropolitan underground services. After 5 minutes walk you will arrive at a ticket office in which you can ask questions and get tickets. If you go left that will lead you to the Heathrow Express (Paddington station) otherwise you can go straight in which will lead you to terminal 1 (Piccadilly line) and this line will allow you to connect with other terminals and head into central London.

EUROSTAR - London - Bruxelles

We were on the 0805 service out of London St Pancreas travelling in first class. With the metro you could get off at King Cross station and St Pancreas is only 5 min walk away. As soon as you enter St Pancreas station there are signs for the Eurostar and also a TV screen showing the departure times and other information. On the right had side there are signs for the Business Class Lounge which has its own ticket check-in and next to that there is the 1st and 2nd class ticket check-in. There was no name check against the ticket and passport. As long as you have a ticket for the train you won't have any issues with incorrect spelling on the Eurostar ticket. We headed straight into the customs and passport check. Checking in at least 30min prior to departure is needed as the customs area is busy. There are areas to sit and wait for your train to arrive as well as big screens in the waiting area that show the train number, time and gate numbers. There are also cafes if you need your morning café before your journey; announcements are made once it's time to board.
You will find a conductor at each entrance door and they will check your boarding pass. They are helpful and will guide you to the right car. Once you enter you will find arrows flashing to the left or right in l indicating the seating.
Eg ← 1-24 25-44 →
The seating configuration was in groups of 2 and 4 with a table in the middle. There was a selection of complimentary newspapers in English, French and Danish. The luggage area is located just as you enter the car; there are also overhead spaces in which you can place your small luggage, jacket etc. You have connections on your seat if you would like to plug your laptop in or straighten your hair before your arrival. After 15 min of departure crew will hand out the menu and you have 2 options to select from, food is served roughly 30min from the departure time. Once the train departs you can move to other seats within the car if they are empty.
Announcements are also made in English, French and Danishes. The journey itself was quite nice and very comfy. There was a bar with beers, spirits and snacks to buy and the train arrived on time into Bruxelles Mid station where you can easily connect to Metropolitan services. The ticket for metropolitan is 1.50 EURO for one trip and you can purchase that at the ticket office.

Thalys - Bruxelles/ Paris Nord

We were on the 0813 service in first class; there are huge screens in Bruxelles Midi station in which you can check the departure times and which platform the train will depart from. If you arrive early there are lounge waiting areas in which you can sit and wait for your train. Just like Eurostar there is a conductor at each entrance to the train in which they will guide you to the correct car. The conductors will also check your boarding pass and if you are not seated next to each other they will automatically change your seating so you are seated together if free seats are available. Conductors will come around to check the pass and reservation. Meals are served 30min after departure and there is not a choice in meals. The train is just like the Eurostar, modern and nice. There is a snack bar on board along with newspapers and magazines. The seating configuration was in groups of 2 and 4 with a table in the middle. The baggage area is at the end of the car just like Eurostar, you also have overhead space in which you can place your small luggage, jackets etc.
As we traveled in first class at the end of the car you have a social room in which you can take a seat and socialise with other passengers. Newspapers and magazines are available on board; announcements are made in French, English, Germen and Danishes. The train arrived on time in Paris Nord station, the metropolitan service is crazy for people who are arriving in Paris for the first time, however it does get easier as time passes. The metro runs very similar to the metro in London, a map will be very handy to have.

TGV - Paris/Nice

The train departed from Paris Lyon station, Nord station is only 5 minutes walk from Lyon. Once you get to Lyon station you will find screens which will show all of the departure times, destination and platforms. You need to only arrive 15min before departure because that is when you will find out which platform you will need to get to. There are waiting areas for passengers who arrive early, nearby there is also café in which they have nice croissants. We were on the 0804 departure and the train was on time. The TGV had 2 levels, once you enter you will find arrows flashed to left or right in which will indicate the seating just like Eurostar. Announcements were made only in French and newspapers are available however you need to ask the crew to provide you with one. A conductor comes round within 30 min of departure. The seating is very comfy and you will find a little overhead area in which you can place your handbag or jacket. Pets are allowed on board as dogs are very popular in France with almost each passenger having a dog with them. On each window there is a sliding blind in which you can adjust for your comfort. The train arrived on time to Nice Ville station, the station is small compared to Paris. There is a Tourism office located right outside of the station. The station is located in the heart of the shopping area. The tourism office is very handy and they speak English fluently.

Lunea Night - Nice/Mulhouse

We were on the overnight service departing Nice Ville at 1946 and arriving at Luzern the next morning via Mulhouse and Basel. There are huge screens which show the departure times, destinations and platform numbers, it will also state which trains are compulsory for reservations. You only need to turn up at the station 20min before departure. As soon as you go on board there is the luggage area located at the end of the car, you will also find overhead space. We had reserved reclining seats, the seating was quite cramped once the person had reclined their seat in front of you. I also found the lack of leg room frustrating. I recommend a sleeper if anyone is going on this journey unless they are on a budget.

Regional - Mulhouse/Luzern via Basel

We had a 1 hour wait at Mulhouse for our connection to Basel. You can hop on the train and sit anywhere you like. The regional train has lots of space and the seats are nice and big. You can leave your luggage in the luggage area or take it with you to the seat. We arrived on time after being in first class.
Once you arrive at Basel you will need to go through custom, on the timetable it shows Basel SBB, and then with the connecting train from Basel to Luzern is Basel SNCF, that means that the regional train to Basel is French SBB then changes to Switzerland train SNCF just like our trains here in Melbourne are called Connex. Just like every other station there is a screen to let you know which platform you need to go to. There is no train number on the display screen but you base it on destination and the departure time.
The regional trains within Switzerland were the best I traveled on. They are modern, clean and huge spacing area. There is space for bikes, and bikes don't have to be package on the trains.

IC - Luzern/Como

We were on the 1621 service in first class; just like every other station you will find a screen in which it will only state the train destination, departure time and platform. This train was different to the other ones I traveled on. We had our own lock up cabin all glassed in which you share with 5 other passenger's; however we had the cabin all to ourselves. The train has big windows on both sides to look at the spectacular view. It was like you are in a cinema. The journey was amazing and the view just topped it off like the icing on the cake. In the cabin you have your luggage space; you also have the slid window blind in which you can adjust to your comfort. Once you get to the border station the Italian motor-mobile will come and connect to each cabin car and take you through to Como. Normally there is only a wait of 10 to 15 min and during this time you go through custom on board and passport check. We had to wait 45min for the Italian Motor-mobile to arrive. This is one advantage to travel on the international primer trains in which they have the Swiss and Italy combined Motor-mobile and they only need to wait at the boarder point for custom and passport check. There is no bar lounge but there is a snack bar man who will come through every 20 min if you want drink or snack you can just buy it off him.

Italian Domestic premier/Regional - Como/Milan/Florence

We were on the 0854 departure in first class from Como to Milan. The train arrived 15 late and we were told this does happen from time to time in Italy. There were overhead luggage areas only on this service. There is no on board snack bar/restaurant so you can take your own snacks. We arrived into Milan on time and Milan station is big however very easy to find out which platform your connecting train is going from. We had a stop in Milan for few hours so we left our luggage at the station (you can only leave up to 20kg and you pay hourly with the cost being very reasonable). Our connecting train was on time from Milan to Monterosso. The Italian regional trains are very different to the Swiss trains.
We had a departure next morning to Florence on a regional train and went via La Spezia. We had a wait for a connecting train for 1 hour then the train was also delayed. There is not much running so it's best to always check the timetable and stick to the train you organised to be on saving you waiting round. The stations are very small from Monterosso all the way to La Spezia but the conductors speak English fluently. We arrived in Florence later then we thought because of the train delays. The station is big in Florence however there are 2 big board's which will state the departure times and platforms. Within Italy they do state the train # to refer to.

Italian Eurostar - Florence/Napoli

We were on the 0852 service in first class departing Florence Central. The train was modern and comfortable. Once the train arrives it will state which platform, our train arrived 20min before it departed to Napoli Central. Once the train arrives you can get on board and the seating configuration is very much like Eurostar (there are seats in 4 and 2). You can find luggage areas as you enter the car and you also have the overhead space. You can adjust the seat and every 2nd car you will find areas for people with wheelchairs. There is also an area for passengers with a baby/pram in which to leave the pram.
You will also find 2 private lock up cabins in which they call business class where it allows up to 6 passengers to sit around a table. In the cabin you also will find a private luggage area. The conductor will come around to check tickets and reservations. Drinks and snacks are provided on board free of charge. In the middle of the train you will also find the bar/restaurant and a dining area which is nice to sit and have a chat. The train arrived on time to Napoli Central and the journey was comfy.

Leonardo Express

We had a flight to Haifa early in the morning so caught the Leonardo Express. The hours of operation are 0545-2256. There was not enough time for us to catch the 0545 service from Rome Termini so we caught the last service and had to sleep over in the airport for our flight which departed at 0625. The cost is 11 Euro per person and you can purchase the ticket at the ticket office. The train is direct and will take about 45 min. There are no seat allocations, there are luggage areas provided. The train will take you into the airport and when you alight there is a big screen which you need to check for your flight number then you will find out which terminal you need to go to.

CIRCUMVESUVIANA to Sorrento/Amalfi

This station is located in Napoli station however you need to follow the signs to get to the correct area. The station is located on the left hand side of the station at the end then you need to turn right and follow the signs. There are conductors present and you can ask them for directions and purchase your tickets from them. It is around 6 Euro for an all day ticket to Sorrento. The journey is round 45min to get to Sorrento with the ride being pleasant with spectacular views. The train is just like a normal regional train. On arrive at Sorrento you need to connect to a bus if you are going to Amalfi. The bus station is located outside of the station. The train and bus tickets are not the same but you can purchase the bus ticket on your arrival to Sorrento.

General information on the toilets for all trains

The toilets all have a plug in power socket.
You don't need to touch anything in the bathrooms as all the buttons are on the floor and you use your foot to activate things.
The premier trains such as the Eurostar, Thalys etc are more modern then the regional trains.
Before you arrive at your destination it would be wise to use the toilets on the train as you have to pay to use the local toilets.

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