We have been travelling across Europe for about 5 weeks now and I thought I should share my opinions on the transport system here.
5 weeks through my trip, I totally appreciate Swiss railway system. Clean, frequent trains to the most popular destinations, helpful rail staff. Second class in these trains are as clean as first class too!
The best journey so far, was the overnight journey from Zurich to Amsterdam. We had to pay 105 CHF per person for a first class reservation, on top of Eurail for ticket. Pretty expensive isnt it?
But to me it is 5 star journey, with our own showers, our own bathroom, a sink, our own room with 2 beds, complimentary Italian wine and German champagne, complimentary breakfast the next morning, linen, towels, a wakeup alarm and excellent customer service. Totally worth every single cent we paid for.
The Rail Jet trains operating in Austria are by far the best with displays in the train showing the next stops, time to stops, current time, delay information if any, the speed of the train, route map etc, similar to inflight information maps on planes. The bathrooms are clean and well maintained. Seats are very comfortable with recliners and tables. These train numbers are prefixed RJ. They have Economy, First class and Premium Class. Whilst Premium is utmost luxury, and First class is great comfort the economy class is pretty good too and very comfortable for quite long journeys.
The OBB trains of Austria are fine, though not as posh as Rail Jet but they are still pretty clean and comfortable and a bit cheaper.
The DB trains operated by Germany are pretty good too. But watchout for a few older trains that do not have air-conditioning. These usually operate on smaller station lines. I faced one of these while travelling from Munich to Fussen. The express DB trains operating between major stations however, are very good with clean facilities. We travelled from Munich to Berlin in an overnight train in a second class sleeper coach, where there were compartments for 2 people only. The reservation costed us 135 Euros for 2 people. But we pretty much had our own room with a lock, complimentary water bottles, linen, towels and breakfast for the next morning. Just loved that journey.
The Euro Star trains in Italy operated by TrenItalia are the fast trains running between Italian cities. They charge a 10 Euro reservation fee on top of the Eurail pass, but the trains are very neat and clean, almost always on time.
If you are travelling first class, they give you a complimentary newspaper, a drink, cookies and a toffee!
TrenItalia also operates regional trains which are slower. They do not have first class or air conditioning! But you wont have to pay the reservation fee for these trains and I think they are ok for smaller day time journeys.
Trenhotel trains, numbers are prefixed with TH, are Train Hotels. These usually run between Spain and France. Reservation fee costs about 75 Euros per person for second class sleeper coach for an overnight journey. The facilities are pretty good with the berths and clean train and toilets, on train restaurant and a bar. The coach guard even collects passports for the border police while the train crosses the borders, so that you can sleep peacefully.
If you are travelling in France with a Eurail pass, then my suggestion is to book/reserve the trains early on. Apparently every train company has a certain quota for Eurail pass holders. France is the only country where we had issues with Eurail quota being completed. So we had to do detours to overcome the issue. Once on a train we had no issues at all with the seats or compartments.
Eurocity trains operated jointly by the European countries are alright for day journeys. Quite a few of them are old trains with old compartments and there might not be air-conditioning in them. At times you might even find that the second class compartments are newer and cleaner than first class.
That is the good and the best, but we also have to talk about the worst. The Euro Night trains (train numbers start with EN) operated by Hungary and Italy are the worst for overnight journeys. We had to travel in a so called first class coach which had NO AIRCONDITIONING for 14 hours. And on top of that, the weird smell in the coach, compartment and toilets that gave me a headache and nausea. Add bad customer service to it by the coach guard where he suggested that we open the windows of the coach for â€œair-conditioningâ€. Did they ever think about an element called dust? We were even suggested to sit in the restaurant car which is fully air-conditioned for the whole journey. Such a rip off for a 45 Euro per person â€œfirst class reservation feeâ€.
Anyways there is both good and bad in this world and I guess we must just live with it.