Trains in Europe have been a mystery to me until my recent train adventure. I would like to share with you my experiences with the train system in hopes that it will help you a bit during your first train expedition.
Geilenkirchen Train Station Parking Garage (Free)
An der Friedensburg 28, Geilenkirchen, Germany
(this address will get you really close to the entrance to the garage)
Step 1: Either log onto BAHN.de or call their number for a per minute fee booking (specifically 0180 5 99 66 33 – The number of train service
(14 ct / min from a landline, mobile phone max 42 ct. / min.) Chose your location of departure. In most of our cases it may be Geilenkirchen main hub. But please, feel free to look around for better deals by choosing Cologne, Dusseldorf, or Aachen as your departure city. This discount may be enough of a motivator for you to chose a city of departure further away from home. Then chose your city of destination. Lets just say your city is in the middle of no where away from the train tracks. You must chose the city closest to that train depot. How do you do that? Go to Mapquest.com or Google maps and check it out. For example, I was going to Pinswang Austria, my nearest city was Fussen Germany. Easily spotted by the bold letters of the city on the map.
Step 2: Chose your class. Unless you are riding ICE the entire time, don’t worry about paying twice as much for 1st class. No point. The first class seats are minimal and barely any better than the regular seats. If you are riding with a larger party then I would suggest paying for reservations on the train (this can be done at the train station after purchase of the ticket as well). This way your party may be seated together. For example, I chose to reserve seats on the ICE train from Bavaria to Dusseldorf because I wanted my 6 person party to sit together during this 5 hour leg of the journey. We chose compartment seating (the rooms on the train) and it only cost 8 euros. So chose 2nd class and book your seats. Unless your train is at 4 o’clock in the morning. Then no one is going to be on them, and there is no point. You will have the pick of the litter.
Step 3: Chose the train with the least connections and lowest travel time. This is obvious. You don’t want to be switching trains every 20 minutes just so that you can cut 30 minutes off of your trip.
Step 4: Pay. Can’t help you with this. Other than the fact that they BAHN.de website offers numerous deals and discounts at different times. Usually none of which you can utilize, but hey! If you are up for a trip at any given time and want to check out the deal they are offering, then they do have pretty good discounts.
Step 5: Departure day. The train stations have parking lots specific for their patrons. Follow the signs with the trains on them and the parking emblem. You will be just fine. In GK the parking is free and a moments walk from the platform. Arrive just a few minutes early for your departure. Trains are notoriously on schedule. If they are going to be off schedule then you will know so at least a day in advance (most of the time!!) and will be advised via e-mail of such delays.
Step 5: Check the information kiosk when you arrive. You can chose to have the information in english (or duetch if you are feeling crazy). Chose your time of departure, cities and voil’a! You have a train by train guide for your reference during your trip. This would also be the time to do a last minute reservation if you chose so.
Step 6: Finding the train of your liking. On your ticket reference you will see a train number and time along with a stage number. This is going to indicate where and when and what train you get on. Once you land at lets say- 11:30 in Aachen on stage 3 and you know by looking at your ticket that you must get on train 5011 at 12:00 on stage 5, then you will use the train stations handy dandy tunnels and follow their signs to stage 5. At this time you will see information on the signs located above your head. It will say something like Train 5011 – 12:00 – Liege (BE) <–Belgium. And you know you are in the right spot. Because you are going to Liege for holiday. Bam!
Step 7: Getting off the train. Get off the train at your allocated destination and go out the front doors of the train station. Here you will find buses and taxi’s or your rental car. Enjoy your vacation!