So youâ€™ve got your Rail Pass in the mail, now what. Well the first step is getting to know your Rail Schedule, or Eurail Timetable, that should be included with your pass. This train schedule will help you further refine your itinerary plans because you will know exact train times. The Eurail Timetable and route maps are also downloadable at eurail.com.
The Eurail Timetable can be a bit difficult to decipher at first. On the first page few pages are an explanation of all the symbols used in the timetable as well as a guide for reading the table. You will be referencing this frequently until you familiarize yourself with the symbols and how to read the tables. Also you will have to readjust to the 24 hour clock, for example 18.00 is 6:00PM. The times listed are mostly accurate but it is always necessary to check the boards at train stations.
The timetable shows what the departure and arrival station are (large cities have more than one train station) and time the train departs and arrives. The timetable will also reference any transfer station and the corresponding times for that. The train timetable denotes what routes change during seasons and what routes have a different schedule for the weekends. If there is any symbol next to your route you want to look it up in the symbol explanation section.
Looking through your timetable you might notice that the European names of the cities are used as opposed to what you and I might be used to. Venezia is Venice, Bruxelles is Brussels, and so on. Reference your guidebook to learn the European names of the cities you will be visiting. That way when you are in the train stations you wonâ€™t get confused when trying to read the schedule board.
Included with your timetable you will also find a map detailing the train routes throughout Europe. Look at your routes and see if you happen to go through a city/town that you might want to stop through on your way to your final destination. It may also come in handy when dealing with the Rail Ticket office to see why their seemingly crazy route is the only one that makes sense for your particular itinerary.
The Timetable will show which trains require a reservation, denoted by a square with an R inside. You can also determine which train routes are better served by overnight train routes, as opposed to being on a train all day and wasting precious Tourista Time.
Take note in the timetable of the frequency of routes to your next destination. Some routes only run a few trains a day and others run quite frequently. The schedule shows the different types of trains each route uses. For example Firenze S.M.N. (Florence) to Milano Centrale (Milan) can be served by the Intercity Train (IT), a local train that requires no reservation, or the high speed Eurostar Italia (ESI), a high speed train that requires a reservation.
The timetable will show what kind of sleeping accommodations are available on the night trains. The sleeping options available on overnight trains are couchette, sleeping car, or sleeperette.