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10 Tips to Help Make Train Travel Memorable, Fun and Safe



One of those most vivid and unforgettable memories of my life involved a ride I endured over three days on a clumsy ancient diesel-powered train from Marrakesh to Tangier by way of Fez, Morocco.

At times, my experience mimicked scenes straight out The Sheltering Sky, a novel of post-colonial alienation and existential despair written by writer and composer Paul Bowles. Flies: Check. Chickens: Check. Dumbeck playing characters: Check. Molesting train ticket taker: Check.

Traveling by train in the U.S. is definitely different from train travel in Europe, China, Japan or Morocco, but there are some universal tips to help make train travel more enjoyable and safe no matter where you are.

With that in mind, here are 10 Tips to help make your trip memorable, fun and safe:

Book early
Try to book the earliest train departing for the day. Avoid arriving before dawn or taking the late train. You don’t want to risk hanging around sparsely populated train stations or on dark platforms.

Have a Plan B
Have a backup plan and know when the last train leaves, just in case. If you get stranded, you’re more likely to get unwelcome company. Choose a well-lit area and wait as close to other people as you can.

Make friends
Be people smart, not wary. Trust your instincts. You may not like to talk to people while you’re en route by plane or train, but traveling within reach of someone who has something of a connection to you can be very helpful. Bowles’ book, which predated my travels in Morocco by nearly 50 years, captured the sense of utter loneliness, strange desolate beauty, and the despair and fear that result from sleep deprivation brought on by solo train travel in Morocco. I made friends with two Scottish “blokes,” and an African-American college professor from the University of Nebraska while training through the country and still could not safely sleep on the train. But having travel buddies nearby probably saved my life.

Protect your valuables
Be discrete with laptops, tablets and mobile phones, especially smartphones, which thieves love to snag just as the train is pulling into a station where they can hop off and vanish. Know the schedule and put your gear away ahead of time. Reduce the opportunity.

Carry anti-theft travel gear
Carry a PacSafe® wallet, portable safe, handbag, backpack or duffel, camera bag and strap, or any one of the PacSafe anti-theft smart travel gear.

Don’t be afraid to space out…
Technology may be your best travel companion on a long-haul train trip, but honestly, this maybe the best time ever to give your eyes and brain a break. Stare at out the window. Daydream. Write a song or a book in your head. Catch up on years of lost sleep while enjoying the eyelid movies.

…But pay attention
Annoying seat mate? Well, it depends on how annoying. If they’re not hurting you or invading your space,  just take a walk, visit the club car, or simply plug in and endure it. If the person is just flat-out disturbing, go report them to the conductor. If someone starts hassling you, raise your voice loud enough to alert other passengers or a conductor.

One is the most dangerous number
At your destination for the evening, avoid leaving the train and walking to a hotel or your car alone. This is where and when crimes become opportunities for criminals. Arrange a cab or to have for someone to pick you up from the train station at night. If this isn’t possible, check in with that train buddy and see if they’re headed in your direction.

Make it an adventure
Next time you’re vacation dreaming, think about linking train trips and turning the ride into an adventure. Some train trips worth considering: The Glacier Express, the world’s slowest express takes eight hours and covers 289-kilometers, linking St. Moritz and Zermatt in the Swiss Alps. The Eurostar travels from London to Paris, mostly under the sea. It departs both Paris and London every 30 to 60 minutes and takes about just over 2 hours. For longer trips, look into booking a trip in carriages once used by the Politburo on the Trans-Siberian Railway, a 9,600-kilometer trip across seven times zones, and of course, Russia. You’ll get two bedrooms, a sitting room and a bath, complete with private chef.


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