9 Steps to Planning Accessible Train Travel in Europe
I absolutely LOVE to travel through Europe by train, but there are some challenges disabled travelers should be aware of.
Below I have listed 9 steps to help you through the accessible train travel process. You can also view more photos and details of accessible train travel on our website.
1. Start planning early. You can save money by booking your ticket a week or more in advance. You will also need to request assistance, and some stations require you to do so at least 24 hours in advance. The earlier you purchase your tickets, the more you will save. However, some countries only sell tickets 60 days in advance.
2. Plan your route. There are many things to consider when planning your train route. Most importantly, you will need to know your starting point and destination. From there you will need to check how many transfers are necessary to get from point A to point B. Regardless of which country you are traveling in, the German Deutschbahn website is the best place to view train schedules.
3. Check accessibility. Contact the rail company to check the accessibility of the train stations along your route. It’s important to check accessibility in both directions. For example, the Pompeii train station is accessible when traveling in one direction but involves stairs when going in the other direction.
Spot for a wheelchair on a UK train
4. Confirm accessibility. Double-check accessibility through a secondary source, such as an online forum or a travel agent with accessibility experience. Not every rail company employee has first-hand knowledge of each station’s accessibility.
5. Check train dates and times. Once you know the route you need to take, and after you’ve checked and confirmed the accessibility of the stations along that route, you will need to choose the dates and times from the train schedule that are most convenient to you. Keep in mind that you may need to arrive as much as one hour before the train departure time in order to receive disabled assistance.
6. Book disabled assistance. The process to request disabled assistance varies depending on what country you are in; but generally, you will need to contact the department in charge of accessibility at the station and reserve a time slot so someone can meet you anywhere from ten minutes to an hour before your train is scheduled to depart. In many cases, disabled assistance is required for wheelchair users because a lift or ramp is needed to board the train. You may also be able to receive assistance with your luggage.
Wheelchair lift in Hannover, Germany
7. Purchase your train tickets. When purchasing train tickets, often times you are not purchasing a specific seat. So be sure to mention that you need an accessible seat reserved. Normally accessible seats are located in a train car with an accessible bathroom, but it’s also a good idea to request this. Note: you may need to speak with someone different than the person with whom you scheduled your disabled assistance.
8. Show up! When you schedule disabled assistance, they will let you know what time to meet them. Give yourself enough time to get there, get your bearings, locate disabled assistance, and purchase return tickets if needed.
9. Relax and enjoy the ride, but stay alert. Enjoy the perks of accessible train travel in Europe! Relax and view the scenery, talk to other travelers or locals, or make plans for your next destination. Take advantage of these perks, but also keep track of where you are to make sure you don’t miss your stop. When you pass through a city, there will be a large sign facing the train with the name of the station.
Did you know?
Did you know that Sage Traveling can book your train tickets for you and arrange for your disabled assistance as part of our Trip Planning Services? Our Accessible Travel Consultants already know the best accessible train routes and can take care of all the booking details!
“Just got back from vacation in Italy and Switzerland. It was absolutely wonderful and we wanted to thank you so much for all the excellent help you have given us in putting together this vacation. Everything worked like clockwork. All the complicated transfers, pickups, train rides and everything else was just fabulous. We will be sure to use Sage Travel in the future!”
-Dave & Mey
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John Sage, Founder and President of Sage Traveling