One of the best things about living in Europe for four months is the endless opportunities to travel within your host country as well as outside of it. So far, I have gone to five countries outside of Italy for very cheap. Many students opt for taking organized trips with large groups when travelling, however if you are looking to travel for cheap and are willing to put in the work, you can save tons of money and personalize your trips! There are some locations that may be easier to book through a travel agency, however I have had the best experience planning trips on my own thus far.
My main mode of transportation has been trains. The train system is quite simple in Europe and you can get almost anywhere via train. There are two main train companies in Italy: TrenItalia and Italo. Within TrenItalia you can take fast or slow trains. The quicker trains are typically more expensive, so if you are like me you take the regional trains. Personally, I enjoy train rides and having a chance to see the countryside. The regional trains make many stops, which is why it may take longer to get where you’re going. Buying tickets is also very simple. You can either buy the tickets ahead of time on your phone via TrenItalia or GoEuro, or you can buy a physical ticket in person at an electronic booth.
Many students have had issues when using the trains—so here’s a few tips before you go:
1. Always arrive to the station 15-20 minutes early—no two stations look the same, so give yourself extra time
2. VALIDATE YOUR TICKET—if you print out a physical ticket, you must always validate your ticket to avoid any fine
3. BUY A TICKET—don’t assume you can hop on any train without paying for a ticket. I have had my ticket checked on almost every train and have awkwardly watched tourists get yelled at and fined when they fail to buy a ticket
4. Be familiar with the country you are traveling within—i.e. know the name of the station you are going to, there are usually multiple stops per big city
5. If you’re not sure, ASK!!!!!! There are always workers willing to help or local people that can help you find your way, don’t assume ANYTHING!
I hope these tips help anyone planning to travel on a train within Italy, or any other country within Europe.