Italy’s train system can be frustrating to say the least. Between delays, cancellations and strikes a traveler can lose their cool. My next tip won’t necessarily save you money outright, but will help hedge your bets when using the trains for transportation on your trip.
7. When possible, purchase your train tickets once in Italy
My people try to get as much taken care of ahead of time before leaving for their vacation. While I am an avid planner and believe that setting yourself up early is important, train tickets are where I draw the line. Except for a few exceptions, I discourage people from buying before leaving. Here is why:
Traveling brings about the unexpected and Italy more so than many places. Most of the time these unplanned situations are actually positive, but occasionally they can wreak havoc on a trip. Italian trains are more often than not late, some cancelled altogether. Strikes are common. You can actually find out exactly when and where most of the train strikes are as the publish them each month, but prepurchased train tickets usually need to be taken care of before that final list is public. Insurance must (should) be added to prepurchased tickets to cover these situations. Also, you never know when you might fall in love with a place or want to change your plans. With prepaid tickets you lose your flexibility.
There are times I would take advantage of buying ahead. For example, if I am ever arriving in Rome but need to take the train the next day to another major city I grab my ticket. Some of my past clients staying in Florence have wanted to day trip to Venice and for simplicity’s sake I have made pre-arrangements.
Instead, I head straight to the train station or a local travel agency once I arrive in Italy and purchase the tickets I need. For travel between smaller towns (example: Orvieto) I just arrive a few minutes before hand and get my ticket from the window or the machine. That way if I want to linger a bit longer over a meal or am itching to get back earlier I have the flexibility.
Train travel seems overwhelming but is actually quite simple and I will be running a series on my train travel tips in the upcoming weeks. Check back this week for more tips about car rental, taxis and public transportation.
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copyright 2012 Andi Brown, Once in a Lifetime Travel