- I’m a solo traveler, and I almost always prefer slower trains over airplanes.
- I get some of my best local recommendations when traveling by train.
- The European routes are often very scenic, and I like having extra space on the train.
I booked a second-class seat on a four-hour train from Geneva, Switzerland, to Milan, Italy. As a solo traveler, I loved the atmosphere and slow pace.
I also made sure to book a midday journey because I wanted to take in the views on the scenic route.
Here’s why I absolutely loved the ride.
I suggest buying directly from train websites when booking train travel in Europe.
Train apps are also pretty useful and simple for downloading and scanning tickets.
I booked 11 days before my departure, and my ticket cost 88 euros, or about $95. That’s a pretty standard rate for a second-class ticket on this route.
Some tickets during peak commuting hours can cost over 100 euros. But as a general rule, the further ahead you book a long-distance train, the better rate you’ll get.
European train stations are typically located in or near city centers and often provide connections to public transportation. This makes it very easy to get around as a solo traveler without a car.
Airports, in comparison, are often located outside of the city and require a taxi, bus, or additional train changes to get to.
I walked to the Geneva train station from my hotel in 12 minutes.
Trenitalia inter-city tickets are given a specific carriage and seat assignment. Even though there may be a lot of empty seats when you first board, the train will likely fill up, so it’s important to be in the correct seat.
Luckily, I had several minutes to board and get settled in. I didn’t feel like I had to shove and push to get on board before the doors closed.
Plus, the boarding process was made even easier by the screens located along the platform displaying where each carriage would end up when the train stopped.
My train car was fairly empty when I boarded, but started to fill up after we stopped at Lausanne.
Each seat on my carriage was spacious — definitely larger than what you’d find in economy on an airplane. The seat tables can also be folded up if you want more space.
I also had access to my own electrical outlet, which made it easy for me to charge my electronics throughout the trip.
There was a café carriage in between first and second class on my train.
I could purchase espresso, wine, and soda and snacks like chips, pizza, or sandwiches.
The carriage also had some seating available, but I took my purchases back to my seat.
I enjoyed the beautiful vistas of Lac Léman, often called Lake Geneva, and the Alps along the way.
It’s important to note that most of the Swiss towns, mountains, and vineyards were on the left side of the train.
In Italy, the train slowed to a crawl around Lake Maggiore (which was also to the left). But it gave me more time to ogle the charming lake towns.
In airports, moving through security can feel rushed, and boarding the airplane can be a mad dash. Though it’s never a guarantee, I generally find train travelers and staff to be patient and friendly.
I also find train travelers are more prone to striking up a conversation. When I travel solo, I enjoy these opportunities to meet new people and get some local recommendations.
The train attendant who scanned my ticket stopped to talk to me about cameras after seeing a Kodak sticker on my water bottle. And I sat next to an opera singer who informed me of a photography exhibit I might like.
The Italian inter-city trains tend to have plenty of storage for luggage.
I like that I can be close to my carry-on bags, which go directly overhead or in a cavity behind the seats.
Larger suitcases — ones that would typically be checked on a plane — can also go on luggage racks at the ends of the carriages. But that’s not ideal if you want to keep your eyes on your luggage.
Overall, my ride went by quickly thanks to the beautiful views and friendly conversations with other travelers. As a solo traveler, I found the slow, yet efficient train ride to be a welcome moment to relax.