When we left Greece for Bulgaria, we had two choices: take a quick plane or jump on the long train and bus ride. Because we’ve been taking planes since the day we left, we decided to opt for the unusual option. It would save us a bit of money and make the journey more interesting! After all, we hadn’t traveled that much around Greece, so this was our chance to see the north of the country.
I found myself a lot more excited about this train ride than I would be for a typical plane ride. That’s why I decided to put a guide together for how to survive a 5h+ train ride, as it can get boring, long and unexciting.
1. Dress Comfortably
The best way to enjoy your ride is to make sure it’s going to be a comfortable one. Trade your jeans for sweatpants and your pretty shoes for sneakers. I recommend wearing socks, so you can take your shoes off and sit in your most comfortable position. Girls, you’ll probably want to braid your hair or it down, as ponytails tend to hurt while sitting on a train (or a plane), especially if you plan to sleep.
2. Make sure you have an extra layer easily accessible
The last thing you want to do, while on a train or plane ride, is to freeze. There’s nothing worst than spending the whole time shivering and wishing you had a blanket wrapped around you. I always carry a French terry cardigan with me, even when it’s hot outside. You never know how cold the train is going to be. Also, if that’s not enough, Chris usually has a sweater in his bag that I can steal, as he’s never cold!
3. Buy snacks before you leave
This isn’t a plane; you can bring as much food as you want. (But note that you can actually bring quite a bit of food in planes too!) Since you might get hungry on the way, it’ll make your ride much more enjoyable if you have things to snack on. I recommend nuts, which are filled with protein, over chocolate or chips. They’ll keep you fuller longer, trust me. Also, make sure you have plenty of water for the ride, as you don’t want to end up dehydrated!
4. Download a good playlist
I love watching TV shows, and I always find it sad when I realize that my life doesn’t have the perfect soundtrack to go with it. But if you want to make your train ride movie-like, you can do it yourself! Just download the appropriate soundtrack you want and lose yourself looking out the window at the beautiful countryside, thinking about how cool it would be if someone were watching the movie of your life. Personally, I’ve come to love Spotify Premium more and more every day. Because I’m traveling all the time, it was hard to use to free version (as it’s not available in all countries), so I paid for the full version. I can be anywhere in the world and have access to my playlists. But the coolest thing? The ability to download music offline, so I can listen to it on the train. No more hours of downloading and searching for songs, you just click ‘Download Offline’ and you’re ready to go! I love the Hanging Out and Relaxing Playlist as well as the Indie Pop Chillout Playlist. Which one is your favorite?
5. Get your books ready
You can’t always look outside the window. If you’re bored, then I definitely recommend reading a good book! It’ll make time go so much faster. And nowadays, it’s really not that hard to get your hands on a good book. If you have a phone or a tablet, you can read your favorite novel. I carry my Sony Reader everywhere with me, which I prefer to reading on my phone.
Make sure you download a book or two to read on the way before you leave! Or even buy a paperback at the train station if you want to. It’s not really an option everywhere, as not all countries have English books (plus it takes place in your bags, which are usually already full), but it’s always nice to carry a real book with you. 🙂 So do as you want, but make sure you have some distractions for when the time goes by slower.
6. Ditch the camera and enjoy the memories you are making
Life is about the journey, not the destination. So make sure you enjoy your train ride by living it. Instead of trying to take constant pictures of the beautiful landscape, I decided to leave my big DSLR in my bag and enjoy the view. The train was going too fast to get good pictures anyway, so I would have lost precious memories, trying to get the perfect shot.
It wasn’t worth it. So instead of sorting blurry and ugly pictures now, I can remember those incredible mountains and how magical the forest with rode through was.
Even if it were our first time taking the train in Europe, I would do it again anytime! It was such a lovely experience, even though it takes quite a bit longer than a plane ride, but it’s totally worth it.