If you're going to be taking a train trip across Europe, you have no need to worry: they're just as safe as jumping on an Amtrak train at home. Make sure you pack your common sense and follow these five safety tips to ensure you have a wonderful trip!
01 of 05
Keep Your Backpack in Sight at All Times
Most important of all is to never leave your backpack on the train while you're outside of the car, and especially when it's stopped at a station. While thefts of luggage are rare, you never know if someone's been waiting for you to leave before they grab your backpack and make a run for it.
You obviously don't want to carry your backpack and daypack with you whenever you need to go to the bathroom, so the best thing to do is to keep all of your valuables in your daypack and only take that. I make sure to keep my passport, cash, laptop, camera, Kindle, and phone in my daypack at all times -- if my backpack ends up stolen, I know that my most valued possessions are safe. And that I'll be able to afford to eat and stay in a hotel while I talk to my travel insurance company.
Finally, the best time to leave the car to get some food or use the rest room is while the train is moving. I always wait until just after the train leaves a station before getting up. That way, if... someone did try to take my backpack, they couldn't get very far with it, and I would have realized what had happened before we reached our next stop.
02 of 05
Keeping Safe While Sleeping in Train Stations
If you've got an overnight wait between trains, you might want to sleep in a train station instead of heading out to a hotel. It makes a lot of sense: you save money, you don't have to leave and come back again, and if you only have a few hours to wait, you probably won't sleep much at your accommodation anyway.
If it's a large train station in a big European city, you shouldn't come across any problems. Be sure to use your backpack as a pillow and to sleep with your daypack on your front to deter any thieves. The more major the city, the more likely there'll be others settling in for the night, so bag a space nearby. There's safety in numbers, so it's worth doing this, even if it does make your night a little noisier.
03 of 05
Double Your Backpack Security
If you want to sleep on the train without fear of losing of your backpack, invest in a carabiner and use it to hook a bungee cord, string, belt -- whatever you want -- through a backpack strap and to an overhead rack or the leg of your chair. It's not as heavy as a padlock, but will prevent thieves, as unhooking your backpack would draw too much attention to them.
04 of 05
Safety on the Night Train
Overnight trains might sound dangerous, but they're typically just as safe as traveling in the day.
If you're lucky, you'll be able to buy a ticket for a train with a sleeper carriage. You'll be able to sleep in a bed if that's the case, which makes for a more comfortable journey and a higher chance of you getting some sleep. With sleeper cars, I usually put my backpack at one end of my bed and sleep with my feet on it. Remember, though, you'll be in a car with plenty of people, who are likely to wake up if anyone tries to do anything, so you don't need to worry much.
If you're less fortunate, you'll be taking a regular train overnight. In this case, you'll be sitting the whole way and unlikely to fall asleep. I usually wrap the strap of my daypack around my foot while I'm sleeping upright to keep it by my side. Or you can do the carabiner trick mentioned above.
Further reading: What are Overnight Trains in Eastern Europe Like?Continue to 5 of 5 below.
05 of 05
General Tips and Advice for Train Travel
Being safe while you travel is largely a matter of staying aware. Just because a part of town has narrow streets and few streetlights doesn't mean you should avoid it, for instance -- the coolest cafe in the world could be down there.
The key is research. Before you take a train, be sure to have a quick google around to see if anyone has anything to say about their experience on that particular route. After researching on the Thorn Tree forums about the train ride from Budapest to Kiev, I decided to fly instead, because there had been recent reports from several travelers about thefts.
For the most part, though, traveling on European trains are extremely safe. Be sure to keep your eye on your bags at all time, aim to move around the train while it's moving rather than at the station, invest in a carabiner to secure your bag if you're worried, and if you don't have a reserved seat, choose a carriage with lots of other people there.
This article has been edited and updated... by Lauren Juliff.