Train Travel Safety Tips

Tourists walking on a train platform between 2 TGV, Paris, France
Pascal Preti / Getty Images

Traveling by train can be convenient, enjoyable and economical. You can minimize your risk of injury, illness, and theft by taking a few simple precautions.

Before You Travel

Pack light so that your luggage is easy to carry and lift. Depending on your destination, porters may or may not be available. In some countries, such as Italy, you must reserve porter service in advance.

Plan your itinerary with safety in mind. If possible, avoid changing trains late at night, particularly if long layovers are involved.

Research the train stations you plan to use and find out if they are known for pickpockets, train delays or other problems.

Purchase locks for your luggage. If you are going on a long rail journey, consider buying carabiners, straps or cords to secure your bags to the overhead rack in order to make them more difficult to steal. Buy a money belt or pouch and use it to hold cash, tickets, passports and credit cards. Wear the money belt. Do not stuff it into a bag or purse.

In the Train Station

Even in broad daylight, you may be a target for thieves. Wear your money belt and keep a close eye on your luggage. Organize your travel documents and train tickets so that you don't have to fumble around; a pickpocket will take advantage of your confusion and steal something before you know what has happened.

If you must spend several hours in a train station, find a place to sit that is well lit and near other travelers.

Secure your valuables. Lock your bag, keep your purse or wallet on your person at all times and use a money belt to hold your cash, credit cards, tickets and travel documents.

Keep your luggage with you. Never leave it unless you can store it in a locker.

Never cross train tracks to get to a platform. Use marked pathways and stairways to get from platform to platform.

On the Platform

Once you find your platform, pay close attention to announcements. Any last-minute platform changes will probably be announced before they appear on the departures board. If everyone else gets up and heads to another platform, follow them.

As you wait for your train, keep back from the edge of the platform so that you do not fall onto the rails, which may be electrified. Keep your baggage with you and stay alert.

Boarding Your Train

Board your train as early as possible so that you can keep your luggage with you. Place large bags in your direct line of sight. 

Be sure you enter a train car of the proper class and verify that your car is going to your destination; not all cars will remain with your train for the entire journey. You can usually get this information by reading the sign on the outside of the rail car. When in doubt, ask a conductor.

Use care when climbing the steps to your rail car. Hold onto the railing and pay attention to where you walk. If you need to move between cars, be aware that gaps may present a trip hazard. Once the train begins to move, keep one hand on a railing or seat back as you walk through the rail cars. It is very easy to lose your balance on a moving train.

Luggage, Valuables, and Travel Documents

Lock your bags and keep them locked. Take them with you when you use the restroom. If this is not possible and you are traveling alone, bring all valuable items with you. Never leave cameras, money, electronics or travel documents unguarded.

Keep your compartment locked while you sleep, if possible.

Do not trust strangers. Even a well-dressed stranger may turn out to be a thief. If you are sleeping in a compartment with travelers you do not know, be sure to sleep on top of your money belt so that you will notice if someone tries to take it from you.

Food and Water Safety

Assume that tap water on your train is not potable. Drink bottled water, not tap water. Use hand sanitizer after you wash your hands.

Avoid accepting food or drinks from strangers.

Some trains have no-alcohol policies; others do not. Respect the policy of your rail operator. Never accept alcoholic beverages from people you do not know.