The beginner’s guide to train travel in Europe

Traveling by train in Europe is an experience itself. It’s relaxing, you can see beautiful parts of the countries you travel through and it can also be a great way to meet people.

While it’s mostly an ideal way to get from place to place, there can be some minor hiccups with the system. Below is a basic guide to train travel in Europe and tips for avoiding pricey mistakes or confusion.

For those who are new to my blog you can easily find everything I’ve written about  cities in Europe by using the search tag in sidebar. I hope everything that I’ve posted can inspire you to travel and help you plan your next big trip! Feel free to ask any questions as well.

Throughout Europe, domestic trains (traveling entirely within a single country) don’t require a reservation, so it can be easy to wake up and decide you want to hit a new city. Just arrive at the station before the train leaves, purchase a ticket and climb aboard!

 

Having said that, especially during tourist season, trains can fill-up and last minute tickets can be expensive.

Depending on the country you are departing in, make sure you check for availability online. One of the best resources for checking train schedules is Rail Europe.
Check train times online and book international train travel in advance if possible.

While flying is almost always faster, there are pains that come with it. Long security lines, cramped seating, baggage fees and an inability to socialise are all annoyances that are avoided with train travel.

European trains are known for their punctuality – on time over 90% of the time. You can bring what you can carry (and more if you really want to), there are no pesky liquids restrictions, you have room to move around, there are sleeper carriages for long journeys and you can be social with your neighbours and you can travel with your pet – always on leash and muzzled only when hop on/off to the train-.

Airports are pretty easy to navigate. Upon check-in, you know exactly what gate to go to and there are numerous signs to guide you there. Trains, however, can be a little more confusing. There are so many trains going through Europe  with multiple trains passing on the same track minutes apart.

Make sure you know exactly what track your train is arriving on and the train number as a train to Madrid may arrive 10 minutes before your train to Paris and, before you know it, you’re in Spain. If you’re ever unsure, there is typically always someone at an information desk around that can help.

And don’t be shy! Locals are often very friendly and willing to help out as well.

The weather is often a major contributor to why flights are often delayed or even canceled. This is another very annoying and almost too frequent inconvenience with flying. Trains usually are free of these hassles and get you to your destination on time regardless of the weather.

However, European railways are known for their strikes. Be sure to pay attention to the news and ask around if there is word of a strike on the verge of taking place. Unfortunately, there isn’t much you can do about it if there is. In case it does happen, buses are usually available.

Now that you have your train ticket, what are you supposed to do with it?

Many train tickets need to be validated (stamped with time/date) before boarding the train since they’re open tickets for train travel between two destinations and not for a specific train or time.

There are machines at the station, usually located on the train track. You just stick your ticket in and the machine stamps it. You could receive a fine if that train conductor sees that you neglected to do so and they will think you are trying to ride for free. Try to avoid the “I’m a silly tourist and didn’t know that rule” moment even though they will likely let it slide if you do forget.

Also, most trains have assigned cars for 1st and 2nd class so make sure you know what car you are assigned. It’s not fun being booted out of your seat after you’re all settled in or worse, asleep!

 

Overall train travel in Europe is fun and easy! Be sure to do a bit of pre-planning and enjoy the ride!

 

How-to: island hopping in Greece

island hopping

Greece’s roughly 3,000 islands and islets are scattered far and wide across the eastern Mediterranean. Most are in the Aegean Sea (south and east of mainland Greece), while fewer but even prettier are in the Ionian Sea (west of the mainland).

The Greek islands are divided into distinct clusters:

1.The Ionian Islands, traditionally called the Heptanese (i.e. the seven islands) closer to Albania and Italy than to Athens, are Greece’s northwest gateway to the Adriatic and the rest of Europe. They’ve had more foreign invaders and rulers (from Venice, France, Britain, Russia, Austria, and so on) than anywhere else in the country. These are Corfu, Paxi, Lefkada, Ithaca, Cephalonia, Zante & Kythira.

  1. The Saronic Gulf Islands (Argosaronikos), conveniently wedged between the Peloponnese and Athens, ooze lots of island charm and give you a chance to get away from it all without actually going very far. They are Aegina, Agkistri, Spetses, Hydra, Salamina, Poros & Metahana.

3.The Sporades Islands, due east of Athens, are dominated by the giant Evia island, which is attached to the mainland by a bridge. Thickly forested and less touristed by international visitors, the Sporades are a popular and handy weekend getaway for Athenians.

The Sporades islands fall into 5 different Sporades groups, which are:

  • Thessalian Sporades: Skopelos, Alonissos, Skiathos, Kyra Panagia, Peristera, Gioura, Skantzoura, Piperi and Tsougria
  • Thracian Sporades: Thasos, Samothrace, Imbros, Lemnos and Agios Efstratios
  • Western Sporades: Salamis, Aigina, Poros, Hydra, Spetses, and the other islands of the Saronic Gulf and the Myrtoan Sea
  • Eastern Sporades: Samos, Ikaria, Lesbos, Chios, Tenedos, Psara, Oinousses and other smaller island groups
  • Southern Sporades (They correspond to the Dodecanese plus a few northern islands – especially Samos and Ikaria -; also included are the islands of Chios and Lesbos.)

 

  1. The Cyclades  — a bit farther south, between Athens and Crete — are the prototypical “Greek islands,” boasting chalk-white houses with colourful windowsills and doorways; rocky, sun-parched landscapes; delightful beaches; old-fashioned white windmills topped with tufts of grass like unkempt hair; and an almost overwhelming crush of international visitors. The Cyclades comprise about 220 islands, the major ones are Amorgos, Anafi, Andros, Antiparos, Delos, Ios, Kea, Kimolos, Kythnos, Milos, Mykonos, Naxos, Paros, Folegandros, Serifos, Sifnos, Sikinos, Syros, Tinos, and Thira or Santoríni. There are also many minor islands including Donousa, Eschati, Gyaros, Irakleia, Koufonisia, Makronisos and Schoinousa.
  2. The Dodecanese Islands, literally 12 islands, at the sunny, southeastern end of the Greek lands, are more rustic and less developed than the Cyclades. Their proximity to Turkey and historic ties to Venice give them a hybrid Turkish-Venetian flavour and they are a group of 15 larger plus 150 smaller Greek islands, of which 26 are inhabited. Τhis island group generally defines the eastern limit of the Sea of Crete. They belong to the wider Southern Sporades island group.

The most well-known is Rhodes, which has been the area’s dominant island since Antiquity. Some of the others are Kos, Patmos, Agathonisi, Astypalaia, Kalymnos, Karpathos, Kasos, Leipsoi, Leros, Nisyros, Symi, Tilos, and Kastellorizo. Other islands in the chain include Alimia, Arkoi, Chalki, Farmakonisi, Gyali, Kinaros, Levitha, Marathos, Nimos, Pserimos, Saria, Strongyli, Syrna and Telendos.

  1. The North Aegean Islands lie roughly between Turkey and Thessaloniki (at the northern end of mainland Greece). The southernmost of these, Samos, is a particularly handy springboard for Turkey, as it’s very close to the Turkish port city of Kuşadası (near the remarkable ancient Greek site of Ephesus).

7. Crete is Greece’s biggest island and practically a mini state of its own (in fact, from 1897 to 1913 it was an autonomous state within the Ottoman Empire). While many of Greece’s smaller islands merit a day or two of fun in the sun, Crete could occupy even a busy traveler for a week or more.

So now you don’t need to get the same old  Athens – Santorini – Mykonos’  group trip but rather you can plan your own island hopping  to  Greek islands according to what you really want to do in your holidays by simply search & book  a flight at Skyscanner below that perfectly suits your needs (days, times, arrive and departure airport etc.)

 

If, for instance, you want to explore the Sporades islands, you should look for a flight to Thessaloniki airport but if you want to visit the Ionian islands, it is better to look for a flight to Aktion (i.e.  the airport serving Preveza and Lefkada in Greece. It is also known as Lefkada Airport).

Bear in mind that, if you arrive to Aktion and your first island is Lefkada, you don’t need to book a ferry ticket as Lefkada is the only island in the country that is connected to the mainland with a bridge.

You can then search for your ferries tickets here


and book your accommodation in any of these islands here below

 

 

Do not forget to comment which  Greek islands will you visit this year..!!

 

 

How to: holidays on a sailing boat

 

Are you interested in what’s like inside of a sailing boat?

The Greek Islands have long been an alluring destination and ticketseller.gr offers the perfect way to appreciate their natural charm and beauty. Drop anchor by a deserted beach in the Dodecanese; wander through the Cyclades’ whitewashed villages; immerse yourself in Ionian culture, dive over shipwrecks in the Sporades; climb Mount Olympus in the Aegean and marvel at magical Crete because the holidays on a sailing boat are freedom and help you fully re-charge your batteries even if it is just for few days.

A sailing boat is perfect holiday for those who want to visit more than one places and don’t want to spend a fortune and ticketseller.gr include everything at the final price, from the cost of 1 or 2 skipper to the cost of gas and water for all the days that you will rent the sailing boat and, if you cook on the boat instead of eating out in a marine, it would save you more money.

Ticketseller.gr has currently two service providers on sailing boats and if you choose incrediblue.com you can search for a boat according to which islands you want to explore. However, if you choose the second provider, vyra.com, you can find more boats across the whole Mediterranean sea!

It is a life experience to sleep in a sailing boat in a bay than in a hotel.

In a bay, you can stay up as late as you want and have fun without disturbing other people next to your boat and no one will disturb your sleep with their voices and their music. You can wake up and immediately dive in the sea and spent the whole day by diving in more than one beaches or caves, most of them isolated.

 

Let’s see now what stuff you need to have with you on a sailing boat. To start with, make-up, hair dryers, hair strengtheners, and high heels are not acceptable in a sailing boat (the last because most of the time there you will be barefoot). So, you only need 1 pair of shoes (preferably sneakers or flat espadrilles) and flip-flops  – I personally could live on flip-flops only –

Moving on to clothes, you only need as many bikinis and swimsuits as you want ; they don’t take up space  and you are going to need them all. In addition, you will need shorts, tops, dresses and a wind cheater or denim jacket and that’s all (most of the day you are going to be with your bikini).

The only thing you need in excess is towels. You will need one beach towel per day and 1 bath towel.

As for cosmetics and make-up, you will only need your suncream lotion for face and body (do not pack a suntanning oil for holidays on a sailing boat; they are useless because you only need protection and suntanning oils can be very dangerous in a sailing boat as they are quite slippery), a shampoo and a shower gel – I prefer the Johnson’s baby head to toe wash because it is the best 2 in1 shampoo in the market, smells incredible and it doesn’t take up space in your cosmetic bags if you get the travel size – However, if you can’t live without make-up, you can take bronzer, mascara, blush and lipstick with you.

You will also need razors but you don’t need shaving cream for legs, just shave your legs with sea salt water and you will be amazed how soft they are, and of course travel size toothbrush, toothpaste, a face wash gel and a hydrating face cream.

Last but not least, you will need hat and sunglasses, phone and power bank, camera or even better an action camera that can shoot underwater and anything that will keep you entertained e.g books and crosswords or even a table game such as monopoly.

My last tip for staying safe on the boat:

Be aware of all time and respect the boom (some of the most common sailing injuries are a result of not being aware when the boom is about to swing) and of course always listen to your skipper (he/she is there to give you a safe lifetime experience).

Sail away my friends, have fun and let me know on the comments  where will you choose to spend your holidays this summer.

Please subscribe to my site for future posts and tips, like and comment on my Facebook page and follow me on my other social media.

 

The Sunshine Blogger Award

 

 

I am very proud and excited to say that Giorgos from traveldefinition.com  has nominated me the Sunshine Blogger Award!

I’m so honoured that I can inspire others…that was really my main reason for starting this blog! If you have a chance, head on over to his blog for some beautiful photos and fun adventure stories.

What is the Sunshine Blogger Award exactly?

The Sunshine Blogger Award is an award given to bloggers by other bloggers who “are positive and creatively inspire others in the blogosphere“.

Rules of the Sunshine Blogger Award:

1.Thank the blogger for nominating your blog and post a link back to their blog

  1. Answer 11 questions asked by the blogger who nominated you
  2. Nominate 11 other blogs and give them 11 questions to answer

  3. Notify your nominees and

  4. List the rules and display the Sunshine Blogger Award logo in your post.

So, without further ado … THANK YOU SO MUCH Giorgos of traveldefinition.com who nominated me for this award. He has a really cool blog worth having a look.  Check out his blog and see for yourself!!!

Here are my answers to Giorgos’ interesting  questions…..

1.Which is the most memorable country you have visited?

England, no question about it. I instantly fell in love with the country and go back there in every given chance. I have lived in England for more than 5 years and I would be happy if I could live there for good.

2. You meet someone that does not like the idea of traveling, what do you say to him?

I don’t really say much to them. People are different. Some people like to stay home, others like to travel. Of course I feel they are missing out on so much because travelling opens your eyes and lets you see the world in a new light. It is such an educational experience. But I don’t really feel like changing people, making them do stuff they don’t like to.

3. What kind of traveler are you?

An adventurer. Road trips, roundtrips, city trips. I love it all, but never in a group. Where tourists go left, I go right.

4. So far in your life, have you ever wanted to stay somewhere and never come back home?If yes where and why?

Yes, absolutely, on my first sailing experience last summer in Ionian. I didn’t want  this trip to end and I would love to be able to sail more in the future.

5. What was the first trip that made you love traveling?

I guess it was in my blood. My parents took my sister and me in a road trip from Greece to Italy, Switzerland and France, and later I took off in the big wide world myself and got addicted to travelling ever since.

6. If you were to spend the last day alive, how will you spend it?

Never think of it but I will  probably spend the whole day hanging around with my lovely lab puppy Joey, my boyfriend and closed family members.

7. Which is the worst memory you have while traveling?

Now that is a hard question. I am a very positive person and most negative experiences are really not so bad if you have the right mindset. Any bad thing happening on your travels will become a good story sooner or later. I am very good at remembering the positives and forget about the negatives. But definitely my worst memory is when I was in Crete for a Greek wedding in 2008 and saw a young boy that had a very serious motorbike accident – he was lying dead on the edge of the road-. So, please be super careful when driving and don’t drink and drive.

8. Which is the best memory you have while traveling?

The best memory when travelling is when I am on the airport and wait for my journey to begin. I love watching other passengers pass by and dream my trip…

9. What was the most delicious food you have tasted outside your country?

Italian pizza is  the BEST pizza I’ve had in my entire life . Apparently, Italy is a zillion levels above the rest of the world.

10. If you were to go somewhere tomorrow, where would it be and why?

Such an easy question! My  answer is of course England. 🙂 But  I need to see other places as well. Anywhere I haven’t been really. Australia is high up on my list right now, so is United States of America. So if someone gave me a ticket to wherever tomorrow I guess I would flip a coin between those 2 continents. If you ask me next year I would probably say England.

11. What is your belief in life?

I am not religious or anything like that. I believe we have this life and this life only, when we die that’s it. So all we have to do is to make the most of the life we have, live in the moment, enjoy ourselves. It could all be over tomorrow, I want to experience as much as I can before I die.

In no particular order, I am nominating the following bloggers for the Sunshine Blogger Award.

  1. Catie  from A Postcard Home
  2. Sven from Svenywhere
  3. Jitin from Bornomadic Travel site .
  4. Christina from A little nomad
  5. Andy from Wanderlust aussies
  6. Daisy from Beyond my border
  7. Maria from Travel Details
  8. Alexandra from Two Penguins, ONE dream
  9. Ghicelle from Stay Wild
  10. Megha from A Li’l of Everything 
  11. Grysh from More Like Twins

 

 

 Congratulations! My questions for you are:

  1. What is your most favourite place you’ve ever been?
  2. What is the most amazing thing you’ve seen while travelling?
  3. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
  4. What is the strangest thing you’ve ever eaten while traveling?
  5. What is your favourite travel-related book or movie?
  6. Trains, planes, RVs or sailing boats?
  7. What is one off the beaten path location that you recommend for me to visit?
  8. What is your least favourite part of travelling?
  9. What’s the story behind your blog name?
  10. What is your favourite social media platform and why?
  11. What is the most valuable thing you’ve learned from blogging?

sunshine blogger award

 

 

 

Easter break in Corfu

easter in corfu

*Disclosure: Elena’s travels blogs receives compensation from affiliate links to generate income to offset costs mainly for travel expenses.

Hello my fellow travellers

Have you already planned or booked your easter break?

Greece is a beautiful country all year long and easter is the biggest celebration for the Orthodox church. More especially, easter in Corfu is even greater, more spectacular and more impressive, with rituals that are found nowhere else in the world.

Palm Sunday

Easter preparations  begin from Palm Sunday.  Palm Sunday practically opens the Hole Week. It commemorates the Jesu’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem where, according to the gospel truth, the residents of the city welcomed Him holding branches of palm trees, laying their clothes on the ground and applauding him by saying Hosanna; blessed the one who came in the name of the Lord.

In the churches of Greece, priests offer palm leaves to the pilgrims.

The procession with the relics of the patron saint of Corfu, Agios Spiridon, gathers the pilgrims in a spectacular ceremony, with the participation of any Band of the island.

Holy Thursday

Red eggs are dyed in every Greek house and the Twelve Gospels are read. The red eggs symbolise the fertility and the powers of creation. Others claim that they stand as a symbol of the resurrection of the whole world, in other words, the regeneration of nature. Some people believe that easter eggs  are dyed red to symbolise the commemoration of Jesus’ shed blood during his crucifixion. For others, the red colour stands for joy and happiness caused to humanity after the joyful event of resurrection but most importantly red eggs acts as a deterrent to evil powers.

Good Friday

The Epitaphs of the island visit every neighbourhood and cross under the mournful sounds of the Philharmonic Bands.

Epitaph and litany of St. Spiridon is established as a tribute to the miracle of St. Spiridon in 1553, where in a period of great famine ships with wheat approached the island at time procession of the Epitaph of St. Spiridon. The story goes that the sailors dreamed of a monk who led them to Corfu in order to protect them from the weather and to sell their products. Philharmonic bands are participating to the litany.

Great Saturday

The locals revive the custom of artificial earthquake, symbolising the resurrection of Christ. Shortly after, the procession of the Epitaph of Saint Spiridon is held and then everyone expects the First Resurrection.

When the church’s bells start ringing vigorously on the island, it’s time for the first resurrection and people buy clay pots and drop them from their balconies, filled with water. In this way, they cast out evil spirits and participate in probably the most famous Easter customs in Greece.

This habit possible bears the influence of the Venetians who would throw old objects out of their window on New Years Day, so the New Year would bring them health, luck, happiness and prosperity. Another, most likely, explanation is that the custom is of pagan origins. By smashing things and making loud noises the Ancient Greeks wanted to wake up Persephone, the goddess of spring , and accelerate the coming of Spring .

At midnight, the Resurrection is celebrated, with the bells ringing loudly at midnight and making the miracle of Christianity known in every corner of the world, anywhere  there is a Greek orthodox church and people get the Holy light on white candles.  Later they return home and gather round the table to celebrate the resurrection by eating local delicacies such as red eggs and the so-called magiritsa.

Easter Sunday

The roasted lamb, slowly cooking on the spit on Easter Sunday, is not only a mouth-watering delicacy but it also carries rich symbolism.

The origin of eating lamb on Easter comes from the Jewish Passover and is associated with the exodus from Egypt.

Before the Jews set out on the great exodus, God, through Moses, told them to gather in small groups and each family to sacrifice a lamb. With the animal’s blood they were to paint their doorposts so they were not exterminated by the angel of God, who on that night would bring pestilence to the firstborn of each family who would not mark the entrance to their house with the lamb’s blood.

That night, each family offered as a sacrifice to God a lamb for the salvation of all people. They ate the lamb, without breaking its bones, together with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. With the lamb’s blood, they stained their doors.

Later, Christians adopted the sacrificial lamb as John the Baptist likened Jesus Christ to the lamb of God who will take the brunt of the sins of the world with his sacrifice.

In most parts of Greece, on Easter Sunday the faithful roast a lamb on the spit along with the intestines.

On Easter Sunday and 40 days on, Orthodox Christians greet each other saying, “Christ is Risen” and answer, “Truly He is risen.”

 

A way to visit Corfu and live unique experiences is by clicking here.

I am waiting for your easter experiences on my Facebook page.

With lots of love,

Elena

 


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Best Places To Look For A Booking Accommodation

accommodation

*Disclosure: Elena’s travels blogs receives compensation from affiliate links to generate income to offset costs mainly for travel expenses.

When I am looking for an accommodation, I always consider a few factors to take into account as a frequent traveler. As most people, I don’t want to spend a fortune on travel accommodation. Moreover, I love when I earn more savings by enrolling in a rewards program.
The following booking sites listed here are all very different, but each can help you find low prices at accommodation around the world.
  1.  HotelWiz Hotels. 

It allows you to search for hotels by map, by stars, by brand. It is a very easy process.

You can also read reviews and star ratings on accommodation for your trip, plan and purchase a great room in the perfect hotel for your taste and budget! Business travellers, family travellers, tourists, and local travellers alike use this site to book the perfect hotel at the best price.

2. Park Sleep Fly
ParkSleepFly exceeds expectations with features like free cancellation and excellent customer support. They offer cruise port parking packages and hotel-only reservations as well.

With hundreds of top hotels near major and regional airports across the United States, Canada, and Europe, ParkSleepFly is the leader in online hotel and parking packages.

3.HomeAway 
HomeAway.co.uk is part of the HomeAway family, the world’s most  trusted source for holiday homes and the world’s #1 choice for holiday homes.

They connect property owners and managers with holidaymakers looking for the perfect accommodation to share their dream holidays together with families and friends.

The beautiful homes on site feature more space, privacy, and amenities than hotels, often for less than half the cost per person.

 4.Ticketseller.gr

The last but not least booking site is quite new but it’s very different from any other booking site out there. It provides you with more than one search engines on hotels and accommodation so you can get  more results on accommodation search. It might be a Greek site but it is also translated in english and it provides you with a global search! You can also find a lot of interesting posts for your travels

I’d love to hear on the comment section below where do you usually search and book your accommodation.

With lots of love,

Elena