Train Jumping is an art requiring many months of practice. As a self proclaimed master in the art of train jumping, I will guide you through the process of sneaking on board, avoiding ticket agents and successfully arriving at your destination.
Disclaimer: Jumping trains should only be done in an emergency. If you’re backpacking Europe for an extended period of time, I highly recommend you invest in a Eurail pass instead. The Runaway Guide is not responsible for any fines or jail time you might incur should you jump the trains of Europe.
You have run out of money! >< Or you’re just cheap and want a free ride. Either way, it is possible to jump most trains in Europe with relative ease and at a low risk of being fined or arrested. Let’s say you are in Nice and want to go to Venice. This is one of the easiest routes and perfect for begginers.
Step 1 Research & Preparation
The first thing you need to do is locate and enter the station. Inside you will see a large board, either electronic or mechanical, that will display the latest arrival and departure times. On longer trips such as this one, Nice-Venice, you generally will not find the destination displayed as Venice. It will most likely be listed as Genoa, but depending on the train, it will continue onward to Venice.
In order to find out which train goes direct to your destination without transferring, you must go to the ticket or information booth. Either one is ok. Just calmly tell the agent where you want to go and he/she will print out a schedule for you, and ask if you would like to buy a ticket. Politely decline.
Now that you know what train to take, it’s time to do some research. Walk up and down the platform paying close attention to the number of cars of the train. You should memorize the length of the train by car. There will usually be 10 to 15 cars depending on the length of the trip. If the doors are open, it is best to board the train before other passengers arrive and survey the bathroom and ticket agent booth locations.
If you see the ticket agent during your research, don’t be nervous, give him a smile and nod and carry on as if you are looking for your seat. Encountering the ticket agent this early in your mission can both be positive and negative. The upside is that the ticket agent now knows your face and much later when he is doing his checks after minor station stops, will recognize you, and believing that he had already checked you, wont bother to check again. Conversely, the fact that he has seen your face means he knows exactly who you are and if he senses any fear from you, he will be sure to try and find you soon after the train departs the main station.
All trains vary in their layout but lets say that there is one ticket agent booth at the far end of the train. In this instance, you want to position your self directly in the middle car. You will see why in a moment. When the passengers begin to board, it is best to just remain standing in the corridors or have a seat on the pot. This way, if there is assigned seating, though there usually isn’t, you won’t have to relocate your self, thus stirring suspicion.
Step 2 The Initial Ticket Check
The train departs from Gare de Nice and you are on your way. To the right is the magnificent French Riviera and to the left, the spectacular affluence of Monte Carlo. But don’t get too distracted marveling at the view. Usually about 10 to 15 minutes after the train departs, the agent will make his first round of checks. At this time you should be standing in the corridor near the bathroom.
Every minute or so, look through the glass door into the next train to see if you can spot the agent. If you look too often, other passengers may become suspicious or think you are just crazy. Neither of which will work in your favor. Just as he is about to enter the adjoining train, you need to make a decision.
There are two options, both of which equally pose risks. The first is to walk swiftly forward, past the agent, and hope that he is too preoccupied to stop you to ask for your ticket. If you are stopped, just tell him you need to use the bathroom and have left your ticket at your seat. This scenario is usually not a good one and may require some improvisation on your part. However, if you make it past him, just find yourself a seat and relax. You are pretty much home free for now.
The second option may initially seem less risky but may quickly turn into an embarrassing predicament. This time, instead of trying to sneak past the agent, hide in your nearest bathroom. The average time it takes for an agent to check one car is about 4-5 minutes. So, to be safe, you should remain in the bathroom for about 10 minutes. This will allow time for the agent to traverse your car. Remember, ticket agents are people who have usually been working the job for a longtime. While some are experts, dedicated to catching freeloaders, others are dimwits or can’t be bothered. If you are unlucky enough to get the former, he will most likely knock on the bathroom door.
Step 3 The Bathroom Ruse
In this scenario, there are a few different strategies to make him go away. The first is, and this works better for girls, to talk aggressively to him through the door. It doesn’t matter which language you speak in because your tone of voice is what will translate. If he keeps knocking, you should get louder, and if you have to, yell. One of the worst things you can do is stay quite. Anyone who has paid for a ticket would be angry for an agent’s intrusion and so you must act in accordance.
A second option is to pretend you have diarrhea. I don’t think I need to explain how to make this option convincing. If the agent doesn’t believe you, be prepared for him to use his key to unlock the door. You can either give up now or drop your pants and hit the pot. Try and squeeze one out for a more realistic effect. If he smells and sees you in this vulnerable position, yell at him and he will usually apologize.
The final method is to leave the door unlocked or partially ajar. In this way, the agent will assume no one is hiding there and will continue on. However, if you use this method, you risk passengers walking in on you.
Step 4 Stay Vigilant
Ok, so let’s say you have made it past the first check and now you can settle into a comfortable seat with a window view and relax. Whewww. Wait a minute, don’t get too comfortable yet, you’re going to have to do it all over again once you get to the next major stop. In this trip, the agent will make additional rounds after Genoa, and two more stops before Venice. This means you need to stay on your toes for a large portion of the trip. But, if you follow this guide closely and think you got the guts, you may be able to make it to Venice free of charge.
Every train and ticket agent is different and you may find your self in a situation where this guide may not apply. In this case, use your intuition and instincts and try to remain calm. The worst they can do to you is embarrass you in front of the other passengers and kick you off at the next stop. Like stealing food, jumping trains isn’t good for your karma meter. If you can afford it, I strongly urge you to buy a ticket.
If you have any specific questions, you can comment below this post.
Good Luck and Safe Travels.
Ps. If you have any train jumping stories, I’d love to hear them. Feel free to post them below.