Train Strikes 101: How to Avoid a Train Strike in Europe

Posted on September 6, 2011


Trains are a great way to see Europe - strikes or no strikes.

Train strikes: travelers to Italy may have heard of them, but may not know when they happen, or what to do when they occur. This article will help you prevent elays in your travel plans by providing you with how to find out about train strikes before you leave, regardless of which city and country you are studying.

By Alex DiGregorio

Just because something is on a schedule does not mean it will be adhered to.  Many Europeans take this idea to heart, especially in the realm of public transportation. They are not fazed by train delays because they are so accustomed to them. These can be caused by labor strikes, teenagers rebelling against something or other political issues.  For those who are on vacation or traveling abroad, a train strike could be disastrous to their plans, especially if they are on a tight schedule.  So how do you avoid train strikes?

Read a newspaper. Newspapers will more frequently than not list train strikes.  However, if you cannot speak the native language, use a dictionary to scan the paper for “strike” while also looking for pictures of trains and disgruntled workers.  You should be able to read the dates and times.

Watch the news. Even if you cannot understand the language, chances of the TV flashing videos of people walking around with signs, and well, “striking” should appear.

Ask a local. With more useful information to the non-native traveler, locals will know about strikes, either through word of mouth, reading about them, or seeing them on TV.  So muster up some courage and ask one before you head to the train station.

Watch for the word sciopero. While traveling in Italy or on Trenitalia look out for the word sciopero; it means strike.  However because their train strikes are planned a lot, they are generally considerate enough to post the date of the sciopero at the train station several days earlier to help travelers avoid those trains.

Check the train website. Most train stations post the date of the pre-determined strike.  Even if there was not a strike scheduled the day you bought the tickets, check at the station a few days before and again on the day you are supposed to leave.  If there is a strike, change your tickets accordingly.

Ask Tourist Info. At your hostel or hotel there should be a tourist information spot, and while they should know about the strikes, they might not necessarily tell you about them unless you ask.  If no tourist information is available, the owners are also at your disposal for question.

Ask your university. If you are studying abroad, employees within the university are very helpful.  Most Universities will notify students about any train strikes or delays as soon as they hear about them.

While train strikes are unavoidable, sometimes they are a blessing in disguise, allowing you an extra three hours at a destination on clear, perfect day. Whatever your scenario may be, try to turn the situation into a positive experience.

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