1. Know your passes
If you're planning to see a fair chunk of the continent it may be wise to consider investing in an InterRail pass (or Eurail as they're known outside of Europe).
Sadly InterRail is not the bargain it once was, thanks to supplements applied to many routes, so individual tickets may work out cheaper (especially if you're mainly travelling east of Germany), so it pays to do some research before you go. Websites like Seat 61 and are indispensable resources to help plan your trip across Europe.
2. Experience a night train
Europe's network of night trains isn't as extensive as it used to be – thanks to the axe falling on several in recent years – but there are still plenty of options. These days night trains will whisk you from the likes of Amsterdam to Zürich, and from Paris to Venice, via Milan.
A night on the Euro-rails needn't cost the earth either. You can bag a bunk in a shared single-sex cabin from as little as €30 if you book in advance. And if you're prepared to splurge you can enjoy a private cabin with toilet and shower, and a continental breakfast delivered to your cabin by your steward – who'll happily wake you in good time for your stop.
The main advantage of sleepers is that you can save travel time by zipping around the continent while you sleep, but equally they're a fun travel experience which deserves a place on your bucket list. The feeling of putting your head down in Prague and waking up as you pull into Krakow is hard to top, even for the most seasoned rail travellers.
3. Decide whether to go slow or high tail it
Europe's plethora of high speed services is a serious boon for rail travellers, making it easy to traverse entire regions and borders in an afternoon. Most countries in western Europe have excellent operators such as , the Low Countries' Thalys, France's TGV and .
But if you're not gallivanting at pace (and why would you be, if you've chosen trains over planes?) do bear in mind that slower routes often reward you with superior scenery.
Some of Europe's most scenic journeys include Portugal's Douro Valley line, Norway's Flam Railway and the Centovalli Railway through the Italian and Swiss Alps.
So whether you take it slow and stop to smell the proverbial flowers, or dash around the map notching up destinations, boils down to your personal travel style.
4. Stay safe
Statistically speaking, rail travel is still one of the safest modes of transport, with trains claiming on average only seven passenger lives per year, according to one recent study. (Despite the headline-grabbing disasters, planes are still statistically twice as safe, you may be surprised to learn.)
Providing you take all the usual common sense precautions, European rail travel is generally safe, but it pays to be vigilant at major stations, especially at night, and keep an eye out for your bags, stowing away all valuables.
If you're using night trains it might be worth investing in a basic bike lock to tether your luggage to something sturdy for total peace of mind, as opportunistic bag theft is probably the greatest threat you'll face.