Tips: Trains

One of the most common ways to commute to large cities in the train. Different countries have different trains and each train system has its challenges, however there are some similarities, and I think these tips might apply generally speaking.
Most of the tips here are things I use on my own commute. I take the train into New York City, and often these trains are old, crowded and slow. More often than not, I had to stand, since there aren’t any seats available when I get in.

As opposed to a subway or a tram, it’s safe to assume you will be waiting at the station a bit longer, and that the ride will be longer as well. This scenario has its challenges, from weather to safety, you want to make the best out of the commute while continue to be aware of your surroundings.

At the Station

We touched basic tips for situational awareness before, but if you are like me, you always try to arrive in places earlier than needed, often varying the time you arrive. Arriving earlier than needed is a good practice for two reasons: one, things often don’t go the way you expected them, and then extra time allows for a good plan B, and two, arriving early at the station allows you to get in a position where you can enter the train first, and being able to select where you would like to sit or stand. You get both a better chance to catch an earlier train that was delayed, for example, earning points for both safety, you are changing your regular schedule, and arriving at the destination earlier, allowing for the extra cup of coffee, and potentially avoiding the rush hour hordes of people at the train station. Overall a big win in my book.

If you are commuting into a big terminal, like New York’s Grand Central Station, Amsterdam Centraal, or Tokyo Station, try to leave the station as quickly as you can. If there is no need to remain in the station, leave. This is to prevent getting trapped if something happens. Now, while walking inside the terminal, star close to the walls or outer sides of the halls. Usually there is less people there, allowing for faster and easier walking, and you also avoid the tourists or confused people that tend to linger in the middle of the halls or passageways, always trying to figure out where they are. In case of an emergency, being closed to the walls or near exits, might give you the extra seconds needed to be able to get out, or to assess the situation and help people. Check the video below, if you can spot the differences between walking near the walls and in the middle.

In the Train

If you have the chance to sit while on the train commute, try to chose a sit where you can see the door to the train. Granted, there are usually 2 or 3 doors, and one of them sometimes will be behind you, but try to get a good field of view of the car you are in. Sit on the aisle seat, if possible, and not by the window. These two things will give you situational awareness, and allow you to move better when it’s time to reach for the door to get out (either at your station or in an emergency).
Speaking of situational awareness, I know longer commuters can be boring, and you would want to listen to music, watch a TV series on your phone, or read a book. That’s good, but at least try to remain aware of what’s going on around you.

I explained my rational about carrying a small backpack and packing little. I am light when I commute, and this allows me to keep my backpack next to me at all times. When I’m sitting it’s either in between my legs, or on my lap. If I am standing, I’m usually by the door, and I tend keep it in between my feet. If it’s raining or snowing, and I don’t want the pack to sit on a paddle of water, or a salty dirty floor, I use a carabiner and a piece of paracord to tie the handle of the backpack to the handlebar of the train.


This little thing has saved my backpack from being kicked or dragged out of the train when the usual “spaced-out” passengers realized the current station is their station just as the doors are about to close, and they rush out of the train, taking with them anything on their path.

Generally speaking, when you are inside the train, you are very predictable. However, there are a few variables that allow you to retain some control. So, where you sit, stand, and how you present yourself to the rest of the commuters is key to both safety and a less stressful commute.

General Mindset

Throughout the whole train commute (both at the stations and inside the trains), you want to present a relaxed, though aware demeanor. Not paranoid, and not checked out completely.
The best way to have an easier commute on a usually stressful environment, is to find the little things that provide comfort, safety and give people a sense that you are cool, however they better not mess with you.


Commuting is stressful, annoying and sometimes plain unbearable, especially in big urban areas. Over the year, the little things I learned I can control, that help me create a sort of bubble around me, showed me that, if you pay attention and learn your environment, you can manage even the most stressful situations and made them work in your favor.

So, when commuting, try to find those little things.

Have a safe commute.