European Travel Tips
Train Travel and the Eurail Pass
A recent survey of former castle students revealed that students traveled, on average, to 8 countries during their semester abroad.
Before deciding on whether to purchase a Eurail pass, you first need to decide what kind of traveling you want to do. If you do not purchase a rail pass, you may still have train costs associated with your time in Europe. Many destinations you may want to visit are not accessible by air. This is why you need to think about what mode of transportation best suits your travel style and budget. We will provide a booklet on the EuRail Pass at the mandatory information session for accepted students.
Most students who purchased a Eurail Pass chose the Flexi Pass, 10 days of train travel within 2 months, and the Select Pass 3–5 countries. Prices for the Eurail Pass vary, depending on which type of pass you select, your age, how many countries or regions you would travel by rail, and which class of travel you prefer. For more information on rail passes, take a look at the Rail Europe website.
As a non-European citizen, it is possible to buy the pass in Europe from the Eurail website or at select train stations. However, prices are about 20 percent higher than in the United States and not all types of passes are available for sale in Europe! If you purchase online in Europe, it will be shipped to your address in Europe.
The Kasteel Well Office of Student Affairs and the External Programs Office have prepared a booklet called "Travel Resources" that provides a variety of information that will be of use to castle students. This booklet will be given to accepted students at the mandatory information meeting.
Train Travel Apps For Your iPhone or iPad
There is a handy app you can download that has the best European timetable for trains: DB Bahn
- The nearest train stations to the castle are Venlo (30 minutes by bus) and Nijmegen (one hour by bus). These two train stations offer direct connections to international destinations.
- The small train station at Venray (15 minutes by bus from the castle) has direct connections to destinations within The Netherlands only. There is no information window at this station and students must purchase train tickets from a machine that only takes coins. (Use your OV-Chipkaart to avoid this problem!)
- Buses don’t run all night. If participants miss the last bus from the train station to Well, they are faced with an expensive taxi ride (€80 in some cases).
- If participants travel by air within Europe and they miss their flight, they often have to buy a new ticket.
- You will need to carry your passport with you while traveling.
- Düsseldorf Weeze Niederrhein Airport (NRN) is a regional airport approximately 20 minutes by car from Kasteel Well, and should not be confused with Düsseldorf International Airport (more than one hour by car from the castle.)
At nearby Weeze Niederrhein Airport, several airlines fly to different European cities. Kasteel Well has an agreement with a local taxi service to transport students to Airport Weeze for approximately €35 for one to four passengers.
View Directions to Airport Weeze in a larger map
The Netherlands has a travel “smart card” similar to Boston’s Charlie Card for use on all busses, trains and tram cars in the Netherlands. The OV-Chipkaart is the only means of payment (besides cash) for public transportation in the Netherlands. During Orientation weekend the Castle staff will explain the “ins and outs” of the OV-Chipkaart. It is a complicated system.
The advantage of using the OV-Chipkaart is that it is much easier to pay for a train or bus with a card, rather than always having the exact amount of cash for the ride. AND, it is important that you always have enough credit on your card to pay for the fare! You may often find yourself at a train station where there is no ticket window and you can only buy a train ticket from a machine using coins. It is not fun to carry around €20 in coins!
Most students will purchase the OV-Chipkaart at “Everything Under One Roof” in the village of Well. The card costs €15. including a €7.50 credit. Please note you cannot add more credit to the chip card until you travel to Amsterdam. You will not be able to use the NS machines to add value unless you have Euro coins. You can add value to the chip card at a service desk at major train stations. You will be required to use cash to add value to the card.
At this time you cannot use a credit or debit card to add value to the card – you must add value with cash only.
Please note that you can only add credit to the OV-Chipkaart at train stations. Major train stations will have a help desk where you can pay cash to add value to the card. (Amsterdam, Venlo Nijmegen). Smaller train stations, like Venray (closest station to KW) do not have help desks and you can only add value to the card using a machine that takes COINS ONLY.
Most students should go to the Amsterdam central station to add money to the card the weekend of the group excursion. Depending on how much you plan to travel by train or bus will determine how much money you will put on the card. You must use cash to top up the card. It will be important to remember that you will have to make your way back to Kasteel Well on public transport at the end of the group excursion. It will cost approximately €25 (one way) to return to Well using the OV chip card.
In order to use the card on trains, you must have a minimum stored credit of €20 on the card. In order to use the card on busses, you must have a minimum stored credit of €4.
- Decide what kind of experience you want to have and how you plan to see Europe.
- Plan to talk to other students about planning trips together.
- Some students prefer to make their weekend and excursion travel plans early, some wish they had not planned out ALL their weekends in advance. Sometimes the earlier you plan your trips and buy your tickets, the cheaper it will be. Book at least three weeks in advance to get the best price.
- You will usually need to spend extra time and money taking the bus/subway from the Ryan Air hub airport to the city center you are trying to get to. Keep this in mind when planning your budget.
Air Travel Websites Recommended by Former Castle Students
- Ryan Air
- Easy Jet
- Sky Scanner
- Wizz Air (flights to Budapest, Bucharest and Katowice)
- Student Universe
Travel Apps for your Mobile Phone:
90 percent of castle students booked hostels most of the time for their independent travels. 10 percent booked apartments to rent. We recommend doing lots of research including:
- reading the hostelworld sidebar
- reading the reviews (check the average scores)
- checking the age limits
- checking the comments
- looking at the photos
- checking the location: hostels near the city center will save on transportation costs and be closer to the attractions you want to see
- checking the price range
Remember, buses, subways, and taxis can really add up! You should look for hostels that offer free amenities such as Wi-Fi, pillows, sheets and towels, lockers, etc. Some hostels will even offer free dinner. You can rent private rooms for your group and there are even some hostels with ”apartments” for rent. Make sure you take down the hostel info, detailed directions, map, and registration information before you go.
Culture Shock & Reverse Culture Shock
Most of you will experience "culture shock" to some degree, whether it is on arrival to the Netherlands, or “reverse culture shock” when you return home after a 3 month experience living and travelling Europe. Many castle students experience something “less than culture shock” on arrival, but rather “homesickness”.
Since students are more or less “confined” to campus with fellow Emerson students, European professors and staff members who speak English, it is less likely that severe and long lasting culture shock will set in on arrival.
In order to adjust to the new culture you will experience, it is necessary to sacrifice some part of yourself to cultural adjustment. You can't expand your mind if you remain unreceptive and trapped in your own cultural bubble. To help minimize effects of culture shock, you should read about countries you want to visit ahead of time. Learn about the people, the culture and their history and try to learn some simple phrases of language for the countries you want to visit. Remember, if you are having difficulty, our colleagues at OSA are always there to talk to.
Most castle students experience “REVERSE CULTURE SHOCK” on their return. The depth of reverse culture shock varies widely from student to student. Some students may be elated to return home; in other cases, “ordinary life” may become boring and depressing. Remember, this is a natural part of the study abroad experience.
To help minimize effects of reverse culture shock, maintain the contacts and new friends you made over the past 3 months. Communicating with other students who have had study abroad experiences will reduce your sense of loneliness and frustration. Try to practice and respect the travel skills, language, and knowledge you gained while abroad!
Stages of Reverse Culture Shock
1. Disengagement. Before departure from the castle some students may experience feelings of loss and perhaps some unhappiness about returning home to problems they left behind. Other students may be completely happy or even “relieved” to be returning home.
2. Excitement - You are happy to see your family, your friends, and your pets again! You are excited to share how much you’ve learned. You are anxious to share photos and videos, and what you wrote in your journal.
3. Alienation – Some feelings of frustration may set in. Your home country may be different from how you remembered it. Friends and family may be excited to see you again, but may soon become disinterested or resentful of your continual references to your time abroad. You may feel disappointed that no one recognizes the “new you”. You may also miss the excitement of learning new things every day.
4. Readjustment – You have regained your balance and your study abroad experience becomes an integrated part of your life!
Train travel in Europe
View of Florence (Firenze)