Working as a Train Attendant: Pros and Cons
You know, like a flight attendant…but on a train instead of a plane. To be completely honest, I didn’t even know that there was such a thing as a “train stewardess” or “train attendant” until I actually became one. I was looking for a job that was flexible, connected to travelling and didn’t require me to face my greatest fear – an utterly uninspiring office job. Aaaaaaaaand that’s how I ended up travelling around central Europe on a train. I get asked quite a few questions about it so let me enlighten you with this list of pros and cons about working as a train attendant.
And just to be clear, what you’re about to read is my personal experience doing the job in Austria, I have no idea how it would differ from the same position in other countries.
First of all, let me tell you that I’m using the term “train attendant” as in “service attendant” in this article, which means I’m not referring to the crew members that are checking tickets, seating passengers and who are responsible for the safety on the train. I’m talking about the employees who are tasked with managing the service in the whole train and mainly in the restaurant car.
Pro: You get to travel to different destinations
Almost all of the trips you do are 2 or more days at a time, so you can easily visit 3 or 4 different countries during one trip. Some of the cities that our trains would go to from Vienna included Zurich, Budapest, Venice, Verona, Munich, Bregenz, Salzburg, Prague, Innsbruck, Graz, etc. And yes, it`s true, there are many times when you arrive at your end destination and you’re so tired that you’d sell your own mother if it meant you could be teleported straight to your comfy bed where you can slip into a comatose state….but I`ve personally been able to go sightseeing almost every time, except if I arrive at 9pm and have to wake up at 5am the next day for a shift (which happened to me EVERY time I would have a Budapest trip, just sayin’). One of my favourite cities I visited for the first time in my life with this job was Venice and, yes, it was just as dreamy as it looks on all those Instagram photos. Well except for the crowds. The crowds there suck. But it didn`t matter cause I had around 24 hours there and I was on cloud nine. But don’t get your hopes too high, it’s unlikely that you’ll have more than 20 hours in a certain city. It`s more probable that you’ll have 12-15 and you need to fit sleeping and eating in them. And sometimes, as I mentioned earlier, you’ll arrive late at night and start your next shift early in the morning. It’s all kinda random. BUT as I said, I almost always managed to enjoy my stays, go sightseeing, shopping and walking around.
Con: Excruciatingly long shifts
Working 13 hour shifts is not cool. Not cool at all. Of course it’s not always like that and sometimes you can work only 3 hours a day, but when you have those long hour days, it’s just horrible. It’s stressful, you don’t have much time to eat and most importantly – it’s really physically exhausting. As a person who suffers from back pains, the fact I technically wasn’t allowed to sit and even if I had no work I had to be standing up was absolutely ridiculous. There was only one “crew” seat and 3 stewards/stewardesses. And you couldn’t officially sit anywhere in the restaurant or the passenger seats. You can do the math. But most of the time you don’t really even have time to sit around at all, there’s always something to do, especially for the first and business class.
Pro: The money is good
It’s actually great, especially if you’re a student. I’m not going to talk numbers but it’s completely adequate in order for you to pay your rent, eat out regularly, spend money in night clubs, splurge on clothing and pricy cosmetics and even save significant amounts for travelling. Of course it depends if you work part-time, full time, what kind of trips you take and things of that nature. You get paid additionally for night stays, over hours, etc.
Con: Both passengers and colleagues are different every time and sometimes they suck
Unless you work out a deal to always be with the same crew, you are in for something new every time you go to the office for a briefing. Don’t get me wrong, some of my colleagues have been fantastic and I’ve had so much fun doing 3 and 4 day trips with them – they’ve made my job 10 times more fun, even when we’ve had problematic passengers, delayed arrivals or technical issues. Unfortunately with my luck, those instances were rare (the great colleagues I mean, not the problematic passengers). I’m not sure why, but I’d always be in the most weird crews ever. Just people that generally create a very unpleasant working environment, in which even the easiest and most enjoyable trips (like Vienna-Salzburg and Vienna-Budapest) felt so annoying and tense.
The same goes for passengers. I’ve had amazing, interesting, thoughtful and fun conversations with so many of them and they’ve made me like my job so much more. But on the other hand there are those “passengers from hell” I call them, who’s only mission in life seems to be to make you want to jump in front of a train (no pun intended).
Pro: You get a cool uniform
Ok let’s face it, the uniforms are pretty cute.
Con: Sometimes your hotel is not at all near the train station.
The company pays for your public transport tickets, of course, but it’s quite annoying because you lose precious time while waiting for a bus and travelling. In Venice, for example, I waited for 15-20 minutes just to buy the tickets because of the huge number of tourists, then waited for another 40 minutes for the bus to arrive, then there was a 25 minute ride and after that I had to walk for 10 minutes to reach the hotel. Not. Fun. At. All.
Pro: The hotels are really decent
No, they’re not 5 star hotels but they’re definitely quite nice and cosy. I’ve never actually been disappointed by a place I’ve had to stay at because of my job.