The most important train etiquette rules. How to behave on a train. Avoid any embarrassments. Be a pleasant passenger.

mountain red train in winter snow

What train etiquette is

Train etiquette is the set of rules to properly ride on a train. It includes how to board, sit, and the appropriate behaviors.

General train etiquette principles

Most train etiquette rules apply to any trip. However, circumstances may vary. 

Apply extra kindness on trips that can cause additional stress. 

  • Long-distance trips. 
  • Old or low-cost trains. Cheaper carriages often offer lower comfort standards.  
  • Fully booked trains. 

Similarly, etiquette rules may vary based on the country.

Train etiquette.

How to board, seat, and leave a train. Etiquette principles to interact with other passengers on a train.

Train etiquette rules

1) Etiquette to board a train 

Check your seat number and identify your carriage. Get in line at the door closest to your seat.

Before boarding, you should wait for passengers to leave the train. Do not line up in front of the door. Otherwise, you risk blocking passengers that are leaving the train. Instead, wait on the side of the door.

Respect the line. Do not try to get ahead of other passengers. 

Be patient with other passengers. Wait for them to manage their belongings and to take their seat. Do not pressure them. Avoid non-verbal pressure, such as pressing on. 

If someone has taken your seat, check your seat number again. If your seat number is correct, politely ask the person to vacate the seat. 

It is not polite to ask another passenger to switch seats. If someone asks you to switch seats, you should accept if switching seats is not inconvenient. Otherwise, answer that you are sorry, but you prefer to keep your seat. 

2) How to manage your belongings on a train

Place your belongings: 

  • Under your seat, or 
  • On the overhead bin above your seat. 

Do not place your belongings in bins above other seats. 

Make sure your things do not block the hallway or risk annoying other passengers. 

It is not polite to occupy another seat with your belongings. 

3) Train seating etiquette

Respect the personal space of the other passengers.

Keep your legs under control. Your legs should not occupy a space wider than your seat. Do not spread them. If you stretch them, make sure that you do not occupy other passengers’ personal space or the hallway.

Never put your feet on another seat.

Do not recline your seat more than halfway. If the passenger in front of you reclines the seat excessively, politely ask to put the seat back a bit. 

Leave the armrest to the middle passenger.

4) How to dress on a train

Dress normally on train rides that last up to 5 or 6 hours. On longer trips, it is ok to wear more comfortable clothes, such as sweatpants.

Similarly, do not take your shoes off. On longer trips, it is acceptable to remove them. Make sure your socks and foot hygiene are impeccable. 

Do not walk the train without shoes. Put your shoes back on when you leave your seat. Never go to the restroom without shoes.

5) Respect others & their personal space

Do not occupy another passenger’s personal space. Keep your arms, legs, and belongings in the space delimited by your seat. 

Walk the hallway carefully. Do not run. Walk at a slow but steady pace.

In some trains, it is possible to open the windows. Before opening a window, ask other passengers if they are ok with it.

Avoid bringing smelly or greasy food on board. Avoid alcoholic drinks, or at least limit them. If you spill food or a drink, clean after yourself.

Limit noise. If you talk to someone, speak at a low volume. Listen to music or watch videos strictly with your headphones on. 

Be mindful of the content you watch. Do not watch videos that may disturb other passengers.

Smoking or vaping is usually forbidden. Even when it is allowed, try to refrain from smoking or vaping. It may still annoy other passengers.

Avoid occupying the restroom for a long time. Flush. Wipe the water sink before leaving. 

Do not escalate conflicts. If a conflict with another passenger arises, stop. Speak with a crew member instead.  

6) Train etiquette for kids

Make sure that your kids follow train etiquette. It is never too early to educate our kids to respect others.

Keep your kids under control. If they leave their seat, go with them. Do not let your kids roam the train unattended. 

Avoid toys or devices that are noisy or that can annoy other passengers.

7) Train etiquette for pets

Ask your rail operator about their train etiquette for pets. Strictly follow their rules.

8) Etiquette to leave a train

When the train is approaching your stop, start gathering your belongings. Pick up any trash. Do not leave anything behind.

Stand up when the train is entering the station. Let other passengers before you leave their seats. If someone is struggling with their luggage, offer to help. 

Try not to stop in the walkway. Otherwise, you risk blocking the other passengers. 

train etiquette mistakes

Train etiquette: the worst mistakes

The Rude Index identifies and ranks negative behaviors. 

A high score (8-10) means that the behavior has the potential to trigger a conflict with others. A medium score (4-7) means that the behavior risks making you look inelegant and unsophisticated. More about the Rude Index and its methodology here.  

Avoid the worst train etiquette mistakes. 

  • 9/10. Not respecting personal space.
  • 8/10. Leaving trash on your seat.
  • 7/10. Putting your feet on a seat.
  • 5/10. Occupying another seat with your belongings.
  • 5/10. Obstructing transit with your belongings.
  • 4/10. Eating smelly food.