Because stuff happens. Exchanges and refunds explained.

We know plans can change and errors can happen. This article will give you an overview of important considerations regarding exchanges and refunds when booking your train ticket or rail pass.

At Rail Europe we’re completely transparent, starting with making sure you have the knowledge needed to make informed, confident choices. We realize that you have many options when it comes to booking your European itinerary, from different types of transportation to different sources for rail products, and we want you to know we do everything we can to make it easy for you.

Before we go over all the details regarding exchanges and refunds, keep in mind that you can add Rail Europe’s Rail Protection Plan™ to your booking. This exclusive service allows you to exchange the covered products once, no questions asked, or receive a full credit toward a future purchase.

Here’s what you need to know. There are two main factors that influence exchanges and refunds: the exchange and refund rule of the product, and the process associated with implementing that exchange or refund (which varies whether your product was issued electronically or not).

First, let’s go over the exchange and refund rule of the product. Each individual rail pass or train ticket has its own exchange and refund rule which is defined by the train operator(s) governing the rail pass you purchased (and not under Rail Europe’s control). Once a product has been booked, the exchange and refund rules that apply are entirely pre-determined by the conditions attached to that product. That’s why it’s extremely important to take the time to read them when you shop and compare your options, and why our website makes it so easy to do so. Rail Europe is unable to bypass the carrier exchange or refund rules. These terms can be viewed when you select your fare for train tickets, or for tickets and passes put in our shopping cart. Once you’ve purchased your tickets and/or passes, you can also find this information on your invoice, but a preview can prove quite valuable.

It’s hard to generalize the policies because each fare has its own exchange and refund rule, but for your convenience we’ve grouped them in three categories.

  • Non-Flexible fares. These are fares that are typically non-exchangeable and non-refundable, and usually the most affordable option.
  • Semi-Flexible fares. These fares can be exchanged and refunded under certain conditions (for instance, up to a certain number of days before departure, or with a certain percentage of penalty, or for an additional fee). Exchanges are only permitted for the same city pair or route originally booked.
  • Flexible fares. These fares can be exchanged and refunded with no penalty, and sometimes even after the train has departed. They are also the most expensive fares within a given service category. Exchanges are only permitted for the same city pair or route originally booked.

Learn more about refunds & exchanges on tickets & passes booked with Rail Europe in this video.

In general, rail passes have a more consistent exchange and refund rule. Most rail passes are refundable, only if they haven’t been used at all or activated, and a 15% penalty applies (which means you will be refunded 85% of the value of the original rail pass). Again, an easy answer is adding Rail Europe’s Rail Protection Plan™ to your booking since it entitles you to one exchange for each of your covered products, with no fee or penalty, regardless of the rail carriers’ policy.

Now that we’ve explained how each product exchange and refund rule influences your ability to change travel plans, let’s see how an exchange or refund is performed. One of the most important factors impacting the exchange and refund process is whether the product you want to exchange was issued as a paper document or e-ticket.

In most cases, a product bought and issued as an e-ticket through our website is eligible for exchange or refund. You can complete the process yourself using our online refund tool and enter your booking number and the email address associated with your booking to get started. You can complete the refund process for electronic products at any time on our website, whether you are still in North America or already in Europe.

If your product was issued as a paper document, the refund transaction cannot be completed online because we need to have the actual train ticket or rail pass in hand. If you have a paper ticket with a reservation, you cannot exchange it online but you can initiate the refund on our website. This releases the seat booked for you, which is important because some fares are only refundable up to a certain number of days prior to the train’s departure. Therefore, initiating the refund process as soon as possible helps ensure your seat is released within the allowable time frame. Please keep in mind that tickets must be cancelled before the train departure date for any possible refund. If you are already overseas, the ticket must be cancelled and stamped "not used" at the departure station. To complete the refund and receive the money back (minus applicable fees and penalties), you’ll have to send the actual travel document(s) to our customer relation department for processing. For other cases (exchanging a paper ticket or refunding a rail pass), the refund process must be completed by one of our travel consultants in our contact center. Please fill out our Contact Us Form and we will respond within 1 -2 business days. If you’re already in Europe and need to exchange a paper train ticket, a railroad agent at the train station can assist you provided that your train ticket is exchangeable. Rail passes cannot be refunded while in Europe.

If flexibility of travel plans is important to you, consider booking semi-flexible or flexible fares when possible.