Traveling Around Europe By Train
- Book up to 60 days in advance
- Regional trains
Many agree that traveling by train in Europe is the preferred method of getting between cities because train travel is part of the experience, not just a means of getting from one city to the next. Trains in Europe are sleek and efficient and offer a warm and welcoming atmosphere, generous legroom and typically, amazing scenery outside! Whether you choose first or second class, you’re sure to have a great ride on-board a train in Europe.
On many trains in Europe, travelers can enjoy the company of other travelers in a bar-buffet car offering a complete selection of food and beverages for purchase. (These types of bar-buffet cars are available on many major routes but should be confirmed at the train station before the train departs.) European train stations are typically found in the city center, so when you depart or arrive, you’re right in the heart of the city – a major advantage over flying, no hassle or extra cost of going from an airport to downtown.
For longer journeys, night trains are a great option as they get you where you want to go while you sleep soundly, saving money on a hotel for the evening. Night trains vary according to route. The most common compartments are Singles, Doubles, and Couchettes. Some night trains offer T3, T4 and Deluxe sleeping compartments as well. You can read more about Night Train sleeping compartments by visiting our overnight accommodations page.
Receive your ticket directly to your address. Just take them with you and you are ready to travel. Shipping fees apply.
- Regular trains tickets are open for booking 60 days ahead.
- Get the lowest prices by booking early and don’t wait until the last minute as cheaper seats sell the fastest.
- Opt for off-peak trains when you have to travel short notice. They are more affordable than morning and evening trains along with those running on holiday eves, Friday and Sunday afternoon.
A class apart
Classes of service
|Second class||First class|
|Regionals trains (Intercity, TER Express Regional Trains…) allow for more comfort in 1st class, offering spacious seating with generous legroom.|
|Regionals trains (Intercity, TER Express Regional Trains…) provide basic comfort in standard seats.|
Common Questions, Simple Answers
Q. Do you offer student, family and/or senior discounts?
A. Yes. Rail Europe offers a wide range of train tickets and rail passes that provide discounts to children, youths, seniors or groups of people that travel together.
Discounted rates vary depending on the type of train ticket or rail pass you are purchasing, and are not always offered.
We do our best to provide you with the cheapest fares for your traveling party and get you the discounts you’re eligible for. This is why it’s important to accurately indicate the composition of your traveling party when requesting fares and schedules or rail pass prices from our website. You may also have to enter the age of certain travellers, so we can determine whether they’re eligible for certain age-related discounts.
Q. How do I use the bonuses that come with rail passes?
A. Rail Pass travel bonuses must be redeemed locally.
There are two types of bonuses. Free bonuses (such as a free airport transfer) require the use of a travel day on your pass. If all travel days have been used on your rail pass you will not be able to take advantage of any more free bonuses. Discount bonuses do not require you to use a travel day, but do require that your pass still be within its validity period. In other words, even if you’ve used up all your days on a pass, you can still claim discounted bonuses as long as the pass validity period has not expired.
The exception to this rule is the Swiss Travel Pass. Although a discounted bonus doesn’t require you to use a travel day on your Swiss Travel Pass, the pass must still be valid and you must not have used up all your travel days.
Q. What do I do with my luggage?
A. Once on board you’ll need to find a place to put your bag(s). Small and medium sized bags typically fit on racks located above the seats. Larger suitcases and items can be stored in racks found near the train door entrance.
In addition, you’re responsible for your luggage. The railways assume no responsibility in case of loss or theft of baggage carried on board.
If you’re traveling on Eurostar, Thalys or a TGV, you’re limited to two large items per traveller (maximum 85cm in any one dimension), plus one small item of hand luggage. On most high speed trains there’s room for luggage above the seats and for larger items at the end of each coach.
Be advised that when traveling on Eurostar, Thalys or any French train, you must properly label your bag(s) with your first and last name. In general, it is a good idea to keep luggage tags on your baggage for easy identification.
Q. Do the train stations offer services to help carry my luggage?
A. Many train stations in Europe have self-service luggage carts that you can use to transport your luggage through the train station. These carts are usually coin-operated and when you return your cart, you’ll get your coin back.
It’s always best to pack light and anticipate that you will need to carry your own luggage. Only a few stations in Europe offer porter services. Also keep in mind that while some stations offer elevators and/or escalators, you may need to carry your luggage up or down stairs to reach the correct train platform.
Q. How can I find the cheapest train tickets?
A. There are two ways you can ensure you get the best price. The most effective way is to book your train ticket(s) in advance. Many rail carriers operating high speed trains or night trains make a limited number of cheaper seats available for advance purchase. Once those seats have been sold or the purchase window has passed, prices go up. That’s why we recommend booking 60 to 90 days prior to the train departure, especially if you plan on traveling during peak season (summer and holidays).
The other way to ensure you get the best rate is to correctly indicate the composition and number of your traveling party when requesting your fares and schedules. This will allow us to determine eligibility for some reduced fares such as child, youth or senior fares when offered by the rail carrier.
Q. How do I book a train ticket on your site?
A. We have an easy-to-use booking form right on the homepage of our site. Simply enter your departure and arrival cities, the date you’d like to travel, approximate time of day, and number of passengers. If you have a rail pass, be sure to check the "I have a rail pass" box so that we can search the best fares for your journey.
Q. Can I purchase seat reservations from Rail Europe once I’m already traveling in Europe?
A. Yes, but only when an e-ticket is offered for the train you want to take. If only a paper train ticket is offered, you’ll need (and want) to purchase your reservation(s) locally at the train station to avoid international shipping fees and delivery times.
Q. What should I do If I've already bought my rail pass, and now want to add another country?
A. Once your rail pass has been printed, it is not possible to modify it. If you absolutely need to do it, you can pay a 15% penalty and a 7% processing fee to exchange it. Depending on how much you plan to travel in the additional country, it may be more cost effective to purchase regular train tickets for those trips.
The only exception is if you bought the Rail Protection Plan™ when you ordered your rail pass. In this case, you can exchange your original pass at full value and use it towards the new one, with no fee or penalty incurred. Read more about the Rail Protection Plan™ coverage and how to file a claim..
Q. What's the difference between a rail pass and a train ticket?
A. A rail pass and a train ticket are two completely different types of travel documents.
A train ticket is valid for a single journey between two cities. Many tickets also include a reservation, which mean that they are valid only for a specific train, on a specific date and at a given time. To learn more about tickets, read our article: tickets explained.
A rail pass, on the other hand, is good for travel in an entire geographical area (1 country, 2 countries or more). With it you can take as many train trips as you want within that geographical area, for as many travel days as you purchased, within a set period of time (the pass validity period).
Q. How far in advance can I buy my rail pass?
A. A rail pass can be purchased anywhere from 6 to 11 months prior to your first travel day. We advise you to check the specific conditions of use for the pass you are interested in.