6 Tips for Booking Train Travel and Tickets in Europe

14 Jun 2018 by Olga Brighton

Travel Information

If you plan on travelling in Europe, you may want to consider rail travel instead of road, air or sea. Once you’ve shopped around for the best travel insurance, make sure you shop around for your best train ticket options. We know that train travel can be expensive, but if you do your homework and follow the tips below, you’ll save yourself hassle and money.

Here are 6 tips for train ticket booking in Europe.

1. Browse different websites

Train tickets websites

When booking train tickets for Europe, take the same approach as you would for searching the best deals on anything else you buy. By comparing prices through different websites, you can save a fortune. Here are just a few options you can browse:

2. Check route options / split tickets

Not only you can save money by comparing prices on different sites, but you can also save on some journeys depending on the route you take and also by splitting your tickets. As long as you go through the location named on the ticket, you don’t have to change or get off at the station named on the ticket as long as you have valid tickets for your entire journey.

3. Strike the balance between last minute and booking well in advance

In general, the earlier you buy your ticket, the cheaper it will be. You can often pay a fraction of the price if you purchase well in advance because you will benefit from any fixed time / off peak travel offers. You can still save by buying your tickets even the day before you travel instead of leaving it until the time you are travelling to purchase. Airport train options will be cheaper 90% of the time if you book in advance, or give yourself the travel time to take a slightly slower (and cheaper!) route.

On the other hand, if you can hold your nerve and are willing to take gamble, you might save on booking train tickets to Europe last-minute, as there can be some amazing bargains to be had. Do some test dates with different notice periods to see the price differences you could encounter. Whether you plan on visiting Spain, Portugal, Italy, France, Poland, or anywhere else in Europe, if you are looking to save money on your train tickets, it’s worth researching the best time to buy your tickets.

4. Consider buying a rail pass

Buy rail pass

If you do envisage using trains as your primary transport during your break, it’s probably worth considering rail pass. There are so many different types of rail pass now available that it can be confusing knowing which to purchase, so give yourself the time to check. Our suggestion is if you’re staying in one country, France perhaps, then go with a multi-day France rail pass from Francerailpass.com. If however, you plan on exploring Europe, a Eurail pass may be a better option. Valid in 28 countries and can provide users with multiple days of rail travel, in a wide variety of different classes. So, whether you want economy, comfort, or a mix of both, a Eurail pass is certainly worth considering.

5. Don’t forget refunds

Depending on the rail company, if your train is delayed you may be entitled to some money back. This won’t be automatic and you will need to make a claim to the rail operator, but it could well be worth it. In the UK most operators abide by the delay repay arrangements so you could be entitled to 50% back on a single fare if the train is 30-59 minutes late, or 100% if the delay is over one hour. If you are delayed check the terms of your rail operator, even when travelling through Europe.

Travel in Style: Spoil Yourself With a Luxury Train Trip

6. Validate your tickets or pay the price

When travelling in Europe, you will find that there are some European train tickets out there that have to be validated before the ticket holder is permitted to board the train. If your ticket has not been validated, you will either not be allowed to board, or if the ticket inspector finds that it hasn’t been validated when you’ve already set off, you could face a hefty fine. You can validate your ticket in train stations by inserting the ticket into the machines available, where it will be stamped with the date and time.

If you can’t locate a machine, or are not sure how to use it, just speak to a member of staff at the station. If you do realize your ticket hasn’t been validated, you should speak to the ticket inspector on the train as soon as you can, and explain the situation, so you may be able to avoid a fine.

Other top tips for rail travel include:

Travelling light

Light travel

Avoid heavy, clunky cases and opt for a lighter weight carry-on bag, or small ruck sack. It will be easier to carry up and down stairs around stations and easier to store in overhead luggage compartment.

Arrive nice and early

There nothing worse than being in a rush and stressing about missing a train – especially one taking you on holiday. Give yourself plenty of time to find your bearings, locate the right platform, grab a drink, snack or a meal and avoid the panic or sprinting through an unknown location to reach your train. You also risk there being no room for your luggage, so your journey will be much less comfortably with your luggage on your lap!

Remember to check the latest travel advice from the FCO, and once the necessities like travel insurance and rail tickets are booked, just sit back and count the days til your trip begins.

7 Best Travel Apps for Your Next Trip to Europe

We accept