Rail Travel In Europe: A Complete Guide

The time of the week, the season, and the proximity to the scheduled departure all have an impact on the price of tickets. This fare structure is used by almost all high-speed trains nowadays.

Discovering Europe by rail is a must. It’s nearly miraculous in its efficiency, inspiration, romance, and cosiness. And for those of us not based in a nation where rail travel is common, it might seem a little baffling.

In our all-inclusive guide to train journeys in Europe, we’ll go over everything from finding the greatest deals on railway tickets and rail passes to riding trains and navigating train stations and everything else that could come up on your European rail adventure. After reading this, you’ll be an expert in rail travel in Europe.

Travelling by rail in Europe? Small Note: Many train fares are now electronic, so be sure you have access to fast and trustworthy data usage on your phone.

Commuting by train in Europe: Pros and cons

Taking the Train Across Europe: Let’s begin with a brief discussion of the advantages and disadvantages of using trains in Europe.

Pros of rail touring in Europe

Reach the heart of the city

In contrast to airports, European railway stations are often situated in the heart of the city. Spending time and money getting into the city is unnecessary since you already are in it. However, getting from the bustle of the airport to the town might take anything from 20 minutes to an hour and cost anywhere from $10 to $80.

There will be no long waits at check-in or at security

When taking a train, you won’t have to go through the hassle of checking in or going through security. If you don’t have a ticket, you may purchase one at the station (from a machine having English instructions) in the moments well before the train departs, and then you can board.

No baggage restrictions or fees

Your bags may weigh as much as you want, and you won’t be charged more for having more than one. If you’re taking a bag on the train, be sure you can easily lift it.


The ability to get electronic tickets via mobile device is a perk offered by several train companies nowadays. Not only does this streamline the process of purchasing rail tickets, but it also eliminates the need to stand in line. Please be aware that not all countries have yet accepted the use of electronic tickets, however, this trend is growing rapidly.

Pack a picnic (and don’t forget the alcohol)

It’s generally OK to carry alcoholic beverages on a train. Give some to your other passengers, and you’ll quickly gain some pals. Therefore, you should go to the next grocery shop and get some inexpensive food to eat on the trip.

An extensive rail system with several trains

Small villages in Europe are accessible by train because of Europe’s extensive rail network. Many places can be reached by rail numerous times daily. There is normally a train every hour along the busiest lines, so getting where you need to go is not a problem.

You can extend your trip by sleeping on the train.

An overnight train is a great option for long-distance journeys. Bunked sleeping carriages may be seen on these trains. Compared to a regular hotel room, the cost of a bed in a sleeper car is just approximately $35 to $65, so you won’t have to sacrifice a full day of travel time. If you don’t want to shell out the additional money for a bed, overnight trains also offer regular seats, albeit they’re not the most comfortable option.

Discreet vacations

Train travel allows you spontaneity since you can just show up at a train station, pay a ticket, and go.

Exquisite scenery

Train travel in Europe is a wonderful opportunity to take in the stunning scenery of the continent’s many rural areas.

Relaxation and serenity

When riding the train, you may kick back and enjoy the ride. In silence at 170 miles per hour across the European countryside, it’s easy to zone out and enjoy the scenery. Train rides are also a great opportunity to catch up on reading, journaling (you’ll be happy you did), postcard writing, and trip planning.

If you really need to unwind, some trains even have special silent carriages set aside for that purpose.


Seating on trains is often more spacious and comfortable than that on planes. You may get up and walk around the train anytime you like. Many trains also provide table space between adjacent seats and facing seats. These are great if you have a large gathering or simply appreciate having a lot of table space. Unless it’s a holiday or you’re on a route that sees a lot of traffic, there’s a high chance you’ll have a seat to yourself (or perhaps two).


Dependable and punctual

The percentage of on-time railway departures in Europe is far over 90%, whereas the percentage of on-time airline departures is barely about 65%.

Gorgeous train depots

In the past, railway stations served as the nerve centre of business and travel. Grandiose railway stations were a prestige symbol for many European towns. It’s not a major thing, but it’s a pleasant bonus nevertheless.

Fee reductions for young people

For those of you who are under the age of 26, several nations give considerable discounts.

Trains for great times

Travelling by rail has always been a delightful experience for us. It has a strangely calming and enchanting effect.

The downsides of taking the train in Europe

Just how much it will set you back

Inexpensive alternatives to flying or driving to your destination are available, but high-speed rail travel may be rather pricey. In addition, there are many dirt-cheap flights all around Europe, making air travel a viable option.

Though, if you’re able to buy your high-speed train tickets in advance, you may save a lot of money. However, if you wait until the last minute, you’ll have to pay more.

Too sluggish for extended journeys

Many high-speed trains run at speeds of 150–180 miles per hour, however, covering very vast distances may still take quite a while. In addition, slower regional trains may be necessary for certain long-distance routes.

That’s why using an aeroplane might be the best option for long-distance travel. A direct rail trip from Paris to Budapest would take around 15 hours, whereas a flight would just take 2.5 hours.

Keep in mind that two or three hours will be added to your trip due to getting to and from the airport, checking in, and going through security.

A little baffling

To a newcomer, railway timetables may seem complicated. Thankfully, there are a plethora of applications that make it much simpler, yet we still manage to get stuck sometimes.

There are several railway stations in many major and even little cities and villages (Paris has six!). It’s usual to get off at a different stop from where you got on. It’s important to read your tickets carefully; we’ve made the mistake of showing up at the incorrect station on several occasions.

Changing stops along the way is also an option. There aren’t any direct trains between London and Lyon, thus passengers on the Eurostar must transfer at the Paris Northern station before continuing on to the Parisian East terminal to get the rail from Paris to Lyon. The Métro (subway) would be the most cost-effective option for this transfer.

Rail strikes

In Europe, going on strike is like going on a national holiday. It occurs many occasions a year, but strikes are always announced in advance (just a hassle). If they do occur, you’ll simply have to live with it.

Getting your hands on cheap European rail tickets

Tickets purchased through automated machines use the English language. Trying to get the cheapest prices on train tickets in Europe may be a bit of a hassle.

The reason is, every nation has its own National train service, and they all conduct things a little bit differently. The good news is that there are a plethora of resources available online that will simplify the procedure, and we’ll show you the ropes.

Ticket price comprehension

An introduction to the two primary pricing structures for railway tickets—fixed price and variable price—is in order.

Tickets with a changing price structure

The time of the week, the season, and the proximity to the scheduled departure all have an impact on the price of tickets. This fare structure is used by almost all high-speed trains nowadays.

Pre-booking your high-speed train tickets early — generally a few weeks ahead of time — will get you the cheapest pricing. As the day of travel draws nearer, prices tend to rise steadily; last-minute shoppers may expect to spend through the nose.

It’s true that if you need to purchase tickets in advance, you lose some flexibility since the best deals are often non-refundable and non-transferable.

Prices that do not vary

When you choose a fixed fare, your fare will be set at a flat rate regardless of how far you go. This often occurs on slower and more regional trains. The price of this ticket is guaranteed at the time of purchase, regardless of demand.

How to purchase European rail passes

Europe’s National Rail Services (online or at stations) and third-party train reservation search engines (online or at stations) are the two primary sources for purchasing train tickets throughout the continent.



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