If you haven’t read our Ultimate Guide to Travelling Europe, here’s the short version…
Travelling Europe by train is easy, comfortable, scenic and efficient. Compared to flights your journeys will be easier and more comfortable – plus there’s far less risk of being caught with extra charges for luggage or checking in! Most parts of Europe have excellent high-speed networks, and even on slower routes you’ll still get amazing views and more space to stretch your legs. Overland travel gives you a great chance to see the landscape change in front of your eyes – from mountains to coastal vistas and rolling countryside. Bring a picnic, or head to the buffet carriage to enjoy lunch with a view. If you fancy a touch of luxury, you can upgrade to first class to make the experience extra special.
Once you arrive, you’ll generally find yourself right in the heart of the city, making it easy to get to your accommodation quickly. No messing about with baggage reclaim or taxis required!
There are loads of different way to sort out your travels in Europe, and if you don’t want to deal with organising all the tickets, Eurail/Interrail passes, seat reservations, supplements and more, then let us do the work for you.
Interrail and Eurail passes are two types of European rail pass, used for travelling Europe by train.
Both types of pass are very similar in usage – your nationality or residence decides which sort of pass you need.
Each pass allows you to travel within and between European countries by train. The passes are valid for a set number of travel days within a usage period.
You are eligible for an Interrail pass if you’re:
1. A European citizen (or if you have dual citizenship) and you hold a European passport.
2. A non-European citizen who has lived in a European country for at least 6 months.
You need a Eurail pass if neither of these rules applies to you.
Both Interrail and Eurail passes come in different types, and are available for people of all ages (so not just students!).
There is a reduction in price for under 28s and for over 60s – so make sure you let us know the correct age group, or your pass won’t be valid. Don’t think you can pay less by “looking young” – unfortunately, your passport number and date of birth will be printed on the ticket – so you probably won’t get away with it!
Interrail and Eurail passes come in a variety of different prices, and you can buy either a “Single Country” or a “Global” pass. For the global pass, you’ll also need to choose how long you want to use the pass for:
As well as choosing how long you want the pass to be valid for, there is an option to select how many “travel days” you want. Don’t worry, we take all of this into account for every package, so you don’t have to work it out yourself!
An Interrail “Travel day” is a day when you will be using your pass to travel by train from one of your destinations to the next. There is no limit on the number of trains you can get within the 24 hour period from midnight.
Within the usage period (of up to 2 months) you will be asked how many “travel days” you want to have.
For interrail the options (from cheapest to most expensive) are:
For Eurail the number of days are slightly different, but the principle is the same. Already got your Interrail or Eurail pass and not sure how to use it? Check out our step by step guide on how to use your Interrail/Eurail pass.
For most people, the best way to work out what kind of pass you need is to first work out your route and then plan how long you’ll be travelling Europe by train. Next, work out how many travel days you will be taking. Then you need to work out which journeys will require additional seat reservations, and work out how much it will cost to buy those on top.
Unfortunately, the addition of Interrail reservations can make choosing your pass quite confusing. Sometimes the high cost of certain interrail reservations means that it makes more sense to choose a cheaper pass and buy a few extra tickets at full price, but then you’re into all sorts of comparisons and calculations…
So where do you start!?! Luckily when you book with us, we work out exactly which tickets, passes and reservations you’ll need and which combination works out the cheapest.
Let’s talk more about these pesky reservations…
Interrail or Eurail seat reservations are extra bookings required on certain trains when travelling Europe using an Interrail or Eurail pass. They are not tickets, but are used together with your rail pass to allow you onto certain services.
As well as being compulsory to board certain services, they also guarantee you a seat on the train that you’ve selected. That can be a bonus in peak season when trains get really busy!
Once you’ve purchased a reservation, you’ll need to stick to the train time you’ve selected, as the reservation is only valid for that departure.
If you’re using a rail pass and the route you’re taking has a “reservation required” symbol on it, unfortunately, you must buy one. If you do not present a reservation with your pass when your ticket is checked, you’ll be asked to either leave the train at the next stop or pay a fine of up to €200. Nobody wants that, so make sure you do your research before you go!
Good question, and unfortunately that can be tricky. The rules change regularly and the information is not always easy to find. As a general rule, you will need one on any high-speed train in Western Europe, and on any sleeper train.
On local and regional trains it’s usually not necessary to have a reservation. For our full guide on this, head to our Interrail reservations guide. When you book with us, we’ll buy you all the passes, tickets and reservations you need, tell you which ones to use and when, and let you know where you can travel without any. Easy!
If you want to check requirements, the best app for train travel in Europe is DB Navigator. This gives you pretty up to date information about all European services as far as possible.
The cost varies depending on each country’s rail services but generally falls between 5 euros and 30 euros.
If you’re looking to save money and you aren’t short of time, it might be worth seeking out slower journeys so that you can avoid paying for reservations on certain routes – plus, you might get an awesome view!
When we book trips for our customers, we work out the most cost and time efficient way to do each journey. Using our comparison software, we find the best possible combination of full fare tickets, rail passes and reservations. This means we can work out the best possible cost. That means we reduce the cost for you guys, while booking the journeys that make the most sense for your trip. Create your dream route here with our interactive map planner.
Usually, trains in Europe have two class options – 1st and 2nd. On high-speed trains in Spain and Italy you may also find more options to suit various budgets and comfort levels. First class train travel in Europe usually costs significantly more than second class – first class tickets could be 3 or 4 times the price when bought on the day. You can also choose a first-class rail pass and first class reservations if you go for an Interrail or Eurail pass. These cost around twice the price of their second class siblings, but you also pay more for seat reservations.
The differences between first and second class trains are most noticeable in Western Europe – France, Switzerland, Germany, Netherlands, Spain and Italy all have pretty luxurious first class options. For train travel through Eastern Europe, there’s less of a difference as services are slower and trains older as a general rule. Here it might well not make a lot of difference whether you upgrade or not.
If you’re not sure whether this is something you might want to splurge on, check out the major differences in service level below:
Overnight transport can be a great way to maximise your time when travelling Europe by train. All night trains will require an extra supplement to be paid, on top of your Interrail or Eurail pass.
As we’ve mentioned in our video guide, here are a range of different options for overnight travel. You can choose based on your preferred comfort level and budget between the following:
The costs vary a huge amount; a seat or couchette could start from as little as 10-30 euros. A private sleeper could set you back over 200 euros!
Some overnight trains – such as the night train from Venice to Paris – don’t offer Interrail reservations. Instead they just offer you a discount of around 25% off full price tickets with your pass. These might be best avoided if you’re looking to save money.
After all this talk of Interrail and Eurail passes, it’s easy to forget that these passes aren’t the only way to travel Europe by rail! In many cases rail passes provide great value, but not always. If your journey is short or will involve a lot of costly reservations, it might actually be cheaper to buy your tickets individually.
Advance tickets can be even cheaper than a pass – particularly if you check different booking sites for deals. The only down-side is that booking in advance means losing some flexibility. For the cheapest fares, you generally have to stick to the chosen service. If you miss it, you will be asked to buy a new ticket!
We’d advise booking as early as you can manage – at least 3 months is best in most cases. This will give you the greatest choice of times at the best prices. Different providers have different bookings horizons, so you’ll need to keep your eye on the ball to keep track of availability. You can use the handy DB Navigator app to reliably check which times are available across most providers.
It’s also worth noting that a large percentage of European train tickets are not available as E-tickets. Remember that you’ll need to factor in P&P processing time and costs – or use a local agent in your home country.
We will consider all these factors for you when you book with us, so you can rest assured that as the experts we will take all of this into account!
Preparing to travel Europe by train is super exciting, but it can also be stressful. Unless you’ve got a lot of time to spend researching and comparing prices, getting the cheapest possible deal can be tricky! You’ll need to do your research. That means visiting different booking sites to check prices and book individual tickets.
If you’re smart, a combination of all the above ticket types can be the way to get maximum value from your trip. Remember to ensure you follow all the rules of travel too – to avoid any unnecessary costs. Obviously we think the best way to book train travel in Europe without the hassle is to do it through Euroventure… we might be a little biased, but we’re happy to help with any level of service – from buying your train tickets through us to embarking on one of our independent Europe trips or group tours! You can always contact us for more information on what we do.
Make sure you think about the type of experience you want too. For some people, a rail pass may still be the best option, even if it’s not the cheapest. That’ll certainly be the case if you want a bit of flexibility in your Europe trip. Making last minute changes to your advance tickets will cost you a fortune, and the trip is supposed to be fun at the end of the day!
Euroventure are a Deutschebahn ticketing agency, as well as an ABTA accredited tour operator. If you’re already busy planning, we sell individual European rail tickets, Interrail & Eurail passes and reservations. Or, if you’d prefer a zero stress option, we offer self-guided European rail trips including transport & accommodation, as well as small group tours.