Best Place To Buy Train Tickets In Europe [NEW]
Unlike rail passes, it's generally easy to buy point-to-point train tickets right at the station (whereas most rail passes aren't widely available in Europe). But it can be smart to buy in advance for certain trains and destinations, especially if your dates are set and you don't want to risk a specific train journey selling out, or if you're hoping to land an advance-purchase discount.
best place to buy train tickets in europe
You have three main options for buying point-to-point tickets: through a US-based retailer before leaving home (we even sell them right here), through the website of one of Europe's national railways, and in person at Europe's train stations (and at some European travel agencies). For big discounts, buy tickets up to three months ahead (just note that these tickets are nonrefundable and nonchangeable).
The easiest way to get train tickets online is to buy them through ricksteves.com (after all, you're already here!). Virtually all US-based websites and travel agents sell European train tickets for the exact same prices you'll find here.
Many European national rail companies allow customers to buy tickets online at the going European price (usually for faster classes of trains for which reservations are required, or at least recommended).
Once in Europe, you can simply get tickets at the station, usually without much fuss, either on your day of travel or in advance (see my tips for buying tickets in European train stations). This is the best option if you'd prefer to keep your itinerary more spontaneous. You can even get tickets for trains in another country: For example, if your trip starts in Paris, you can buy your Berlin-to-Prague ticket at any Parisian train station. Tickets bought at train-station windows tend to be easier to change (or have refunded) than tickets bought online.
In some cities you can avoid trekking to the train station by visiting a neighborhood travel agency or branch office of the national railroad. This convenience may come with a fee, but if the agency is easier for you to get to than the train station, buying tickets there can save lots of time and hassle (and travel agents may have more time and English-language skills than the people behind the train-station counter).
Advance purchase (a week to several months in advance) can save you significant money in many countries (most notably Austria, Britain, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and Sweden), especially for faster or longer rides. On-sale dates vary by country, route, and time of year, with most starting two to four months in advance of travel, and six months ahead for Germany and the Eurostar Chunnel train. In some areas (such as Switzerland and most eastern countries), advance-purchase deals either don't exist or aren't worth the hassle. In most places, tickets for slower regional or medium-speed trains cost the same whether they're bought two months or two minutes before the train leaves.
Before we get into buying train tickets, we need to talk about the two general ways that train tickets in Europe are priced. This should help you better understand how train ticket fares are calculated:
Google Maps is another good resource for looking up trains and schedules. If you are used to the Google Map format, the app will give you train schedules and everything else you need to know to book your trains. Unfortunately, it is not possible to purchase train tickets on Google Maps.
Purchasing train tickets on these apps is cheaper and less time-consuming than at the train station. There are often web or app specials that anyone can buy. Most of these apps have an English version. Some apps, like the Trenitalia App, accept Apple Pay or allow you to make a customer profile with stored information.
On the national railway app for your trip, enter the desired journey to purchase your tickets. Select the train and time that works for you. Then choose your class and seating preferences. Remember to read the terms and conditions before purchasing. Many low-cost tickets are non-refundable or changeable.
If you want to travel at any time of day on any train, you can buy a flexible full-price ticket on the day. Flexible full-price tickets are usually more expensive but they allow you to make changes to your booking, as well as request a refund where applicable.
Most train tickets across Europe tend to be more expensive during rush hour (generally between 06:00 and 10:00, and 15:00 and 19:00 on weekdays). If you can, be sure to look for tickets outside of these times to see if you can snap up a lower price.
The best way to save money when booking European trains is to buy your tickets in advance. Prices can be much higher on the day of travel, so be sure to plan well in advance to get the cheapest fares. We also recommend you avoid travelling during rush hours, as well as check if you can benefit from the wide range of discounts available for train travellers in Europe.
European train tickets can go on sale from three to six months in advance, depending on the route and operator. If you want to snap up the cheapest fares, we recommend you book your ticket as soon as your travel plans are confirmed.
The airline-style pricing of many long-distance European train tickets means that the further in advance you book, the less you pay. This is the case with intercity and high-speed trains in France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, and Sweden, as well as certain international trains traveling in and out of France.
Passengers traveling in the UK specifically can take advantage of off-peak fares, as the national railway system offers cheaper rates for traveling on trains that are not as busy. Various trains in France also offer cheaper tickets for traveling off hours, usually midday or midweek. You may also find cheaper fares across Europe for traveling in slower seasons like late fall and winter, similar to trends in flight prices.
Validating train tickets is especially common in France and Italy, although not all tickets require validation. Check the terms in your confirmation email or on the back of your physical ticket, or inquire with the information desk at the train station to be sure.
Exploring Europe on rails is often a lot cheaper if you can commit to a specific train ticket with limited or no options for refunds and changes. Budget tickets are usually sold at final sale, while pricier options may come with full or partial refunds. Eurail Passes, for example, offer customers a choice between an 85% refund or an exchange for a different Eurail Pass. Trenitalia offers fares with up to a 60% discount for high-speed train tickets purchased in advance on a no-refund basis.
For beginners to European train travel, the Eurail Pass is a single document that allows non-European citizens to travel by train multiple times across a network of 33 European countries. The travel must occur over a specified period of time, and the pass forgos the need to buy individual point-to-point tickets. The Eurail Pass, which is celebrating its 64th anniversary this year, can be used for riding local trains, high-speed trains, and even night trains. In addition to the flexibility and time-saving benefits it affords, traveling with one can also save you money, depending on your travel plans.
To find the ideal pass for your particular trip, Eurail built an online tool that lets you fill in your travel plans, including which countries you plan to visit, how many days you intend to travel by train, and the length of your entire trip. At the end of the short survey, it recommends the pass that suits your needs best.
When to use it: If you intend to clock up a fair old mileage and (crucially) want to stay completely flexible, then a railpass can be the just the ticket. It's especially likely to be the best bet if you're under 26, as 'youth' passes are much cheaper than adult passes and better value compared to normal tickets.
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.
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.
You have a couple of options for buying French train tickets. You can buy them in person at any train station either at the automated machine terminals or face to face at the ticket window. If you go the ticket window route, take note that they are generally open during French business hours and not 24/7. Also be aware that there are different types of ticket machines. Some are only for TER train tickets in France, as shown above, and others are for TGV tickets, etc. 041b061a72