These European Train Travel tips offer insight into some of the less-common aspects of European rail travel. Many of these were discovered only through extensive travels we made in recent years.
Take a break and grab a cup of coffee. You can also click on any topic you are interested in to learn more about Europe by train.
- If you are planning to travel by rail, we have some suggestions:
- Both when you are on your trip and when planning it.
- We also explain the different languages that you will encounter on your train journey to Europe.
When using journey and ticket planning apps, be aware
Online ticket agencies and apps assume that European trains will always run on schedule AND that you will want to reach your destination as quickly as possible.
You’ll often see options for connecting trains that take less than 15 minutes when you look up train journeys.
Don’t rely on the final train for the day
If you are traveling a long distance route with connections, it is best to not connect to the final train to reach your destination.
If the ‘connecting train’ is delayed, the train you depend on to transport you to your destination will not work.
When planning a trip, make sure you choose one option that starts sooner than the last.
First class may be less expensive than second class
For journeys in which advance tickets are available, the cheapest tickets may still be available for 1st/Premier-class tickets but have been sold out for travel to 2nd class.
If you are in this situation, you can save money by booking for 1st-class tickets. These tickets will be the most affordable available. However, it is not an everyday scenario so you need to be lucky.
You should be open to the possibility that First Class travel is possible. But, you must always verify the price and not assume that it will be more expensive.
A difference of EUR5-10 can make First Class travel more affordable than Second.
Avoid busy periods
While you may be in holiday mode, it is easy to forget that those less fortunate still have to commute to work and travel on business.
You can avoid taking trains which DO NOT need to be reserved if you plan to travel into major cities between 08:00 and 10:00 or take trains from them between 17:00-18:30.
Prices rise when there is high demand. Partly because cheaper tickets sell faster during peak travel times, but also because long-distance tickets are often not available at normal business hours.
You can check departure times on ticket websites or apps
If you don’t have time to get tickets in the station at the last moment, it is a good idea still to research the train times prior to departing.
Gaps of greater than 90 minutes are common on busy routes across continental Europe.
Many popular daytime local and regional trains are perfect for day trips and don’t run to scheduled times, particularly in France and Spain.
It is usually easiest to check train times online by looking up the journey on ticket booking sites – just as if buying tickets online.
The websites and apps that you can use for looking up trains in our ticket guides are listed below.
Do not travel long distances during weekends or holidays.
Maintaining railway lines is important and often this work takes place on weekends or holidays.
Although trains still operate in Europe, they are sometimes delayed or miss station calls. They can also use other stations. However, trains in Britain tend to be replaced with buses.
It’s a good idea to plan an itinerary that allows you to travel long distances from Monday to Friday.
When changes are made to the schedule, information on trains and stations will not always be available in English. Last-minute changes may also be difficult to find in apps.
When the normal schedules are changed, it is easy to get lost. In these cases, our journey information might not be completely accurate.
You don’t always have to reserve for long distance travel.
Joy of joys, you’ll travel by an express train that doesn’t have to be booked. This can make it seem like an extra expense that can easily be avoided or a hassle that is unnecessary.
But be careful, especially if your journey is 2nd class. It’s possible to board a train that travels long distances and not have any seats available.
ShowMeTheJourney has a set of rules for our travels. If you meet two or more of these criteria, then you can make an optional reservation.
- – The journey takes longer than 90 minutes
- – Train service is provided at a frequency of 1 x train an OTHER hour.
- – You will join a train at an intermediate station
- – You can board at any station between
- Mon-Sat: 08:30 – 10:30
- Mon-Thurs: 16:30 and 18;30
- Fridays at 12:30 and 10:30
- On summer Saturdays, 08:00 and 12:00
- Sundays: 14:30 and 15:30