By Rick Steves
While a railway pass is usually the wise method to drive the rails in European countries, often it creates even more feeling to get specific train seats between certain spots (either as opposed to, or perhaps in addition to, a train pass — see my tips for figuring out whether a pass pencils out for your travel).
Unlike railway passes, which must be purchased if your wanting to reach Europe, it really is usually easiest purchasing point-to-point train passes right within station. But it is best if you get beforehand for several trains and destinations, particularly if your times are set and also you don't want to risk a specific train trip attempting to sell completely, or you're hoping to land an advance-purchase rebate.
With a legitimate rail pass, you merely hop on any covered train that does not need reservations. But even unreserved point-to-point passes have some freedom, because you can certainly still make any number of stops and connections along the most direct route between your beginning and ending stations printed on your own solution (within a single nation your travel typically only has to be finished in the same schedule day; for many intercontinental point-to-point seats you have a couple of weeks to complete your way).
Through an United States Retailer
The simplest way to have train seats before making home is to purchase all of them through ricksteves.com (in the end, you are currently right here!). Most US-based websites and travel agents offer European train seats when it comes to same rates you'll find right here.
By purchasing through any US retailer, you'll spend a bit more than if you decide to buy that same pass in person at a European train station — but for a can't-miss train, the excess price may be beneficial for reassurance. (And rail-pass holders who nevertheless need tickets and/or chair reservations on particular trains — especially the Eurostar, Thalys, and any TGV — tend to be best if you get their passholder-fare seats through a US-based site, as they fares sell completely rather far ahead of time and therefore aren't available elsewhere online.)
On National-Railway Websites
Numerous European national train businesses allow clients buying tickets online at the going European cost (usually for quicker classes of trains for which reservations are required, or at the least advised). Advance seats is a particularly wise buy for popular high-speed trains (such as for example France's TGV trains and Italy's Le Frecce trains), which often sell out.
If you're finding the lowest priced possible violation between A and B — especially if an and B have been in exactly the same nation — here is the way to go.
Not totally all national-railway internet sites are manufactured equal: though some are tough (or impossible) for foreign people to make use of (like the unreliable Spanish railway web site), many tend to be simple enough to navigate (see my methods for utilising the well-designed Austrian, British, French, German, Irish, Italian, Swedish, and Swiss railway web sites).
Your “ticket” are a barcode on your own smartphone, an emailed confirmation code redeemable at the place (in the same country that works the website you bought it on), or a print-at-home document. On the web passes tend to be good for a particular time and date and have strict refund limitations, therefore read the small print very carefully.
In European Countries
Once in European countries, you can simply get seats in the place, usually with very little fuss, either on your day's vacation or perhaps in advance (see my strategies for purchasing tickets in European train programs). This is basically the best option if you love to keep your schedule much more spontaneous. You may also get passes for trains internationally: For instance, if your trip starts in Paris, you can purchase your Berlin-to-Prague pass at any Parisian train station (as any Parisian would). Tickets bought at train-station windows are usually easier to change (or have refunded) than passes purchased on line.
In a few places you can easily stay away from trekking to your stop at a neighbor hood travel company or branch office regarding the national railway. This convenience may come with an extra fee, however company is easier for you to get to as compared to place, purchasing seats indeed there can save lots of time and hassle (and travel companies may have longer and English-language skills as compared to men and women behind the train-station countertop).
European train fares are based primarily regarding the distance traveled. Each nation features its own “euros per kilometer” formula, though the variety of train additionally impacts the purchase price (logically, reduced trains usually are cheaper than faster people). For quicker courses of trains, but many European rail organizations have relocated to a dynamic rates system — much like how airfares work — which a fare may differ according to need, constraints, and just how early you get.
Scoring Ticket Discounts
If you should be buying point-to-point tickets, know about the methods you are able to be eligible for a discount (whether purchasing through a national-railway web site, or in individual at the stop). For details, check this website's country-specific train pages regarding countries you are planning to visit.
Advance acquisition (a week to 3 months ahead of time) can save you considerable money in specific nations (most notably Austria, Britain, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and Sweden), especially for faster or longer rides. In some places (such as for example Switzerland and a lot of eastern countries), advance-purchase deals either don't occur or are not really worth the hassle. In most locations, for local or medium-speed trains, seats cost the exact same if they're purchased 2 months or two mins prior to the train leaves.
Round-trip tickets could be cheaper than two one-way seats in certain nations (Britain, Ireland, and Spain; occasionally in combination with advance purchase). For most trips within Britain, including, a “day return” (round-trip in a single day) may be just a little more expensive than just one one-way admission.
Children get violation discounts in many of European countries (typically about 50 per cent off forever 4–11, often free with a grownup). Whether you're vacationing with seats or a rail pass, kids under 4 always travel no-cost on your own lap (though if there is an empty chair, go ahead and make use of it).
Youngsters centuries 12–25 can find discount cards in Austria, Belgium, Britain, France, Germany, and Italy.
Seniors will find a couple of solution deals, almost all of which need a price reduction card purchased in European countries (discounts begin between centuries 60 and 67).
Off-peak vacation (such as for instance midday or midweek) can be less expensive than peak-time trips (mainly in Britain and France).