Monday, November 26, 2012

Buying European Train Tickets Online

If you will be traveling in Europe by train, here is some info and web sites that could be helpful.

- If you are buying your ticket in country, write down the beginning and ending destination, the date and time of travel, and, if you know it, the train number. Hand this to the ticket clerk to make it clear where you want to go and when. I have a friend who wanted to go to Evian and the first ticket she received was to Avignon.

- For research from home start with the German National railway site. It sells tickets only for Germany but it includes the schedules for all of Europe. Remember to use the non-Anglicized spellings for place names such as Moskva instead of Moscow. For Venice, you want Venezia Santa Lucia, not Venezia Mestre which is located on the mainland.

- This is where a second site becomes very helpful. Seat 61 is a personal site run by Mark Smith who used to work for the British rail system. This is an extremely helpful site but where it really shines is when it comes time to buy tickets. Every country has its own rail system with its own website for purchasing tickets. Seat 61 will walk you through the process, either in English, if the rail site has an English option, or with screen shots if no English option. Just click on the "Train Travel in Europe" link and get started.

- If you buy a ticket in the U.S., keep in mind this is a foreign currency transaction. If you have such a credit card, use one that does not charge foreign currency transaction fees.

- When buying tickets from home, most times you can print off the tickets at home from an email confirmation or you can arrange to pick up the tickets from a train station. Be careful, though, if traveling from one country to another. For instance, if traveling from Switzerland to Italy, you need to purchase your ticket at the Swiss rail site so you can pick up your ticket in that country.

- If buying several tickets from several countries it may seem simple to use Rail Europe. While Rail Europe does have a U.S. site, I have linked to the Canadian site here, per the recommendation of Seat 61. Rail Europe is a U.S. travel agency and it generally sells the most expensive tickets on the most expensive routes, with additional fees. You should compare pricing between U.S. and Canadian site but you'll probably find much cheaper fares through the Canadian site. And compare to the country's direct site where the fares will probably be even cheaper.

- Think twice about the luggage you will have. You will probably have to handle it yourself - lifting it onto the train and off. If you have to change trains, you may find there is not a lot of time between your arrival and new departure, plus it may be a hike to the right track.

by: diane robbins

1 comment:

Anila at Loco2 said...

Hey Diane, some great tips you have here - the advice from Seat 61 is invaluable and the DB site excellent when it comes to online timetables.

Another tip I would add is to weight the cost of point to point tickets versus getting a railpass.

For the most part if you plan to rail a lot and don’t mind taking slower regional trains (reservation) free then a pass is worth it. If you only plan to make a handful of international high speed connections, I’d imagine advance p2p tickets will be the way forward. I’ve covered this in more detail in my independent Beginner’s Guide to Booking Train Tickets which may be helpful reading for visitors to this blog