How to buy cheap train tickets in Europe

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Have you been planning a rail vacation through Europe?

Then, now is probably the time to start thinking about how you can do your train booking for Europe, no matter where in the world you are!

You want to buy these train tickets online on your computer or with your smartphone.

It’s definitely worth considering the very best options, because choosing the right train ticket provider can save you a lot of money and a lot of unwanted stress.

That’s why we decided to compile this complete guide on how to get your tickets.

In this article, we’ll show you the different options and we’ll guide you through the process of buying train tickets online before you take off!

At the bottom of the article, we answered a few frequently asked questions, so check these too, as they might hold the answer to your own questions!

How to buy train tickets in Europe

You can either choose to get a rail pass or to get separate train tickets for each leg of your journey. This all depends on the type of trip you’re planning.

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We’ll go through both options and explain how to use them.

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How to buy cheap train tickets in Europe
How to buy cheap train tickets in Europe

1. Buying separate train tickets in Europe

Separate train tickets are easy to buy and convenient to use. But there are a few things you should consider before starting the process.

  • manage all your bookings in the same platform
  • check seating and travel class before booking
  • select the best and most convenient platform
  • don’t use tickets you have to print, always go for mobile tickets

We already wrote an article with some of the very best train booking apps and platforms for European train travel. And as you might have seen, we have a favourite platform for doing this.

Keep reading: we’ll explain why it’s our favourite and how you can use it with ease and comfort!

The best Europe train booking website

Omio, previously GoEuro, is by far the best train booking website for Europe.

That’s because it’s easy to use the platform and they offer extra options.

They always offer the best prices for your tickets, whether those are rail tickets, bus tickets, or flights. On this platform, you can always check which option is the cheapest and the quickest.

  • Intuitive interface
  • Easy overview for timetables and prices
  • Mobile tickets
  • Available for all of Europe
  • Largest inventory of partner providers
  • Immediately book your hotel as well
  • Activate price alerts
  • Pay with your own currency

How to book your train tickets in Europe with Omio

  1. Navigate to the booking platform start page (smartphone or web)
  2. Type in start location and destination
  3. Select your travel dates
  4. Compare the different tickets or switch to bus travel or flights
  5. Choose the route and the ticket you prefer
  6. Go through payment formalities
  7. Download your mobile ticket (or print it if necessary)
  8. You can also access your mobile ticket on your smartphone if you download the app)

Pros of buying separate train tickets

  • Spontaneous and last minute travel
  • No paper tickets – you can do everything on your phone

Cons of buying separate tickets

  • There aren’t too many cons with this method of travel
How to buy cheap train tickets in Europe

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2. Buying a rail pass in Europe

A rail pass is a great option if you plan on traveling many days in a set period of time.

Rail passes are available in different sizes and colors 🙂 as I’ll explain in a minute!

We used an Interrail pass for our trip through Central and Eastern Europe before.

Best rail pass for Europe

The best rail pass provider in Europe is Interrail. They offer a plethora in different rail passes, suited for every type of traveler. Their rail pass is valid in 31 European countries, so there’s nothing holding you back when getting one of these!

The Interrail passes are divided into time spans and into areas.

So you can get a rail pass with a certain amount of travel days within 1 month or 2 months. The amount of travel days varies from 3 days in a month to 15 days in 2 months.

This way, you have to set your itinerary before you leave or even before you actually buy your pass. You need to know where you’re going and how many days you will be on the rails during your trip.

Types of rail passes for Europe

The Global Interrail pass can be used in all of the 31 accepted countries. You can cross as many borders as you like.

Global passes are available for first class travel or second class travel.

  • 15 days unlimited use
  • 22 days unlimited use
  • 1 month unlimited use
  • 2 months unlimited use
  • 3 months unlimited use
  • 3 travel days in 1 month
  • 5 travel days in 1 month
  • 7 travel days in 1 month
  • 10 travel days in 2 months
  • 15 travel days in 2 months

One country passes are available for all 31 countries in Europe. They’re also available with different numbers of travel days within 1 month or longer.

One country passes can be bought for first class travel or second class travel.

  • for each country in Europe

Upgrading your Interrail pass to a Premium pass

Upgrading your rail pass to a premium pass has quite a few advantages and it might end up being cheaper than getting a regular pass.

So you pay more money to buy the initial pass, but then this one massive advantage makes your pass worthwhile: no reservation fees!

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We discovered first hand that the reservation fees can be higher than the cost of the actual pass, so if you plan on taking high-speed and sleeper trains, the Premium pass is worth it!

Unfortunately, Premium passes are only available for train travel in Italy and Spain.

Discounts for rail passes

Children and young travelers get a discount for their rail pass. Travelers younger than 27 years old get a big discount on their rail pass.

Seniors over 60 years old also get a discount for their rail pass.

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What’s the price of the Interrail pass?

Well, the price varies heavily depending on your choices!

Your pass will be a lot cheaper if you’re younger than 27 years old and if you buy a pass for only 3 travel days in 1 month.

Prices rise quickly if you want to get more travel days.

We suggest checking current prices on the Interrail website.

The delivery of your pass is 9€.

How to use the Interrail pass

Once the Interrail pass arrives in the mail, you can unpack the goodies and check out your pass.

There will be a blue plastic cover to keep your document safe and the actual pass.

Before starting your trip, you have to complete the top part of the travel calendar, which already has your name and info printed. But you still have to fill in the exact date of departure. Once you write a date on the calendar, that’s the first day of your travel month.

Each first train you board, starts a new travel day. During that day, you can catch as many trains as you like.

The rail pass is a travel calendar you have to fill in each time before boarding a train or you might get a fine.

For night trains, there’s a 7pm rule, which allows you to only use 1 day for a night train. If you board a train after 19h in the evening, only the start date counts!

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On the train, you just need to show your pass, and maybe your reservation if reservations are compulsory.

Pros of buying a rail pass in Europe

  • All of your train tickets are within the same system
  • You get one pass with all your information
  • Regional trains need no reservation, so you can take these spontaneous
  • You get discounts on ferries and some scenic train rides (which aren’t included)
  • Extra discounts in selected hostels, restaurants, and attractions

Cons of buying a rail pass

  • You have to plan most of your travel in advance
  • Rail passes are quite expensive
  • You need to make reservations for most trains in advance
  • Reserving night trains and high speed trains costs extra
  • The previously mentioned discounts in selected hostels, restaurants and attractions are only available on the days you actually use your pass!
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Frequently asked questions about buying train tickets for Europe

What to look for when buying train tickets for my trip in Europe

Before entering your credit card details, make sure that the chosen ticket has everything you need it to be. Of course, you checked the price first, but then, you also want to be sure that everything runs smooth and easy.

These are the things to consider:

  • You want to get affordable or cheap train tickets for Europe
  • You want to be sure that everything is taken care off
  • Mobile access without printing your tickets
  • A mobile app where you can search your bookings
  • Selecting your seat or travel class

Is it better to buy train tickets in advance in Europe?

Not always, but usually, yes!

Train tickets are the cheapest when you buy them up to 2 months in advance. In some countries you can buy them even further in advance.

For other countries, prices are fixed and your ticket won’t be any cheaper than if you’d buy it the same day.

It might pay off to do your homework and have a sneak peak at the prices of your train tickets beforehand.

If you’re asking this question because you fear that tickets might sell out, that’s also a legit question.

Train tickets in Europe don’t easily sell out for regular train journeys. However, tickets for heavily used and busy high speed train journeys do sell out some times.

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Luckily, there will always be a next train or a slower train you can still catch!

Is it cheaper to buy train tickets online or at the station?

Buying tickets in the station or straight from the local provider is usually cheaper.

But it isn’t always convenient or easy as you won’t be able to plan your journey in advance and you might not be be able to get the ticket for the train you want if the train is full.

  • You’re only certain that you can board the train once you have the actual ticket
  • You need to get to the station early to get your ticket
  • There might be a language barrier

Do train tickets get cheaper closer to departure?

Not always.

Tickets are more likely to be cheaper further in advance.

2 or 3 months before departure, train tickets are usually the cheapest.

Sometimes, train tickets get cheaper a few hours before departure, but you shouldn’t count on that to happen!

How far in advance should I book train tickets?

If your travel plans are fixed and certain, you can book your tickets!

Some countries won’t let you book your tickets earlier than 3 months in advance, but a lot of countries will.

The golden rule in booking train ticket is to buy them between 2 months before departure and 2 weeks before departure.

But don’t worry, you can easily get your tickets last minute too.

Conclusion: it’s up to you 🙂

Is there a train that goes through Europe?

There isn’t 1 train that goes through all of Europe, but there are quite a few long distance trains available in Europe.

Make sure to check out these night trains, which usually cover great distances, and high-speed trains also go a long way!

Conclusion – Buying train tickets in Europe

Getting train tickets for your journey through Europe isn’t difficult, but you do have to consider the available options, depending on the type of trip you want to make.

Buying an Interrail pass or an Eurail pass might be a great option if you want to do a lot of train travel and if you have a good idea of what your itinerary will look like.

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We used the Interrail pass before and really liked the system and workflow.

However, getting separate tickets does offer you the chance to travel spontaneous and to change plans as you go.

Separate train tickets aren’t necessarily more expensive or more hassle if you manage all your tickets and bookings in the same app or train booking platform.

Especially if you want to travel cheap, using a platform like Omio is a smart choice as they will also offer bus tickets, which can bring the price down quite a bit!

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