Train Travel in Europe – Discover Europe by Train like a Boss

Train travel speaks to the imagination and has the power to take you back to times that are long gone. European train travel is no exception to this. It is actually the best place to experience train travel the way it’s supposed to be!

Even though a lot of options for high-speed train travel in Europe are available now, it’s still very easy to find an old-school, wobbly train in Europe. Everything is available for a legendary train journey through this wonderful continent.

Travel Europe by train to discover tons of scenic train lines and take a night train to cover great distances while you sleep!

In this Europe train travel guide, we explain the best way to travel Europe by train. We also talk about the Europe train pass options, like the Interrail Europe rail passes.

Keep reading to learn more about how to travel Europe by train.

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Europe rail passes

How does interrail works

Interrail is a European enterprise which makes train travel in Europe easy and straightforward.

While each country has its own railway system, website and booking system, Interrail combines everything in one Europe train pass.

If your amount of time is limited, Interrail is a great option to take care of transportation and bookings in one place, without losing precious time on translating different websites.

Interrail plan your trip

Pass prices vary depending on the formula your itinerary requires. Do you want to visit one country or more? How many days will you be traveling? This website has a nice overview of the possible passes and prices.

There is a nice selection of possibilities. You can choose to travel to one country, multiple countries of your choice or travel the entire continent with one single pass and their convenient rail planner app.

Sunset Train Europe
Sunset from a Train in Europe

Tips for the interrail Europe rail passes

Extra cost after getting your rail pass

After buying your Rail Pass, it will be sent to you by mail.

You’ll still be required to make reservations for a lot of trains. These reservations are not included and you have to pay a reservation fee and an extra fee for the seat or bed you’re booking.

There are options to travel just for the price of the pass, without taking train lines that require reservations, but it allows you to only travel on trips that don’t require reservations. For night trains or high-speed trains, you always pay extra.

See how reservations work!

Reservations and train status

Reservations need to be made well before the trip. This takes away some spontaneity of your travels, but most long-distance trains require a reservation.

It might be necessary to book your seat on some train lines, because of the number of travelers that use the train. If you’re late with booking, the train status may have changed and all seats might be sold.

The price of the reservation depends on the country and the type of ticket. Night trains and high-speed trains are more expensive. After booking your tickets, a seat or bed will be assigned to you.

How to use the interrail pass?

For each train you embark, you need to write down your location and destination. The date must be entered as well. Once you started a travel day, you can get on and off as many trains as you like during the entire day. So the best practice is to make a travel day really a travel day.

For night trains, special rules like the 7 PM rule, apply. This rule allows you to use only one day for a night train instead of two days. Read more about the 7 PM rule here.

How to use the rail planner app?

The Interrail / Eurail rail planner app is a great asset for train travel in Europe and it is the best rail planner app I’ve used so far. You can use it offline and it has pretty accurate timetables and train times for all train lines in Europe.  If you’re online, you can see live train times and casual delays.

The app shows you the train status and if you can get on the train for free or need a reservation. We thought the app was a great resource and we used it a lot during our trip. It’s convenient for all train schedules and not just the night trains and high-speed trains. This app doubles as a train journey planner.

Cheap train tickets

Taking trains without a reservation is definitely cheaper, but not always the best option. If you’re on a tight schedule, you don’t want to take 6 trains when you can do the same trip with a single train. But you’ll probably pay more.

Depending on your itinerary, you can choose the perfect rail pass to match your train journey. Passes for one country are often cheaper than continental rail passes.

Waiting for the next train
Waiting for the next train

Types of trains in Europe

High-speed train travel in Europe

Most capitals in Europe are connected with high-speed train line. These don’t really take you back in time, but they do take you to your destination pretty quickly.

The high-speed trains are modern and sleek. You can travel between Berlin, Prague, Rome, Paris and many other metropoles in a few days. While a TGV, Thalys, Eurostar or ICE train can set you back a few euros, you can be sure to reach your destination in a very short amount of time and train schedules are accurate.

Fast train lines offer accurate train schedules on state-of-the-art train lines and with regular departures and train times.

High-speed trains cover a lot of ground in just a few hours and are perfect for capital hopping in Europe. Once you try to get more rural, you’ll have to switch to the slower, regional trains.

Night train travel in Europe

There are plenty of night trains between major cities in Europe. Recently, a lot of night trains have changed ownership and things have changed in the world of night trains.

The great thing about night trains is going to sleep in one place and waking up hundreds of kilometers further in your journey.

I do miss watching the landscape change, but it’s still a great way to cover a lot of ground quickly while saving money on accommodation.

Deciding on how to travel night trains: sitting our sleeping, can be difficult too.

Check our guide on night trains to make a decision!

Travel back in time - Deprecated night train Jan Kiepuru - Our experience

We took the Jan Kiepura from Cologne (Germany) to Poznan (Poland). The train seemed pretty old but sufficient. We shared a 3 person cabin with another traveler who joined us in Berlin. This gave us time to arrange our stuff and clear the small cabin before a third traveler had to get her luggage in. Getting into the top bed is not easy. Getting out of it is even harder, especially if you’re trying not to wake other passengers. Descending three floors into a dark, narrow cave on your way to the bathroom at 3 AM: not recommended.

Travel back in time - Deprecated night train City night line - Our experience

The City Night Line ran different routes in Europe. Currently, it’s not called City Night line anymore since it has been taken over. Now you can take the NightJet and EuroNight trains instead.  We took the CNL from Prague back to Cologne. It was obviously newer and better equipped than the Jan Kiepura. We slept in a private double cabin which was more luxurious than a three-person cabin we took a week before. A few doors next to us was a real bathroom with a shower. Even if you don’t really need a shower, I must admit that it’s impossible to resist. Taking a shower on a train: check! It’s a bit wobbly and your shoes might get wet, but it’s a very cool thing to do.

Enjoying Goulash Soup on the City Night Line
Enjoying Goulash Soup on the City Night Line

Regional and National train travel in Europe

Regional trains greatly vary between different countries. While some countries, like Germany, Spain, and Italy have a wonderful railway system. Other countries are slower to travel by rail once you leave the capital, like Hungary or Slovakia.

Try to get from Zakopane in Poland to Debrecen in Hungary.

Although slow travel has a lot of charm and indulges you in local scenery, sometimes it’s easier to find a bus than to travel great detours to get to a destination.

Top scenic train rides in Europe

Europe offers a lot of scenic train rides, many of which we still need to travel.

Check out our article about the most scenic train lines in Europe to find out more interesting train trips.

The Bernina Express takes you over the bridges and through the tunnels seen in the Harry Potter movies and is a must travel trip when in Switzerland.

The sceneries on these trips take you through tunnels, over bridges and through all kinds of stunning landscapes.

Europe also has a few interesting record-breaking train lines and takes on extreme rail tracks, long tunnels, and desolate train stations.

Interrailing in Europe
On an Interrailing trip in Europe

Useful train travel links

The man in seat 61

The man in Seat 61 is the resource to fall back to before traveling by train.

This website is by far the best resource for train travel in Europe and the rest of the world. We check it whenever we even think about taking a train outside of our home country.

The owner, Mark, has a passion for trains. He’s put a lot of work into this great website and it shows.

Goeuro

GoEuro is one the best and easy-to-use rail planners for Europe. They have platforms for planning train trips as well as checking prices for airplane tickets and bus tickets across the entire continent of Europe.

Loco2

Loco2 is a train planner website where you can book your international train tickets for all of Europe. The Loco2 website and train route planner are easy to use and convenient because you can check your train travel itinerary and buy your train tickets at once.

Interrail for European citizens

If you’re European resident or have an address in Europe, you can buy an Interrail pass. The Interrail pass is perfectly suited for train travel in Europe. It’s the exact same thing as the Eurail pass. Choosing which one to buy isn’t really choosing as it entirely depends on your residency. Get your Interrail Pass here!

Eurrail for non-European residents

People who don’t have a European passport or you’re not a European resident, you will have to get a Eurail pass. The Eurail pass is the non-European solution for the Interrail pass and it’s great for train travel in Europe. Get your Eurail pass here!

This might be interesting too

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Train travel Europe
Train travel Europe

34 Responses

  1. Thanks for this great post, I wouldn’t know where to start if I was trying to it out on my own. I caught trains in Italy and got in trouble because I accidentally sat in the first class carriage (it looked exactly the same to me!).

  2. This is a great article, very informative. I live in Spain and we use the Renfe, with the AVE being the highspeed version. It has been such a time and money saver, as cheaper flights for us moving back and forth between Europe and North America always land in Madrid. With the train we can make it to the other cities in no time and way cheaper than the flights!

    1. Thanks for commenting. You should find everything you need to know about trains on that web site!

  3. I love train travel in Europe and always take a bed for the night trains. Trains in Moldova, Ukraine, Belarus and Russia are interesting./…. best to get drunk on those and hope for the best 😀

  4. Very useful post; I wouldn’t have expected a shower on a train, nor a 3 storey bunk bed! I’ve always liked the idea of inter railing in the summer and your tips are great. Agree that Man in Seat 61 is super useful too.

  5. I have thought about taking a night train but have not. Not loving the idea of getting out of the top bunk at 3 am for the restroom!

    1. Thanks for your comment! I guess you can get a sleeper with two beds, or just take the bottom bed 🙂

  6. Great information to know. I’ve never done Europe by train, seems like an interesting way to travel. I did the overnight ferry from Helsinki to Stockholm, so this would be a great way to see Europe on a budget.

    1. Thanks for commenting! We haven’t used an overnight ferry before. I guess we should try that 🙂

  7. Train travel is still the best, much better than any other type. I wish for the days of long train voyages across the continent, with steamer trunks and inspector Poirot in the next compartment.

    1. Great comment! Thanks! I’m with you on that one. Those long cross continent voyages are still there. You could travel from Paris to Vladivostok without ever leaving the train or train station 🙂

    1. Thanks for commenting! It’s an interesting way of travel indeed. And the third bed is very close to the ceiling… So very high up!

  8. Traveling with trains may be slow sometimes but it has that romantic touch and it is the best way to see the country scenery. Love your post, very informative, thanks!

    1. Thanks for your comment! Glad you liked it 🙂 It’s a romantic way to travel. We loved it 🙂

  9. I loved to travel by train when I was a kid, and it reminds me ever since on those family trips, sleeping on the train and waking up to some place at the seaside or to charming unknown cities. That is probably why I still enjoy traveling by train, even though I don’t do it that often any more. But when I see a post like yours… Oh well, it makes me want to book one first thing! 🙂

    1. Thanks for your comment 😀 I’m glad to hear you liked it! Maybe it’s time to go on another train adventure!

  10. What a great rail-connectivity Europe has! I wish if the same would have been scene in the US! I took the AMTRAK few years back when I was traveling from Niagara to NYC!

    1. Thanks for your comment! The US seems more inviting for a road trip, which is on our list too 😀

  11. Being originally from the Netherlands I did quite a few train trips through Europe, but one on our bucket list is definitely Euro Tripping by train. I think travelling by train is just a very relaxed way to travel.

    1. Thanks for your comment. It is very relaxed indeed… Better than navigating a car through Barcelona or another big city. The train drops you right in the city center, hassle free.

  12. We were thinking about a road trip through Europe, but maybe we should consider a rail trip instead. Europe is indeed known for its extensive rail network, so maybe it’s silly not to use it? We do travel regularly by train in Belgium: we used to travel to Leuven every week to study and now we’re often going to the airport by train, or maybe to Antwerp or the coast. We did travel to London by train once and are heading to Paris by train in a couple of weeks!

    1. Sounds great! We choose the train over our car a lot when traveling in Belgium. We really like it being hassle free and a relaxing way to travel. Same goes for travel to the airport. It’s so easy 😀 Have fun in Paris!

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