Travel planning

Train Travel

Among other things, ExperiencePlus! Traveler Services include assistance with train tickets (Gravel Explorer and self-guided tours excluded). We know navigating Europe’s array of railway systems, services, schedules and ticket types can be a maze, but we’re here to help!

In the following, we’ll explain some ins and outs, tell you how we can help and offer advice on how to buy your own tickets.

Purchasing train tickets and finding schedules

The first place to go is often the country’s railway operator site. The name and link will be mentioned in the detailed arrival and departure instructions we provide you with, or you can easily google it. Here are the top four:

You may also consult consolidator sites, which are often a bit easier to use. Our favorite is Trainline with its transparent and intuitive interface, and help topics. Trainline is adding more and more connections across a variety of countries and runs an excellent blog. One word of caution: Trainline may not offer all types of train tickets, and sometimes regional trains may not be found there. It always makes sense to also check the local train operator’s site in addition. Trainline adds a small booking fee if you purchase on their site but we find it well worth the convenience.

Most European train operators publish their schedules about 90-60 days out. Regional train schedules may be published with an even shorter time frame. If you can’t find a connection you are looking for at all, you may be too early. To get an idea of schedule and frequency, you can do another search for the same weekday you are planning to travel on, closer to today.

When we say “purchasing train tickets in advance” we mean booking train tickets online ahead of time (in many cases including a seat reservation), much like a flight ticket. If you purchase your train ticket at the station, then in most cases you will still need to get your ticket before boarding a train as on-board sales are becoming less and less common on European trains – and impossible on some, e.g. in Germany or Denmark.

This is a frequent question which results in an array of complex answers involving some ifs and whens. Booking your ticket online in advance depends on the train type, time of travel and how flexible you want to be.

Regional train? No.
In general, regional or commuter-type trains like those going from an airport into town, trains connecting smaller towns, or trains within cities, do not need to booked in advance and they have fixed prices. In fact, purchasing your ticket online for these types of trains will issue a ticket that is non-refundable and train-binding. This means, you can only take the one train specified on your ticket, at the time or during the time window printed on your ticket. As an added complication, the Italian rail operator now requires a “check-in” process for regional train tickets purchased online. For those types of trains, we recommend purchasing your ticket at the station.

Long distance trains? Yes and No.
For long-distance trains, it can make a lot of sense to purchase your ticket online in advance. See more information in the section about long-distance trains below.

For most long distance trains, it can be advantageous to book your ticket online in advance for the following reasons:

  • Fares are cheaper further out.
    However, here’s the But: Be mindful of the fine print. Usually, the lower a fare, the less flexibility you will have and similar considerations as specified above for regional trains apply. Flexible tickets exist and they are a good choice if you’re not sure yet of the travel time. However, keep in mind that even though a ticket is deemed flexible, you might still need to see a representative at a kiosk or go online to exchange it, oftentimes for a fee (e.g. for French trains).
  • Some train lines can be very busy.
    Long-distance trains running from Frankfurt Airport are a good example for a high-traffic line, so it can be nice to have your train ticket in hand when you land.
    However: Always check the fine print with regard to seat reservations and exchange conditions:
    The complex life of seat reservations: In Germany, second class tickets do not automatically include a seat reservation, but the seat reservation will need to be purchased separately. If you book your ticket in advance, make sure to check if a seat reservation needs to be added separately. Also note that seat reservations are train-binding, so the flexibility only goes so far. You can purchase a new seat reservation at the vending machine or at the counter, if available. Other countries oftentimes automatically include seat reservations, but exchange fees usually apply if you miss the train your ticket was issued for.
    It’s a toss-up! Of course, booking your train ticket in advance for the day your flight comes with its own potential of complications, in case your flight is delayed or you get stuck in customs. If you book a flexible ticket, you should be able to use it on the next train if you miss yours, and exchange conditions and fees may apply.

Yes! With some limitations to keep in mind. Many countries or even regions offer special group tickets, so this might be something you want to make use of while you travel. An example is the regional ticket for Bavaria. It can be used by up to 5 people and is even valid on certain trains across the Austrian border. Some restrictions apply, so be sure to read the fine print.

During your online train ticket purchase, your credit card’s fraud protection may kick in resulting in a declined transaction. In that case, you will need to get in touch with your bank or credit card company to release the transaction and complete your purchase.

Some platforms, e.g. the German Railway, add a credit card fee. Consolidator platforms usually add a small commission. Do remember that transactions will take place in the country’s currency that you are booking with, so you might incur transaction fees, as per your credit card agreement.

ExperiencePlus!’s booking services are complimentary and included in your trip reservation (Gravel Explorer and self-guided tours excluded).

This depends on the train type and itinerary. For longer journeys, extra space, fewer people and potential quiet zones are quite nice. Some trains offer additional services, like meals brought to your seat, or access to lounges at the station. Trainline has some great information on this on their blog.

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How ExperiencePlus! can help

We will gladly arrange your train tickets for you (Gravel Explorer and self-guided tours excluded). We will purchase them online with your credit card after we’ve discussed the best strategy with you by phone or email. Our preferred platform for purchase currently is, but we may use the national operator’s systems.

No. We do not earn a commission on train bookings.

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At the station and on the train

Yes – with potential limitations. Most ticket vending machines nowadays accept credit cards, but your card will need to be equipped with a chip and PIN. Read more on using money and credit cards while on tour. Most larger stations also have a kiosk, where you can buy your ticket from a person.

At the station, check the departure display for your train time, train number and platform. Keep in mind that the display board usually lists the train’s final destination, which may not be your destination. If you have a seat reservation, check your coach and seat number.

Usually overhead, under your seat or between seats. Oftentimes, long-distance trains have special luggage compartments on each coach. In any case, the luggage is brought on and off the train by yourself and will usually be stored nearby your seat. If you are traveling with a bike case or a bike, extra fees may apply.

It’s easy as long as you have a few details ready: know the station where you need to make the change, and the time, number and platform of your next train. Get your things together a few minutes before the train enters the station. Once the train has stopped and is ready for disembarking, exit the train and follow the signage to the platform you need, if it’s not the same platform you arrived at. Usually, changing platforms involves going either above or underground. Double-check the departure displays for your train number and platform.

If you just need to get to a different platform, 10 minutes is usually just right.

  • Usually train tickets purchased online are issued to a traveler’s name. Make sure you’ll have your ID handy to show to the conductor.
  • Most tickets these days can be kept electronically on your phone. Take a screenshot, just in case.
  • Especially true for most stations in Italy, tickets for regional trains purchased at the station must usually be validated at one of the stamping machines before entering a platform, just like a subway ticket. Do this before boarding the train, or, in some cases before entering the platform. Read more on this here.
  • Traveling by train in Europe is easy and comfortable. Make sure to be on time so you will find your platform without a hassle.
  • Make sure you’re in the right coach (coach number, first or second class) and, if you have a seat reservation, double-check you’re in the correct seat.

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