You Have E-tickets for your European Rail Journey. Now What?

 

Paris train station. France

Paris train station. France

Here’s a quick guide on the basics of electronic ticketing. 

Remember the first time you used an ATM machine? You were like, okay, I’m going to try this and see how it goes…then, wow! Now you couldn’t imagine your life without it, so convenient and handy. Well, that’s e-ticketing for European rail, too. There’s a tiny learning curve, covered here, which will take the mystery out of what you need to do to have a simple, seamless experience.

E-tickets: The E stands for easy, too.

E-tickets are as easy to use for European rail as they are for almost everything else. They’re available for many high speed trains reaching France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Britain, Germany, Italy and Spain.  And you can also book them for the Heathrow Express in Britain.

On trains that offer e-ticketing, Rail Europe will provide it as a delivery option during checkout on the Rail Europe website, its contact center, its iPhone app or mobile website.

Now, there are essentially two types of train e-tickets. The type you print at home and those you print at the station at a e-ticket kiosk. Let’s cover print at home first.

Print At Home E-tickets. Pajamas welcome.

With print at home e-tickets you’ll find instructions provided on your confirmation email  since you must print them before you arrive at the train station. The ticket is included in a pdf document sent to you when you book, in most cases through a web link in your Rail Europe confirmation email.

Exceptions are Thalys and Italo print at home e-tickets. Thalys tickets are emailed separately and will come directly from Thalys – you must have a printed copy of this e-ticket in hand before boarding the train.

Italo e-tickets do not require a printed ticket in hand, just the e-ticket number (PNR) and a passport to board. If printing the paper documents adds to your comfort, your itinerary will have the e-ticket number and can be your reference.

In any event, print at home e-tickets cannot be printed by staff at the train station, so don’t leave with that expectation. Have even more questions? You’ll find even more answers in our detailed FAQ.

Thalys train. @Thalys

Thalys train. @Thalys

Next, it’s Print At The Station E-tickets. (Pajamas not so welcome.)

Print at the station is a commonly used option, much like airline self-serve kiosks. Go to the e-ticket kiosk and enter your e-ticket number (which is noted as the PNR code on your confirmation email.  These codes are unique to each train ticket and identify you.).

For British train e-tickets, you’ll need to insert any card with a magnetic strip to activate the e-ticket kiosk before entering your 8-character e-ticket number (PNR) code.

When can you print your tickets at the e-ticket kiosk at the station? Good question. Any time on the day of travel or any time prior. It’s a good idea to give yourself at least 30 minutes before your train’s departure time for printing in any case. If you have more questions about Print At The Station E-tickets, check out the FAQ.

Virgin Train. Great Britain

Virgin Train. Great Britain

Can e-tickets be exchanged or refunded?

In most cases, an e-ticket bought and issued through the Rail Europe website is eligible for exchange or refund. Just go to the online exchange and refund tool and enter your booking number and the email address associated with it. You can complete this exchange or refund process at any time, whether you’re still in North America or have left and are already in Europe. An easy answer to any uncertainty is adding Rail Europe’s Rail Protection Plan™ to your booking. It entitles you to one exchange for each covered product, with no fee or penalty, regardless of the rail carriers’ policy. E-tickets and the Rail Protection Plan are the perfect couple– one makes it easy, the other makes it stress-proof.

A few more things…

Why not watch this little video that explains e-ticketing for European rail in a mere 42 seconds?

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And let me know how your trip goes. I think I’ve given you all the heads up you need for electronic ticketing magnificence, but if you encounter something you think will aid other travelers, please share it here.

Handy Guide to E-ticketing Options

Train Families and Sample Routes (only major routes shown, more routes may be available) Print at Home Print at Station
British tickets London to: Bath, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Liverpool, Manchester Not Offered

Y

Brussels-France TGV Brussles to: Avignon, Lyon, Marseille, Paris and Paris CDG

Y

Y*

Eurostar London to: Brussels, Lille, Marne la Vallee, and Paris Eurostar stations. For Lille and Marne-la-Vallee, the client must retrieve their Eurostar tickets from a SNCF self service ticketing kiosk (BLS).

Y

Y

France-Italy TGV Paris to: Milan

Y

Y*

French Trains Paris to: Avignon, Bordeaux, Cannes, Lyon, Toulouse

Y

Y

France-Spain High-Speed Paris to: Barcelona, Lyon to: Barcelona, Toulouse to: Barcelona, Marseille to: Madrid

Y

Y*

German Trains All trains departing from a German station

N

Y

Heathrow Express Heathrow Airport to London Paddington Staton

Y

N

Italo Turin, Milan, Bologna, Venice, Florence, Rome, Naples, Salerno

Y

N

Lyria Paris to: Zurich, Basel, Bern, Neuchatel, Lausanne, Geneva, Interlaken Dijon to: Lausanne, Berne, Neuchatel (Print at Station only)Geneva to: Avignon, Marseille, Montpellier, Nimes, Cannes

Y

Y*

Paris-Luxembourg

Y

Y*

Paris-Germany TGV (Alleo) Paris to: Frankfurt, Manheim, Munich, Stuttgart Frankfurt to Marseille, Dijon

Y

Y*

RENFE Madrid to: Barcelona, Cordova, Malaga, Seville Paris to: Barcelona and Madrid Barcelona to: Granada, Valencia, Seville, Montpellier, Perpignan

Y

Not offered
Thalys Paris to: Amsterdam, Schipol Airport/ Amsterdam Airport, The Hague, Rotterdam, Oostende, Brugge, Ghent, Brussels, Antwerp, Liege, Aachen, Cologne, Namur, Mons, Charleroi

Y

Y*

*NOTE:For French International TGVs and Thalys print and station tickets can only be retrieved from a self-service ticketing kiosk in France. This includes roundtrip tickets. • Eurostar Print at Station train tickets for Lille and Marne la-Vallee must be retrieved from a self service SNCF ticketing kiosk.

 

  • Martin

    For pre-paid British tickets I think you may need to insert the card you used to pay for the tickets, not just any card.

  • Susie

    How much time do you need to change trains in Villach?

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