Booking Seat Reservations
Should I buy my seat reservations prior to leaving North America, or can I just get them at the station in Europe?
You can purchase a reservation prior to your departure from Rail Europe or locally at the train station.
However, we recommend that you purchase your reservation as soon as possible, once you’ve determined which train trips on what dates you’ll need them.
In most cases, rail carriers set aside a limited number of seats for stand-alone reservations. Once those seats have sold out, only regular full-fare tickets can be bought for the train. Because of the limited reservation-only inventory, these seats do in fact sell out, especially during peak travel seasons such as the holidays or summer. The cost difference between a stand-alone reservation and a full-priced ticket can amount to a hundred dollars or more. There’s nothing more frustrating than being unable to use your rail pass and having to buy a full priced ticket at significant cost. Therefore, we highly encourage you to lock down your reservation and make the most of your travel budget as soon as possible.
Also keep in mind that reservations can be purchased online from Rail Europe’s website and iPhone App. Many rail carriers do not sell stand-alone reservations through their website and in most cases, you will have to go in person to the rail station to buy your reservation when in Europe. This is vacation time you could be enjoying instead. Why do that?
Do I need to purchase a reservation and if I do, how do I book it?
We have a detailed article on the subject of reservations that you should read.
To find out if the train you plan on taking requires travelers with a pass to purchase a seat reservation, use our reservation booking tool. You can book most reservations from our website, mobile site or iPhone app, prior to your departure from North America.
If you’re already in Europe, you can still purchase your reservation from us as long as e-tickets are offered for the train you want to take. If e-tickets are not offered for the train you want to take, you can simply go to a train station and purchase your reservation at the ticket counter. Reservations for travelers with a rail pass must be purchased in person, as rail carriers do not sell pass reservations through their website or self-service kiosks.
If you’re traveling on an overnight or high speed train that requires a reservation, only a limited number of seats are set aside at the discounted rate for rail pass holders. Make sure to purchase your reservation as soon as possible. If reservations are sold out for your train, try to find another train with reservations still available or purchase a regular ticket.
How can I ensure that my traveling party is seated together?
In general, when you request fares and schedules for multiple travelers at once, we’ll always attempt to request that they be seated together. The best way to ensure this is to correctly indicate the number of travelers when you request your fares and schedules for your itinerary.
When you add a train ticket to your itinerary our system will confirm the reservation, and the itinerary summary page will show the seats assigned to your traveling party- but only for trains that accept reservations.
Occasionally, it might not be possible to seat everyone together based on availability at the time of booking, in which case the travelers will be seated in the closest available seats.
If the train you’ll be taking is non-reservable, all you have to do is board the train and sit in any available seat with the rest of your party. If you do find that your party is not seated together when you board, don’t worry. It’s quite common and acceptable to politely ask those around you to switch seats. Just be sure to inform the conductor of any such changes when he’s checking your documents.
If I bought my rail pass from another company, can I still book my seat reservations through Rail Europe?
Yes. You can buy your reservation from our website regardless of where you bought your rail pass. However, at this time only customers that bought their rail pass from Rail Europe are able to buy reservations through our iPhone app or mobile site.
Is the price for a reservation the same whether I purchase it from you or locally at the station?
It depends. The first factor to consider is that if you purchase your reservation from Rail Europe, you will be charged in USD/CAD, whereas if you buy your reservation locally, you will be charged in local currency. Thus, by buying with us, you’re avoiding bank or credit card fees for foreign currency transactions.
You may find a less expensive reservation offered by the local rail carrier, but those are limited in availability. While you might expect to save by purchasing your reservation at a lower local price, you may end up paying much more should those reservations sell out by the time you attempt to purchase them.
Lastly, keep in mind that by purchasing your reservation from us in advance, you’re saving time, avoiding waiting in line at a foreign ticket counter and dealing with a local railway agent for a reservation right before boarding your train. Planning ahead also ensures you enjoy the peace of mind that comes with having all your travel documents ready so that you can relax on your vacation.
How far in advance can I purchase my seat reservation
Reservations can be purchased 60 to 180 days in advance, depending on the route. Each rail carrier has their own policy for when their schedules are available for sale.
In order to assure the best price and availability, you should book as far in advance as possible. For the best deals, purchase your reservation three months in advance whenever possible. It’s particularly important to book early during peak travel seasons, when high speed trains requiring a reservation can sell out in certain classes of service.
It looks like my train ticket does not include a reservation. How can I add one?
Whenever possible, train tickets sold by Rail Europe include a reservation. If you received an open ticket only- without a reservation- it means that the train you’ll be traveling on doesn’t require a reservation, and in most cases is non-reservable.
In some rare cases, it may be possible to purchase a reservation for your train but these reservations cannot be sold by Rail Europe. Rest assured that even if this case, your Rail Europe train ticket would still allow you to board your train and you would be able to sit at any seat not occupied.
Can I choose a specific seat on a train when making my reservation?
At this time, it’s not possible to choose a specific seat or specify seating preferences on our website when booking a reservation.
Can I request preferences for assigning my seat, such as a forward-facing seat, a window, or an aisle?
Requests for seat preferences are not possible at this time. Also, many trains pull into a station in one direction and leave the station in another, causing the direction in which seats face to change. If at any time you would like to change your seat, speak with the conductor. They can often help you find a new seat.
If confirming a seat preference is essential, please contact us at 1-800-622-8600 to speak with a rail specialist.
I’ve noticed a big difference in the cost of seat reservations for different trains. Why?
It’s true that the price of a stand-alone reservation may vary greatly from one train to another. Unfortunately, we have no control over those prices as they’re set by each individual railroad.
Trains that have higher priced reservations are typically high speed international trains such as the Thalys or the Eurostar, as well as night trains.
Various factors are considered by rail carriers when pricing reservations for rail pass holders. These factors can include: the technology used by the train (high speed or regular speed), the types of tracks the train travels on and their associated maintenance cost, the range of services and amenities offered on board, possible tolls incurred by the carriers depending on the train routing (such as tunnel crossing tolls) and partnerships between rail carriers for the operation of cross border trains.
In addition, there are also specific costs associated with traveling on a night train that may include food for dinner and breakfast, as well as cabin maintenance costs (sheets, etc…). Since these costs are not associated with travel on day trains, day train reservations generally cost less.
I checked your website and saw some trains are labeled “reservation required.” What does this mean?
This means that the rail carrier’s policy is that all travelers boarding this train must have a seat reservation. Generally, this applies to high speed and overnight trains and scenic trains in Switzerland.
If you’ve purchased your train ticket from Rail Europe, don’t worry. Our train tickets will always include a reservation for these trains, either with the ticket itself or as a second document issued along with your open train ticket.
If you’re traveling with a rail pass, then you’ll still need to purchase a stand-alone reservation in order to board this sort of train.
I checked your site and saw some trains labeled “reservation recommended.” What does this mean?
This means that the rail carrier’s policy is that reservations can be made to have a specific seat assigned on this train, but it’s not required.
In other words, if you have an open train ticket valid for a route, or a rail pass covering a route, you can board this category of train on that route without a reservation. So why are reservations recommended? Because it guarantees you a seat on board the train and provides peace of mind. Plus travelers with reservations have priority over travelers without them, so if you sit in an open seat without a reservation and someone with that reservation shows up, you will have to move. Lastly, it is possible that certain trains will be sold out, leaving travelers without reservations to stand or sit on jumpseats.
I checked your site and saw some trains labeled “non-reservable.” What does this mean?
This means that the rail carrier’s policy for this train is that reservations are not offered. In other words, if you have a rail pass or a valid open train ticket for the route this train travels, you can simply hop on board and no extra cost or procedure is required.