Choosing and booking a train ticket
So, why should I book my ticket from Rail Europe?
Rail Europe is a single stop for European rail travel.
We combine the maps, schedules and fares of over 50 different train companies across Europe, creating one stop to plan and book your European rail travel.
We offer you a unified booking experience across Europe, with the ability to package products from different train companies. I
n fact, we’re the only website on which you can book a multi-city rail journey and the only company to offer support by phone, email, and live chat in North America through our contact center.
We also have special relationships with European train companies, many of which started over 75 years ago. These relationships have led to special agreements benefiting travelers, including technology that enables us to offer and sell more rail travel options than any other provider. As a result, our tickets are at competitive hard-to-beat prices. And, since our prices are in dollars, you’ll know exactly the price you’re paying.
Add all that to our extraordinary level of customer service and it’s an unbeatable combination.
We’re not just a one-stop shop for all your European rail needs, but the only North American travel website giving you access to rail schedules for over 50 European train companies. We’re able to sell you tickets, passes, and reservations, so there are no surprises or foreign transaction bank fees once you get there.
Plus, if you wait until you get to Europe to think about train tickets, you risk that there will be no availability or the possibility that only the most expensive tickets will be left.
Rail Europe’s customer service starts with our unique booking engine. It ensures you find the right tickets and, if you know your itinerary, lets you compare their cost to that of rail passes using our multi-city booking tool. No other website offers this feature and it is designed exclusively for the North American market.
If you still have questions or need assistance, you’ll find our English, Spanish and French-speaking rail consultants available by phone and email at any point before, during, or after your travels.
Lastly, we offer an exclusive Rail Protection Plan™ that allows you, for a small fee, to change your ticket or have it entirely refunded as a credit toward a future purchase for any reason. How about that? True customer service even if you decide not to travel.
Do I need to buy a train ticket for children or infants?
In general, any traveler that will occupy a seat needs to purchase a train ticket. Children under the age of 4 may travel on your lap, though the exact age can vary by rail company. If you want them to have a reserved seat on a train that offers or requires a reservation, you would need to pay the same price as an older child on most trains.
Are there discounts on train tickets?
Yes. There are discounts available for certain train tickets.
The first type of discount is for advanced booking. This applies mostly to high speed trains and night trains that require reservations. For these trains, within the same category of service, rail carriers set aside different groups of seats at different prices. The cheaper seats have a limited availability or are reserved for sale within a certain time period before the train departure. Once this group of cheaper seats has sold out, or the booking window for those seats has passed, the next group of seats goes on sale, at a higher price, and so on. The closer to the departure date you book, the more expensive you will find the seats. This is why we always encourage you to book your seat in advance to get the best price.
In addition, certain trains offer discounts for youth, child or senior travelers. We always attempt to find the cheapest fares for your traveling party and get you the discounts you’re eligible for. This is why it’s important to accurately indicate the composition of your traveling party when requesting fares and schedules from our website. You may also have to enter the age of certain travelers, so we can determine whether they’re eligible for certain age-related discounts.
I selected a ticket but when I went to place my order, the price changed. I went back to search for rail tickets and saw the same price listed again in the results. Why did this happen?
For most trains, the price quoted is based on “live” availability from current train seat inventories. However, for certain trains, we cannot check fare availability at the time of quotation due to the technical limitations of the international rail distribution system. Therefore, we use a stored price to build your quote, based on previously confirmed fares for the trip you requested.
Sometimes we find out that the fare used for quoting your trip is no longer available upon confirming your reservation. At that time, we receive a new price from the system based on that very moment’s availability.
Unfortunately, due to those same technical limitations, we are unable to update the stored price for a specific train, even if we find out at the time of confirmation that a fare is no longer available.
Rest assured that we’re working actively to ensure that all prices quoted to you are based on live availability and limit the usage of stored prices for quotation purposes.
I selected a train ticket, but when I placed my order the price changed. Why? Can the previously quoted price be honored?
For most trains, the price quoted is based on live availability from current seat inventories. However, for some trains, we cannot check fare availability at the time of quote due to technical limitations of the international rail distribution system. Therefore, we use a cached price to build your quote, based on generally available fares for the trip you requested.
Sometimes, we find out that the fare used for quoting your trip is no longer available as we’re trying to confirm your reservation. This is when the system gives us the new price based on that very moment’s availability. This explains why you may receive a message advising you that the price has changed from the original quote.
How do I book a train ticket on RailEurope.com?
Easy! Follow this link to go to our rail booking tool and enter your itinerary (the trips you want to take and the dates you’d like to travel). You can search for tickets for a single one-way ride, a round trip journey, or a multi-city itinerary. Indicate the composition of your traveling party (how many people, children, seniors…).
Once you’ve entered all the requested information, click search for fares and schedules. Our system will look for available trains and current fares available within the relevant European rail carrier’s inventory.
You’ll then be shown all the results, for each leg of your trip. To help you easily find the right ticket, there’s our “Fare Categorization” display. First, it provides a consistent booking experience across all railway companies operating in Europe. Then, it lets you compare options on any route and across all those carriers. We’ve sorted the fare options into three simple categories based on the level of comfort you’d like when traveling.
- The Economy category includes fare options in Second Class, ideal for the budget conscious traveler.
- The Comfort category provides travelers with an enhanced travel experience, in a First Class car.
- The Premier category is reserved for the most comfortable accommodations on premier trains. Those fares always include a meal on board and, in some cases, access to dedicated lounges in the train station.
In addition to selecting your comfort level, we also let you choose between up to three ticket flexibility options, based on the different exchange and refund conditions offered by the rail carrier. You can select:
- Non-Flexible fares, which offer the best value, but are generally not exchangeable or refundable.
- Semi-Flexible fares which may be exchanged or refunded prior to departure, but may require payment of a change fee.
- Fully Flexible Fares, which can be exchanged prior to departure and are generally fully refundable. You’ll find that you can quickly view the detailed exchange and refund conditions, as well as get an in-depth look at seating options, amenities and services offered on board your train, for each fare option proposed.
So, just browse and find the fare that is right for you and add that ticket to your itinerary.
For your convenience, our booking tool will also attempt to find the relevant rail pass and reservations corresponding to any multi-city itinerary. Look for a box above the train schedules prompting you to cost compare traveling with tickets versus the cost of traveling with a rail pass.
Are the fares offered on your website based on live availability?
Yes, in most cases. The fares displayed on our website are based on current seat availability at the time you requested the fares and schedules for your itinerary. Rail Europe’s booking engine has a direct link to the inventory of many European rail carriers including SNCF, Eurostar, Thalys, RENFE, the UK’s Association Of Train Operating Companies and many more.
However, for some routes, we can only display a cached price at the time of quotation, based on generally available fares for those trains. Actual confirmation of space and fare takes place upon completion of your order. If there are any issues, you’ll be contacted.
Do the prices quoted on the website include all fees and taxes?
Fares quoted in our booking engine do not include fees. Depending on the booking delivery method you choose some fees may apply, like a Shipping & Handling Fee or a Rail Europe Booking Fee. These fees will be assessed at checkout when you choose your booking delivery method. Rail Europe does not collect sale tax on its products.
Do you offer e-tickets?
Yes, on certain rail lines. There are two types of e-tickets:
- Print at Home e-ticket: the ticket is issued as a PDF which may either be emailed to you, or downloaded via a link contained in your invoice. You only need to print the PDF to board the train.
- Print at the Station e-ticket: you will receive an e-ticket number (also known as PNR or Passenger Name Record) on your confirmation email, as well as a link to detailed instructions for retrieving your train ticket.
Use this e-ticket number at a self-service kiosk at the train station to retrieve your ticket. Not all rail lines offer these e-ticket options. Once you have selected a ticket on our website, you’ll be able to choose from its available methods of issuance at checkout.
What ways can a train ticket be issued? Paper? e-tickets?
There are potentially three ways to receive European train tickets.
- Paper tickets: the rail pass or train ticket is physically printed at the Rail Europe fulfillment center and shipped to you via UPS. Paper tickets can only be shipped prior to your departure to Europe. We generally cannot ship a paper ticket during your travel while you are in Europe.
- Print at home e-ticket: the ticket is issued as a PDF which may either be emailed to you directly, or retrieved via a web link that is communicated to you at the time of purchase, depending on the rail carrier. You must print the PDF from a computer printer on any regular paper prior to boarding the train.
- Print at station e-ticket: you will receive an e-ticket number (also known as PNR or Passenger Name Record) on your confirmation email, as well as a link to detailed instructions for retrieving your ticket. Use this e-ticket number at a self-service kiosk located at the train station in Europe to print out your actual ticket, prior to boarding the train.
Print at home e-ticket and Print at station e-ticket are “electronic” delivery methods requiring no physical shipment to you. This means we can issue you an e-ticket whether you’re still at home or already in Europe.
On the other hand, because paper tickets require shipping and handling, they can only be booked up to 1 business day prior to your departure date to Europe.
Please note that all three methods are not always offered for a given train ticket. In fact, many tickets only support one of these issuance methods.
- a train ticket from London to Paris allows all three delivery methods
- a train ticket from Paris to Amsterdam allows paper tickets and print at station e-tickets
- a train ticket from Amsterdam to Paris only allows paper tickets
- a train ticket from Paris to Berlin only allows paper tickets
- a train ticket from London to Edinburgh Waverley only allows print at station e-tickets
- a train ticket from Madrid to Barcelona only allows print at home e-tickets
It is possible to have different issuance methods within the same order. Please pay attention to the issuance method that you select for each segment of your itinerary and verify that you have all necessary documents, or that you know how to retrieve any print at station e-tickets if required.
Are the train tickets you send me the actual tickets, or do I need to exchange them at the station?
If you selected the paper delivery option, then yes – the travel document you receive from us in the mail are your actual train tickets. Do not lose them, because we cannot replace them.
Only the original paper ticket will be accepted onboard the train. No other document such as a print out of the email invoice can be used in lieu of the original paper train ticket.
Why are e-tickets not available for certain trips?
Availability of e-tickets depends on two factors: whether the rail company operating the train offers e-ticketing, and if it does, whether Rail Europe was granted technical access to their inventory to enable e-ticketing on their behalf.
Not all European rail companies offer e-tickets. But when they do, we work with them to make this option available in North America. And we’ll continue to do so in order provide more e-ticket options for your convenience.
Can I choose a specific seat when booking a train ticket?
At this time, we are unable to offer this service. Unlike airlines, most rail carriers do not offer the possibility to select your specific seat.