Travelling on regional trains

At a glance

  • Regional train
  • Germany
  • Switzerland
  • Italy


Regional trains serve shorter and medium-distance routes within European regions. They generally feature in timetables under the abbreviation R, but in Germany as RB (Regionalbahn). You’ll run across a huge variety of train types, some brand new but others slightly older, as you travel across Europe on Regional trains. Regional trains can be single or double-decker.

Regional rail services may be the only rail option in many areas of Germany, Austria, Italy and Spain. These trains serve rural regions, linking cities with the rest of the country. Many Regional trains make short cross-border forays into neighbouring countries (eg. from Austria into Hungary or from Germany into Poland), but even on those international journeys these trains still cater mainly to local or regional demand.

Due to their frequent stops along the way, Europe’s Regional trains allow travellers not only the chance to explore places off the usual tourist route, but also to get a sense of the local flavour of each region.

Practical information

©Rhaetian Railway

Before you board

There are no check-in or customs procedures before boarding Regional trains.


Some regional trains are air conditioned, but generally they are practical rather than luxurious. Access to power sockets is the exception rather than the norm.

Luggage on Regional trains can be stored either in small luggage racks above the seat or under the seat. Some trains, notably certain German RB services, have further dedicated luggage space in each carriage. Bicycles can often be taken on board for an added fee. Read our Help article on taking your bikes on trains.

Regional trains generally do not provide any buffet or trolley service. However, there are no rules against bringing your own food and drink onboard the train.

Booking and printing options

Regional train tickets are open for bookings 180 days in advance.

Seat reservation is usually not possible on Regional trains.

Get the lowest prices on Regional trains by booking early and don’t wait until the last minute as cheaper seats sell out quickly.

Opt for off-peak Regional trains trains when you have to travel at short notice. Off-peak Regional trains are more affordable than ones that run mornings and evenings, Fridays and Sundays or during popular holidays.

Classes of service

Most Regional train services offer just a single Standard class, but some do offer First Class.

Regional train First Class

Some Regional trains set aside part of a carriage as First Class. This is the case with some RB trains in Germany. The main reason for trading up is to avoid the crowds on busy routes at peak times. The extra costs for such an upgrade may be very modest. On some Regional trains that upgrade secures access to power sockets and a reclining seat.

Regional train Standard Class

Seating in Regional trains might be in open-plan double or single-decker carriages or, where older carriages are still in use, in six-seat compartments. In open-plan carriages, seats are arranged in pairs across a central aisle.

Child and youth passengers

The definition of "Child" and "Youth" varies by country and operator. This is why we ask for the age of young passengers.

Sometimes children below a certain age can travel without a seat for free. If you want to guarantee a seat for child passengers, enter '6' as the age of the child.

Read more about child and youth passenger ages. See also youth discounts and railcards.