If you are planning to travel around Europe with train, then this guide about train travel in Europe is for you. The extensive European train network is a dream and with additional private trains and new routes introduced in the past year, it’s the best way to travel around Europe. Train travel is easy, efficient, romantic at times and it comes with many new comforts in 2022.

Europe with train - Budapest train

Why should you travel Europe with train instead of a car or plane?

Don’t waste your time waiting at airports or driving around in a small rental car looking for parking and paying tolls. You want to travel Europe with train in 2022. It is the absolute best way to get between the capital cities in Europe.

But regional trains will get you to some smaller places too. Think Sienna in Italy, Krakow in Poland, San Sebastian in Spain, and many more.

10 reasons to travel Europe with train

  • You will arrive in the centre of town, often in incredible train stations with a charm. 
  • There will be no long check-in lines or security lines. 
  • Train tickets can be often booked online with e-tickets saved directly to your smartphone.
  • Many European trains come with electrical plugs, wifi, and even service on board. Can I have a coffee with the view, please?
  • You will get to see parts of Europe you’d miss if you’re just flying over them.
  • You can bring bigger luggage on the train without a fee (European airlines charge a lot for luggage). But, I recommend packing light as Europe has a lot of stairs and a small suitcase or good backpack will give you more mobility.
  • Train travel is better than driving around cities in a rental car, stressing about parking, traffic, and high toll fees.
  • With the additional private train companies launching in Europe, train prices are very competitive.
  • You can be spontaneous! Chances are you can just walk up to the train station and catch the train for the same price as if you booked a month ago.
  • And don’t forget that train travel remains overall the most environmentally friendly model of motorised passenger transport in Europe! Exploring Europe with train is good for the planet!
Europe with train view

Exploring Europe with train comes with some epic views

How to plan a trip to Europe with train

Travelling by train can be the key to an awesome adventure when in Europe. But you need to do some research first to see how your destinations connect and how long will it take. 

There is no point in planning Amsterdam – Budapest – Madrid – Paris trip for your week in Europe. It will take too long. Getting an idea of the price is also good to know before you go. If you have only two weeks, you probably want to focus on just one area of Europe (West, Central, Italy only, etc)

I recommend doing some research with these websites:

Websites to check train timetables in Europe

1. The Bahn www.bahn.de

Not only a great website to book trains in and out of Germany. This is also the most comprehensive website to check times and prices across most of Western Europe. Easy to use – for example, you can look up your train from Italy to Austria.

Europe with train German rail website

Looking for timetables for your Europe trip? Check Bahn.com for schedules and prices

2. Rome2Rio – rome2rio.com

Essentially an amazing booking website that will show you how to get from A to B anywhere in the world, but super helpful if searching for transport Europe. You can get an idea of time, price, and a link to the website to book your ticket.

Choose  “train only” on the left side or leave as it is, to see a possible connection with other transport such as tram or bus. Honestly, anyone planning to travel Europe with train should get this app on their phone.

Europe with train - rome2rio

If you are looking for A to B planner including train travel – check Rome2Rio

Where to book train tickets for Europe

The reality of train travel in Europe is that there is not a single website where you can book all your train tickets. But there are a few that come close. Let start with a list of the two I use the most. 

Option A – Book train tickets in Europe through a booking website

Use one of these two websites to book all tickets for your train trip to Europe. They are easy to understand and work with many national rail systems in Europe. Also when you travel Europe with train, you might run into some difficulties with foreign cards payments online. These two websites are created specifically for foreigners:

https://www.raileurope.com

https://www.thetrainline.com

Europe with train raileurope

Railurope.com is an easy booking website for all your train travel

Option B – Book train tickets in Europe through the national rail website

Each country has its national rail system and individual booking website. You can book your domestic train tickets this way, but often international tickets as well. Europe rail can be complex to get your head around sometimes but some national rail websites are easy to use.

I generally use the Rome2Rio website to search my train options. The result then links to the correct national rail website to book the ticket with. But the list makes it easy to go directly to the correct website:

The list of national rail websites to book train tickets:

For other countries or regions check out the list of European Railways from Wikipedia.

Europe with train - directly to Venice

Did you know you can take a train directly into Venice? Just walk outside and you’ll be at the Grand Canal. Pinch-me-moment.

Private trains in Europe – Another reason traveling Europe by train is epic

With the arrival of semi-private and private trains, I love to travel Europe with train even more. 

Private train operators such as Italo, Regiojet, Leoexpress, or Thalys offer a new comfort and style of travel.

Take Regiojet for example. I took a train trip from Prague to Bratislava. The train was brand new, with comfortable seats, plugs for my electronics, and free wifi. My ticket included free water, newspapers, and ordering a coffee and my ham cheese croissant set me back less than 3 euros. 

Europe with train - Regiojet private train

The private train operators such as Regiojet are providing more train options – Another  reason why should travel Europe with train

List of private train operators in Europe

Book Eurostar train between London & Paris, London & Brussels or anywhere in Belgium. (Book early for the best price)

Book Thalys train for high-speed trains between Paris-Brussels-Amsterdam/Cologne.

Book TV-Lyria high-speed trains between Paris & Switzerland.

Book Regiojet for trains between Vienna, Prague, Bratislava and more. There was an exciting new train route to Croatia and Slovenia from Bratislava in summer 2021 and it should be back in 2022.

Europe with train - buy tickets from machine

Train tickets in Europe can be purchased from stations, ticket machines or online

How to get the best price for train tickets

Now the big questions when it comes to travelling Europe with train. When can I get the cheapest train tickets in Europe? And where and when to book your train tickets?

Here are my best tips:

  • Check multiple websites – start with Rome2Rio, then check raileurope.com and individual national rail websites
  • Sign up for newsletters/emails from private trains to know when new routes are announced and get the best deals.
  • Get a debit card with no international fees. So no matter if you book trains in euros, Croatia Kunas or Czech crowns you won’t be charged international fees. If you are from Australia check out this guide for the best debit card.
  • Always check 1st/2nd class price. Sometimes it can cost as little as 3 euros to upgrade for a bit of comfort.
  • Consider booking a sleeper train. If you are on a budget and want to save money on accommodation I highly recommend taking a sleeper train. It cost a little bit more – usually around 30 euros extra, but you get clean linen and a comfortable bed. One of my favourite train journeys was from Vienna to Florence in an overnight sleeper. 
  • This will sound strange but the prices often vary depending on which national rail website you book it. Let me explain. If you need a train ticket from Berlin to Prague you might check the German Railways (bahn.com) for the cost and their lowest fare is booked out. Then you check the Czech Railways and find out you can book the same ticket, but much cheaper!

Should you consider a rail pass?

Another thing to consider, especially if are planning extensive travel around Europe with train, is a rail pass. Rail passes have changed in the past few years, mostly because airlines and train companies now have to compete for customers. So there are early specials for some routes.

Is the rail pass still worth it in 2022? What is the best train pass for Europe? Should you get a rail pass to travel Europe with train, or buy point-to-point tickets.

The answer is simple. Absolutely, a rail pass is a great idea if you know you will use it! Especially if you are planning a grand tour of Europe by train.

There are now multiples passes available and you can buy your rail pass directly from Eurail. I suggest you have a look at the different packages and then write up the train routes you are planning to use on your travels and add the cost. Don’t worry if you are not 100% sure about every journey.

Then sit down and compare the package from Eurail. Here are some examples:

Final tips for Europe by train

There are a few things to keep in mind that will make your train travel stress free:
  1. Arrive at the train station for your first train with plenty of time. Most train stations now have plenty of English signs to find your way around, but if in doubt – ask the younger generation to help you. They usually speak good English.
  2. When booking trains online – pay attention to the name of the city. I met people who went to Wroclaw instead of Warsaw in Poland because they typed the wrong name.
  3. Keep an eye on your belongings especially if you are likely to fall asleep. 
  4. Some cities have multiple stations, just like airports. So pay attention to which station your train is departing so you don’t go to the wrong station and miss your train.
 
And that’s our guide on how to travel Europe with train in 2022. Do you have any questions or suggestions? Let us know in the comments below.
 
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