ALL ABOUT TRAIN TRAVEL
ALL ABOUT TRAIN TICKETS
This section will give you a comprehensive understanding of train tickets including the different types of train tickets, choosing and booking a train ticket and the issuing methods of train tickets (paper and electronic). We will also answer some of the most frequently asked questions about train tickets and traveling with train tickets.
A train ticket is a travel document valid for a single journey between two cities.
There are essentially two types of train tickets: tickets that come with a reservation and tickets that do not include a reservation, also known as open tickets. It's important for you to understand their specifics, so let's take a look.
In most cases and based on the route you'll be taking, you will either get a ticket with a reservation included, an open ticket and a reservation, or an open ticket only. You do not have a choice in most instances, but it will help that you understand which kind of train ticket you're getting since their condition of use is slightly different. Keep in mind that these different types of train tickets are usually not offered at the same time on the same route.
How long are train tickets valid for?
It depends if you have a ticket with a reservation or an open ticket.
Open tickets are valid for one month from the date of issue. The validity dates will be printed on the tickets. You can travel with an open ticket on any date within the validity period (however, remember: separate reservations may be necessary, depending on the route).
Tickets with reservations are only valid for the train for which the reservation was issued, on that specific travel date and time of travel.
Does my train ticket include a seat reservation?
It depends. Some tickets include a reservation, some tickets come with a separate, stand-alone reservation, and some tickets do not have reservations.
Please refer to the section Seat Reservations Explained for more information.
How can I tell whether or not I have a reserved seat onboard?
To tell if you have a reservation, first see if you received one or two travel documents for your trip. If you received two travel documents, you probably received an open train ticket and a reservation. The reservation portion will show a train number, car number and seat number assigned to you personally.
If you received only one document, see if it also indicates a seat number and car number. If so, your train ticket includes a reservation.
Answers to frequently asked questions about choosing and booking your train ticket.ABOUT PRINT AT HOME E-TICKETS (PAH)
The train ticket is issued as a PDF document, which must be printed from any computer printer prior to boarding the train. The ticket will be emailed to the passenger directly for printing.ABOUT PRINT AT THE STATION E-TICKETS
These e-tickets are also called TOD or Ticket On Departure. An e-ticket number (also known as PNR or Passenger Name Record) is created and communicated to you via email after the time of purchase. Then all you need to do is print the actual paper ticket from a self service kiosk at the rail station prior to your train's departure. (Not offered in all locations at this time).TRAVELING WITH TRAIN TICKETS
Answers to frequently asked questions about traveling with a train ticket.
ALL ABOUT SEAT RESERVATIONS
In this section, we will explain what a seat reservation is and help you to understand when a seat reservation is required or not. We will also answer some of the most frequently asked questions about seat reservations themselves and seat reservations in conjunction with train tickets. Please see our page 'All About Rail Passes' for more information about booking seat reservations with a rail pass.
A reservation is a guaranteed seat on a specific train, assigned to you personally.
Whether you need a reservation or not depends on the train you're on and what type of ticket or rail pass you have. There are essentially three types of trains that run in Europe, each with different requirements.
The first type of train is 'Reservations Required.' This generally applies to high speed and overnight trains. Tickets sold for these trains always include a reservation. If you are traveling with a rail pass, you must purchase a seat reservation separately, at an additional cost. If you try to board these trains with your rail pass only, you will most likely get fined.
The second type of train is 'Reservations Recommended.' These trains offer you the possibility of a reserved seat, but a reservation isn't mandatory. Even on 'reservation recommended' trains, our tickets always include a reservation whenever possible. We feel it's a small price to pay for the convenience and peace of mind of knowing a reserved seat is waiting.
Finally, 'Non-Reservable' trains are trains where a reservation is NOT needed or possible. When purchasing a ticket for these trains, you will receive an 'open ticket', typically valid for any non-reservable train operating on a given route. If you're traveling with a rail pass, reservations are still not available. Simply get on board and sit in any open seat in the class of service of your pass.
In general, point-to-point tickets include a reservation whenever possible. It's when you're traveling with a rail pass that the question of reservations is most important. Please read our dedicated section on Rail Passes for more information.
A train ticket and a seat reservation are two different things, although they are related.
A train ticket is a travel document that allows you to board a train for a journey, but does not necessarily guarantee an accommodation (seat/sleeper) assigned to you on board. A reservation guarantees you a specific accommodation on a specific train.
In many cases, train tickets are issued as a combined ticket and reservation: you receive one travel document that indicates the specific train and seat assignment. This is the case for most high speed trains such as Eurostar, Thalys and TGV, as well as for night trains.
In some other cases, you may receive a train ticket and a separate travel document for your reservation. The ticket is then called an 'open ticket' because it is valid on any train running on the route for which the ticket was issued. The reservation portion is a stand-alone document that corresponds to a reserved seat/sleeper that's been booked on a specific train, at a set date and time. The reservation cannot be used by itself. It's only valid for travel in combination with a valid open ticket for the route that the reservation was issued. In general, we'll always issue an open train ticket and a reservation when possible.
By itself, a reservation can NEVER be used to board a train. It must be used in conjunction with an open train ticket, as we've just described, or with a rail pass.
Answers to frequently asked questions about booking seat reservations.CHANGING SEAT RESERVATIONS
Once the train departs, you can check with the conductor to see if there are any other available seating options. Please note that you should stay in the same class of service as your ticket or you may incur a surcharge. If you change seats and the seat you move to is reserved by another traveler, they will have priority. Of course, you will come across plenty of friendly travelers who may not mind switching seats with you if you ask politely.
AT THE STATION
This section provides a general overview of train station services and amenities as well as information for finding and boarding your train. There is also a list of the major train stations in Europe.
In general, you'll find that stations are centrally located and conveniently reached via public transportation and most airport-to-city links. In addition, we encourage you to visit our 'Train Station' pages to view specific train station information and maps with approximate locations of many of the most popular train stations in Europe.FINDING AND BOARDING YOUR TRAIN
We advise travelers to arrive at least 30 minutes prior to departure. This allows you time to clear any security checks and locate the platform where your train will be departing. If you are departing from a larger train station (typically a city's main station) and need to print your train e-tickets, validate paper train tickets or activate your rail pass prior to boarding, you will want to arrive even earlier to make sure you have enough time and to avoid doing a luggage-hauling sprint through the station.STATION SERVICES AND AMENITIES
Most European train stations provide a variety of services, including currency exchanges, information desks, lockers for luggage, arrival/departure boards, restrooms, coffee shops and gift shops. Some larger stations in larger cities have WiFi hotspots, lounges for business travelers, and restaurants and bars. We encourage you to visit our Train Station pages to view information about services at a specific station.ASIAN TRAIN STATIONS
Here you will find a list of the main train stations in Asia, organized by country. Click on their link for detailed information about them.
ON BOARD THE TRAIN
In this section, we will go over various aspects of travel aboard the train from classes of service and overnight train accommodations to catering and onboard services. We will also answer some of the most frequently asked questions about overnight trains, connecting trains and international trains.
Amenities and services vary from one train to another, so make sure to review the detailed description when booking.OVERNIGHT TRAINS
Overnight trains are a great way to travel and make the most of daylight during your vacation. They allow you to spend a full day sightseeing in one city, travel through the night, and wake up refreshed and ready the next day in another city. And you not only save prime time for adventure but the money you would've spent on a hotel.
Many types of onboard accommodations exist on night trains. To make it easy for you to choose the class of service that's right for you, we've grouped them in 3 categories based on their level of comfort and amenities: Economy, Comfort and Premier.
We've also included a list of European overnight trains as well as a section for frequently asked questions regarding overnight train travel.
If your train crosses an international border and you're traveling between countries participating in the Schengen Agreement, you will not need to show your passport at the border crossings. If you are traveling between countries not part of the Schengen Agreement, you will have to show your passport at border crossings. Please note that not all countries of the EU participate in the Schengen Agreement (e.g. Great Britain, Ireland). On the other side, there are countries that are not part of the EU but participate in the Schengen Agreement (e.g. Switzerland, Norway).
Conductors will not take your passport during day trips, but they will check it along with your train tickets.
With overnight trips you'll generally provide the train attendant with your reservation voucher, rail pass or train ticket, and passport as you board. That way, they can take care of everything with conductors and customs officials so you can sleep uninterrupted through the night.
Just like airlines, it's quite common that certain itineraries involve two or more connecting trains.CATERING AND ONBOARD SERVICES
Here you will find important information about food and beverages, tipping, bathrooms, luggage storage, etc.
TYPES OF TRAINS
A comprehensive list of Asian trains including premier high-speed, high-speed, national, scenic and overnight trains.
Here you will find a list of the different types of trains in Europe. Click on their link for detailed information about them.
ADDITIONAL TRAIN INFORMATION
In this section, you will find answers to the most frequently asked questions about trains as well as miscellaneous information regarding trains and train tickets. We encourage you to visit our individual train pages and a dedicated section on train tickets for more specific information. Last, but certainly not least you will find information on delivery options.
Answers to the most frequently asked questions about trains.MISCELLANEOUS INFORMATION
Eating and drinking are permitted on all trains. Most long-distance trains offer dining cars. If your train does not have a dining car, it likely offers a buffet bar car. On some trains, there may be an attendant with a snack cart who travels from car to car. On local trains, there's usually no catering. However, your own food and drinks can always be taken on board. Please make sure to follow the local law when considering taking alcoholic drinks on board any train.
Tipping the train staff (other than dining car waiters) is not necessary or customary.
Seats/couchettes aboard trains are not always numbered consecutively. Passengers will be assigned adjoining seats whenever possible.
At this time, it's not possible to choose a specific seat or specify seating preferences on our website when booking a reservation. Requests for seat preferences (window, aisle, forward-facing) are accepted but not guaranteed. 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.
Most trains do not carry emergency medical equipment. In case of a medical emergency, conductors on board will radio ahead to the next stop so that help will be ready and waiting.
Dates on train tickets are printed in the date/month format. (Example: October 9th will appear as 09/10).
Departure/arrival times on train tickets are based on a 24 hour clock. (Example: 1:00pm will appear as 13:00).
The term 'coach' on train tickets refers to the train car where your seats are located, NOT class of service.
Class of service is located in a box on the right of the ticket labeled 'class' or 'CL' with either a number 1 or a number 2, indicating 1st or 2nd class.
Unlike airline tickets, not all rail products can be issued electronically. Train ticket and rail pass issuance and delivery options vary between carriers and product types.
Therefore, if you purchase multiple train tickets or rail passes in a single booking, it's possible the trains you've chosen will be issued by different methods. Train tickets bought from Rail Europe can be issued in one of three ways: paper, print at home e-tickets (PAH) and/or print at the station e-tickets (TOD). Please see our section on Issuing Methods for specific information on the different types of tickets.
Please note that all three issuance methods are not always offered for a given train ticket.
Paper train tickets will be sent via FedEx approximately 30 days prior to departure. Delivery addresses must be street addresses. No P.O. boxes will be accepted. Passengers are responsible for informing us via email of any changes/corrections to their address. We are not responsible for travel documents delivered to the wrong address and therefore being lost or stolen.
Please note that packages are sent 'NO SIGNATURE REQUIRED'. Passengers should use a shipping address where documents can be received securely.
Paper train tickets are physically printed at our fulfillment center and shipped to you via FedEx. Paper tickets can only be shipped prior to your departure to Europe. If the date you place your order is too close to your date of departure to Europe, or if you're already in Europe, paper delivery won't be available. This means that if the product you want to book can only be issued as a paper document, we won't be able to sell you this product at all.
Products that support print at home (PAH) or print at the station (TOD) e-tickets can be sold at any time, whether you're in North America or Europe. In the case of PAH and TOD tickets, we will email tickets/PNR information to passengers.
ALL ABOUT REFUNDS AND EXCHANGES
We know plans can change and errors can happen. This section will give you an overview of important considerations regarding exchanges and refunds when booking your train ticket or rail pass. We will also talk about lost and/or stolen tickets and what to do during strikes and train traffic disruptions.
We know plans can change and errors can happen. This section will give you an overview of important considerations regarding exchanges and refunds when booking your train ticket or rail pass.REFUNDS AND EXCHANGES ON TRAIN TICKETS (WITH RETURN ADDRESS)
What you need to know in order to refund or exchange a train ticket.LOST OR STOLEN TICKETS
What to do if your train tickets are lost or stolen.STRIKE AND TRAIN TRAFFIC DISRUPTIONS
What to do in the event of a rail strike or other train traffic disruption.REFUNDS AND EXCHANGES ON A RAIL PASS
What you need to know in order to refund or exchange a rail pass.
ALL ABOUT RAIL PASSES
In this section, we will explain what a rail pass is and help you to understand when to purchase a rail pass rather than a train ticket. We will also talk about when to combine a rail pass with train tickets and answer some of the most frequently asked questions about traveling with a rail pass.
What you need to know about rail passes and if they are the best option for your travel plans.UNDERSTANDING RAIL PASSES
Here you will find answers to the most frequently asked questions about rail passes.CHOOSING AND BOOKING A RAIL PASS
Answers to frequently asked questions about choosing and booking a rail pass.TRAVELING WITH A RAIL PASS
Answers to frequently asked questions about traveling with a rail pass.COMBINING A RAIL PASS WITH TRAIN TICKETS
There are several situations when this may be necessary or desirable.
Like when the bulk of your travel is taking place within a certain geographical area (1 country, 2 countries or more), but you have one rogue train ride needed for an additional country. Then, combining a rail pass and train tickets may be the most economical option.
Another example is when you're taking an international high-speed train such as the Thalys or the Eurostar. These trains require travelers with a rail pass to purchase a reservation, but their pass holder fares may be priced fairly high. In fact, booking regular train tickets in advance may be more cost-effective than using your pass benefit. Also, for many of these high-speed trains, purchasing the pass holder discounted fare will cost a rail travel day. Sometimes purchasing a separate discount advance purchase ticket is your better choice all around.
Lastly, if you are traveling on a route that is operated by a private rail company, this may not be covered by your rail pass and will require the purchase of a separate train ticket.