Traveling Europe by train is not only a great way to sample the great variety that the beautiful and diverse continent has to offer, it can also be one of the more affordable modes of transportation as well as less stressful and much more flexible than flying. By doing some careful planning and keeping these tips in mind, you can make the most out of your journey by rail.
Booking tickets online
Even if you’re booking your tickets online from the United States or elsewhere outside of the European continent, you can purchase from a European website. It pays to compare prices from various sites, such as the American agency, RailEurope.com, where you’ll often find good deals, but sometimes the European sites, like French Railways, can beat even their lowest price. Always shop around for the best deal.
Plan a detailed itinerary
While it’s fun to be impulsive when traveling, it’s usually a lot cheaper to plan out your trip in order to lock down the price of travel and secure seat reservations. If you haven’t been to Europe before, take some time to research potential destinations by visiting travel forums and talking to others about their experiences.
Many routes offer significant discounts by purchasing tickets in advance. Even if you’re traveling with a pass, keep in mind that reservations have limited availability and if you want too long seats for your desired train may become unavailable – especially during peak travel season.
The disadvantage of purchasing discounted tickets also means that you may not have the ability to change your itinerary or request a refund.
Last minute tickets
If you find yourself in a situation where you must book last minute, some of Europe’s rail networks who are looking to fill empty seats may offer them at a deeply discounted price such as TrenItalia.com or Switzerland’s SBB. No matter what your circumstances, it always pays to comparison shop.
Pass or point-to-point
While rail passes can offer a great value, sometimes point-to-point tickets are actually less expensive depending on your particular itinerary. When you travel with tickets you also don’t have to purchase a seat reservation as it’s already included. While it takes some time, comparing the cost of a rail pass to the price of individual tickets to your desired destinations can ultimately help you save quite a bit.
Visiting larger European cities
By sticking to the larger cities in Western Europe, where trains offer the majority of their connections, you’ll save quite a bit. Consider an itinerary with a few of these popular destinations:
Europe’s train systems make it easy to visit some of the smaller cities as a day trip while basing your holiday in a larger city and be back in time for dinner.
Take an overnight train and save money on lodging costs while you’re lulled to sleep by the sounds of the rail. Booking a couchette (a shared compartment with six beds) can be a great deal similar to staying in a hostel, but you’ll be on the move.
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