Taking the train is one of the best ways to see Europe! You don't have to hassle with dinghy airports and can spend more time enjoying the views. From the beautiful countryside to the bustling cities, we'll be breaking down inter-country travel via trains.
#HHWT Tip: Thinking about planning a trip to Europe? Check out our article here!
First thing, check out if the city has any travel passes/packages that are worth grabbing. For instance, some passes provide access to both the museums and transportation such as the Oslo Pass.
There are a ton of websites that you can use to book train tickets. However, a lot of third-party websites like Omio and RailNinja have higher prices than the original ticket websites for the trains. Compare the prices between the websites and find the best deal!
Be prepared for any train delays or cancellations. These are quite common and even more so during peak periods such as summer holidays or during Christmas. Make sure you leave ample time between train changes (if you have any!) as it will save you a lot of stress. There are buses available such as Flixbus which will also do the same job, albeit a little longer.
Read up on the tickets you are planning to book. Some tickets need validation (such as the ones in Paris) whereas some tickets need you to book seats separately. Make sure you read the FAQs when purchasing them!
Reserve your seats if you can! Some trains need mandatory seat reservations (such as overnight trains) however, if you are traveling during the holidays it's best to reserve seats to make sure you're not left stranded.
Most of the trains have steep steps up so carrying your baggage up is difficult! If you're unable to lift up your luggage, you can ask for help! There are also luggage storage areas at the back/front of the carriage. These get taken up quickly so try to board early too.
Buy snacks before boarding, Some trains do not come with a dining carriage and if they do, the prices are usually inflated. Bring your own snacks that are easy to eat and plenty of water too!
Wash up and go to the bathroom before boarding. This does not always happen but the bathrooms on trains have occasionally broken down (sometimes even flooding the cabins). They aren't always the cleanest either so do what you need to do before heading up!
Take note of your platform zone and train number. On your ticket, there will be a platform and a train timetable that will showcase the different trains that will be arriving where and when. There are many different platforms in a train station. Figure out where you need to go before you head off elsewhere!
If you're planning on visiting a ton of countries during your trip there, the Eurail Pass is your best option! Similar to the other passes in other countries like Japan (JR Pass), the Eurail pass works the same, giving you access to almost the whole continent.
There are two types of passes: Global and Country. Global passes give you access to the entire Europe region through rail while Country passes are specific to one country only.
Eurail Global Pass
There are 2 types of passes you can get: Flexi or Continuous passes. You can buy these passes 11 months in advance! There are also elderly and youth (under 27 years old) discounts for these passes. The passes also have First and Second class passes too.
This pass ranges from 4 to 15 days and their prices range from USD$208 to USD$416. This sounds like a lot of money, however, they give you access to a ton of trains and countries! Perfect for long holidays (up to a month or two months for the 10-day pass and above). The great thing about the pass is that they count the hours whilst you're on the train itself. So 7 days on the train rather than consecutively. You can stretch out your holidays in each city and travel when you need to! We recommend getting the 7-day (USD$282) or the 10-day (USD$338) passes. A 7-day pass can bring you around 6 to 8 destinations, while the 10-day pass brings you 9 to 11 destinations. They don't come with seat reservations so trains that need seat reservations. You can check out if the trains you're planning to take need them and book them here too!
The passes here range from 15 days to 3 months and are great for those who intend to travel to a lot of countries. Their prices range between USD$373 to USD$761. Their great for solo travelers or friends and couples who intend on visiting all countries in Europe!
Eurail Country Pass
There are several country passes available through Eurail. Some of the most popular are:
- Greek Islands
- Great Britain and many more
There are also regional passes that combine the most popular countries into one pass
- Benelux = Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg
- Scandinavia = Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden
All of their passes have 8 days of flexibility travel (besides the Greek Island passes that have 4 or 6-days only). The prices range depending on the city you choose for. You can check them all out here!
PS: A travel day ends at 23:59 CET of the day you travel!
There are a lot of train companies that operate in this region. The main ones are Eurostar, SNCF, Deutch Bahn, and Flixtrain. Do note that each country can also have its own train companies as well.
Most trains allow a maximum of two luggage pieces with no weight limit. If you’re going to be traveling long distances, it's better to avoid Fridays (12PM - 7PM) and Sundays (2PM - 7PM). If you're traveling in the summer, Saturdays are pretty busy, especially routes that bring you to resorts, beaches, and the usual popular cities. There are a ton of trains that you can take so we'll be giving the run down on general tips!
Do reserve seats when you can while traveling around Western Europe! This ensures you have a seat and are on track with your itinerary. Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden uses train numbers for specific departure times to differentiate between the trains. Take note of them on the signboard OR ask the information counter if needed!
If you're traveling next year, book after the second week of December. Most major train timetable changes are announced here, hence you can book early on right after knowing the changes!
Eastern Europe is becoming a popular travel destination nowadays! With a rich history and beautiful architecture, taking the train to explore the region would be a great plan. Do note that some countries require you to have your passport when crossing their borders (e.g. Romania).
The train can have a unique number, that is found on the train itself and the train timetable signboard which is very common in Eastern Europe. Take note of what number your train is and which platform it will be at.
Vienna to Budapest
Some of the most popular cities to visit, you can travel between these cities with ease via the trains. There are two types of trains that you can take: Regional or High Speed. The High-Speed rail is by Railjet which takes around 3 hours to reach. Seat reservation is mandatory.
However, if you are taking the regional train, you need not reserve any seats, however, do come early if you have large luggage with you! You can cop a space in the luggage storage area and get a great seat too. The regional train also stops at several smaller towns along the way which you can drop off and explore! The small towns offer a ton of beautiful scenery and unique souvenirs that you can grab before heading towards the city.
If you're thinking of traveling to Scandinavia, there is only one train line that connects West and East Europe to the region which is from Hamburg, Germany to Copenhagen, Denmark. So if you're planning to add Scandinavia on your rail journey, you can end your main Europe region journey first before heading towards Scandinavia.
The main train company that you'll take here is the SJ Rail which is separate from the railways in West and East Europe. The trains under SJ run through Norway, Denmark, and Sweden. You can book all your tickets here!
There is an app that you can download that will keep track of all your tickets too. Seat reservations can also be done through the app too.
One of the issues with trains between Scandinavian countries is how similar the names of the stations are depending on where you are boarding and departing. For example, Kobenhavn is Danish for Copenhagen but Kopenhamn is Swedish for the same word. You need to make sure you know both countries' station names in order to not panic and miss your stop!
Stockholm to Narvik
One of the longest but most beautiful train rides you can take is from Stockholm to Narvik, at around 18 hours total. The scenery changes from the Swedish Lapland (wilderness) to the mountains of Norway. It's beautiful in the summer and you can experience the midnight sun at Narvik if you're heading there at the end of June. In winter, you'll be able to see the Aurora lights! There are buses during winter in Narvik if needed. It's also a great place to rest as the Lofoten Islands are a few hours drive away too.
Only one train departs from Stockholm hence, reach the platform early to prevent any missed trains.
#HHWT Tip: Book a sleeper cabin if you're able to for this ride as it will be more comfortable to sleep on a bed than a chair! (Plus summer is hiking season and you'll be cramped in with tons of people).
There are many more trains that you can take such as the scenic trains that Europe offers! I hope that this guide helps you to understand the train system in Europe and helps you better plan for your trip there!