Last Update 13:42
Friday, 24 March 2017

Traveler's tips: How and why to book a train in Europe

Roll up your windowshade and enjoy the mesmerising views of greenery and mountains in Europe, where trains are the best way to travel

Nour Eldin Ebrahim, Saturday 11 Mar 2017
Amazin Scenic Bernina express
Amazin Scenic Bernina express (Nour Eldin Ebrahim)
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Views: 1533

When we speak about traveling people immediately think: Planes.

But travelling by air isn't the only way to go between countries or cities. There is a much cooler (and sometimes much cheaper!) alternative. And that ladies and gentlemen is trains.

City train in Barcelona (Nour Eldin Ebrahim)
City train in Barcelona (Nour Eldin Ebrahim)

Why Trains?

Well for me, if the price is the same or just slightly more, I always go for trains for many reasons:

Trains are scenic. I mean, you get to watch the journey and see different sites throughout. 

Chairs are much more comfortable with better leg space.

You don't have bag limits or regulations.

Trains usually leave from the city center; you dont need to travel just to get to the airport.

You end up in the middle of the city, not searching for a way to get there. 

You don't need to be there two hours early, saving stress and precious sight-seeing time.

The 9 euro intercity train (Nour Eldin Ebrahim)
The 9 euro intercity train (Nour Eldin Ebrahim)

Why Europe?

Europe is a very beautiful continent to surf using trains. You'll find so many scenic routes, typically easy booking systems, and often very decent prices. If you want my advice, for moving between cities in the same country, or between countries that share a border, trains should be your first choice!

The S4 intercity train (Nour Eldin Ebrahim)
The S4 intercity train (Nour Eldin Ebrahim)

How to book?

Now the hold-up is that every country has its own system, which means you need to search for a different website each time to book. And sometimes things are harder, there might be different train companies so you need to know which one to use for your route. And that means finding out if there is a train route to your destination!

The solution is: The man in Seat61!

There is a guy called Mark Smith who created in 2007 a wonderful website called: Seat61.com

This website is hands down, the best resource to plan your train journey I’ve ever seen: a simple website that is easy to use and contains almost any info you might need.

Just jump here. Choose where you will start your trip, where you are headed, and voila! See the magic!

You will be directed to a page where it will tell you the cheapest possible trains to catch for your destination (even if there isnt a direct train he’ll tell you what to do!); the local train companies' websites and how to use them; and exactly what you need to do to book the best train. Sometimes you'll even find videos for the train experience! Just amazing.

from rome to perugia
This pic cost alot, i took a pic of the train while leaving as i was late. from rome to perugia (Nour Eldin Ebrahim)

A more straightforward way?

There is another recently launched website called Loco2. It simplifies train booking in Europe big time. You just search for your trip and book it.

If, for example, you are searching for a train from Rome to Paris, you need to book more than one ticket -- one leg through an Italian train company and the next through the TGV (a french one). Loco2 simplifies that, allowing you to book everything and pay online. The downside is that it doesn't yet cover all of Europe. However, it covers almost all big cities and famous tourist destinations so you are generally covered.

Tips and tricks

So now you know how to book, but the more important question is: how do you get cheap tickets? Here are some general tips to help you score dirt-cheap train tickets in Europe:

Book Early: Usually booking early can get you super cheap tickets! I booked a Venice-to-Rome train two months early for only 9 Euros!

Travel on Wednesday: Everyone plans their trips on the weekends, So travelling mid-week usually gets you a cheaper ticket.

Depart early: Early morning and late night trains (think, 7am or 11pm) are not popular, so they run cheaper than the more convenient ones.

Look for special offers: There is always some offer hanging around, Renfe-SCNF for example offers discounts on the Paris-Barcelona route in March and April. 2-for-1 ticket promotion is available on Saturdays in Italy all year long. Google for more or just follow the Loco2 promotions page and regularly check the website for your desired destinations.

Happy travelling! 

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