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Trains in Europe: Get The Best Deals

train by the lake, switzerland
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Traveling by train is something you’ll have to do at least once, it’s one of the quintessential European experiences. But I’ve seen so many blogs recommending a particular “one stop shop” for all and any rail routes, that I have to wonder if they have ever paid for a ticket themselves. So unless you have particular needs (like a pass), you could easily be overpaying for the very same tickets if you buy through an intermediary.

If you want to get the very best prices and deals when using cross-country trains in Europe, you should buy them directly from the rail companies. All countries have a national operator that runs most of the network, with some private operators for select routes. Either way, you can only get the promotional prices when you book through the correct channel: their own official websites.

Doesn’t hurt to point out that rail travel can be much more convenient than flying, although not necessarily cheaper. If your journey time is less than 4 hours, take the train! If it’s between 4-6 hours, you don’t save much time, but you do get the comfort of going city center to city center, skipping the usually expensive and time-consuming airport-city transfer.

train in nature, switzerland
So, here’s a list of all the national railway operators in the Schengen Area, linked to their English-version websites:

Austria

  • ÖBB
  • Westbahn, private operator, covers Vienna-Salzburg, with several stops

Belgium: NMBS/SNCB

Czechia: ČD

Denmark: DSB

Estonia

Finland: VR

France: SNCF

Germany: DB

Greece: TrainOSE

Hungary: MÁV

Iceland: no public railway system

Italy

Latvia: PV

Liechtenstein: ÖBB

Lithuania: Litrail

Luxembourg: CFL

Malta: no rail system available

the Netherlands: NS

Norway: NSB

Poland

Portugal: CP

Slovakia: ŽSSK

Slovenia: 

Spain: Renfe

Sweden: SJ

Switzerland: SBB

You should also always search at least two options: the rail company of your country of departure and of your destination. Sometimes you can get different prices, even if the train is the same. Sometimes, it’s worth it to buy the return ticket separately. But pay attention! Some routes require that you collect the ticket from their own machines, so plan accordingly.

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Tip: If you are in the early stages of planning and need to search for routes and timetables-only, you can use DB’s website, as their database is super extensive and covers the whole continent.

Happy travels!


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1 Comment

  • Reply
    Vivienne Hurry
    September 9, 2019 at 14:54

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