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Should I buy train tix within Europe early?

Internationally Known

Should I buy train tix within Europe early?

Hi friends. I have not traveled much by train within Europe, but I am going to be traveling Paris-->Lux-->Brussels this summer in July. Anyone know whether I really need to buy them early or if they go up in price or sell out? I'd like the flexibility of buying them on the spot, but it's also good to know I can get where I need to go on time;)

9 Replies
Stately Explorer

Re: Should I buy train tix within Europe early?

My only experience is with Eurostar from London to Paris.  I watched the prices climb over a few months before I finally pulled the trigger.  It seems to be less expensive the further out you are.

Internationally Known

Re: Should I buy train tix within Europe early?

I always buy them as soon as the schedules are released. They do go up in price, the closer it gets to the departure date. A great website that I have used for years is The Man In Seat 61. There, you can read all about the types of trains that travel each route and you can even see the seating arrangements, so if you want to face each other or sit side by side, whatever you could want to know is covered on this web site. You can even email the Man himself and he will answer any questions you might have about train travel.

 

As far as selling out, first class reserved seating and sleeper cars can sell out. I do believe if you go coach (where they don't assign seats) it does not sell out. I have seen standing room only, packed like sardines situations.

 

Last year we had 1st classs tickets from Belfast to Dublin, but due to weather, the train changed cars and elimated the 1st class car. When we got home I sent them an email and they gave me a refund for the entire ride, I would have been happy with just the difference between 1st & coach! So if something unexpected happens, it pays to keep your receipts.

RJean
Stately Explorer

Re: Should I buy train tix within Europe early?

I am in agreement with Rjeanr, buy them as soon as the schedules allow, maybe a week or two after to price it out (Especially for sleeper cars/overnight trains). I have had to wait hours and days for trains that were full and I could not buy tickets for, or worse paid 90 euro for a ticket that had been 10-25 weeks earlier.

Internationally Known

Re: Should I buy train tix within Europe early?

Thanks for all this info! I have checked out Man in Seat 61 a little but I think I will have another look.

 

I really appreciate all of your help!

City Slicker

Re: Should I buy train tix within Europe early?

When you buy a ticket you are not guaranteed a seat- there is an extra charge for that. We’ve travelled by train many times with no problem getting a seat, but one time during a local holiday in Bavaria we were surprised to have to stand for a 4 hour trip. 

Nationally Recognized

Re: Should I buy train tix within Europe early?

We recently finished 3 weeks in Europe traveling mostly by train. All my research showed that the sooner, the better to book tickets. They are cheapest as soon as they are available for booking (which is generally 90 days ahead of time, but some you can book even earlier)

I like the Trainline app for booking trains. I compared prices to booking directly through each trains website, and in most cases it was the same price, and if not, only a couple dollars more through Trainline. It was nice to have one app with all of our train tickets, and it’s very easy to navigate on a mobile device. 

Internationally Known

Re: Should I buy train tix within Europe early?

Thanks! I just bought one of the tickets through rail europe and first class was only about 4 euros more and there was an $8 fee for online booking. I will try trainline for a comparison!

Nationally Recognized

Re: Should I buy train tix within Europe early?

Rail Europe and other sites rarely offer any additional value and just take a markup. 10+ years ago, there were quirks, but now, every western European rail carrier I've experienced has a great English-language website, very easy to book, and electronically-delivered tickets.

 

For tickets between two countries, make sure to price tickets on each country's site, the price can be very different for the exact same train.

And you are right to check first class. It's usually just a slightly more comfortable seat -- not as dramatic as the difference between first class and coach airline tickets -- but can sometimes be found for almost no cost premium.

Internationally Known

Re: Should I buy train tix within Europe early?

Lenin1991 is spot on with his advice. I agree it is a much better deal to buy directly from the rail carrier's site. And if you have any questions about the seating chart or anything at all, they have email for easy communication.

RJean