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Europe Trips Can Be Much, Much Easier if You Follow This Advice

A step-by-step guide.

One of the classic European experiences is a train ride from city to city, slowly connecting the dots on the map of the continent. While picturesque, train travel in Europe is undoubtedly an efficient way to get around. Even with the competition of budget airlines, 8.2 billion passengers rode trains in the European Union in 2019. With a sharp 41.5 % drop in national transport throughout the E.U. during the pandemic, trains are now operating a regular schedule since travel is back.

The easiest way to purchase European train tickets is on your phone. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to do it.

Why Travel By Train in Europe

It’s Sustainable

There is no doubt that trains are a much more sustainable option to travel compared to air travel, and the carbon footprint is considerably less than taking a short flight within Europe. A simple London-Paris Eurostar train instead of taking a flight can cut CO2 emissions by over 90% per passenger, according to the site Eco Passenger.

Trains Are Efficient and Frequent

Trains connect city-center to city-center and save time. Train travel eliminates the time needed for transportation to the airport, airport security, and transport from the airport to your accommodation. In most European cities, the train station is also a hub for the city’s public transportation. Connections from the station to the metro, city tram, or taxi efficiently help you reach your hotel.

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Cancellations Are Rare

Unless there is a train strike, which does happen, the chances of a train cancellation are minimal. Railway strikes are planned well in advance to avoid passenger disruptions. Europe was plagued this summer with flight reductions and last-minute cancellations. A whopping one in 20 flights were canceled last minute this summer in Europe, according to OAG.

Better Food Options

I’ve raved on Instagram about how European train stations typically have food options, grocery stores, coffee, and bank machines. You can make your picnic and bring it on the train. Unlike planes, it is even legal to bring onboard wine or beer. A food and beverage carriage is available on many trains, or a cart often comes by.

Trains Are More Comfortable

Train seats, even in second class, offer better leg room and are more space than a typical inter-European flight. On certain trains in Italy, France, and Germany, there are quiet carriages that allow passengers some space from screaming children or loud talkers on the phone.

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How to Book European Train Tickets on Your Phone

Researching Trains Comes First

The Deutsche Bahn app is my go-to app for checking European train schedules. While you can only book German or certain international trains that originate in Germany on this app, it’s still a comprehensive resource. Everything you need to know about a particular train journey is available on this app, and train numbers, train station names, and map views are displayed.

Google Maps is another good resource for looking up trains and schedules. If you are used to the Google Map format, the app will give you train schedules and everything else you need to know to book your trains. Unfortunately, it is not possible to purchase train tickets on Google Maps.

Which Apps to Use to Purchase European Train Tickets

The app you need to buy tickets depends on the train and routing. For trains in Germany, download the Deutchebahn App. For Italian trains, use Trenitalia or the Italo Train App. If traveling on French trains or to France, consider the SNCF. The key is to download the national railway app of the country of your trains. I traveled from Beijing to London via train, and once I got to Poland, I purchased point-to-point tickets using each country’s national railway app.

Walk by People Standing in Line at Kiosks

I haven’t purchased a train ticket at a train station in years. Last month in Germany, I bought four tickets on the Deutsche Bahn app, including the 9 Euro Ticket. From January to June, I was in Italy once a month. Every time I arrive at Leonard da Vinci-Fiumicino Airport in Rome, I open up the Trenitalia app, purchase my ticket from the airport to the Roma Termini, and walk by everyone wasting time in line at a kiosk.

Purchasing train tickets on these apps is cheaper and less time-consuming than at the train station. There are often web or app specials that anyone can buy. Most of these apps have an English version. Some apps, like the Trenitalia App, accept Apple Pay or allow you to make a customer profile with stored information.

On the national railway app for your trip, enter the desired journey to purchase your tickets. Select the train and time that works for you. Then choose your class and seating preferences. Remember to read the terms and conditions before purchasing. Many low-cost tickets are non-refundable or changeable.


Paper Train Tickets Are History

Issued tickets are usually e-tickets, and there is likely no need to pick up paper tickets at the station. Apple users can download tickets directly into Wallet, and e-tickets also come with QR codes. When the conductor comes by, either show them the QR code, pass in Wallet, or even the PNR code number. You will also receive an email confirmation with your ticket information included.

Look out for Promotions

While many promotions or railcards do not apply to foreign visitors, you should still be on the lookout. To stimulate train travel this summer, countries like Germany subsidized incredible deals that any traveler could buy. The 9 Euro Ticket on Deutsche Bahn was available for anyone to purchase and use on most regional trains, trams, and light rail trains throughout Germany for a whole month. I used it this summer to travel throughout Germany, and they were even reaching small towns like Rothenburg and Bremen.

Be Careful Purchasing Train Tickets From Third-Party Apps

Travelers should use extreme caution using third-party apps to purchase train tickets. Often, it’s understandably more expensive. The danger lies in the lack of flexibility in making changes or modifications to the ticket. A direct relationship with travel vendors is critical, especially when things go wrong. It’s much easier to make changes at a station or the various national train apps than with a third-party app.

davidturk1325 August 24, 2022

It could have been worse. Russian flights were banned from western airports freeing up a few slots!