One of the things I like most about living / traveling in Europe is that you can get there by train everywhere. It is the most widespread means of transport and, personally, my favorite to travel the continent. In this post I will answer the most frequent queries that come to me about traveling by train in Europe: where do I buy the tickets? Should I get a pass? How do I check the schedules? Can I cross from one country to another? What are night trains like? You can leave your questions or contributions in the comments.
The train is the most widespread means of transport in Europe, although not the cheapest. There are also low cost airlines, buses, carpooling and the option of renting a car, traveling by bike or hitchhiking. In my case, as I do not drive, I discard the car option (although I do a lot of carpooling, as a passenger), and since I do not like to fly, I try not to take airplanes if possible.
The trains, for me, are the most comfortable option: they leave the city center, arrive at the center of the next city, they are punctual, they have a lot of frequency (they leave several times a day), they are wide and comfortable and go through landscapes which no other means of land transport passes. Traveling by train has a special magic.
Although all of Europe is linked by a very extensive train network (imagine a great metro system, like any capital, but with stops throughout Europe), each country has its railway company and, therefore, its website with schedules and rates.
-> If you want to travel by train within the same country, without crossing any border, I recommend you go directly to the website of the national train company (SNCF in France, Renfe in Spain, DB in Germany). If you do not know what it is, Google will give you the answer. Almost all the websites have an English version, so it’s easy to navigate and check the schedules.
-> If you want to travel by train from one country to another (always within Europe), I recommend you to search the route in an app like GoEuro or Trainline (those are the two that I always use: Trainline only shows you train journeys, while GoEuro compares how much it costs to travel by train, plane and bus), or on the website of the train company of the country of departure.
Some train passages (especially those of high speed and those that connect capitals or large cities) tend to rise in price when the departure date approaches, there are others (local trains and those that link nearby cities) that always keep the same price. If you are traveling from capital to capital, it is best to buy the ticket a few weeks in advance to get the best price.