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How to Book Train Travel in Europe: 12 Essential Sites

The train can be the fastest, easiest, and cheapest way to travel around Europe—but booking can be confusing. Here are all the essential sites for booking train travel in Europe.

For Multi-Country Train Travel in Europe

Rail Europe

Rail Europe is one of the best starting points for planning a trip around Europe, whether it’s a multi-country itinerary or single country trip. The modern, easy-to-use website offers English and U.S. Dollar display options and lets you make reservations, compare rail passes, and buy tickets. Use the customizable map to easily build out your trip.

Eurail

Remember EuroRail? It’s now called Eurail, and its site is a great resource for planning a trip across the continent. Site features include a fun tool to help you find the best rail pass for your trip, plus European train timetables, maps with travel times, and even travel inspiration if you’re still deciding where to go. Eurail also helps with ferry travel, so you can easily figure out how to combine a train and ferry to get to your next destination. Note that if you’re a European resident, you’ll need to use the InterRail site to buy your passes, as there are different options for residents and non-residents.

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Thalys

Thalys runs high-speed trains on routes around France, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Germany. Buy tickets directly on its site—you’ll find good special offers and a deals section. Note that this site is only available in French, but Google Translate works well enough that you shouldn’t have trouble using it if you don’t speak the language.

B-Europe

B-Europe partners with rail companies across Europe (like Eurostar, TGV, and Trenitalia) to offer discounted train tickets. Compare prices here before booking your tickets—you can find deals like a one-way ticket from Brussels to Paris on a high-speed train for $20 if you’re flexible.

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Raileasy

Ever bought a flight that patches together an itinerary from multiple airlines for the cheapest fare? Raileasy is the same concept, but for trains. It allows you to save tons of money by booking one leg of your journey through one train company and the rest through another—an option that most train sites don’t give you.

Trainline

Not sure if you want to take the train, bus, or a combination of both on your European trip? Trainline helps you compare and book train and bus tickets across the continent. This is one of the easiest ways to check prices and times for multiple companies (like Eurostar, SNCF, Trenitalia, Renfe, Flixbus, and more) in one place. Book here and you can even pay with PayPal and Apple Pay.

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Transpennine Express

Transpennine Express runs train services across Great Britain. Check here for live train times, information on how to get compensation if your train is delayed, ticket offers, and to buy tickets. It’s worth noting that you can get a group discount through Transpennine if you’re traveling in a group of three or more people.

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For Single-Country Train Travel in Europe

Deutsche Bahn

Deutsche Bahn is the site you need if you’re planning train travel across Germany. Check here for great ticket deals, to buy tickets, and check train times. If your trip includes travel to/from Germany and another European country, you can buy German Rail, Interrail, and Eurail Passes here (and the site has a comparison tool to help you decide which type you need).

Swiss Railways

Train travel in Switzerland can get expensive, but Swiss Railways has some decent deals on its website, including a Swiss Coupon Pass that gives you discounts on attractions. If you’re planning a longer trip, the Swiss Half Fare Card is a good investment, as it will save you 50 percent off of rail, bus, and boat tickets for one month. In addition to train tickets, you can also book excursions and packages here.

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Italiarail

Italiarail offers both tickets and buy rail passes, and it’s also a good resource for general information on train travel in Italy. The maps on this site are incredibly detailed, and show which trains are high-speed and which are regional—you  can even see which services and amenities are offered at each station.

For Airport Transfers Via Train in Europe

Stansted Express

The Stansted Express is one of the cheapest and fastest ways to get to and from London’s Stansted Airport. Buying your tickets online saves you hassle at the airport.

Heathrow Express

Travel between London’s Paddington station and Heathrow airport in just 15 minutes on the Heathrow Express.

Terravision

If your European train travel mainly involves getting to and from the airport, be sure to check out Terravision, which will show you prices and times for both bus and rail transport to and from airports in Europe.

What to Wear for Train Travel in Europe

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By Caroline Morse Teel

Unfortunately for her bank account, Principal Editor Caroline Morse Teel is powerless to resist a good flight deal. Follow her on Instagram @TravelWithCaroline.

Caroline joined Boston-based SmarterTravel in 2011 after living in Ireland, London, and Manhattan. She's traveled to all seven continents, jumped out of planes, and bungeed off bridges in the pursuit of a good story. She loves exploring off-the-beaten path destinations, anything outdoorsy, and all things adventure.

Her stories have also appeared online at USA Today, Business Insider, Huffington Post, Yahoo, Boston.com, TripAdvisor, Buzzfeed, Jetsetter, Oyster, Airfarewatchdog, and others.

The Handy Item I Always Pack: "Earplugs. A good pair has saved my sleep and sanity many times!"

Ultimate Bucket List Experience: Hiking Mount Kilimanjaro.

Travel Motto: "Don't be boring."

Aisle, Window, or Middle Seat: "Aisle (when the first class private suite isn't available)."

E-mail her at cmorse@smartertravel.com.

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