HOWTO: Booking Cross-Border Rail Tickets in Europe

1. Finding a train

DB’s journey planner at bahn.de is available in eight languages offers nearly universal coverage of the European rail timetable, even where online ticketing is not possible. However, the service does not specifically look for night trains and not all night trains connections are avialabe at bahn.de.

To fill this gap we offer a map of night train services with all regularly served night train destinations and important stops in Central and Western Europe. For cruise trains and car-only trains also including Belarus, Russia, the Caucasus and Northern Africa (and night trains all over the world) please look at Night-Trains.com)

2. Getting advice

Good advice for train journeys (and ideas of what is possible, nice maps and so on) is available from The Man in Seat Sixty-one, which is an impressive site that is constantly updated.

If you are stuck, you can always request help at rail.cc, a wiki and forum page dedicated to rail travel worldwide. Support is available in multiple languages, and even the most obscure questions and issues can usually be resolved. A complete list of European night trains is also available.

3. Booking a train

DB has also revamped its international online booking system at bahn.de and added support for several new countries. It’s now possible to book Thalys and Eurostar trains, as well as international trains to and from Belgium, Denmark, France, Italy, Croatia, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Austria, Poland, Sweden, Switzerland, Slovenia, Slovakia, Czechia and Hungary, as well as a number domestic trains within those countries. In most cases, both standard fares and reduced advance fares are on offer. DB have indicated that they want to add further functionality in the near future, so they definitely see the European cross-border market as deserving of at least a minimum amount of attention – an encouraging development.

If it is not possible to book a night-train here, you should find the link to the operators booking platforms in our night train map.

Trenhotel 310 “Sud Express” Lisbon-Hendaye in spring 2018  at Lisbon Santa Apolonia Station

Trainline.eu and Omio.com are Europe-wide commercial rail and bus booking engines. Trainline supports ticketing (both standard and advance fares) for Thalys, Eurostar, SNCF (France), RENFE (Spain), Trenitalia and Italo (Italy), SNCB (Belgium), NS (Netherlands), DB (Germany), Thello (France to Italy), ÖBB and Westbahn (Austria), Flixbus as well as a number of smaller bus and rail operators. Most notably, it offers full support for night trains (ÖBB, RENFE, Thello, Trenitalia and SNCF). However if trains can not be booked these commercial platforms point you to a coach or plane service – understandable, as they typically pay considerable sales commissions, but also annoying, as there are train connections that just cannot be booked there.

Loco2.com is a Europe-wide rail-only booking engine. It offers good deals (standard and advance fares) for western Europe, including full support for RENFE, SNCF, Thello and Trenitalia night trains but limited offers for eastern Europe. For providing this one-stop-shop they charge a service fee of 5-8 € per purchase regardless of the number of trips.

Finally, a quick reminder that for longer and more complex trips, Interrail and Eurail passes can be an affordable alternative, though it is usually best to compare their price with point-to-point tickets, particularly if you book well in advance. Rail passes are available for everyone, but their price differs according to age and residency. Please note that night trains usually require a supplementary reservation if used with a rail pass.