Train travel is by far my favorite form of transportation. I can relax and watch the world go by as I drink coffee, read books, listen to music and talk with friends. It’s the easiest form of transportation in my opinion, once you know these little hacks.
This goes for all of Europe, but because I was stationed in Germany, everything was in German which is how I’ll be breaking down the tickets. I used these methods to travel to countries all around Germany!
I’m going to break this down into common websites to purchase tickets, how to reserve a seat and how to read your e-ticket. If you’ve ever wondered about train travel in Europe, keep reading!
Best Websites to Purchase Tickets
Let’s start with Eurail. This is a company most people know about. It’s popular for people dreaming of buying a pass and backpacking across Europe. This is a great option for someone wanting to travel far distances or to travel by train multiple times in one month.
You can select Global Passes based on how many times you plan to travel – the more you travel the better deal it is. This can be a pricey option depending on what countries you want to visit, so do your research on prices with other websites before you commit to this pass.
You can also select One Country Passes if you want to travel extensively in one country, like Germany!
Trainline is one of my favorite websites for purchasing train tickets because it is easy to use. You fill in your destinations and dates then chose your age (and add in discount cards if you have one!) and it will search trains and buses and show all relevant departures.
You can get super cheap tickets here, especially if you’re flexible with dates, departure times and transfers. When you purchase with Trainline you will be emailed an e-ticket you can store directly in your Apple Wallet which makes boarding super simple.
Go Euro / Omio
This site used to be called Go Euro, but it is now called Omio. The reason this website is so helpful is that it not only compares trains and buses, but flights too! It may actually be cheaper to fly depending on where you’re going.
When I traveled to Berlin it was cheaper and faster to fly than ride the train!
Just like with Trainline, When you purchase with Omio you will be emailed an e-ticket you can store directly in your Apple Wallet which makes boarding super simple.
How to Make Reservations & Read Your E-Ticket
One of the reasons tickets on Trainline and Omio are cheap is because you aren’t guaranteed a seat – but don’t worry! I almost never had a problem finding one.
When I traveled to Munich for Oktoberfest I made sure to reserve a seat because I knew it would be crowded, but other than that I usually saved a few euros by scoping out my own place to sit.
Here is what the email PDF looks like once you purchase your ticket. You can either screenshot it or add it to your Apple Wallet. The QR Code is what the conductors will scan to confirm your ticket.
Travel Tip: Always keep your passport handy when you board a train. They do random inspections and might ask for identification to make sure your match the name on your ticket.
When you look at your ticket you’ll see a lot of information. Up top is basic travel information and payment. The bottom half is what’s important for you as the rider.
The destination is on the left, starting with the departure station. The date of departure, time of departure, platform & train number follow it, ending with seat reservations (if you have one).
1 Sitzplatz = 1 Seat
Wg. 25 = Train car 25. You’ll see every train car numbered on the inside and outside. If you’re lost just ask someone and they’ll point you the right way.
Pl. = Seat #53
Gang/Mitte/Fenster – Aisle/Middle/Window seat
Nichtraucher = Nonsmoking (they all are!)
Res.Nr. = Reservation Number
When you board look at the little black screens above each seat. If there is a reservation you will see in blue letters Reservierung: Kaiserslautern – Mannheim (or whichever cities the reservation is for). Until you reach the start destination you are more than welcome to sit in that seat, you just have to move upon arrival.