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UPDATED: The best websites for cross-Europe train travel

Planning to travel by train across Europe but not sure where to start? Here are the best websites to help make it happen.

UPDATED: The best websites for cross-Europe train travel
Travelling by train across Europe is easy - once you know where to look for tickets and routes. (Photo by Niklas Jeromin / Pexels)

Travelling across Europe by train is quickly becoming the preferred mode of transport for many people – mostly due to environmental concerns.

For others though, making the switch from cars or planes to trains is not so simple.

With planes, there are well-known websites like Skyscanner and Expedia, which makes it easy to find cheap flights. As well good connections across the continent from most major airports.

Then there is the convenience of travelling by car, which can be hard to beat – especially for those living in more rural areas. 

So what are the options for trains? Are there websites like Skyscanner but for train travel? And where can you find cheap tickets or the best routes?

Here are the websites you need to know when planning a trip across Europe by train.

Seat 61

The Seat 61 website provides tips on how to travel comfortably and affordably by train, while aiming to help visitors to rediscover the “pleasure, romance  and adventure of the journey”.

It includes an introduction to train travel in Europe, as well as an extensive search feature to find trains by starting location.

For example, The Local searched for trains from Salzburg to Italy and found routes to Venice, Milan, Florence, Rome and Naples, including on Nightjet sleeper trains.

The guide then describes the features of the Nightjet service, such as air conditioning, showers and room service all useful information for any newbies starting out with train travel.

Seat 61 is run by Mark Smith, a train enthusiast and former manager at the UK Department of Transport.

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Trainline

The Trainline is an international platform focused on train travel. The company is based in the UK but has extensive coverage of train travel in 45 countries across Europe.

The aim of the Trainline is find to the cheapest tickets for a selected route. Most of the time, this means booking in advance.

The site also highlights some great offers, such as €7 tickets between Barcelona and Madrid, and Paris to Amsterdam from €20.

As an added bonus, the search function on the Trainline is very user-friendly and allows people to search by location, as well as add extras such as railcards or return tickets.

The Trainline can be accessed via the website or app.

Rail Europe

Rail Europe is a leading distributor of European train tickets. The website covers 25,000 destinations and 11,000 routes across the continent.

The search function on Rail Europe works in a similar way to other websites and users can view tickets by destination to get the best price. It’s also possible to purchase railcards direct from Rail Europe.

Additionally, the site includes a useful overview of the latest ticket releases and sales, such as special offers on journeys between Paris and Geneva.

Users can pay for tickets in Euros, Sterling or Dollar (US, Canada and Australia) on the website or the app.

Rail Europe is headquartered in Paris but was founded in New York in 1932.

READ ALSO: Ryanair to raise flight ticket prices in Austria

Interrail

The Interrail Pass is a railcard that is available for residents in Europe. For people that live outside of Europe, they can purchase the Eurail Pass.

The passes are aimed at backpackers, or anyone spending time travelling across Europe.

The Interrail website has details about the different passes on offer under the umbrella of Interrail, like the Global Pass, One Country Pass and the German Rail Pass

For example, prices for the One Country Pass for Spain start at €182 for three days of travel within one month. Or you can pay €235 for five days of travel within one month.

Whereas the Global Pass starts at €251 for seven days of train travel in one month, but goes up to €677 for a three month unlimited travel ticket.

Interrail or Eurail Pass holders can buy tickets and make reservations via the desktop website or the Rail Planner app.

Omio

Omio is a travel platform where you can book train, bus and flight tickets. It has a free app to download or users can search and book on the website.

The Omio site has a dedicated section just for train travel. It even highlights 28 routes in Europe that are faster by train than plane – as well as the amount of carbon dioxide saved on the trip.

Examples are London to Brussels, which takes just two hours, or Frankfurt to Cologne in one hour.

There is also a handy FAQ section with information about booking train tickets in Europe, baggage conditions and travelling with pets.

At the time of writing, The Local found a ticket from Zurich to Vienna on Omio for €60 (when searching for dates two months in advance).

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National rail operators

Aside from the five websites detailed above, it’s also worth checking out the websites of national rail operators to find deals and travel passes.

Here are the rail operators for each country covered by The Local.

Austria: Visit oebb.at to find Sparschiene (cheap/discounted) tickets on selected routes across the country. Tickets can also be booked for the Nightjet (overnight rail service).

Denmark: DSB is the national rail operator in Denmark. Timetables and tickets can be found at dsb.dk, including discounts for travelling outside of rush hours. 

France: Rail operator SNCF can be found at sncf.com. The website even has a guide on how to save money on rail travel in France.

Germany: Deutsche Bahn is Germany’s national rail service. Visit bahn.com to find cheap tickets for travel within Germany and throughout Europe.

Italy: Train tickets in Italy can be purchased at italiarail.com. You can even get a free Italian phrase ebook if you sign up to the Italia Rail newsletter.

Norway: Travellers can check prices and book tickets in Norway at norwaytrains.com. Most trains in Norway are operated by SJ or Vy trains.

Spain: Renfe is the leading train operator in Spain and can be found at renfe.com. The website has a page dedicated to discounts and another where you can buy tickets for luxury tourist trains.

Sweden: SJ is Sweden’s national rail operator. Tickets can be bought at sj.se, including annual passes and special offers.

Switzerland: Visit sbb.ch for tickets on Switzerland’s national rail network. The website is available in four languages (English, German, French, Italian) and features offers like Supersaver tickets and the GA Travelcard.

Do you have other suggestions for websites we should add to this list? Let us know in the comments section below or email [email protected]

Member comments

  1. Commercial travel websites show what their sponsors wants them to show, and they are also designed from the ground up for air travel. German Rail bahn.com allows you to choose all details of your trip, you can choose high speed trains or not, regional or even boat and bus. It works for all EU train stations, I even use it for domestic Swedish or France train travel,. France SNCF may be the worse, as it has separate sites for high speed, intercity and regional, and one for each region, totally confusing.

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TRAIN TRAVEL

Sweden’s Snälltåget to offer night trains to Austria via Denmark

The Snälltåget service, running from Malmö in Sweden via Høje Taastrup, Odense and Kolding in Denmark, to Salzburg, Innsbruck and other ski resorts in the Austrian alps, will start on Thursday December 22nd, 2022, running once a week until March 18th 2023.

Sweden's Snälltåget to offer night trains to Austria via Denmark

Travellers wishing to take the night train from Sweden to Austria can depart from Malmö at 14:55 on Thursdays between December 22nd and March 18th, arriving in Salzburg the next morning at 09:12, with the train continuing through the Austrian alps to its final destination of Innsbruck.

The return train departs from Innsbruck on Fridays at 17:00.

Here’s the full timetable, including all the stops between Sweden and Austria:

And here's the return timetable, running from Innsbruck to Malmö:

Tickets start from between 999-1,499 Swedish kronor (€90-€135) per adult one-way depending on departure time, with a fee of around 500 Swedish kronor/€45 depending on the service for a bed in a shared couchette, or a fee of around 6,000 Swedish kronor/€545 for a private couchette.

There are substantial discounts for multiple people booking together: if two adults book together the second pays half price, and children under 16 pay just 20 percent of the full price.

This means that, despite some journeys costing 999 kronor each way for a single adult or 1,901 kronor for a return trip, the same journey costs 1,901 kronor each way for a family of two adults and two children under 16, putting return transport costs for a family of four at 3,802 kronor or €346.

The Snälltåget route from Malmö-Innsbruck, with bus connections from stations in Austria indicated via dotted lines. Note: the train does not stop in Copenhagen, Hamburg or Munich. Photo: Snälltåget.

If this family book a private couchette both ways, however, this adds around 10,000 kronor to the price, putting the final sum at 13,998 Swedish kronor or around €1,275 for a return journey.

The night train service is aimed at skiers, with a check-in ski service offered at 249 kronor per person per journey, and a host of bus connections to popular skiing resorts from train stations in Austria.

The service is currently only offered as a return package: one ticket in each direction, which mean's it's not possible to only book a ticket for Sweden to Austria without booking your return ticket from Austria to Sweden at the same time.

However, Snälltåget say that they may open up single journey bookings in the future if there is a lack of interest in return journeys.

It's also possible to book a ski package holiday with train journey, transfers, hotels and lift passes via Nortlander.se and Slopetrotter.se.

There is also a restaurant on board serving hot meals on porcelain, as well as a café selling drinks, snacks and sandwiches.

See Snälltåget's website here for ticket booking and more information.

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