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Trains in Europe - Get the best fares

Tips to help you find the best prices for European train travel

Some tips to help you take advantage of the best available train fares for rail journeys in Europe, and between the UK and Europe.

Just as in the UK, tickets cost less the ealier you book.

A source of frustration for rail passengers is that it is not possible to book train journeys further ahead than 4 months (120 days). This restriction applies to Eurostar travel, the high speed passenger trains that run through the Channel Tunnel to Paris, Lille and Brussels. Most of other European train companies are evn more restrictive, only letting you book up to 90 days (3 months) before travel.

Some help is available so you can be first in with your bookings and get the best fares. Sign up to the Rail Europe email reminder. This means you can plan your journey and search for tickets as usual, then opt to receive the reminder as soon as the bookings are opened.

A useful trick is to try buying tickets for each stage of a connecting journey separately. This works because if you book your trip as one complete journey the same conditions will be applied throughout, whereas it is possible that better terms and prices could be applied to different stages of the trip. This is especially true if you are crossing countries and more than one train company is involved.

This does involve some more work on your part, but can sometimes result in considerable savings on a long journey.

Here's how to book connecting journeys online:

Firstly plan the journey as one single trip.
Make a note of any connections you need to make and the timings.
Then enter each stage as a separate search, which will bring up all of the class and flexibility options available for each train journey.
Choose your preferred travel class and ticket flexibility for each stage and add them separately to the shopping basket.
Keep a note of the original timings so you can make sure you allow enough time to make any connections, perhaps allowing a little longer.
Once you've added all your journey stages to the basket, check the prices against the total journey price and decide which is the best way to book your journey.

Don't forget the discounts that may be available. Many train companies offer child, youth and senior fares. The qualifying conditions for such fares and the amount of the discount often varies between train operators.

So good luck and here's to a fast, comfortable and economical train journey in Europe!