Let’s cut to the chase: trains are often a fast, affordable option for travelers to zoom their way through an unforgettable European vacation.

But to quote your parents, bosses, and cliche-clutching friends: It’s about the journey, not the destination. So let’s talk about the train journey

What specifically can you do on a train and what’s the faux pas equivalent to taking your shoes off on a plane? Are there any amenities on UK and European trains — and are they free? 

Can you actually have fun on a rail route or is the only difference between the plane and the train the way in which you sardine yourself into a seat?

You’ve got important questions about on-board train amenities and Trainline’s got the answers.

Image credits, Getty Images. 

What on-board amenities do trains have in the UK and Europe?

Do European trains have Wi-Fi?

Yes, many UK and European trains offer free Wi-Fi service for all passengers, regardless of ticket class. Stream away, upload your photos, and make sure the rest of your rail route is free of delays by checking the Trainline app.

Are food and drinks served on European trains?

While you can bring your own food and drink (alcohol included) onto most trains, many offer some type of food and beverage either for purchase or included in your ticket price. For example, UK’s LNER trains serve sandwiches, snacks, coffee, juice, and more. Spain’s Renfe trains offer either a buffet car/mobile bar service or meal menus designed by a Michelin-starred chef. 

Can you drink alcohol on European trains?

Yes, you can drink alcohol on many trains in Europe and the UK. Companies like Trenitalia feature upgraded cabins with a cart service dedicated to beer, wine, and espresso. Some even allow you to bring your own bottle of wine aboard to sip while you scoot.

What are the luggage restrictions on trains in Europe?

Far more lenient than most airlines! For instance, you can take 3 pieces of luggage free of charge on the UK's National Rail. Switzerland’s SBB has no restrictions as long as you don’t hinder passenger movement. See our full list of luggage restrictions on trains in Europe.

Related: Why train travel is better than flying in Europe

Can you eat on trains in the UK and Europe?

Standard vs first-class fares in Europe

You’ve got the destination, you’ve got the route, now you need the seat: standard or first-class

Is there a difference between standard and first-class train tickets? In short, the biggest differences between first-class and second-class train tickets in Europe primarily impact the three B’s: budget, belly, and butt.

First-class tickets — which may be referred to by a specific operator name, such as Italo Prima or Eurostar Business Class — tend to have more room to roam, as well as plush seats with added width and legroom. Many premier operators offer in-seat meal service to first-class passengers, plus some include access to first-class lounges at certain train stations where complimentary food and beverages are served. 

The price is obviously more than a standard fare, though Trainline’s app will help you find the lowest-priced first-class tickets available and display them alongside standard ticket prices for your chosen route. 

Is first-class worth it?

First-class passengers tend to be business travelers, so you may find a quieter cabin with a more professional atmosphere. The meal service is another tasty temptation worth forking over the extra cash for. Little perks like priority boarding can help seal the deal.

So does that mean standard or second-class fares are a bad choice? Rarely. 

All passengers enjoy many of the same amenities on European and UK trains regardless of ticket status. Plus, many carriers now offer “quiet carriages” for standard passengers which include complimentary earphones, a sleeping mask, and other relaxing amenities. 

Keep in mind that some operators also offer a spectrum of classes, like Frecciarossa’s Standard, Premium, Business, and Executive levels, which offer a mix of amenities at tiered prices.

From Wi-Fi, on-board entertainment and power/USB outlets to bathrooms, on-board snack purchasing, and flexible luggage restrictions, standard tickets are a great way to experience a comfortable, convenient train ride without watching your budget go off the rails. 

Use the Trainline app to browse the cheapest tickets available for all fare classes and book a route with a train operator who offers the on-board amenities you need to stay calm and cozy on your next European vacation. 

Header image credits, Getty Images, Chris Hellier. Location, Marseille, France.

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