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Travelling by train in Europe shouldn’t cost you a fortune. At Trainline, we want everyone to know that there are ways to save on your rail travel, so we’ll show you how to get your hands on cheap European train tickets and get more bang for your buck! Read on for our handy guide to getting cheap rail fares across the continent.

Cheap trains in Europe

If you want to travel in Europe by train without spending too much, it’s best to know how the rail network works in each country. In Belgium for example, ticket prices are calculated by distance and therefore, ticket fares stay the same no matter when you book them. In most other countries like Italy, Spain, France and Germany, you can still snag a bargain by buying your tickets as far in advance (typically about three months) as possible.

How to buy cheap train tickets in Europe

While booking in advance is a tried and trusted way of getting cheap train tickets in Europe, there are other ways to save on rail fares across the continent. Check below for our top tips.

  1. Book return journeys – you could save money by booking both your outward and return journey at the same time.
  2. Use a Railcard – in most countries in Europe you’ll find different versions of a national Railcard that can save you money on rail fares. Some Railcards require that you’re a resident of that country, but not always.
  3. Research kid’s and senior fares – if you’re travelling with little ones or are an older adult, many countries in Europe offer free or heavily discounted rates for train travel.
  4. Check for group deals – it depends on the number of people you’re travelling with, but there are often group discounts available in European countries.  
  5. Look up advanced booking periods – we know we’ve said it before but don’t assume that the 90-day booking window operates Europe-wide. In some countries, you can book as far as 120 and 180 days ahead.
  6. Travel at less busy times – it could be a win-win situation if you do. In the UK we have Off-Peak tickets, while other European countries sometimes have similar discounts for travelling at certain times.

Cheapest way to travel Europe by train

European rail passes

Investing in a rail pass can be a great way to travel for less in Europe – but make sure to check they’re worth it for the amount of time you’ll be visiting for. For example, it won’t make much financial sense to buy one if you’re travelling around Italy for just a few days. Rail passes are great if you’re going city or country hopping throughout several weeks or months at a time. There are two main types – Eurail for non-EU citizens and Interrail for passengers from within Europe.

Find out more about Eurail Passes.

Find out more about Interrail.

Europe’s most popular destinations

Now you’ve seen how affordable trains in Europe can be, why not delve deeper into the amazing places you can explore by train? Before booking your train tickets, discover how to get cheaper fares in each country you may want to visit.

France

In France, the main train company is SNCF, and you can usually get cheaper train tickets by booking in advance. Buying your ticket with Trainline is easy, simply search for your route using our journey planner, and we’ll show you the cheapest tickets.

For more information, head over to our cheap train tickets in France page.

Germany

If you’re travelling around Germany by train, it’s highly likely you’ll find yourself onboard a Deutsche Bahn service at some point – since they’re the main company for trains in Germany. Much like with trains in France, you can bag yourself a cheap ticket by booking in advance. Also, when booking your ticket, try to pick a Sparpreis ticket as opposed to a Flexpreis. The key difference here is that Sparpreis tickets are cheaper, but allow less flexibility, so you need to be sure about catching the train for the exact time you’ve booked.

For more information, check out our cheap train tickets in Germany page.

Spain

There are three types of train ticket available across the majority of Spain’s rail network – ‘Promo’, ‘Promo+’ and ‘Flexible’. When travelling on Renfe or AVE trains, you should try and book a ‘Promo’ ticket as far in advance as possible, as this will be your cheapest option!

Check out the details in depth on our cheap train tickets in Spain page.

Italy

You’re likely to travel on Trenitalia trains when visiting Italy, so make sure to grab one of their ‘Super Economy’ tickets when arranging your journeys. As you might be able to tell by the name, this is their best-value option – but, much like with other countries this type of ticket comes with the least flexibility, so be sure before you buy!

Head over to our cheap train tickets in Italy page to learn a little more.

UK

The UK rail network is home to more train companies than is common across the continent, and this means that ticket types and fares can sometimes be a little complicated. With so many options and tips available for saving money, it’s best to head over to our cheap train tickets page – where we’ve summarised everything you’ll need to know quite nicely!

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