Planning Your Trip by Rail in Europe

Family traveling by train together. They are waiting for the train on train station.
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Below you'll find information on planning your European vacation by rail, from the transportation decision making process to buying tickets and rail passes.

Europe's rail system is extensive, and the trains are getting faster all the time in order to compete with budget airlines. The seats are more comfortable than on airplanes, all luggage can be carried on, and you get taken city center to city center.

  • 01 of 09
    First Ryanair Flight Departs From Castellon Airport
    ••• Manuel Queimadelos Alonso/Getty Images

    If you can't decide on getting around Europe by train or plane, here's a concise article on the considerations you'll need to take heed of for either mode of transportation.

    But the major point is: don't get hung up on short flight times. Remember that you'll need to add time and expense to get into your destination city. Trains usually get you right into the heart of things.

  • 02 of 09
    Woman looking through a window in a train with reflection.
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    The answer to the question "Is taking the train better than taking a car?" is, of course, "it depends on what you want to see."

    Each form of travel has its benefits. In general, the more you want to get out into the countryside and see the small hamlets or nature preserves, you'll need a car. You'll also likely need a car if you're renting a country house. But if you're alone or a couple, and are going to hit the cities, the train is probably more economical and far less hassle than driving.

  • 03 of 09
    Tourist waiting to board train at Lalinde station
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    It's true you can save a bundle with a Eurail pass. But are you guaranteed to save money? The answer may surprise you!

  • 04 of 09
    A young couple board a train in Montpellier with their backpacks and tickets in France
    ••• R&D FOTO/Getty images

    Back in the "good old days," there was one rail pass, the Eurail pass, and it covered first class rail travel just about anywhere in western Europe. Today, there is a bewildering array of rail passes on the market.

    Continue to 5 of 9 below.
  • 05 of 09
    A mature female backpacker is reading about potential travel routes while listening to music on a train journey.
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    If you're not the type who plans every last journey, bellying up to the ticket window and buying a ticket is the carefree way to travel. You can go exactly where you want to go at a moments notice.

  • 06 of 09
    A member of staff walks alongside an old Eurostar train during a press preview of Eurostar's new e320 train at St Pancras Station on November 13, 2014 in London, England. Launched today, the trains can reach speeds of up to 200mph and will get to Paris 15 minutes quicker than current trains
    ••• Carl Court/Getty Images

    The Eurostar is one of Europe's best-known fast trains, running between London and Paris or Belgium. In 2008, it started at its new home in St. Pancreas. Read more about Eurostar and what it can do for you.

  • 07 of 09
    A Thalys fast-train, which links Paris to Brussels in one and-a-half-hours, at Brussels South Station.
    ••• Thierry Tronnel/Corbis/Getty Images

    The Thalys trains are part of a high-speed rail network that connects Paris with Belgium and Holland. Read more about the Thalys trains and where they go.

  • 08 of 09
    Map of high speed rail lines in Europe
    ••• RailTeam

    A new consortium of rail operators called RailTeam has published a handy map of high-speed rail lines throughout Europe, which you can see on the left. Click it to make it readable. Be aware that this map does not include the high-speed Eurostar Italia lines in Italy.

    Continue to 9 of 9 below.
  • 09 of 09
    Milano Italy, young Japanese backpackers consulting a time table in the central station
    ••• Marco Vacca/Contributor/Getty Images

    If you've never taken the train in Europe before, here are some things you might need to know about getting the most out of the system, including finding bargain fares when buying point to point tickets in Europe.