Some European trains, like the Glacier Express in Switzerland, are...

Some European trains, like the Glacier Express in Switzerland, are designed with sightseers in mind. Credit: Getty Images/Oleh_Slobodeniuk

If you’ve been dreaming about visiting Europe this summer and eating gelato in Italy or visiting the Basílica de la Sagrada Familia in Spain, good news: Airfare is down 8% compared to this time last year, according to Hopper’s 2024 Summer Travel Outlook.

And once you’re in Europe, you may be able to save money if you travel by train. European train travel is convenient and sustainable. Plus, some trains, like the Glacier Express in Switzerland, travel through scenic destinations so you can sightsee as you go.

If you’re considering incorporating train travel into your European itinerary, here’s what you need to know about getting around and how to save money on tickets.

Train system in Europe

There are various  train companies in Europe. Some offer only regional train service, while others offer trains between countries. As you plan your trip, familiarize yourself with the train companies that serve your intended destination so you can determine whether traveling by train makes sense for you.

Train companies that serve different countries in Europe are:

• Eurostar trains travel between the U.K., France, Belgium, Netherlands and Germany. (Although the U.K. is not in Europe, it’s a popular destination on its own and is often coupled with a European itinerary.)

• NS is the leading train company in the Netherlands.

• Renfe is the national train company in Spain.

• Deutsche Bahn offers long-distance and regional trains in Germany.

• SNCF Connect offers high-speed train travel in France.

• Trenitalia is the state-run train company in Italy.

Some of these train companies have partnerships with each other to offer convenient connection options. For example, DB-SNCF is a joint venture between Deutsche Bahn and SNCF Connect that links travel between Germany and France.

Booking train travel

Buying train tickets in Europe is fairly straightforward. You can purchase your tickets through:

•  An online travel agency: Several agencies that sell train tickets in Europe include Trainline, Rail Europe, Eurail and Omio.

•  The train company: If you know which train company serves your destinations, consider booking directly; it can make changes in itinerary easier.

•  At the train station: Keep in mind you might pay more at the last minute.

Don’t forget to comparison shop when booking.

If the train company and an online travel agency both offer tickets, compare prices to see where those seats are cheaper.

If you pay in euros, tickets on Eurostar and Trainline are the same price (60 euros). But if you pay in U.S. dollars, the fare is slightly cheaper on Trainline ($68.30 versus $70). If you don’t have a credit card that waives foreign transaction fees, you’d want to book the ticket from Trainline in U.S. dollars.

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