Europe Rail Star : Help You Travel in Europe with Ease

Choosing The Train That’s Right for You

Choosing The Train That's Right for You

If your time in Europe is limited, then speed will be an issue when selecting a train. There are many high-speed options that will zip you around the Continent, but it’s admittedly hard to enjoy the scenery when you’re flying by at 186 mph (300 kmph), so consider a slower train now and then (Those who suffer from motion sickness may find high-speed trains less pleasant than the slower, local variety).

If your budget allows, you may enjoy the amenities and extra space in first class; those who prefer to spend their money on other things will find that second-class cards are a perfectly clean, comfortable option. And those who prefer to travel while the sleep will find a plethora of sleeping options on Europe’s vast array of night trains. In this section, we outline all of the major train and accommodations options you’ll encounter when travelling through Europe by rail. Read through the descriptions and then choose the train that best suits your needs.

High-Speed vs. Regular Trains
Route Fastest Regular Train High-Speed Train Time Saved
Paris-Avignon 9 hr 10 min 2 hr 38 min 6 hr 32 min
Rome-Florence 2 hr 27 min 1 hr 34 min 53 min
Munich-Berlin 7 hr 27 min 5 hr 38 min 1 hr 49 min
London-Paris 9 hr 20 min 2 hr 15 min 7 hr 5 min



HIGH-SPEED TRAINS

Europe’s high-speed trains are true marvels, travelling the countryside at speeds of 186 mph (300 kmph) and faster. Some of them, such as the Pendolino and Cisalpino trains, tilt so they can glide through curves without having to slow down (trust us; you’ll hardly feel a thing). In many cases, travelling on high-speed trains is faster than flying.

Italy, Germany, France and Spain offer the most developed high-speed networks, but most European countries have some form of high-speed service. These trains are worth seeking out: TGV and Eurostar trains, especially, can turn a full day’s journey into a 3-hour trip. In fact, in some cases it is difficult to travel between major European cities any other way but via high-speed train.

You’ll pay extra for the privilege of riding on one of these rail rockets, but shelling out the extra cash is worth it when you consider the time you’ll save. An express ticket from Munich to Berlin, for instance, is 105 € ($137) if bough in Germany, with the ride taking about 5 ½ hours. You can pay as little as 70.30 € ($91.40) for a regular ticket, but you’ll be forced to change trains at least twice en route and the trip could take as such as 10 hours!

High-speed trains are also generally more comfortable and posh than regional and local trains. First-class accommodations on these trains might include a newspaper, free drinks and meals, outlets for powering up cell phones and laptop computers, Internet access, or on board music channels. If you want to sit in a non smoking section on a train, you’re also more likely to find space in first class than you are in second. So if you’re purchasing a rail pass and you want legroom and luxury, go for first class.

For pass holders, most high-speed trains require reservations and therefore a reservation fee (and some include extra fees on top of that). You’ll still get a large discount over what non pass holders pay, but the ride won’t be free. (For more on reservation fee, see here). In the “High-speed Trains in Europe” chart above, we detail the high-speed trains in all of the Eurail-covered countries. We list second-class, one-way adult fares on the chart because those are what most leisured travels with point-to-point tickets buy; first class fares tend to be around 50% more. Most trains also have discounted children’s, youth and senior fares.

EXPRESS, REGIONAL & LOCAL TRAINS

Typically, there are four levels of trains below the posh, high-speed services, though some countries may have less or more (Germany has seven). As all of these trains typically cost the same, and all are included in a rail pass, you should just take whichever is the fastest train that stop at your destination.

EuroCity (EC) trains are express trains, typically crossing borders. EC trains some-times require reservations and additional supplements, so make sure to ask when booking your ticket.

InnerCity (IC) trains are express train, stopping at major cities. Some require reservations, so make sure to check

Regional or Local trains have different names in every country. In Belgium they’re “L” trains, in the Netherlands they’re “stoptreins” and in Germany they’re “Regional Bahn”. Whatever they’re called, these are the slow trains that stop at every tiny station, and you should avoid them whenever possible. (In Germany, there are two more class of middling express train called InterRegioExpress and Regional Express. These essentially split the difference between express and regional trains.)

Suburban trains connect major cities and nearby destinations, and may leave from a different train station than long-distance trains. Some of these may not be covered by a railpass, such as the Paris RER system (expect for Paris RER Lines B and C to the airports and Versailles), the S-bahn in Berlin (except between city center DB stations) and Stockholm’s S-togs. Also not covered are local city transport system such as buses, trams and subways.

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