Train ticket booking in Europe

– Trains have become more and more popular as a means of traveling in Europe. Trains were first with public transportation in history and the trains changed society forever once they were introduced. There are a number of reasons why trains have become so popular again. These reasons include an increasing concern for climate, congested roads, a better opportunity to relax and work on trains compared with both cars and airplanes. Trains also have that special advantage of delivering passengers to the very center of the destination cities instead of some remote airport half an hour away by car. 

What to consider when traveling by train in Europe

February 9th 2020

There are many reasons why a train is a very good idea when traveling in Europe. First and foremost especially Western Europe is very densely populated, in fact Western Europe is one of the most densely populated areas in the world. This means that there are many cities on short distance from each other and that in turn means that trains can be used more efficiently compared with areas where people are living less densely. 

Western Europe is also relatively flat which means that it is comparatively cheap to build railroad tracks, there are plenty of rivers though so bridges have had to be built. 

Avoiding congested highways is another obvious reason for traveling by train and finally we have the up and coming additional reason for why trains are growing in popularity, climate. Trains in Western Europe are run on electricity and if that electricity is produced with renewable energy that means that trains are very environmentally friendly also with regards to general energy consumption, not just the scale of using energy that has always been a part of mass transportation. Due to the reasons above it is with a sense of certainty we can say that trains will become even more popular as we move forward. 

Is it easy to book train tickets in Europe? 

When traveling by train in Western Europe there are certain challenges, even if they are easy to overcome it serves the passenger to be aware of them. The most apparent challenge when traveling by train in Europe is that even inside the European Union trains continue to operate under national rules and regulations, member state rules that is. As trains ever since they first came about have been regarded as strategic infrastructure the member states of the European Union have been slow letting go of the decision making monopoly regarding train operations and many of the trains that cross borders do so based on bilateral agreements – agreements between two states – rather then based on unilateral agreements – agreements between many states. That means that there are no union rules for how trains should and can cross borders, instead this is up to the two countries who control the common border.Needless to say these limitations make it hard for train companies to establish new routes across borders. 

These circumstances also make it hard for any traveller to book train tickets in Europe that includes stopovers in in between two borders. For example when traveling from Warsaw to Paris with a stop over in Berlin there is no way to book the entire trip in one system unless the same train company operate both the legs of the journey. The lack of international booking systems like the ones the airlines have are yet to be developed. 

Another nuisance when traveling by train in Europe is that there are no common demands on the staff serving the trains. This means that train passengers cannot be sure the staff speak more than the local language. The very same lack of union wide regulations also make for a variety of rules in different countries with regards to everything from pets on board to luggage to bringing food for consumption on the train etc. 

It is hardly a relief but to be the company trying to operate a train across many borders is a challenge on a totally different level though. 

For trips inside any country in Europe it is rather easy to book a ticket as long as the passenger and the tickets sales office can communicate with each other. Far from every train operator in Europe sell tickets via internet too. 

But there are plans to modernize the whole system of train travel in the European Union. We shall get back to those plans in coming articles.   

How is the service level on board trains in Europe? 

As with everything else in Europe there are vast difference both between countries, inside countries and even on one and the same train when it comes to the service level. Whereas some trains offer outstanding luxury in an old fashion and personal setting with beautiful restaurant cars some other trains serve breakfast in a similar way as airlines do. Yet again other train operators have kiosks, cafés and other more casual outlets for service. As on an airplane the service level is closely related to how much you pay for a ticket. 

One area where there is room for improvement across the board is internet access. The electric fields around the trains make it hard to access the internet with a data connection by cell phone too.   

Do I have to show passport when crossing borders on a train in Europe? 

Inside the European Union there are several regimes when it comes to passport control. While passport control inside the European Union is generally not the norm there are some exceptions where the border police will check passport in an effort to stem people smuggling and illegal entry. There are also other circumstances when police check passports, or other valid ID, and that can be when they are looking for criminals or are vary of well known troublemakers about to cross the border. The latter can be just ahead of an international football match for example, when there is a large possibility that unruly supporters might cause mayhem. 

When crossing the outer borders of the European Union passport controls are the norm.