The How To’s of Train Travel

The following is a selection of FAQs from our consumer website. We thought you might find some of the same information helpful.

How do I find my train?

If you have a ticket or pass with a reservation, simply match the train number and departure time on your reservation or ticket to the train number on the departure board located in the center of most stations. The platform number where you should go will be listed right next to it. Sometimes, the platform number is only shown 15 minutes or so prior to the train’s departure. Once on the platform you’ll notice that each car (also known as a coach) has a clear identification number on its side. Your reservation/ticket will list your car/coach number and your class of service. Once on board the proper car, you’ll find clearly labeled seat numbers. Simply match the seat number on your reservation/ticket. Of course, the station staff can always help point you in the right direction.

How do I travel with a ticket?

Printed on your ticket you’ll find the car/coach, seat number and class of service. Whenever possible, a seat reservation is confirmed and included with the cost of your ticket. Simply find the corresponding car/coach number on the platform and board the train.

Why doesn’t my train ticket show my date or time of travel?

This means your train ticket is an open ticket. It can be used on any regional train that doesn’t require a reservation, operating between the cities listed on your train ticket, and on any date within the validity period printed on the ticket.

Do I need to do anything to my train ticket before boarding the train?

If you purchased and received a paper train ticket in the mail, there is nothing further you need to do.

If you purchased a print-at-home e-ticket, be sure to print your ticket before you leave home and keep your train ticket safe and secure. If you have an Italo e-ticket, you only need your PNR number to give to the conductor with your passport.

If you purchased a print-at-the-station e-ticket, you’ll need to visit a self-service kiosk to print your train ticket: remember, you’ll need the e-ticket number (PNR) included on your invoice. When retrieving your e-ticket in France at a SNCF kiosk, you will need to “stamp your ticket” (composter votre ticket as French say) prior to boarding the train. If you have any problem doing so, just ask the conductor of the train to do it for you when you board.

How do I travel with a pass?

If you’ve purchased a pass, you’re entitled to travel on board the national trains of a specific geographic area (defined at time of purchase) for a specific number of days. These days can be consecutive (say, five days in a row) or you can travel random days within a longer period of time — up to two months depending on the pass.

High speed and night trains require you to reserve a seat or sleeper. You can purchase your reservation through Rail Europe or locally. Please note that the number of available seats can be limited, so the earlier you purchase an advance reservation the better, especially if traveling at peak times on popular routes.

For your first day of travel, just head to any railway station and have your pass validated/activated. To activate a rail pass is to officially start the clock on its travel period. This is done by having a railway official stamp and date the rail pass. To do so, you just go to the ticket window at the rail station before boarding your first train. A railroad official will enter the first and last day the rail pass is valid and stamp it. You will have to show your passport. Rail passes must be activated within 6 months of being purchased. If you board a train without activating your rail pass you risk being fined by the conductor.

In addition to activating the rail pass, don’t forget that with a flexi rail pass you’ll also need to write the date of travel in the travel calendar. Not doing so is the same as traveling without a ticket, which means you’ll have to pay for a full fare ticket and risk a fine.

Clearly write the current date (Day/Month/ Year) on the pass; this validates it for use the entire day until midnight. If the first train of the day leaves after 7pm for overnight travel, just enter the next day’s date on the pass. Once on board, all you have to do is show your pass to the conductor, along with your reservation when appropriate.

Are the train tickets you send me the actual tickets, or do I need to exchange them at the station?

If you selected the paper delivery option, then yes; the travel document you receive from us in the mail is your actual train ticket. Do not lose them, because we cannot replace them.

Only the original paper ticket will be accepted on board the train. No other document such as a print-out of the e-mail invoice can be used in lieu of the original paper train ticket.

Why does my train ticket say “coach” if I bought a ticket in the 1st class Comfort or Premier Category?

Don’t worry – the word “coach” on the ticket is another word for train car. It doesn’t mean you’ll be traveling in “coach” class.

Can I take any train that travels between the two cities for which I bought my train ticket, or do I have to take a specific train?

It depends on what kind of tickets was issued to you for your itinerary.

In most cases, Rail Europe issues tickets that include a reservation whenever required or possible. If your tickets include a reservation, then you can only board the train for which the reservation was issued.

If you were issued open tickets along with a stand-alone reservation you can board a different train and forfeit your reservation, using only the open ticket portion of your travel documents. If you do so, make sure the train you’re planning to take doesn’t require reservations.

If you were issued a plain open ticket, then yes – you are indeed allowed to board any train traveling on the route specified between the cities for which your open ticket was issued.

The only exception to this last point is certain trains that require reservations, but for which we are unable to issue reservations. This can happen in Portugal, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Romania and some other Balkan nations. In this case, we can only sell you an open ticket and your client will need to buy the reservation locally at the station. If this is the case, a warning message will appear when you book your fare on our website advising that reservations are required but not included.

What’s the difference between a seat reservation and a train ticket?

A train ticket and a reservation are two different things, although they are related.

A train ticket is a travel document that allows you to board a train for a journey, but does not necessarily guarantee an accommodation (seat/sleeper) assigned to you. A reservation guarantees you a specific accommodation on a specific train, departure date and departure time.

In many cases, train tickets are issued as a combined ticket and reservation: you receive one travel document that indicates the specific train and seat/sleeper assignment. This is the case for most high speed trains such as Eurostar, Thalys, and TGV, as well as for night trains.

In some other cases, you can receive a train ticket and a separate travel document for your reservation. The ticket is then called an “open ticket” because it is valid on any train running on the route for which the ticket was issued. The reservation portion is a stand-alone document that corresponds to a reserved seat/sleeper that’s been booked on a specific train, at a set date and time. The reservation cannot be used by itself; it’s only valid for travel in combination with a valid open ticket for the route that the reservation was issued. In general, when you book on the Rail Europe website, we’ll include a reservation whenever possible, either as an open train ticket and a reservation or as a combined ticket and reservation.

A reservation by itself can never be used to board a train. It must be used in conjunction with an open train ticket, as we’ve just described, or with a rail pass.

And not ticket related, but just as important…

When do I need to show my passport?

You will need to present your passport to the railway official at the ticket window in order to validate your pass before you board your first train. Please note that there will be no passport control (day or night) when traveling between countries that signed the Schengen Treaty. Not all countries belonging to the EU are part of the Schengen Treaty (e.g., Great Britain, Ireland). On the flip side, some countries that are not part of the EU are part of the Schengen Treaty (e.g., Switzerland, Norway).