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How to buy train tickets and rail passes in Europe

Save money and time with InterRail passes

Trying to work out whether an InterRail pass is the correct choice for a pan-European rail trip? We'll help your decision.

If you're considering making a first InterRail trip whether you're a student, looking for a unique family holiday, or making the most of your retirement, you're more than likely to have a nunber of questions about InterRailing.

So we're here to help, we're big fans of InterRailing, but a pass isn't the right option for everyone.
But if you want to take the plunge our advice below should help you to save money, time and stress!

Once you've answered your questions head to our full InterRail guide where you can also BUY YOUR PASS!

Will a rail pass save you money? - UPDATED

Trying to work out whether a InterRail pass will save you money on a European rail trip can seem more complicated than advance algebra, there can be multiple factors to take into account - hence the weight of information below!

We've attempted to provided a GUIDE as to whether your are/aren't LIKELY to make savings on your travel costs by using a InterRail pass.
ThereByTrain.com isn't a travel agent and we're not accountants, so the information we've provided is necessarily broad.

Stating the obvious, but we don't know the details of your trip (one day we hope to be able to offer specific advice), but what we have tried to do is indicate:
(1) whether spending time (hours) online looking up ticket prices will be worth your while, or
(2) whether the convenience and costs of a rail pass is likely to tip the balance in favour of using one for your trip.

If you want to save yourself huge amounts of time in planning a PAN-EUROPEAN rail trip and travel in the knowledge that a rail pass has SAVED you money, in comparison to purchasing separate standard priced (non-discounted) tickets, we recommend taking a look the ThereByTrain rail pass ITINERARIES.
Even if you don't want to travel by every train we've suggested, you'll soon have an idea of the sort of distances you can travel with a pass (need to travel) in order make a InterRail 'Global' pass worthwhile.

However, if you're considering using a pass to break a long journey such as Amsterdam - Athens, or Stockholm - Madrid into multiple daily segments, then a rail pass is less likely to save you money.
You simply won't be travelling far enough for a pass to be cheaper than buying separate tickets for each journey.

If the overall cost of your trip is THE key factor in determining whether you buy a pass AND you have the opportunity to plan ahead and attempt to book discounted tickets, read on! We've summarised how to weigh up whether a pass or separate tickets is likely to be your best option

Rail pass day rate v tickets per journey.

If you have an itinerary in mind and want to compare the true costs of a rail pass against the price of individual tickets per journey you either have to;
(1) look up the prices for each journey online - using the ticket links to the left, OR take a look at our ticket price guide for the most popular routes; OR
(2) ask a specialist rail travel service, such as Internationalrail.com to price your itinerary for you - though you MAY be charged a commission fee for this.

Before going to this trouble, we suggest taking a look at the information below, you should then have an idea of whether working out the true costs of separate tickets v. cost of an Inter Rail pass is worth your while.

Costs Per Day* Youth
(12-25)
2nd class
Adult
(26 and over)
1st class
Adult
(26 and over)
2nd class
Senior
(60 and older)
1st class
Senior
(60 and older)
2nd class
Child
(4-11)
1st class
Child
(4-11)
) 2nd class
Five days travel
within 10 days
€36.2 €86.8 €55.2 €78.2 €49.8 €43.4 €27.6
Ten days travel
within 22 days
€26.5 €61.8 €39.3 €55.6 €35.4 €30.9 €19.7
15 consecutive days (12 travel days €25.5 €56.9 €36.2 €46.7 €32.6 €28.5 €18.1
22 day pass (17 travel days) €19.9 €47 €29.9 €42.4 €27 €23.5 €15
1 month (21 travel days) €20.7 €49.2 €37.5 €44.3 €28.2 €24.6 €15.6

As a very general guide the average prices of non-discounted 2nd class train tickets per journey in WESTERN Europe are approximately:

  • A 4 or 5 hour journey on a high speed train = €85
  • A 4 or 5 hour journey on an EC/IC express train = €50
  • An overnight train journey in a berth in a sleeping cabin = €140
  • An overnight train journey in a berth in a couchette = €80.

The the average prices of non-discounted 1st class train tickets per journey in WESTERN Europe are approximately:

  • A 4 or 5 hour journey on a high speed train = €140
  • A 4 or 5 hour journey on an EC/IC express train = €85
  • An overnight train journey in a berth in a sleeping cabin = €200
  • couchettes are virtually always 2nd class only

Costs per kilometer per journey in EASTERN Europe are APPROXIMATELY on average 30% cheaper than in western Europe - though rates vary widely from one country to another.
If you're planning a pan-European InterRail pass itinerary that involves travelling through eastern Europe for much of your trip then an InterRail Global Passs is less likely to save you money in comparison to purchasing separate tickets.

Rail passes are primarily intended for travellers planning on taking multiple long distance (approx 4 hours or MORE) journeys by train on a single trip/holiday. The prices have been calculated so that you make greater savings the further you travel (and the greater number of days that you travel when using passes valid for consecutive days).

What we've tried to make clear is that for many types of InterRail pass you need to travel these sorts of distances on AVERAGE on each day that you travel by train, in order to tip the balance in favour of purchasing a pass.
Used correctly in this way all InterRail pass are good value (and remember that the price is constant all year round - you don't pay extra for using InterRail in the summer or at popular travel times when discounted tickets are less likely to be available).

However, there are other factors to consider when comparing prices between InterRail costs and separate tickets than the figures we've given above, such as:

  • whether advance discounted tickets (that are often 50% cheaper than the suggested price per journey above) are available at the time of purchasing your pass
  • the supplements (additional charges) that InterRail pass holders have to pay to travel on the majority of trains that travel on high speed lines in Europe.
  • the supplements (additional charges) that InterRail pass holders have to pay to travel on certain other international day trains.
  • the optional reservation fees that guarantee a seat on express trains on which supplements are not charged.
  • the reservation fees that have to be paid to travel in a bed in a sleeping cabin, berth in a couchette, or reclining seat on overnight trains.

High Speed Trains - Passes OR Tickets

For many high speed train journeys a rail pass user has to pay a supplement; usually approx €10 in 2nd class (though certain supplements are more expensive) and €25 in 1st class - though many 1st class supplements have the same €10 rate (its worth clicking that link to see the exact costs). These supplements (essentially the seat reservation fee) are included in the suggested separate ticket costs per journey for high speed trains above.

Therefore, FOR EXAMPLE a InterRail rail pass user with a 10 days travel in travel in 22 days 'GLOBAL ADULT PASS', will in effect typically 'pay' €48 for a 4-5 hour journey on a high speed train - the €38 daily cost (approx) of a pass plus the €10 supplement* = a saving of approximately €40 in comparison to the price of a standard, non-discounted ticket.

*= don't always assume that you can pay these supplements prior to boarding - see how 'How do I pay for supplements' below for further information on how to obtain these supplements in advance of the travel date.

The point of all these calculations is to demonstrate that DAY trains on which supplements are applied WILL allow for significant savings - as long as;

  • you're making a LONG JOURNEY - the supplements have to be paid for any journey on a type of train on which they are charged
  • and that the most heavily discounted advance tickets have sold out - prior to purchasing a pass/or before your travel date.

For example take an Italian FR train for the 40 min journey between Bologna and Florence/Firenze you'll have to pay the €10 supplement, make a 4hr 45min journey on the same FR train between Turin and Rome, you'll still only pay €10 for the supplement.

However, or certain journeys by high speed train discounted tickets MAY be available that can often be 50% or less than the standard price.
For popular routes these heavily discounted tickets can be very limited in number, so can sell out months/weeks in advance.
IF you can obtain these discounted tickets (our ticket guides to the left have additional information on how you can check availability and book such tickets) the balance tips in favour of booking tickets per journey rather than using a pass.
Particularly when you factor in the cost of any supplement that has to be paid by the rail pass user - these discounted tickets include the supplement charges within the ticket price.

Types of high speed train on which discounted advance tickets are usually offered for sale include:

  • AV high speed trains in Italy (look for Super Economy/Economy tickets)
  • ICE trains to/from Germany (look for 'Europa Spezial' tickets)
  • ICE trains within Germany
  • Lyria trains between France and Switzerland
  • TGV trains both within and to/from France
  • Thalys trains
  • high speed trains in Spain

NON high Speed Trains - Passes OR Tickets.

If you don't use any high speed trains on your trip and travel by express (IC/EC) trains, on average you won't make such dramatic savings per day/journey - though EC trains between Switzerland and both Belgium and Italy are some of Europe's most comparatively expensive tickets

This is because ordinary non-high speed trains USUALLY have a lower standard price per kilometer/mile in comparison to high speed trains.
However, these total savings will inevitably mount up the more long distance trips you take.

ThereByTrain.com often recommends that holders of 2nd class passes pay additional non-compulsory reservation fees for such trains, but these aren't included in the example ticket prices suggested above, other travellers will also be paying these additional reservation fees.

Advance ticket prices for EC/IC journeys can also often be substantially discounted to approximately €30, so if these tickets ARE still available when planning your trip/buying a pass, you're much less likely to make savings per journey.

These discounted tickets are often available for the following IC/EC trains:

  • within Germany
  • within Italy ('Super Economy IC tickets are only €9!)
  • to/from Germany (Europa Spezial tickets)
  • to/from Austria
  • to/from Hungary
  • to/from the Czech Republic

Overnight Trains - Passes OR Tickets.

Rail pass users can make significant savings on overnight trains despite the need to pay reservation fees for sleeping cabins, couchettes or reclining seats.
Ticket prices for travel for overnight trains in Europe are more or less calculated on the standard rate of a daytime journey between two destinations PLUS the reservation fees for the sleeping accommodation on the train.

The 'journey' costs for overnight European train travel can be more than €100, particularly if you're travelling between northern and southern Europe.
Youth pass holders will typically be saving €40 when travelling in a bed in a sleeping cabin on overnight trains by only paying the reservation fees and NOT the journey fee - the journey is covered by the pass.
Adult pass holders will typically be saving €70 per journey when travelling in a bed in a sleeping cabin on overnight trains.
Also factor in that if depart on your train after 7pm and you'll only pay for one days travel on the pass).

However, as for day time trains, discounted tickets can be available for certain types of overnight trains including Allegro (ALG) and City Night Line Trains (CNL) trains.

SUMMARY

Therefore in summary you're more likely to save money with a rail pass if:

  • you travel long distances (try not to be fixated on saving money on EVERY journey, too many consecutive long journeys can be exhausting and subtract from the enjoyment of your rail adventure - base the saving on the total cost of a trip).
  • you use high speed/expensive trains - despite paying any supplement (supplements do not apply to standard ICE trains).
  • you book your rail pass at the last minute when discounted tickets have sold out.
  • you'll be travelling in or through western Europe for the majority or all of your trip.
  • you use a number of overnight trains on your journey.

But we think ticket prices, savings, costs etc don't have to be the sole consideration when deciding whether a InterRail pass is right for you, and we've outlined these on the section below!

Travel between London and Germany

Deutsche-Bahn (German National Railways) offers a a particularly great deal for travelling between London and Germany by train with its Europa Spezial; London to Germany tickets

You pay only €49 each way for a one way journey between London and any destination in Germany (subject to availability).
You also have 48hrs to complete the journey so can stop over in the likes of Cologne or Brussels without adding to your travel costs.
If you're planning on starting and/or finishing a rail pass adventure in the UK AND are also wanting to include Germany in your schedule these tickets could save you money or allow you to use a rail pass for other days of travel.

We've included more information on these 'Europa Spezial tickets on ThereByTrain'com's guide to German Rail Tickets

Other reasons for considering a rail pass

Price NEED NOT BE the sole consideration when using a InterRail pass, some would argue that the greater benefit is freedom.
For the majority of European trains you don't have to reserve in advance so you can be comparatively spontaneous.
In comparison, IF you're able to obtain them, virtually any discounted rail ticket in Europe is train specific, so you'll be committed to those trains that you're booked throughout the duration of your trip.

There is also of course the convenience of booking one ticket in moments on a simple to use website, in comparison to booking multiple tickets that you'll have to book separately - on sites that will frequently be confusing to an inexperienced rail traveller!

A major factor in tipping the balance in favor of the convenience of using 'Global' passes is that it's usually only possible to book direct trains between countries online.
For a multi-train international journey such as Amsterdam - Copenhagen by day day, separate tickets are required for each journey.
Rail pass users can of course take all of these trains on the one ticket.

This can be particularly convenient when trying to cross birders by local trains.
For example, non rail pass users making the journey between Milan and Lucerne/Luzern using the 'cheaper' cross border local have to purchase tickets at the station before boarding ach of the three trains = a lot of hassle!
With a rail pass you can hop on each of the three trains - which makes it much easier to avoid the supplements charged on the direct EC trains.

You don't have to look too hard in travel forums for InterRail pass purchasers complaining that their pass didn't turn out to be value for money.
The posters of many of these comments will have typically saved €50, if they'd bought discounted tickets online for some of the journeys that they'd taken, and paid for other non-discounted tickets while on their itinerary.
There seems to be two ways of looking at this; (1)€50 is a big saving, or (2) saving €50 wasn't worth the additional stress/aggravation - it's up to the individual.

Some of these comments are focusing solely on the price of the most heavily discounted tickets.
These prices are advertised more widely, than the full price tickets that would have been the only option available on the day that the journeys were made.

There's also the factor that, if you're not saving money, you're saving time spent researching and making online bookings.
(though if you need to book overnight trains, supplements and/or reservations etc while on your trip, you will be in line at ticket offices, while others that have booked their point-to-point ticket online will be boarding the train, but that may set off another debate....)

Rail passes can often provide for an amazing trip of a lifetime!

Other factors that tip the balance in favour of opting for a InterRail pass, over purchasing point-to-point tickets are:

  • They can be used for a combination of touring and day trips.
  • In instances when you'll be making a long day trip by multiple local trains, that would otherwise require separate tickets for each journey.
  • They are also more likely to save you money on a last minute trip as cheaper advance tickets are likely to have sold out.
  • You take advantage of the discounts and savings that apply to tourist trains, boat trips and ferries (more info below)

InterRail passes are less likely to be a good option if:

  • If you only want to make day trips by train from one or two locations
  • You're planning on using a 'Global' pan-European pass to travel extensively in eastern Europe - ticket prices can often be approximately 50% of what you'd pay in western Europe to travel a comparable distance!
  • You're considering breaking up a long A to B journey such as Amsterdam - Athens into separate trips.
  • You're willing to travel long distances on slower, less comfortable trains

InterRail offers include free/discounted travel on Swiss Tourist Railways

If you're planning to travel to/through or Switzerland and hold a rail pass, don't think 'I'm not going to waste a day on my pass by taking a two hour journey on a scenic train'.

Swiss Tourist Trains are comparatively expensive (the stunning scenery justifies the costs), but if you spend a day travelling across Switzerland on lines on which a rail pass is vaild (check compare rail pass discounts) its possible to save more than €100 per day on Swiss Tourist trains, in comparison to buying separate tickets per journey.

Additional Charges

InterRail pass holders have to pay supplements to travel on many long distance daytime express trains. On these trains seat reservation is compulsory and the supplement includes the seat reservation fee.

On ALL overnight trains in Europe InterRail pass holders need to pay the reservation fees for sleeping cabins, couchettes, reclining seats (when available) and certain ordinary daytime seats ( when available).

On many routes/trains on which pass holders don't have to reserve seats, making reservations is highly recommended for 2nd class (Youth) InterRail pass holders particularly in summer months - 1st class pass holders can virtually guarantee that seats will be available on any train.
On trains on which reservations are not compulsory, 2nd class InterRail pass holders may discover that no seats are available when boarding the train and in such instances will have to stand for all/part of the journey.
Examples of non-compulsory reservation charges are as follows.

  • EC trains within Hungary - €1.50
  • EC trains on the between Germany and Italy via Austria - from €7
  • Intercité (IC) trains in France - €1.50
  • IC trains in Sweden - €3
  • ICE and IC trains in Germany - 1st class=€6; 2nd class=€5
  • ICE trains to/from Germany and Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Netherlands and Switzerland - 1st class=€5.50; 2nd class=€4.50
  • Lyn Trains in Denmark - €4
  • Railjet - €3.50 (pass holders can upgrade to premium class on payment of a €25 supplement)
  • TLK trains in Poland (only available in 1st class) - €2.50

Reservations can be made at stations prior to boarding the train.

Can I get on any train in Europe if I have a rail pass? UPDATED

DAY TRAINS

For InterRail pass users, the answer is yes for virtually all DAY trains, but there are notable exceptions namely:

  • trains operated by certain private operators (particularly common for local and regional trains in Czech Republic, Germany and Sweden), but rail pass users will usually be able to take alternative trains between destinations.
  • Certain (but not ALL) Swiss Mountain Railways, the majority of these spectacular routes allow rail pass users to travel at either no additional charge, or at a substantial discount.
  • Eurostar trains, though rail pass users can access specific discounted Eurostar tickets
  • Certain types of train on which reservations are COMPULSORY including Alleo and TGVFI trains have limited numbers* of reservations available to rail pass users.

Before boarding the majority of high speed trains and certain international trains, Inter Rail users need to pay a supplement - details of which types of train that applies to are available HERE.

You will need to pay for these supplements prior to boarding the train.
Pleading ignorance and attempting to pay any additional charges if you’re challenged by the train conductor/guard once on the train is very rarely an option.
Rail pass users who haven’t paid the required supplements or reservation fees prior to boarding are often treated in a similar manner to travellers who have tried to avoid paying for tickets at all. This can seem harsh and it fuels many of the negative comments about using rail passes that can be found online, but many train conductors and guards understandably enforce the terms and conditions of using InterRail passes.

Trains That Have Limited Numbers Of Seats Available for InterRail Users

When trying to make reservations/pay supplements for a train with a compulsory reservation, you MAY be informed at the time of booking the supplement that no more reservations are available to rail pass holders.

This is due to the fact that quotas of reservations are restricted on some, BUT NOT all trains that require compulsory reservations by rail pass users.
When that quota has been booked by other pass users, you may be informed that you will not be able to travel by that train on payment of the supplement only.

Information regarding these quotas appears to be (deliberately) vague, the terms and conditions are not imposed by InterRail, but therebytrain.com's understanding is that the quotas do not apply to specific departures but are applied to periods of time, meaning that you may not be able to take an alternative departure later that day by the same train type/service on which compulsory reservations apply.

If no reservations are available to pass users when you attempt to pay for a supplement and you want/need to travel by a specific/departure or type of train, you will have two options:
(1) Buy a completely separate ticket for that type of train, or
(2) Follow an inevitably slower, more awkward schedule to reach your destination on trains that don't have compulsory reservations (feasible alternative routes may not always be an option).

Types of Train on which these 'quotas' apply include:

  • the Alleo (AEO) trains between France and Germany - see alternative options below
  • Lyria (TGVL) trains between France and Switzerland
  • Thalys (THA) trains
  • the TGVFI* trains between France and Italy - see alternative routes below

*= The 'supplements' currently charged on the TGVFI trains between France and Italy are the equivalent of the cheapest advance fares.
You're therefore unlikely to save any money by using a rail pass for these trains - if you leave it until the last minute when discounted fares have sold out, you may be denied the opportunity to pay for the supplement.
Our advice is to either avoid these trains completely - we show you how below, or add the train between Paris-Italy to the start/finish of your InterRail adventure and purchase a completely separate tickets for these trains.

As this something of a 'grey area' in which InterRail pass holders can find themselves 'unexpectedly' having to pay extra fees, ThereByTrain.com's advice is:

  • Don't let a compulsory reservation stop you from visiting a destination, or taking a particular route - we've outlined the alternatives below on the header below

  • IF a compulsory reservation/supplement IS required and you want to pay it, do so at the earliest opportunity - using the advice on the question below

  • If you want to book all hotels/accommodation in advance of setting off on your rail pass journey, pay the supplement and be 100% sure that you can arrive in your destination on that date, BEFORE you book a hotel etc.

  • If you don't want to pay supplements/make reservations in advance of commencing your rail pass trip, try not to leave it to the last minute/day of departure on trains that have compulsory reservations - book onward travel on arrival at a destination, or when passing through a station that has an international reservation desk.

NIGHT TRAINS

Rail pass holders cannot board overnight trains in Europe and travel in sleeping cabins, couchettes and (when available - reclining seats) without paying reservation fees.
When ordinary/daytime seats are available, reservation fees MAY also be charged, but are less likely to be payable in Eastern Europe.
see the therebytrain.com overnight trains guide for more information.

AIRPORT TRAINS

Rail passes are also not valid on these special airport express trains - Arlanda Express (Stockholm), CAT (Vienna/Wien), Flytoget (Oslo) and Malpensa Express (Milan/Milano), only 1st class passes are valid on The Leonardo Airport Express in Rome/Roma

Alternative Trains/Routes to avoid the most awkward supplements - NEW

Basel/Zurich - Paris by TGV

If you discover that no supplements are available for a Lyria train between Paris and Basel/Zurich its quite likely that you will be able to travel on a TGV train between Paris and Strasbourg.
Local/regional trains operate between Strasbourg and Basel (and there are frequent trains between Basel and Zurich).
You will need to pay a supplement on the TGV trains on the route between Paris and Strasbourg.

Geneva - Paris by TGV

If you discover that no supplements are available for a Lyria train between Paris and Geneva/Lausanne its quite likely that you will be able to travel on a TGV train between Paris and Lyon.
Local/regional trains operate between Lyon and Geneva (and there are frequent trains between Geneva and Lausanne).
You will need to pay a supplement on the TGV trains on the route between Paris and Lyon.

Basel/Zurich - Paris without any supplements

If you discover that

If you're having problems obtaining supplements for the TGV trains, or want to skip the bother, it is possible to travel from Paris to Basel/Zurich on trains that don't require any supplements/reservations.
However, the most convenient schedule (by far) is only possible on Mon-Fri by taking the:
(1) 13:12 train from Paris (Est) to Belfort
(2) 17:33 train from Belfort to Mulhouse (Ville)
(3) 18:16 train from Mulhouse Ville (SNCF) - walk through Basel station to the Basel (SBB) station
(4) 18:47 train fron Basel (SNCF) to Zurich (hb) arrive at 21:43

In the opposite direction the most convenient schedule (by far) is also only possible on Mon-Fri by taking the:
(1) 10:00 (I.C.E) train from Zurich (hb) to Basel (SBB) - walk through the station to the Basel SNCF terminal
(2) 11:21 from Basel (SNCF) to Mulhouse (Ville) - train destination is Strasbourg
(3) 12:23 from Mulhouse (Ville) to Belfort (Ville)
(4) 13:07 Belfort (Ville) to Paris (Gare De L'Est) - arrive 17:16

More information is available for rail travel between France and Switzerland here

Alternatives for ALLEO Trains

If supplements are sold out for the Alleo trains between Paris and Germany, you can probably take a TGV train in either direction between Paris and Strasbourg.
There are frequent local trains across the border between Strasbourg and Offenburg in Germany.
However, there are infrequent direct trains between Offenburg and Frankfurt, its likely that will have to make yet another connection at Mannheim.

There are (virtually) no direct trains between Offenburg and Stuttgart, you will have to make another connection in Karlsruhe.

If you're travelling between Paris and Frankfurt another option is to take a train between Paris and Brussels (the TGVR trains to/from Aeroport CDG are cheaper than the Thalys trains to/from Gare Du Nord) AND the ICE train (on which no supplements have to be arranged in advance) between Brussels and Frankfurt.

More information is available for rail travel between France and Germany here

Alternatives for the TGV France-Italy TGVFI Trains

ThereByTrain recommends that InterRail pass users should avoid using the TGVFI trains if possible, the supplements are now the equivalent of the cheapest discounted rates tickets per journey.
The 2nd class 'supplement' for a journey between Paris and Milan in either direction is now €55, while for 1st class pass holders it is now €75!
These are the most expensive rail pass supplements for any day train in Europe and once you have factored in the daily rate for using your pass, you're highly unlikely to be making any savings by taking the TGVFI trains.
These charges haven't been imposed by InterRail, they've been set by the new operator of this rail service.

If the supplement only tickets are no longer available or you don't want to pay these high supplement costs for the TGVFI train between Paris and Turin/Milan (in either direction) you will have no alternative to travelling a completely different route than that taken by the TGVFI trains.

The good news is that the alternative routes happen to be some of the most spectacular in Europe. So there's no need to cancel your rail travel plans between France and Italy because you (rightfully) resent paying these additional charges to travel by the TGVFI (or Thello) trains.
We tell you all you need to know about the alternative routes HERE
Follow our suggestions for using your InterRail pass on the Swiss Tourist Railways and you definitely won't have any regrets about avoiding the TGVFI trains!

If you intended to travel between Turin and Paris the alternative connections are so awkward we'd honestly consider an alternative destination - this is one trip we'd definitely arrange/reserve before arrival in either Turin or Paris!

How to to avoid THALYS (THA) trains

There are three options for avoiding Thalys when travelling in either direction between Paris and Amsterdam by train.

Paris TO Amsterdam

Option 1:

  • Take one of the hourly TGV trains from the Gare Du Nord in Paris to Lille.
    The TGV supplement is approximately 10x cheaper than that charged on the Thalys trains!
    (Unlike the more popular TGV trains, the supplement for the TGV train to Lille will nearly always be available.)

  • From Lille at most hours during the day , express Belgain (IC) trains depart for Antwerp/Antwerpen

  • From Antwerp/Antwerpen connections are available to Amsterdam (Centraal), by hourly FYRA trains.
    Supplements are payable on the FYRA trains, but the flat rate in 1st class is €6 and in 2nd class it is €4.
    Factoring in both the supplements on the TGV and FYRA the total supplement costs for the TGV and FYRA trains will be €10-20.

  • If you take this option the total travel time will usually be an average of 5hrs and 30mins.
    The timings of a particularly convenient schedule are available on this page (look for ‘Paris to Amsterdam avoiding Thalys’).

Option 2:

This option has advantages for holders of Eurail passes, for holders of Eurail passes may not be able to obtain supplements on the TGV from Paris to Lille.
For InterRail pass users, the TGV-R trains on this routing have a flat rate of €5, so this can also be a cheaper option than taking the option 1 routing.
If you use this option the average travel time is 6 hours.

  • Take an RER train on line B from central Paris or Gare Du Nord to Aeroport Ch. de Gaulle - TGV station (the terminus on line B3).

  • Connect into one of the 8x TGV-R trains per day from Aeroport CDG to Brussels/Bruxelles Midi station.
    Look up times before you head out to the Aeroport CDG station. as there can be gaps of more than two hours between trains.

  • From Brussels/Bruxelles (Midi) connect into one of the hourly FYRA trains to Amsterdam (Centraal) that have a flat rate supplement of €6 in 1st class and €4 in 2nd class.
    Therefore rail pass users have to pay a total supplement price of €11/€9 to travel this route, approximately 25% of the cost of taking the Thalys

Option 3:

How to travel from Paris by Amsterdam by train without paying any 'supplements' at all!

Trust us we've selected the schedules below because they are by far the fastest and most convenient.
Making this journey at weekends is possible, but you'll need to be very determined to avoid paying the supplements on the above options!

valid AFTER APRIL 2nd (on Mon-Fri only)

  • Train 1 - Take the 07:01 train from Paris (Gare Du Nord) to Amiens, it arrives in Amiens at 08:10
  • Train 2 - Take the 08:38 train from Amiens to Lille (Flandres), it arrives in Lille (Flandres) station at 09:58
  • Train 3 - Take the 10:08 train from Lille (Flandres) to Antwerpen Centraal, it arrives in Antwerp at 12:08
  • Train 4 - Take the 12:50 train from Antwerpen (Cenntraal) to Roosendaal, it arrives in Roosendaal at 13:38
  • Train 5 - Take the 13:43 IC train from Roosendaal to Amsterdam (Centraal), it arrives in Amsterdam at 15:32

valid UNTILAPRIL 2nd (on Mon-Fri only)

  • Train 1 - Take the 07:01 train from Paris (Gare Du Nord) to Amiens, it arrives in Amiens at 08:10
  • Train 2 - Take the 08:38 train from Amiens to Lille (Flandres), it arrives in Lille (Flandres) station at 10:08
  • Train 3 - Take the 11:08 train from Lille (Flandres) to Antwerpen Centraal, it arrives in Antwerp at 13:08
  • Train 4 - Take the 13:50 train from Antwerpen (Cenntraal) to Roosendaal, it arrives in Roosendaal at 14:38
  • Train 5 - Take the 14:43 IC train from Roosendaal to Amsterdam (Centraal), it arrives in Amsterdam at 16:32

Amsterdam TO Paris

Option 1:

  • Take one of the hourly FYRA trains from Amsterdam (Centraal) to Antwerp/Anterwepen (Centraal). Rail pass users have to pay a flat rate supplement of €4 in 2nd class and €6 in 1st class to travel on FYRA trains.
    Trains to Antwerp have Brussels/Bruxelles (Midi/Zuid) as a final destination.

  • Take a Belgian IC express train from Antwerp to Lille (Flandres), these trains operate at most hours during the day (on hours when there is no direct train connect at Kortrijk for Lille).

  • Take one of the hourly TGV trains from Lille to Paris (Gare Du Nord). For rail pass users the supplement on the TGV is approximately 10x cheaper than that charged on the Thalys trains!
    For Eurail pass users this TGV will nearly always be available, but it cannot be guranteed.
    However, you cannot purchase the supplement for the TGV train from Lille in Amsterdam or Antwerp.
    In Lille the connections between the arrival of the train from Antwerp and the next TGV to Paris can be tightly timed. You may have to take the subsequent TGV departure if you need to pay the supplement at Lille.

  • A sample schedule for this routing is available HERE (click on Amsterdam to Paris non Thalys daily by train). A typical journey time for this routing is approximately 5hrs and 30mins.

Option 2: This option is a useful alternative for Eurail pass users. The supplement on the TGV-R from Brussels/Bruxelles will be available, and for InterRail pass users it can be a cheaper option than the TGV from Lille (above) when the cheaper rate supplements have sold out.
If you use this option the average travel time is 6 hours

  • Take one of the hourly FYRA trains from Amsterdam (Centraal) to Brussels/Bruxelles (Midi/Zuid).

  • From Brussels/Bruxelles (Midi) take a TGV-R train to CDG Aeroport (Paris), look up departure times here HERE
    Rail pass users have to pay a fixed rate supplement of €5 to travel on these trains, you cannot pay for this supplement in Amsterdam, but you can do so at Midi/(Zuid) station. However, you will need to pay a booking fee.

  • Take an RER line B train from Aeroport CDG direct to central Paris

Option 3:
How to travel from Amsterdam to Paris by train without paying any 'supplements' at all on Mon-Fri

  • Train 1 - Take the 10:49 IC train from Amsterdam (Centraal) to Roosendaal, it arrives in Roosendaal at 12:20
  • Train 2 - Take the 12:22 train from Roosendaal to Antwerp/Antwerpen (Centraal), it arrives in Antwerpen at 13:10
  • Train 3 - Take the 13:52 IC train from from Antwerp/Antwerpen (Centraal) to Lille (Flandres), it arrives in Lille at 15:50
  • Train 4 - Take the 16:56 train from Lille (Flandres) to Amiens, it arrives in Amiens at 18:22
  • Train 5 - Take the 18:50 train from Amiens to Paris (Gare Du Nord), it arrives in Paris at 19:56

How to travel from Amsterdam to Paris by train without paying any 'supplements' at all on Saturdays

  • Train 1 - Take the 09:49 IC train from Amsterdam (Centraal) to Roosendaal, it arrives in Roosendaal at 11:20
  • Train 2 - Take the 11:22 train from Roosendaal to Antwerp/Antwerpen (Centraal), it arrives in Antwerpen at 12:10
  • Train 3 - Take the 12:52 IC train from from Antwerp/Antwerpen (Centraal) to Lille (Flandres), it arrives in Lille at 14:50
  • Train 4 - Take the 15:56 train from Lille (Flandres) to Amiens, it arrives in Amiens at 17:27
  • Train 5 - Take the 18:50 train from Amiens to Paris (Gare Du Nord), it arrives in Paris at 19:56

How to travel from Amsterdam to Paris by train without paying any 'supplements' at all on Sundays

  • Train 1 - Take the 09:49 IC train from Amsterdam (Centraal) to Roosendaal, it arrives in Roosendaal at 11:20
  • Train 2 - Take the 11:22 train from Roosendaal to Antwerp/Antwerpen (Centraal), it arrives in Antwerpen at 12:10
  • Train 3 - Take the 12:52 IC train from from Antwerp/Antwerpen (Centraal) to Lille (Flandres), it arrives in Lille at 14:50
  • Train 4 - Take the 15:56 train from Lille (Flandres) to Amiens, it arrives in Amiens at 17:27
  • Train 5 - Take the 17:50 train from Amiens to Paris (Gare Du Nord), it arrives in Paris at 18:56

How do I pay for supplements/reservations/sleeper trains etc. if I have a rail pass? - UPDATED

A general rule is that the majority (but not all) online train ticket booking services in Europe will NOT allow InterRail pass holders to ONLY buy supplements and reservation fees.
Another general rule is that it IS possible to book reservations/buy supplements at stations, but in certain countries terms and conditions can apply (see below)

Before leaving home

If you wish to book reservations/pay supplements before embarking on the first journey of your itinerary you have the following options:

1: - Call or visit in person a travel agent, ideally one that specializes in rail travel/train tickets and pay any required booking fees for their services.

2: - Go in person to an international travel desk at a station in your home - call/check in advance of making a visit to check that they will be able to make the reservation that you require.

3: - For train travel within and to/from Germany, within Italy and within Sweden only, you CAN make reservations/pay for supplements ONLINE - see links below

Germany by phone: For train travel within and to/from Germany you can call the D-Bahn Reservation Service
Call +49 1805996633 (Monday to Friday 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday and Sunday 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Central European Time), you'll hear a German menu, select extension 9 for an English menu, then 1 for train information and booking.
Germany online (day trains): For DAY trains within and To/From Germany online - click here and select 'seat reservation only' when following the booking process.
Germany online (night trains): Germany To book reservation fees online - click here and when following the booking path, select the 'Book only, extra charge' link and on the page that you'll be taken to, enter the type of rail pass you have when you see 'pass offer'.

Trains within Italy online: Supplements for the AV, ES and FB trains within Italy can be booked online (does not include TGVFI trains, Allegro (ALG) and Thello (TLO) overnight trains or the EC trains between Italy and Austria/Germany/Switzerland)
Click here and when following the booking ticket steps; ignore the ticket prices and when you reach the 'fares and preferences' page, click the 'More Fare' drop down box, select 'Global Pass' and follow the steps from there.

Trains within Sweden online: online - click here and when following the booking path, look for the 'traveller' section, when you've reached it select the 'customer card' information box and match the options to your rail pass.

At MAJOR tations in Europe

You can leave paying for supplements etc until you have embarked on a trip - though at popular travel times try to avoid doing so for the following types of train in particular:

  • Alleo - high speed trains between France and Germany
  • Lyria - high speed trains between Paris and Switzerland
  • TGVFI - high speed trains between France and Italy
  • TGV trains within France
  • Allegro - overnight trains to/from Italy
  • ICN - overnight trains within Italy

More information is available on the 'Can I Get On Any Train' section above.

If you intend to travel on DAY trains on which a supplement is required, or on night trains during the summer months and want to be 100% certain that you'll be able to board any of these trains (despite alternative trains/routes often being available) our advice is to use a specialist rail travel and arrange ALL your supplements/reservations before embarking on your trip.

The trains that can be booked at the travel desks at stations and the terms that apply vary across Europe. Certain countries charge booking fees while others don't and restrictions regarding what trains can/can't be reserved can apply, so in particular note the following:

Stations in Belgium: - At Belgian stations it is only possible to book reservations for trains to/from Belgium and booking fees apply. (trains within Belgium cannot be reserved).

Stations in Germany: D-Bahn reservation desks/offices are fantastic for removing much of the hassle of a rail pass trip. You can buy supplements and pay for reservations on virtually ANY day or night train in Europe , including trains that don't travel within or from/to Germany and you won't be charged any booking fees.
Our advice is, if your trip takes you to a German station that has a reservation desk, make full use of it!

Stations in Great Britain: - It is only possible to book reservations for train travel within Britain, the specialist Trainseurope desks at St Pancras and Cambridge stations are an exception.

Stations in The Netherlands: - It is only possible to book reservations for trains to and from The Netherlands, trains within The Netherlands cannot be reserved (neither can the IC trains from/to Belgium). You can also only make a maximum of two reservations and a €10 fee applies per reservation.
Therefore therebytrain.com's advice is to avoid making reservations at Dutch stations. In our experience reservations aren't generally necessary on the ICE and EC trains between Netherlands and Germany.
However, if you DO want to reserve you won't pay a fee at German stations, or will save 50% on the booking fee if you call the D-Bahn reservation service.
Particularly avoid paying supplements for Thalys trains at Dutch stations, once you've added in the booking fee to the total cost, it is more likely that buying a separate Thalys ticket at a Dutch station will be cheaper than paying both this reservation fee AND the supplement.

Stations in Spain: - It is only possible to book reservations/pay for supplements for trains within and to/from Spain at Spanish stations.

Ticket machines at Italian stations

In Italy you can pay supplements/make reservations for trains within Italy operated by 'Trenitalia' including all AV, Esc ,IC, (Freccia…) trains using 'Trenitalia' branded ticket machines.
Follow the prompts/instructions on the screen and when it appears select the 'global pass' option.
No other ticket machines in Europe sell reservations only/supplements to pass holders.

General tips for paying for supplements/reservations at booking offices

Have the details of the trains on which you wish to make reservations/pay supplements for with you, either printed off or written clearly, so that you can show them to the booking clerk - not all booking clerks will have fluent English, but if you can show a pass and the details of the trains on which you wish to travel by, you can make yourself understood.
When speaking to a booking clerk you can (usually) make multiple reservations. However, you don’t have to book every individual trip you’ll be taking in one visit to a ticket desk, you can be flexible and book other trips when you reach another station.

When you pay for a supplement on trains that require them, seats will automatically be assigned (reserved) for you.

IF a station has one, make use of a reservations/international desk and avoid using the main ticket booking windows if possible.

It can be a v. good idea to make reservations for onward travel on arrival at a destination before you head off in to the city.
If you don’t want to do this and want to make reservations/pay supplements on day of your departure, our advice is to be at the station a minimum of 45 mins before the departure of the train that you plan to take (and have a contingency plan available if you’re told that no reservations are available).

10 Money Saving Tips

There are multiple means of saving money if you hold a InterRail pass, but many involve less luxury and more time on the train

  • 1: When available, pass holders can often travel in ordinary (non-reclining) seats on overnight trains at no extra charge - 1st class passes required for 1st class seats.

  • 2: For passes that are restricted to a defined number of travelling days, pass holders only use one day of travel if they commence their journey on an overnight train that departs after 19:00 and arrives after 07:00 the following day - write your arrival day on the calendar on your pass

  • 3: Discounts are available on Eurostar tickets, but check the cheapest prices that are available on the date(s) on which you want to travel

  • 4: Avoid Thalys trains if you want to save money and maximise the value of your pass, the supplements payable on Thalys trains are approximately equivalent to the cheapest advance discounted fares.

  • 5: You’ll also certainly make greater savings if you take a high proportion of premium high speed trains, despite the supplements that pass holders have to purchase.
    For example, travel on an IC train from Milan to Rome and you’ll save €49.50* if you hold a pass. Travel by the AV train and you’ll save €89.50*.
    So once you have paid the €10 supplement, you’ve still saved €30 euros more if you take the AV train (* =though this doesn't factor in the daily cost of using a pass, but the point is that you'll still be making a greater comparative saving by taking the AV train).

  • 6: When you want to avoid paying supplements consider the additional time and inconvenience when taking alternative trains.
    For example, you can avoid paying the €10 supplement when travelling from Milan to Zurich by taking local trains, but you will have to change trains twice and the journey will be four hours longer

  • 7: Many high speed trains do not travel on high speed lines for all or most of their total journeys. Alvia, TGV and Eurostar Italia trains in particular travel for long distances on conventional lines.
    When travelling by a train that requires a supplement, you need to pay the supplement when your journey does not include travelling on high speed lines. On such routes, alternative trains that don't require supplements are often available.

  • 8: If a pass restricted to a number of days travel in a certain period suits your needs, consider how you can use it to extract maximum value from it. For example it may not be a good idea to use it on trains to/from airports if you’re travelling from the nearest city, it may pay to purchase separate tickets for airport trains.
    It also may not pay to use your this type pass on short distance day trips.

  • 9: Advance tickets on Eurostar can be cheaper than the special rates charged to pass holders and pass holders pay a more expensive price(s)to travel on Thalys than the cheapest advance tickets.
    If you can obtain these cheapest Eurostar or Thalys tickets, you can use your pass for other days of travel and take in more destinations.

  • 10: If you have a consecutive day pass or your itinerary with a days in month pass allows for it, don’t forget you can use your pass for lengthy day trips from cities in which you’ll be spending more than one night.

Overnight Trains

There’s much more detail in on our overnight trains page, but here's a few issues to consider before opting to travel through the night:

  • The reservation fee of any bed in a sleeping cabin/couchette won’t be included in your rail pass, so compare it to the costs of overnight accommodation of your destination.

  • Rail passes will usually only allow you to occupy ordinary seats at no extra charge (not an option on all overnight trains, particularly in Western Europe) and pass holders will also have to pay reservation fees when travelling by couchettes or reclining seats;

  • Unless you’re travelling in a group/as a couple and have booked every berth in a sleeping cabin or couchette you’re likely to be sharing it with others (for this reason make sure you can lock away valuables/secure your luggage);

  • Sleeping cabins are more expensive than couchettes because travellers are provided with a full bed and the idea is that you get into it as you would in a hotel room. If you don’t want to do this when sharing your sleeping cabin or would prefer to remain in your daytime clothes carefully compare the costs of sleeping cabins and couchettes.
    If the sleeping cabin doesn’t have a WC/shower included in the cabin (and most don’t) you’re partially paying a premium for the facility to get into bed;

  • Sleeping cabins are not a cheap option, the reservation fees for single berth cabins in particular can cost the equivalent of a quality hotel room;

  • On many overnight trains (CNL trains are an exception) 1st and 2nd class pass holders are free to pay the reservation fee of their choice, so 2nd class pass holders can pay a premium for more comfort/greater privacy and 1st class pass holders can choose cheaper options.

  • If you’re using a rail pass that restricts you to a set number of days travel in defined period, overnight trains that depart after 7pm and arrive the next morning count as one days travel and not two, so they can be a big help in travelling greater distances with your pass;

  • Trains will often call at stations throughout the night which can disturb or prevent a good night’s sleep;

  • Check whether your destination is the final stop of the train’s journey. If it’s not you’ll have to set the alarm and make sure you’re up in time to get off;

  • We haven’t included overnight departures that leave later than 1am on our destination guide, as to us that negates any advantage of taking such a service;

  • Also consider the arrival time at your destination, from many overnight services you’ll be disembarking at 7am or earlier, so factor in check in times for your next night’s accommodation and how many hours sleep you’ll actually have;

  • Unless you can sleep anywhere and don’t mind early mornings don’t plan on taking too many consecutive overnight trips.

Airport Trains

InterRail passes are not valid on these dedicated express services between airports and city centres - Arlanda Express* (Stockholm), CAT (Vienna), Flytoget (Oslo), Gatwick Express* (London), Heathrow Express (London) Malpensa Express (Milan) and Leonardo Express* (Rome) (1st class passes are valid)
(*=slower alternative local trains available on which InterRail passes are valid.)

Additional Information

When planning an InterRail trip around Europe or within a single country why not take a look at our Tips And Information and FAQs pages. You'll find (a lot!) of information, but it can be worth taking the time to read it - we know how complicated planning a European rail trip can seem, after all it's why we created therebytrain.com!