Which European trains need reservations? Find out here

Budapest RiverviewIf you have a European rail pass or are considering getting one then it’s a bit of bad news that most of the popular and fast trains in the region now require a seat reservation, even in second class. In many cases a seat reservation is optional so you’ll have to determine whether it’s worth the small hassle and fee for each journey.

For those planning on longer journeys and particularly in northern Europe, a Eurail Pass can still be a way to save money, but it’s no longer quite so carefree as you usually aren’t able to just climb aboard as the train is pulling out.

It’s almost always possible to avoid reservations if you prefer

The list below is quite long and it makes it look as if nearly every train in Europe requires reservations for pass holders, but the reality is that most of the routes listed below are the long distance express trains. Europe is also filled with regional trains that connect smaller cities every 30 to 60 minutes and these almost never require reservations.

With this in mind, you can still go long distances in Europe without reservations and you can stop for short visits to interesting places along the way for free. So for example when going from Amsterdam to Paris you can string together 3 regional trains without reservations and have a chance to stop for lunch or a quick look in towns that the faster trains just pass by. For most people the short wait in line and €5 or so for the seat reservation on the faster train is worth it, but it’s not actually necessary if you like to explore a bit along the way.

How to make reservations for European trains

Zurich ShoppingThe easiest way for most people to make reservations is to go to the train station itself and get in the normal ticket line (domestic or international). For popular routes and especially those with limited Eurail seats it’s best to make reservations as early as possible, including at different train stations or online.

Generally the only European trains that actually fill up are the ones leaving in the morning going between larger business cities such as Frankfurt or Brussels. Even in high season the trains leaving after 10am will usually only be partly full, though once in a while a school group will be riding and suddenly it’s full.

Reservations over the phone

Up to now, train journeys beginning in Austria, Germany, and Switzerland can be reserved over the phone.

Reservations online

So far only Germany, Italy, and Switzerland allow for reservations online through their main rail websites (in English as well). Hopefully and likely this will be expanding to many other countries soon. If you buy a Eurail Pass through RailEurope.com, you’ll be able to make many (but not all) seat reservations right on their website for a small fee.

Eurostar (Between London and Paris or Brussels)

RESERVATIONS NEEDED: BUY EARLY

The Eurostar trains that operate under the English Channel between London and Paris or Brussels are a separate line that is not part of the Eurail system. As a Eurail Pass holder you are entitled to a discount on Eurostar tickets if you book through the same agency, and you don’t have to use a travel day on the main pass to get it.

Not only MUST you have a reservation, but it’s wise to buy Eurostar tickets as early as possible since prices start low and get higher as the journey nears.

They go on sale 6 months out and often there are very good fares if you shop early. If you are only going one-way it’s worth checking the round-trip price because the best promotional rates are for both ways.

>>>Check for Eurostar discounts and buy tickets

Night trains

ALL NIGHT TRAINS REQUIRE RESERVATIONS for railpass holders

Night trains could also be called overnight trains because they typically connect from one city in the evening into another city in the morning. Most of these night trains take between 7 and 12 hours and have several different seat or bed types.

  • Standard day seats cost from €3 to €25
  • Couchettes (thin bunk) are €14 to €48
  • Beds range from €26 in a 3-bed cabin up to €126 in a single cabin

European trains and reservations by country for rail pass holders

Below you’ll find an alphabetical listing of all countries that participate in the Eurail network with information about domestic and international trains for each. Note that the UK is not part of the Eurail system, but information for the Eurostar (London to Paris or Brussels) is included above.

>>>Should you buy a Eurail Pass? Here’s how to decide
>>>Should you buy Europe train tickets in advance? Find out here

Austria

Domestic trains

No reservation needed

International trains

EuroCity (Germany, Austria, Italy)

  • Reservations needed
  • Fees – 2nd class: €7 / 1st class: €11 (fees are lower when reservations are made in Germany)

ICE/ICE International (Germany to Austria, Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands, Switzerland)

  • Reservation optional
  • Fees – 2nd class: €5 / 1st class : €6

Railjet (Austria, Germany, Hungary, Switzerland)

  • Reservation optional
  • Fees – 1st and 2nd class: €3.50
  • Upgrade to premium class: €25

Belgium

Domestic trains

No reservation needed, but there is a €4.50 supplement for trips to or from Brussels Airport for Eurail Pass holders, paid at the station or on the train.

International trains

TGV (France, Belgium)

  • Reservation needed
  • Fees – 1st and 2nd class: €9

Thalys (France, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany)

  • Reservation needed
  • Fees – 1st class: €42 (includes a drink and snack) 2nd class: €30

Bulgaria

Domestic trains

Reservation needed, Fee: €0.25 for 1st or 2nd class

International trains

No reservation needed

Croatia

Domestic trains

No reservation needed except the following

ICN Zagreb – Split

  • Fees – 1st and 2nd class: €1

IC Zagreb – Rijeka/Osijek/Cakovec

  • Fees – 1st and 2nd class: €1

International trains

No reservation needed

Czech Republic

Domestic trains

IC/EC (domestic journeys)

  • Reservation optional
  • Fees – 1st and 2nd class: €2

SC SuperCity

  • Reservation needed
  • Fees – 1st and 2nd class: €8

International trains

Railjet (Austria, Germany, Czech Republic)

  • Reservation optional
  • Fees – 1st and 2nd class: €3.50
  • Upgrade to premium class: €25

Denmark

Domestic trains

InterCity / InterCity Lyn

  • Reservation optional
  • Fees – 1st and 2nd class: €4

International trains

ICE / ICE International (Germany to Austria, Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands, Switzerland)

  • Reservation optional
  • Fees – 2nd class: €5 / 1st class : €6

SJ High Speed train (Sweden, Denmark)

  • Reservation needed
  • Fees – 2nd class: €7 / 1st class : €17

Finland

Domestic trains

InterCity

  • Reservation optional
  • Fees – 2nd class: € 1,36 to € 4,17
  • Fees – 1st class: € 1,84 to €5,63

Pendolino

  • Reservation needed
  • Fees – 2nd class: € 2,63 to € 5,03
  • Fees – 1st class: € 3,55 to € 6,79

International trains

Trains to Finland only come from Russia, which isn’t part of the European train system.

France

Domestic trains

TGV

  • Reservation needed
  • Fees – 1st and 2nd class: €9
  • There is a limited seat allocation for Eurail pass holders at a €9 fee. When this allocation is full, pass holders must buy a full fare ticket.
  • These fares are only valid for domestic routes within France.

InterCités

  • Reservation: needed or optional (depending on train)
  • Fees – 1st and 2nd class: €6
  • Limited seats for pass holders
  • Trains with recommended reservation: Fees – 1st and 2nd class: €1.50

InterCités de Nuit

  • Reservation needed
  • Fees – €9 for a reclining seat, €20.60 for a couchette
  • Limited seats and beds available for pass holders

International trains

Talgo de Jour (France, Spain)

  • Route: Montpellier – Barcelona/Cartagena
  • Reservation needed
  • Fees – Tourist 2nd class: €7 / Preferent 1st class: €10

TGV (France, Belgium)

  • Route: Brussels to France
  • Reservation needed
  • Fees – 1st and 2nd class: €9

TGV (France, Germany)

  • Route: Paris – Karlsruhe/Stuttgart/Munich (München)
  • Reservation needed. 1st class includes meal and drink.
  • Fees – 2nd class: €13 / 1st class: €30

TGV (France, Spain)

  • Route: Paris – Figueres Vilafant
  • Reservation needed
  • Fees – 1st and 2nd class: €3
  • Your pass only needs to cover France or Spain

TGV (France, Italy)

  • Route: Paris – Milan
  • Reservation needed
  • Fees – 2nd class: €55 /1st class: €75

Tickets for the TGV route between Milan and Paris can’t be bought at Italian train stations.

TGV Lyria (France – Switzerland)

  • Route: Paris – Zurich/Bern/Lausanne/Genève
  • Reservation needed
  • Fees – 2nd class: €9 / 1st class starting at €25

TGV Paris-Luxembourg (France, Luxembourg)

  • Route: Paris – Luxembourg City
  • Reservation needed
  • Fees – 1st and 2nd class: €3

Thalys (France, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany)

  • Route: Paris – Amsterdam
  • Reservation needed
  • Fees – 2nd class: €39 / 1st class: €62
  • Route: Paris – Brussels
  • Reservation needed
  • 2nd class: €30 / 1st class: €42
  • Route: Paris – Cologne (Köln)
  • Reservation needed
  • Fees – 2nd class: €36 / 1st class €51

Thalys offers two types of fares:

  • Pass 1: for holders of passes covering the whole journey, e.g. Global Pass.
  • Pass 2: for holders of passes partially covering the journey, e.g. One Country Pass.

Germany

Domestic trains

ICE/IC/EC

  • Reservation optional
  • Fees – 1st and 2nd class: €4

ICE Sprinter (high speed express train)

  • Reservation needed
  • Fees – 2nd class: €11.50, 1st class: €16.50

Thalys (between Köln and Aachen)

  • Reservation needed
  • Fees – 2nd class: €5, 1st class: €7

EuroCity Berlin-Warszawa Express (between Berlin and Frankfurt/Oder)

  • Reservation needed
  • Fees – 1st and 2nd class: €4

International trains

EuroCity Berlin-Warszawa Express (Germany, Poland)

  • Route: Berlin – Poznan – Warszawa (Warsaw)
  • Reservation needed
  • Fees – 2nd class: €4 / 1st class: €4

EuroCity (Germany, Austria, Italy)

  • Reservations needed
  • Fees – 2nd class: €7 / 1st class: €11 (fees are lower when reservations are made in Germany)

ICE/ICE International (Germany to Austria, Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands, Switzerland)

  • Reservation optional
  • Fees – 2nd class: €5 / 1st class : €6

Railjet (Austria, Germany, Hungary, Switzerland)

  • Reservation optional
  • Fees – 1st and 2nd class: €3.50
  • Upgrade to premium class: €25

TGV (France, Germany)

  • Route: Paris – Karlsruhe/Stuttgart/Munich (München)
  • Reservation needed. 1st class includes meal and drink.
  • Fees – 2nd class: €13 / 1st class: €30

Thalys (France, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany)

  • Route: Paris – Cologne (Köln)
  • Reservation needed
  • Fees – 2nd class: €36 / 1st class €51

Greece

Domestic trains

Reservation needed and they are free

International trains

Greece isn’t operating international trains as of 2013

Hungary

Domestic trains

EC (domestic journeys)

  • Reservation optional
  • Fees – 1st and 2nd class: €1.50

IC

  • Reservation needed
  • Fees – 1st and 2nd class: €2

IP

  • Reservation needed
  • Fees – 1st and 2nd class: €0.50

International trains

Railjet (Austria, Germany, Hungary, Switzerland)

  • Reservation optional
  • Fees – €3.50
  • Upgrade to premium class: €25

Ireland

Domestic trains

IC

  • Reservation optional, can be made locally or online at www.irishrail.ie
  • Fees – 1st and 2nd class: €3

International trains

Trains between Ireland and Northern Ireland (UK) are not part of the European raily system.

Italy

Domestic trains

Frecciargento, EuroCity

  • Reservation needed
  • Fees – 1st and 2nd class: €10

InterCity; InterCityNotte, Expresso (only seats)

  • Reservation optional
  • Fees – 1st and 2nd class: €3

International trains

EuroCity (Germany, Austria, Italy)

  • Reservations needed
  • Fees – 2nd class: €7 / 1st class: €11 (fees are lower when reservations are made in Germany)

EuroCity (Italy-Switzerland)

  • Route: Zürich/Bern/Basel/Geneva – Milan (Milano)/Venice (Venezia)
  • Reservation needed
  • Fees – 1st and 2nd class: €11

TGV (France, Italy)

  • Route: Paris – Milan
  • Reservation needed
  • Fees – 2nd class: €55 /1st class: €75

Luxembourg

International trains

TGV Paris-Luxembourg (France, Luxembourg)

  • Route: Paris – Luxembourg City
  • Reservation needed
  • Fees – 1st and 2nd class: €3

Netherlands

Domestic trains

Fyra

  • Supplement needed
  • Fees: 1st class €3 / 2nd class €2,30
  • No supplement required on the route Amsterdam – Schiphol.

International trains

ICE/ICE International (Germany to Austria, Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands, Switzerland)

  • Reservation optional
  • Fees – 2nd class: €5 / 1st class : €6

Thalys (France, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany)

  • Route: Paris – Cologne (Köln)
  • Reservation needed
  • Fees – 2nd class: €36 / 1st class €51

Norway

Domestic trains

Long distance trains

  • Reservation needed
  • “Komfort” class available for 1st class pass holders with no cost if reservation is made locally.
  • 2nd class pass holders pay €11.40 for an upgrade to “Komfort” class.
  • Fees – 2nd class: €6.30
  • Fees – 1st class (Komfort): free

Flåm (scenic train route)

  • Reservation optional
  • Reduced price for Eurail pass holders (30% discount)

International trains

InterCity Stockholm-Oslo (Sweden, Norway)

  • Route: Stockholm – Oslo
  • Reservation needed
  • Fees – 2nd class: €3 / 1st class : €3

InterCity Göteborg-Oslo (Norway, Sweden (NSB Regiontog)

  • Route: Göteborg – Oslo
  • Reservation optional
  • Fees – €6.30
  • No supplement for 1st class Eurail pass holders if reservation is made in Norway

Poland

Domestic trains

TLK

  • Reservation: optional in 1st class (no reservation possible in 2nd class).
  • Fees – €1.50 (FREE reservation if made locally)

EC (domestic journeys, running ‘to abroad’, e.g. Warszawa-Katowice)

  • Reservation needed
  • Fees – 1st and 2nd class: €1.50 (except for Berlin-Warszawa-Express, e.g. Warszawa-Poznan: €3)

EC (domestic journeys, running ‘from abroad’, e.g. Katowice-Warszawa)

  • Reservation needed
  • Fees – 1st and 2nd class: €3 (except for Berlin-Warszawa-Express, e.g.
  • Warszawa-Poznan: €4)

EIC (EkspresIC)

  • Reservation needed
  • Fees – 1st and 2nd class: from €0.85 (EIC “Neptun”, Warszawa-Gdynia) to €3 (all other trains)

EX

  • Reservation needed
  • Fees – 1st and 2nd class: €3.80 (FREE reservation if made locally)

International trains

EC (international journeys)

  • Reservation needed
  • Fees – 1st and 2nd class: €3 (Berlin-Warszawa-Express: €4)

EuroCity Berlin-Warszawa Express (Germany, Poland)

  • Route: Berlin – Poznan – Warszawa (Warsaw)
  • Reservation needed
  • Fees – 2nd class: €4 / 1st class: €4

Portugal

Domestic trains

Alfa Pendular and IC

  • Reservation needed (can only be made locally)
  • Fees – 1st and 2nd class: €5

International trains

Night trains only, reservation needed

Romania

Domestic trains

A, R, IC (domestic journeys)

  • Reservation needed
  • Fees – 1st and 2nd class: €1

International trains

A, R, IC (international journeys)

  • Reservation needed
  • Fees – 1st and 2nd class: €3

Serbia

Domestic trains

ICS Beograd-Subotica/Prijepolje

  • Reservation needed
  • Supplement only, can be bought in the station or train.
  • Fees – 2nd class: €0.50 to €1.50, 1st class: €0.80 to €2.00

International trains

  • Reservation needed
  • Supplement only, can be bought in the station or train.
  • Fees – 2nd class: €1.50, 1st class: €2.00

Slovakia

Domestic trains

Inter City trains

  • Reservation needed
  • Fees – 2nd class: €5, 1st class: €7

International trains

Inter City trains

  • Reservation needed
  • Fees – 2nd class: €5, 1st class: €7

Slovenia

Domestic trains

ICS trains (domestic journeys)

  • Reservation needed
  • Fees if made on train – 2nd class: €3.40
  • Fees if made on train – 1st class: €5.10

International trains

No reservation needed

Spain

Domestic trains

Arco, Talgo, Diurno

  • Reservation needed
  • Fees – Tourist 2nd class: €6.50, Preferent 1st class: €10

Avant

  • Reservation needed
  • Fees: 1st and 2nd class: €6.50

AVE

  • Reservation needed
  • 1st class includes drink and meal
  • Fees – Tourist 2nd class: €10, Preferent 1st class: €23.50, Club or Business 1st class: €38

Euromed, Alvia, Alaris, Altaria

  • Reservation needed
  • 1st class includes drink and optional meal
  • Fees – Tourist 2nd class: €6.50, Preferent 1st class: €23.50 (or €10 without the optional meal)

TRD

  • Reservation needed
  • Fees – 1st and 2nd class: €4.50

International trains

Talgo de Jour (France, Spain)

  • Route: Montpellier – Barcelona/Cartagena
  • Reservation needed
  • Fees – Tourist 2nd class: €7 / Preferent 1st class: €10

TGV (France, Spain)

  • Route: Paris – Figueres Vilafant
  • Reservation needed
  • Fees – 1st and 2nd class: €3
  • Your pass only needs to cover France or Spain

Sweden

Domestic trains

InterCity and Regional trains
Reservation optional
Fees – 1st and 2nd class: €3

SJ High Speed trains
Reservation needed
1st class includes breakfast before 9:00, WiFi , fruit, coffee, tea all day
Fees – 2nd class: €7, 1st class: €17

Inlandsbanan (scenic train)
Reservation optional
Fees – 1st and 2nd class: €5

Veolia Transport (Malmö – Stockholm)
Reservation needed
1st class class includes a light meal
Fees – 2nd class: €5, 1st class: €15

International trains

SJ High Speed train (Sweden, Denmark)

  • Reservation needed
  • Fees – 2nd class: €7 / 1st class : €17

InterCity Stockholm-Oslo (Sweden, Norway)

  • Route: Stockholm – Oslo
  • Reservation needed
  • Fees – 2nd class: €3 / 1st class : €3

InterCity Göteborg-Oslo (Norway, Sweden (NSB Regiontog)

  • Route: Göteborg – Oslo
  • Reservation optional
  • Fees – €6.30
  • No supplement for 1st class Eurail pass holders if reservation is made in Norway

Switzerland

Domestic trains

Scenic train routes:

Bernina Express

  • Reservation only needed for special panorama train
  • Fees in summer: CHF12
  • Fees in winter: CHF 9

Chocolate Train

  • Fees 1st class: CHF49
  • Fees 2nd class: CHF56

Glacier Express

  • Fees in summer: CHF33
  • Fees in winter: CHF13

Wilhelm Tell Express

  • Fees 1st class: CHF39
  • Fees 2nd class: CHF86

International trains

ICE/ICE International (Germany to Austria, Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands, Switzerland)

  • Reservation optional
  • Fees – 2nd class: €5 / 1st class : €6

Railjet (Austria, Germany, Hungary, Switzerland)

  • Reservation optional
  • Fees – 1st and 2nd class: €3.50
  • Upgrade to premium class: €25

TGV Lyria (France – Switzerland)

  • Route: Paris – Zurich/Bern/Lausanne/Genève
  • Reservation needed
  • Fees – 2nd class: €9 / 1st class starting at €25

EuroCity (Italy-Switzerland)

  • Route: Zürich/Bern/Basel/Geneva – Milan (Milano)/Venice (Venezia)
  • Reservation needed
  • Fees – 1st and 2nd class: €11

Turkey

Domestic trains

Reservation optional

International trains

Reservation optional



9 Responses to “Which European trains need reservations? Find out here”

Andrea says:

This is super-helpful! And just in time for summer

 

I really liked this post, great resource. I will share it with my readers tomorrow. Thank you!

 
Shaun says:

Cheers mate,
So helpful, exactly what I was looking for.

 
Shannon says:

Thank you so much for this helpful post! TO clarify, as Im looking at purchasing the Eurail Select Pass- the additional costs are those quoted above and not the much higher figures quotes on the Eurail website when I was searching my journey. Eg. BErlin to Vienna approx. 160 Euro?

Also, on the Eurail website it mentions ‘travel days’. Are we required to travel on those specific days? ANd how long is a Eurail Select Pass valid for?

Any guidance at all is greatly appreciated! THanks

 

    Shannon,

    I’m still not sure that we are referring to the same thing when checking individual train fares. For example, I just checked now and see that Berlin to Vienna is €49 if you buy about two months in advance.

    With a Select Pass, the “travel days” are the number of days you choose to travel within a 2-month period. Let’s say you buy a “10 travel days in 2 months” Select Pass, and validate the first travel day on June 1. That means that your travel is pre-paid for the 10 days you choose in June or July. So on June 1 you go from Berlin to Vienna, then you spend 3 nights in Vienna. Then on June 4 you go from Vienna to Paris, so that is your second (out of 10) “travel day.” Then after a week in Paris you take a train to Venice, then your third (out of 10) travel day is June 11. With a Eurail Select Pass, you buy any number of travel days from 5 to 15, and you can use them whenever you please within two months from your first day.

    Does that make sense? Please let me know if this didn’t answer your question, or if you have another question. -Roger

     
Linda Bella says:

Hi Roger, Great site, thank you! May I ask why would I want to purchase a seat reservation if it is “optional”? I’m considering the Eurail Global Pass promo – 2 people – 15 days + 2 free days during the current special. It seems they are already getting a lot of money from me! ($1136) total. Just curious. Thank you.
Linda

 

    Linda,

    Thanks. The “optional” seat reservations can be useful if you are going on a crowded train and especially if the train sells out sometimes. The most crowded trains are typically the ones that business travelers prefer, which are Monday mornings and Friday afternoons. If you don’t need to leave at 9am or earlier, there will almost always be plenty of empty seats. If you are getting a 1st Class rail pass then you are even better off, although again, they can occasionally sell out during peak business travel times.

    Late last year I did a 3-month rail trip around Europe to 29 cities and I only needed a few seat reservations. So you can usually just hop on board and you’ll be fine, but if it’s a long trip and there are two who really want to sit together, spending €5 each to reserve those seats can be wise. -Roger

     
Kat says:

HI guys
do I need passport or ID for travel

 

    Kat,

    You do need a passport or ID to use a rail pass, partly because they need to make sure the person whose name is on the pass is the one trying to use it. But if you buy individual tickets, you can just walk up to the ticket counter with cash and buy a ticket without showing ID. The individual tickets (in most European countries) don’t have a name on them. -Roger

     

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