Where to buy international rail tickets?

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With the diverse train companies, national and private, new start ups, sleeper services, can anyone recomend where to look for the best selection of ticket offers?
Is there one site that offers an overview of the options? I am thinking of Europe and near, not worldwide...
 
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LNW-GW Joint

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The Man in Seat Sixty-One - the train travel guide... (seat61.com) is the place to start, with links to all the sites that matter.
Otherwise the main operator in each country is the best source of good value ticket info for specific journeys starting there.
They all have English language versions, but vary a lot in user friendliness.
The best of these is probably still bahn.com/en for Germany, and it has an excellent Europe-wide timetable section and has lots of cross-border fares.
There really isn't a generic site which links to all operators, as more and more are in direct competition with each other.
It's getting just like buying an air ticket, and with e-tickets now the norm, there's no need to visit ticket offices any more.
 

biko

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Don't forget to compare the prices of individual tickets to an Interrail, it might be a lot cheaper if traveling in countries with no obligatory reservations. Also generally valid on all railway companies in most countries.
 

Polarbear

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It can also pay to shop around, as different websites have different offers. The Czech Rail website often has good value international fares for journeys that cross it's borders.

Another example was when me & a pal were travelling from Zurich to Graz on the through service, and it was much cheaper to book on the OBB website, than the SBB one.
 

DelW

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I found Loco2 very easy to use, and good value, when buying tickets for trips in Italy three or four years ago. However I haven't used it since it became part of Rail Europe (apparently ultimately owned by SNCF). Might still be worth a look though (raileurope.com)
 

T-Karmel

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It can also pay to shop around, as different websites have different offers. The Czech Rail website often has good value international fares for journeys that cross it's borders.

Another example was when me & a pal were travelling from Zurich to Graz on the through service, and it was much cheaper to book on the OBB website, than the SBB one.
When it comes to trains crossing Czech border and being operated by Czech Railways on its territory, then surely they've got best price
(I specify that, as for instance they won't sell you RegioJet tickets).

Got once a ticket for 14€ and ÖBB wanted 29€ for it!
 

LNW-GW Joint

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The OP's user name suggests that senior tickets might be of interest?
Every country/operator has a different take on senior fares, from no discount at all to nothing (ie free!).
There is often a railcard-type scheme like we have, but discounts vary and sometimes are not worth the annual cost of the card for a fleeting visit.
Sometimes the discount is only on full fares and not the already-discounted ones.
The starting age for "seniors" varies between 60 and 70, usually linked to the pension age in that country.

France is confusing with a poor-value national scheme, but sometimes very good local schemes (on TER services).
SNCF has on-demand senior fares on some TGV routes, not on others.
The best country scheme I've found is Spain (Tarjeta Dorada, €6) which gives 25-40% off normal fares (but not the cheapest advances).
The catch is you have to buy the card at a Renfe station, and you need the card number to book discounted tickets.
Belgium has a flat fare of €7.20 (return) for seniors you can buy on demand, including some cross-border ones (not to Luxembourg/France).
Norway, Finland and Portugal (long distance) have half-price for seniors on demand (75% discount in Czechia on 2nd class fares)
I thought the schemes in Italy, Switzerland and the Netherlands were useless for casual tourists like me, and Germany/Austria only marginal.
No senior discount on Eurostar (or airlines/ferries for that matter).

Some countries in Eastern Europe have free fares (2nd class) for seniors, you just pay the supplements for express/1st/sleeper etc.
Beware that some of these deals (eg in Hungary) are only available to EU citizens, which we are not any more.
Some capital cities have free tickets for seniors for local travel available to visitors (eg Prague), but most (like London!) have no discounts at all.

This site gives a country-by-country indication of what's available (though it's written for Americans):
Senior Train Travel Discounts in Europe (tripsavvy.com)
 
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DanielB

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I thought the schemes in Italy, Switzerland and the Netherlands were useless for casual tourists like me,
Depends on what you consider useless. In The Netherlands there isn't any discount on regular tickets for seniors, but taking a discounted NS-subscription might be worthwhile even for a short stay. Unlimited off-peak travel is relatively cheap for example, especially with 50% senior-discount on the subscription.
The drawback is that you'd need a personal OV-chipkaart for them, although that also comes with the benefit of automatic senior-discount on buses, trams and metro's. (Not for trains, except on a few regional routes)
 

squizzler

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I found Loco2 very easy to use, and good value, when buying tickets for trips in Italy three or four years ago. However I haven't used it since it became part of Rail Europe (apparently ultimately owned by SNCF). Might still be worth a look though (raileurope.com)

Yes it was my favourite EU-wide booking engine and its sophisticated technology means Rail Europe is where I will likely go for future travel.

Seat61 is good but should be considered your Lonely Planet guide rather than a booking service IMO. I also cannot help but wonder how possible it is such a large site can be kept up-to-date by one person (or even a small team).
 

StephenHunter

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Mark Smith works on Seat61 full-time and has for years; he also has a lot of people who provide him with information.
 

philg999

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Depends on what you consider useless. In The Netherlands there isn't any discount on regular tickets for seniors, but taking a discounted NS-subscription might be worthwhile even for a short stay. Unlimited off-peak travel is relatively cheap for example, especially with 50% senior-discount on the subscription.
The drawback is that you'd need a personal OV-chipkaart for them, although that also comes with the benefit of automatic senior-discount on buses, trams and metro's. (Not for trains, except on a few regional routes)
Hmm I think you need a Dutch address and Dutch bank account to get a personal OV card with NS subscription. Which would make it not applicable to a casual visitor. The discounts are really nice with them though :)
 

ainsworth74

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I think I'd echo a few of the comments above. The DB journey planner is excellent for buying tickets for travel around Germany (with seat selector) and for a number of cross border journeys as well. It's also my go to for planning in general as whilst it cannot sell tickets everywhere it does seem to have an extremely comprehensive timetable for all of Europe and will happily plan journeys basically anywhere (including the UK!). Always fun typing in your local station and some far flung destination on the Continent and seeing what it comes up with. The České dráhy (Czech Railways) website is also very good in my experience and also has a seat selector.

Depending on requirements (and dedication to best possible prices) you could also sometimes consider a third party agent. I had some difficult getting the type of seat reservations I was after for a journey from Krakow to Berlin changing at Warsaw (I needed facing seats as my mother gets motion sick if she goes backwards for too long and I couldn't get those seats myself online) so, off the back of Seat61, I contacted Polrail and not only did they get me exactly what I was after at a price not much above what I'd seen online they even sent me small refund as between me paying their quotation and them purchasing the tickets a sale had started which meant they could get them cheaper. But of course this does add an extra cost to the tickets as you're paying commission. But also worth considering depending on what you need. In my case I only used them one journey leg as for everything else the DB and ČD websites were so easy to use unlike PKP.
 
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Thank you all for your contributions. It seems the best advice is still to shop around. I have lots more places to try shopping for my tickets now!
 

STEVIEBOY1

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Thank you all for your contributions. It seems the best advice is still to shop around. I have lots more places to try shopping for my tickets now!Great R

Great Rail Journey in York and Ffestiniog Rail have tailor made sections that can provide tickets world wide I think.
 

bspahh

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WikiVoyage https://en.m.wikivoyage.org/wiki/Main_Page is good for travel information on specific places. I find it particularly useful to work out the best way to get from a city from the local airport. It will usually give you a link to the WWW site for the local public transport, and an idea of how to get a ticket, and how much it will cost.
 

Jamesrob637

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I liked goeuro but since it became Omio I haven't travelled much as the switch occurred not long pre-COVID.
 

riceuten

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It behoves anyone who is planning a journey to come here and ask for their expert advice as well, for a specific journey - I've seen plenty of money saving tips that people otherwise wouldn't've been aware of. For instance, on a similar site, someone was asking for cheap ticket to the Austrian border from Germany - the Bayern ticket was actually cheaper for 2 people as a single, and is valid not just to the border, but to Salzburg itself.

Post-Covid - whenever that is, one of two things will happen - either there will be large scale cuts to match demand, or rail companies will offer new and interesting tickets to tempt us back. Or a mixture of both.
 

philjo

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It can also pay to shop around, as different websites have different offers.

Another example was when me & a pal were travelling from Zurich to Graz on the through service, and it was much cheaper to book on the OBB website, than the SBB one.
I found the same - ÖBB charged in Euros and SBB charged in Swiss Francs. The exchange rate difference meant is was cheaper using ÖBB.
For booking the ÖBB sleepers to Vienna I had to use the ÖBB site to be able to pick the required cabin type. DB could only book seated reservations.

I used DB for booking some journeys that needed reservations for the Salzburg to Slovenia services.
Had to use a different site to make inter rail pass holder reservations on TGV services.

I Don’t know if it still open due to COVID, but the Swiss Travel centre in Covent Garden can book tickets and reservations for any Swiss rail services. I bought one of the Swiss passes and numerous reservations there a couple of years ago.
 

STEVIEBOY1

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I found the same - ÖBB charged in Euros and SBB charged in Swiss Francs. The exchange rate difference meant is was cheaper using ÖBB.
For booking the ÖBB sleepers to Vienna I had to use the ÖBB site to be able to pick the required cabin type. DB could only book seated reservations.

I used DB for booking some journeys that needed reservations for the Salzburg to Slovenia services.
Had to use a different site to make inter rail pass holder reservations on TGV services.

I Don’t know if it still open due to COVID, but the Swiss Travel centre in Covent Garden can book tickets and reservations for any Swiss rail services. I bought one of the Swiss passes and numerous reservations there a couple of years ago.
Yes, I have bought Swiss rail odds and ends from there too. Not sure if it is open or not now.
 

AlbertBeale

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Yes, I have bought Swiss rail odds and ends from there too. Not sure if it is open or not now.
I used the Swiss Travel place a couple of times pre-COVID; they're geared up to sell other European rail tickets, as well as Swiss ones. If you like face-to-face ticket-buying, so you can walk out with the tickets in your hand, they're (or presumably will be again soon, as things open up) the only place I know in London these days where you can just walk in and do that.

NB: I've remembered a posting of mine a while back (https://www.railforums.co.uk/threads/buying-international-tickets.184134/#post-4112529) about the fun I had a couple of years ago when using one of the tickets I'd bought at the Swiss Railways place in London. Ye more reason to patronise them!
 
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Polarbear

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I used the Swiss Travel place a couple of times pre-COVID; they're geared up to sell other European rail tickets, as well as Swiss ones. If you like face-to-face ticket-buying, so you can walk out with the tickets in your hand, they're (or presumably will be again soon, as things open up) the only place I know in London these days where you can just walk in and do that.

NB: I've remembered a posting of mine a while back (https://www.railforums.co.uk/threads/buying-international-tickets.184134/#post-4112529) about the fun I had a couple of years ago when using one of the tickets I'd bought at the Swiss Railways place in London. Ye more reason to patronise them!
I read your earlier posting & it reminded me of an occasion where I was travelling on a line in Switzerland that required the purchase of a half price ticket in conjunction with an Inter Rail. The station was Tavannes & upon producing my Inter Rail pass, it was taken in by the chap at the ticket office window & shown to all his colleagues in the back office. They were most interested to hear why someone from the UK had ended up so far off the usual tourist trail & whilst I missed the hourly connection, I got my ticket, accompanied with a friendly discussion about the freedom of Inter Rail passes.
 

YorkshireBear

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I read your earlier posting & it reminded me of an occasion where I was travelling on a line in Switzerland that required the purchase of a half price ticket in conjunction with an Inter Rail. The station was Tavannes & upon producing my Inter Rail pass, it was taken in by the chap at the ticket office window & shown to all his colleagues in the back office. They were most interested to hear why someone from the UK had ended up so far off the usual tourist trail & whilst I missed the hourly connection, I got my ticket, accompanied with a friendly discussion about the freedom of Inter Rail passes.
The most suprised staff I had on an internal was a guard on a 142 from Doncaster to Meadowhall on the way home! Was the first time he had seen one and was fascinated by my itinerary form Stuttgart that morning.
 

Polarbear

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The most suprised staff I had on an internal was a guard on a 142 from Doncaster to Meadowhall on the way home! Was the first time he had seen one and was fascinated by my itinerary form Stuttgart that morning.

Excellent! 8-)

Not me, but a mate of mine years back was travelling Sheffield-Retford on a 1st gen DMU, with an ALR. Guard was quoted as saying, "You paid THAT much to travel on THIS"?
 
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