Exploring Europe's diverse train travel - a comprehensive guide
Writer: Jannis Gustke - Vice-President of IYNF
Europe is a very diverse place when it comes to train travel. There are countries where you just can board a train and there are countries and train companies which have an obligatory seat reservation rule.
There are also differences regarding season tickets, travelling rules for people with disabilities and for motorails and about the usability of interrail.
European railway companies can be split into two main categories: those with flexible tickets and those with mandatory seat reservation: The first group contains companies like DB, ÖBB, SBB and CD. There, you can board the next possible train. Reserving a seat is often possible though. This train companies are very useful for interrail travel. The other category includes Trenitalia, SNCF (where you even
sometimes have regional trains with mandatory reservation) and RENFE. There, you must have a seat reservation to board the train. For interrail pass holders, prices can differ from 3€ (Intercity of Trenitalia) to around 50€ (Eurostar). Mandatory seat reservations bring a safety for getting a seat but make travel
Image right: OBB https://www.nightjet.com/
Addional to daylight trains, there are night trains. Night trains normally have a mandatory reservation especially for couchette and wagon-lits because of the limited number of places. Couchette cars mainly have 6 bunkbeds with a minimal bed linen. Here you normally get a small breakfast which is included in
the prize. Wagon-lits have “real” beds in comparison (max 3/room) and you get a full breakfast. The most relevant company for night trains is ÖBB.
Sometimes this night trains also include motorails, where you can transport your car on the train too.
Finnish Railways are very famous for their motorail trains. Additionally, there are car transport day trains like the ones to Sylt or in the Channel tunnel.
There are also trains, that are trajected by ferries. In Europe, that is only the case for those to Sicily which also include night trains from Milano.
In the Netherlands, train stations have access control gates. The codes for these gates are also included in the interrail pass. Regarding to train tickets, there are different models: Flexible prices (SNCF), fixed prices (like the Deutschlandticket) , paying per way (OV Chipkaart in NL). The german disability card is also a regional
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