Europe by Rail

In Europe, the shortest (and cheapest) distance between two points is lined with railroad tracks. Here's everything you need to know about trains in Europe

In Europe, the train is the preferred mode of travel by everyone, from farmers and grannies to businesswomen and visitors. European trains run on time, are clean and comfortable, and have a vast network that covers almost every minor city.

This site is devoted to understanding the European train system; how passes like Eurail and its railpass siblings work; strategies for getting the most out of your money, time and railpass; which reservations are and are not necessary; how to best put overnight trains to work to save you time and money while you travel; a primer on European train stations; and ways to cut costs at every step along the way.

railpassesBut first, a short note about the trains themselves. European trains run the gamut from the kind of high-tech, high-speed bullet trains that set land speed records to rattling chains of worn old cars leftover from the post–World War II construction boom. for the most part, however, European trains fall into one of two styles.

Some trains still have the old-fashioned couchette configuration: Each car has a corridor along one side, lined with windows on the outside and doors on the other. These doors open onto 10 little couchettes, or compartments, which seat six to eight people (or, in first-class compartments, four to six people in slightly cushier chairs—but that's not worth the added expense).

Sadly, most short-run trains and new highs-speed long-haulers are increasingly switching over to the modern straight-through cars with seats running down both sides of an open aisle. These always make me feel more like I'm at home commuting to work than traveling in Europe on a grand tour, but hey, that's progress for you.

This article was last updated in January 2008 . All information was accurate at the time.
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