Class of Travel
The facilities and comforts of European trains vary from country to country and from train to train. However you want to travel, there's a comfort level to suit you.
Why travel by train
Train travel in Europe varies by country and by train with facilities and comforts to suit every travel preference and budget.
All European trains offer a Standard Class of travel. Standard Class tickets attract the lowest fares so it’s possible for the budget conscious traveller to get around Europe at a very reasonable cost. The further in advance that you book your ticket, the cheaper it will be.
What level of comfort can I expect?
Each type of train varies, but Standard Class will meet the cost and comfort needs of most travellers. In fact, it’s only really on high speed trains that you’ll notice much difference in the facilities between ticket classes. On local, regional and intercity trains, a First Class fare (if available) will get you more legroom but relatively few other benefits.
So what about on high speed trains?
Wherever you go in Europe, high speed services are the most modern and comfortable across all ticket classes.
A Standard Class ticket includes a reserved seat in a spacious, air-conditioned carriage.
There will generally be a bar buffet or trolley service if you want to buy food and drink. A bit better than your typical UK commuter train.
And on overnight trains?
On overnight trains, the level of comfort depends on the type of sleeping accommodation that you choose.
The lowest fares are for reclining seats and 6 berth couchettes. Unless you’re travelling as a group of 6, you’ll share the couchette with other passengers. But on some trains you can book out the whole compartment - for a supplement – for extra privacy.
Reclining seats are comfier than regular seats and are the cheapest option. But for a good night’s rest it’s definitely worth spending extra for flat bed accommodation.
A 4 berth couchette is counted as First Class, although it’s only slightly more expensive than a 6 berth. You’ll probably appreciate the extra space.
First Class…FOR THAT LITTLE BIT EXTRA
First Class travel on European trains offers wider seats with more legroom and carriages that feel calmer and quieter when compared to Standard Class. On some high speed trains, for example Eurostar and Thalys, First Class fares include food and drink served to you at your seat. Some services offer additional benefits too such as complimentary WiFi and daily morning newspapers.
Are First Class fares expensive?
They’re actually more affordable than you might think. In fact, First Class fares in Europe are only around 50% more than Standard Class fares. And after all, if you’re travelling a long distance, why not do it in style?
Business Class travel offers a similar level of service to First Class, with some significant extras dedicated to those travelling for work rather than pleasure.
Who offers Business Class travel?
Most trains offer two classes of travel only – First and Standard.
Eurostar and TGV Domestic offer a distinct Business Class service, as well as a Leisure and Standard Class
What are the benefits?
The benefits for the business traveller on Eurostar include flexible tickets and faster check-ins, a dedicated business lounge and carriages, spacious comfortable seats with power sockets and complimentary food and drinks served at the seat.
On TGV routes, the First Class ‘TGV Pro’ or ‘Business’ fare offers some of the same benefits.
Can I get a student discount?
Not as such, but you can still travel on a budget.
Is there a young person’s discount?
On some trains under-26s can buy a youth ticket at a discount on the adult fare. There’s also an SNCF 12-25 card that gets you discounted fares in France and journeys between France and 25 European countries.
Are Interrail passes better value?
Depending on which country or countries you want to explore and how much train travel you want to do, an Interrail Pass could save you money.
Those aged between 12 and 25 can buy a Youth Pass – but there’s no age limit on who can go Interrailing so it’s also a great way for mature students to travel for less.
Can the whole family travel by train?
Of course! Taking the train is a great way to enjoy a family holiday. Much less tiring than driving or flying, a train journey becomes a shared adventure. It can be excellent value too. Children aged under 6 (in some countries, under 4) generally travel free. A child fare – usually about half the adult fare – can apply to those as old as 15.
Modern trains have good baby-changing facilities and a few even have a children’s play area.
Value FOR MONEY
How can I travel on a budget?
There are special early-booking fares called ‘Prems’ (from ‘premiere’ – French for ‘first’) on French and some other railways. These fares are issued on a first-come, first-served basis. So the earlier you book, the cheaper your fare is likely to be.
You can book most Eurostar journeys up to 4 months in advance and most other European trains up to 3 months before travel. Eurostar‘s Direct Ski, Disney and Avignon services can be booked much further in advance.
Overnight trains are a great way to travel long distances, while saving on the cost of a night in a hotel. There are a number of accommodation options, the cheapest being reclining seats or, if you want a flat bed, Standard Class (6 berth) couchettes.
Is an Interrail Pass better value?
Interrail Pass holders get free travel on many regional and local trains. Since these often run on the same routes as high speed services on which you may need to pay for a seat reservation, this can be a cheaper way to travel. It’s also a chance to enjoy the scenery at a more leisurely pace.