The TrainsEurope desk at St pancras station can sell train tickets for journeys all over Europe  
 

The Trainseurope desk at St Pancras station in London can sell tickets for most European trains, unlike the Eurostar ticket office which can only sell Eurostar tickets to Paris or Brussels!  It's in the National Rail travel centre, open 10:00-18:00 every day of the week.


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If you'd prefer to buy tickets online or don't live in the UK, click here.

  How to buy tickets in person...

You generally need to buy European train tickets online or by phone in the UK, as the Eurostar ticket office at London St Pancras can only sell tickets as far as Paris or Brussels, and most other British rail stations do not sell international tickets at all except for train & ferry tickets to the Republic of Ireland.  But there are a couple of exceptions worth mentioning:

  How to buy European train tickets by phone...

It's easy to buy European train tickets by phone in the UK or Ireland, but choose your agency carefully, as some agencies are better for some journeys than others because of the specific ticketing system(s) which they use.


International Rail

0844 248 248 3

Lines open 09:00-17:00 Monday-Friday.

From outside the UK call +44 844 248 248 3

 

 

Recommended for:  Most train journeys all over Europe.

Phone lines open:  09:00-17:00 Mondays to Fridays, closed weekends.

Personal callers:  No.  They are based in Ropley, Hampshire.

Website www.internationalrail.com    Email sales@internationalrail.com

Plus points:  International Rail are equipped with multiple ticketing systems, including the French (SNCF), Spanish (Renfe), Italian (Trenitalia), German (DB) & Belgian (SNCB) rail ticketing & reservations systems.  That means they can access the cheap tickets for most of Western Europe and much of eastern Europe, unlike some other agencies equipped with only one country's system.  Can send tickets anywhere in the world.

Limitations:  Only open office hours.

Booking fee:  They charge a 10 booking fee for bookings under 100, 20 for 100-300, 30 above 300. 

Ticket delivery & collection:  Tickets can be sent to any address worldwide.  10 courier fee for overnight delivery to UK addresses.  However, Eurostar and many European tickets can be emailed as e-tickets, saving time and courier fees.


Voyages-sncf

(formerly

Rail Europe)

0844 848 5 848

Lines open 09:00-19:00 Mondays to Fridays, 09:00-18:00 Saturdays.

Recommended for:  journeys from London to France, Switzerland.  Uses the French railways (SNCF) reservation system.

Phone lines open:  09:00-19:00 Mondays to Fridays, 09:00-18:00 Saturdays.  No longer open Sundays.

Personal callers:  Yes.  You can book in person at the Voyages-Sncf (formerly Rail Europe) travel centre at 193 Piccadilly, London, W1J 9EU, open 10:00-18:00 Mondays to Fridays, 10:00-17:00 Saturdays, direct phone number 0844 848 5 848.  It gets very busy in the Summer, so allow plenty of time.  Their travel centre relocated from 1 Regent Street in February 2012.

Website uk.voyages-sncf.com (formerly www.raileurope.co.uk)

Email:  via website.

Plus points:  Rail Europe is the UK's biggest European rail agency, owned by the French Railways (SNCF).  They use the French Railways reservation system, so are good for journeys to France and via France using direct trains to major cities in Spain, Italy, Switzerland.  Their phone lines are open in the evenings and at weekends, and unlike smaller agencies, the staff are online to the reservation computer during your call, and can quote you train times, fares and availability there and then, rather than having to call you back.

Limitations:  Rail Europe are only equipped with one ticketing system, namely that of French Railways (SNCF).  So they can sell all the cheap fares for Eurostar, and within France, and for direct trains from France to neighbouring countries, but can't always sell the full range of cheap fares for travel within Italy, Spain, Germany and so on, only the more expensive flexible 'TCV' fares advised by those countries to French Railways.  Rail Europe will only send tickets to UK addresses.

Booking fee:  8 per booking for phone bookings, no fee for online bookings at uk.voyages-sncf.com.  They charge a 2.5% credit card fee, so use a debit card if you can, or book direct with French Railways at www.voyages-sncf.com instead, which has the same prices but in euros with no credit card fee or postage fee, and extra features such as seating options.  Only UK-issued credit cards are accepted online at raileurope.co.uk.

Ticket delivery & collection:  Tickets can be sent to any UK address (2.25 fee) or collected free of charge from the self-service machines at St Pancras or (if your journey starts in France) machines at most main stations in France including Paris.

Voyages-sncf.com is the re-branded Rail Europe Limited (raileurope.co.uk), which should not be confused with Rail Europe Incorporated in the USA (.com) & Canada (.ca), or Rail Europe 4A based in Paris and serving Australia (.com.au), NZ, Asia & Africa (raileurope-world-com), which are also owned by SNCF, but which sometimes different fares aimed at overseas travellers.


Deutsche Bahn 

08718 80 80 66

Lines open 09:00-20:00 Monday to Friday, 09:00-13:00 Saturday & Sunday.

Recommended for:  journeys from London to Germany, Austria, Scandinavia, central & eastern Europe.  Naturally, they use DB's own (German) reservation system.

Phone lines open:  09:00-20:00 Monday to Friday, 09:00-13:00 Saturday & Sunday.  Overseas callers can call +44 8718 80 80 66.

Personal callers:  No

Website www.bahn.co.uk.    Emailsales@bahn.co.uk

Plus points:  This is German Railways' excellent UK telesales office, good for tickets from London to Germany as they use German Railways' reservation computer and can access all German Railways' special offers.  They are also good for Scandinavia, Austria, central & eastern Europe, including trains to Russia & the Ukraine.  They don't charge a booking fee.

Limitations:  Staff at a smaller agency such as European Rail (see below) can sometimes be more familiar with arranging complex bookings such as London-Istanbul or London-Romania/Bulgaria, etc. even though they charge a booking fee.  If you call DB's UK office outside Monday-Friday office hours your call is handled in Berlin.

Ticket delivery & collection:  Tickets can be sent free of charge to any UK or Irish address, or sent to overseas addresses for a small charge (about 8 to the USA, for example).

Booking fee:  None.  A 2% fee is charged for credit cards, no fee for debit cards.


European Rail

020 7619 1083

Lines open 08:30-18:00 Monday to Friday, 09:00-13:00 Saturday.

 

Also known as Erail.

Recommended for:  journeys from London to most destinations, including Germany, Austria, Scandinavia, central & eastern Europe.  Like Deutsche Bahn, Erail uses the German railways reservation system.  They can book the 'Dutch Flyer' London-Amsterdam train & ferry service as well as Eurostar.

Phone lines open:  08:30-18:00 Monday to Friday, 09:00-13:00 Saturday, closed Sundays.

Personal callers:  No - but tickets can be picked up if necessary at their offices at Tileyard Road, London N7 9AH.

Websitewww.europeanrail.com.    Email sales@europeanrail.com

Plus points:  They charge a 35 booking fee when DB's UK office doesn't, but their staff are usually much more familiar with complex bookings such as London to Istanbul, Romania or Bulgaria, so it's often worth those extra few pounds.  European Rail is an experienced and capable agency offering Eurostar, European rail tickets & railpasses.  They use the German Railways reservation system, so are good for travel to Germany, Scandinavia, central and eastern Europe.  They can also book the Dutch Flyer train & ferry service, as well as Eurostar.

Ticket delivery & collection:  Tickets can be sent to any UK address, and they may also send tickets overseas by special arrangement, at extra cost.

Booking fee:  15 per transaction for tickets under 50, 35 per transaction for tickets over 50.


Spanish Rail UK

020 3137 4464

Lines open 09:30-13:30 & 14:30-17:30 Monday to Friday

Recommended for:  journeys from London to Spain & Portugal, journeys within Spain, as they use the Spanish railways (Renfe) reservation system, so unlike some other agencies they can sell the cheap Spanish 'Promo' & 'Promo+' fares.

Phone lines open:  09:30-13:30 & 14:30-17:30 Monday to Friday, closed Saturdays & Sundays.

Personal callers:  No, though tickets can be picked up at their offices, 24-25 Nutsford Place, London W5 (off Edgware Road).

Website www.spanish-rail.co.uk.    Emailinfo@spanish-rail.co.uk

Plus points:  The UK agents for Spanish Railways (RENFE), good for booking trains to and within Spain and Portugal.  Can be difficult to get through to by phone in summer!

Ticket delivery:  Tickets can be sent to any UK address.  Tickets can also be picked up from their offices, 24-25 Nutsford Place, London W5 (off Edgware Road).

Booking fee:  10 (9) fee per person.  A credit card fee may also apply, so use a debit card if you can.


Trainseurope

0871 700 7722

Lines open 09:00-17:30 Monday to Friday

Recommended for:  journeys from London to most destinations, as they use the French, Belgian, Italian & German reservation systems.

Phone lines open:  09:00-17:30 Monday to Friday, closed Saturdays & Sundays.

Personal callers:  Yes:

  • London St Pancras International:  Trains Europe have a European train tickets desk at St Pancras, located inside the National Rail Tickets travel centre, underneath platforms 1-4.  It's open 10:00-17:00 every day of the week.  Unlike the Eurostar ticket office(!), it can sell tickets for journeys all over Europe, and make European seat, couchette or sleeper reservations.

  • March railway station, Cambridgeshire (main office), open 09:30-17:30 Monday to Friday, closed Saturdays & Sundays. 

  • Their office at Cambridge railway station has now closed. 

  • A new office opened at Leicester station in July 2011, open Monday-Saturday 10:00-16:00.

Websitewww.trainseurope.co.uk.    Email info@trainseurope.co.uk.   Member of AERA.

Plus points:  An experienced European rail agency offering Eurostar, European rail tickets, ferry tickets & railpasses.  Trains Europe can make seat, couchette & sleeper reservation for almost any train in Europe except those starting in Portugal, Serbia, Greece, Turkey, Russia, Ukraine, Moldova or the Baltic states.  Fax 01354 660444.  Will send tickets overseas if required - from outside the UK, call +44 1354 660222.

Ticket delivery & collection:  Tickets can be sent to any UK address, may also send overseas by special arrangement, at extra cost.

Booking fee:  About 10-30 per booking.


Other UK agencies...

 

Other good agencies include:

Ffestiniog Travel: www.ffestiniogtravel.co.uk (Unit 6, Snowdonia Business Park, Minffordd, North Wales, call 01766 772050 email info@ffestiniogtravel.co.uk, member of AERA).

Rail Canterburywww.rail-canterbury.co.uk (39 Palace Street Canterbury, call 01227 450088, e-mail rail@rail-canterbury.co.uk).

Railbookerswww.railbookers.com (for tailor-made tours with combined train & hotel arrangements, e-mail info@railbookers.com or call 020 3327 0761, member of AERA).

The Travel Bureauwww.thetravelbureau.co.uk (office in Wombourne, West Midlands, 08448 156 212).


RailShop.ie

(01) 866 5841

Lines open 09:00-17:00 Monday to Friday

 

 

Recommended for:  Most European journeys, as they have the French, German, ACP & UK ticketing systems.

Phone lines open:  09:00-17:00 Monday to Friday, closed Saturdays & Sundays.

Personal callers:  No:

Websitewww.railshop.ie.    Emailrailshop@atts.ie.

Plus points:  A small expert agency based in Dublin.

Ticket delivery & collection:  Tickets can be sent to any Irish address, may also send overseas by special arrangement, at extra cost.

Booking fee:  About 10 per booking.


Irish Rail

(01) 703 1885

Lines open 09:00-17:00 Monday to Friday

 

 

Recommended for:  Most European journeys.

Phone lines open:  09:00-17:00 Monday to Friday, closed Saturdays & Sundays.

Personal callers:  Yes, but only at the largest Irish rail stations.

Websitewww.irishrail.ie.    Emaileuropeanrail@irishrail.ie.

Plus points:  You're booking direct with a train operator.

Ticket delivery & collection:  Tickets can be sent to any Irish address.

Booking fee:  Not known.


  Deutsche Bahn 

00 44 8718 80 80 66

Lines open 09:00-20:00 Monday to Friday, 09:00-13:00 Saturday & Sunday.

Recommended for:  journeys from London to Germany, Austria, Scandinavia, central & eastern Europe.  Naturally, they use DB's own (German) reservation system.

Phone lines open:  09:00-20:00 Monday to Friday, 09:00-13:00 Saturday & Sunday.

Personal callers:  No.  Although based in Britain they will send tickets to Irish addresses.

Website www.bahn.co.uk.    Emailsales@bahn.co.uk

Plus points:  This is German Railways' excellent UK telesales office, but they'll send tickets to Irish addresses.  They're good for tickets from London to Germany as they use German Railways' reservation computer and can access all German Railways' special offers.  They are also good for Scandinavia, Austria, central & eastern Europe, including trains to Russia & the Ukraine.  They don't charge a booking fee.

Limitations:  Staff at a smaller agency such as European Rail (see below) can sometimes be more familiar with arranging complex bookings such as London-Istanbul or London-Romania/Bulgaria, etc. even though they charge a booking fee.  If you call DB's UK office outside Monday-Friday office hours your call is handled in Berlin.

Ticket delivery & collection:  Tickets can be sent free of charge to any Irish address.

Booking fee:  None.  A 2% fee is charged for credit cards, no fee for debit cards.


Recommended guidebooks

Paying for a guidebook may seem an unnecessary expense, but it's probably just a tiny fraction of what you're spending on your whole trip.  You will see so much more, and know so much more about what you're looking at, if you have a decent guidebook.  For the independent traveller, I think the best ones out there are either the Lonely Planet or the Rough Guide.  Both guidebooks are excellent, and you won't regret buying one..!  Alternatively, the 'Europe by Rail' guide combines country information with basic train information.

Click the images to buy at Amazon.co.uk...Rough Guide to Europe - click to buy online at AmazonLonely Planet Western Europe - click to buy onlineLonely Planet Eastern Europe - buy online at Amazon.co.ukEurope by Rail - click to buy online at AmazonLonely Planet Europe on a shoestring - click to buy online

 

 

 

 

 


Hotels & accommodation in Europe

Find hotels all across Europe...

 

◄◄ Hotel search & price comparison.

www.hotelscombined.com checks all the main hotel booking sites at once to find the widest choice of hotels & the cheapest seller.  It was named as the World's Leading Hotel Comparison Site at the World Travel Awards 2013 and I highly recommend it, both to find hotels in even the smallest places and to check that another retailer isn't selling your hotel for less!

www.booking.com is my favourite booking site.  It's really clear and you can usually book with free cancellation and so confirm your accommodation at no risk months before train booking opens.

Other hotel sites worth a look...

Budget backpacker hostels...


Travel insurance & health card

 

 

Columbus direct travel insurance

Get travel insurance, it's essential...

Never travel without insurance from a reliable travel insurer with at least 1m or preferably 5m medical cover.  It should also cover loss of cash (up to a limit) & belongings, and cancellation. An annual multi-trip policy is usually cheapest even for just 2 or 3 trips a year (I have an annual policy myself).  Don't expect travel insurance to bail you out of every missed connection, though, see the advice on missed connections here.  Here are some suggested insurers, Seat61 gets a little commission if you buy through these links, and feedback from using insurance for rail & ferry travel is always welcome.

In the UK, use www.confused.com to compare prices & policy features across major insurance companies.

If you have a pre-existing medical condition or are over 65 (no age limit), see www.JustTravelCover.com.

        If you live in Australia, New Zealand, Ireland or the EU, try Columbus Direct's other websites.

  If you live in the USA try Travel Guard USA.

Get an EU health card, it's free...

If you're a UK citizen travelling in Europe, you should apply for a free European Health Insurance Card, which entitles you to free or reduced rate health care if you become ill or get injured in many European countries, under a reciprocal arrangement with the NHS.  This replaced the old E111 forms as from January 2006.  The EHIC card is available from www.ehic.org.uk.  It doesn't remove the need for travel insurance, though.

Get a spare credit card, designed for foreign travel with no currency exchange loading & low/no ATM fees

Taking out an extra credit card costs nothing, but if you keep it in a different part of your luggage you won't be left stranded if your wallet gets stolen.  In addition, some credit cards are better for overseas travel than others.  Martin Lewis's www.moneysavingexpert.com/travel/cheap-travel-money explains which UK credit cards have the lowest currency exchange commission loadings when you buy something overseas, and the lowest cash withdrawal fees when you use an ATM abroad.

You can avoid ATM charges and expensive exchange rates with a Caxton FX euro currency Visa Card, or their multi-currency 'Global Traveller' Visa Card, see www.caxtonfx.com for info.

Get an international SIM card to save on mobile data and phone calls...

Mobile phones can cost a fortune to use abroad, and if you're not careful you can return home to find a huge bill.  Consider buying a global pre-paid SIM card for your mobile phone from www.Go-Sim.com, which can slash costs by up to 85%.  Go-Sim cuts call costs in 175 countries worldwide, and you can receive incoming calls and texts for free in 75 countries.  It's pay-as-you-go, so no nasty bills when you get home.  It also allows cheap data access for laptops & PDAs.  A Go-Sim account and any credit on it doesn't expire if it's not used between trips, unlike some others, so a Go-Sim phone number becomes your 'global phone number' for life.

 



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