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It's best to buy European train tickets online, especially if you live outside Europe.  But if you live in the UK or Ireland and would prefer to book tickets by phone, this page tells you who to call depending on the journey you want to book.

Remember that if you book by phone or in person you'll normally pay a booking fee, and the agency you use may not be able to access the cheapest rates for your journey if they don't have a connection to that operator's ticketing system.

How to buy tickets in person

In the UK, there are now hardly any places where you can buy European train tickets over the counter.  The former Rail Europe office in Piccadilly closed in 2015.  The Eurostar ticket office at London St Pancras only sells tickets as far as Paris or Brussels plus a few major cities in France, Germany & the Netherlands.  Most British railway stations do not sell international tickets at all except for train & ferry tickets to Ireland.  You usually need to buy online or by phone.

How to buy tickets by phone

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


Deutsche Bahn

UK flag

To call from the UK:

00 49 30 311 68 29 04

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

US flag

To call from the USA:

0646 88 33 264

EU flag

To call from other European countries, see the contact numbers here.

 

Deutsche Bahn (German Railways) have an English-speaking phone number, as well as numbers for information & tickets in several other European languages.  Calls are handled by English-speaking staff at DB's call centre in Berlin.  They can sell tickets and reservations for much of Europe, and charge either no booking fee, or a token one.  DB's long-standing 0871 UK phone number was discontinued in October 2020.

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

Phone lines open:  08:30-20:00 Monday to Friday, 09:00-13:00 Saturday & Sunday, UK time.

Personal callers:  No

Website www.bahn.co.uk.

Plus points:  This is German Railways' own telesales office in Berlin, 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.

Ticket delivery & collection:  In many cases tickets can be emailed.  Alternatively, hard-copy tickets can be sent to any address worldwide for a small fee, about 5.90.

Booking fee:  Since the new EU legislation came in they have dropped their 2% credit card fee but now charge 1.5% fee for all phone bookings.


The Travel Bureau

01902 326 662

UK flag

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

 

 

Recommended for:  Most train journeys all over Europe.

Phone lines open:  10:00-16:00 Mondays to Fridays, closed weekends.

Personal callers:  No.

Websiterail-travel.co.ukMember of AERA.

Emailrail@thetravelbureau.co.uk

Plus points:  Can arrange rail tickets across much of Europe.

Limitations:  Only open office hours.

Booking fee:  Yes, but not known. 

Ticket delivery & collection:  Tickets can be sent to any address worldwide, some can be emailed.


International Rail

0844 248 248 3

UK flag

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.

Websitewww.internationalrail.comMember of AERA.

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.


Ffestiniog Travel

01766 512400

UK flag

 

Recommended for:  Most train journeys all over Europe.

Phone lines open:  09:00-17:00 Mondays to Fridays, 09:00-13:00 Saturdays.

Websitewww.ffestiniogtravel.comMember of AERA

Personal callers:  Yes, at the former St Mary's Church, Church St, Tremadog, Wales, LL49 9RA.

Email info@ffestiniogtravel.co.uk.


Trainseurope

01354 705098

UK flag

Lines open 09:00-19:30 Monday to Friday, 10:00-15:00 Saturday & Sunday.

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

Phone lines open:  09:00-19:00 Monday to Friday, 10:00-15:00 Saturdays & Sundays.

Personal callers:  Yes, at March.

March railway station, Cambridgeshire, open 09:00-19:00 Monday to Friday, 10:00-15:00 Saturdays & Sundays.

Websitewww.trainseurope.co.uk.    Email sales@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

UK flag

 

Other good agencies include:

Rail Canterbury www.rail-canterbury.co.uk.  Their shop in Canterbury has closed, but they still work by email, rail@rail-canterbury.co.uk.

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


RailShop.ie

(01) 866 5841

Irish flag

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

Irish flag

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

Irish flag

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 aimed at Britain users they will send tickets to Irish addresses.

Website www.bahn.co.uk.

Plus points:  This is German Railways' excellent UK telesales line, 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.

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

Booking fee:  Since the new EU legislation came in they have dropped their 2% credit card fee but now charge 1.5% fee for all phone booking.


Treinreiswinkel 

NL:  071 51 37 008

Netherlands flag

Lines open 09:30-17:30 Monday to Friday, 10:00-17:00 Saturday.

Recommended for:  All European journeys, if you're in the Netherlands

Phone lines open:  09:30-17:30 Monday to Friday, 10:00-17:00 Saturday.

Personal callers:  Yes, in Leiden at Breestraat 57 ANVR 4173

Website www.treinreiswinkel.nl.    Emailinfo@treinreiswinkel.nl

This is the best known and very capable independent ticket retailer in the Netherlands.

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

Booking fee:  Yes.


Togreijse 

DK:  +45 25 47 09 09

Netherlands flag

Lines open 08:00-16:30 Monday to Friday.

Recommended for:  All European journeys, if you're in Denmark

Phone lines open:  09:30-17:30 Monday to Friday, 10:00-17:00 Saturday.

Personal callers:  Jernbanegade 29, 7700 Thisted, Denmark.

Websitetogrejse.dk.    Emailbooking@togrejse.dk

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

Booking fee:  Yes.


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 Amazon   Lonely Planet Western Europe - click to buy online   Lonely Planet Eastern Europe - buy online at Amazon.co.uk   Europe by Rail - click to buy online at Amazon   Lonely Planet Europe on a shoestring - click to buy online

Hotels in Europe

Find hotels at Booking.comMy favourite hotel search site: www.booking.com

www.booking.com is my favourite hotel booking site and I generally prefer booking my hotels all in one place here.  You can usually book with free cancellation - this allows you to confirm your accommodation at no risk before train booking opens.  It also means you can hold accommodation while you finalise your itinerary, and alter your plans as they evolve - a feature I use all the time when putting a trip together.  I never book hotels non-refundably.  I have also come to trust their review scores - you won't be disappointed with anything over 8.0.

Tip:  It can pay to compare prices across multiple hotel sites:  HotelsCombined.com is a price comparison site which compares hotel prices on Booking.com, Hotels.com, Expedia, Accor, Agoda and many others.  Though if there's not much in it, I prefer keeping all my bookings together in one place at www.booking.com.

Other hotel sites worth a look...

Budget backpacker hostels...


Travel insurance & VPN

 

Staysure travel insurance

 

Columbus Direct logo

Always take out travel insurance

You should take out travel insurance with at least 1m or preferably 5m medical cover from a reliable insurer.  It should cover trip cancellation and loss of cash & belongings up to a reasonable limit.  These days, check you're covered for covid-19-related issues, and use an insurer whose cover isn't invalidated by well-meant but excessive Foreign Office travel advice against non-essential travel. An annual policy is usually cheapest even for just 2 or 3 trips a year, I have an annual policy with Staysure.co.uk myself.  Don't expect travel insurance to bail you out of every missed connection, see the advice on missed connections here.  Here are some suggested insurers, I get a little commission if you buy through these links, feedback always welcome.

UK flag  www.staysure.co.uk offers enhanced Covid-19 protection and gets 4.7 out of 5 on Trustpilot.

UK flag  www.columbusdirect.com is also a well-know brand.

US flag  If you live in the USA try Travel Guard USA.

 

Maya.net logo

Get an eSIM with mobile data package for Europe

Don't rely on WiFi, download an eSIM with a mobile data package for Europe and stay connected.  Most newer mobile phones can download a virtual SIM card so you don't need to buy a physical SIM, including iPhone 11 & later, see device compatibility listMaya.net is a reliable eSIM data retailer with a 4.5 out of 5 Trustpilot rating and a range of packages including unlimited data.

 

Curve card

Get a Curve card for foreign travel

Most banks give you a poor exchange rate, then add a foreign transaction fee on top.  A Curve MasterCard means no foreign transaction fees and gives you the mid-market exchange rate, at least up to a certain limit, 500 per month as I write this.  The money you spend on your Curve card goes straight onto one of your existing debit or credit cards.  And you can get a Curve card for free.

How it works:  1. Download the Curve app for iPhone or Android.  2. Enter your details & they'll send you a Curve MasterCard - they send to the UK and most European addresses.  3. Link your existing credit & debit cards to the app, you can link up to two cards with the free version of Curve, I link my normal debit card and my normal credit card.  4. Now use the Curve MasterCard to buy things online or in person or take cash from ATMs, exactly like a normal MasterCard. Curve does the currency conversion and puts the balance in your own currency onto whichever debit or credit card is currently selected in the Curve app.  You can even change your mind about which card it goes onto, within 14 days of the transaction.

I have a Curve Blue card myself, it means I can buy a coffee on a foreign station on a card without being stung by fees and lousy exchange rates, just by tapping the Curve card on their card reader.  The money goes through Curve to my normal debit card and is taken directly from my account (in fact I have the Curve card set up as payment card on Apple Pay on my iPhone, so can double-click my phone, let it do Face ID then tap the reader with the phone - even easier than getting a card out).  I get a little commission if you sign up to Curve, but I recommend it here because I think it's great.  See details, download the app and get a Curve card, they'll give you 5 cashback through that link.

 

Express VPN

Get a VPN for safe browsing.  VPNs & why you need one explained

When you're travelling you often use free WiFi in public places which may not be secure.  A VPN encrypts your connection so it's always secure, even on unsecured WiFi.  It also means you can select the geographic location of the IP address you browse with, to get around geoblocking which a surprising number of websites apply.  See VPNs & why you need one explainedExpressVPN is a best buy with a 4.7 out of 5 Trustpilot ranking which I use myself - I've signed up as an ExpressVPN affiliate, and if you go with expressvpn.com using the links on this page, you should see a special deal, 3 months free with an annual subscription.  I get a small commission to help support this site.

 

Anker Powerrbank

Always carry an Anker powerbank

Tickets, reservations, vaccination records and Interrail or Eurail passes are often held digitally on your mobile phone, so it's vital to keep it charged.  I always carry an Anker powerbank which can recharge my phone several times over if I can't get to a power outlet.  Buy from Amazon.co.uk or from Buy from Amazon.com.

Touring cities & museums?  Use hill walking shoes!

One of the best things I've done is swap my normal shoes for hill-walking shoes, in my case from Scarpa.  They're intended for hiking across the Pennines not wandering around Florence, but the support and cushioning for hiking works equally well when you're on your feet all day exploring foreign cities.  My feet used to give out first and limit my day, now the rest of me gives up before they do!


'Rail travel to Europe' general information page

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