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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.

UK flag How to buy tickets in person

There are very few places in the UK where you can buy European train tickets over the counter.  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 the Republic of Ireland.  But there are one or two exceptions worth mentioning:

UK flag Irish flag Netherlands flag 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, as some agencies are better for some journeys than others because of the specific ticketing system(s) which 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.


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

0871 700 7722

UK flag

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, at March & Leicester.

London St Pancras International:  Trains Europe used to have a desk here, but it closed in 2017.

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

Leicester station office, open Monday-Saturday 10:00-16:00.

Their office at Cambridge railway station has closed. 

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.


UK Voyages-sncf

(formerly Rail Europe UK)

UK flag

 

SNCF's (French Railways) UK subsidiary has closed down.  Originally Rail Europe UK (raileurope.com), later rebranded as UK voyages-sncf, it first closed its West Malling call centre and shifted call handling to Spain, then in March 2018 closed both its UK website and its UK phone number.  If you now call 0844 848 5 848 it tells you to call SNCF in France on 00 33 970 60 99 70, which will cost you 80p/minute.  You may want to use a UK agency as this will be cheaper to call, although almost all the remaining UK agencies have higher booking fees and shorter opening hours (usually closed evenings & weekends) than the former Rail Europe UK.


Other UK agencies...

UK flag

 

Other good agencies include:

Rail Canterbury:  Unfortunately, they have now closed down permanently.

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.


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 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 & accommodation 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

 

Columbus direct travel insurance

 

Confused.com logo

Always take out travel insurance...

Never travel without travel insurance with at least 1m or preferably 5m medical cover from a reliable insurer.  It should also cover trip cancellation and loss of cash & belongings up to a reasonable limit.  An annual multi-trip policy is usually cheapest even for just 2 or 3 trips a year, I have an annual policy myself.  However, 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, Seat61 gets a little commission if you buy through these links, feedback is always welcome.

UK flagIn the UK, reliable insurers include Columbus Direct.

UK flag

If you have a pre-existing medical condition or are over 65, see www.JustTravelCover.com - 10% discount with code seat61.

UK flagYou can use www.confused.com to compare prices & policy features across major insurance companies.

UK flag

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

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

 

Curve card

Get a Curve card to save on foreign transaction fees...

Banks often give a poor exchange rate, then charge a currency conversion fee as well.  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 balance 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 app for iPhone or Android.  2. Enter your details & they'll send you a Curve MasterCard - they send to most European addresses including the UK.  3. Link your existing credit & debit cards to the app.  4. Now use the Curve MasterCard to buy things online or in person or take cash from ATMs, just like a normal MasterCard. Curve does the currency conversion and puts the balance onto whichever of your debit or credit cards you choose.  You can even change your mind about which card it goes onto, within 14 days of the transaction.

I use a Curve Blue card myself - I get a little commission if you sign up to Curve, but I'm recommending 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, too.

 

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 means your connection to the internet is encrypted & always secure, even using unsecured WiFi.  In countries such as China where access to Twitter & Facebook is restricted, a VPN gets around these restrictions.  And lastly, you can select the geographic location of the IP address you browse with, to get around geographic restrictions which some websites apply - for example one booking site charges a booking fee to non-European visitors but none to European visitors, so if you're not located in Europe you can avoid this fee by browsing with a UK IP address using a VPN.  VPNs & why you need one explained ExpressVPN is a best buy and I use it 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, and I get a small commission to help support this site.


'Rail travel to Europe' general information page

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