In Western Europe, trains are a cheaper and more convenient way to get around than many of the other options. City center to city center, with no check-ins, no baggage fees, and no extra costs to reach out-of-town airports. Here are tips on how to book your trip.
If you only remember one website, remember www.bahn.de. Its online timetable will give you train times for almost any train journey anywhere in Europe.
For Germany: Alas, the website www.bahn.de only sells tickets for journeys within Germany and many international trips to, or from, Germany. But it does these tasks well.
For France: The French Railways website will sell tickets for any journey within France, and for the direct international trains from Paris to Spain, Italy, Switzerland, and Germany. They don’t make it easy for overseas travelers to book, so there’s advice on how to use it at www.seat61.com/France.htm.
For Italy: The Italian Railways website will sell tickets for any journey within Italy, and for direct international journeys from Italy to France, Spain, Switzerland, and Germany.
For Spain: The Spanish Railways website will sell tickets for any journey in Spain, you may have to use it in Spanish, but there are some special web fares that save 60 percent over what you will pay at the ticket office on the day of travel or if you buy from an agency.
For Britain:See my previous post.
Don’t assume you need an expensive railpass, even though they are heavily advertised. If you go direct to the European train company websites rather than booking through U.S. agencies, and book in advance on a no-refunds, no-changes basis, you can find some bargains out there. For example Paris-Geneva from €35, Paris-Amsterdam €70 return, Paris to Milan from €35.
—Mark Smith, writing from England, for our Affordable Europe series.