How to Find Cheap European Train Tickets

by Malin Schibler, posted 20 May 2014 | 9 comments

If you want to buy cheap European train tickets, then beware that it isn’t always easy. It can require quite a bit of organisation and planning, plus some insider knowledge. Overall, the most important aspect is knowing when to book, especially as you only have a limited time frame before they sell out!

Below you will find Capitaine Train’s complete guide for buying cheap European train tickets.

SNCF_Logo2011

Cheap French train tickets

The super cheap French train tickets are called Prem’s and are extremely popular. For this reason they do sell out incredibly fast so you have to book really, really well in advance. They are strictly non-refundable and not exchangeable. So triple check everything before booking!

Price: From €15
Book: 90 days in advance (exl. summer/winter sales)*
Where: Domestic & international SNCF trains

You will find these cheap train tickets for all TGV (French: train grande vitesse), Intercités and TER trains. They offer a super comfortable and enjoyable trip (especially the TGV), regardless of your seating class. Plus, the majority of French cities are connected by a TGV network and at least an Intercité or TER train. As these cheap TGV fares are extremely quick to sell out, it is always best to mark a date in your calendar for the earliest possible date to book, so you can get your hands on these bargain prices. Even though they are not refundable or exchangeable, these French train tickets are definitely worth it.

*There are several times a year when tickets are released earlier by SNCF. To stay in the loop for these sales you can subscribe to our newsletter, follow us on Twitter or like us on Facebook.

Paris to Avignon | Paris to Bordeaux | Paris to Milan

Thalys_logo_pos

Cheap Thalys tickets

If you are quick to book, you will easily be able to find cheap Thalys tickets. Though you will of course have to mark a date in your calendar so you can secure these tickets early. Just remember, they are always non-refundable and not exchangeable.

Price: From €19
Book: 90 days in advance
Where: Paris – Brussels – Cologne – Amsterdam and many other cities

Only a very limited amount of cheap tickets are released, so it is really important that you book right when the ticket sales open. Thalys serves a host of big-name cities such as Brussels, Cologne, Paris and Amsterdam. It travels at an average of 300km per hour and also offers wifi on board, so you can travel from Paris to Amsterdam in just a little over 3.5 hours whilst staying connected. We also have one big insider tip for you! It is always wise to compare your Thalys prices with the Deutsche Bahn ICE prices, when booking certain routes from Germany, such as Cologne – Brussels. The ICE Saver Fare (listed at the bottom) can be super competitive!

Paris to Amsterdam | Brussels to Amsterdam | Paris to Brussels

Eurostar tickets

Cheap Eurostar tickets

Eurostar tickets are always in demand. Being able to hop across the English Channel in under two hours never gets old! That’s why Eurostar releases some extremely cheap train tickets. The Paris – London Eurostar service is one of the most popular (and frequently running) services. Of course this means that it never hurts to book your tickets well in advance.

Price: From €48
Book: 6 months in advance***
Where: London – Paris – Lille – Disneyland – Brussels

If you buy well in advance you can really benefit from these cheap Eurostar train tickets, which serve a variety of locations in the UK and mainland Europe. Eurostar trains depart and arrive from London St Pancras, Ebbsfleet and Ashford International, Calais-Fréthun, Lille, Brussels, Disneyland and Paris Gare du Nord and then offer connections to many other destinations. But wait! Just before you think you have read it all, Eurostar also offers some great summer deals. Every year direct tickets to and from Avignon come on sale during the summer months. This means you can book a hassle-free direct ticket from London to Avignon. Just read this article to see a list of prices and how to book these tickets.

London to Paris | London to Avignon | London to Brussels 

Cheap train tickets from France to Spain

The coolest kid on the block is the brand-spanking-new Renfe-SNCF cooperation line which runs direct trains from Paris to Barcelona daily. You can buy super cheap train tickets from Paris to Barcelona (and the several other cities along the way) if you book in advance! The best part is that 75% (within 7 days prior to departure) of the ticket price is refundable or exchangeable!

Renfe SNCF train

Price: starts from €39 one-way (depending on your departure station)
Book: 90 days in advance
Where: Paris – Barcelona and a many other cities.

This newly opened train line has become incredibly popular in the past few months. Everyone is super eager to buy cheap train tickets and speed from Paris to Barcelona in just 6.5 hours. The service operates 4 times daily, departing from various cities such as Paris, Lyon, Montpellier, Narbonne, Toulouse and Perpignan. Click here to see a complete route map of the Paris – Barcelona line.

Paris to Barcelona | Perpignan to Barcelona | Montpellier to Barcelona 

Deutsche_Bahn

Cheap German train tickets

Deutsche Bahn is the national rail operator within Germany and has a great offer of discounted train tickets. There are namely three ticket types which offer the lowest prices: Saver-Ticket, Europa-Spezial and Sparpreis Ticket. Plus, all of these tickets are genuinely easy to find.

Price: From €19.00
Book: 90 days in advance
Where: Germany and 13 other countries

The German rail carrier Deutsche Bahn has an extremely vast rail network in Europe. So there is no doubt that you will easily find yourself a cheap Deutsche Bahn ticket! The Europa-Spezial tickets can take you from Germany to Italy, Denmark, Sweden, France, Switzerland and many more countries. For instance, you can travel from Hamburg to Copenhagen for €29 in just 4.5 hours starting (with a 45 minute ferry ride included). The best thing about these tickets is that they are often available up until the last minute, so if you plan your routes properly you can really benefit from these discounted train tickets.

Frankfurt to Paris | Berlin to Prague | Munich to Berlin

tgv_lyria_tickets

Cheap Swiss train tickets

If you are looking to travel between France and Switzerland, then you can take advantage of the cheap train tickets offered by Lyria. The Non-Flex (that means non-refundable) tickets start at super lower prices but are some of the quickest European train tickets to sell out!

Price: from €25
Book: 90 days in advance
Where: routes between France and Switzerland

The high-speed line between France and Switzerland serves a host of different cities in both countries (click here for a route map). If you want to secure some Non-Flex discounted tickets then you will have to make sure that you are booking just as ticket sales open. This usually means just after midnight (GMT+1 timezone) but can sometimes be a few hours later. As long as you are booking 90 days in advance, you should stand a fairly good chance of travelling for a quarter of the usual price!

Paris – Geneva | Zurich – Paris | Paris – Basel


9 comments

Re early booking French TGV, booking generally opens at 00.00 on the day 3 calendar months previous to the day of travel. But here’s the thing: that’s French time so in the UK it opens at 23.00 the day before. That extra hour can make a big difference in price on summer Saturday trains out of Paris.

by Richard Wakefield, posted 22 May 2014 on 17:43. Reply #

Hey there! To our knowledge it’s always been 90 days with mixed opening times 🙂 The next time you book your tickets, let us know if they are released at midnight (French time) or later. We’d be keen to test this for a few times to see if there is ever a proper pattern (we haven’t found one yet).

by Malin, posted 22 May 2014 on 17:50. Reply #

Hi – this is great! Any tips about tickets to Switzerland and travel in Switzerland?

by Dave, posted 22 May 2014 on 21:20. Reply #

Hi Dave 🙂 We’ve just added a new segment on tickets to Switzerland (just have a look above). For tickets within Switzerland, you find some tips and discounts here: http://www.sbb.ch/en/travelcards-and-tickets/tickets-for-switzerland/supersaver-tickets/supersaver.html

Though unfortunately we cannot sell these tickets yet 🙁

by Malin, posted 23 May 2014 on 14:26. Reply #

Great post, really useful piece of information. I was actually thinking of planning a trip to Disneyland with my family. These informations can be really useful for people like me who are looking for budgeted travel options. Thank you for letting me know about Eurostar tickets.

by meerajoshi, posted 26 July 2014 on 13:15. Reply #

I would like to book the Eurostar from London and overnight train from Paris to Nice.

When would be the best time to book tickets please?

by jean, posted 6 January 2015 on 18:16. Reply #

Oops , should mention the dates would be end of July.

by jean, posted 6 January 2015 on 18:17. Reply #

Hi Jean!

Sncf has already opened up for the cheap tickets. London-Paris from 34,5 pounds and Paris-Nice from 35 €

Paris – Cote D’azur destinations has opened up early for the summer, as you can see here: http://aide.voyages-sncf.com/toute-laide-train/je-prepare-mon-voyage/informations-pratiques-horaires-trafic-gares/ouverture-des-ventes

by Frederik, posted 23 February 2015 on 21:10. Reply #

Here is a little info on Denmark and Sweden

In Denmark and Sweden there is also a lot of money to save if you are buying train tickets early online.

In Sweden it the same system as France: 90 days before tickets are sold at rates down to 15 % of standard price: online at http://www.sj.se. For instance from Malmö to Stockholm for 195 SEK. This discount system applies to most routes and also night trains. You can choose between non-refundable (cheapest), changeable (time of departure), and refundable. As tickets are sold for each departure rates increase. So be quick, especially for summer departures.

In Denmark ‘Orange’ tickets are sold at rates down to 1/3 of standard fares for most domestic routes. Go to http://www.dsb.dk and search for tickets. Tick the box where it says something about ‘Orangebilletter’… The tickets are non-refundable as well, and you can’t use them for local transport transfer (for instance in a local bus or the metro in Copenhagen). The orange tickets are released usually 2 months in advance, where regular online tickets can be bought 3 months in advance.

by Frederik, posted 23 February 2015 on 21:32. Reply #

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