Travel Tips: Simple European Train Booking

Eurostar_Class_374_on_HS1_(cropped) (1)

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Other than a short trip through Hamburg for Tim’s work, our only experience with European train travel was using a BritRail Pass in 2009. It was a great experience and we enjoyed the freedom of having the pass for our trip from London to Scotland. We were able to travel north to Edinburgh and return from Glasgow and incorporate stops along the way.

DSCF4007 (2015_10_17 13_44_39 UTC)

For our upcoming trip from London to Lisbon we will be traveling through four countries and utilizing various rail systems. We also wanted to travel during the day to maximize the amount of time we would have to see the countryside of western France and Spain. Where to begin? After searching through many pages we realized that everything we needed was there for us at The Man in Seat Sixty-One. The wealth of information is amazing, but beware, as you can easily get distracted as you plan hundreds of amazing itineraries.

TGV

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

After looking through the material we found an itinerary that was just what we were looking for. We chose to take a longer and slightly more expensive four day journey from London to Lisbon via Paris, Irun, Vigo and Porto. The site laid out which trains to take, which stations they use, time for each leg and the estimated cost.

So the next question was how (and when) to book the tickets as the trip involved four different systems: Eurostar, TGF, Renfe and Portuguese Regional trains. We utilized Loco2 which is a British site that allows tickets to be purchased from Canada or almost anywhere you happen to be. One thing we hadn’t realized when we started researching was that most all of the European trains operate similar to airline style in that seats go on sale up to 3 months in advance and prices rise the closer you get to the departure date.

Renfe

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Once we had decided on the route we wanted and the dates, selection of our tickets was very straightforward on the site. You can view your seat selection (predetermined) at the time of booking. Some systems allow print at home ticketing while others require you to pick them up at the station using a reservation number. We were even able to purchase tickets on the the same transaction for the local British trains from London to Swindon where we will be house sitting.

We will let you know in October how we make out using the rail system itself, but for now we are very pleased with the ease in which we were able to research and purchase tickets. We are also trying out Tripit which collects all of our travel arrangements, reservations and information in one place with a handy app to use on the go. It is amazing how much technology can enable us to do once we take the opportunity to learn how to use it. We can’t imagine living this lifestyle without access to the tools that are currently available online.

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About timannehall

We sold almost all of our belongings and left our home in Nova Scotia in April 2016 to experience as much of the world as we could. We spent over a year slow traveling in Latin America and Europe. For the next stage of our journey we are going to be based in Portugal and traveling from there.
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3 Responses to Travel Tips: Simple European Train Booking

  1. I’m with you as I also can’t imagine traveling without all the information for transportation and places to stay via AirBnB, hotels, housesits, etc. right at one’s fingertips. Sounds like your rail trip will be amazing and thanks for the headsup on rail travel between Lisbon and London. I’m guessing it will be more expensive than the multitude of flights available but a much more comfortable way to travel and see the countryside which I love to do! P.S. Once you’re in Lisbon, you can plan your next stage by continuing on to Lagos via train (one changeover in Faro) or bus, straight through! Anita

    Liked by 1 person

    • timannehall says:

      Thanks Anita. You’re right that it is more expensive than a flight but we wanted to do the train and see more of the countryside. Not certain which we’ll take to Lagos perhaps the straight run on the bus. Cheers, Tim & Anne

      Liked by 1 person

  2. We love the man in seat 61. He’s so helpful!
    Alison

    Liked by 1 person

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