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My wife and I have decided to move across Europe by train. Do you know of any good sites for planning a trip via train (schedule and maybe prices)? We're going to go across Europe from east (Russia and Baltic countries) to west (France and Germany).
I've found only http://www.oebb.at/.

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You might want to checkout rome2rio.com Not a map, but certainly a good tool to evaluate routes –  andra Feb 15 '13 at 14:10

11 Answers 11

up vote 44 down vote accepted

Seat 61 is the absolute definitive guide for international rail travel. It has all the information you need about routes, prices, and schedule. It also has plenty of links to the places where you can price up and buy tickets, and where to buy them if you can't buy them online.

http://seat61.com/

If you have more specific questions you can ask them here obviously.

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Thanks for the link –  VMAtm Jun 21 '11 at 21:46
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+1. I've not long got back from a train journey from London to Istanbul planned with information from this site. It is an excellent guide. –  Gareth Jun 29 '11 at 8:16
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Seat 61 is the definitive introductory guide for train travel. But once you've reached the right country you'll need to turn somewhere else. The DB (German railways) site is the reference site for timetables and routes in most of Europe. –  Gilles Jul 4 '11 at 20:15

I'm surprised no answer so far has mentioned Raildude. This is a very useful, community-driven website for international trains in Europe. It is particularly focussed on budget travel, and indeed originates from a Interrail-related website.

Hafas considered harmful

I'd like to issue a word of warning about Hafas-based search engines. Bahn.de, B-Rail, ÖBB, and NS Hispeed are all based on the same international train database known as Hafas. It relies on participating train companies submitting their timetables, and is not always complete. In my experience:

  • It is not complete. It's all-to-easy to think it is complete because it has so many trains, but it is not. In my experience, the further from Germany, the more trains are missing. I've taken decent trains in Spain that were not registered in Hafas.

  • It contains invalid connections. For example, in Sweden, each railway station has a minimum transfer time. HAFAS is not aware, so it might recommend a connection with a 10 minute change whereas the minimum transfer time is 15 minutes. Minimum transfer time in this case means that connections are guaranteed, so that tickets are replaced if a connection is missed. With a connection less than the minimum connection time, this guarantee will not work.

  • It is even less complete around timetable shifts. Each year in the beginning of December, timetables change. Around the shift of timetables, Hafas is very incomplete, even in Germany. In practice, planning a Christmas holiday is not possible with a Hafas-based search engine, because so many trains are missing or only registered extremely late.

The different Hafas-based search engines have slightly different features. For example, B-Rail permits to specify the maximum number of connections, whereas Bahn.de allows to specify the minimum change time. Most allow to have one or more via stations. My combining those features, one can often get a much better connection than to simply write Stockholm to Madrid in an arbitrary search engine.

Complementary sources

  • If possible, use the various national railway websites to double-check the timetable obtained with Hafas. For example, inside Spain, Renfe have a much more complete and reliable timetable than any international website. Most, if not all, countries have national railway company websites. This list on Wikipedia might get you started.

  • The German forum Drehscheibe Online has a list of PDF timetables for the various national railway companies, where available. Personally, I love to browse paper railway timetables. However, for most countries it can be quite hard to find the correct timetable.

  • For long-distance trains, browse earlier-mentioned websites such as Seat 61 and Raildude. The latter specifically mentions connections between major cities, whereas the former is mostly written from a UK perspective.

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Regarding the connection times. At bahn.de website you can customise this parameter. You can choose the minimum you want. If you miss a connection it's your problem, and you won't automatically get a refund. In Germany, with the cheapest tickets you have to take specified trains. If you miss one of them, you can take another train, but you probably have to pay an extra fee. If you buy these tickets ("Sparpreis" & co.) you are alone responsible to get your connections. –  PERSONA NON GRATA Nov 10 '12 at 13:47
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@MarcelC you can only specify one global minimum connection time. The problem is that a station like Stockholm C requires 20 minutes, but Boden C requires only 5 minutes. There are 15 minutes between the day train Narvik–Luleå and the night train Luleå–Göteborg, and this connection is guaranteed, but not shown if one specifies a minimum 20 minute connection. I've lost connections in Sweden several times while traveling Sweden–Spain, and they've always replaced my tickets immediately — of course when my change time was sufficient. –  gerrit Nov 10 '12 at 14:19
    
It depends on the fine-print. For some kinds of tickets you get a refund for other you don't. The cheaper the ticket, the less you can ask for ... –  PERSONA NON GRATA Nov 10 '12 at 14:25
    
Inside Europe the CIV rules apply for any international ticket. You can read about them here and here. Among other things, in all but exceptional circumstances, the railway company is required to transport you from beginning to the end if your travel is on one ticket. This means replacing missed connections or refunding tickets that have become unuseable due to delays, regardless of the ticket flexibility. –  gerrit Nov 10 '12 at 22:47
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The relevant article is article 32: § 1 The carrier shall be liable to the passenger for loss or damage resulting from the fact that, by reason of cancellation, the late running of a train or a missed connection, his journey cannot be continued the same day, or that a continuation of the journey the same day could not reasonably be required because of given circumstances. The damages shall comprise the reasonable costs of accommodation as well as the reasonable costs occasioned by having to notify persons expecting the passenger. –  gerrit Nov 10 '12 at 22:48

Here is the Interrail map:

On the site, it is also available as a 14Mb PDF that you can zoom for details.

As speed/duration depends on many factors, the map only distinguishes between high speed lines, main lines and other lines.

Interrail map

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Nice! This is the closest thing to what I want so far :) –  Jon Feb 15 '13 at 14:23
    
An example for the duration: Frankfurt-Cologne takes between 1:03 and 2:24, both with ICE without to change trains –  Dirty-flow Feb 15 '13 at 14:27
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since it also depends on how often the trains come (for the connections across Europe), I think this answer is sufficient. And anyway, everything has flaws. Example: you are in italy and want to go to Slovenia. You will need to go to through Austria. I would recommend to take this map, and use bahn.de and try to plan your trip. There are very convenient ways, and others that are not. –  Vince Feb 15 '13 at 15:17
    
I just found another helpful map: parisprague.files.wordpress.com/2009/10/train_europe.gif It shows only the times and only for some cities. It is still quite helpful about overall duration of a trip. –  Vince Mar 31 '13 at 21:12
    
If you want a high-quality large scale printed map, get the Thomas Cook Europe Rail Map, available in all good bookshops. –  TRiG Sep 2 '13 at 23:46

If you travel through the Baltic countries, prefer the bus to the train. Busses are faster, more frequent, more comfortable than trains. Once you are in Poland, you can switch to trains. So here are the sites:

  • DB TravelService has schedules that will cover the whole trip, apart from the busses in the Baltic countries. It only has fares for trains within Germany. And for some trains to and from Germany.
  • Go Rail for the trains from Moscow or Saint Petersburg to Tallinn.
  • Lux Express is operating busses between the Baltic countries, but also between Tallinn and Saint Petersburg and Vilnius and Warsaw.
  • For train travel within Poland, use the PKP route planner.
  • For train travel to and within Germany, use DB TravelService.
  • For train travel to France, use DB TravelService or Voyages SNCF.
  • For train travel in France, use Voyages SNCF and possibly TER SNCF for local trains.
  • If you travel through Belgium, SNCB Europe can be helpful for the long distance trains and SNCB/NMBS for the local trains.
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To go from Russia and Baltic Countries to Germany and France you have to go through the Poland. Although in other answers you have good international links, I think it's good to double-check connections on country-specific site. Polish railways has schedules and approximate prices on site: http://rozklad.pkp.pl/

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As mentioned by others Seat 61 is really the bible for European train travel and I would have been lost without it when planning and booking our train travel. It's focused on travelling from London but it's still really useful even if you're not starting your journey in London. It will point you in the right directions in terms of finding online timetables and tickets from the various operators and retailers.

I also stumbled across Loco2 but haven't used it other than some quick searches. I'd be interested if there's anyone here that's used it and has some feedback.

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In addition for UK travellers (at least) you can now book your entire journey from your home town/city train station right through to your destination wired.co.uk/news/archive/2013-11/12/loco2-european-rail-booking –  Simon Dec 6 '13 at 14:02

This website is awesome to find route around europe by official.

btw, If you planned to travel in Europe by train, You should use an Eurail or InterRail(if you are EU/CH resident) It's more saving and can change itinerary any time without worries

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EURail should be a good place to plan the trip.

They do go as far east as Poland and Bulgaria, but no further than that.

EuroStar is another network that may be useful, but it stops short of EURail on the eastern side.

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What do you mean by "stops short of Eurail?". It connects the UK to France/Belgium, and both of the latter are countries where you can use your Eurail pass. –  victoriah Jun 21 '11 at 20:44
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I mean that EURail goes further east than EuroStar does. –  Raj More Jun 21 '11 at 20:59
    
Thanks for the links/ –  VMAtm Jun 21 '11 at 21:46

I suggest to use InterRail pass instead of buying tickets. This is cheaper if you plan to travel more than few thousand kilometers.

For schedules, search HAFAS on Google. This is the common database shared by most rail companies in Europe (e.g.: Germany, Switzerland, Belgium)

Finally, for dreaming, check Orient-Express.

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Buying passes from North America is a HUGE savings over buying individual tickets once in Europe. My 8 day pass for train travel in England (bought from Canada) cost less than one of the one way legs I knew I wanted to do would have cost had I bought that ticket in England. Run the numbers well in advance because you need to leave time for the paper passes to be shipped to North America before you leave. –  Kate Gregory Jul 4 '11 at 14:31
    
InterRail passes are great if you have a planned itinerary. If you like to wander randomly wide and far the passes cover certain areas so if you have a pass that covers the south and you have a sudden whim to head north or east it might not be flexible enough. At least that's what I found ten years ago on my first europtrip. –  hippietrail Sep 5 '11 at 8:34
    
You can buy an InterRail pass that is valid for all countries. But flexibility is more expensive. –  mouviciel Sep 5 '11 at 11:14
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Just note that Interrail and Eurail passes are not valid in the baltic countries, in Russsia, Ukraine and Belarus. –  user766 Oct 19 '11 at 19:20

For route planning, the German Railway's website - http://www.bahn.de - is unbeatable for working out how to get from Helsinki to Madrid by train. It doesn't cover the ticket purchasing for journeys outside Germany though.

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And for trainspotters, check out railway maps in Europe and elsewhere. –  Gilles Jul 4 '11 at 20:16
    
It's also incomplete for Spain. It includes the big trains, but the small trains are often missing. Inside Spain, you'll want to use renfe.es –  gerrit Nov 10 '12 at 11:13

The site that stands out by a mile is seat61.com. Really well written, very comprehensive, and has all the information you'll need on how to book when you've decided. I use it all the time!

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I've already seen that, thank you –  VMAtm Jun 21 '11 at 21:47

protected by mindcorrosive Apr 20 '13 at 13:42

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