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I need to buy a ticket for an international train and, apparently, there are no websites selling it.

I once remember a friend telling me that the trains uses a system, sort of, similar to the airplanes. There is a general backend computer system that allows to find schedules everywhere and also sell tickets (eg.: you can buy a ticket at any touristic agency). He also mentioned it would be possible (at least technicaly) for a train company to sell someone elses tickets on another country.

So, to wrap this, is it possible to buy a train ticket for an international train (that goes from A to B) in a third country (C)?

Edit: I tried to make the question generic, but, answering the comments, the countries A and B are Poland and Czech Republic. The country I would like to buy the ticket in (i.e. C) would be either Belgium, Netherlands, Spain or Portugal.

Note that my question is not if I can buy them online. I already asked that. My question is if I can buy them through either a travel agent or a train company (International) ticket shop.

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For some countries you can (e.g. you can buy tickets for travel from France to UK online from anywhere in the world), for others it's not so easy (e.g. from Pakistan to Iran). It would help if you indicated what countries you are talking about. –  Aleks G Jun 18 at 16:17
    
Depends entirely on what the countries are - we'll really need you to specify those if we're to stand any chance of helping –  Gagravarr Jun 18 at 16:38
    
In what country do you want to buy this ticket going from Poland to Czech Republic? –  Peter Raeves Jun 18 at 18:35
    
@Peter Raeves, Belgium, Netherlands, Spain, Portugal are all options. –  nsn Jun 18 at 22:38
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@nsn Since I can't find any clear evidence online, I'll ask whether you can buy a ticket from Warsaw to Prague at Belgian stations and I'll try the ticket vending machine for Belgium. –  Peter Raeves Jun 19 at 10:44
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4 Answers 4

I have tried this myself multiple times from my own country (Belgium) for different European countries (neighboring countries but also Italy, Austria, Czech Republic, Portugal, Switzerland ...)

In short, the only way to find out is trying. Some hints that might give you the best mileage:

  • Forget vending machines. You won't get it there.
  • Aim for main stations in major towns. It is possible that this shouldn't matter in theory, but in reality the person behind the counter will have a lot more experience with "weird" requests in a main station. Ideally you should go to a station where the have a separate counter for international travel.
  • Focus on the main connections, especially the ones requiring reservations. Often you can buy those, even if it is impossible to buy tickets for regional trains. Buying the regional trains locally is usually not a big issue (unless you have a short connection time).
  • Find an itinerary beforehand (I prefer the site of the DB), print it and show it. The train number can be a pointer and at least it shows the person behind the counter that she/he is looking for something that exists and not going on a wild goose chase.
  • Try it during busy office hours. The more people hanging around, the higher the chance that one of them is an experienced colleague that tried it before and knows how to get it out of the computer. Or that knows it is impossible.
  • Bring your thickest skin possible. You might be occupying the counter for a while. People queuing behind you might be getting nervous.
  • Stay friendly and be prepared to take "Computer says 'no'" as an answer.

In the old days (say 15 years ago) you could buy more or less tickets between any arbitrary two stations. Now with privatizations and strict EU regulations on competition, the number of rail operators has exploded and the situation changes rapidly. What was possible last month, might not be possible today and the other way around. The people behind the counter often have to try themselves.

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To summarize and nuance the earlier answers, I know from experience that it's possible to buy tickets in or between third countries at train stations in Europe but it's often a frustrating experience. Some trains might not be available or it might be possible to get a ticket but not to book a seat. Sometimes it even depends on who you happen to ask, some railway employees seem more adept than others at finding and booking complex tickets abroad.

Also note than in some countries, booking an international ticket might require you to go to a special service desk and to pay an additional booking fee or at least to find a manned ticket office. For example in the Netherlands, many stations don't have a ticket office anymore, medium ones do but won't sell tickets outside of the Benelux and Germany and there are only a handful of NS International desks (the new brand for NS Hispeed) in places like Rotterdam and Amsterdam.

Whether a ticket that's not available on the web is more or less likely to be bookable at the station I don't know. I think they do use several different systems and if you find the right person, you might still have a chance to buy a ticket. The annoying thing is that a clerk who doesn't know the system very well will often be adamant that a train does not exist or is not bookable even if there was in fact a solution.

Finally, travel agents might be able to help as well (or not).

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Yes you can, although in some cases it might be bit complicated. I checked the website of the Dutch railways where I noticed the following announcement:

Online, NS International sells a wide range of both trips departing from the Netherlands to other countries (one-way and return) and coming from abroad to the Netherlands (one-way and return), as well as a limited number of routes from abroad to another foreign country (one-way and return). Other trips can be booked by telephone via Service Center (0900-9296,) and at desks at Tickets & Service offices at all medium to large train stations.

So at least in the Netherlands you should be able to buy your traintickets at the international desks at certain stations. I expect this to be similar in other countires as well.

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I expected the same (Belgium here), but apparently this is different in Germany, Denmark, Sweden and Norway according to Tor-Einar Jarnbjo if you look at the comments at my answer. –  Peter Raeves Jun 18 at 22:15
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I doubt @tor-einars jarnbjo's answer a bit though. I am pretty sure that at the main stations in germany there are manned desks, but I have no experience in buying those tickets in germany. I do buy inner belgium tickets in holland though. –  andra Jun 18 at 22:45
    
I don't read the quoted text in the same way. “a limited number of routes from abroad to another foreign country” suggests it's generally not possible. –  Relaxed Jun 19 at 12:12
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Yes you can.

Inside of Europe

Local European train stations offer you the possibility to buy international tickets from and to where ever you want in Europe through either their website or their local ticket shops.

Outside of Europe

I'm not sure if they do, but if they don't, you could always ask them to go the European international railway website and ask them to buy the ticket online for you.

Website to buy international European tickets

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Sorry, but this is incorrect. Many train station in Europe don't have manned ticket desks anymore and ticket vending machines are mostly very limited when it comes to selling international tickets. Even if there is a manned ticket desk at a station, they are not able to sell arbitrary tickets for foreign trains. –  Tor-Einar Jarnbjo Jun 18 at 20:11
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I live in Germany, but the situation is similar in Denmark, Sweden and Norway as well. –  Tor-Einar Jarnbjo Jun 18 at 20:27
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@andra: Did I write something else? If I managed to find the correct numbers, only 420 (less than 8%) of the 5454 railway stations in Germany have manned ticket desks. According to the SJ web page (Swedish Railways), they only operate five manned ticket sale points in Stockholm C, Arlanda (Stockholm Airport), Gothenburg C, Malmö C and Sundsvall C. –  Tor-Einar Jarnbjo Jun 18 at 23:06
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@Tor-EinarJarnbjo yes you did say something else. You down voted and said that the answer is incorrect. The OP asked for whether it was possible and it is possible. You could have added the nuance that it might be the case in only 8% of the stations. Note that in the Netherlands and Belgium the situation might be the same, hence the note: "medium to large train stations." –  andra Jun 19 at 7:45
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@Tor-EinarJarnbjo They are available in Belgium and the Netherlands. So I think this discussion is pointless unless OP tells us where he wants to buy the tickets. And maybe even towards what city he would like to go instead of just a country. –  Peter Raeves Jun 19 at 10:35
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