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I would like to buy tickets for the night train from Zurich to Prague around Christmas time. This train is listed as number EN 50467 on the Austrian railways site and as EN 467 on the Czech railways site, and it is operated by the Czech rail service.

I currently cannot buy tickets on the Czech railways website since it says the date I want to travel is outside of the current window for their time tables, which at this moment (October 1st) only goes through December 9th. However, the train is listed on the Austrian railways website, it just says the ticket is unavailable when I try to purchase one.

Is there any way of knowing when tickets will become available for purchase, or of even buying a ticket through some other venue? I would like to go ahead and make hotel plans, but I'm worried I won't end up being able to get the train I am planning on.

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The Man in Seat 61 is a good resource for updates on booking windows. I checked his news archives, and found the following in the November 2016 update:

Hungary, Czech Republic, Renfe etc... Expect these to open late November or even early December, based on previous years' performance.

Unfortunately there's no way around this that I know of. The Austrians are likely to open their bookings earlier than the Czechs, but if the Czechs are operating the service that probably won't help you even if you try to go through the Austrian site.

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The relevant information from the always excellent Man in Seat 61: https://www.seat61.com/Europe-when-do-train-bookings-open.htm :

Many central & eastern European countries still open ticket sales 2 months ahead, such as [...] Czech Republic [...]. Although the Czech Republic now manages 90 days on key international routes.

And [...] Czech Railways often don't open bookings for dates after that mid-December Saturday until late November or even early December, so the 60 or 90 days shrinks to as little as 10 days! But don't worry, no-one else can book either, the train won't sell out, and you'll still see cheap tickets when booking opens.

So the best advice is to keep checking twice a week or so. The tickets won't sell out that fast, so you're certain to get a place and probably even a cheap ticket.

There are companies that can do this checking for you, such as Treinreiswinkel and (I think) Loco2. Information about those can be found elsewhere on the Seat61 site.

So don't worry, you're certain to get the train ticket, and can book your accommodation now already.

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I'm writing from the Czech Republic. For regular trains (not sleeping cars) you can ALWAYS buy a train ticket on the day of departure without any problems. If I were you - I would just walk up to the ticket window in Zurich half an hour before departure and buy the ticket then.

Alternately, you could buy a ticket from Zurich to the border point (there is always a point on the border - either a real town/village or made up town just for the purpose of the train travel between countries)...and then find the person checking the tickets on the train and they will sell you a ticket on the train for the same price (with maybe an extra fee of just 1 Euro).

Either way will work. I travel on trains a lot and I would do option #1. Good luck! :-)

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    @Allysin Thanks for this information! Is it reasonable to expect this to hold true for sleeper trains, i.e. I could expect to purchase a 2 berth compartment on the day of travel? – James Cameron Oct 2 '17 at 20:47
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    @James Cameron: No - this is NOT true for sleeper compartments! At least I don't have enough experience taking these to tell) Why do you want to take the sleeper car anyway? I prefer to travel in the daytime to see the countryside. There is a train that leaves Zurick at 8:35 a.m. for example and takes only 9 hours and 50 minutes to get to Prague! You have to change trains in Stuttgart Hbf though and take a bus from Nürnberg ZOB but you arrive in Prage at 18:25 (6:25 pm)! I would select this option if I were you... – Allysin Oct 2 '17 at 21:14
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    This doesn't answer the question: the question was specifically about night trains, and you're answering specifically about daytime trains. – Pont Oct 3 '17 at 8:17
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    @Allysin Re your suggested day train alternative: an early start, ~10 hours travel, two changes, a 3.5-hour bus segment, and losing a whole day in beautiful Prague? I think you've answered your own question as to “Why do you want to take the sleeper car?” ;-). – Pont Oct 3 '17 at 9:28
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    "Why do you want to take the sleeper car anyway?" Perhaps the asker needs to arrive in the morning but doesn't want to take an extra day off work to arrive the day before, and pay for a hotel, too. Perhaps they find sitting in trains to be boring and would rather sleep. Really, it's not your place to "educate" the asker on the "correct" way to travel. – David Richerby Oct 3 '17 at 9:33

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