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Consider two persons: a EU citizen and an Indian coming in EU for visiting a couple of countries.

According to this page (and if I'm not missing anything), the EU citizen would have to get an Interrail pass, while the Indian person would get an Eurail pass.

An Interrail Pass can only be used by European citizens and official residents. Non-European citizens can use a Eurail Pass instead, available from Eurail.com. If you aren't a European citizen, but you can prove that you live in Europe, you can use an Interrail Pass.

Now, let's assume those two friends want to go from Paris to Berlin by train. How can they get seats in the train to stay together?

  • Are you planning to pay a surcharge and travel with high speed trains (TGV, Thalys, ICE) or are you going with the slower trains covered by the Interrail/Eurail passes? – Tor-Einar Jarnbjo Apr 3 '18 at 9:53
  • @Tor-EinarJarnbjo To be honest, I have no experience with EU trains. I'd prefer faster trains and without any changes. I'm not sure if that answers your question. – Ionică Bizău Apr 3 '18 at 10:09
9

The distribution varies from country to country, but in general there are three classes of trains you may encounter:

1. Trains without seat reservation. This includes local and regional trains almost everywhere, and a fraction of longer-distance trains that varies by country.

For these you just board the train and hope to find two vacant seats close to each other.

2. Trans with seat reservation, but without surcharges for pass holders. In some countries, plenty of long-distance trains fall into this category.

Walk up to the ticket counter and say "we need two seats for such-and-such train". If the person at the counter asks whether you also need tickets, say "no thanks, we already have passes". You -- as well as travelers on ordinary tickets -- will often need to pay a (generally small) separate fee for the reservation.

Depending on location, it is often possible to buy the reservation from a ticket machine, which will give you the opportunity to select seats yourself. Try poking around in the on-screen menus to see if it offers that; if not just go to the staffed ticket counter.

In some countries many trains have optional seat reservations where you can choose between method (1) and (2) yourself, depending on how far in advance you're laying your plans and how much it would ruin your day to have to stand. If you choose method (1) you risk being bumped out of the seats you find by people who have reserved it; if you choose method (2) you risk discovering on the day itself that the train is all but empty and feeling that the price of the reservation was wasted.

3. Trains that require surcharges for pass holders. These include most high-speed trains and generally also require reservations in advance. Sometimes the number of pass holders on each train is restricted.

Walk up to the ticket counter and say, "We would like to go on such-and-such train. I have pass A and my friend has pass B. Are there any seats left you can sell us?"

Having different kinds of passes is no barrier to reserving seats next to each other, assuming that there are any free seat pairs left to sell at all. If there aren't, you'll need to choose between getting separate seats or traveling at another time. (Or, if you're feeling splurgy, asking if upgrading to 1st class and/or buying full-price tickets would help the matter).

  • 2
    This is very helpful information! Is there a way to know what kind of train is the one that we are going to choose, by looking online? For instance, where should I search for Paris -> Berlin trains and see if they accept Eurail/Interrail passes and need (or not) seat reservation or surcharges? Thanks! – Ionică Bizău Apr 3 '18 at 12:01
  • 1
    @IonicăBizău: For Paris to Berlin in particular, the relevant trains with surcharges are TGV, Thalys, and ICE trains. Travel planners will give you those unless you specifically de-select those train classes -- for example, on the DB travel planner, you can press "Erweitere Verkehrsmittelauswahl" and then deselect ICE trains, which will then also exclude TGV and Thalys. Beware that it is practically impossible to get all the way from Paris to Berlin in one day without high-speed trains, so if you want to avoid the surcharges you might as well plan to spend some nights somewhere in between. – Henning Makholm Apr 3 '18 at 12:10
  • Well, Paris -> Berlin was just an example. What I'm still unsure is, for us, what would be the best way to search for trains and reserve if needed, online (e.g. smartphone apps or websites)? I made an account on Interrail and my friend will probably need to sign up on Eurail, but I'm still unsure about the booking process. Or should I ask another question for that? – Ionică Bizău Apr 3 '18 at 12:17
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    @IonicăBizău: I don't think you will get anyone to compile a full list of the possible reservation options in all EU countries in an SE answer -- that's far too broad. If you have a concrete travel leg where you need to book without going to the station and talking to someone at the ticket counter (and can't figure it out by clicking around on the relevant railway company's website), you can ask a question about that particular trip here -- but expecting a list that covers everywhere is too much. – Henning Makholm Apr 3 '18 at 12:21

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