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I am going to make an Interrail trip in September this year, which will be a mix of rural camping and city trips. Due to the camping, I am considering taking my Mora Garberg (blade length: 10.9cm, blade width: 3.2mm) with me, but I am unsure about the laws and how the different train companies handle this topic.

I am planning on starting in Barcelona and continuing to Rome via Toulon. After that going to Slovenia, Austria, and Germany.

I thought of packing the knife into my sleeping bag (unlikely to be searched), but I don't want any trouble with the authorities. I am considering workarounds, e.g. my small Swiss pocket knife, but I am unsure if even that is illegal.

I don't carry it in the pocket of my pants when I am e.g. walking through Rome, but I am afraid of e.g. someone searching my backpack when crossing borders.

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    I'm a bit puzzled. You are a EU resident, so I would expect you know there are no border checks within the Schengen area, and trains (apart from a few exception) do not have luggage scanners. Jan 29 at 19:18
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    @KristvanBesien I am aware that there are no such things as luggage scanners on trains except Eurostar. But border police officers, at least in Germany, have permission to search your luggage if you are crossing the border into Germany. That is what I am afraid of. In addition, there are sometimes border controls, where certain travelers are picked for investigation. For example, if you take the IC from Hamburg to Copenhagen, the Danish border police will go through the train and check the ID Card of every traveler.
    – Hagenbeck
    Jan 29 at 19:38
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    They will not search luggage of normal passengers though. They do not have the time and manpower for that. They will do it if they got a tip you have a cut up corpse in there or something... Jan 30 at 8:58
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    "there are no such things as luggage scanners on trains except Eurostar" - in Spain there are luggage scanners for the high-speed trains
    – Aaron F
    Jan 31 at 2:19

3 Answers 3

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Quite generally:

  • You should check the rules per country on Wikipedia's Knife Legislation page.

  • In some countries some types of knives are forbidden altogether, because their only purpose is to be used as weapons.

  • In many cases, the destination (in the sense "what do you intend to do with the knife", not "where are you going to") is relevant: having a kitchen knife in hand or in your pocket is very different from having a kitchen knife in a box or closed bag.

  • I'm not aware of any systematic scans or checks anywhere (except Eurostar to/from London, which seems to be outside the scope of your question) and on high-speed services in Spain. Not familiar with Renfe's policies, but on the Eurostar they could bother you for nail clippers when departing from London while the guys in Paris (french customs officers) don't care the least. Bad movies notwithstanding, since it's going to be quite difficult to hijack a train, they should be more worried about guns (as in Thalys attack) and bombs (as in TGV bombing), but YMMV.

  • The UK is probably the country with the most restrictions (and the only one I know with big posters at Saint Pancras telling you that knives are forbidden), but again, out of scope of your question.

  • At borders between the countries listed in your question, there are no systematic checks anywhere. The only place they could have systematic checks is when you enter/exit the EU, i.e. when you go through Switzerland, but they definitely don't. They can do random checks, but as far as I know they are more interested in drugs (especially on routes from the Netherlands) and money (on routes to/from Switzerland).

  • While at some borders there may be systematic passport control checks (due to "temporary" reintroduction of border checks between Schengen Area member states), those usually apply only one-way (basically South-to-North or East-to-West), and involve immigration, so passports and visas, rather than your belongings. Depending on the border the agents doing immigration and customs checks may or may not be the same, or they may do joint patrols, but still, what they are looking for is in my experience quite specific.

  • One possible issue is that some "types" have a tendency to draw law enforcement like magnets. "Foreign-looking" people (especially from Africa, the Middle-East and South Asia) draw immigration and police looking for illegal migrants. Others like backpackers draw customs and police looking for drugs. While searching for those they may end up finding your knife, but that's usually not what they were looking after.

As others have advised, don't try to hide anything. Make sure the knife is not a type that is explicitly forbidden. Do not carry it in your pocket, but in a well-closed (ideally locked) box or bag, making it clear that there is no intent to use it.

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    In fairness, it would be at least mildly surprising if any other countries had big posters at Saint Pancras about anything.
    – A. R.
    Jan 31 at 13:16
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    Spain's train operator (Renfe) bans knives except for a few not applicable exceptions. See the relevant policy in Spanish. The relevant section (Objetos no permitidos (Forbidden Objects)) translates as: [...] Sharp objects: [...] -Knifes with a blade length greater than 6 centimeters. [...] Jan 31 at 16:33
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    Spain absolutely will scan your bags before letting you board an high speed train. I don't know what they do about knives, but I have always had to scan my bags. At least for Madrid, Barcelona and Valencia. Feb 1 at 12:14
  • "The UK is probably the country with the most restrictions", and also the one where you will never have anything scanned or searched, minus the Eurostar. Feb 1 at 20:44
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Some styles of knife are forbidden. They include butterfly knives, push knives, or disguised knives. Since they cannot be owned, they cannot be carried.

Other styles of knife are restricted from carry in the public. This includes blade lengths over 12 cm, or folding knives which can be operated with a single hand. There are exceptions from this restriction, plenty of kitchen knives are longer than 12 cm. These exceptions come down to "good reason" and "reasonable stowage." A picknick basket may contain a longer knife, but you can't wear it on the belt in a pub.

As I understand it, you have a fixed knife with a blade shorter than that. So don't hide it in the sleeping bag, pack it with your kitchen stuff along with spoons and forks. And pack the kitchen stuff so that there can be no suggestion that it is ready to draw.

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    OP lists a very specific knife though - is it banned anywhere on their route?
    – JonathanReez
    Jan 31 at 0:21
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    @JonathanReez, my answer is tagged with one country on the route, and the answer is in my last paragraph.
    – o.m.
    Jan 31 at 5:32
  • "And pack the kitchen stuff so that there can be no suggestion that it is ready to draw." Is it really illegal to carry a knife in a belt holster? This site says that "Fixed blades with blade length under 12 cm (4.72 in.) can be carried visible or concealed." knife-blog.com/german-knife-law Jan 31 at 9:09
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    @VladimirFГероямслава, there are special rules in some areas. By clearly treating the knife as a kitchen implement, one avoids trouble.
    – o.m.
    Jan 31 at 15:26
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There are only two train companies that are interested in what is in your luggage. Eurostar scans your luggage on UK - Continent services. RENFE pretends to scan your luggage when boarding a high speed train (but you can just put the knife in a jacket pocket if you want to avoid questions.

In all other countries there are no pre boarding procedures, other than in some services a ticket check. So do not worry about what you have in your luggage. And nobody will search your luggage when crossing borders as that is pretty much a non event within the Schengen Area these days.

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    I have been checked, luggage through a scanner and people through a metal detector, in France on what at that time was the Thalys. In case of the Eurostar (which is now merged with the Thalys) it is also a combination of scanner and metal detector. I would leave the knife in the luggage rather than put it in a pocket.
    – Willeke
    Jan 29 at 19:32
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    This addresses the practicalities, but not the question of legality. If the half-assed RENFE checks find a knife, will they be mad about it? If you want to avoid trouble with the police in another county, is it bad if a knife falls out of your sleeping bag? You can surely get away with bringing more dangerous things onto trains some of the time, but it still may not be legal.
    – mlc
    Jan 29 at 22:12
  • Thalys at one time did indeed experiment with luggage scanning. They fortunately found it it was pointless and stopped with it. I always have a Victorinox Swisstool with me when I travel. On a train never an issue. Jan 30 at 8:57
  • @mlc I'm pretty sure I went through the RENFE checks once with picknick stuff including at least one knife and no one cared, but I'm not sure anymore.
    – Nobody
    Jan 31 at 11:23
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    Putting your knife in your jacket pocket is terrible advice. You are far more likely to get in trouble for carrying a knife where it can be easily accessed than having one safely in your luggage. Jan 31 at 15:10

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