Train travel in Europe - how does it work?

In Europe, each country has its own rail network, they are all interconnected and it is possible to travel cross-country as well as on national routes. However, it is not possible to book one train ticket for several countries from one train operator - that's where Trainline comes in! Trainline combines offers, ticket information and timetables for most European rail companies. This makes booking a train ticket for your whole journey as easy as pie. You don't even have to worry about what train operator you're travelling with - simply book, turn up at the station and go.

Europe's rail network is extensive, well connected and modern. No matter what country you travel in, rest assured that you'll get reliable services, comfortable seats and plenty of storage space for your suitcases full of souvenirs.

Train operating companies and train types

In many European countries, the national rail network is owned by the state, which usually means that one corporation controls and runs the whole network. This can be an advantage if you're travelling around a country by train because you'll quickly become familiar with the ins and outs of that operator. However, some railway systems have been privatised and as a consequence, the rail routes are owned by many different companies - such is the case in the UK with 30 different operators.

The types of trains you can get in Europe can generally be divided into three categories: high speed trains, medium distance or medium speed trains and regional trains. High speed trains connect big cities within a country and cross border (e.g. London to Cologne, London to Amsterdam and London to Paris), medium distance trains operate on long and medium length routes within specific countries and regional trains are used for short distances, connecting smaller cities and towns.

European train tickets

You can buy train tickets for 24 countries and 86 different rail operators with Trainline - everything you need on one single platform. We recommend booking your tickets for high speed and medium distance trains online in advance to get the best deals and to guarantee a relaxed, hassle-free journey. However it is also possible to buy tickets directly at most stations - an option for the spontaneous traveller. In most cases, regional train tickets can not be booked online and don't have to be bought in advance because seat reservations are not possible. Please check individual country pages for further information.

Train times

Check out the most popular train routes in Europe for travel inspiration or search for train times for a specific train journey here.


Bus companies in Europe