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The Nitty Gritty of Train Reservations

How to Avoid Reservations

A common concern with InterRail passes is that reservation fees add up and take the value out of the pass. I travelled for 30 days on an InterRail Global Pass and only paid ONE reservation fee. And that was on a night train from Venice to Munich – still significantly cheaper than a hostel.

Even though I didn’t encounter reservation problems, I was still a little uncertain about if I was breaking the rules – at least for the first few journeys. So as to help future InterRailers with this concern, this post aims to shed some light on the situation, and letting you know:

1. The most helpful tool and app;

2. How to find out if you need a reservation;

3. How to avoid a reservation;

So, here goes:

1. The most helpful tools and apps;

German efficiency rules again: the German train website is by far the superior website. Not only does it have all of the information about German trains, but also has schedules for all the European trains, too. The website is brilliant and the app is handy for all those smart phone users. You can change the language to English on both.

Top Tip: When you have WIFI, use the website to find out all stops and changes for your longer journeys. THEN: take a screenshot of the information so you have it handy for the journey itself. The systems often have the information about platforms so you don’t need to mess around with the big screens at train stations so that you can easily make any quick connections.

2. How to find out if you need a reservation;

And again, the German system supreme. The best way to tell if you need a reservation is to go to the Deutsche Bahn Website and enter your planned route. When you get transferred to the next screen you will be able to tell if your planned route requires a reservation by a small white ‘R’ on a grey background. If there’s no ‘R’ then you’re free to travel.

You’re generally pretty safe in Germany, Austria, the Netherlands and Belgium – unless you’re talking Night Trains. InterRailers hitting France, Spain and Italy may have more problems.

Top Tip: Consider that even if you don’t NEED a reservation, some trains will be busy in peak season and can be full. This was never an issue for me or other fellow InterRailers I have met, but you should consider it a possibility and be prepared to take an alternative route in this instance.

4. How to avoid reservations:

When it comes to reservations, it’s worth considering how important that journey is as the fees are easily avoidable.

But to avoid reservations, you can consider:

1. Only taking day time trains to avoid the compulsory night train reservations;

2. Take regional trains (they’re slower but cheaper, thus again proving the time/money trade-off!)

3. Consider stopping off so you can see more and really make use of the alternative routes you need to take on the regional trains;

4. Have a good read of InterRail’s guide to alternative routes which gives great alternatives to the high speed French trains (for example) that require reservations;

Top Tip: Consider that with night trains (where reservations are almost always compulsory) you may well think that a seat on a train is cheaper than a hostel, and that you get to save time with the journey: that may well be worth it when you wake up in the new city!

Other excellent resources are:

The InterRail Website, with the “Reservations” section especially helpful. has an EXCELLENT guide to reservation fees.


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This entry was posted on November 14, 2012 by in Uncategorized.


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