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Train Ticket and Rail Pass Guides Europe's Best Rail Travel Bargains

Europe's Best Rail Travel Bargains

A summary of the lesser known permanent offers which save money when travelling on European trains.


When producing the ticketing guides on ShowMeTheJourney, I often discover permanent deals and money saving offers, which are available by using particular types of ticket that differ from the norm - here are the general tips for saving on European rail journeys.
Some of these under the radar deals can benefit solo travellers, but many of them make it possible to save money when more than person travels together - as friends, in a family group, or when travelling with children.

These opportunities to save money can get lost amidst the mass of 'how to buy tickets' information, hence the idea to highlight the exceptional offers below.
Particularly, as tourists can benefit from all of these special tickets and deals, because when you're visiting these countries you don't have to be a resident to book them.


Trenitalia is the national rail operator in Italy and it can claim the No.1 on which European rail travel operator offers the most ticketing deals!
Though on virtually all of its offers the discounted price, typically 50%, is the money saved compared to the price of Base tickets - and when travelling on the express trains, the Frecce and IC trains, the Base Ticket is the most expensive type of ticket.
However, when they are first placed on sale, the cheapest type of ticket, the Super Economy tickets can be discounted by more than 50%. Though those cheaper tickets can sell out on specific departures, so when they're gone, the deals become cheaper.
You don't have to seek out most of these offers, the deals for when two or more people are travelling together should automatically be offered, once you have entered the details of the travellers on

The Special Same Day Return

This deal has been singled out, because the saving on the price of the Base ticket is 70%, so it's likely to be the cheapest option whenever you book it.
You can also be comparatively spontaneous, as you can book this ticket(s) up to only two days ahead of travel - so they can be a great option if you won't want to plan every minute of your holiday in Italy.
The offer applies to day return trips by Frecce trains on Saturdays - and the fast Frecce trains make trips to relatively distant destinations possible.
So if, for example, you will be...

Italia In Tour passses

Modern Regionale trains have arrived in Venice Modern Regionale trains have arrived in Venice

It won't be a shock to discover that ShowMeTheJourney's favorite type of holiday is to choose a city from which other beautiful locations can be reached, on easy day trips by train.
Hence holidays to Vicenza and Bologna by using Italia In Tour Passes, because they saved money - and the bother of having to buy tickets at the station before setting off on each trip.
Using them made me happy - as can be seen at the top of the page!

These passes, which are offered for 3 or 5 consecutive days of travel, can be used for travel solely by the slower Regionale (R) and Regionale Veloce (RV) trains operated by Trenitalia.
Because they can be used to hop on and off the trains, they make seeing more than one location in a single day particularly easy.
And for those who don't mind slow trains and overnight stays on route, they can be used to travel across Italy - a 3 day Italian in Tour Pass can take you from Milan to Sicily.

They can be purchased on the Trenitalia website but they have a flat-rate price so you won't lose money if you but them from station ticket offices or Trenitalia ticket machines.

Though they are less likely to be a good option when taking days out from Milan.
Because Trenord is the dominant operator of R and RV services in and around Milan
So routes taken by these R and RV trains, on which the Italian Tour Passes cannot be used, include trains between Milan and Bergamo, Brescia, Domodossola, Lecco, Stresa, Tirano and Verona.

Great Britain

ShowMeTheJourney strives to champion travelling by train in our home country, because it can often be surprisingly fabulous.
The trains being operated by multiple companies can be confusing, but what can get lost in the British rail ticket maze are the multiple deals and offers.

Off Peak Day Return tickets

Brighton by train Brighton by train

One of the many comparatively unusual aspects of travelling by train in Britain (England, Scotland and Wales) is that when Mondays to Fridays aren't national holidays, the days are divided into more expensive Peak travel times and cheaper Off-Peak travel times.
The Peak times apply at the hours when people are travelling to and from work, so they don't apply at all at weekends.
The core purpose of many railways in Britain is to enable this commuter and business travel, but because people want to in live in beautiful places, the same railways connect coastal, historic and hillside towns and villages to the cities.

The train companies need people other than commuters to use the trains, hence Day Return tickets being available at the Off Peak travel times.
These tickets typically cost less than £2 or £3 more than two one way, single, tickets.
Though there no set rules on how they can be used and on which routes they will be offered, but they are widely available on journeys of up to around 90 minutes - particularly on trains with average journey times.
Hence they can be used to travel to most of the suggested destinations, when taking days out by train.

So they are definitely worth being aware of when holidaying in Britain - Avoid booking both one way journeys and the peak travel times, and you're very likely to save money!

Travelling in areas of Britain with children

Children aged 4 and under travel for free on British trains and the usual terms are that children aged 5 to 15 are charged 50% of the adult rate.
Though the individual train operating companies have the freedom to manage their own ticket promotions, so some of them offer much better deals when travelling with children.


The train operator Southeastern dominates rail travel in Kent and it has a Kids For A Quid deal at off-peak travel times, which includes any weekend.


ScotRail operates all of the the trains which travel solely between Scottish destinations and it also has a Kids For A Quid policy.


The trains which travel solely between destinations in Wales, and the trains between North and South Wales are operated by Transport For Wales (TFW).

When travelling with children those aged 15 and under can travel for free at Off Peak times.
And those aged 10 and under can travel for free at any time!

The core term for this offer is that a maximum of two 'children' can accompany each fare paying 'adult'.
Those aged 5 to 15 will need a ticket(s) but there will be no charge for them, they can be obtained from staffed ticket offices, or from the conductors on the trains

The 'peak' travel times, when the offer doesn't apply to those aged 11 to 15, are before 09:30 and between the hours of 16:00 and 18:30 when Mondays to Fridays are working days.
So the offer applies at any time on weekends; and on national holidays when 'peak' travel times aren't applied.


Three things make the railcards which can be used on British trains comparatively special:

  • For a nationwide offer they are comparatively cheap to purchase.
  • They don't have timing or days of the week restrictions.
  • They cover multiple needs; if you're not an adult aged 31 - 59 travelling solo, there will be a card which can save you money.

This range of railcards can be used by visitors to the UK on train journeys within England, Scotland and Wales - you won't have to show a passport when obtaining a railcard at a station or when booking tickets.

Plus the discounts which apply to tickets also apply when buying regional rail passes, including Spirit Of Scotland passes and Explore Wales passes
The comparatively low cost of the cards, result in the expenditure typically being paid back when taking only three long-distance rail journeys.
If you will be planning a return rail journey between London and Scotland and meet the criteria, it's highly likely that a combination of a railcard + discounted rail tickets, is likely to be cheaper than solely buying tickets.

Family & Friends Railcard:

  • Cost =£30
  • Valid for one year, but at least one child aged 5 to 15 must be part of the travel party for the pass to be eligible
  • Core benefits = 1/3 off adult Standard class tickets for up to 4 adults and 60% off child rate tickets for up to 4 children aged 5 to 15.

26-30 Railcard

  • Cost =£30
  • Valid for one year
  • Core benefits = 1/3 off adult rate on all Standard Class tickets + 1/3 off adult rate on First Class Advance tickets + 1/3 off when using Oyster cards in London off-peak

Two Together Railcard

  • Cost =£30
  • Valid for one year, can be used by the two people named on the card
  • Core benefits = 1/3 off all Standard and First Class tickets at the adult rate

Senior Railcard

  • Cost =£30
  • Valid for one year, can be used by people aged 60 and over
  • Core benefits = 1/3 off all Standard and First Class tickets at the adult rates + 1/3 off when using Oyster cards in London off-peak.

Network Railcard (ideal for day trips from London)

  • Cost =£30
  • Valid for one year and can be used for journeys within the shaded area on this map.
  • Core benefits = 1/3 off all Standard Class tickets at the adult rates for journeys within the area + you can take up to three more adults with you who also qualify for a 1/3 off + take up to four children aged 5 to 15 and receive a 60% discount on the child ticket rates.


All long-distance trains in Germany are managed by the national rail operator, Deutsche Bahn. so it can set national ticket price policies.
Hence all long-distance journeys in 2nd class by the express IC and ICE trains, are priced from only €17.90.
Tickets are placed on sale from around 6 months ahead of the travel date, and tickets at these prices inevitably sell out quickly.
So finding them can be a needle-in-a-haystack scenario on particularly popular routes such as Hamburg and Berlin to Munich.
But if you do track them down, you will have booked the cheapest price per kilometer for travel by high-speed trains. that are available in Europe.
DB also frequently offers promotions which enable shorter-distance journeys by the iconic ICE trains to be taken for only €9.90 or €12.20.

€49 for a month of rail travel

The launch of the D-Ticket was highly publicised, but it couldn't be omitted from this guide to Europe's lesser known rail travel bargains, as it can offer fantastic value for money.
For those who don't mind taking the slow trains, with no seat reservations or on board catering, it's possible to spend a month travelling around the country by train for only €49!
But the date on which you will be commencing your travels will be crucial - as explained on the guide to using D-Tickets.

the regional 'Lander' tickets

The plus of the D-Ticket is that it's use isn't restricted to a specific area of Germany, but if you will be taking a holiday in a scenic area of Germany these Lander tickets make it easier and cheaper to explore by train - particularly if you won't be travelling solo.
Because a core benefit of these Lander tickets are the cheap costs for adding other people to them - as up to three other adults (aged 15 and over) can be added for only €3 per person.

They are also great value for money when travelling with kids, an adult using a Lander ticket can take up to three children aged 6 to 14 with them at no extra charge; those aged 5 and under can travel for free regardless.
Lander tickets are only valid for a day, but if you will be holidaying in the likes of The Black Forest, Bavaria or the Moselle River Valley, you can spontaneously book a series of last minute Lander tickets at the station.

kids go long-distance for free

The cheaper, discounted tickets, for travelling on German express trains, are the 'Super Sparpreis / Sparpreis' tickets - and an adult (on German railways an adult is a person aged 15 and over) booking these tickets can take up to four children aged 6 - 14 with them at no additional charge.
Until fairly recently this policy only previously applied when parents or grandparents were accompanying the children.
The children's ages will need to be entered when booking, so you can't just turn up at the station and hop on board; the kids will still require tickets, but in effect they will be complimentary.
These new terms also apply to 1st class tickets, so a contender for Europe's best travel bargain is that 1 adult + 4 children can travel on a long journey such as Hamburg to Munich in 1st class from €29.90!!!!


Czechia aka The Czech Republic is blessed with a swathe of visually stunning village and towns, virtually all of which have railway stations.
So exploring by train is the way to go when taking a holiday in Czechia and the national rail company, České dráhy (CD), strives to ensure that doing do is not only relatively easy, but it's also fantastic value for money!

The All Day ticket

Hop on board with a Czech all day ticket Hop on board with a Czech all day ticket

How much would you expect to have have pay to be able to travel anywhere in Czechia on any train in a single day? €100, €75 or €50?
Well the All Day Ticket aka a Celodenní jízdenka is priced at CZK 699, which at the time of writing equated to less than €30!
An All-Day Ticket (Celodenní jízdenka) can be purchased at the ticket counter, or in advance sales up to two months prior to departure, or from the conductor on the train if the boarding station has no staffed ticket office.
So you can be spontaneous and take advantage of good weather.
Pretty much the only restriction is that the ticket isn't valid on the international trains in Czechia, which aren't operated by the Czech national rail company, CD.
Not a problem, as there are trains which are operated by CD, on all of these routes.

Discounted group tickets

So the All Day Ticket costs CZK 699, which at the time of writing equated to less than €30 - and this is also the price of the Group Weekend Ticket aka the Skupinová víkendová jízdenka.
If you will be travelling on a Saturday and / or a Sunday, the difference with the All Day ticket, is that the Group Weekend ticket lives up to its name, because the CZK 699 price covers up to 2 adults and up to 3 children under 15 years of age!
The other core terms of use are the same as the All Day Ticket.

The Ticket for the Summer

If you will be in Czechia in July and August and want to spend more than one day travelling by train to somewhere fabulous, you won't have to purchase of series of All Day tickets.
Instead you can purchase a Ticket For The Summer which can be used for 7 or 14 continuous days - though you most definitely don't have to travel on all of those days for the ticket to be value for money.
A 7 day ticket costs 1390 CZK, which at the time of writing equated to €55 and a 14 day ticket costs 1990 CZK, around €79 = less than €6 per day!


The many, many beautiful railways of Switzerland, are moths to a flame for travellers around the world.
Demand leads to comparatively high prices for travel per kilometer, so turning up a Swiss station and buying a ticket for the next train to depart is a particularly expensive way to go.
Hence a swathe of passes and special tickets, which enable money to be saved when hopping on and off the trains.

Saver Day Passes

Travelling through the Bernina Pass in early May Travelling through the Bernina Pass in early May

Most rail passes have a fixed year round price, which is why they can be be particularly good value in summer months and around national holidays.
However, Saver Day Passes are different to the norm, as they are cheaper the further ahead that they are booked.
They are placed on sale two months ahead - and when they are first released for a travel date they're priced at 52 CHF for travel in 2nd Class, and 88 CHF for travel in 1st Class.
They are even cheaper when purchased with a Half Fare Card, but purchasing a Half Fare Card solely to purchase a couple of Saver Day Passes, won't save money.

So for the equivalent of around €55 / €93 it's possible to explore much of Switzerland by train at no extra cost - though unless you also have a Half Fare card, you will have to buy tickets to travel on to the likes of Gornergrat, Jungfraujoch, Pilatus-Kulm and Wengen.

Though the pass makes it easy to experience multiple stunning journeys while saving money - if you can book the Saver Day Pass at the cheapest rate, the savings will more than CHF 50 on all of these suggested routes
Easy itinerary ideas:

  • The Golden Pass route: from Basel → Visp → Montreux → Zweisimmen → Spiez → Interlaken Ost → Luzern → Basel
  • The Bernina Express route: Zurich → Chur → St MoritzTirano → Chur → Zurich
  • The best of the Glacier Express route: from Luzern → Göschenen → Andermatt → Disentis/Mustér → Chur → Thalwil → Luzern

The Tell Pass

Book to Mt Titlis with ShowMeTheJourney Book to Mt Titlis with ShowMeTheJourney

Despite multiple holidays in Switzerland by train, until recently ShowMeTheJourney hadn't been aware of the existence of the Tell Pass.
So a holiday in Luzern, or in a nearby town, has been placed near the top of the bucket list.
Luzern is surrounded by mountain peaks which can be reached by combinations of trains, cable cars and boats - many of which are exceptional.
Some of the routes which can be taken at no extra costs with a Tell Pass:

As with the other passes for Switzerland, whether a Tell Pass will save you money depends on how it's used.
As a comparison a 2nd class Adult Tell Pass valid for 2 days, costs around 7CHF more than a Golden Round Trip on Mt Pilatus + a return rail trip to the summit of Mt Rigi.
So in addition to these two trips, you would only need to take one more journey, such as the lake boat, for the Tell Pass to be cheaper.
Or if you want to solely do the Golden Round Trip to Pilatus + a return journey by train and cable car between Luzern and Titlis, then using the Tell Pass will be a money saver, compared to buying tickets.


Use beautiful Gent as a base for exploring Belgium by train Use beautiful Gent as a base for exploring Belgium by train

It is the swathe of beautiful towns, the sandy beach of a coastline, as well as the beer and chocolate, which attract holiday makers to Belgium - and those multiple locations are linked by a dense rail network.
It's therefore possible to get anywhere else in the country on a day trip by train, no matter the starting point - though ShowMeTheJourney can recommend taking a holiday to Gent.
Plus the fact that there's no need to book in advance to save money, so you can be spontaneous and make the most of the weather etc.

The national rail operator in Belgium is SNCB and it makes the most of the potential to easily explore by train, by providing value for money ticketing options.

10 journeys for less than €100

There are multiple means of how these Standard Multi tickets can be used, but the core principle is that enables its users to make 10 end-to-end journeys.
When purchased on the SNCB app the 2nd class version is €99 and the upgrade to 1st class is €154.

You can assign the ticket to multiple people or keep it to your good self, so:

  • one person can make 10 trips
  • two people can make 5 trips
  • five people can make 2 trips, etc.

How you travel is up to you, so taking multiple day trips from one city is an option, or you can travel between different locations, in which you want to spend extended periods of time.

Make the most of weekends

If you will be taking a return rail journey in Belgium and travelling outward after 7pm on a Friday and come back before midnight on a Sunday, you can travel at half the price, thanks to the Weekend Ticket.
You can use the ticket if you will be staying somewhere overnight on a Friday and / or a Saturday, or to make a day trip on a Saturday or a Sunday,

A great deal for young kids

If you have young children exploring Belgium by train as a family is fantastic value for money!
Each adult (12 and over) ticket enables up to 4 accompanied children age under 12 to travel for free, in both 1st class and 2nd class.

Though be aware that you will need to be able to provide proof of the age of the children to the conductor - so take their passports with you on journeys within Belgium.
You don't need to book these 'free' child tickets - the adult ticket will be valid for the children too.


What may be a surprise, is that for a beautiful country with a generally fabulous rail service, the Austrian national rail operator OBB doesn't offer a similar pick and mix menu of rail passes, to what's available in Switzerland.
But if you won't travelling solo there are some offers to make the most of.

Group Travel

The ÖBB Einfach-Raus-Ticket can be a good option for exploring the most beautiful areas of Austria, or for taking a day trip from a city, when two or more people are travelling together,
Because it gives the freedom to spend a day travelling on the regional Rex services, the urban S-Bahn trains and virtually all other local trains managed by the national rail operator OBB - and these train services can be found on many rail routes in Austria.

Two people can travel together for the day for €36 and up to three other people can be added for an additional €4 per person, so a fiver person ticket is €48 = only €9.60 per person for a day's rail travel!
You can also add 2 to 5 bicycles to the ticket for an additional cost of €9.

Two things worth knowing are:

  1. There are no direct Rex services between the main cities on the Wien/Vienna <> Linz <> Salzburg <> Innsbruck route.
  2. It looks as though the ticket can't be used in Voralberg.

kids go long-distance for free

If discounted 'Sparschiene' tickets are offered for your departure on the OBB website, then these tickets are great value if you will be travelling with children who will be aged 14 and under on your date of travel.
That's because each adult (aged 15 and over) purchasing a 'Sparschiene' ticket can take up to children aged 14 and under for free!
These children will still require tickets, but there will be no charge for them.

However, the flat rate will be charged for seat reservations per child and for upgrades to 1st class.

What can be confusing is that when adding the age of the children you will be travelling with to the booking, you will see 'no discount', but this is referring to the fact you won't be using a travel card or any other offer.

The Netherlands

The residents of The Netherlands are available to view their railways as part of a go to and from anywhere in the country public transport network, they make seamless connections between trains, trams, buses and metro by tapping in and out with OV Chipkarts.
Visitors to the country can also use these Chipkart travel cards to enhance a Dutch holiday, but the national rail company, NS, also has other means of enticing tourists on to its trains.

the Holland Rail Ticket

The Holland Rail Ticket isn't appropriately named, because its core benefit is that it enables its users to spend a day hopping on and off the trains, trams, buses and metros across The Netherlands.
The Off-Peak version, which can't be used between 06:30 and 09:00 when Mondays to Fridays are working days - so can be used at any time at weekends, costs €48.
So it can particularly pay off if you want to experience more than one delightful location in a single day, particularly if one of them happens to not be served by trains - such as the windmills at Kinderdijk, the tulip gardens at Keukenhof or the Krollermuller Sculpture Garden.

Or if you know that when you reach a location by train, that you'll be wanting or needing to take multiple trams, buses or metro rides -work out the cost of your return rail ticket by using the NS website.
If the return rail ticket costs €35-40, it's likely that the Holland Rail Ticket will be a money saver - particularly if you have to also take public transport to the nearest rail station.
If you do, buy the ticket online, download it your phone and you can reap the benefits before you've even got to the station.

a special ticket for kids

If you will be travelling with children aged 4 to 11 on Dutch trains, you can take advantage of Rail Runner tickets.
They cost a flat rate of only €2.50 no matter the distance - and each adult aged 18 and over can take three kids aged 4 to 11 with them, with each child paying the Railrunner rate.
And the same terms and costs apply if the adult will be travelling 1st class - so you can give yourselves and the kids a treat.


Simon Harper

I wanted to share my passion for train travel and explain how anyone can take the fantastic journeys I have taken.


This is one of more than 100 train travel guides available on ShowMeTheJourney, which will make it easier to take the train journeys you want or need to make. As always, all images were captured on trips taken by ShowMeTheJourney.


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