Austria's national rail operator ÖBB, had clearly taken a long hard look at how other online train ticket booking services function, and decided to re-invent this particular wheel.
But its innovations have turned out to be a step too far, so it has recently re-launched it's booking service; and what we assume to be the primary aim of making it easier to use, has been accomplished.
However, the general steps to take on its booking path have been retained, as a result OBB is an example of a booking path, where the type of ticket, opting for 1st class, adding return tickets, passengers, reservations etc, is built into different steps along the path.
You don't enter all the key criteria on the home screen before you look for a journey, instead you look for a train departure; and then decide how you want to travel by it.
If you're not used to this method we particularly recommend, taking a look through this step-by-step to booking tickets on the desktop/PC version of the ÖBB booking service.
The key things to be aware of are:
(1) Only one price, the cheapest possible Second class price, will be shown per departure.
(2) You need to click on that price to access other types of ticket, including upgrades to First Class (and Business Class when available) - and for the sleeping options on overnight trains.
(3) If you want to reserve a seat(s) you need to proactively add a reservation to your booking.
(4) You can add a return ticket to your booking, once you have completed the journey details for travelling one way.
If you search for 'OBB tickets' on Google, it will list this page shown above in its search results; its address is https://www.oebb.at/en/.
It is in effect the home page of the website for the Austrian national rail operator, ÖBB.
(However, you may first encounter the home page of the ticketing portal- and if you do so, you can skip these initial steps).
What SMTJ has drawn you attention to on the image is:
As can be seen at top left, this is the home page of the OBB ticket booking service, so this may the initial page that you land on; or if you click on that 'book tickets' link on the OBB home page (shown above) you can use this screen to find your journey.
If you used that journey search box on the OBB the home page this info will be pre-populated when you access this screen.
As shown a clever feature of this search process is, as soon you click in the from and to boxes a list of the 10 most popular destinations in Austria will appear, so if you'll be travelling from or to these locations, you can simply select it (Wien is Vienna).
Or if it's not shown, as you begin to type the destinations on the drop down list will change; the system can handle the English names of major cities.
Though something to watch out for is the use of locations which begin with 'St' such as 'Saint Anton'.
As can be seen you need to take care and use the spelling of 'St.Anton' and 'St.Johann' etc with no spaces and Saint written as 'St.'
The other less obvious features of using this page are illustrated below.
Booking reservations for day trains because you already have a ticket:
Note where the number 4 has been placed two images above.
If you already have a ticket(s) but now want to add a reservation, you can use this button and then the prices you see will then solely be the price of a reservation.
But if you have a Eurail or InterRail pass and want to book a reservation on day train don't click this 'seat only' button, follow the steps outlined below instead.
This is the stage of the booking at which you choose the departure you wish to travel by, so it's a particularly crucial step if you want to purchase a cheap 'Sparscheine' ticket.
What has been pointed out on the above image is:
On journeys on which multiple types of ticket are available, which includes all journeys by Railjet (RJ and RJX), the trains used for 99% of the long-distance express journeys in Austria, the default will be to show the cheapest price, which means that discounted 'Sparschiene' tickets will be pre-selected.
However, these tickets cannot be exchanged or refunded, so two other types of ticket are offered which are less restrictive; so take note of their terms and if you want to travel with them, you need to be proactive and select them.
Further down this 'Fare Categories and Products page' is the opportunity to make upgrades to your booking, regardless of the type of ticket you want to travel by.
As can be seen above, this is the opportunity to upgrade to the other travel classes and add reservations; note if you want to to travel 1st class in a reserved seat, you will need to add First Class AND a reservation.
Though the use of 'simply more room' under sells the First Class offering, as others extras are available including an at seat service of food and drink.
The 'more services' circled in green, doesn't give you much more...
...as can be seen above, clicking on it gives a more convoluted path to adding a seat reservation to a previous ticket booking.
Though as you'll see when making a booking, before you get to see the ticketing options, you will need to enter the details of the travellers...
...and the click the green 'Next' button.
Note that in affect you are accepting that you will need to have photo I.D. with you when using the ticket, so don't forget to take your passport or I.D. card with you.
Another unusual aspect of booking tickets with OBB is that at this stage on most other booking services, you simply have the opportunity to check over the ticket(s) you have selected and placed in the basket.
But on OBB this stage is the opportunity to:
OBB's online booking system allows Eurail and InterRail pass users to book seat reservations on these day trains:
Booking reservations for the night trains within and to/from Austria is also available, though the steps to take differ slightly when booking rail pass reservations for these, hence the separate guide below.
OBB doesn't charge booking fees, which is a plus over using Eurail and InterRail service, which charges a €2 fee per person, per reservation.
Though the steps to take on OBB aren't particularly obvious and the information supplied by OBB isn't particularly clear, hence the step-by step guide.
Services on which seat reservations are optional:
Services on which seat reservations for InterRail/Eurail pass users are mandatory:
1: the home page
When you access the home page of the OBB ticket booking service enter the details of your journey; start and end point, date and time, as you would if you were booking tickets.
But instead of clicking on 'Find Services' click the text marked 'change'.
2: Applying a Discount
As far as the OBB booking system is concerned, you're not booking a reservation, instead you are buying a ticket at discounted rate, so you need to apply the discount.
3: The first stage of selecting the Eurail / InterRail discount
OBB offers many types of discounted tickets, so many that the Eurail/Interrail 'discount' can only be found if you click on 'Show More'
4: The second stage of selecting the Eurail / InterRail discount
Once you have clicked on 'Show More' you need to scroll down to find the Eurail/Interrail 'discount'; it's towards the bottom of the list, which isn't in alphabetical order.
5: Confirming you have chosen the correct discount
Before proceeding to the trains you initially selected back on the home page, by clicking the 'Next' button, it's a good idea to check that you selected the correct discount on the list.
6: Looking for a departure
Once you click that 'Next' button you'll be back at the home screen, and it won't look any different than it did at Step One, your journey details will still be pre-populated, but as you'll see, there's no indication that you've applied the the Eurail/Interrail 'discount'.
You now need to move on select a departure to travel by; and it might seem logical to click 'seat only' because you won't need a ticket and just want to reserve a seat, but in fact you need to select 'one way tickets and day tickets'.
If you don't you won't see the correct prices of the reservations.
7a: The first stage of booking the reservation on a service on which reservations are optional
One of the oddest aspects of using OBB to book rail reservations is that if you will be travelling on a service which doesn't have mandatory rail pass reservations, the price you will see is €0.
Presumably the logic is that as the reservations are optional, you don't have to go ahead with a booking.
You need to click the €0 price.
(Also note that one single line = a direct train service, you'll want to hone in on these when booking a rail pass reservation).
8a: The second stage of booking the reservation on a service on which reservations are optional
Initially the price top left is €0, but what you need to do is proactively tick the 'Reservation' box; in this example below, the price shown is €3, because the journey is by a Railjet.
If you will be travelling with a First Class rail pass, you need to also proactively select the '1st class' box, so that you will be assigned a seat in First Class.
Note that there's nothing to stop you ticking the 1st class box if you will be using a 2nd class pass(es), but when the conductor inspects the ticket(s) you will be told to give up your seat; you can only opt for a 1st class reservation if you have a First Class pass.
Also note that if you have a First Class pass, you can opt to pay a €15 fee to have a seat assigned in Business Class; otherwise the reservation cost is the same as that charged to Second class pass users.
7b: The first stage of booking the reservation on an Austria to Italy EC or RJ train
Similar to booking an optional reservation, on these trains on which the reservations are mandatory for Eurail and InterRail pass users, you need to click on the price shown, which will be €10.
Look out for any broken lines and text saying 'section only', you'll want to target the direct trains with a solid line.
8b: The second stage of booking the reservation on Austria to Italy EC or RJ train
There are a couple of crucial, but less than obvious aspects, to the booking process:
7c: The first stage of booking the reservation on an Italian train
You need to click on the price shown, which for any journey by a Frecce train (FA, FB, FR) will be €10.
Look out for the solid lines, which indicate direct trains.
8c: The second stage of booking the reservation on an Italian train
If you will be travelling with a 1st class, tick this box so that you will be assigned a seat in Business Class - very swish; and the price won't change, because the fee will still be €10.
Note that you don't have to select the reservation, on the Italian routes OBB automatically does this.
The journey look-up process on the OBB booking services doesn't give the opportunity to specify that you want to travel by a night train and it isn't an option, or a filter to add when you're looking at the search results.
So if you want to take the night train you may need to select it, so the type of train (yellow circle) that you'll be looking out for is NJ for Nightjet, or EN for EuroNight; which is used for any train that isn't a Nightjet.
The green circle is indicating that this is a direct journey by the Nightjet (in this example), though its often possible to depart later, or arrive earlier, by making connections in and out of the night trains; hence the alternative options with connections.
Having clicked on the NJ or EN departure you'll be taken to the night train booking screen.
OBB has done a great job of making this process relatively uncomplicated, but what's particularly worth looking out for is:
Seats will be available on the night train and this basket price is the price of travelling in a seat, so if you want to travel in a seat and are happy to travel on a Sparschiene ticket, click this red button.
Though what's worth paying attention to is that this seat price is also the base price to which the reservation fees for the couchettes and sleeping cabins will be added to.
As per day trains, Sparschiene tickets which can't be refunded or exchanged will be the default but 'Comfort Tickets', that offer more flexibility, will also be available.
This is the price of swapping a Komfort ticket for a Sparschiene ticket, it will then become the new base price to which the reservation fees for the couchettes and sleeping cabins will be added.
It will be (a lot) more expensive, but keep in mind that the total cost of travelling in a sleeper cabin can be more than €150; a lot of money to wave goodbye if you mixed up a date, or a work commitment crops up etc.
The price includes a seat reservation (which is a key difference as to how tickets are sold for the day trains).
This is the additional cost, in addition to the basket price at top right, for travelling in a 6 berth couchette; on most departures more expensive bunks in a 4 berth couchette compartment are also available.
6 This is the additional cost, in addition to the basket price at top right, of travelling in the cheapest (of many) bed in sleeping cabin options.
To see those other sleeper options; and the 4-berth couchette options, you need to click on those couchette and sleeper green buttons; and scroll down the page.
The default will be the that you'll want to travel in the cheapest sleeper option available, so in this example a bed in a 3-bed cabin has been pre-selected.
The key thing to look out for is that this pre-selected bed has been added to the basket price.
But as can be seen other options are available and the price of upgrading to them is shown, but look out for the fact that these upgrade costs will be added to that new basket price.
So, in this example, the total price of travelling in a compartment with only two beds will comprise the initial (seat) basket price + the cost of a bed in a 3-bed cabin + the cost of this upgrade to a 2-bed cabin.
It's rather fabulous that OBB allows users of Eurail and InterRail passes to book reservations for night trains online, but it is a quirky process from the start, because on OBB an InterRail or Eurail user qualifies for a discount on the night train ticket price.
Click 'Next' and you'll be taken back to the home page
The type of train (yellow circle) that you'll be looking out for is NJ for Nightjet, or EN for EuroNight (used for any train that isn't a Nightjet).
The green circle is that this is a direct journey by the Nightjet (in this example), its often possible to depart later, or arrive earlier, by making connections in and out of the night trains.
This is the stage at which you can opt to travel in a seat, a couchette or a sleeping cabin.
Booking seats on some overnight routes
On some routes; particularly those between Austria, Germany and Switzerland, the trains are operated as though two separate services are joined together, with the seated accommodation in an InterCity (IC) train and the couchettes and sleeping cabins in the Nightjet train.
When that is the situation, the booking path for rail pass reservations in the seats is the same as it is when booking daytime journeys by these IC trains (see above).
You won't find the seats on this reservations for night trains booking path.
I wanted to share my passion for train travel and explain how anyone can take the fantastic journeys I have taken.
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