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Rail Accommodations

Rail Europe is saving a seat for everyone

To make sure your adventure is all you want it to be, it is important that you understand the different seating options on European trains, and which ones are appropriate for each leg of your trip. Here are the seating choices, and other services you can look forward to on your train trips:

First-Class or Second-Class?
The class of travel you choose depends on your budget and personal preferences. First-class is generally quieter and roomier, and unlike the difference between service levels on airplanes, first-class rail tickets are only moderately more expensive than second class. There are usually fewer seats per car/compartment in first class, and more space for luggage than second-class. On some Premier Trains, a meal will be included in the price of a first-class ticket.

It's important to know that, just as the personality of each country is different, so it is with the type of service on the trains in Europe. Therefore, second-class may be more comfortable in some countries than in others. On the other hand, you can feel safe that a first-class seat in any country will provide a very comfortable, efficient -- and even elegant -- experience.

On Day Trains
European day trains will have one or both of the following seating arrangements:

Coach car seating: This means the car is open with a center aisle and seats on either side. In first-class, seats are wider and there are usually two seats on one side of the aisle, and a single seat on the other, providing optimum comfort. In second-class, there are usually two seats on either side of the aisle.
Compartment seating: The car is separated into enclosed cabins, which open to a corridor along one side of the car. In first-class, cabins can accommodate up to six passengers, second-class cabins have a capacity of up to eight

On Night Trains

Night trains are for overnight travel; besides guaranteed comfort, there is another reason you will be partial to night trains: they can save on the cost of overnight accommodations and you arrive at a destination with a full day to spare! Remember: Reservations are required for sleepers and couchettes on all night trains and can be made up to 60 days in advance.

Sleepers: This type of accommodation is the most comfortable way to travel on night trains. They contain berths and a private washstand, fresh linens and towels. First-class accommodates one or two people. Second-class accommodates two to four people. Couples, families and travelers of the same sex can share a sleeper. Sleeper charges are per person and depend on the level of accommodations and the route traveled. Note: Deluxe accommodations -- including restrooms in each sleeper compartment -- are available on the Talgo overnight trains that link Spain with France, Switzerland and Italy.
Couchettes: These are the simplest of the overnight accommodations. They are open bunks in a compartment, each with a pillow and blanket. Usually located in second-class, they accommodate up to six people. There is no distinction by sex, so you should expect to sleep in your daytime clothes. Washrooms are provided at the end of each car.

Dining and Bar Cars
You will be able to purchase food on almost every train. Dining cars can be found on most long-distance trains, but only at "normal" meal times. If a dining car is not available, the trains will most likely have a bar car with snacks available. On many of the Premier trains in first class -- and especially on Eurostar -- meals are served right at a passenger's seat. On trains equipped with bar cars, you will find a social atmosphere, with light meals served at all times. On shorter trips, passengers can purchase snacks, sandwiches and cold drinks -- without ever leaving the comfort of their seats -- from a food trolley that passes through the aisles.

With a pass or a ticket you may board the train, but you are not guaranteed a seat. It is always necessary to make a reservation if you want to guarantee a seat for a specific train at a specific time/date. It is also essential to make a reservation for any sleeper or couchette accommodations. And reservations are sold on a first-come, first-served basis, so you should reserve in advance. Reservations can generally be made up to 60 days in advance (120 days in advance for Eurostar; 90 days in advance for Thalys).

Reservations Required:
Couchettes or sleepers on all night trains
All Premier trains, certain InterCity and EuroCity trains, and Swiss scenic trains

More Reservation Facts

For most other trains, travelers can sit where they like within the class designated on their pass/ticket.
In Switzerland, reservations are available only on some specialty trains.
Reservations can be made locally in Bulgaria, Greece, Portugal or Romania, but cannot be booked ahead from the U.S.
Reservations in Eastern Europe can be made only to and from major cities, and are subject to confirmation.
Confirmation of reservations may be a bit difficult for the following: Spain and Italy in May and September, and trains from Eastern to Western Europe.
Rail Europe cannot book ferry reservations, but sells open tickets for ferries on a space available basis for any day, any time.


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