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May 16, 2014

Looking up train times on your Eurail train trip

by Evan Rail in Train routes

No matter if you want to plan your trip far in advance or if you plan to make last-minute decisions, you’ll still need to figure out the schedules for your connections. Since your Eurail pass allows for extremely flexible travel, you always have the option of staying an extra night in a place you love, or cutting short your stay in order to catch a concert, festival or other unexpected special event somewhere else. Other travelers need to know exactly where they’re going and when, even months before they pack their bags. Fortunately, you have plenty of ways to figure out which train to take and at what time.

How trains in Europe work

Not to state the obvious, but different trains run on different schedules. Some major cities are connected by hourly departures, if not more frequently — direct trains from Paris to Lyon leave several times an hour on most mornings — while remote locations or less popular routes usually have far less frequent connections: for example, there’s often only one direct train each day between Vienna and Ljubljana. In addition, train schedules can change depending on the season (generally with more frequent departures in the summer) or even the day of the week. When you’re looking up train times, remember that you’re sometimes going to see two different times posted, often the arrival time of a train at the station as well as a departure time — either the departure time of the train itself, or in the case of a multi-train trip, the departure time for your next connection.

Checking for reservations

Your Eurail pass opens up almost infinite possibilities for last-minute changes, rerouting and rescheduling. Be aware, however, that the train systems of some countries — like France and Spain, for example — do require reservations on high-speed trains, while other countries — like Germany and Austria — have no such limitations. All night trains, however, require a reservation for sleeping accommodations. When reservations are required, it’s a good idea to book your reservations in advance: each high-speed TGV train in France has a limited number of reservations allowed to Eurail pass holders, for example, and if the train is full you’ll be asked to buy a full-price ticket or try a different train.

How to find train times

There are a few different ways to check train times before and during your Eurail trip.

Online

Check the online timetableThe easiest way to figure out when your train leaves and what kind of connections or transfers you’ll need to make is via the Eurail timetable. Enter your departure station, the date, time and destination station and you’ll quickly get all possible itineraries, which can then be printed. Be aware that you might have to enter the local name for your destination and departure locations, rather than the English or international name.

At the train station

Find train times on the departure boardsThe most common way to find train times at a train station is on the departures board, a giant screen usually listing the train’s departure time, the number of the train, the stations along its route, its final destination and the platform from which passengers can board. Many stations also have freestanding computer terminals that are connected to the train timetables, from which you can look up train times and schedules. Some of these are merely for information purposes, after which you can purchase a reservation or ticket at a vending machine or ticket counter. While at the station don’t forget to listen for announcements about schedule or platform changes, most of which are also repeated in English.

On the train

Once you’re on the train, many international trains and even national trains have brochures on board detailing that particular train’s exact schedule, also listing many of the possible connections from stations along your route.

On your phone

Use the Rail Planner appYou can find loads of information via your iPhone or Android smartphone, without worrying about roaming charges: Eurail’s free Rail Planner App will help you find rail and boat connections all across Europe, and it even works offline, so you won’t end up with a big phone bill. The app’s “extended” mode allows you to filter your search for regional transport or to exclude high-speed trains, in case you want to find routes which do not require a reservation in advance. The app even includes basic maps for major destinations, so you can quickly get your bearings once you arrive.