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When it comes to booking train tickets in Europe and the UK, the first company that will spring to mind for most people is Trainline.
While extensive train coverage across the entire continent, plus the option to book coaches, they seem like the logical and obvious choice. There’s a few other companies doing similar things though, so let’s take a look to see if Trainline really deserves its crown.
One of the leading features about Trainline is that they sell multiple types of tickets. Single trips, return trips, open return tickets and season tickets can all be found within the same app, which can’t necessarily be said for a lot of the competitors. In addition, they accept all the most common railcards, and you even purchase one directly through the app. Both adult and children tickets can be purchased.
One thing we find particularly handy is the ability to not just search by departure time, but by arrival time too. This is particularly handy if you’re traveling on a less direct route which might involve multiple changes and different types/speeds of trains.
You can also use their mobile app to track trains live, meaning you can see where the train is on the current route. You can also select your seating preferences and trainline will do what it can to accommodate them, however if it can’t it will just book you a ticket anyway. Originally introduced in the Trip.com app, trainline now also supports split ticketing for trains within the UK which can save you extra money. Click here to check the details in that.
As with the competitors, Trainline offers you two different ways to collect your tickets. The first are e-tickets, which means that you’ll get a QR code which acts as your ticket. The other way is “Collect at station”. If you choose this method Trainline will give you a code for your booking. Once you’re at the station go to the ticket collection machine, insert the card you used to pay for the booking, enter your from Trainline, and the ticket will be dispensed.
This can be done at over 1,000 stations across the UK. Another great feature is that you can specific a route via a certain station, or even exclude a certain station if that’s important to you too. If trains aren’t really your thing or you’re just looking to save some money, you can always quickly jump over to the coaches/buses section from the search results page if you’d prefer.
Pricing & Fees
It’s unfortunate, but trainline charges a 3% booking fee on all transactions. When you add this fee to the total cost we found that Trainline was consistently more expensive that the competitors.
Having said that the price different was minimal, usually less than one pound. The SplitSave split ticketing can sometimes save a huge amount of money but this will depend on the route, and other competitors are offering this as well.
Coverage across Europe is very impressive, and can’t be beaten when it comes to European trains. From the UK and France to Poland and Sweden, you can find almost any train you might need on Trainline. Given that they are based out of the UK, the Trainline product is more aimed towards UK consumers, however continent-wide bookings are definitely supported.
Trains can be booked through Trainline’s service via their mobile app (both Android and iOS), desktop website and mobile website. In terms of languages options they support 11 different European languages, but you’re out of luck if you want it in other e.g. Asian, languages. Clearly their product is aimed at locals, and not international tourists.
Trainline accepts all the major credit and debit cards including Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Maestro and Diners, however they seem to offer support for some of the small ones like UnionPay, JCB or Discover. If credit cards aren’t your thing you also have the option to pay with PayPal, or with Google Pay or Apple pay depending on your device.
Trainline has a reasonable reputation. Given their market dominance and the fact their competitors aren’t very strong tends to back this up. Where they fall down is in regards to customer service, but as already mentioned, it should only be in a very rare case that you need to actually contact them.
Trainline makes it quite difficult to find their contact details on both their website and app. They do however offer phone numbers both in and out of the UK, and if you search for long enough you find a form on their website where you can send them an email.
They seem to flog off a lot of the heavy lifting onto the rail operators themselves, advising you to contact them if your request is urgent. Luckily most of the features most people will need like cancellation can be done from directly inside their platform so there shouldn’t be too much need to actually contact them.
No other competitor across Europe offers such a complete rail booking experience. When you throw in the fact that they also offer coach bookings, you can book things the open-return and reasons tickets, and that they support mobile payment methods like Google Pay and Apple Pay, you’d be silly to not at least consider using Trainline to book your next train ticket in Europe.