What do I need to know about traveling by train in the Schengen Area ?

Everything you need to know about traveling by train in the Schengen Area

If you are traveling to the Schengen Area, one of the cheapest, most convenient, and fastest ways to travel is via train. Europe has an extensive high-speed rail network that allows you to travel quickly between major cities, particularly in Germany, France, Belgium, and The Netherlands. In some cases, it may even be quicker and easier to jump on a train than a plane.

What documents will I need to travel around Europe by train ?

Essentially, you will just need your travel documents, tickets, and a visa. A Schengen Visa will allow you to travel across all 27 countries in the Schengen Area, and trains traverse the continent seamlessly. You can be in Paris in the morning, Amsterdam for lunch, and Cologne for dinner! As long as you have the correct travel documents. Some journeys - for example to the U.K., or in Eastern Europe, may take you outside the Schengen Area - so it is worth checking your route and if you will need any additional visas.

How do I apply for a Schengen Visa?

To obtain a short-stay Schengen Visa allowing you to travel across Europe by train for 90 days, you will need to apply to the consulate, embassy, or visa application center of your host country, or if traveling to more than one nation, then to the one you plan to spend the most time in. You’ll need to provide two identical photographs, a valid passport, proof of your itinerary, such as flight bookings, as well as proof of accommodation. You’ll also need travel and medical insurance, covering costs up to €30,000, including repatriation to your home country in case of a medical emergency or death. You must also pay a non-refundable application fee of €80.

Buying tickets for trains in Europe

If you want to travel around Europe by train, one of the most affordable and convenient ways to do so is to buy a Eurail pass - an international version of the Interrail pass that is available to European Union citizens and residents of non-EU or non-Schengen countries including Albania, Belarus, Turkey, Ukraine, and Russia. Passes can last for the whole three months of your trip or shorter periods. They allow you to travel on any train in participating countries - although high speed or overnight trains may need to be booked in advance.

You can also buy individual tickets for one-off journeys you plan to make during your trip to Europe. You are advised to purchase tickets in advance as these will likely be cheaper and will help ensure you get a seat.

Checking train times and routes

You should check train times and routes ahead of traveling, leaving plenty of time to catch your train as Europe’s bigger stations, such as Paris’ Gare du Nord or Berlin’s Hauptbahnhof, are large and may be confusing to the inexperienced traveler. Train times are mostly available online. You should also check summer and winter timetables, especially if traveling to more remote parts of Europe as routes and the frequency of trains may change by the season.

How much luggage can I travel with ?

For most practical purposes there are no luggage limits as long as you can carry it yourself. You take your bags into the train with you and put them on the racks above your seat or at the end of the car - or you can often put bags between the seatbacks, and on local and regional trains you can usually just stick it on the floor. There's usually no separate baggage car on European trains.

What travel insurance do I need to travel via train in Europe ?

AXA’s Low Cost travel insurance will provide all the coverage you need to obtain your Schengen Visa and cover you in medical emergencies. It is available from as little as €22 per week. If you are traveling across Europe by train, you may wish to take out our more comprehensive Europe Travel insurance, which can cost as little as €33 per week and will provide more comprehensive cover for lost travel documents and important items - something to consider if you are worried about leaving important items on a train.

Frequently asked questions about traveling via train in the Schengen Area

The best time to travel around Europe by train ?

Although this will depend on your plans, the peak season for traveling around Europe by train is the summer months of June, July, and August, as more routes will be open and trains more frequent to cope with additional visitors.

Are lost items covered by AXA’s travel insurance?

AXA’s Europe Travel insurance will cover the loss of key documents and items. You can speak to us about our policies and how they cover the loss or theft of luggage.

If I travel by train outside the Schengen Area, will I still be covered on my AXA Schengen policy?

Doing so will invalidate any claim on your insurance policy - if you are planning to drive outside the Schengen Zone you should check with us for an affordable, bespoke policy.