Seating solutions: A comprehensive Eurail seat reservations guide

Eurail Pass is your key to effortless train-hopping in Europe. Arm yourself with the pass, get onboard most trains, and simply take any seat that is available. However, seat reservations mean you needn’t leave it up to chance to get one. Seat reservations are mandatory in certain trains but for the most part, optional. Eurail Pass seat reservations need to be purchased at a small extra cost. Read on to learn more about when and how to bag an assured seat to make your European train journeys even more cozy. 

Seat reservation options with Eurail Pass

No reservation with Eurail Pass

No reservation

If you are traveling by local, regional, and suburban trains that connect different European cities and smaller towns, you need not reserve seats. Reservation is not mandatory for such trains, and given their frequency, you should be able to find good seats soon enough.

Optional reservation with Eurail Pass

Optional reservation

Traveling in peak season or simply want to get cozy with an assured seat? Take advantage of the optional seat reservations available on most European trains, including regional ones. The choice to reserve is fully yours and not mandatory.

Mandatory reservation with Eurail Pass

Mandatory reservation

If you are traveling in high-speed trains, or night trains or taking train journeys in countries like Spain, Italy, and France, you are required to reserve a seat compulsorily. You will not be able to board without a valid pass and seat reservation ticket in this case.  

Things to know before reserving seats with Eurail Pass

Embarking on a rail adventure? Don't rush into securing those train seats without considering the following factors! Whether you're bound by time constraints, budget considerations, or traveling during high tourist seasons, your decisions shape the journey ahead.

Eurail Pass Tips
  • Peak season: Amidst the tourist season in Europe, securing train seats well in advance will let you beat the crowds, and cruise through your journey stress-free.
  • Travel style: Craving a fatigue-free, comfortable ride? Make that seat reservation! If you are comfortable with possibly standing, hop on non-mandatory trains. 
  • Age considerations: When your travel companions include toddlers or seniors, reserve those seats and spare yourself the unnecessary stress associated with unsecured seating.
  • Travel duration: Prioritize comfort by reserving seats in advance for an extended train journey.
  • Time & budget availability: Opt for the swiftness of high-speed trains, often demanding seat reservations, if you are short on time. If you're budget-conscious, embrace the leisurely pace of slower trains, a pocket-friendly choice that doesn’t require reservation.
  • Group dynamics: If you are traveling with a group, secure those seats to ensure your group stays united throughout the adventure.
  • Night trains: Night trains usually seek seat reservations. However, the greatest perk here is that you will be cutting down on accommodation costs by opting for night trains. 
  • Reservation requirements: When you plan to take a train, be sure to check if a seat reservation is mandatory for that train and make one if required.

How to reserve seats with Eurail Pass?

Securing a comfy seat with your Eurail Pass is a breeze and can be done by following the processes below:

Eurail reservations website

Head over to the Eurail reservation website to lock in your seat for most European trains.

Railway websites

Look into the official websites of railway operators like ČD (Czech Railways), DB (German Railways), ÖBB (Austrian Railways), Westbahn (Private Railway), and others to reserve seats for the respective trains.  

Contact via phone/email

Dial the railway booking centers of various countries like Austria, Finland, Germany, and others to get your seats reserved. In Estonia, send out an email to the booking center for reservations. 

Local train stations

Swing by any of the local train stations' booking counters across all 33 Eurail countries to reserve seats physically. In places like Latvia, Lithuania, Portugal, Serbia, Turkey, and more, this is the only possible means of reservation.

Seat reservation tips for Eurail Pass holders

Best time to reserve
Reservation-free journeys
Insider travel tips
Best time to reserve - Eurail Pass
  • Booking window: Generally, reservations for day trains become accessible three months before departure, while night trains permit bookings up to six months in advance.
  • Peak tourist season: If your itinerary aligns with the high tourist season spanning from April to September, reserve early as seats can be sold out soon. There is often a limit to the number of seats allocated for pass holders, which makes early reservations, wise.
  • Popular routes: High-speed trains connecting major European cities are greatly sought after by tourists. If you are taking these trains, reserve early to grab your seats, especially during peak tourist season.
Reservation-free journeys with Eurail Pass

The Eurail Pass offers exceptional flexibility for your travel agenda, accommodating both spontaneous getaways and meticulously planned adventures. Although seat reservations enhance comfort, they can be pricy and may compromise the Pass's inherent flexibility. Nevertheless, navigating Europe without Eurail seat reservations is entirely feasible with the following hacks:

  • Opt for local/regional trains: Prioritize slower yet regularly available local or regional trains for intercity travel. These typically do not need reservations, presenting a budget-friendly alternative to high-speed trains. 
  • Use the Rail Planner app: Find trains without mandatory reservations by checking the 'No reservation needed' filter while using the Rail Planner app.
  • Avoid peak season trips: Time your travels for off-peak seasons when train crowds are less, thereby increasing the chance of securing seats without reservations.
Eurail Train - Insider Travel Tips
  • Reservation policy changes: Recheck the reservation policy of your chosen train before your trip as certain railway operators may transition from optional to mandatory reservations during peak season.
  • Pass activation exemption: You can reserve your seats with the Eurail Pass without activating it, letting you plan and secure your seats in advance. 
  • Compulsory seat bookings: Understanding which trains mandate Eurail seat reservations is important. The Rail Planner app indicates whether your chosen train requires a reservation. You can also check this online or at the train station. 
  • Ticket processing period: In specific countries, seat reservation tickets are swift E-tickets, while others may offer traditional paper tickets necessitating mailing. Allow ample time during the reservation process to ensure the punctual receipt of your tickets.

Frequently asked questions

Do I need seat reservations with Eurail Pass?

Most European trains allow you to travel with just a valid Eurail Pass. However, some high-speed trains, overnight trains, and trains in countries like France and Spain ask for additional seat reservation tickets without which you cannot travel. 

What are Eurail seat reservations?

You can hop on and off most trains in Europe and get seated on any available seat. A seat reservation ticket is a supplement to your pass, purchased at an extra cost, that guarantees you a seat no matter how crowded the train is. In most cases, this is optional but in some trains it is compulsory.

Are seat reservations not included in my Eurail Pass?

Unfortunately, seat reservations are not included in your Eurail Pass. You will have to purchase them online or at any local train station separately. However, most European trains do not require mandatory seat reservations. 

What is the cost of Eurail seat reservations?

Seat reservation prices vary with the country, type of train, and even season. The prices mentioned here are just average rates subject to change. Domestic (high-speed) trains can cost about €10, International high-speed trains about €15, and International night trains about €20. 

How can I reserve seats with Eurail Pass?

Eurail seat reservation can be done via the Eurail reservations website, railway carrier’s websites, at the local train stations in the country of travel, or by booking or emailing the railway booking centers of the country of travel.

Do I need to activate my Eurail Pass to reserve seats?

Pass activation is not necessary to reserve seats. This means you can arrange your trip well in advance and activate your Eurail Pass when you are ready to travel. Read more about Eurail Pass usage and activation.

How far in advance should I reserve seats with Eurail Pass?

Seat booking can be done 3 to 6 months before departure. Book your seats as early as you can to increase your chances of getting one. If you are traveling in peak season or on popular trains, make sure to book as soon as the booking window is open as seats tend to run out. 

How can I know which trains require seat reservations?

You can check the reservation requirements of each train on the Rail Planner app while searching for journeys and train routes. You can also check train reservation policies online or at train stations. 

How do I avoid a seat reservation with Eurail Pass?

Choose local and regional trains that do not require reservation over high-speed trains while commuting. Increase your chances of grabbing a seat by opting for off-season travel. You can also choose day trains that often do not seek reservations instead of overnight trains that do. 

What happens if you get on a train without a seat reservation?

If you are traveling on a train that doesn’t ask for a mandatory reservation, you can simply enter and take any available seat as long as you have a valid Eurail Pass. However, if it is a mandatory bookable train, you will be denied entry or fined by the ticket inspector.