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Peak travel times in Europe

Cork, Ireland
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Peak travel times in Europe

Apologies if this is a well worn subject, nothing obvious popped up in the first few pages of search results.

Is there a sort of general 'rush hour' for trains in Europe, a timeframe it's best to avoid if possible on trains where you can't reserve a seat? Generally, I would avoid 8am-930am and 5pm-630pm, but this is more based on experience of UK and Irish train travel and to be honest, it's not been something I've focussed on (except in the UK when it's a lot cheaper to travel off-peak).

Any tips on how to avoid having to stand for 2+ hours?

Auckland, New...
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1. Re: Peak travel times in Europe

On long distance routes where there might be only a few daily trains you can't really count on this sorta thinking, A 2:00PM Eurocity from Basel to Milan I was on in July was absolutely packed, some poor people had to spend the trip from Bern to Milan standing up. I'd look more into the popularity of the route and what time of the year it is.

Albufeira, Portugal
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for Algarve, Faro
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2. Re: Peak travel times in Europe

Well, the first thing to know is that in much of Europe seat reservation is compulsory for most long distance trains. That is certainly the case in France, Spain, Portugal, Italy and Sweden. There should be no standing as the system will not sell you a ticket if all sets have already been sold.

The cheap tickets sell first of course and these are often non refundable and non exchangeable. Most railways use dynamic pricing to fill the off peak trains and charge maximum fares at peak times. if your plans are fixed you can still get some real bargains at any time of day opr day of the week by getting your ticket at the first opportunity.

In Holland, Belgium and Luxembourg reservations for domestic trains are not available, so the general rules about avoiding rush hours apply. In countries where reservations are available but not compulsory eg Germany, Switzerland, Austria then if you make a reservation you will get a seat and probably save some money by getting a ticket in advance.

After all that, you need to take note of national holidays, especially in summer. Summer weekends in France and Spain can often see local trains packed to the doors as people head for the seaside. Long distance trains in France on Saturdays in August are often full - I have discovered that to my cost!

Thrown in a few key dates in the sporting calendar for any given country and your list should be complete!

Edited: 09 March 2014, 10:54
Imperia, Italy
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for Italian Riviera
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3. Re: Peak travel times in Europe

<A 2:00PM Eurocity from Basel to Milan I was on in July was absolutely packed, some poor people had to spend the trip from Bern to Milan standing up.>

Reservation is compulsory on this train between Domodossola and Milan, and all tickets on it from Switzerland to Milan include a seat reservation. Anyone with a railpass must purchase a reservation.

Any 'poor person' found standing on this train without a seat reservation after Domodossola would be travelling without a valid ticket and would normally be both fined and forced to purchase a ticket from Domodossola to Milan. Travel without a reservation is permissible within Switzerland and just across the border to Domodossola.

Cork, Ireland
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4. Re: Peak travel times in Europe

Nice summary, cubsur.

This bit: "the general rules about avoiding rush hours apply". Would I be fairly ok sticking to avoiding the times as in the op, 8am-930am and 5pm-630pm. For example, a day trip from Amsterdam to Delft, I want to spend as much time as possible in Delft, but within reason. A quick search of b-europe threw up a 928-1025 outbound and 1650-1747 inbound. With seat res, would that sort of timeframe work in theory (all things like public holidays, sporting events, etc being equal)? I'm assuming a 9-5 workday, and we all what happens when you make assumptions,

Cork, Ireland
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5. Re: Peak travel times in Europe

*Without* seat res, of course.

London
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6. Re: Peak travel times in Europe

The beauty of Dutch trains is that you can travel when you like. Travel at times that suit YOU - don't obsess about not getting a seat, otherwise you'll go round and round in circles - actually you will end up going nowhere.

Auckland, New...
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7. Re: Peak travel times in Europe

By poor I didn't mean financially poor, I just felt sorry for them.

Many people hopped on in Berne and Thun and purchased tickets from the Conductor on board, though the price they would've had to pay would've been pretty high.

8. Re: Peak travel times in Europe

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