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Europe: Rail Pass Supplements and Seat Reservation Fees

Posted by Nicky Gardner and Susanne Kries | | Practical Info
Image © QualitDesign / dreamstime.com

Image © QualitDesign / dreamstime.com

Updated September 2019

This information is prepared first and foremost for readers of our Europe by Rail book. The 16th edition of Europe by Rail: The Definitive Guide is published in October 2019. The information here on supplements and seat reservation fees applies to daytime services only. And in this article we focus on non-international trains (ie. domestic services).

Compiled by Nicky Gardner and Susanne Kries

1. Supplements

The real beauty of Interrail and Eurail is being able to roam at will. And across much of Europe, you can do just that. But in a small number of countries, rail operators require that holders of Eurail or Interrail passes pay a supplement to use premium or high-speed trains. 

These supplements must usually be paid in advance. In some cases they can be purchased online, but it may sometimes mean queuing at station ticket offices – which does slightly undermine the whole ‘just hop-on-and-ride’ principle of having a rail pass. In many cases, you can avoid these charges by taking slower trains. 

2. Seat reservations

Quite apart from the vexed issue of supplements for pass holders, there are many European countries where on certain trains everyone needs a seat reservation. Pass holders are not exempt from such requirements where they exist. For those who purchase normal tickets, the price of that compulsory seat reservation is included in the cost of the ticket. 

But travellers using Eurail or Interrail passes need to secure that seat reservation separately. Sometimes it’s free. Often there’s a trivial charge of less than a euro. Occasionally, it can run to a few euros. However much it costs, the whole business of needing to get that seat reservation also takes the edge off a pass. That said, we still think that Eurail and Interrail passes can be great value and really make sense for longer, meandering journeys by train. 

3. Understanding our listings

In the country-by-country listings below we show, for each of the main countries covered by the Interrail and Eurail schemes, how much you might expect to pay to make a domestic journey on a day train within that country. The supplements and fees for travel on overnight trains are often higher. 

These compulsory supplements and seat reservation fees apply to Interrail and Eurail Global Pass holders. They also apply to holders of One-Country Passes. Obviously a One-Country Pass must be valid for the country in which you intend to travel.

Note that the fees we quote below are the costs of paying supplements or securing seat reservations within the relevant country. There are sometimes additional fees when you prepay supplements or make seat reservations abroad. Bear in mind that some agents may add a hefty service fee. 

Note that this listing relates only to domestic journeys – ie. journeys which do not cross international frontiers. Different fees, often much higher ones, apply on certain international journeys – especially those on high-speed trains to or from France such as TGV Lyria, Thalys and Eurostar trains. 

We shall prepare and publish a list of supplements and seat reservation fees for international journeys before long. 

4. An overview

A quick perusal of the list will show how much the fees vary from country to country. There are some countries like Germany and Britain where on domestic rail services there are no rail pass supplements and seat reservations (although perhaps advisable on some routes) are never mandatory. So in these countries, you really can hop on any daytime train without any worries that you might incur additional costs.

Then there are countries like Greece and Turkey, when a seat reservation is compulsory on many trains, but that reservation is completely free. 

France and Spain can be quite expensive for Interrail and Eurail pass holders, with a supplement (which also includes a guaranteed seat reservation) payable on pretty well all high-speed services. But even here, careful planning can save a lot of money, especially if you are minded to stick to slower trains. 

We also include the cost of getting a seat reservation even where it’s not manadatory. Some travellers just like the security of knowing that they have an allocated seat on the trains. Prices for getting these optional seat reservations vary a lot. In some countries, they are completely free. 

The abbreviation ‘ERT’ in the country-by-country guide below refers to the European Rail Timetable and the number that follows is the table number in that timetable. 

5. Class of travel

The amount you pay for supplements or seat reservation fees is not generally affected by class of travel. But there are some exceptions, notably in Spain and Sweden. Where different charges apply to holders of First Class and Second Class passes, we make that clear in the listings which follow. 

When First Class supplements or reservation fees are substantially higher than their Second Class equivalents, that’s usually because additional on-board services, such as complementary refreshments, are offered to First Class passengers. 

6. Country by country guide 

Austria

There is no mandatory seat reservation fee or supplement on domestic daytime trains operated by ÖBB. 

Optional seat reservations are available on many ÖBB trains. Fee €3.50. 

Bosnia & Herzegovina

Seat reservations are mandatory on Talgo services. Fee €0.50.

Bulgaria

Seat reservations are mandatory on long-distance and express services. Fee €0.30. 

On selected other trains optional seat reservations are available, also at a price of €0.30.

Croatia

Mandatory seat reservations on ICN trains on the Zagreb to Split route and also on trains on the IC Zagreb to Osijek route. Fee €3.60. 

On selected other trains optional seat reservations are available, also at a price of €3.60.

Czech Republic

Mandatory seat reservations are required on some SC (SuperCity Pendolino) services. Fee varies by route. Maximum €8.00. 

On selected other trains optional seat reservations are available at a price of €3.00.

Denmark

No mandatory seat reservation on domestic daytime trains.

Optional seat reservations are available on some longer-distance trains for €3.90.

Finland

No mandatory seat reservation on domestic daytime trains.

Optional seat reservations are available on some longer-distance trains for €6.00 to €11.00 (Second Class), €11.00 to €16.00 (First Class).

France 

Mandatory supplement (which includes a seat reservation) on all domestic TGV services and some Intercités. Fee €10 to €20 depending on route and seat availability at time of booking. Only a quota of seats are available for pass holders at the lowest fare. 

On those Intercités service where reservation is not mandatory, it is still possible to secure an optional seat reservation. The fee is €1.50.

Germany

No mandatory seat reservations on domestic daytime trains.

Optional seat reservations are available on ICE, EC, IC and selected other longer-distance trains. The reservation fee of €4.50 Second Class, €5.90 First Class covers not just one train, but an entire journey on multiple trains within Germany. 

Seat reservation is mandatory for pass-holders travelling on IC Bus services. The fee is €4.50 Second Class, €5.90 First Class. 

Great Britain

No mandatory seat reservation on domestic daytime trains.

Optional seat reservations, available on many longer-distance trains, are free when secured in Britain.

Greece

Seat reservations are mandatory on IC trains but are completely free for pass holders. 

Hungary

There are mandatory seat reservations on long-distance and express services. That includes all RailJet, Eurocity and IC trains. Fee is €1.50 to €3.50. 

Ireland

No mandatory seat reservation on domestic daytime trains.

Optional seat reservations are available on selected services. They cost €5 Second Class, €12.50 to €25.00 First Class.

Italy

Mandatory supplements (which include a seat reservation) are the norm on Frecciarossa, Frecciargento, Frecciabianco and Eurocity services. Fee €10. 

Note that on domestic journeys within Italy on EC trains running south from Brennero to Bolzano, Verona and beyond (all shown in ERT 595), it is mandatory to reserve a seat and the fee is €9.00 Second Class and €13.00 First Class.

On selected other long-distance trains, seat reservations are optional and cost €3.00.

Liechtenstein

There is no mandatory reservation on any trains stopping at stations in Liechtenstein.

Lithuania

No mandatory reservation on domestic daytime trains.

Optional seat reservations, available on many longer-distance trains, are free in Second Class but cost €5.00 First Class.

Luxembourg

There is no mandatory reservation on any domestic trains.

Montenegro

The only supplement for domestic journeys in Montenegro is a €3.00 fee payable for travel, for any length of domestic journey, on one of the international trains which serve the Bar to Belgrade route. This applies even if the journey is wholly in Montenegro. But on all other trains – ie. those with itineraries wholly in Montenegro – there is no supplement or requirement for a seat reservation. Even on the international trains, the €3.00 fee can just be paid on the train. 

Netherlands

No supplements or seat reservations bar for a one-off fee of €2.60 for travel on the non-stop ICD trains between Schiphol and Rotterdam or vv. These need not be pre-purchased. One can pay on the train. 

North Macedonia

Mandatory seat reservations on Inter Regio trains. Fee €0.40.

Norway

No mandatory reservation on domestic daytime trains.

Optional seat reservations are available on selected services. They cost €5.40 Second Class but are free for holders of First Class Interrail/Eurail passes. 

Poland

Mandatory seat reservation and supplement (€10.00) on EIP (Express IC Premium) trains. The seat reservation element is free if the seat is reserved in Poland. 

Optional seat reservations are available on IC, TLK and EIC trains. They are free if arranged in Poland. 

Portugal

Mandatory seat reservations on Alfa Pendular (AP) and Intercidades (IC) trains. Fee €5.00.

Romania

Mandatory seat reservations on InterRegio (IR) trains. Fee €1.00.

Optional seat reservations on certain other services (mainly those prefixed RE). Fee €1.00.

Serbia

No mandatory reservation on domestic daytime trains.

Optional seat reservations are available on selected services. They cost €0.90. 

Slovakia

A seat reservation is mandatory for Super City Pendolino services, with fees of €1.00 Second Class, €3.00 First Class. 

Reservations are also mandatory on Intercity services, with a variable fee according to the route. Fees ranges from €3.00 to €9.00 Second Class, €7.00 to €13.00 First Class. 

Slovenia

Seat reservation is mandatory on ICS (Intercity Slovenia) services. Fee is €2.00 for journeys up to 60 km, or €4.00 for longer journeys. 

Spain

Mandatory reservations are required on most longer-distance trains in Spain, the only exceptions on daytime services being regional trains and some MD services. 

On Avant and MD trains – two train categories that are one-class only – the reservation fee is €4. 

On Talgo, Alvia and Altaria trains, the reservation fee is €6.50 Second Class, €10.00 First Class. 

On AVE trains, the reservation fee is €10.00 Second Class, €23.50 First Class (although the First Class fee is reduced to €13.00 on Saturdays). 

On Euromed trains, the reservation fee is €6.50 Second Class and €23.50 First Class (although the First Class fee is reduced to €10.00 on Saturdays). 

Sweden

Mandatory supplement (which includes a seat reservation) on SJ High-Speed Trains (Snabbtåg services). Fee €7.00 Second Class, €17.00 First Class. 

Mandatory seat reservation is also the norm on Snälltåget trains on the Stockholm to Malmö route and vv. Fee €5.00 Second Class, €15.00 First Class. 

Optional seat reservations on certain other longer-distance services. Fee is €3.00 except on the Inlandsbanen Route (ERT 766), where the fee is €5.00. 

Switzerland

All but a handful of scheduled domestic train services are entirely free of supplements for rail-pass holders. There are just a very few exceptions on tourist trains. 

Reservations are mandatory on those trains on the Glacier Express route which are actually branded and marketed as the Glacier Express. All other trains on that St Moritz – Andermatt – Zermatt axis are supplement free and there is no need to reserve seats in advance. 

The supplements for holders of Interrail and Eurail passes on the Glacier Express vary by season and length of journey. For shorter journeys, the supplement varies from €12 to €30 according to season. For longer journeys, the supplements range from €21 to €40 depending on the season. The top-end supplements apply in the months of June, July, August and September. 

Holders of First Class passes now have the option of upgrading to Excellence Class on the Glacier Express. The Excellence Class supplement, which must be booked in advance, is €385. 

The only other Swiss train with mandatory advance reservation and a supplement is the Gotthard Panorama Express where a fee of €15 is payable by rail-pass holders travelling between Lugano and Flüelen or vice versa. 

Optional reservations can be made on selected other Swiss domestic trains. The fee is usually €4.00. Higher fees may however apply for seat reservations (all optional) on the Bernina Express (but not on other trains on the Bernina route) and on the Golden Pass line from Lucerne via Interlaken to Gstaad and Montreux. 

Turkey

Seat reservations are mandatory on all daytime long-distance and express trains but are free for pass holders.

Copyright © Nicky Gardner and Susanne Kries. All rights reserved.
hidden europe
About The Authors

Nicky Gardner and Susanne Kries

Nicky and Susanne manage hidden europe, a Berlin-based editorial bureau that supplies text and images to media across Europe. Together they edit hidden europe magazine. Nicky and Susanne are dedicated slow travellers and the authors of the Europe by Rail guidebook. The 16th edition of that book is published in October 2019. You'll find a list of outlets that sell the book on our website.

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