Rail Europe CEO Shares Insider Tips for Affordable Train Travel, Debunks Myth of Expensive Fares

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Rail Europe CEO Shares Insider Tips for Affordable Train Travel, Debunks Myth of Expensive Fares

Are you deterred by the cost of train travel? How can CEOs in Europe secure the best deals for rail journeys? Let’s delve into their insights on achieving optimal deals.

Bjorn Bender, the CEO of Rail Europe, is a seasoned expert in train travel. He embarked on a journey spanning nearly 75,000 kilometers across Europe alone last year.

For him, train travel isn’t just about going from point A to point B; it’s truly a home away from home. “It’s my office where I can truly get my work done.”

Since the advent of COVID-19, there has been a renewed interest in rail services as travelers seek to stay closer to home and many endeavor to reduce the negative environmental impacts of air travel. Demand has surged worldwide, something Bender has observed firsthand in ticket sales.

He remarks, “There’s a huge demand for mobility, and it’s increasing globally.” “The railway industry is thriving – in both Europe and cross-border services, it’s perhaps up by 20 percent.”

For rail in Europe, 2023 was “a fantastic year,” Bender shared, noting a 66 percent increase in sales compared to 2022 and approximately 75-80 percent growth compared to 2019.

Despite the demand, there’s still a prevailing belief among many that train tickets are expensive, which Bender believes is untrue.

When it comes to booking train travel, he engages the audience by sharing his insider knowledge with EuroNews Travel.

“Don’t book directly with rail providers,” Bender’s first tip is to avoid booking directly with rail providers. He compares it to booking flights: “You don’t typically book directly on an airline’s website – at least I wouldn’t. I compare prices on platforms like Skyscanner or Kayak.”

Comparison sites, or those that provide prices from multiple providers, empower travelers to choose from a variety of options and routes, and prices.

“When I want to travel from Frankfurt to New York, I don’t care if I end up flying with Delta, United, or Lufthansa,” Bender elaborates.

He believes that the trend of booking train travel exclusively in Europe is now changing. “We’re becoming more and more present in this environment in Europe – mutually agnostic platforms, players like us, compare prices, tariffs, and offer recommendations based on travelers’ individual needs.”

Book train tickets seven to 12 weeks before your travel date

It’s widely agreed that the earlier you book travel, the cheaper it will be. However, similar to air travel, there’s often a window of opportunity where train ticket prices are at their lowest.

Bender advises, “I would say booking seven to 12 weeks in advance is a good range.” Valuable insights, but until when? Things, he says, are changing.

“In the past, there were very few savings on high-speed trains. Now, I can book savings rent for every traveler up to 30 minutes before departure.”

Saving money on tickets also depends on where and when you want to travel. It’s not surprising that boarding a train on a Monday morning is more expensive than on a Tuesday, so sometimes being pragmatic doesn’t hurt.

Include stops on your rail route

While non-stop services are undoubtedly faster – and therefore more attractive – they’re also more expensive.

Bender says, “If you’re open to changing trains once, the chances of getting a better price increase.”

This is quite common in airfare and it seems trains are no different. With enough research, finding easy connections with relatively short wait times is possible, minimizing the overall impact on your journey while potentially saving significantly.

Participate in loyalty programs and purchase rail passes and cards

Bender says, “Loyalty programs, especially for cross-border services, increase the likelihood of getting a better fare.”

As do rail passes and cards. “When you go on summer vacation with your family, traveling on a pass allows you to travel across almost the entire Europe – for a few hundred euros for four weeks.”

Bender believes that the availability and usefulness of rail cards and passes in Europe have not yet been sufficiently appreciated, even by European people.

“In the vast expanse of possibilities, it falls upon us, the mutual providers, to weave a tapestry of experiences, guiding travelers from the spark of inspiration all the way through post-purchase support. Let’s embrace our role as steadfast companions, ensuring every journey is enriched with knowledge, support, and memorable encounters. Together, let’s craft adventures that transcend mere travel and become transformative odysseys.”

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