How to Find Cheap Train Tickets

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Cheap train tickets for travel in Tyrol are possible if you do your homework in advance. Planning is key to make use of the best possible discounts from the different railways. Eurail Passes are convenient, but not necessary the cheapest option depending on how often and how far you want to travel. By taking some time to do research on the different options and booking in advance when your travel dates are final, you can save more than 50% on the regular fare. The real advantage of train travel in Austria, is that kids travel for free accompanied by adults or parents with saver tickets. I went along and did most of the homework for you. This is my overview of the different discount offers.

ÖBB

The ÖBB (Austrian Railways) has an excellent discount product called the Sparschiene for trips within Austria and to the rest of Europe. In Austria, for example, a second-class ticket from Innsbruck to Salzburg will cost you only €14, and to Vienna as little as €24. The best part is that up to 4 children under 16 years travel absolutely free with an adult in possession of a Sparschiene ticket. Crossing the border to Germany, Switzerland or Italy, you can secure tickets from Innsbruck to Munich, Zurich or Venice for €9, €19 and €24 respectively. Hey, you can even travel as far as Copenhagen for €79.

The one snag is that Sparschiene tickets are only valid on the specific train and specific time for which you booked it. It means less flexibility. However, this should not be a problem if you plan well. Also, remember there are only a limited number of Sparschiene tickets available for each journey. Sparschiene prices can differ depending on how many are still available. The earlier you book, the better your chances to secure the cheapest price.

Vorteilscard

If you are unable to plan and book in advance, or don’t want to commit to a specific train and time, the ÖBB Vorteilscard is another option to secure cheap train tickets. The ÖBB Vorteilscard Classic costs €99, is valid for one year and qualifies you for discounts of at least 50% on standard train tickets. The ÖBB Vorteilscard Family is even better value for money. It costs only €19 per year and the holder thereof travels at severely reduced rates when accompanied by up to 4 children under the age of 15. You do have to order it in advance, but once you have it you can book tickets at the discounted rate minutes before a train departs.

 

Cheap train tickets with the ÖBB Vorteilscard. © ÖBB/Harald Eisenberger
A passenger on an Austrian train shows her “Vorteilscard” which qualifies her for cheap train tickets. © ÖBB/Harald Eisenberger

Deutsche Bahn

For trips between Austria and Germany, the Deutsche Bahn has a saver fare Europe similar to the ÖBB’s Sparschiene. Tickets from Munich, Frankfurt or Hamburg to Innsbruck cost from €19, €39 and €39 respectively. Children from 6 to 14 years, accompanied by their parents, travel free. If you have a Bahncard25, you get a further 25% off the German leg of your journey.

Swiss Railways

If you’re heading from the Swiss Alps to the Austrian Alps or vice versa, the Swiss Railways offers an international supersaver ticket for trips between Switzerland and Austria. The journey from Zurich to Innsbruck can cost as little as €37, with children up to 16 years of age travelling free in the company of a parent or grandparent.

Trenitalia

Italy’s version of the Sparschiene is called the Super Economy Ticket. Unlike the other railways, children don’t travel free under this option. Therefore, it works out more expensive. A trip for one adult and one child between Venice and Innsbruck worked out €81,90 when I did my price check. Children do however travel free with adults travelling with standard tickets. This offer is called Bimbi Gratis and is valid for children under 15 years. The best is to compare the prices for a specific journey to see which offer works out cheaper.

Eurail

If you plan longer and more frequent train journeys, Eurail is a definite solution for cheap train tickets, especially if you are travelling in a group or as a family with kids under 11 (who travel for free). An Austria pass costs from €198 for 3 days of travel within one month. Two-country passes for travel between Austria and Germany, Switzerland and Italy cost from €218 and €255 for 4 days of travel within 2 months. There is also an Austria-Germany-Italy pass @ €391 for 5 travel days in 2 months. Further discounts apply for groups of 2 or more people travelling together. Plus, Eurail sometimes have special offers where one extra day of travel is included for free.

Insider Notes

  • Seat reservations are not included in ticket prices. Consider booking a seat if you are travelling during peak times like Friday or Sunday afternoons. They cost €3 per person with the |ÖBB and €4,50 for individual reservations with the Deutsche Bahn.
  • Download the ÖBB App to buy tickets on the go. You will receive an electronic ticket accepted on all trains.
  • It’s a hassle and takes time, but get prices from all the available providers before you book cross-border train journeys. The difference can be substantial.
  • Spoil yourself by travelling in style in first class thanks to cheap train tickets through discount offers.
  • Have your photo ID card or passport ready to show to the conductor. Some ask, some don’t. Better be safe than sorry. Sometimes you are also requested to show the credit card with which you purchased your tickets.
  • Some discount offers can only be booked up to 3 days before the date of travel and not more than 3 months in advance.
  • Most saver fares are non-refundable and only valid on a specific train on a specific date.

All discount prices quoted are based on my own random search done on 20 March 2017 for travel on 2 May 2017. They are for one adult, but mostly include up to 4 children travelling for free.

 

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Coenraad

These tips on train travel in Tyrol are very helpful, thank you! Especially the guide to the Sparschiene product which I struggled to understand on the official website.

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