Understanding Seat Reservations for Europe Train Passengers

There are instances when seat reservations are necessary, this is especially true for most of the high-speed trains and night trains. In European countries, most trains need reservations, except for slower regional trains. Seat reservations can be done as early as 3 months prior to travel dates. The sooner one books a reservation, the better the chances of getting a seat.

There are different types of seat reservations. These types of reservations will help one decide if it?s really necessary to book a reservation or not. The different kinds of reservation are as follows:

  1. Mandatory. This type of seat reservation requires advance booking and reservation because these trains easily get filled up. Thus, it is compulsory for one to book in advance to make sure he or she would be able to board the train.
  2. Optional. This type of seat reservation accepts both advance bookingsand walk-ins. These trains do not easily get filled up. Therefore, it is not necessary for an advance reservation. It is a very rare case when advance booking is necessary. This is true for peoplewho travel in groups and would like to be seated together. By reserving seats, they can choose their seats and be grouped together.
  3. Recommended. This type of sear reservation does not really require advance booking. However, it is recommended that a reservation be made because the train often gets full.
  4. None. This type of seat reservation does not accept early bookings. Therefore, it is important for travelers to arrive early because tickets or seats are bought on the day of travel prior to boarding.

There are some instances when trains require seating reservations and or sleeping accommodation if preferred. This is very true for high-speed trains. For instance, most French trains, except regional trains, have limited number of seats available. However, it is smart to reserve a seat even if it?s not compulsory, except for trains who do not accept advance reservations.


In case one get caught of a fully-booked high-speed train, he or she can opt to take the slower regional trains that do not allow reservations. These trains rarely get fully-booked because they have plenty of seats for everyone. However, if one winds up with a crowded train, he or she can board the train provided that he or she is willing to stand for a while until a seat becomes available.