We ran dozens of pan-European searches on the three top train booking platforms, Rail Europe, Omio, and Trainline, and compared the results.
The goal was to find out: Which site results in better and cheaper train trips?
All three of these websites are far easier to use than most national European train booking sites, which can cause issues, particularly for those outside of Europe, and even be impossible to use with foreign credit cards.
So which is better, Trainline, Omio, or Rail Europe?
Comparing the Train Ticketing Platforms for Mainland Europe
Rail Europe works just as smoothly as Trainline but its coverage is not as extensive. Nevertheless, if you’re taking a complex trip and have a moment, it’s worth checking here too—in a couple of our test cases it has offered us better routes.
Omio is a clean-looking site but doesn’t really have a brain—unlike Trainline and Rail Europe, it can’t put together complex trips. In terms of trains, Omio’s only real advantage is that it can book for Portugal and Sweden. It also books flights.
This article is continuously fact-checked and updated by savvy, sweaty, human travel writers
First off: Why These Platforms Are Far Better Than National European Train Company Websites
As we’ve covered in our previous studies of how European train platforms compare, both Rail Europe and Trainline are far more useful than booking directly with the national train companies like SNCF Connect (France), Deutsche Bahn (Germany), Trenitalia (Italy), Renfe (Spain), and the rest.
First and foremost, while they offer the same dynamic pricing as those operators for any particular route, both platforms can actually quite often save you money for international train trips with changes. This is for two reasons:
- Both platforms are more clever with complex routing, and often find cheaper and faster ways to get from A to B, with fewer changes, than Europe’s national train operators themselves.
- Both platforms offer the same rates as each national train operator, but these operators still fail to do this for each others’ fares (e.g., Trenitalia seems to always have big markups on France’s SNCF and vice-versa).
In addition, Trainline can save you 50% or more by offering routes on the various high speed budget train operators that now compete with the standard national train companies—it searches everything all at once.
Finally, both Trainline and Rail Europe are very intuitive and easy to use — which is hardly how we would describe the error-ridden and poorly translated European national ticketing websites.
As for Omio, it’s also easier to use than the national train company websites but it lacks the intelligent complex routing of Rail Europe and Trainline.
Our Test Results: How Trainline Beats Rail Europe and Omio for Complex European Train Trips
We ran tests of dozens of the most popular Europe train routes, as well as some of our favorites and some off the beaten path, like cool scenic Swiss routes.
For simple trips within a single country or international trips that didn’t require changing trains, both platforms generally performed great, offering the same rates as the national operators as described above.
And here is where Trainline really excels over Rail Europe and Omio. Trainline has access to all of these ultra-cheap trains that now compete with national operators:
- Ouigo in France (competing with the SNCF), Catalonia, and Spain (competing with Renfe)
- FlixTrain in Germany (competing with Deutsche Bahn) and Sweden (competing with SJ)
- Iryo and Avlo in Catalonia and Spain (where there are an amazing four competing systems in total)
- Italo in Italy (competing with Trenitalia)
Being able to offer all of these competing fares gives Trainline a huge advantage over Rail Europe and Omio, which only partially cover some. Often in Europe the budget train options tend to be marketed only to residents of each country (the France Ouigo website for example is French-only), so Trainline offering these fares is a major coup for helping travellers from outside of these countries save serious money on trains.
But even for complex trips on regular national operators’ trains, there can be a big difference. In total, Trainline found cheaper route options than Rail Europe in five of the 25 cases in our first round of testing and the total difference for these trips was substantial: €578.80 to €397.6. This means on average Rail Europe cost 46% more than Trainline for these trips. Rail Europe was better than Trainline only for an epic 26-hour Madrid to Berlin trip that we tested, offering a savings in that case of 4.4%. In the second round of testing in the summer 2023, we got much the same results, with Trainline very consistently finding better results than Rail Europe, and Omio not finding relevant results at all for complex trips. Once again, there was one case in our tests however in which Rail Europe came out better, showing how the platform is at least worth checking, particularly before plopping down a lot on a big trip.
An Example Test Case In Detail
Again, both Rail Europe and Trainline are offering their tickets at the same prices as the national rail lines’ prices on any given day; it’s just that Trainline’s routing engine is smarter about finding useful, cheap routes, and that Trainline has access to the full range of budget options within these systems.
Results were similar when we instead chose the shortest trip options from each platform (instead of focusing on price). In most cases the proposed routes were of similar length, arriving within 10 minutes of each other (often they reported just slightly different timings for the exact same trains).
But in cases where the proposed routes differed by more than ten minutes, Trainline showed much shorter routes three times (on average one hour and 7 minutes shorter, costing on average 21% less) and Rail Europe showed a shorter route option once (20 minutes shorter, but costing 29% more).
Note that in this article we’re addressing only train tickets for mainland Europe. Trainline also offers train tickets in the UK and is generally well-loved for that compared to the complex regional UK train systems. However, the UK train options for both of these platforms was not our focus for this article, which is for those travelling in mainland Europe.
F.A.Q. about Trainline and Rail Europe
Which is cheaper: Trainline, Omio, or Rail Europe?
Omio, Trainline, and and Rail Europe offer the same dynamic train fares as the national train operators themselves, sometimes adding on small booking fees.
That said, in our tests Trainline often found cheaper routes than Rail Europe, mainly because it includes the many competing high speed budget train options from both private and national companies. Rail Europe does not have access to many of these. Also, as explained in detail above, Trainline often finds cheaper route options for complex trips than Omio or Rail Europe, especially across borders.
On travel forums, this question of the platforms’ prices is one people often wonder about. Fortunately, since all three platforms are easy to use, it doesn’t take more than a few minutes to check both sites to be sure you’re getting the best fare for a particular trip.
A much smaller aspect of the total price is the booking fees tacked on at the end, as discussed next, but these don’t add a lot to total trip prices.
What are the booking fees on Trainline, Omio, and Rail Europe?
For Omio, Trainline, and Rail Europe, the booking fees are small in comparison to the ticket prices and are well worth it given that the sites are easier to use and offer competing operators side-by-side. (Since many train operators don’t provide commissions to the platforms, these fees are necessary to power these sites.)
- Trainline sometimes has no booking fee and sometimes charges a percentage (often around 3%).
- Omio’s booking fees in our tests were often at about 5%. In many of our tests, Omio was unable to come up with train ticket options, but when it did, its booking fee was larger than Trainline’s.
- Rail Europe is much more transparent about its booking fees than Omio and Trainline, even including them in search results alongside prices. The company has a standardized per-basket fee that varies only depending on the currency you’ve chosen: £6.45, €7.45, CA$9.95, AU$9.95, or US$8.45. So with Rail Europe, it pays to buy your tickets for all of your trips in one go.
Usually, in total, Trainline’s booking fee works out cheaper than Omio’s or Rail Europe’s. Unfortunately, with Trainline and Omio, you only find out exactly what your particular booking fee will be on the final payment screen, which is hardly fair or ideal.
If you’re buying a lot of tickets all at once on national carriers only (which Rail Europe covers), Rail Europe may be cheaper with its flat rate. Very cheap train tickets purchased on their own (those costing less than £15, US$15, €15, CA$20, or AU$20 do not have a booking fee on Rail Europe.
What is the difference between Trainline, Omio, and Rail Europe?
Trainline can often find you cheaper fares than Rail Europe and Omio by showing more options for European trains, but all three booking engines are otherwise easy-to-use, similarly reputable, and have decent support.
Trainline is a public company based in London and listed on the London Stock Exchange; Rail Europe is a privately owned company based in Paris, which previously was part of the French national rail operator SNCF.
Note that the Rail Europe completely changed technology after the French SNCF (official railway company) bought the train booking platform Loco2 in 2017. Rail Europe subsequently transitioned to using the technology it acquired from Loco2 (which was great) and so now Rail Europe essentially works like Loco2 used to. So if you tried Rail Europe pre-2017, or previous versions of RailEurope.co.uk, note that the new experience is nothing like the old (terrible) versions. Also note that it is now separated again from the SNCF.
Omio was previously GoEuro and is based in Berlin.
Other Reasons We Prefer Trainline Over Rail Europe and Omio
Aside from generally saving us money on trips, there are other, more minor reasons we think Trainline is the better mainland European train ticketing platform:
- Trainline has greater reach than Rail Europe, covering far more European train systems and offering much more complete access to all of the train options within those countries. In a nutshell: Both platforms cover Western Europe well, but Trainline covers a few more complete networks than Rail Europe, like those in the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Ouigo in France, and Switzerland. And, crucially, it offers the tickets of budget train operators that compete with each other and with the national operators. Omio has a fairly wide reach as well, covering the competing operators in Spain as well as the national operators in Portugal and Sweden (which Trainline lacks), but it doesn’t add much value there since it can’t intelligently combine routes.
- Trainline is better at predicting the best route based on a combination of price and convenience, and displays this prominently. For Rail Europe and especially Omio, it can take a lot of scrolling to find the cheapest/fastest route that a reasonable person would want to take.
- Trainline shows the first class ticket possibilities in the first search result, right next to second class. This is nice to have even if you don’t usually take first class, because sometimes the first class option can be nearly as cheap — and in rare occasions cheaper.
- Trainline has much more complete bus options and shows them at the bottom of your train search results. Sure, we greatly prefer trains, but sometimes the pricing for certain train trips is completely unreasonable — and it’s nice to see this other option. Omio also shows bus routes, which is great; Rail Europe does not.
- Trainline’s more complete bus offerings also allow it to propose more and better train-bus combo routes that can save money, and in some cases a lot of time too. Omio and Rail Europe do not do this.
- Trainline offers more complete access to discounts, where relevant, and automatically steers you toward them to make sure you’re getting the best deal. These are often only applicable to people who travel frequently in countries like Spain or France and drop about €50 on an annual discount card, but if that sounds like you check out our full coverage of European train discounts for seniors and for children and teenagers.
- At last check Trainline was available in 13 languages (plus a few localized versions of some languages) compared to Rail Europe’s 6 languages. Omio beats Trainline in this area, however, with 21 languages.
- Both Trainline and Rail Europe offer add-on tickets for bikes where necessary for some French trains. Both unfortunately do not yet have this capability for other national train systems where on certain occasions this is required (check whether bicycle tickets are needed here for your destinations).
- In its search results, Trainline is better about showing additional add-on options when offered, such as supplements for in-train WiFi and taking your pet with you on the train. Rail Europe doesn’t have these. Both platforms are pretty good at allowing you to choose your seating preferences when this is possible.
- Trainline shows more complete information in the main page of search results about whether a ticket is refundable or exchangeable.
- Trainline accepts more payment methods than Rail Europe: Visa, Mastercard, Paypal, American Express, Maestro, Diners Club (for the UK), Google Pay, and Apple Pay. Rail Europe accepts fewer methods, though you’re pretty likely to have one of these: MasterCard, Visa, Visa Electron, Maestro, and American Express. Omio accepts even more payment methods than either of these, including direct bank transfers from some countries, so Omio can be a way to buy tickets for those having issues with other payment methods. Many European train companies have trouble accepting credit cards from outside of their own countries and especially from outside of Europe, so buying from any of these platforms saves a lot of headaches versus buying directly from the train networks.
- In those cases where the national train company (especially in Germany) tacks on a separate price for a seat reservation, this is transparent on the first search page of Trainline as an optional add-on, whereas it shows up later in the process for Rail Europe, and you have to uncheck a box to avoid this extra fee.
There Are a Few Advantages to Rail Europe and Omio, However
There are a few small things that I personally prefer about the Rail Europe and Omio:
- Trainline is super-easy to use and makes sense, but RailEurope is simpler. Yes, this is partly because it actually offers fewer add-ons and options, but it’s nice to have less to look through for a slightly faster booking process.
- I like the small Google Map next to the search results in Rail Europe; it gives a quick, and handy indicator of each route and where you’d be changing trains.
- Omio shows trains alongside flights and buses in three separate tabs. It can be useful to see these options and their prices in this way. I would not actually use Omio to book flights however; I think Kiwi, Skyscanner, and Google Flights tend to do much better.
Carbon Footprint Calculations Differ between Trainline and Rail Europe
Both sites rather prominently show the carbon footprint of each train route you consider (Rail Europe expresses it as carbon saved compared to flying; Trainline just shows the carbon footprint of your trip). But we found it odd that they each calculate rather different results for the same trip. For example, a London-Paris Eurostar is shown as using 5.17 kg CO2 on Rail Europe, whereas Trainline gives 4.2 kg CO2 for the same exact ticket.
Obviously this is a difference in how the calculation is made, as where you buy your tickets doesn’t affect your carbon footprint. Ecopassenger.org estimates this same trip at 15 kg CO2 — but in any case the point is that the train is far better than driving (48.4 kg CO2) or flying (122.1 kg CO2). Of course, it’s faster and more fun too.