Rail Europe vs Omio vs Trainline: Which Consistently Gets the Best Deals on Train Tickets

by  Mose Hayward
LAST UPDATED ON  2024-06-11
PUBLISHED ON  2023-07-12

Your Travel Guide

Mose Hayward

Rail Nut

Rail Europe, Omio, and Trainline: I’ve personally used all three of these booking platforms to plan and buy my European train trips and other travel. All three are legitimate sites that sell real tickets—but which gets the best deals?

To find out, we ran dozens of popular pan-European trip searches on the three top train booking platforms, and compared the results.

The goal was to discover which site results in better and cheaper train trips.

The good news is that all three of these websites are far easier to use than most national European train booking sites, which can cause issues for foreigners, and even reject non-European credit cards. But there are also some huge differences in the results…

Comparing the Train Ticketing Platforms for Mainland Europe

Our extensive testing found that Trainline is better than Omio and Rail Europe at finding cheaper train routes overall, as well as routes with fewer changes. It also offers routes on operators not covered by the other two platforms. In some cases, Trainline’s bus and bus/train combo options are worthwhile.

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. It doesn’t find better prices. In terms of trains, Omio’s only advantage for train travel is that it can book for Portugal and Sweden. It also books flights.

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.

I recently booked an Iryo high-speed train in Zaragoza using Trainline; Omio and Rail Europe both ignore this option for Spain, which is often much cheaper than the national high speed equivalent Renfe Ave.

But for more complex trips, Trainline (formerly Captain Train) has shown itself to have a smarter search and routing engine; it offered us much better results. For international trips like Dortmund to Warsaw or Rome to Nice, Trainline came up with cheaper routes that Rail Europe didn’t offer. And Trainline also offered a cheaper route in France from Paris to Marseille on France’s budget high-speed train Ouigo.

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:

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.

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.

Here I am rolling up to the Gare de Lyon in Paris with my favorite rolling backpack and a daypack—and, of course, a ticket booked on Trainline

Why Use Omio/Trainline/Rail Europe Instead of Buying Directly from SNCF, DB, Renfe, and Other National Operators?

F.A.Q. about Trainline and Rail Europe

Other Reasons We Prefer Trainline Over Rail Europe and Omio

There Are a Few Advantages to Rail Europe and Omio, However

Carbon Footprint Calculations Differ between Trainline and Rail Europe

Wrap-Up: The Best Platform for Online Booking of Your European Train Escapades

Trainline compares all of the budget and conventional options for crossing Europe side-by-side and so generally offers the best deals from point A to B.

The top performer in our tests for purchasing mainland European train tickets continues to be Trainline. It offers the smartest and cheapest routing options for trains out there, as well as add-on options and comparisons to budget high-speed trains and pan-European bus routes. In short, it’s easy to use and can often save us a bit of cash.

1 thought on “Rail Europe vs Omio vs Trainline: Which Consistently Gets the Best Deals on Train Tickets”

  1. Both failed miserably for Eastern Europe, where language and script barriers make it hard to search beyond national borders. and some countries do not have rail or is under construction (e.g, Lithuania, Serbia)
    What is going on!? 😀

    I used rome2rio for breaking up the journey and seat61 for some details on connections, but you need a local to book the best stuff.
    Or actually interrail and hop on on the spot.

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