When buying train tickets in Europe, one always wonders if it’s worth buying a first class train ticket over a second class one. What is the difference between first class versus second class train tickets? Well, there are a few things to consider.
I recently took round trip first class trains on my trip to Antwerp from Cologne via Brussels. If you’ve been following me on Facebook I even announced it when I was about to take the train. The train ride was almost 3 hours with the fast train, ICE.
Are first class trains worth it?
Everyone has the image of first class train travel as something fabulous. Well it’s kind of fabulous but let’s look at the difference between first class trains and second class trains to see if it’s really that fabulous and worth paying for it.
The first class train from Cologne to Antwerp via Brussels costs around 93 euros while the second class train of the same route costs 57 euros. I checked other dates and connections and the price averages around these prices so that means first class train tickets are normally almost double the price of second class tickets (at least for this route).
And if it’s your first big trip to Europe, let’s say you’re a student and can’t afford to pay such extravagance then stick with the second class ticket. We’ve all been there, don’t worry.
If you didn’t know yet, let me say it: first class seats are more spacious than the ones in second class. Seats are generally wider and they have more legroom. They are also equipped with electrical plugs so you can recharge your electronic devices or work on your laptop during the ride.
I actually find this very useful because I always run out of batteries and I need to recharge all the time. It is also usually less crowded on first class trains. The one I took was almost empty, maybe because it was an 8 AM train ride.
In some train stations, you can also wait in their exclusive lounges. But they don’t have one in Cologne. Apparently, they have lounges in Berlin, Frankfurt, Hamburg and Munich.
It seems like first class train is marketed towards businessmen, people who are always on the go who needs to work on their laptops to finalize a powerpoint presentation, for instance. Although my friends said you also meet some noisy, young Americans who have Eurail passes.
Besides the fact that there’s someone who can service you in first class (which they don’t have in second class), you also get “light food fare and a variety of newspapers during your trip.” Newspapers, yes. Light food fare? Well, this was what they served me on both train rides:
Yes. Like mini packs of Haribo! How ridiculous is this? I was expecting something warm or at least a small sandwich to be honest. Or something something. Not a mini pack of Haribo. Even if I can get as much as I want.
This was actually really disappointing for me.
I personally think first class train with ICE is not worth it. Definitely it is not worth it for short rides specially in this route from Cologne to Belgium or vice versa. Long rides are completely another story.
Second class trains are not that bad at all. And they are not always crowded. I really couldn’t care for the newspapers (which are all in German by the way) and the Haribo. I would probably take a first class train if the journey takes 10 hours and I need to do some work. If you’re still a student a.k.a. limited budget then just stick with a second-class train. It’s not bad at all.
What about you? Have you taken any first class trains in Europe? How was your experience?