Cologne Hauptbahnhof


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.


1. Price

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.


you’ll see the same view from a second class window


2. Comfort

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.


I was not alone


3. Extras

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:


This is what you pay for!


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.


The Verdict?

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?




DJ Yabis is the poster boy of Dream Euro Trip and a modern day renaissance man. Originally from the Philippines, he loves throwing dinner parties and stalking rock stars in music festivals. Subscribe or follow his adventures LIVE on Facebook or Instagram. Learn how to plan your own eurotrip.

What do YOU think?

30 Responses to “First class vs. Second class train tickets: Worth it?” Subscribe

  1. Kate June 28, 2015 at 4:32 AM #

    Hi, thank you for the great article! Is there air conditioning in second class or only first class? Thank you.

    • DJ Yabis June 30, 2015 at 7:42 PM #

      Depends on the train. There are some without aircon on second class trains.

    • European July 3, 2015 at 8:57 AM #

      On all fast trains in Europe (like inter city express/TGV/AVE) there is airconditioning. Only some regional trains don’t have aircon, mostly in Italy and France and Eastern Europe.

  2. The Diplomatic Wife August 1, 2014 at 6:31 PM #

    Hi DJ, very interesting post! I rode first class to Bonn once because the sparpreis (promo price) was almost the same as the second class ticket. The only difference was that the second class ticket was flexible and could be taken on different trains schedules while the sparpreis for first class was set for a specific time (so if you miss it then it’s your loss). So I highly recommend that people check on the sparpreis before booking because if it’s a long trip and the price is almost the same then why not? =D

    • DJ Yabis August 5, 2014 at 10:10 AM #

      Yeah sounds good! In Italy the price difference between first and second class is like a few euros so I always try to go first class if I needed to charge my laptop and/or avoid the crowd!

  3. Kyle January 15, 2014 at 2:15 AM #

    Does anybody have any funny moments when being on a train like someone telling a funny joke to the staff or someone who is a train enthusist like me asking some questions about the track?

    • DJ Yabis January 21, 2014 at 6:11 AM #

      I’ve actually never experienced it although I know a friend who has train fetish too ;D

  4. Kyle January 15, 2014 at 2:13 AM #

    I prefer peace and quiet as I get flustered so I guess it’s best to save up for first class.

    By the way. In the first photo it appears the traffic signal on the other track is out or is it sun reflection due to the camera angle?

    If the signal is out it is important to slow down in order to be prepared to stop at the next signal in order to not do a SPAD Signal Passed at Danger which is a more and more common problem on train drivers.

    There’s a neat video on YouTube showing common SPAD problems and the drivers reactions pointing out ways that can be avoided by showing the correct response.

    My favorite part is when the driver contacted the controller about asking verbal permission to pass a red signal at a slow speed and the controller talked in slang making the driver confused during the demonstration video of how NOT to communicate with a train dispatcher.

    • DJ Yabis January 21, 2014 at 6:10 AM #

      If you prefer peace and quiet then first class it is. 😀

      I think it’s the camera angle. You’re obviously knowledgeable about trains. That’s a funny story 😀

  5. Tom @ Waegook Tom November 24, 2013 at 8:34 PM #

    Gurl, you hit the nail on the head here! First-class just isn’t worth it! Although here in the UK, you can sometimes upgrade for just £5 or £10, which is nice if the train is crowded or particularly noisy for some reason.

    And I cannot even at getting Haribo as your free food. I thought the lukewarm tea and dodgy sandwiches here in the UK were bad. Get it together, ICE!

    • DJ Yabis November 25, 2013 at 9:56 AM #

      I think my jaw actually dropped when the staff offered me Haribo. That pack of candy was worth 50 euros! LOL

      5 to 10 pounds is not so bad actually. In Italy it only costs a few euros as well so it can be ok but no food as well.

  6. Ayngelina November 18, 2013 at 11:08 AM #

    Wow that’s insane, definitely not worth the price difference if you aren’t rolling in cash. Thanks for the honest post

    • DJ Yabis November 18, 2013 at 7:40 PM #

      Yep I know right. You’re welcome Ayngelina. Enjoy the rest of your stay in Spain!

  7. Caitlyn November 18, 2013 at 3:56 AM #

    I always stick to second-class trains around Europe. I did take a few first-class trains in Spain for work, and there the fare difference is worth it I think. It was about a third more expensive but you got a proper meal and alcoholic drinks. Not bad I thought!

    • DJ Yabis November 18, 2013 at 9:07 AM #

      Yep most of the time I do use 2nd class trains. I haven’t tried the ones in Spain yet. Actually, I’ve never really used trains to travel between cities in Spain because they are more expensive than planes or buses. But thanks for the info Caitlyn!

  8. Adelina November 17, 2013 at 11:37 PM #

    I’ve never taken a first class train as I don’t really see it being worth it. In Western Europe, 2nd class is fairly comfortable, I’ve never taken a journey that wasn’t (except for one short ride between Antwerp and Brussels where it was standing room only). In most of Eastern Europe, 1st class doesn’t look any better than 2nd so there is no point.

    • DJ Yabis November 18, 2013 at 1:32 AM #

      Yes 2nd class trains are pretty ok and comfortable. Although I have taken a lot of rides in Germany that are super full and then they’d let us all sit in first class. But sometimes, like in Italy, first class trains are not that more expensive than 2nd class trains and if you want electric plus and/or peace and quiet so you can rest then definitely first class is for you. Let’s not even talk about trains in Eastern Europe. They are pretty horrible. In one of my trips from Prague to Warsaw, it was super packed, the hallway was full of people and we had no choice but to sleep on the floor. It felt like I was bound for the death camp in Auschwitz.

  9. Jean| Holy Smithereens November 17, 2013 at 8:47 PM #

    Hi DJ, I took the Eurostar London- Brussels last week on Business Premiere. I was aware they were going to serve light breakfast, but how ‘light’, i wasn’t prepared for. We were given a choice between a salmon cake the size of a pingpong ball, we thought it was entree , or a breakfast roll (normal sized), I was seated with 3 other people, 2 facing 2 type of corner with a table, and all 4 of us chose the breakfast roll as it looked more filling. To our astonishment, we were served 4 equal parts of ONE breakfast roll – 1 quarter each! I haven’t tried the normal/standard class but would love to one day for comparison.

    • DJ Yabis November 17, 2013 at 10:10 PM #

      Hi Jean, thanks for the report on the Eurostar! OMG that is so crazy but I am not surprised. I mean mine was a little candy pack!

      I just came back from Italy and tried the first class train there. No food. Better seats. With charging plugs and only a few euros more expensive. This one was a good deal I think especially that I needed to charge my phone and laptop so I can work a bit ;D

  10. Richard October 16, 2013 at 4:03 AM #

    Nice post man. I normally go by first class as well. But i am also disapointed of the German first class 😀 But i have to say another real benefit of taking first class is that is never as crowded as the second class. So u can even read a book without being distracted by a lot of noise 😀

    • DJ Yabis October 16, 2013 at 5:24 AM #

      Yeah but it’s still expensive I think

  11. Bethaney - Flashpacker Family October 1, 2013 at 7:41 PM #

    Gummibears are a first class meal? Lol. That is hilarious!!!

  12. Jeff @ Go Travelzing September 3, 2013 at 6:07 AM #

    I had an interesting thing happen when I took a train in Spain. I purchase the ticket from Barcelona to Madrid about three weeks before my trip. The first class tickets were actually cheaper because all the discounted 2nd class tickets were already sold out. They still had discounted first class tickets left.

    First class was definitely nicer and there was even a pretty good meal for the 2 1/2 hour trip. If those were not cheaper I probably would have been in 2nd.

    • DJ Yabis September 3, 2013 at 6:11 AM #

      Nice. What kind of meal did they serve? If they served me a nice meal I wouldn’t have felt like it was just so wrong.

  13. Jerick August 28, 2013 at 9:39 PM #

    I actually just booked a 1st class train for November between Berlin and Dusseldorf. The price difference was 10€ so it was worth the shot (49€ vs 59€). For a 5 hour train ride, comfort trumped the price. So I’ll get to try it out for the first time! Do they have wifi on the trains?

    In Thalys, the first class trains were nicer as they serve actual meals (sandwiches). 🙂

    • DJ Yabis August 28, 2013 at 9:44 PM #

      If it’s a 10 euro difference, go for it! Well, that’s the worst thing, I forgot to report that they also don’t have wifi and they dare call it first class! Haha.

      Which dates are you going to Dusseldorf? Might go there to see Phoenix or The National in November.

  14. Lydia August 28, 2013 at 5:20 PM #

    Hi DJ

    I am really surprised to read about your experience and I cannot believe they are allowed to get away with calling this offering ‘first class’!

    I have had good experiences of first class travel on the Eurostar (from Paris to London) and cross country trains in the UK (e.g. London to Glasgow), but not across mainland Europe so I found your post quite enlightening.

    When booking travel with work I often go with first class options for a number of reasons. The first (as you mentioned) is the comfort, space and free Wi-Fi giving us the ability to work. A lot of our journeys are around 4-5 hours long so this aspect is very important (and helps us sell it to management!).

    However the other reasons, and these are more beneficial to those travelling for pleasure, is that if you book a set train in advance (outside of key commuter times), it is usually the same price or even cheaper that standard tickets. For example if I look to go from London to Manchester at 10am tomorrow it is £67 for a standard ticket or £51 for a first! Crazy right?! Otherwise you can upgrade any weekend journey for £15, which isn’t bad at all when you get to the other perks…

    On our long distance first class trains there are proper hot meals available, and snacks too. The food trolley comes past periodically and you can have food each time. The same goes for alcoholic drinks (this is the part that we don’t tell the management!). So most people finish their journey feeling suitably full, and maybe even a little tipsy. Add to this the option to use the first class lounges at all main stations and you have really got a unique and luxurious experience compared to standard travel.

    So I just wanted to thank you for sharing your experience on the ICE trains. I can imagine I would have been tempted to upgrade if I was on a pleasure trip and I would have expected the service I am used to, only to be handed the tiniest bag or Haribo – I would have felt totally horrified!

    The first class offerings in the UK are detailed n the Virgin website:

    • DJ Yabis August 28, 2013 at 5:38 PM #

      Hi Lydia,

      Wow thank you for the comprehensive info about your experience in other trains. This one is like glorified second class in comparison. I guess I’ll have to try first class in UK when I come visit.

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