When to make reservations
For most high-speed trains, international trains and night trains, a seat reservation is compulsory. You can book train reservations up to 90 days (and occasionally 60 days) before your travel date.
An advance reservation is also recommended if you must reach your destination on a certain day and time, for example if you have a flight to catch.
For some trains, a reservation is not compulsory but optional, which can be useful if you’re traveling in a group and want to ensure you’re seated together. Reservations are not usually possible for local or regional trains.
If the timetable states ‘Please reserve’, then reservations are recommended for that route, but not required.
Want to save money and see more of a country? Learn how to avoid seat reservations.
Peak season seat allocation
Between May and September and during European school holidays we advise you to reserve as far in advance as possible. The French TGV and Thalys trains and ICE trains on the route Paris — Frankfurt have a limited allocation of seats for Eurail travelers.
Which trains need to be reserved?
In the Eurail timetable you can see if a compulsory reservation is needed for the train you want, by looking at the reservations colomn.
In the example below, Eurail pass holders can board the InterCity from Amsterdam Centraal to Bruxelles-Midi (Brussels) without a reservation. However, if you take the Thalys from Bruxelles-Midi to Paris Nord a compulsory reservation is needed.
Night trains always require a reservation for the sleeping accommodation. There is usually a choice of sleeping accommodation to suit each budget, including sleepers for 1, 2 or 3 persons, couchettes for 4-6 persons, or reclining seats if you want to keep costs down.
More on night train reservations.