hidden europe 24

A first class surprise

by Nicky Gardner


The view from the carriage window may be identical in first class, but sometimes it makes good economic sense to travel in style. There are many instances in rail journeys across Europe where first class travel may actually be cheaper than second class.

We have not on the whole been ones for the pleasures of first class travel. But we have an upcoming rail journey across Europe where, in the interests of economy, first class comfort has been forced upon us. We made an Advent foray to an information centre at a local station, enquiring about a New Year journey from Berlin to Vienna. The conversation first took a predictable turn: "Well you have left it a shade late to really get a decent fare," said the woman in an admonishing tone that might normally be reserved for errant schoolchildren handing in their homework late. "On the direct trains, there's really only the regular one-way fare still left in second class - that'll be about 100 EUR each."

Evidently noting our look of horror at the prospect of so high a fare, the advisor then added, “Unless of course you would opt for first class. That would just be €49 each.” So over the last week or two, we have been combing a few railway booking websites and discovered many instances where the available first class fares are the same price or even cheaper than second class on the same trains.