In contrast with booking a flight, which is pretty much the same experience anywhere in the world, when taking a train you are almost immediately dealing with specific issues relating to where you’re travelling to. This isn’t a problem in the likes of Canada or Australia, where you can easily plan cross-country journeys, but in Europe it can make for a fragmented booking experience. In Europe, start with Deutsche Bahn (www.bahn.de) for timetable information and loco2.com or www.trainline.eu for bookings.
Point-to-point fares are almost always easier to book and better value than a rail pass. The exceptions to this are if you are under 26, want flexible travel dates and are planning on covering long distances. Look out for quotas for pass-holder places on some trains, notably those to or within France.
High-speed routes needn’t mean missing out on the best bits – many high-speed trains only travel on fast lines for part of the route, slowing down for trickier or more interesting bits. Do check if there’s a slice of the journey you have your heart set on. Trains down the Rhine aren’t much slower than the high-speed routes that bypass one of Europe’s loveliest train rides.
Try to maximise daytime travel for the best views en route. This doesn’t mean missing out on sleepers, which remain one of the most romantic forms of travel and save a hotel bill to boot. Many routes will cover scenic stretches in the morning, such as the journey from Belgrade to Bar.
Generally, the earlier you book, the less you’ll pay. You can book up to 11 months in advance in Australia, the US and Canada, 120 days in advance in India and in most of Western Europe. Watch out for discount fares going on sale at other times – check your destination’s national rail website.
This excerpt has been taken from Lonely Planet’s Best Ever Travel Tips.