1st or 2nd Class on trains?

Just curious what most folks here do.

Posted by Frank
Tresana, Highlands Ranch, CO, USA
12673 posts

Second class is about equal to business class on the airlines space wise. Unless we get a good deal it is always second class for us. Twice we have been in first class and were the only people in the car. Don't understand the comment about standing in second class on Italian rail. The could only happen on a regional train where no seat reservations are possible. All other trains in Italy require a seat reservation and it is strictly enforced.

Posted by Tom
Lewiston, NY
10493 posts

Exclusively second class for me. Unlike airplanes, 2nd class seating on trains in much of Europe gives you ample sitting space. First class gives you more work room, because it's catered to the needs of business travelers who may need to work en-route. It also has waiter service. If you don't need to prepare a power-point presentation while riding on the train, 2nd class will likely fit your needs adequately.

Posted by Swan
Napa, CA
3082 posts

Usually 2nd class. I may take first class in Italy as 2nd class can get crowded with people standing.

Posted by Douglas
Oak Park, Illinois
3180 posts

It almost all cases, 2nd class is very nice indeed. There is usually plenty of leg room and the seats are wider than on airplanes. 1st class offers wider seats and more amenties like free meals, more power stations and work surfaces. It's usally quieter in 1st class though Europeans are mostly much quieter in public than Americans.

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
8720 posts

Always 2nd on Eurostar, once got put in a 1st class train car on ES because that what they had left, but we( us 2nd classers) did not get the 1st class food service, and I remember thinking who would pay more for this, it was nice, but not that nice to pay more for.
I book 2nd class for other train trips normally too, but took 2nd class from Paris to Nice last year as it was 35 euros for 2nd class and only 40 for first class.. booked well in advance through idTGV . I would never spend more then a few euros more for 1st, the food is crap all around when you compare it to a lovely picnic lunch you bring, and the seats and cars are comfy enough in 2nd.

Posted by Bruce
Whitefish, Montana
853 posts

Second class for shorter trips and generally first class for extended trips to enjoy the views in a more subdued environment (no class outings). However, second class is more than fine in Scandinavia and as previously mentioned first class in Italy.

Posted by Joel
Tempe, AZ, USA
966 posts

I primarily travel 2nd class, but if I can get a 1st class ticket at a reasonable price, I'll do it. In 2009, I was traveling London to Inverness and was able to get a 1st class ticket for about 15£ more. Then again the ticket was non-refundable/ non-transferable. Also I've been able to get 1st class prem tickets on TGV-Europe for about 5-10 euro more than 2nd class.

Posted by Sam
Green Bay
4449 posts

My rule of thumb is first class is filled with people who: 1. are on expense account and somebody elses is paying for the ticket.
2. bought a railpass which requires them to sit there.

Posted by Glenn
Grand Falls-Windsor, NL, Canada
307 posts

I too vote 2nd class...and agree with Sam's two rules of thumb...lol...I've travelled on Passes where we had no choice but to purchase first class. I always found first class to be expensive, spacious, and BORING.....second class is cheaper, not quite as spacious, and ALIVE!...lol...

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
8720 posts

Gee Sam how does your rule apply to me and others, who are not on expense accounts and who are not using passes,, oh yeah, I know we were smart enough to sit in first class for what some suckers are paying for second class.. .lol 40 euros , first class , Paris to Nice, met a couple onboard, they bought their tickets 2 weeks previuosly and spend 200 euros ,, lol

Posted by Bruce
Whitefish, Montana
853 posts

I want my expense account, sung to Dire Straits' Money for Nothing tune.

Posted by Sam
Green Bay
4449 posts

OK Pat, if ya get a good deal, take it. I would.

Posted by Fred
San Francisco
3919 posts

Christi, If it's the TGV more than 2hrs, I take it 1st class, much better than the TGV in 2nd class. In 2009 I went Paris Lyon to Perpignon five hours in 2nd class, on the way back Perpignon-Paris Lyon took 1st class, much more comfortable.
In Germany most of the time 2nd class, incl. the ICE; only the ICE 1st class when I want to be away from the locals. Elsewhere, Austria, England, Poland, Belgium it's 2nd class. Having a rail Pass 1st class does not require you to sit in 1st class.

Posted by Andre L.
Tilburg, Netherlands
2374 posts

Fred, just an additional clarification: if you have a 1st class pass, and your train requires reservation, you cannot reserve a 2nd class ticket with a 1st class pass. This is devised to prevent groups of older and younger people from not buying, for all of them, the most expensive pass. Where there is a quota for pass holders, if the quota for 1st class pass holders is filled, you cannot buy a 2nd class ticket to travel on that train. ====================================== These days I travel mostly on 1st class. Eurostar is an exception because of the price differential. I like to get an individual seat that doesn't have anyone sit right on my side or, worse, facing me (I dislike a lot travelling with a stranger seated facing me). So 1st class usually guarantees such seat.

Posted by Fred
San Francisco
3919 posts

@ Andre: What you say as regards to the Pass and mandatory reservations has not exactly been my experience in the last couple of years going from France to Germany and vice versa. Twice by SNCF and DB going from Paris-Frankfurt and last summer Frankfurt-Paris I wanted to go 2nd class, was told that the quota for Pass holders was full at that departure on that date. What were my choices: change dep., change the date, change to 1st class. I asked about 1st class (since my Pass was 1st class anyway). It was doable in 1st class. I could have asked re: the next departure which might have had unfilled 2nd class quota for Pass holders but decided to blow the extra 15 Euro for 1st class...the difference between 1st and 2nd class reservations between Paris-Frankfurt on the ICE.

Posted by Adam
2923 posts

In my book 1st class is only good for one thing: sleeping couchettes. Which we haven't used for years. A first-class couchette hold 4 people, a 2nd calls holds 6. One has 3 people other than self who might be heavy, earplug-penetrating snorers, the other 5. A chacon son goute, but otherwise it's not worth the extra. I mean, the second class car travels just as fast as the first-class car.

Posted by Sylvia
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
331 posts

Because we bought Railpasses, my husband and I had to buy 1st class for us, but bought 2nd class for the kids(12+13). We all sat together in 2nd class ( it really is more lively) and only sat in 1st once when the train in Brussels was very very late . The 2nd class car was Packed and standing room only in the luggage compartment or between the train cars. I spoke to the person checking tickets and she let us sneak the girls into the Empty 1st class car with us.

Posted by Christi
Whitsett, TX, United States
808 posts

It has been interesting reading people's replies. We have always had passes and traveled in 1st. I like the extra touches - its the little details that make the difference. I figure I have saved for whatever time period to take my vacation - I want the whole deal! For night trains we do 1st class double compartment - with WC & Shower when available. In fact we are taking the Barcelona to Paris night train and I've gone whole hog with Gran Class - dinner & breakfast included! Yes - it could be done cheaper but I really enjoy train travel and love the whole experience.

Posted by Roberto
Fremont, CA, USA
5411 posts

I take first class only if they run out of 2nd class seats and don't want to wait for the next train. It has happened to me only very rarely. I agree that first class is boring. Very empty and quiet filled with business travelers on a suit working on their computer or making business calls. No chance of striking a conversation with any fellow travelers.