European Train Travel – Validate Your Ticket Before You Board

BY Travel Writer

Train and Rail Travel Tip Every European Traveler Should Know 

Ticket validation machine

Travelers must validate rail tickets before they get on the train or risk stiff fines

Validate your ticket using a machine BEFORE you board, or risk being thrown off the train and fined. This is something that is not done in the USA, however, it is something every first time traveler to Europe needs to know so they don’t end up with a hug inconvenience and possible large fine.  In many countries within Europe, train, rail, and subway travel is on the “honor system.”  You buy your ticket, then you must have it validated before you get on the train.  Make sure that before you board, you get the ticket “endorsed” .

Depending on the country, before you board the train, you will find some type of ticket machine close by near the boarding location that will “validate” the rail ticket.  Depending on the country and language, the signs on these machines and kiosks will be different.  In France the signs on the kiosks  may say “composte” or “composting.”  If you don’t do this, and you get stopped by the local police, or train/rail staff checking your tickets, they may make you get off the train so you can “validate” your ticket.  The problem with this is that you will then have to wait for the next train, which could be a big problem, depending on your schedule.

Here is an example for train travel in Italy when train tickets are purchased at home, before you get to Italy.  The first date stamp is printed automatically  and will appear on the top right hand corner of the pass. The pass must begin use within 6 months of this validation. On the first day of travel, all people listed on the pass must go to the ticket office of the train station and have an official “validate” the pass. The station official should put a second stamp on the pass under the first one. It is important to remember that the rail pass must be validated at the station prior to boarding—a rail conductor cannot validate the pass. If you do not validate the pass, or if you or someone other than rail personnel tampers with the pass in any way, the rail conductor has the right to confiscate it, at which time, the unused part of the pass is non-refundable. If you are not able to start using the pass within 6 months of its printed date, you will need to return this pass and the Italian Rail Authority will reissue a new pass.

Depending on the company used to purchase your rail ticket at home before you arrive  in Italy may have other options. Some of the rail companies who are authorized to sell rail tickets have rules that if you buy tickets from them, have to be printed by their fulfillment team and mailed to you or ones that require you to print prior to boarding a train, will need to be validated prior to boarding the train.  All printed tickets (coupons) must be validated prior to use in Europe. If you are traveling on an E-ticket and your reservation has been marked “Print at Train Station” you need to print this coupon and then validate the ticket.

For many rail stations in Italy, the passenger must find the rail platform for their train. Every platform has a self service ticketing and a yellow validation machines.   The passenger goes first to the self service ticketing machine, enter their PNR confirmation to print their ticket. The passenger then proceeds to the validation machine, inserts the ticket in the slot provided, and the ticket will be validated with a date stamp.  If a passenger does not validate the ticket and boards a train, if caught, they can be fined up to 200 Euros when traveling throughout Europe. The only other option is if the traveler has an E-ticket or Electronic ticket with a “ticketless” confirmation, they can simply board the train, without printing or validating.

Travelers should also keep in mind that pickpockets are very prevalent at train and rail platforms and stations all across Europe – and first time travelers are very vulnerable at these validation machines while trying to understand the validation system.  This is a very important time to make sure your valuables are safe and secure from skilled and opportunistic pickpockets.  By keeping your tickets and other valuables in a travel safe document organizer will help protect your and your valuables even more.