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Travelling on an Intercity train
Originally designating fast, long-distance services between major cities within a country, Intercity trains now vary greatly across Europe. In Switzerland Intercity services are still of a high standard with trains that are modern, stylish and often have a restaurant. Yet in Austria, Germany and Italy, Intercity trains are generally inferior to newer trains (Railjet, ICE and Frecciarossa respectively).
Usually abbreviated as IC, Intercity trains feature across much of Europe, providing many long-distance domestic services. But there are also some ICs crossing borders, such as the Intercity services from Amsterdam to Berlin, from Stuttgart to Zurich and from Lille to Kortrijk.
Intercity trains generally have two classes and are usually air-conditioned. Beyond that, expect great variety with regard to service, style or speed – even within a country and sometimes on a single route. Many IC trains are double-deck trains. You’ll find double-deck ICs from Belgium to Finland, from Switzerland to the Netherlands – and double-deck ICs are becoming increasingly common in Germany.
Seat reservation is generally possible but not obligatory, but there are notable exceptions. In Portugal, Poland, Spain and Ukraine, for example, advance reservation is mandatory. By contrast, there are countries such as Belgium and the Netherlands where you simply cannot reserve a seat for a purely domestic journey on any IC train. But there’s still usually plenty of space for everyone.
Seating and sleeping on Intercity (IC)
Seating on Intercity trains is often in open-plan carriages with airline-style seats in pairs across a central aisle or – on some retro trains – in six-seat compartments. Yet retro does not mean uncomfortable and there is usually good luggage space. Power sockets are available on most trains, but not at every seat.
Food and drink on Intercity (IC)
Trolley services (confusingly called a mini-bar on Swiss trains) are available on a number of Intercity services, notably those of the Swiss Railways and Deutsche Bahn. Where a trolley service is available, it is limited to hot and cold drinks and a range of confectionery.