Once you arrive in Europe before you board your first train you must get your rail pass validated. You do this by presenting your pass and passports to a ticket agent. The ticket agent will enter your passport number and enter the date as your first day of travel and depending on your pass will also enter in the last day of travel ( if you have a 2 month pass and it begins on 9/22 it will end on 11/19). You only have to validate your pass once before your first train trip; subsequent train rides do not require this.
After your pass is validated you simply show your pass to the conductor every time you get on a train. You can get on a train as many times a day as you want. The travel day runs from midnight to midnight. Fortunately if you take an overnight train it only counts as one travel day if it departs after 19.00 (7:00PM, just getting you used to the 24 hour clock which the Europeans use).
If you have a Flexi-Pass you will need to write in the date (in ink!) each time before boarding the train otherwise the conductor will grimace and not like you. Fill in the day first, then the month. Europeans write their dates with the day first, then month, then the year (for example instead of March 17, 2007 -3/17/07 Europeans would write 17.03.07). When you donâ€™t fill in the date the conductors think you are trying to get away with an extra day of train travel and they simply just donâ€™t like when you donâ€™t follow the rules. You might need to play the â€œstupid Americanâ€ card if you happen to forget, but just DONâ€™T forget.
Some trains require a Reservation, which is an extra fee you must pay. The fee varies depending on the distance and type of train. Reservations are required for high speed trains and for overnight sleeper cars. In your schedule or the schedule at the train station an R indicates that a Reservation must be purchased.