So you’re booking train tickets using Rail Ninja and you want to check if it’s legitimate or a scam. Having personally used it, my quick Rail Ninja review, after using it in Portugal to get a train from Porto to Coimbra on our journey to Condexia (where my better half lives – Iris), is, that it should be 100% avoided. Although legitimate, they charge large booking fees and the customer support isn’t great. In my experience much better to book tickets in your destination, when you are there and are able to go to the train station yourself. However, if you need to book in advance, consider using the official, online train booking platforms of your destination (show how to find for any country below). These do not inflate prices. If you want to save even more cash, I’ll demonstrate a method in this article to save on booking fees, which only takes 5 minutes. In this article, I will explain why you should avoid Rail Ninja and suggest better alternatives that WILL save you money on your travels.
(sorry Rail Ninja I’m about to rail on you)
Please note: I had this experience in May 2022, so the service may have improved or changed.
And some photos of our trip.
Is Rail Ninja Legitimate or A Scam? (Quick Answer)
Short answer, Rail Ninja is a legit company. However, if you book with them be warned that the customer service is poor, the reviews are poor and they add a ridiculous tourist tax booking fee to people who use their services. For instance, on our travels from Porto to Coimbra, we were charged 2x the price available at the train station in Porto.
In my experience (and many other traveler’s reviews online), it’s better to avoid Rail Ninja and use a different service like the Trainline or the country’s official train booking line, in this case, Portugal’s rail booking service is – CP PT.
For CP PT, you will need to use Google Translate to book your tickets (more info on how to do that below). If however, you want a quick booking service directed at foreigners without ridiculous fees, go for Trainline.com.
Is Rail Ninja legit in other countries? I am unsure as I haven’t used Rail Ninja for different countries, and I haven’t tried the Rail Ninja app either. However, a quick browse of reviews online and “is Rail Ninja legit” Reddit threads show that many other customers have been unhappy with the service, which seems to extend to Rail Ninja Europe’s operations and worldwide.
The method I’ll show you below will help you book cheaper train tickets for any country, and I’ve personally used it in Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Portugal & more!
The Cheaper Way To Book Train & Bus Tickets in Any Country
The best way to book train tickets or bus tickets in other countries without having to pay booking fees from foreign booking platforms is:
- Use Google Translate to translate “train from a to b” to the main language of your destination
- Look for the link with the international code (.pt, .th, etc.)
- Use Google Chrome’s translate page function
- Locate your journey and book without foreign booking fees
That’s the quick breakdown. If you want a more broken down, step-by-step guide I’m gonna explain it more below.
Foreign cards usually work on most booking sites around the world and I am yet to find a site that doesn’t. If you have found a site that doesn’t Please leave a comment below if this is incorrect for some countries and I will update the article!
Google Translate Your Journey
- Head to Google Translate, and select your language to the local language of the area you’re traveling to.
- Write your starting point and destination, then add “train” or “bus” to the end
- Example: “porto to lisbon train”, “bus thailand”, “train thailand”
- Copy the result and paste it into Google or any other search engine
Find The Site With The Right Country Code
Even if you translate the result, Google can tell where you’re searching from, and will present you with some tourist-directed sites and you’ll also get sponsored results based on your location. If you want to avoid this, you can use a VPN tool, or you could even use something like the “Moz Bar” extension to display unpersonalised results from a different country.
The site you want to book with will usually not be a “.com” site. So look for your country code at the end of the url.
For instance: for Portugal, this is “.pt”, for Thailand it’s “.th” etc.
Use Google Chrome’s Translate Page Feature
When you arrive at the site, in the top right-hand corner you should see Google to ask you to translate to your native language. If you don’t get this feature, try refreshing the page and it will show up.
Click this and translate it into English. This will translate the page and then you can go ahead with your normal booking process.
You can use this process for booking buses or trains in any country. It will give you the site that the locals use and you won’t have to pay an inflated booking fee that’s sometimes applied to booking sites made for tourists.
Reasons To Avoid Rail Ninja (My Personal Experience & Other Customer Reviews)
My personal experience with Rail Ninja was bad. Sometimes customers just have a bad experience with a service and it isn’t the service’s fault, or they just misunderstood it. However, after browsing online for other people’s experience I can confirm that this isn’t the case. Here’s why:
If you look on Trustpilot, they have a pretty decent score of 3.8/5. And if you quickly browse the reviews you might be fooled into thinking that the service will be ok for you. However, let’s see what happens to the reviews side by side when you filter by “verified reviews” on Trustpilot.
As you can see on the left, when you filter by verified reviews, you can see they become mostly negative. If you don’t filter you get a mix of negative and positive and the unverifiable reviews look a little fake (it’s not uncommon for companies to purchase fake Trustpilot reviews or create fake accounts to fudge the numbers).
This is also backed up by a quick search for popular forums like Reddit.
So, it looks like this wasn’t just my experience with the company and many others who have had poor service from them.
This brings me to the customer experience. When dealing with customer service it felt like neither of the assistants really cared about my problem and they gave me copy & paste responses. They wouldn’t provide a refund for forgetting to notify me about a strike that was planned weeks/months in advance, so the only refund I received was for my return ticket back to Porto.
Unfortunately, they don’t have a phone line either, so you have to wait for emails with responses taking anywhere between 30 minutes to hours. This is exceptionally frustrating especially when half the responses are copy & paste templates that don’t help you with your problem.
Getting Stranded in Porto
As I mentioned above, Rail Ninja forgot to mention that there were strikes on the day of our travel. Now you could say that it should be up to the traveler to check for journey delays, but for a train booking website whose purpose is to help tourists book tickets and make it easier to book, it seems like a very important piece of information to send to your customers (especially when the strike was planned in advance)!
Instead, we arrived in Porto at 1 am, and waited in the waiting room for a couple of hours only to be told by a nice attendant that there were planned strikes all over Portugal for rail services and we’d have to find another form of travel (on my GF’s birthday of all days)! Because of this, we had to book an expensive 100-euro taxi to get to where we were going.
So, not only does Rail Ninja overcharge booking fees by a large margin, but they also don’t seem to provide any useful extra services for that extra profit thier making, when compared to using something like Trainline – they simply just book your ticket for you, that’s it.
The local train booking service for Portugal even gives you this information, while Rail Ninja has 0 idea that, as of current and until Dec 10 2023, there will be rail replacement buses. So you’ll be paying 4x for rail replacement buses – what a great choice!
Wildly Inflated Prices | Comparison With Alternative Options
|Trainline||Coimbos de Portugal (official country booking site)||Rail Ninja|
Not really sure how this works out, but (if you click to enlarge the images below), you’ll see Rail Ninja is charging almost twice the amount in some cases for the same journey when compared to the official Portuguese train booking platform (CT) and the Trainline.
Additionally, it’s telling you you’re booking a train, when, in fact (until Dec 10, 2023), there are rail replacement bus services all over Portugal. Rail Ninja also doesn’t seem to notify you of this while still making you pay a higher price.
I can personally confirm, that they never notified me about strikes when I booked my tickets either, so I imagine much hasn’t changed in a year and they’re still prying on unsuspecting tourists for business.
Rail Ninja Alternatives
The best Rail Ninja alternatives are:
- The official local train booking site (shown how to find for any country in this article) – best for price and information
- Trainline – best for ease of use, small booking fee charged as opposed to Rail Ninja
- Omio – high booking fees but better customer service and support
It’s always best to try and use the official local train booking site for the country you’re going to, but if not Trainline is a great next choice. Omio has much higher fees than Trainline and is quite similar in price to Rail Ninja, but the customer service appears to be a lot better than Rail Ninja and the book experience is very smooth compared to local train sites.
I would recommend the cheapest option. Save your money and don’t let people fool you into paying more for something!
If you’ve used Rail Ninja before or had experience with any other platforms you feel might be useful to add to this article, I welcome you to help other travelers out and post them in the comments. I will constantly update this article with information so it’s the most helpful to people everywhere.
We’re Harry & Iris – and we were tired of the same old “10 best places I’ve never been but I’m writing about for some reason” blog posts. So… we’re two young travelers on a mission to travel the world and share our true, unfiltered experience, including all the gristly details. From packing our life into one bag for a year to traveling Vietnam by motorbike, to sorting out Visas for specific countries – we’ve done it all, are doing it all and only give our advice on things we have done – not regurgitated cr*p from another source *cough* most publications *cough*. So bear with us! This project will take some time to grow, and will take a fair bit of money. But we’re determined to make it the single best source of information about traveling on the internet.