Train Travelers' Tips
There's more to smart European train travel than just picking up your Eurailpass and hitting the rails. What lessons did you learn on your last rail adventure? Tips on those pesky supplements (not covered by your train pass) are particularly welcome.
Overnight train reservations
Okay, here is my advice again, having just experienced this. I am leaving for Europe in 3 weeks, (yay!) and I head from various people to just wait until I got to Europe to make night train reservations to save on shipping costs, etc... However, I decided to buy my Eurostar tickets online through RailEurope, and figured that since I was already buying them there, that I may as well just make my sleeper car reservations too. (Mind you, this was 6 weeks out from my departure date, and I had my heart set on a private sleeper car with my husband from Munich to Venice.) Sooooo, come to find out, since we were travelling on a Friday night, and that route was very popular, virtually every single night train was booked solid. I couldn't believe it! I had to use "plan d" and do a complete detour, (Munich to Zurich to Bologna to Venice) JUST to get to Venice in the am, because we have reservations. So in a nutshell, if you are going to be travelling overnight on a weekend, during the summer, or to a place where it is very important that you get there on time, (I.e., pending hotel reservations, train connections, etc...) I would definitely recommend that you make the reservations as much in advance as it will let you. I was very discouraged, but it taught me a good lesson. I know that sometimes it doesn't show some specific routes on RailEurope, but if you call them, they will find you virtually any route you are looking for and can make the reservation there as well. If your purchase total exceeds $200, your shipping is free. I am first time traveller to Europe, so just knowing that all of my train reservations are squared away for my important trains has left me with a lot of peace of mind. Happy travelling!
Hillsboro, OR USA Fri 04/08/2005
TGV refund gotcha
I recently returned from France; mostly a very good trip, but one glitch worth mentioning. We flew into Paris and I was holding a previously purchased round-trip TGV ticket from Paris-Lyon. Our plane was late (naturally!) arriving in Paris, too late to make the train I had reserved. I got in line to exhange the reservation, when I got to the head of the line, they said they only exchange reservations up to 1 hour after the original departure--and it had been 1 hour 5 minutes. Of course I'd been standing in line for 1/2 hour but that argument did not sway them. I was forced to buy another ticket, which cost me way more because it wasn't an advance purchase. And it's still not clear what I will get refunded on my original ticket.
Given that planes are often late I'm not sure how the plane-to-train interface can be handled, under those rules.
Tim Wilson <email>
Rolling Meadows, IL USA Thu 04/07/2005
The night train from Venice to Genoa offers compartments but does not define what they are. They offer 2 bed compartments, special seat compartments, single seat compartments and double seat compartments.
Travlin G' <email>
USA Tue 03/29/2005
Please read our Graffiti Wall Posting Guidelines before posting on this board. Questions are only allowed on the Travelers Helpline board. Questions posted here will be deleted. You can find lots of rail information and advice by reading our 2005 Railpass Guide. For specific rail questions, please e-mail Rick Steves rail advisors.
Graffiti Wall Sheriff <email>
Edmonds, WA USA Wed 03/23/2005
Venice to Nice
I think the 7 o'clock rule is that if you leave on a NIGHT TRAIN after 7 PM, you can count that as the following day's travel. However, any travel that day to get you to the night train is that day's travel. So, if you board a night train in Milan, and if the travel from Venice to Milan is before midnight, that is two days.
CO USA Sun 03/20/2005
Trains in Italy
There are only two reasons to buy point-point tickets in advance of going over there. One is if you absolutely have to be on that train. I doubt that is the case here. The other is if you can get a special fare, like Freedom to Travel or Saturday Trenitalia. These fares are limited in quantity and require advance purchase from Trenitalia. Other than that, buy tickets over there. I believe if you buy a full fare ticket from here, and then want to change it over there, you can still use the ticket, but you would have to pay for a new reservation.
CO USA Sun 03/20/2005
RailEurope is not a website for European train schedules. They only show schedules for tickets they sell. They sell point-point tickets and reservations for a very limited number of pairs of European cities and for those cities they only sell tickets for the most expensive express trains. I think their rational is that this way you won't board a train and end up having to pay more, but it does eliminate less expensive options.
If you are interested in the departure options for any European city, go to German Rails website, to http://reiseauskunft.bahn.de/bin/bhftafel.exe/en, and enter the city name. The next page will give you what is on the mustard colored sheet posted in that train station.
CO USA Thu 03/17/2005
Just returned from 16 days in eastern Europe where we road the trains a lot. Before leaving I would visit the Rail Europe web site to check out departure times, etc. but after arriving at the train stations in each city I would find that the options were much greater than posted on the web site. Curious but thought it would be of some interest for those train lovers out there.
Tony Ambrose <email>
Louisville, KY USA Thu 03/17/2005
SLEEPING ON TRAINS
Michele....you don't say when you are traveling and that makes all the difference in the world. Peak season you normally cant reserve same day. Eliminate chance and reserve as soon as you know the date.You can make reservations at the RR station. As for sleeping in second class...I wouldnt attempt it. Too many nationals with crying babies and animals to make it practical. I have slept in first class, but if you can afford it, buy a COMPARTMENT or couchette. Italian trains are a test of patience. If you travel in off peak it might be better. Remember you are in a culture where most people travel on public transportation and that makes it crowded. You will have to run to get a seat on some trains. Be sure to check the signs on the outside of the cars to get on the right one. And then ask someone if the car you are on is going where you want to go. They sometimes drop cars in transit and you can end your journey in another country.
laredo, USA Mon 03/14/2005
Train Station Scam
3 50ish women traveling together - Boy did we get took! LOL ! We took the train from Rome to Naples, then planned on getting the hourly train to Sorrento. As we got off the 1st class train in Naples with all our bags two older men met us at the train door. Sorrento? they asked. We said yes - they said the next train leaves in 10 minutes and not another for 3 hours. They said they'd help. They grabbed our bags and with us racing through the train station they bought (with our money) tickets to Sorrento and kept saying hurry hurry and we all ran to the line to Sorrento. At which point they demanded 30 Euro EACH for getting us to the train on time!!! I gave them 10 and told them to leave. My friends were intimidated and gave them 25 each. Short story - trains leave every hour - what a scam. On the other hand we didn't have to find our way to the other train line OR carry our bags. 10 Euro was worth it. So, watch out. We got a driver (http://www.cuomonet.it ) to take us back to the the airport !
Northern Virginia, VA USA Thu 03/10/2005
TGV round-trip tickets
You can book your tickets on many of the national rail sites, and avoid going through RailEurope. For your Paris-Lyon journey, you'll get the 70 Euro Saturday stay price at (http://www.sncf.com/indexe.htm). You get an e-mail confirmation with a code number on it. Punch that into the ticket machines in Paris and your ticket comes out....or take it to a ticket office. Be aware the website sometimes comes up with "techical error....please try again later." Try clicking on "continue" and it should proceed. BTW, I agree with your criticisms of rail passes. Unless you absolutely need a "travel at the last second" pass, a little planning with point-to-point tickets will save you a lot of money. And if you need a reservation, you'll get one when you book your ticket, rather than waiting until you arrive at your destination and finding no more reservations are available. Rail companies have been coming under intense pressure in Europe over the last few years from competition being provided by the discount airlines. When you see bargains like the one you spotted on the Paris-Lyon run, or travelling anywhere in Italy for 15 Euro, you might as well take advantage of it!
Ottawa, Canada Mon 02/28/2005
TGV round trip tickets
Tim... I don't know if it has any significance at all, but RailEurope is owned primarily by Swiss and French Rail. French Rail (sncf) will deliver tickets virtually anywhere in world except for North America, which is serviced by RE. (Hmm)
In comparison, in addition to self-print tickets, German Rail will mail tickets anywhere in the world, including North America.
Don't expect RailEurope to be an official, all inclusive ticket outlet for all European railroads. They are not. They seem to be an independent business which is allowed to sell one-way, point-to-point tickets for a very few pairs of cities, at a set price in US$. The tickets they do sell are for the most expensive trains on the route (e.g. Eurostar in Italy and InterCity Express in Germany). I guess the logic is that this way you can get on any train without paying extra.
Because of their limitations, RailEurope doesn't recognize some of the best train travel bargains, like SparPreis in Germany, which saves over 60% on a round trip for two with a weekend stay, or the Länder tickets. Don't blame RailEurope, but do look for lower cost options.
CO USA Mon 02/28/2005
Britain - Discounted Rail Travel
Stephen's posting on "Gatwick Train & 2 for 1 Coupons" reminds me that the various rail networks across Britain (now that British Rail has been broken up) offer significant savings, discounts, and passes that might be useful if you plan to be in their geographic area for a couple of days or more. They also offer discounts on attractions (with a rail ticket)and mini-passes (sort of like a Britrail pass for their area). Check out (http://www.nationalrail.co.uk/), then click on Special Offers. You'll see a list of the rail companies, a little map of the area they cover, and a hot-link to a list of their specials. You may have to go directly to their website to find out all the details (this is the National Rail site), but you'll get an idea what's out there. For example, First ScotRail advertises 50 per cent off train travel for anyone travelling to/from Prestwick airport...good, since Prestwick's a fair hike from Glasgow, never mind Edinburgh! Your airline is supposed to tell you all about it.
Ottawa, Canada Sun 02/27/2005
Gatwick Train & 2 for 1 Coupons
Instead of taking the Gatwick Express, take the Southern trains. They take about 5 to 8 minutes longer, but cost 16 GPB return rather than 23.50. In addition, if you're going before the end of May, you can print out 2 for 1 coupons for the major sites -- show your ticket when you present the coupon. The 2 for 1 site is http://www.london2for1.com/2for1/. You can buy the train ticket at Gatwick. PS I haven't tried this (I did phone Southern to confirm it and I have printed the coupons) - I'm going in early May. If anyone has actually done it already, I'd love to know how it worked out.
USA Sat 02/26/2005
Train travel in the UK
It is a good idea, if possible, to buy your ticket at least a day in advance when traveling by train in the UK. You will get a way cheaper ticket this way. Also, any train leaving after 09:00 is considerably cheaper.
Birmingham, UK Sat 02/26/2005
NOTE: when ordering eurail passes, or long distance train tickets online from home, before visiting the country, we booked for us, and 2 other couples traveling with us, but arriving on diffrent airlines. When our TICKET with passage for 6 arrived we were a bit peaved, tried to return for 6 individual tickets. Thankfully we all arrived at the same time so it was not a problem but you may need to specify INDIVIDUAL tickets if booking for more that One couple
NC USA Fri 02/25/2005
PRE BOOKING TRAINS
Blue Denim....I never buy rail tickets in advance and I ride trains in Europe often. You can buy a ticket any day easily from a machine at the station and avoid standing in line. Buying in advance does not help in any way. And it is too risky.
Unless you reserve a seat, you still have to board the train as fast as you can to get a seat. Be sure you check the symbols painted on the car before you enter. The I always ask if the car I am in is going to my destination. The train may sometimes drop cars in transit and you don't want to be dropped.
I always ask several passengers if I am on the right car to be sure that they understand my question and that I understand their answer. Fast talking foreigners hinder understanding.
Wear a lot of Canada symbols and they will be eager to help you.
MONTREAL, CA USA Mon 02/21/2005
Train travel in Italy
For those planning to use the train in Italy, you may want to keep an eye on this website, www.trenok.com The Italian state railway is apparently trying to utilize some older Eurostar equipment and some of its underutilized stations to generate more traffic. At this site, you can book a train from Rome's Tiburtina station (NOT TERMINI) that runs to Milano-Lambrate, with stops at Firenze-Campo di Marte, Bologna Centrale and Milano-Rogoredo. The fare is only 9 Euros each way, no matter how far you go. Right now, there is only one journey each way per day, leaving Rome at 6:40 and arriving at Milano-Lambrate at 11:25 am. The return journey leaves Milano-Lambrate at 7:53 pm and arrives back at Roma-Tiburtina at 12:24 am, which means only night buses will be running by the time you get back, so a taxi may be necessary. There are no refunds and no exchanges, and the ticket is only good for the date reserved. There will also be no guarantees like those found on the regular Eurostar services, like compensation for no A/C, more than 15 minutes late, etc. There's also no restaurant car at this point, so bring some snacks. The railway may add more trips to the service, if it proves to be popular, so stay tuned! There are reports they are considering Rome-Tiburtina to Venice-Mestre, anad Rome-Tiburtina to Bari....again, all for 9 Euro each way. The site is in Italian, but easy to follow. To book, you'll need a user name and password, which you can get on-site when you are asked to log in after making your selection. Look for clicca qui per registrarti to take you to the registration page. They'll e-mail you a password, so you'll have to wait a bit before you can continue. Those with a Trenitalia user name and password can use it on this site. In Florence, the no. 12 bus will take you to the Santa Maria Novella tain station, the main station in Florence, and close to the sights. It takes about 15 minutes. The no. 13 bus, available at SMN train station, will take you back to Florence-Campo di Marte train station in about 15 minutes, for your journey home. Bologna Centrale is, as it states, in the downtown. I haven't toured Milan widely, but it appears on the web that there are good connections from this station to the areas you'll want to see, even though it's not the main Centrale station.
Ottawa, Canada Sat 02/19/2005
Take 2d Class,Buy Tickets There
We found train travel via 2d class to be quite acceptable. We bought all of our tickets and made all of our reservations- in those rare cases when needed- at the stations in Italy. Tickets were mostly available from machines which gave schedule,stop and fare information in any of 4 or 5 languages (English included for those sweating it out). I am convinced we paid less than we would by Eurailing it or doing some alternative.
Paul n Sara <email>
Newburyport , MA USA Thu 02/17/2005
Boarding Eurostar Italia w/out Reservations
Patti:What happened when you boarded the sold-out Eurostar Italia train was not some kind of ripoff - if you did not make the mandatory advance reservation, you will be allowed to board the train (at least in Italy), but the conductor is required to collect the reservation fee from every passenger on the train (obviously you didn't pay it before boarding, or you would have had a reservation). The conductor also has to collect the supplement due for traveling on a premium train. These charges apply to everyone on the train, even those who are standing because they boarded without getting the mandatory seat reservation. (Reservations are not accepted by the Italian railways computers with 30 minutes of a train's departure time, or after the last seat is sold, whichever comes first.)I always obtain my seat reservations the day (or evening) before I leave a city, and rarely, if ever, do I have any problem with availability. But if a train should be sold out, just take the next InterCity train (seat reservations are optional) to the same destination; not only will you save money compared to the overpriced Eurostar Italia, you will get there only slightly less fast. In my view, the only Eurostar Italia (ES) train worth the extra money is the daily Florence to Bolzano ES - because that's the only through train from Florence to Bolzano.
David Flurrie <email>
Philadelphia, PA USA Sat 02/12/2005
validating railpasses - watch!
Watch carefully when you have your railpass validated for the first time, especially in a non-english speaking country. We had ours validated in Paris but because the ticket is printed in English, the French speaking ticket agent misread the terms. Instead of 10 days in 2 months, she started validating it for 10 days in a row only! I stopped her just before she put the end date but she managed to cut off a MONTH of travel! This is unchangeable as we quickly learned. We took our now shortened ticket to customer service who told us to buy another ticket. Buying another train pass was impossible so we politely asked him to put the validation stamps on it. However, this didn't ruin our trip as we didn't need the entire 2 months but it was a frustrating moment at the beginning of it. Rail passes really should be printed in multiple languages depending on the country rather than assume everyone can read English. Just a thought
Toronto, ON CAN Fri 02/11/2005
Trains in Italy- Ticket Machines
In Italy,whenever possible, buy your tickets from the ticket vending machines rather than at the window. You most often avoid lines and the machines nearly always give you option of English as your language for explaining schedules,prices and details. The procedure for use is fast,understandable and easy. Most machines take credit cards as well as cash. After you've gotten your tickets, don't forget to validate them!!
Paul n Sara <email>
Newburyport , MA USA Sat 02/05/2005
Train Travelers' Tips
All our travel through Italy was on their train system. Whether Regional, IC or Eurostart, the rates were good and the rail service reliable. However, beware of Eurostar when they tell you to see the conductor as the train appears to be full and he says to go on. We spent 4.5 hours from Venice to Roma sitting on the steps near the toilets!!! And we paid 8 Eruos extra for buying our tickets on board!!! After the initial annoyance, it was very laughable and we met a great group of Italian school girls who practised their English on us!!!
Patti Field <email>
Calgary, AB Canada Mon 01/31/2005
For those unfortunate souls who might struggle with the transit zones in Munich, I offer this advice. Inner zone! With the exception of Dachau, everywhere you want to be in Munich (Schloss Nymphenburg, the main train station, Octoberfest, Kalsplatz, the pedestrian zone, Frauenkirche, Marienplatz, the Pinakotheks, Residenz, St. Peters Church, City museum, Viktualien Markt, Hofbrau Haus, Isar Tor, Englischer Garten, Deutsches Museum, convention center, etc ) is in the inner zone. A single-person day pass for the inner zone costs 4,50 EUR; for 2 - 5 people it costs 8 EUR (4 EUR per person if there are only 2 of you). Almost any trip in the inner zone will cost you 2.10 EUR one way, 4.20 EUR round trip, so you can see that you can hardly save with individual tickets.
USA Mon 01/31/2005
Euraide in Munich
My daughter and I spent a wonderful time in and around Munich over New Year's. Alan at Euraide was very helpful to us. After determining our itinerary, we not only received the best pass for us and our time, but transit tickets were provided for each site we wanted to visit within the Munich transit system. We did not have to struggle with zones, etc.
Loraine Tuenge <email>
Nokomis, FL USA Fri 01/28/2005
1st/2nd class in ECE
CXG Boy -- I think it really depends on your comfort level whether you would need to travel first or second class in Poland/Czech Republic. I started traveling there more than ten years ago and never took a single first-class train until about 2000, when a colleague insisted we do so. The point being: different people have different travel 'needs.' No, second-class is not luxurious, but I never had any qualms about it. You may have the luck to get on a newer train, but last time I was traveling by train in Poland (2001) the state railways there were in more dire straits than those in Hungary, for example, making for still-old cars. The main thing you're buying yourself with a first-class ticket is more space for yourself, and more separation from your fellow passengers. I always enjoy traveling second-class with the students, soldiers going home on leave, pensioners, and others. I WILL point out that the main train station in Warsaw is incredibly gloomy and subterranean, and not a place to be lingering for long.
Paris, France Thu 01/27/2005
FIRST OR SECOND CLASS
CXGBOY....Having traveled first class in Russia, I can recommend 1st class in E Europe. If you take a look in the 2nd class cars you will be glad you are in 1st class. The German trains are probably better, but Czech and Polish trains will not be. Judging by what I saw in Poland and Czech, I doubt that those trains will be better. I didn't see any trains in Auschwitz, but there probably are some because I saw the RR station in Krakow.
TULSA, USA Wed 01/26/2005
Just returned from a wonderful 12 day Italy trip - Roma to Venizia to Firenza to Pisa to Vernazza and back to Roma. We took the ES once and it was not worth it. No need for rail passes within Italy. The self service machines are in 6 languages and very easy to use. I would suggest to get the tickets a day or two before b/c the get crowded. Also, on New Year's day our IC reserved to Roma was packed with Italians with no tickets, but it was fun and gave us a chance to get with the locals. Tickets within Italy are chea and the Regionals and IC's are fine. No major difference between 1st and 2nd class. Second class is fine.
Atlanta, GA USA Sun 01/09/2005
France to Spain
There were only two trains into Spain the day we tried to get to Barcelona. There seemed to only be night trains from Paris. --And Rick wasn't kidding when he said trains in the south were slow. Plan extra time traveling in and out of Spain.
Lake Elsinore, CA USA Wed 12/29/2004
Helsinki - St Petersburg ticket option
I was worried about the advice that railway tickets on the Helsinki-Russia trains had to be picked up 24 hours in advance. Not only was I going to be in Helsinki for less than that amount of time, since I was traveling in winter I worried about weather causing me a delay in reaching the train station. I contacted the railway station in Helsinki by email (international rail department) and the helpful clerk advised me that for 7 Euros I could have our tickets delivered directly to the train conductor. I purchased tickets using my credit card directly from their office in Helsinki, via email.
And, it worked like a dream! I was able to select seats using the train seat diagrams, another good feature since I was able to assure we were away from the smoking area. (Some trains have a walled off smoking area, but every time the door opens the smoke fills the non-smoking section. I chose a car with no smoking compartment.)
Cambridge, MA USA Mon 12/13/2004
COMPANION FARES STILL AVAILABLE
The German Railroad's companion fare isn't actually going away!! The offer is still available on Saver Price fares for groups of 2-5 people. The Saver price is a ticket that restricts the traveller to a specific train connection on a specific day. The journey must be round trip and either begin on a Saturday or include a Saturday night stay. Tickets must be purchased at least three days in advance, although experience dictates that a week or more is often needed.
There is still a way to make one-way tickets using the companion fare, however. The German Railroad offers a reduction card called the BAHN CARD to all travellers regardless of nationality. The Card costs EUR50 for the 25% variant and EUR200 for the 50%. The card then entitles you to a 25% or 50% discount on domestic normal price tickets for one year. When I bought my Bahn Card 25 my partner got the same deal for EUR 5 more (I think that the 50% partner card costs EUR100) The BahnCard is a sweet deal because companion fare still applies on one-way tickets after December 12—even if only one person has it. I even got a letter from the DB explaining this!
Using www.bahn.de, I researched the following fare example. A one-way ticket from Munich to Berlin will cost EUR184 for two people after December 12. With one person using the Bahn Card 25 the fare for two is EUR115 (The current fare for two is EUR133.50 and EUR 111.25 respectively)—a savings greater than the cost of the Bahn Card!!
The best part is that the Bahn Card discount can be combined with the Saver price. The same trip from Munich to Berlin (return, over a Saturday) as a Saver Price 50 costs normally EUR138. The same trip for two costs EUR115 with a Bahn Card 25 (EUR 103.50 if both people have one).
We also opted for the Rail Plus component for EUR15. With it we get a discount of approximately 25% on many international trains. This will make our train for two from Frankfurt to Amsterdam EUR106.20 instead of EUR178.60.
Be careful with the card though. It is only offered on a subscription basis, which means that after you purchase the initial card, it automatically renews itself (with a legal obligation to pay) after one year. The nice guy at the English speaking counter gave us a form to fill out to cancel the subscription. When you get the card bring a passport photo and they issue you a temporary card on the spot (it is valid for 2 months). In 4-6 weeks you will receive the plastic permanent card in the mail—they even sent the cards to our address in the US.
Although this offer works for us, like anything in life you need to evaluate your needs and purchase tickets accordingly.
Northbrook, IL USA Wed 12/08/2004
Linx Trains in Scandinavia Discontinued
I just read that the Linx Trains, a joint venture between the Norwegian and Swedish rail lines is being discontinued effective 12/31/04. There will be limited weekend service during the off season being run by the Norwegian and Swedish railroads, and they plan to run trains during the summer. This mainly effects trains between Oslo and Stockholm, which now requires going through Goteborg, Sweden.
Lake Forest Park, WA USA Tue 12/07/2004
ETBD recommends advance reservations for a wide variety of Premier Trains that require them and that limit the number of seats available to railpass holders. Especially if you are traveling in summer, on a holiday, on a weekend, or any time that only one or two trains will work for you, it is wise to reserve as soon as you're ready to commit to a date and time. Those traveling with a flexible schedule, off-season, or on InterCity and regional trains can often wait to make reservations when they arrive in Europe. See http://www.ricksteves.com/rail/rail_menu.htm
ETBD recommends Euraide for reservations if you need several before arriving in Europe. Euraide sells reservations at European prices, which have generally been cheaper than those available through Rail Europe and other U.S. agents (though current exchange rates will reduce the savings). Euraide's handling fee is $45 per order, mentioned right up front, but Rail Europe also has handling fees of about $22 per order. If you're making a lot of reservations, you may find it worthwhile to review both vendors' websites: www.euraide.de/ricksteves or www.raileurope.com.
I must take exception to the (deliberate?) misrepresentation by dinothedinovl that Rick recommends EurAide for making train reservations. While Rick does recommend EurAide for their services in Germany, I can find no evidence that he recommends using them for reservations from here. And, why would he? Rick has a relationship with RailEurope, a competitor that sells reservations for less.
In any case, getting reservations from here, before you go, is in most cases a BAD idea.
1. Reservations are not usually needed for trains in Europe,
2. When they are, they can be easily purchased there, for a much lower price,
3. Making reservations before you leave only limits your travel options,
4. Reservations made with US companies are not refundable, so if you change your mind over there, you loose all your money,
5. Making reservations in advance costs you more.
EurAide charges a high fixed rate ($45) for reservation. Unless you are buying a lot (6 or more – almost never a good idea), you will pay too much.
The only justifiable case of buying tickets before leaving is buying SparPreis tickets from the Bahn online. These tickets, which should be purchased early because they are often sold out in advance, can save you more than 60% over point to point tickets purchased over there.
USA Mon 12/06/2004
Eurail Pass in the S. of France
When you use your Eurail Pass make sure you put your day's date in the required spot. While traveling from Nice to Villefranche I was fined E35 for not filling the date in on my pass by the conductor.
Rachel Pabst <email>
Houston, TX USA Sun 11/28/2004
We use the Greman Railroad Scgedule to make our rail travel plans. Find out when reservations are required. We then use EurAide to make train reservations. I recall that Rick recommends EurAide in his books. Ther are also an excellent source for side trips while in Munich
USA Sun 11/21/2004
Listen, folks...heed Rick's warnings about securing your valuables! Don't be complacent about this! Consider every situation while you're traveling and take appropriate precautions to safeguard your valuables.
On a night train, regardless of what kind of lock I have on the door, I sleep with my money, tickets, cameras, passport...it's not that uncomfortable unless your camera is as big as a suitcase!
And speaking of your suitcase, secure it with a lightweight cablelock to a post or something.
Don't blame a particular train or country if you get something stolen for you not taking proper precautions. Many of us are unaccustomed to overseas travel. You need to develop security skills that you wouldn't ordinarily have to concern yourself with traveling in the US, AND even US travel can be harzardous in some places. Above all, have fun! but stay alert!
Seattle, WA USA Thu 11/18/2004
Brussels to Lille
Going to Lille from Brussels Midi/Zuid will usually involve taking a TGV with a special price and the Eurail pass will not cover much of the fare. It cost 30 EUR round trip.
Coming back I ended up taking the Eurostar that arrived frfom London, but I did not have to go through the security check that I would have to if going to London from Brussels or Paris.
Josh Hanz <email>
Frisco, TX USA Sat 11/13/2004
French Train Travel
We took the train from Paris to Bayeux and back again. If you do so and get any type of discount for the trip, please save both the out and return portions of your ticket. You'll have to show both to the conductor on the return trip. And don't forget to validate your tickets at the train station before you board the train! Look for the orange validation booths.
If you take the train to Normandy from Gare St Lazare in Paris, there is an escalator to get to the platform. No such luck in Bayeux. One more important thing about Bayeux--you have to call a taxi from the train station. There are only 7 taxis in town and they always need advance notice to pick up passengers. We waited an hour for a pickup, even after calling.
Kris Minarsini <email>
Chicago, IL USA Thu 11/11/2004
Buying train tickets in Italy
On our recent trip to Italy we used trains to travel all over from Milan to Sorrento. In all we took 7 train trips and I never had a problem buying tickets along the way even from agents who didn't speak much English. The secret was being prepared.
Before leaving home I visited the Trentalia web site and printed out the train information for 2 or 3 potential trips between each point. The web site is excellent as it presents all of the trains travelling that route showing times, number of stops, routing, etc. I selected the ones that suited me and printed them. In Italy, I simply presented the agent with the print out of the train trip I wanted and he issued the ticket. They seem to use the same web site as I did.
I also used the automated ticket machines which are great and with them I simply selected the train departure time that matched my printout. These machines accept credit cards and usually don't have a long lineup unlike the ticket agents. When I arrived at a station, I purchased the ticket for my next trip so I didn't have to worry about it on my departure day.
As an aside, Rick's Rail Cost and Distance chart is a very useful tool. I had calculated that buying tickets as you go was cheaper. In fact the total cost for 7 trips came to 116 euros. A 7 day second class saver Rail Pass would have cost at least US$211 or about 170 euros. Buying tickets is easy if you have the printed information.And second class is the way to go. You get to meet Italians and seating is very comfortable especially on Inter-city trains.
Gerald Gabel <email>
Victoria, BC Canada Tue 11/09/2004
Train strikes in Italy
On our recent month long trip to Italy we travelled around by train, except for a week in Tuscany were we needed a car. We paid as we went, travelled second class withour reservations. This was in October and we never had a problem with finding a seat. Except when the train system went on strike!
We got caught in Sorrento on the day we were to travel to Naples on the Circumvesuviana commuter train and then on to Rome. Apparently it was announced the previous day but who reads Italian newspapers or listens to the radio? You have two choices - spend another night where you are (since the strikes rarely last more than a day) or find alternate transportation. We had to get to Rome since we had a paid-up apartment there and didn't want to loose a day.
Some private busses where running but they filled up early and only went to the airport. I could have rented two cars (there were 6 of us) but who wants to drive in Naples? So we ended up renting a van and driver to take us from Sorrento to the Naples train station for 120 euros. There were 6 of us so it wasn't that bad.
If you are caught in a situation like this, my advice is act fast as the demand for alternate transportation is heavy.
In Naples, the trains were running on the main routes - so a country wide strike is not a full strike - and we got our train to Rome.
Unfortunately the Rome Metro was also on strike that day and we learned another lesson about taking taxi's from the train station. Rick's advice (pg.406) saved us a lot of money as the taxi hustlers were having a field day because of the Metro strike. One quoted us 40 euros to go 3 Metro stops. We lined up at the taxi stand out in front of Termini station and the trip to our apartment with luggage came to 12 euros. Strikes in Italy can be costly so don't panic if you are caught but act quickly.
Gerald Gabel <email>
Victoria, BC Canada Tue 11/09/2004
This summer I bought two, three-week First Class Eurail Passes from Rick Steve's travel store and my daughter and I used them on a trip in July and August of this year (2004). I was flabbergasted to find just how crowded the First Class rail cars have become.
Apparently Eurail passes are being sold all over the world and I would say the are being oversold. We could not get on a train without a reservation and even then our reservations were screwed up several times. We had to pay 'reservation fees' (Rick's information sheet goes over these fees - read it!) and these fees were often around $20 per person. These fees were in addition to the fees for riding 'special' trains that were 'super' first class.
Also be advised that the Eurostar train or Chunnel train also sets aside only a limited number of seats for Eurail pass holders per train, so reserve those seats as far ahead as you can. My daughter and I spent hours in lines getting resrvations and paying for add-on fees for what I thought would be a simple hop-on- and-go-on-any-train deluxe pass. I would equate the Eurail passes as now really second class train passes and sort of a discount coupon to rail travel in summer Europe.
In the Amsterdam station ticket office there were literally hordes of travellers all of them with Eurail passes waiting hours to see an agent to be able to get a train out of Amsterdam and usually the next day!
The final straw was a big promotion to European travellers to 'upgrade' to a First Class ticket for 50 Euros.
It is my opinion that Eurail passes are vastly oversold. Unless you intend to travel off season and off the main routes double check (as Rick Steve's suggests) to make sure its worth the price of the pass or to just pony up the straight ticket price. Expect to spend lots of time in long lines in the summer months no matter what you do. And be sure to scrutinize your ticket before you leave the counter and check that it is for day and time you asked for. Mistakes are very common!
Santa Barbara, CA USA Mon 11/08/2004
Beware of overnight Czech trains!
In August of this year (2004) my daughter and I took a First Class Sleeper car from Prague to Frankfurt. On board the car was a Czech coach conductor who checked everyone getting on the train in Prague and sent them to their assigned compartments. He told us to leave our doors unlocked so that the German "passport police" could enter to see our passports and give us a visa for Germany. He did warn us to be careful of our belongings. I locked the door anyway using the lock located just above the door latch. After the German police arrived and checked our passports I again locked the door.
In the morning I awoke to find a bag containing my cameras and two iPods which I had hung from the top bunk next to my head was gone. Another bag belonging to my daughter that was on the floor at the far end of the compartment was also gone. It turns out that the 'lock' on the door is bogus. It can be opened on the outside by a 'conductor's key' which resembles a glorified wrench.
The coach conductor had apparently locked himself in his own compartment (key lock) soon after the train had left the Prague station. He never monitored anyone getting on the coach at any of the subsequent stops during the night. The Czech conductor also refused to do anything about the break-in and theft. I was able to get the head train conductor to contact the German Police and they took it seriously enough to stop the train and search every car. Both me and the police were suspicious of the conductor and we got him to let us search his compartment too. A full report was filed with the German police at the Frankfurt station offices.
I learned that these thefts are an almost every night occurance. The thieves tried to break into the compartment next to ours with an elderly lady and two small children but her screams finally scared them away. It is my opinion that these thefts would not occur if it were not for the complicity of the Czech conductors and and ultimately the Czech government that is fully aware of the problem. I strongly recommend that you stay off night trains in and out of the Czech Republic.
Santa Barbara, CA USA Mon 11/08/2004
Dealing with Train Strikes
A recent train strike in Italy occurred only from 9am to 5pm. If you want to avoid disruptions in your travel plans, you might take early or late trains when you know a strike is scheduled.
USA Thu 11/04/2004
BritRail passes for kids
BritRail passes are great deals for families with kids! Our kids each got a FREE PASS when we bought ours, so for $800 we went anywhere we wanted for 15 days, and the kids loved the trains.
St Paul, MN USA Tue 10/26/2004
TrenItalia Second Class
My travel companions bought first class tickets, Rome to Florence, while still in the U.S., on the advice of "friends" who said 2nd class was dirty and buying tickets before departing the U.S. would be better. I did the smart thing and bought my 2nd class tix the day before the journey, from the machines at the train station (easy to use; they serve you in any one of six languages). My friends paid nearly double for their tix. What a rip-off. Their seats were wider and they were served a free beverage. Mine were perfectly comfy and clean, if slightly smaller. Don't waste your money.
Jane Reed <email>
Pacoima, CA USA Mon 10/25/2004
Just got back from a wonderful 10 days in Italy. Took the train the entire time ranging from Milan to Sorrento. We bought a 1st class rail pass but would recommend considering 2nd class. We often ended up there anyways as first class would fill with TOURISTS. There seemed to always be room in 2nd class.
Also recommend avoiding the Eurostar. Yes it's fancy, but it costs lots of extra $ (one trip was an extra 40 Euros EACH!)and is generally booked far in advance. If you catch an IC (innercity) there is no extra cost to ride and it's just as fast if not faster. No extra cost means no need to wait in those LONG lines!
Santa Barbara, CA USA Sat 10/23/2004
Don't assume the couchette is all yours
We had a couchette for six on a train from Venice to Paris. Even though there were five of us, do not assume that the sixth bed will not be taken. At a late-night stop, we were joined by another passenger and had to rearrange things quickly.
Cleveland, OH USA Fri 10/22/2004
Rail Travel in Germany
We have recently used the railpasses in Germany. We got the first class pass and found it very convenient. It provided us a nice time to rest or read the guidebooks and only once was crowded while second class was pretty packed. I suppose if we used the train more frequently, second class would seem a real bargain but for our short, train-intensive trip, we really appreciated first class.
We also used the computer interfaces with the DB system to determine schedules quickly, locating trains with restaurants or bistros, and limited trip time or transfers. It was really convenient. I do not feel that we missed having a car. A bicycle would have been nice. The DB machines also tell you which trains allow bicycles. Pretty nice.
Columbia, sc USA Wed 10/20/2004
Trains in Italy
Trains in Italy are easy, cheap, and a joy. We found that getting tickets at the train stations was easy, the lines moved very quickly, and the only strange thing is that they only assign which track the train is going to leave from about 5-10 mins before it is to leave so everyone is standing around staring at the train track/time board and madly rushing to the track (called bin) after it is assigned. We travelled 2nd class and found the seats fine. We booked most tickets the day before and had no problem getting tickets. But there are so many trains each day it was probably not necessary.
greg pad <email>
madison, wi USA Sun 10/17/2004
Don't buy first class rail passes in Italy
I wouldn't waste your money purchasing first-class rail passes (like we did). We just returned from a month in Italy, traveling all around Italy on the trains.
We bought two first-class rail-passes, but hardly got to use them. We rode on 12 trains, but only TWO had first class cars. This was on large, intercity routes as well as some less-traveled ones. On two trains that did have cars marked as first class, we found them to be, in fact, second-class type cars (i.e. no A/C, no tables - none of the niceties of first-class).
Save your money & buy second-class. That's what you'll end up riding in anyway.
Larry Mendolia <email>
Dallas, TX USA Sat 10/16/2004
We just got back from Austria and Germany and bought train tickets by credit card in machines in several different stations in both countries. Did not need a pin. Follow the instructions in English and insert the card with the magnetic strip as shown on the screen. We used different credit cards at different places (3 of us, and the credit card we used depended on who purchased the tickets). Free seat reservations in Germany when you purchase using a machine.
Columbus, OH USA Wed 10/13/2004
Buying a reserved seat doesen't mean you'll get to sit in one. In July my Newark/Milan flight was delayed causing me to miss my 9:30 AM connection to Nice. Not wanting to wait for the 9PM flight I trained into town and bought a reseved seat to Monaco, my final destination. The 3:30 Milan train originates in Switzerland and there were no seats available in first class even though they sold me a ticket. All the seats had the little reserved tags on them and I had to sit on the floor. Luckily, the wowmen it the seat near me used this train as a local and got up at the second stop and i lucked into the seat. The trsain was packed all the way to Genoa. Advice- A last minute ticket on a reserved train could mean you will stand for 5 hours.
Jay Morgenstern <email>
Aberdeen, NJ USA Tue 10/12/2004
My wife and I used TrenItalia and buses for our wonderful trip thru Italy 22 Sep-7 Oct 04. Didn't miss a car at all! We purchased our train tickets usually a day before our next leg from station ticket agents, or machines, and on one occasion from a local travel agent.
If you have a multi-leg trip and one or more legs has reserved seating, make sure you have plenty of time to make your connection. E.g. Say you're traveling from Bolzano to Lake Como, you'll change in Verona and Milan. Most likely, the Verona-Milan leg will be a EuroCity (EC) or InterCity (IC) for which you may pay a supplemental fee for a reserved seat. If your train to Verona is late and you miss your EC/IC connection you may be out your extra costs if you take the very next train, which may be a cheaper Regionale or worse, a Diretto. We recommend the EC/IC's, they are more comfortable, even 2nd Class.
Also, consider taking the bus from Siena to Rome. We did and we're glad. The pickup point is a 5-minute walk from all of Rick's Siena pensiones. The train station requires taking a city bus or taxi. It's a 3-hour trip on a big comfy double-decker with toilette, no changes, and much better scenery through Tuscany. It drops you at the Tiburtino bus terminal and you hop the Metro for E1.00 to Roma Termini...easy!
Seattle, WA USA Mon 10/11/2004
ticket vending machines
Paul, I think we should make sure of our terms here. You used the term "credit card" repeatedly, so I assume you really mean credit card, not debit card. The only cards these machines will take are those with PINs. My credit card does not have a PIN; I don't know if some do or not.
I was in Germany this spring, and I used DEBIT cards in the machines on several occasions without problem. My only problem came on the last day when I tried to buy a ticket from Boppard to FRA. The machine refused three debit cards, each time with a "system failure" message (in German), so I assume the computer connection was down. Fortunately I had cash. I always bring back a few hundred Euro so I am not immediately dependent on finding an ATM when I return. I just didn't get to bring as much home as I wanted to.
It took me a few trips before I finally figured out how to use the machines for non-cash transactions. You don't just walk up and put in your card. You will get it right back. You have to go through the process of selecting the ticket choices. Then, when it gives you a price for a ticket, you put in your card.
Anyway, if you were really putting in a PIN card at the right time, and you still couldn't use it, I hope it was really a credit card. Hopefully the debit cards will still work.
CO USA Thu 10/07/2004
Caution: ticket vending machines dislike U.S. credit cards
I am the sort of person who likes to avoid lines and buy/pick up train tickets from automated vending machines. Beware! I found that automated ticket vending machines in France and Germany that did not accept U.S. credit cards (this, despite the fact that the machines displayed the MasterCard logo).
My favorites were the Reseau Express Regional (RER) ticket machines at Roissy Charles de Gaulle Airport and the "Billeterie Automatique" ticket machines of the SNCF (French National Railways).The RER is still the cheapest and fastest way to get to Paris, but if you want to avoid a long line at the ticket counter, you'd better have about 8 Euros in coins (when you leave Europe, keep lots of 2E coins for your next trip).
SNCF's Internet specials are wonderful, and SNCF will cheerfully accept your U.S. credit card for payment online, but if you have to pick up the ticket in France, be prepared to queue up. An SNCF agent at the Gare de l'Est in Paris confessed that SNCF's ticket vending machines do not accept U.S. credit cards -- even for Internet special tickets, where the card has already been charged and is only needed for verification.
DB (German Railways) ticket vending machines also did not seem to accept U.S. credit cards (I tried 3 cards in multiple machines). That was alarming because ticket office hours in Germany can be very limited.
Paul Marcelin-Sampson <email>
Santa Cruz, CA USA Thu 10/07/2004
No luggage check in Carcassonne
Be aware that there is no longer a place to check your luggage for a short stay in Carcassonne. We recently took the train from Arles to Toulouse and wanted to stop for a couple of hours in Carcassonne. Following the tips in the 2004 guidebook on France, we took our luggage over to Hotel Terminus and asked them about leaving the luggage for a fee. They said they do not keep luggage, the TI does not keep luggage, the train station does not keep luggage, there is no solution. We quickly ran back to the train station and got back on the train to Toulouse. We returned to Carcassonne a couple days later on a day-trip without our luggage. But it was very frustrating to not be able to check our luggage for a couple hours at the hotel.
seattle, wa USA Wed 10/06/2004
Our online Rail Guide (link above) includes information about those few private trains not covered by railpasses (see "Multi-Country Restrictions and Bonuses" and each "Single Country" pricing page related to your travels). Under "Step 4: Using Your Railpass," you'll find reservation fees listed by type of train.
Please follow our "Train Schedule" link to the English-language version of Deutsche Bahn's timetable service, which indicates trains requiring reservation, as well as tips for using it.
Discount train tickets online; reservations; pass scope
Like another traveler who has posted here, I have had fun buying train tickets from SNCF's Web site, http://www.voyages-sncf.com/ . Here are some tips:
1. Search for a "Prem's" deep discount fare, by clicking "Toutes les offres" in the blue box at the left.
(a) The tickets are non-refundable and non-changeable.
(b) Only 2nd class is available.
(c) The typical price range is 20 to 40 Euros, or 50 including a bunk in a 2nd class (6-bunk) couchette.
(d) Only major cities are listed. If your city isn't listed, use a map to find out which line it's on, and pick the next major city. It's fine to get off early. Consult a timetable ( http://www.bahn.de/ is the best ) to make sure that your chosen train actually stops in the smaller city.
(e) You must pay immediately, using a credit card. You can print your own ticket if your trip originates in France. If your trip originates in another country, or if it contains a segment that originates in another country, the ticket(s) must be mailed. Curiously, SNCF will mail them to Africa, but not North America. There is no shipping charge. I am having one of my tickets sent to my relatives in Germany. I'll just pick it up when I see them. (I learned that "bei" is the equivalent of "in care of"!)
(f) Some non-Prem's fares may also be listed. See below.
2. Search for general fares by entering the details of your trip in the large box in the middle.
(a) "Mini C" 1st class discount fares, available on weekdays, are almost as cheap as Prem's 2nd class fares. As with Prem's, the tickets are non-refundable and non-changeable.
(b) "Decouvertes" and "Loisir" (leisure) discount fares become available if you travel round-trip and stay overnight for at least one night. These discounts are much less generous than Prem's or Mini C, but the tickets may be refundable and changeable.
(c) Though this part of the site lets you pick smaller cities, selecting a larger city may give you access to more discounts.
(d) If a Prem's deep discount fare is available, it will be listed, along with other fares. Still, it's best to start with a separate Prem's search, as described above, and then do a general search.
(e) If you select a Prem's fare, see above for the ticket delivery options. For other fares, you can pay immediately with a credit card and pick up the ticket(s) at a train station in France -- even if your trip includes a segment that originates in another country. In some cases, you have the option of paying at the train station, when you pick up your tickets. Immediate payment and free mailing is always an option. Again, SNCF will not mail tickets to North America.
Regarding rail passes and reservations, reservations ARE required on most night, high-speed, or premium trains. More and more trains are being designated as premium -- for example, the Corail Teoz from Paris to Strasbourg. There is a fee for each reservation. The cost of any special accommodations, such as a couchette, will also be included in the reservation fee.
There really is no good way to make reservations from North America. Travel agencies and Rail Europe will do it, but the cost is high. Rail Europe's Web site ( http://www.raileurope.com/ ) has a schedule query feature. Unfortunately, it won't tell you whether the accommodations you want are sold out.
Passholders should be aware of increasing fragmentation in European rail. Many premium international services are offered by private companies, or are specially branded, and rail passes will not be valid for passage. Generally, passholders will receive a discount, but must still purchase a ticket. Passes are still a good value.
Paul Marcelin-Sampson <email>
Santa Cruz, CA USA Fri 09/03/2004
NIR diesel trains in Northern Ireland
Sorry I did not finish my comment about the Northern Irish diesel multiple unit commuter trains. ...all the trains in Northern Ireland are diesel, since none of the railways have been electrified - and sound a bit like a hovering helicopter when at cruising speed.
Josh Hanz <email>
Frisco, TX USA Sun 08/29/2004
strange inside door opening from older NIR trains
If you go to Northern Ireland and happen to be riding the older series of suburban trains, you might be surprised to find that you cannot open the doors from the inside. I have never understood why this is the case. But the doors have sliding windows which you slide open, and then turn the handle on the outside and swing it open. The newer trains don't have this feature. Instead they have push-buttons to open from the inside and outside. The trains have conductors, since the outlying stations do not have any ticket machines and are not staffed outside the main cities eg Belfast. And all the trains in Northern Ireland are diesel, since none of the railways have been electrified - and sound a bit like a hovering helicopter when . For electric trains, I recommend going to Dublin. Going from Belfast Central to Portadown or Newry by suburban rail might include a directional change at Belfast Great Victoria Station. And if you want to go to the Belfast City Airport at Sydenham (pronounced Siddinham) from Belfast Central, make sure the next stop is Bridge End and then Sydenham, and not Yorkgate, because after Yorkgate, it goes to Whiteabbey, Carrickfergus and Larne on the Antrim Coast.
Josh Hanz <email>
Frisco, TX USA Sun 08/29/2004
Night Train Rome to Paris
My daughters (13 and 15) and I took the nignt train from Rome to Paris. We booked here in the states as I wanted to be sure we had a sleeper car to ourselves. It was so much fun....dinner was expensive, but we ordered two to share (with kids you can get away with it)....we were next to the attendant and felt safe. It was great to wake up in Paris refreshed with the whole day ahead of us. One suggestion: we checked out the train station the day before we left so we would know what do and where to go and double checked the instructions (of which we got three different sets!!!) All went off without a hitch. The train station was wonderful, downstairs is a mall, there is a grocery store and more.....lots of security and felt very safe..... So Go For It
USA Wed 08/25/2004
Take the trains in Italy whenever the mood strikes you. Many (but not all) travel agencies near the hotels sell train tickets. Go second class - it is about 50% less expensive and very nice. You can get the tickets at the station (but book ahead), or do it at the travel agencies a day or two ahead of your planned departure date. Be sure to note that seats are assigned - as are cars, class, smoking or non-smoking. State which you want (second, non-smoking, etc.) It was a breeze traveling throughout Italy on the trains. French trains are great,too, but not as efficient. All trains in Italy leave promptly on time (be sure to validate your ticket at the orange/yellow boxes at each platform),and French trains are prompt as well - if they are not on strike.
Denver , CO USA Wed 08/25/2004
To open the doors from the inside or from the outside, press the button at the right when it lights up. If you don't want to listen to other people's cell phone conversations, try to get a seat in the theoretically mobile-free cars. If you phone the National Rail number for info, you may have to spell out the names of your destinations and even describe where in the UK these places are found. A local told me that the answering services had been moved from the UK to Bangladesh. I don't know if that's true, but it would explain the confusion I sometimes encountered. Finding a seat may be a bit iffy if you're traveling towards a particularly popular destination like Cambridge or London (especially during commute times). If you can't find a seat, look for an empty, reserved one. Check the tag sticking up from the top of the seat for the destination. If the train has already gone past it, the seat's free for the taking.
Canada Sun 08/22/2004
LUAS railway green line, red line to follow
Dublin now has a light rail line after several years of construction. I took it from St. Stephen's Green, the southern end of the Grafton Street shopping area, to Sandyford. This was on the green line which opened early July of this year. In a month or so, the red line, of which the route will be much more useful to tourists, will be opening. It starts at the Connolly Station, passes by O'Connell Street and Heuston Station, and even the St. James' Brewery aka Guinness before going south to Tallaght. I wish it were opened last month when I was in Dublin, it could have saved me much confusion with the bus lines.
Josh Hanz <email>
Frisco, TX USA Sat 08/14/2004
Eurailpass OK on Dublin's DART rail
According to Iarnrod Éireann (Irish railways), I was previously told that the Eurailpasses were not valid on the DART trains, in contrast to the national railway which they are. However when I went to have my railpass stamped at Connolly (Ui Conghalie in Irish) and tried to get a DART rambler ticket but I was told that the Eurailpass was acceptable for payment. I took DART as far as Howth (Binn Eadiar). The station agent let me reboard the train with the Eurail pass and I went as far as Pearse station, without a second thought. By the way, DART is not operating on weekends between Pearse and Howth / Malahide due to "engineering works".
Josh Hanz <email>
Frisco, TX USA Sat 08/14/2004
Train compartment with removable walls
There were six of us travelling on a night train from Paris to Venice. Somehow, we got two rooms that had removable walls and were able to "open" it into one large compartment. This was nice, since the whole party could sit and talk. Then when it was time for bed, we closed the walls and had two separate rooms. I don't know if you can request this option or not but it sure was convenient for us.
USA Fri 08/13/2004
citynightline online tickets
CityNightline's main web site is not in english *but* the section where you buy the tickets is in english!!!! Go directly to this addres: https://www.elca-services.ch/v3b/citynightline/? to order tickets.
New Paltz , NY USA Wed 08/11/2004
Swiss Rail Baggage
The Swiss have a great plan going with the Fly-Rail Baggage program. For those of you who do not know, if you fly into Switzerland you can purchase and attach "green luggage tags" to your checked airline luggage. The luggage is automatically claimed and loaded from your airplane onto a Swiss Train to a destination in Switzerland that you choose. You do nothing but get off the plane and hop on the train. My parents used it when arriving in Zurich via Delta and it worked great.
The only glitch is the Mulhouse/Bale airport in Basel into which we flew. Half the airport is in France (Mulhouse) and half is in Switzerland (Basel).
Before we decided to use the luggage tags I communicated extensively with the SBB Swiss Train People who assured me that even though we were arriving via AirFrance into the French side, we could still use the luggage tags. Let me tell you now..."You Cannot".
We followed the instructions for the luggage tags and departed our plane and immediately hopped on the train to our destination of Murren. We waited and waited and waited but NO LUGGAGE ever arrived. 2 days later we hopped back on the train to the Basel airport in search of our luggage. The first person we encountered was a Swiss Airline Baggage employee. We explained to her the situation and she proceeded to help us to such a degree that I was feeling almost embarrassed that she was doing SOOO much for us. She told us that people fly into the French side regularly and use the baggage tags.
She was finally able to locate an Air France employee who told us that they do not honor the luggage tags, and yes, they had our luggage locked up in a room. We were thankful to find it.
So if you're thinking about using these luggage tags to fly into Mulhouse/Basel then you better make sure your flying Swiss Air (or at least NOT Air France).
By the way, RailEurope refunded 100% of the purchase price of the luggage tags in addition to the delivery charge.
Tim Mynatt <email>
Knoxville, TN USA Tue 08/10/2004
DB tickets purchased online - Works!!
Larry - I have bought tickets several times from DB online over the past 4 years. Also have made seat reservations when I have had railpasses (this year, 3 euros each). The tickets arrived by airmail within days. One set that we could not use we returned -by mail after the trip - for a complete refund. No problems. Some of the tickets you can print out on your own printer - the code on the reservation form idicates whether they will arrive by mail or you can print them. A bonus - when you purchase online, the seat reservation is free. Seat reservations can be made online if you are not purchasing a ticket. just go through the process as if buying a ticket, and you will come upon an option of seat reservation only. you print the seat reservations out on your own printer. Online is a bargain compared with any other service available from US. I recently checked out prices for RT from Frankfurt to Austria, and online for 2 people is a fraction of the price RailEurope quotes. The cost of a seat reservation is completely refundable if you cancel before the trip and the tickets are refundable within a specified number of days after the trip - the tickets will specify. With US sources of seat reservations, there is no refund possible.
Columbus, OH USA Fri 08/06/2004
Italian Main Stations
As well as Italian comprehensive timetable advice and online booking at www.trenitalia.com, a new sister site has opened to help Italian rail travelers (in Italian and English) called Grandi Stazione. Each main station in Italy is given a mini-site with heaps of information - shopping, ticket booking, where to buy pharmacy goods, toilet locations, maps of the station, food outlets and much more. I was very impressed looking at the Genova Bignole site today! The photos give you a good idea of what to expect when you get there. www.genovabrignole.it/indexf.cfm is for Genova but go to that site and there are links to all the other station sites in a running banner at the bottom. Hope this helpful.
London (native Venetian), UK Mon 08/02/2004
buying railpasses in Europe
Swissrail passes and some others are available in Europe at major railstations. About two years ago we bought Swissrail passes at a train station in Paris and at the same time bought point to point tickets to the French/Swiss border. The agent at the International counter acted as if it is common - knew just what to do. The price of the pass was the same as listed on the Swissrail webpage (in Swissfrancs) and that day's exchange rate to Euos was used - very favorable. Because of the dollar's strength at the time, we saved more than $70 per pass over buying in the U.S. I am not certain that there would be savings today. Also, last summer my daughter's travelling companion bought a Eurail youth 3-country pass in Berlin. I don't know the price, but it was available.
Columbus, OH USA Sat 07/31/2004
Important to check dates for night trains!
Be certain when reserving a couchette, that your reservations are for the correct night! 5 of us were already on board a moving train leaving Landquart, Switzerland bound for Paris, when we were told our reservation was for the next night. Keep in mind that the reservation will have the date for the evening you depart but, you will write the next day's date on your rail pass. We were lucky to be the first "extra" passangers to board a sold out train and were given the only empty couchette. We were lucky to not sit up the whole night or worse to be put off the train on a busy holiday weekend. Other than that small problem we loved using the trains in Italy, Switzerland and France. Talk to the people in the car with you. It's fun and enlightening.
Thousand Oaks, CA USA Fri 07/30/2004
Sleeping on the train
If your thinking of sleeping on the train you might try this trick. On a recent (November) trip I took the train from Viena to Venice and found that a 2 euro tip to the conductor assured me a cabin all to myself and my friend. It may not work everywhere or if the train is over booked, but it may just be a life saver if not. Another tip don't forget to have a water bottle in case you get thursty at night.
bend, or USA Fri 07/23/2004
Italian Rail Tips
When departing Rome (FCO), be sure to ask your airline which terminal they are in during your reconfirmation call. Upon debarking from the train, you have the option to walk to terminals A, B and C. However, the airlines for each terminal are not identified.
The airport trains departing from the Rome train station leave on either tracks 25 or 26. These tracks are over 400 meters from the taxi stand in front of the station. To save this long walk, have the taxi driver drop you off along side the station at the corner of Via Giovanni Giolitti and Lamarmora. When we told the taxi driver to take us to the door for track 26 for the airport train, he knew exactly what we meant. The Vittoro Metro stop is the closet one to this side entrance.
Go inside the station and buy the train ticket at the newsstand. The ticket cost is E9.50. Go up the stairs, walk 5 meters and validate the ticket in the yellow box. Look up at the signs to determine which is the next airport train (track 25 or 26). Either train is less than 5 meters away. The trains depart every 30 minutes on the :22 and :52. The ride to the airport takes 30 minutes. The airlines' yellow pages listings can be found under 'linee aeree'.
Be aware that the intercity trains can be sold out, especially on Fridays. We were held up four hours in Venice because two consecutive trains to Florence were sold out.
First class is worth the extra cost. The first class cars are quiet and the seats are more comfortable than second class (three across vs. four across). The Eurostar trains are especially nice.
I could not procure a national train timetable. I asked at both the Trenitalia information booths and at newsstands in three stations and was told no one had one.
The Circumvesuviana running between Naples and Sorrento is like a conventional subway that runs on the surface. It is not air conditioned, so the windows are left open for air. It is a major shock to go from first class on a Eurostar train to the Circumvesuviana (think NYC subway cars). We made the connection in 11 minutes at the Naples train station, thanks to the handy directions in Rick's book.
Steve Hill <email>
Cupertino, CA USA Sun 07/18/2004
Night Train: Amsterdam to Munich
Thanks Cathy & Mike with the info on the CityNightLine Train from Amsterdam to Munich (CNL 319). Once I got my Benelux-Germany Flexipass in hand, I went ahead and called the Dutch Railways' Teleservice NS Internationaal: +31 (0)900 92 96) to make the cochette reservation. You can call this same number to buy tickets directly from Dutch Railways, too.
While the website says there is a € 0.35 per minute charge to speak with a customer service rep to make the reservation, I checked our international phone plan after making the call and was only charged the 5 cents per minute that it costs us to call Europe. So I paid less than a dollar for an 18 minute call – not a bad deal. (I called on a Saturday, so was put on hold for a few minutes).
There is a € 3.50 surcharge per reservation per ticket (on top of the € 29 charge for the 4-person cochette). (Which certainly beats the cost of making the reservation in the US with an agent or other services who will do it for you). I might be mistaken, but the €3.50 might also be charged if you get the sleeper/cochette reservation at the International window at Centraal Station, too.
The call went smoothly – the customer service agent spoke impeccable English and was extremely helpful and nice. While she never asked for our flexipass information, I thought it was better to have the Eurail ticket before making the call to the Netherlands. I paid for the reservations using a credit card and was given a confirmation number. We just have to go to the International Ticket window at Centraal Station in Amsterdam and show our passports and give the confirmation number to pick up the cochette reservations – which we need to do anyway to validate our Flexipass tickets.
Note: to make a sleeper/cochette reservation on the CNL train from Amsterdam to Munich using a flexipass, it must cover both countries and be the Benelux-Germany Flexipass.
Atlanta, GA USA Sat 07/17/2004
Night Train: Amsterdam to Munich
Susan I have taken this TRAIN a few times,and have always seen the Train pretty much full.The last trip I bought a Single room for myself($145)and didnt regret it one bit.Was nice to sleep overnight and not have a bunh of people next to you and walking all around. The attendent woke me at 5:30am with a HOT cup of coffee,hour later I was packed and ready to arrive in Munich(felt good,for the next trip down to Innsbruck)
Silicon Valley, CA USA Fri 07/16/2004
Pisa has 2 stations; Pisa Centrale and Pisa San Rossore. S. Rossore is the smaller one but is much closer to the tower and duomo; some trains between Pisa Centrale and Viareggio/La Spezia stop there and every train from Pisa to Lucca stops there. For instance, you could ride to Centrale, store your luggage, walk to the tower and see the stuff there (no more than 90 minutes worth of sights if you don't want to go up the tower), walk to S. Rossore and catch a train to Lucca (20 min), see Lucca, catch a train back to Centrale and pick up your bags and then be on your way.
Chicago, IL USA Thu 07/15/2004
Italian ticket purchasing & validating
RC in San Diego has very good information. I'll echo the comment that you should buy as you go in Italy. Purchasing my departure tickets when I arrived at any given city was always plenty of time to get a seat for the train I wanted, and by then they are fully aware of a strike possibility. Generally the train offices will warn a day or two in advance of a strike, so you can plan accordingly.
As for validating tickets, it makes a lot of sense once you realize that the tickets have no date on them and are not collected, scanned or punched in any other way. People who take the same train every day could purchase a single ticket and then dishonestly use it for multiple rides if the stamping system weren't in place. This is their way of assuring that each ticket is used for only one ride, that's all.
USA Thu 07/15/2004
Taking Rick's suggestion to book my train tickets in the Venice center rather than at the busy Ferrovia, I found that many tourist and travel offices don't offer train ticket services. My best recommendation is the American Express office, about a block behind the Correr Museum side of Piazza San Marco (opposite the Basilica). They have a Trenitalia counter and can book seat reservations as well as provide the train tickets. They only accept Amex cards (of course), but you can also pay in cash if you're not an Amex holder.
USA Thu 07/15/2004
Naples train station
Our family had the misfortune of passing through the Naples train station on our way to Sorrento. There are no elevators or escalators, just steps. If you are handicapped, forget it. We had to negotiate the stairs with a stroller and our suitcases, not an easy task with an eight year old in tow. Strange that the little train station in Sorrento had a lift when we got there!
Robert Egert <email>
Thousand Oaks, CA USA Wed 07/14/2004
First Class to Paris
We traveled to Paris from London on the Eurostar on a daytrip this last June. And the only tickets we could get at the time were for first class @ $190 each. And I admit that it seemed a little expensive, but hey you gotta see Paris atleast once in your life right? lol. But, after getting to "Q" in the first class line, having a nice and quiet car (after a long and exhausting day) and 2 pretty nice meals, served with drinks and bread. I would highly recommend first class. lol
D. Santos <email>
Antioch, CA USA Tue 07/13/2004
Susan - CNL train
To Susan - I just took the Amsterdam to Munich CNL train about two weeks ago. I did get reservations in America from Rail Europe before leaving, since I wanted a double sleeper. I'm not sure if this helps you, but I can tell you that the train was completely booked. I was glad I had reserved in America, even though some say this is not necessary. I didn't think it was all that expensive to get in America...the reservations for a EuroNight train were actually double the price of the CNL reservations.
Philly, PA USA Mon 07/12/2004
i HAD A SQUEEGY TO CLEAN MY WINDOWS idea is from dirty windows on trip to York and from munich to frankfurt it took me 2 trips to get smart
john brangwin <email>
seattle, WA USA Mon 07/05/2004
Re: train strikes in Italy, the word to look for is the dreaded "sciopero" (pronounced SHOW-pair-oh). In French, a strike is "une grève."
Amsterdam, NL Sun 07/04/2004
regarding train strikes, we ran into 2 in a week's time: Italy and France. The good news is we got to ride AND get a refund! But don't expect "extras" like snacks or AC. Be prepared!
houston, tx USA Sat 07/03/2004
Train travel in Italy: Helpful tips
I would like to recommend to all train travelers in Italy to always check whether or not a strike is planned before making plans to travel on the trains or the metro. Strikes are very common in Italy. You can find out this information by going to http://www.trenitalia.it, talking to the locals or going to the station a few days in advance if possible to find out any information. Also, buy your tickets in Italy to avoid any possible strikes.
Italian train tickets can be used on any train within a 6 hour period after validation. Remember to validate your tickets before boarding the train. There is also an expiration date on the ticket of some months, therefore, I believe the ticket can be used up until that date (of course, if you have not validated it yet.) Always ask questions at the ticket window.
I recommend buying train tickets as you go. I always purchase point to point tickets at the station. I buy 2nd class. (2nd class is very comfortable). I have used the ticket machines before as well. It is much cheaper than a railpass (ticket machine instructions were available in English as well as other languages)
I write down my train schedule for my planned trip before arriving at the station. I often check the schedules that are posted at the station before going to the window (double checking my plan to be sure it all works.)
At the ticket window, I ask for a "Andata e ritorno"(roundtrip ticket), especially if I know when I am returning. Often I take the CIS (Cisalpino...Pendolino) going to my destination. It cost a little bit more than an intercity train, but it make often only 1 or 2 stops). For example, Domodossola to Milano Centrale costs 9.19 E. Then if I must change in Milano Centrale then I have another ticket for that train. For example, Milano Centrale to Bergamo costs 3.75 E. However, always compare the prices and the time it takes. If you do not mind the long train rides then go the intercity route.
Specify the class ticket that you want, 1st, 2nd, etc. I travel 2nd class as it is much cheaper and if you want food on the trains, you can go to the dining car in first class and buy something and bring it back to your seat. Often there are beverage carts that are brought through the cars of all classes.
Be sure to read your ticket for your seat assignment the train car (for the CIS). This information is located at the bottom of your ticket. (There is a symbol of a train and a number; this is the car that you are to sit in. Near the symbol you will see a seat number 92f; this is your seat number. ( If you bought your ticket in advance above the window there will be a little card stating, for example, "From:Domodossola To Milan Centrale" and the hour. This means that this seat is reserved for someone for that hour to this destination. If you buy your ticket the day of departure, your assigned seat will have a Not Reserved above the window.) Always double check with the train porters for your seat assignments on the CIS if you are not sure.
If you do not want to sit in a smoking car, please be sure to tell the ticket window clerk "Non Fumatore" (On the train the cars also have the smoking and non smoking symbols. Be sure that you board a non smoking car). Don't be afraid to ask questions, everyone is usually very friendly and helpful.
On the Intercity trains there are not seat assignments or car assignments. You will also find the smoking and non smoking symbols on the cars. Be sure to check.
All the trains have numbers on the cars 1, 2, 3, these are the class of the car. So, if you are in 2nd class, car 5, non smoking, you find the 2nd class car number 5, non smoking. There will be a number 2 is a circle usually blue or green, then a little train symbol and a number 5, and the international non smoking sign. This will be your car. Then you proceed to locate your seat. Above most of the windows you will also see a number 2 is a blue or green circle; this specifies the class of the car.
Train travel is great. No traffic to deal with,and you can relax; enjoy the scenery, read, etc.
Also, be sure and get your ticket validated at the platform from which the train is leaving. For example, if your train to Milan is leaving from platform 8 ("binario 8") use the bright yellow validation box at 8 - not 9, 10, etc. The conductor may or may not check for the stamp, but you had better take the time to do it.
San Diego, CA USA Thu 07/01/2004
Validating tickets 2
The validating machines are at the front of the tracks They are yellow. On the metro, the validating machines are at the entrance to the track, you'll validate your ticket before you go through the turnstyle . On the buses, the ticket validating machines are found at the entrance to the bus and at the back of the bus. So be sure to validate your tickets.
San Diego, CA USA Thu 07/01/2004
I would highly recommend that you validate all your tickets. There are train porters on all the trains and tickets are always checked. You could be fined if you haven't validated your ticket. Another point to mention is be sure your ticket is for the train you are on and that the train is going to your destination. On a recent trip, the girl sitting next to me had to pay 5.75 E for being on the wrong train with the wrong ticket. So please validate all train tickets and be sure your ticket is valid on the train you are on.
Check the schedules on the boards that are at all stations. Check the time, train, and destination of your travel before purchasing your ticket. The binario/track on which the train will depart from is also listed on the schedule. Check the electonic boards as well as the track may change.
San Diego, CA USA Thu 07/01/2004
Paddington train to London-Don't
Skip taking the Paddington train from Heathrow to London. It is very expensive and a long walk from most terminals to reach the station. Then when you reach London Paddington you need to catch a expensive taxi to your destination or a bus. Take the low cost tube or Airbus. Thats what I do every trip after my expensive Paddington experience.
CA USA Mon 06/28/2004
Experience with train travel
I travel frequently to Europe (avg of once per month); here's what I've learned about using the trains:
1. DO NOT buy your tickets from Rail Europe - they totally rip you off. The first time I traveled with my husband to Italy (typicaly Rome, Florence, Venice trip) we purchased our tickets from RailEurope.com. Then, for research purposes, I priced the same tickets at the local train station - Rail Europe over-charged by 35-40%!!! Never again.
2. I have yet to try to purchase a ticket and found the train sold out. So I usually go the local train station 1-2 days before I want to travel, and purhase my ticket. I'm rarely in a hurry at this time (unlike trying to buy a ticket minutes before the train leaves).
3. Use the ticket machines whenever possible - they get easier and easier each year.
4. Travel in Second Class. I've traveled in both 1st and 2nd class on the EuroStar - the only difference is that you get a glass of juice and cookies for free in 1st class - definitely NOT worth the extra 40-50% for the ticket cost.
Norfolk, VA USA Mon 06/28/2004
Train Travel is a Time Waster
If you only have two weeks or less in Europe and you want to see a lot (like 10 countries in 14 days)I found that train travel is major time waster. By the time you check out of your hotel to the time you check in at your destination it is a whole day, not matter if your trip was 4 or 10 hours by car.
Car is way more time efficient. A car ride of 4 hours can become a 12 hour ordeal on a train (getting to the train station, waiting at the platform, etc.). Longer distances are more efficient by train. Sometimes you might be better off timewise picking one European location and staying there the whole time. Time is too valuable to be waiting around for a train.
Philadelphia, PA USA Sun 06/20/2004
Train Station Lockers
Most train stations have lockers where you can keep your gear. I lock up my pack and just take my day pack. When you return to that station, your luggage will be there waiting...they're actually quite large too...my friend and were able to fit both our packs in one locker
Cresco, IA USA Fri 06/18/2004
1st Class Train Travel and Reservations
I've read what Rick says about 1st and 2nd class train travel...they both arrive at precisely the same time and you miss the interaction with the locals by being in 1st class. However, I'll take the air-conditioning on hot days, the sparsely populated cars, the bigger seats, the more luggage room any day of the week. We spent 2 weeks in Switzerland with 1st class train tickets and it was worth every additional penny to be in the upgraded compartments with room to stretch out and relax.
When you're settled in to your seat ready for that perfect train ride to a perfect destination, and then you see 50+ sweaty loud teenagers heading out for a school field trip, you can be quite confident that they are NOT heading for the 1st class car...they will be sitting with the 2nd-class passengers who are looking forward to that special "local interaction" for the next 2 hours!!!
Also, we rode the Golden Pass from Interlaken to Montreaux (spelling?) with reservations. The train was packed and we were sorry to have to eject six bewildered passengers from our reserved seats, but planning ahead pays off. Be sure to have reservations on the scenic trains during high tourist seasons like Spring and Summer.
Tim Mynatt <email>
Knoxville, TN USA Thu 06/17/2004
Rail maintenance in UK
I just returned from a trip to the UK where many trains out of London were cancelled due to rail maintenance. It was quite a shock to get to the station and be told that there were no trains running from London to Liverpool. I don't know how long this was to last, but if you are going to be doing rail travel in the UK soon, you may want to recheck that there are no service interruptions.
Richardson, TX USA Sun 06/13/2004
Dutch ticket trauma
The Dutch national company NS has been cutting costs by shutting down many ticket offices. At some stations, the only way to buy a ticket now is by using a Dutch debit card, or coins. This can be a tremendous nuisance if you're not prepared. Oh, and just to add insult to injury, they're raising the fares again.
Amsterdam, NL Sun 06/13/2004
Train Travel in Europe
My daughter and I recently covered hundreds of miles through Europe by train. Some tips for first time European train travellers, like us.
If, like us, you didn't have a Eurorail Pass, don't leave it to the last minute to obtain your ticket. If you are staying in a city/town for more than 1 day, organise your ticket as soon as you can. We had to wait one and half hours in Salamanca to organise tickets to Toulouse. Don't assume there will be space for your luggage. Ours spent the trip from Pampilohsa to Hendaye in a toilet!! This was on a train going from Lisbon to Paris!!
Also don't assume that there will be a dining car on every train. We had a long, hungry 6 and half hour trip from Hendaye to Toulouse, arriving at 11.45pm. Knew we were in trouble, when all the locals were whipping the baguettes out of their bags a few hours into the journey.
If I am luck enough to do it all over again, I will make darn sure, I am travelling 'light'. Hard work dragging a large case up and down stairs. Only 2 stations on our entire journey had lifts.
In spite of all the above, I would do it all again!
Adelaide, SA Australia Thu 06/10/2004
Night train reservation
If you are making a reservation for a night train from Roma Termini there is a 12:00 pm cutoff time the day the train leaves. It may be the same elsewhere. So if you have problems getting reservations from other train stations like we did, make sure you get there early. Also, if you aren't sure if you need a reservation for a train or not--go ASK! If you don't need one, the ticket person will tell you.
Stayton, OR USA Tue 06/08/2004
Overnight train travel to Prague
I recently returned from a trip to Vienna, Prague, Munich and Salzburg. One thing I recommend with regard to train travel is this - do not take an overnight train from Vienna into Prague. The train was old, uncomfortable, the lights in our cabin didn't work, we were not informed that we had to transfer trains midway through the trip (until the last minute) and the train arrived in the main station of Prague 1 hour ahead of schedule.
This train station is not a place where you want to spend any amount of time (we had to spend an hour to wait for the subway to open). Also, because we arrived so early, we had to kill about 7 hours until our hotel room was available. So, because we had no sleep on the train we were awake for about 30 hours straight! Not a good first impression of such a beautiful city. I recommend that you take a day train into Prague instead.
Oakville, On Can Tue 06/08/2004
Required Reservations for TGV
We just returned from two weeks in France, traveling with a France Flexi-Pass. Most of our travel was on the TGV, which requires a separate (but reasonable) fee for reserving seats. The only problem is that each train only has a certain number of assigned seats available for rail pass holders, even though plenty of seats may be available for persons paying full fare. After being told in the station at Marseille the day before we planned to travel that there were no seats available for railpass holders on any of the TGVs for Nice the following day, we had decided to go ahead and board the train we wanted anyway and stand or hang out in the bar car if we couldn't sit. We decided, though, to call SNCF (the French rail company) and they gave us reserved seats. Maybe getting in another line at the station and talking to another agent might have worked, too. In any event, people need to be aware of the limitations of the rail pass and reserve as early as possible to assure they will have seats.
Austin, TX USA Sun 06/06/2004
It is true that some trains require an extra reservation aside from the railpass. Eurostar is one of those train lines. If you get a Eurail schedule with your railpass, look for the "ESI" trains, chances are they will require a reservation. Also, overnight trains require one as well.
Florence, MA USA Tue 05/25/2004
Eurail Pass Do's
Make sure you keep the blue envelope that your railpass comes with, with the pass. Some train conductors are fussy about requiring it to validate your Eurail pass for travel. This requirement seems useless, but better to carry some extra paper than deal with the hassles. Also, make sure to ask your hotel about train strikes...they pop up frequently, without much warning. Usually they are 24 hours, but can cause big traveling headaches.
USA Sun 05/23/2004
buying rail tix from machines in italy
we used the automatic machines in major rail stations to buy all our rail tix in italy last week (1st or 2nd class, reservations, etc). you choose your language, and it is very easy to make reservations from anywhere to anywhere, or you can use the machine to simply check schedules. they take a charge card (not cash), i used Visa.
Winston Salem, NC USA Fri 05/14/2004
Train travel seat assignments
In Italy on the trains - when they say reservations - they mean reservations. I thought you basically only reserved "space" on the train but in fact get assigned seating just like an airplane. Anyway, be aware of that fact. We werent' and spent the first 15 minutes on the train from Venice to Rome trying to find the right seats. Finally, there seems to be no rhyme or reason for their numbering system for the seat, although they are consistent from car to car. Good luck - any be more attentive than I was.
McKinney, TX USA Mon 05/10/2004
Eurostar train in Italy
The poster below discussing the Eurostar trains in Italy was totally correct in stating that you do have a specific seat and car reservation when you buy the tickets and that the your destination may not be the final destination of the train. He didn't mention that there is a number on your ticket (like a flight number) which corresponds to the correct train. I think it was a 4 digit number. Also the track that the train is leaving from may not be posted on the board inside the station until close to the time the train is leaving. We bought our tickets from a travel agency near our hotel in Rome. (look for the word "viaggi" on the title of the business).
San Francisco, CA USA Sun 04/25/2004
We just returned from Europe yesterday. I urge those who are going to use the Eurostar to make their reservations from the US and pay for the tickets in USD. We did not do this and it cost us hundreds of dollars more. Do not get caught in this trap.
USA Sat 04/24/2004
Nostalgia trips in Germany
Some of the great train travel experiences I had while living in Germany were the frequent special trips using vintage railway equipment from decades ago. Die Bahn has a special part of its Web site for "nostalgiefahrten." These are trips using older passenger cars and locomotives---frequently steam locomotives! The routes are usually scenic and the older equipment makes the trip all the more memorable. Other countries do this, but not as often. (Britain is an exception.)
Frisco, TX USA 04/18/04
ES Reservations in Italy
What exactly is a "reservation" when traveling on an ES train in Italy? Well for first time train travelers like myself, I found out the hard way that reservations mean that you have a specific assigned seat on a specific coach on the train. Since the tickets you receive are only in Italian, look on the lower portion of the ticket. In the center is a picture of a train, the number below the picture is the coach number, the number(s) next to this number is the actual seat number(s). It's like a boarding pass on a plane. Also, ES reserved tickets do not require validation. I purchased all of my tickets at the AmEx office in Rome, which was very convenient, but neither they nor Rick's book mentioned that reservations mean you have an actual seat assigned on a specific car number. Also, ignore the destination posted on the boards, your train may actually end up in a different city than you are traveling to, if you pay attention to the scheduled time, then you are good to go. Once you know this train travel in Italy is very easy. Rick, you should update your book for "dummies" like me to be more specific about reservations.
Seattle, WA USA 04/16/04
German Rail ticket machines
In early April, I met 2 Rick Steves fans while waiting for the KD ship in St. Goar. When we arrived in Bacharach, they needed help buying rail tickets from the machine. I helped them, but the one thing I didn't know how to do was make it one ticket for two people. We knew it had something to do with the green "+" button, but we couldn't make it work.
After they left, I had more time and figured it out. (It helps to read the instructions, but they are in German so that won't help most Americans). In case they read this, or for anyone else using these machines in Germany, this is the answer.
After entering the 4 digit destination code the first time, the machine displays the price for one person. If the green button is pressed once, it offers to sell you one ticket for two people, but asks you to re-enter the destination code. After you re-enter the destination code, it will display the price for two people, and if you insert the money, it will print a ticket for two people.
Two other tips for using these machines:
1. When you give it cash, you will get all of your change in coins. You might want to avoid using big bills if possible. If you give it a 50 Euro note for a 14 Euro ticket, you will get 36 Euro in coins.
2. If you use your ATM card, you will get to TWO pieces of paper - the first one is your receipt. Make sure you wait for your ticket, too.
Littleton, CO USA 04/12/04
From Sorrento to Naples the train may stop short of Naples and you have to get out. Follow the crowd up the stairs and down again to a waiting city bus which leaves you off at the Naples Central Station.
Verona, NJ USA 04/12/04
Validate your ticket!
Here's a tip I can't recall whether or not Rick touched on in his book-we took a day trip from Paris to Chartres via the RER. After purchasing your ticket, be sure to validate it using the orange machines located on the train platform. We didn't and found out that we could have been fined 10 euros for neglecting to do so! Thanks goes out to the very kind and understanding conductor, who took pity on us unaware travellers!
Port Coqutilam , BC Canada 04/10/04
For a relaxed train boarding
If you're departing a large or medium size city and have several departures going your way, look at a time table and choose the train that originates from your departure city. By doing so you'll have a better choice of seats (or a better chance of getting a seat) and you'll have more time to lug all your luggage aboard (if you're chronic overpackers like us).
Walnut, ca USA 04/09/04
Transportation between Rome and Ciampino Airport
If you arrive in Rome via easyJet or RyanAir at the Ciampino Airport, don't bother with the express bus service they provide. It is expensive and not worth it! Instead, walk over to the city bus stop to the left of the parking lot and buy a ticket in the machine for your stay in Rome (day and week passes are good for busses, metros, and the train that will take you into Rome). The machine will take large euro bills up to 50 euros, I believe. The local bus will arrive every 10 minutes and you buy an inexpensive bus ticket from the driver. He will take you directly to the Ciampino train station where a train will take you right to Termini station--and much sooner than if you were caught in traffic on the express bus! Get off the train, and walk to the underground escalator for the metro or outside for the busses.
Almere, NL 04/08/04
tgvs mistaken identity
I just want to add one more thing to my last entry which was very long . We are in our 50s not back packers but we still love the trains and not having to drive to get where we want. we also love Eurpoe and particularly France so much that when we retire we plan on renting someplace on the Meditierranean (probably Nice or Antibes) and spending three months probably Jan 15-April 15 there each year
Janice L. Killingbeck <email>
Saginaw, MI USA 03/30/04
Eurostar in Italy
we walked into any travel agency displaying the F/S sign and bought our tickets there. We would ask for 2 tickets Eurostar one way to (city) on (date) and (time) Very easy to do and I did it using my one phrase Italian--most of the agents are fluent or almost totally comfortable with English. At the train stations the departure/arrival boards are easy to understand regarding time and which platform. Hint: take your own food for long trips! That's what the locals do!
vancouver, canada 03/26/04
Renfe Web Reservations
Train Reservations on the Web in Spain I arrived the morning of the dreadful Madrid bombings and because most sites were closed for mourning, I decided to make my way to Zaragoza. I found that there is a 15% fee for changing tickets ordered and paid for on the web. Best to buy them in person; you can exchange or have them refunded at no charge.
Jan paul Miller
Baltimore, MD USA 03/24/04
Booking tickets on the Web
Booking tickets through the various national train sites in their home language is a great idea, subject to the issues other posters have raised. I've done it several times and it works well. I you're not sure of the language, open another Internet window and go to http://babelfish.altavista.com/babelfish/tr You can copy and paste in words and phrases you don't understand, and it will translate them into English...for free! A great way to ensure you actually end up going where you want to go! :)
Ottawa, ON Can 03/11/04
Deutsche Bahn web site
We used the Deutsche Bahn web site to plan train times before we left. Very handy. I considered purchasing the ticket in advance through the web site at one point, because it seemed like they offered a special fare. It was a good thing I didn't, because the ticket only cost HALF as much as the web site price when we bought it at the train station the day before travel. Saved 65 Euros.
Brooks Rownd <email>
Denver, CO USA 02/12/04
Know Where Your Train is Going!
Something (though probably common sense) I just learned from my last trip: DO NOT ever get on a train without verifying the number of the train first. This can be especially dangerous in smaller train stations, because one train may be listed to arrive next at a certain track, but other trains can make quick stops there without being marked.
I was waiting for my Avignon-Paris TGV (which was next on the list to come into the platform and was also a little late). So when a train pulled up I got on in the car number marked on my ticket and was surprised when the train pulled out about two seconds after I had stepped onto it. I started looking for my seat and thought it was strange that the seating seemed to be open and the numbers did not correspond at all with those on my ticket. I finally asked an older couple if the train was headed to Paris and they told me it was a regular train to Lyon! Luckily I found the conductor in the dining car before the next stop in Orange, because that was also the last stop for the TGV before Paris. He was very nice and I ended up getting on my correct train very easily just 10 minutes later in Orange.
I was very lucky, but I almost
had a heart attack when I found out I could be headed for Lyon at a snail's
pace when I had expected (and needed) to get to Paris in 3 hours. It seems
really stupid and obvious now, but I think it's a simple mistake tired
travelers could easily make, and you could be on your way somewhere else
before you even have the chance to realize you have the wrong train.
Avignon, France 02/04/04
Trains in France
The SNCF website is indispensible if you are planning on taking trains in France. If you can, use the French version because I've had trouble with the site in English that never happens when I use it in French. Also, they offer a "simple option" for reserving your tickets--you can reserve and not pay! That is, up to a certain date. I believe the cut off date is usually about a week after you make the reservation. This works great if you are unsure about your travel plans but don't want to get stuck without a ticket. I fly standby, so I was able to reserve my TGV ticket right before leaving the US, then not pay till I picked up my ticket (my cutoff time for paying the reservation was a few hours before the train left).
Also, this is kind of cheating, but if I want to be sure farther ahead of time that I will have a ticket but don't want to commit yet, I reserve my tickets using the "simple option," then when the cut off date approaches, I just make another reservation. If I can't, then I know I have to buckle down and pay because there will be no tickets left. Otherwise I can keep stalling like that right up to the departure date, or whenever it is convenient for me to pick up my ticket. (You can also have them mailed).
Also, if you use the site in
French you get access to all the deals that the English version doesn't
have. The last 4 or 5 tickets I've bought have been from their "Prems"
promos--TGV tickets for 20 euros! These are for when you reserve in advance,
and you either print the ticket on your computer or have it mailed within
France, but it will not mail to the US (it directs US buyers to the raileurope
site). If you leave France as the selected country and then print them
yourself, you shouldn't have a problem. These tickets are not exchangeable
or reimburseable, but personally I think it's worth it. Paris to Avignon
for 20 euros instead of the full fare of 80 euros. And there are many
many many destinations to choose from. This probably sounds really complicated,
and I admit it's probably easier to just buy your ticket normally ahead
of time and spend the extra money, but you gotta admit 75 percent off
is a pretty good deal ;-).
Avignon, France 02/04/04
UK trains at Christmas
The entire train system shuts down for Christmas and Boxing Day. During the week after Christmas, the automated ticket machines are on holiday; expect massive line-ups for a real ticket seller.
Vancouver, BC Canada 01/10/04
RE: Bavaria Ticket
The best description I've seen of the "Bayern Ticket" was at www.euraide.de/ricksteves because it includes the restrictions (so that you use the right trains).
Richard West <email>
Denver, CO USA 01/08/04
Unlimited Travel in Bavaria for 22 Euros
After years of independent travel, I learned a valuable lesson in Munich last week. Waiting in line to speak with the Railway Information Agents can save money. Using the ticket vending machine, the return ticket price from Munich to Fussen for 2-adults in 2nd class is 56 euros. Luckily before purchasing, I went to ask a question. The agent told me about the Bayern-Ticket (Bavaria Ticket). Unlimited travel on the RB (Regional Trains) for one-day for up to 5-persons...all for only 22 euros. The ticket covers all of southern Germany, parts of Austria and Switzerland!
Fort Lauderdale, FL USA 01/04/04