Just back from a great European vacation.
Had Eurail passes (first class) purchased from Rail Europe.
We had reservations on a few of the routes, as we were told they were not only suggested but mandatory.
Is that the case? And if so, why?
Every train we were on (except one) was way less than one-third full. In many train cars, we and a few others were the only ones there.
With the Eurail pass you supossedly need mandatory reservations for certain routes, and there is a surcharge for this.
Overall, we added about $200 to the regular cost of our Saver passes for these reservations.
With the Eurail pass, basically you can just hop on a train and sit in first (if that's your pass) or second classs.
Are these "mandatory" reservations a bit of a rip-off from Rail Europe, or are their hands tied because of some actual reservation (in additon to your passes) deal?
Just more of curiosity on our part: Why mandatory reservations -- for an extra fee, of course -- when nearly all of the trains had plenty of empty seats?
If we had just boarded the train and sat in empty first class seats -- with our Eurail passes correctly filled out and up to date -- would we have been asked to pay for a reservation?
As they say, "Enquiring" Minds Want to Know!

Posted by Tim
Minneapolis, MN, USA
8641 posts

Glad you had a great trip!

Reservations are required on most high-speed trains, optional on some other kinds of trains, and not even possible on regional trains. When you buy a point-to-point ticket, the reservation is included in the fare and you are given an assigned seat. With a railpass, buying a reservation gets you the necessary seat assignment. If you take any night trains, you have to pay for assigned sleeping accommodations.

If you know exactly when you want to travel and won't be spontaneously jumping on and off trains, buying point-to-point tickets can be cheaper than a railpass, particularly if you book them well in advance on a country's national rail site to take advantage of discount fares. And, if you take night trains, the cost of the supplement for sleeping accommodations for passholders can be nearly as much as a discount fare alone.

For a full explanation, click on the Railpasses tab at the top of the page you're reading now.

Posted by James
Dearborn, MI, USA
2 posts

Thanks for the info. As mentioned, we had a great trip and the reservations deal didn't negatively impact our excursion at all.
It's funny, though, why some reservations are necessary when there are so many empty seats.
For example, we were told that reservations were mandatory for Milan to Basel. Majority of seats were empty.
But from Basel to Frankfurt, reservations were not necessary. Again, not many on the train.
As mentioned, just curious...if we would have just boarded the train (day trains Milan to Basel, or Munich to Venice, etc.) with our first-class Eurail passes -- filled out correctly -- and taken a first class seat, would we have had to pay the reservation fee on the spot when the ticket person came by?
Or would they have seen our good first-class Eurail passes and just validated them accordingly?
Who knows...maybe everyone else on board had reservations as well, either with a Eurail pass or with a point-to-point ducat.
What I need is another gelato!

Posted by Tim
Minneapolis, MN, USA
8641 posts

Here is a quote regarding reservations from the Railpasses section on this site: "Pay before boarding for any required fees, or the conductor will charge more en route."

Posted by Tom
Newport Beach, CA, USA
756 posts

Could you have just sat in SECOND CLASS and not paid the fee? I know the Eurailpass has 1st class only for certain ages or deals - but I wonder if they care as long as there was room in 2nd as well.

Posted by Tim
Minneapolis, MN, USA
8641 posts

Tom, for trains that require reservations, you must buy one for a seat in either 1st or 2nd class.