I'm a first time traveler to Europe so forgive my naivety but I was under the impression that buying a eurail pass would ensure mostly if not all free access to the trains systems. I've purchased a 15 day global flexi pass and have been looking into train reservations. In every quote there's at least a $150 additional fee. Is this usual? I was planning on taking a few nighttrains but the fare with pass is around $300. Most of the books I've read have mentioned a reservation fee but is it really in the hundreds? Any info on this would be really helpful. Thanks!
Anita....where are you getting your reservation quotes from? $150 sounds quite high, even for RailEurope!;) Unfortunately, the days of just hopping aboard any train with a Eurail pass are long gone. Most of the fast trains require reservations now, and even if they're available when you walk up to the ticket window, they still cost extra. Also extra are sleeping accommodations for overnight trains, and some of those expenses can be quite hefty. Add to that the fact that the Internet has made the task of booking discount rail tickets very simple, and the advantages of the pass continue to decline. But now that you have the pass, let's try and make the best of it. Let us know where you've been trying for reservations, and what your itinerary is, and one of us can probably suggest ways of reducing those costs considerably.
Anita, I think if you stick to trains of the national rail companies (regional, IC), you will find that supplements are not required and seat reservations, purchased over there, are quite inexpensive and not required. Many countries have created quasi private companies, usually wholly owned by the national rail to run "premium trains" (Thalys, TGV, Italian Eurostar) for which they can charge extra (supplements) to railpass holders. On German Rail, there is no passholder supplement for the Intercity Express (ICE) trains, which are about as fast as the TGV, and reservations are normally not required.
Some stateside ticket sellers will try to sell reservations for only the premium trains where they make a big profit on the reservation.
I'm not sure what Lee means by "quasi-private companies, usually wholly owned by the national rail to run 'premium trains' for which they can charge extra." TGV is part of SNCF, EuroStar and Alta Velocita are part of Italy's Ferrovie dello Stato, AVE is part of RENFE in Spain. They aren't quasi-private companies, and the national rail services simply didn't create these trains to charge more....they charge more because these trains are faster. While it may be true that most trains in Germany don't require reservations, that isn't the case in places like France, Italy, and Spain. Unfortunately as well, there aren't alternatives like regional and IC trains in France and Spain, unless you want to go way out of your way and double or triple your travel time. Even in Italy, many IC trains require reservations for many routes. Anita, once again, if you give us your tentative itinerary, we can assist you with where to find the reservations that are necessary, for a lot cheaper than where you're checking now.....BTW, what site are you using to get those reservation costs?
Thank you for your help. I've been looking on Rail Europe. I've tried to google using "night train" + whichever destination and can only come up with explanations as to what night trains are. I haven't found any other sites listing supplemental and reservation fees other than rail europe. My tentative trip includes hopefully a night train from Paris to Madrid, which is listed as $192 for pass holders, a night train from Barcelona to Genoa listed for $208, and a night train from Berlin to Amsterdam listed for $189. These are all first class fares due to being 26+. There are a few other fees listed for other destinations on my schedule but they are relatively cheap and easy to handle on my budget. It's these night trains that seem pricey. I've also looked into taking a plane from Barcelona to Nice instead of riding the rail to Genoa. This may be a better option if all else fails. Once again, thanks so much for your help. :}
Hi Anita, The reservation fees are all over the map, depending on where you are going (and where you buy your ticket).
Regarding overnights its the same. We skipped the Overnight from Paris to Nice because buying the ticket in Paris it would be about $400 extra for the 4 of us and it wasn't in our budget.We slept sitting up.
Going back from Nice to Paris we bought the tickets in italy and it was about $100 for All 4 of us !!! We had a Great Overnight ride and enjoyed the "sleeper car".
You can get a list of railpass reservation fees and supplement costs for night trains on this very site. Click on the Railpasses tab at the top of the page you're reading now. Click on the link on this page.
While I much prefer trains over flying, for Barcelona-Nice flying makes a lot of sense. The budget airline Vueling has fares that are cheaper than the sum of the supplemental fees and reservation fees you'd need to pay if you use your railpass for that route.
I was really surprised by this also. To save a few hundred dollars we decided to purchase point to point tickets but we are only going to be traveling in 3-4 countries. Best of luck!