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Already in Europe and having problems deciding and buying train tickets

Hi!! I need some major help! We are 2 adults, 2 children (7 and 9), we are in Europe right now and need to buy train tickets and have spent a lot of hours studying the articles, forum, websites...but it is a bit too much to grasp to make a good decision.
Could someone please give me a hand, this is my itenerary:

Date Route # hrs Type
18-Jul Prague- Cologne 8hrs 1st class
19-Jul Cologne-Alkmaar(Holland) 3 hrs 2nd class
26-Jul Alkmaar-Paris 4 hrs 2nd class
8-Aug Paris-Nice 6 hrs 1st class
9-Aug Nice-Rome 8.5 hrs 1st class

For the long trips we would like first class, we are travelling with small children.
We would like to travel during the day, not in the overnights
Where could be the best place to buy the tickets, I went to the DB site but it does not allow me to buy all the tickets, fares are not available.

When I buy the tickets it is automatically reserved? or that is another step?

First timer here, THANK YOU SO MUCH for any help you can give us!
Lina

Posted by
33330 posts

Wow, those are some Looong train journeys. Especially with 2 kiddiewinks.

Are you aware that you can fly from Prague to Amsterdam in 90 minutes (Czech or Smart Wings) leaving at 7 and arriving at half past eight?

It is very late now for cheap train fares or cheap flights, but skyscanner just found me Expedia fares of £400 (around €557) for the 4 of you on the 18th.

Surely that would be easier, and maybe cheaper, than an 8 hour first class train, a hotel in Koeln, and another 3 hour journey the next day?

Paris to Rome is probably easier to fly too, rather than a TGV to Nice and a night there, and another all day train (I've done it, just this past March) from Nice to Rome. The train connection at Genova PG was particularly unpleasant (not unsafe, just unpleasant).

But if you want to use the trains you need the key.

The key is to use DBahn for the scheduling but it can only issue tickets on trains which are in Germany or originate or terminate there. Use the national railway for where the train originates for other than all in Germany fares.

You should be able to get a fare Prague to Koeln from DB (or Prague to Nuremberg (DB bus is quicker and more comfortable than train on that leg) and then Nuremberg to Koeln.) They should be able to do Koeln to Alkmaar.

Your last three journeys are all completely outside Germany which is why they can't give you a price.

Alkmaar to Paris needs to be a local Dutch train from Alkmaar to Amsterdam (www.ns.nl) and then a high speed Thalys (www.thalys.com) from Amsterdam via Brussels to Paris. For such a long day I wouldn't advise using the slower trains which will collectively take all day.

Look at Capitaine Train for the Paris to Rome via Nice, but I repeat please consider flying.

Posted by
7209 posts

Already there and just now trying to figure it out? You need to decide between trains and flights on those 8+ hour trips. You can walk up to any ticket counter at the train station in the city where you currently are and buy a ticket from there to your next destination.

Posted by
20461 posts

Right now, I'd go online and buy the Prague-Cologne tickets. Best connection by train is Prague-Berlin-Cologne. Only one connection to make in Berlin with a 1/2 hour transfer time which is very comfortable.
Price for 2 adults and 2 children 1st class is 178 euro nonrefundable. Leave at 8:30 and get to Cologne at 6:09 pm.
http://reiseauskunft.bahn.de/bin/query.exe/en?country=USA
Cologne-Alkmaar at the same site. Other trains might be easier using www.capitainetrain.com. You might be able to get them all there, but the Deutsche Bahn site is so easy to use.

Posted by
922 posts

You can purchase the tickets at capatainetrain.com. For July 18, they are showing a price of around 60 euros per person from Prague to Cologne in first class. Many of the first class options are well over 400 euros. The issue that I see is that you have 3 train changes to get the cheapest fares and it takes 9 and a half hours. Just to make your decision more difficult :-) I also looked at skyscanner.net for flights. Germanwings has an 8 AM flight that departs from Prague and lands in Cologne at 9:15 AM for $50 per person. The total time for this trip would be less than half of the train ride time. You can also find short flights from Nice to Rome for less than $100 per person on your travel date. I recommend the train for the other legs of your trip. Good luck!

Posted by
6 posts

Hi! Thank you all for the information! I has been a big help, I will check it out. I try to minimize my plane travels, very uncomfortable some times :-S. if any other idea comes your way, let me know :-)
Lina

Posted by
32266 posts

lina,

As I'm sure you've realized by now, these details would have been better to work out before your trip.

Could you clarify a few details and comments....

  • Do you actually want to stop in Cologne, or is that just a layover point on the way to Holland?
  • On the trip from Paris to Nice, travel time is a bit shorter at 5H:36M. Note that you'll be departing from Gare de Lyon, so be sure to allow enough time to get from your hotel to that station (Paris has about six different rail stations). Your destination station will be Nice Ville.

For the trip from Paris to Nice, you might consider buying tickets at www.capitainetrain.com as they're the same price as booking through the national rail networks. Registration is required on the website, but after that the process is very easy and their customer service is excellent should you have any problems. Tickets will include reservations where required.

You should be able to also buy tickets for the Nice to Rome segment using the same website. The easiest trip (fewest changes) appears to be a departure at 08:09, arriving Roma Termini at 16:32. As I recall that route passes along the coast for awhile through the Cinque Terre, so hopefully your reservations will have you in seats on the right side of the train. That train includes a layover in Genova for about an hour, which will provide lots of time to locate your next train and perhaps grab a coffee or whatever.

Posted by
6 posts

Hi Ken! Thank you for your recommendations! The thing is that we have been in Europe for 3 months now based in Barcelona and doing weekend short travels from Barcelona, we are staying 2 more months, now on vacation - before the kids went to school and we worked...but yes, this planning part of the trip - in train because I avoid planes- has been a bit overwhelming. I thank you all for making it a bit easier, this resource has been fantastic!!

I am doing the layover in Cologne and Nice just to take a break because of the kids, no particular reason, I was just in Cote d' Azur last week for 10 days.
Again thank you for taking the time to aswer me and having the patience to explain it in such detail.
Lina

Posted by
5697 posts

You have been in Europe 3 months working and now taking 2 months as vacation? I'm hoping one of you has a EU passport and the other has a spousal visa / permit -- otherwise Schengen rules may be a problem.

Posted by
32266 posts

lina,

Given the time you've been in Europe, I have the same questions regarding the Schengen Visa issue.

The trip from Prague to Alkmaar is going to be a long one by rail, even if you do stop at an intermediate point for one night. However, if you don't want to fly, that's the only option.

Posted by
6 posts

Hi! No problem with Visas, we have European passports :-) Thanks you!

Posted by
32266 posts

lina,

One alternative to going through Cologne would be to travel Prague > Berlin > Amsterdam (Alkmaar). I haven't looked at the exact times, but I have travelled that route and Berlin makes a good intermediate layover point.

Posted by
506 posts

You can always go to a travel agent. They charge very little extra and know their stuff. I know in Italy that a lot of times you have to go through a major station like Florence to go any where. So if you are going small city to small city many times you have to head back to a large city and change to the small city.