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Another Rail Pass Question - Yay or Nay?

Starting to get a little freaked out about what to do as far as Rail tickets go. Having never been to Europe, the whole train travel is a bit intimidating!

The age-old conundrum: RailPass or Point to Point?? Obviously, we'd like to get the best deal but we'd also like the most convenient. The Rail pass seemed like a good idea until I learned that only a certain number of seats are reserved on each train for rail pass holders AND that you have to pay for reservations. However, the pass does cover city to city (Paris to Bayeux or Salzburg to Hallstat, for example) which would eliminate the headache of always hunting down tickets.

I emailed RailEurope and got their suggestion, but they are trying to make a profit from these passes.

Does anyone have any suggestions? Is it fairly easy to get a reservation a day or two ahead of your planned trip? If we were to arrive at a train station in one city and buy our tickets to the next there, for example.

I would so appreciate and help on this subject.

Posted by
22983 posts

....Is it fairly easy to get a reservation a day or two ahead of your planned trip? .....

To specifically address that part of your question. In all of our travel experience we have never had a problem getting a ticket for a train when we went to go. Sometimes within an hour or so of departure. So the specific answer is -- it is very easy to a reservation a day or two ahead. Trains are extremely frequent with large capacity.

Posted by
173 posts

Thank you, Steve.
I have actually contacted the Rail Department at Rick Steves.
What I was asking for is personal experiences and opinions.

Posted by
18941 posts

Salzburg to Hallstatt:

The rail connection is roundabout (through Attnang-Puchheim) and takes a few minutes longer than the bus to Bad Ischl and the train from there to Hallstatt. The bus isn't included with a rail pass.

Point-point entirely by train, via Attnang-Puchheim, is €22,50 to the Bahnhof across the lake from Hallstatt. You don't have to pay for reservations.

I took the bus so I could stop in Mondsee, and the total fare was €13,20 to Bad Ischl. Add €3,60 for the train to Hallstatt and the bus and train via Mondsee is €16,80.

I went to Germany in 2000 and used a rail pass. When I got home I calculated what it would have cost P-P, and I found I broke even for the trains I used, but could have used less expensive trains. Since then, every trip (7 more), I've done the math first, and a rail pass has never been cost effective.

Posted by
4555 posts

As Steve metioned, the only way to really tell is to check out your planned journeys through the various national rail websites. The routes, costs, reservation charges, and occupancy can change drastically from country to country and from day to day.
You've already received some good advice on the Salburg-Hallstat route. For Paris-Bayeux, no reservation needed. I've purchased in advance for this route at because I knew when I was travelling, and wanted the deal! ;) Right now, it's going for about 21 euro in advance on the website. You'd pay about 35 Euro for a walkup ticket. So you'll have to compare that to the cost of one day of your pass to see if you need the flexibility a pass would give you.
However, on a TGV route like Paris-Nice, or the Thalys to Brussels or Amsterdam, the supplements can be quite high, and you may find yourself without a reservation being available if it happens to be a weekend or special holiday. You can get around that by booking reservations with RailEurope. But that'll lock you into a specific train, and if you want to do that, you may as well drop the idea of purchasing a pass and buy regular point to point tickets via the web instead.
The only place I have ever found a pass to be cost effective is in Spain.....only if I'm travelling on the fast AVE trains, and only I can't get the web discount tickets.
If you detail your itinerary here, one of our rail expets will be sure to take it in hand and give you an idea as to the point to point costs, if you want to book ahead on the various national rail websites.