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Beware of Eurail Policies.

I spent $900 on a Eurail pass for myself and my wife.
1. In Paris, I filled out the itinerary portion then I took it to the ticket counter, they put the date in the small date block and stamped it.
2. The next day, I took it to the ticket counter in Bruges. The gentleman looked at it and said, “you’re good to get on the next train.”
3. On that train, the conductor said the date block wasn’t filled so we had to purchase new tickets. I offered to fill the date in but he said no, that it had to be done before we got on the train. When I refused to purchase a new ticket, he took my Eurail pass and said he would keep it and that we had to get off at the next stop!
4. I snatched MY Eurail pass from him and handed it to my wife who quickly filled in the date.
5. The Train attendant then started pushing me. He assaulted me three times without any aggressive act from me other than taking back MY pass.
6. He called the police who were waiting at the next stop.
7. After departing the train, the police asked a few questions and allowed us on the next train without incident. ( The police were VERY kind, helpful and understanding )
8. During all of this, someone also stole my camera bag containing $4,000 in camera equipment which was necessary for my trip to Europe.
9. Nobody explained that WE had to fill in the date block as they also had to be stamped. But to threaten us then assualt me because of the lack of Eurail explanation?
10. The rigid nature of Eurail Pass almost escalated into a brutal fight on the train. Unlike the train staff, I was able to control my temper, even while being assaulted.
ALL COULD HAVE BEEN PREVENTED BY BETTER EURAIL POLICY!!!!
Beware!

Posted by
3368 posts

ALL COULD HAVE BEEN PREVENTED BY BETTER EURAIL POLICY!!!!

Actually, it all could have been prevented if you'd read and understood the procedure and filled in the date before you boarded the train. If you weren't clear on the procedure, you should have asked at the train counter. If you had read up on rail passes on this site before your trip, you would have seen this reminder:

if you're using a flexipass, you'll have to fill in your travel days
as you go. On your flexipass, you'll see a string of blank boxes, one
for each travel day available to you. Either just before or after
boarding, fill in that day's date in ink in one of the blank boxes on
your pass before the conductor reaches you. (Don't fill out the dates
any farther in advance, in case your plans change.)

Posted by
16941 posts

I think at step 3, just buying a ticket (14.80 EUR pp to Brussels Midi) and getting a receipt to dispute it later, would have prevented steps 4 through 10. But it is another reason that the Eurail Pass is a thing of the past, IMO.

Posted by
5 posts

"read and understood the procedure"
Ours was an honest misunderstanding of NOT clearly defined rules. There was no mal intent. We were not trying to defraud the train system. Working in the service industry, the conductor should have shown some level of respect and helped us understand the issue rather that trying to penalize us and drawing negative attention to the flaws in Eurail Pass instructions.

My point is that as we had purchased the Eurail Pass, the conductor could have corrected us and had us fill in the date rather than being rude, then trying to confiscate our Eurail Pass. I do not believe in ANY case, he had the right to keep our pass.

Do we even need to discuss him shoving me three times? I am pretty well trained military officer an can handle myself. But should such a misunderstanding lead to physical assault?

As the Eurail Pass provided questionable savings (at best) this incident ensured we will no longer use Eurail Pass. The primary reason we purchased was to simply our travels. Never again.

Posted by
3368 posts

If your complaint was with the behavior of the conductor, (and it certainly is) then why blame eurail?

Posted by
533 posts

If conductors were routinely to forgive "honest mistakes," then nobody would ever fill in the dates on their passes. They'd wait for the conductor to come around and then feign ignorance, and if the conductor never came around, they'd get the trip for free. That's why ticket inspectors throughout Europe are so strict, and they don't generally take "it was an honest mistake" as an excuse. There has to be some penalty for traveling without a properly purchased/filled out/validated ticket, otherwise there's no reason for anybody to have one, and everybody would try their luck with traveling for free.

Posted by
5 posts

The reason I posted here was to let people know that as enticing as Eurail Pass seems, they have less than clearly defined instructions and minute loopholes that can cause problems.

The bottom line is that I paid for this travel, I did not try to defraud the train system and we should not have been treated this way.

Posted by
3368 posts

Khbuzzard is correct. And while I said that your beef was with the conductor, I didn't mean to imply that his actions were necessarily unwarranted. Assuming that you had to have left your seat in order to snatch the pass from him and then be pushed; this may have been interpreted as an aggressive move on your part. I'm not surprised that the police were called. The conductor may have over reacted. But in this age of violence and antisocial behavior, he may have been acting defensively.

Posted by
5 posts

LOL! I thank you for your understanding in this matter (sarcasm).

He could have asked us to get off at the next station and I would have politely complied.

While I don't know the laws in Europe, I seriously doubt he had the legal right to confiscate the Eurail Pass that I had paid for. At that point, I'm simply protecting my property.

If someone tried to confiscate your Passport, would you sit quietly aside and wait to complain at the next station?

In any case, I posted here originally to warn people of the importance (and consequences) of the details regarding use of Eurail. Instead, others only want to tell me how wrong I am.

I'm sure we're not the first to have misunderstandings about the use of Eurail Pass and I have reported to Eurail in hopes that they streamline a process to remove loopholes that can lead to mistakes, omissions or frustration.

Posted by
16883 posts

It's unfortunate that this issue escalated. However, I consider Eurail's documentation sent with the pass to be more than adequate. (Gone are the days when we felt compelled to ship passes with an explanation of our own design.)

  • In the brochure called the Eurail Pass Guide, see the flexi pass dates described on pages 4, 8, 9, and 15.
  • The pass itself has the words "Travel calendar below must be filled in." That area does not specify "by you in blue or black ink," but that's stated right below, on the colorful cover of the pass, as part of "How to use your Eurail Pass in 4 steps."

Whether a conductor stamps over the travel date after you write it is not the key. Some do and some don't. It also wasn't necessary to take it to the ticket window in Bruges. That agent may have thought you wanted a seat reservation or other ticket, which you did not need.

Traveling without a valid (properly dated) ticket does incur a fine and a new ticket purchase. Page 17 of the Eurail Pass Guide describes the penalties. Some point-to-point tickets also require validation by the traveler, although it's becoming less common as more train tickets are purchased for specific dates and times instead of open dates. Conductors have full authority and often a rigid attitude, as they're up against many people trying to play tricks with both tickets and passes.

Similar info online includes:

Posted by
533 posts

When people truly want to caution others against repeating their mistakes, they usually focus their posts on explaining, in detail, what they did wrong and what they wish they'd done differently. Not on blaming everyone and everything else they can think of (the Eurail policies, the station staff in Bruges, the conductor, the person who stole your camera bag, as if that has anything to do with it).

I see this is your first time posting here. I don't know if you've spent much time here as a lurker, but if you have, you'd know that the "it's everyone's fault but mine" attitude doesn't usually get a whole lot of sympathy.

I understand that it's an upsetting experience to pay a lot of money for something and then be told that you have to pay even more because of some silly mistake. We all make mistakes. But it's your responsibility to understand the rules and policies of whatever ticket you're using, or else pay the penalty, or else find another way of getting from A to B.

Posted by
31524 posts

First of all, sorry to hear about your camera gear. Losing expensive gear like that is a devastating thing to occur on a holiday. Hopefully you had insurance.

While the mistake with the Rail pass was unintentional, it was still your mistake and Conductors don't always take a lenient approach to ticket infractions. From what I understand, they have some discretion on how they handle each case. The same situation occurs in Italy with people using Rail passes on express trains, such as the high speed Freccia trains. Those who don't get a reservation for the specific train they're riding on are subject to hefty fines which are collected on the spot, and again whether the Conductor applies the fine or just sells a reservation is at their discretion. I've seen Conductors handle that situation both ways and if they decide to fine, no amount of pleading ignorance or hard luck stories will change the outcome.

In your situation, the most expeditious and easiest solution would have been to simply accept your mistake and just buy the tickets, which he offered to sell you. Escalating the situation and becoming confrontational was not the best idea.

Rail passes are not always the best travel method these days, and many here (including me) no longer use them. If you decide to travel again in future, using P-P tickets may be a better method (especially if you can get advance purchase discounted tickets).

You may find this website helpful - https://www.seat61.com/Railpass-and-Eurail-pass-guide.htm .

Posted by
8889 posts

I am sorry this happened to you. You probably were in breach of the terms of the ticket, but, who reads the small print?

You mention "the train system", there is no such thing. There are a number of companies running different train networks in different countries. The ticket inspector you met would have been working for SNCB (Belgian Railways). Unless you fill in the pass properly, SNCB will get no money from Eurail. He was probably within the terms and conditions in confiscating your ticket, you were trying to use an invalid ticket. And he was definitely correct in demanding you buy a valid ticket.
He was acting as trained to protect his employers (SNCB) from people trying to travel without paying.

These passes are not very remunerative for the railway companies which is why they restrict their use or charge reservation fees on profitable long distance or High Speed lines. It may have been cheaper for you, instead of using a pass day, to just buy a ticket from Brugge direct from SNCB.

Posted by
28145 posts

The ticket - or railpass - does not belong to the passenger. It is issued by and remains the property of the railway.

A railpass which is not completed a passenger prior to travel is seen as fraudulent travel, travel without a valid ticket. Snatching it back from the train manager is seen in law as assault. It does not belong to the passenger - it belongs to the train company upon which the passenger is travelling.

I have personal knowledge of this because I am trained in the laws and daily see it from the other side.

The set down procedure - throughout Europe - is for the train manager to void a line which is empty, and place the date of travel in the next line, thereby using two days. Alternatively if the passenger insists on not complying the ticket or railpass can be retained by the train manager for further investigation. In that case the passenger will also pay a penalty fare to the next station where they will be removed. It is not unusual for police to be involved in such circumstances.

By offering to charge you a nominal amount for a proper ticket, and for not cancelling the two days on the pass, the train manager was offering you a cheap way out. You chose to become abusive and violent. Too bad.

Of course in this case we only have one side of the story. There are always two sides.

Posted by
2847 posts

I haven't read through every response but just want to say that the rules ARE clearly defined. You must fill in the date of use BEFORE you board the train. Otherwise it is assumed you are trying to cheat and get a free ride without using up a day on your pass.

When the agent in Bruges said you are good to board the next train, he meant your pass would be valid on that train. He assumed you knew you still had to enter the date.

I have never had a Eurail Pass ( onlyba Swiss one) but I am sure it is explained in the rules for use that you must fill in the date before boarding. You made a big mistake by refusing to pay for that cheap ticket. Do not blame Eurail or the train agents for simply enforcing the rules.

Posted by
13225 posts

Thank you, Nigel, for a very calm and reasoned explanation.

Hopefully the OP now understands why he himself is responsible for the escalation, because he (a) refused to pay for a ticket and then (b) snatched the railpass back from the conductor.

Posted by
4535 posts

There is a difference between making a public service announcement - something along the lines of the passes can be confusing, here is a hard lesson learned for others to know about - and ranting about the unfair treatment you think you received by not following the rules. I'd agree with the others in this thread that your post is the latter.

The passes, which I have used numerous times (like others, I don't find them of value anymore), do require you to fill out the travel dates prior to travel. You may not have read the rules carefully, and I doubt you had any intentional desire to cheat. But in my experience and observations, most conductors are strict about pass rules. Requiring you to pay a fine or buy a ticket for that leg (or both), is pretty standard. Same goes for regular tickets that need to be validated before boarding.

Your refusal to pay the fine/ticket, meant the conductor was going to confiscate your pass. Frankly, you escalated the situation by refusing to cooperate, and then by grabbing the pass from him. I really don't buy your argument that you remained calm and cool the whole time.

The police don't want to arrest you over a train ticket. But you are VERY lucky you did not wind up in a Belgian jail or deported. Had you gotten physical with the conductor, you almost for sure would have.

I am sorry your camera equipment was stolen. Someone obviously was watching how distracted you were, and used that opportunity to take the camera bag. This can be a lesson for others that valuables need to always be on your person or watched carefully. Thieves work best when their victims are distracted.

Posted by
8293 posts

I await the day that an OP such as the one here comes back to the thread and says "Oh, now I understand! I wish I had reacted differently."

Posted by
2445 posts

I used a Eurail Flexipass in 2014. I haven't seen the current information that comes with the pass, but back then, they made it very clear that if you did not fill in your travel dates before traveling, the pass could be taken away from you.

Honestly, I don't see how you could have missed that critical requirement.

Posted by
18388 posts

ALL COULD HAVE BEEN PREVENTED BY BETTER EURAIL POLICY!!!!

And what would that better policy be? That you only have to fill in the date if confronted by a conductor; otherwise you can use the pass as many times as you want.

Another thing to remember is the format for writing dates (dd.mm.yyyy) in Europe and how the numbers are written. In particular, a European "one" looks like our "seven" with droopy top bar. The Europeans put a crossbar through the middle of the seven's upright stroke so that is doesn't look like a one. I've heard of people boarding a train on the seventh of the month with the date filled in - with our number types - and the conductor claiming that the seven is a one and they already used their pass on the first!

Posted by
5 posts

All,
I completely understand that it was a misunderstanding on MY part that I did not fully understand the rules. My point is that it was an honest mistake that could be made by any traveller.

My parting point in this discussion is that as a customer who paid a lot of money for a Eurail Pass, the conductor should show a little respect and understanding that I was not trying to defraud the system and in the name of customer service, try to help resolve without being a rude, insensitive jerk. In the end, all he did was create ill-will towards the Eurail system and ensure that we never use this service again in fear that an honest misunderstanding could cause such outrage - over what? An honest misunderstanding that I readily admit was due to MY misunderstanding of the rules.

Treating me like a deadbeat criminal only puts me in a defensive posture and I will react accordingly. Maybe many of you submit blindly to the false bravado of a conductor trying to bolster his ego. I stand up for myself and protect what's mine and whats fair.

I started watching this forum before my trip and generally like the discussion. Based on many of the hostile responses, I realize most of them are based on personal cowardice. Don't worry about me posting here again because I see ultimately that many who respond are a bunch of spineless cowards who blindly submit to perceived authority.

Thank you to those who showed a touch of understanding. To the rest of you, I feel sad and disgusted at your lack of ...courage. I won't be back to this site. Don't bother responding as I have turned off any further notifications as I could care less what you have to say. Good day.

Posted by
5697 posts

Since OP toddoif has "left the building" -- for anyone still reading who plans to use a Eurailpass or any rail pass, please heed the suggestions about European date format (dd/mm/yyyy), European number formats, the need to review instructions on entering travel dates or entering passenger names (group discount tickets), or validating regionale point-to-point tickets before boarding. Overlooking or misunderstanding small items can lead to larger problems!
If you're unsure about anything, this is a place to ask in advance to avoid difficulties such as those toddoif experienced. And look at the FAQ section.

Posted by
28145 posts

earlier the OP said

I am pretty well trained military officer an can handle myself.

and says now

are a bunch of spineless cowards who blindly submit to perceived authority.

Don't you submit to authority in the military? Did in my time.... I don't think that made us cowards.

Posted by
971 posts

Oh wow! The sense of entitlement, the failure to admit any fault, the failure to understand how the system works and the ME, ME, ME attitude. Not to mention the need to point out that he is in the military, can handle himself and protect what he percieves is his own property. Yep the OP ticks all the boxes of the Ugly American stereotype.

Posted by
8889 posts

In the end, all he did was create ill-will towards the Eurail system

Again, that ticket inspector was not working for *the Eurail system", he was working for SNCB. Eurail is an agency operating in North America. The SNCB inspector offered you a cheap way out, buying a ticket, which you refused.

I would compare this to trying to pay for some food at a shop, and your credit card is refused, but you have already taken a bite out of the food. The shop offers to accept cash instead. You cannot just say "no" and hand the half-eaten food back.
If your credit card is refused the shop gets nothing. Same here, an incorrect Eurail pass means SNCB gets no money. SNCB would have preferred you to buy a ticket from them.
"as a customer who paid a lot of money for a Eurail Pass" - you didn't pay SNCB anything.

Posted by
8515 posts

Well here is a misunderstanding of cultures. If you are white and in the States, perhaps you « stand up » to the authority figure. That doesn.t work in Europe. You bow to authority, even if it.s a sniveling kid, never escalate, and let it play out. Charm and complicity are valued attributes. Logic doesn’t always work in Europe. Attitude does. Show horror at your mistake and don.t take that American logically thinking know-it-all superiority complex. You may have a logical solution, but the controler has the authority. I am certain that if you had been putty in his hands, he would have told you to fill in the date. No need to put on your Marine uniforn to defend your pass. Always ask the authority figure to help you solve your problem. You just need to sharpen your cultural interaction skills. Read some books on cultural interaction before you head out next time.

Posted by
16941 posts

"I fought the law, and the law won."
John Cougar Mellencamp

Posted by
13730 posts

In the end, all he did was create ill-will towards the Eurail system

As Chris has pointed out twice, Eurail is not a TRANSPORT system. It's a pass-seller, period. As clearly stated on their website:

https://www.eurail.com/en/about-us/our-company

"Eurail.com is not liable for any direct or indirect damage resulting from the agreement that the a user of the site or customer has with Eurail Group G.I.E. and the Railway Companies affiliated with it. This means that Eurail.com is also not responsible for what takes place during the use of the pass."

In the case of a European train or public transit ticket which requires validation before boarding, fines are usually applied on the spot if caught without the time stamp, and claiming ignorance is futile. It's the law, and the authorities are within rights to apply the penalties. Some individuals DO try to re-use tickets or slide by without tickets at all. If they are nailed, claim ignorance, and are let off with no more than a warning, there's little to deter them from doing it again. Tourist or local, laws apply to everyone.

Snatching the pass out of the conductor's hand was an act of aggression. Apologizing for the error, asking how to avoid the same mistake next time, and agreeing to buy the fare when offered would have been the correct - not "cowardly" - way to settle the situation.

I see ultimately that many who respond are a bunch of spineless
cowards who blindly submit to perceived authority.

I find this an odd statement from a former military man as well. My father did his time in the military, and there's no way he would have aggressively challenged a higher-ranking NCO. A train conductor IS an authority: nothing "perceived" about it.

Truly very sorry about your photo equipment.

Posted by
1353 posts

Wow! Just finding this thread. My first thought was that it is very clearly explained on the paperwork attached to the pass. We've used rail passes for years and understood this rule from the beginning. I also think that Rick explains it in one of his old videos on Travel Skills. Just as well this guy signed off:)

Posted by
5562 posts

It does bring up the point of how many times the same thing needs to be said......

If 5 people have already covered the key points of the issue, do more of us need to keep "heaping coals" on the subject?

Posted by
2445 posts

If 5 people have already covered the key points of the issue, do more of us need to keep "heaping coals" on the subject?

It seems like any post related to Eurail passes is like squirting lighter fluid on the coals.

Posted by
3368 posts

Nice YAGE (yet another grand exit) by the OP, though. Congrats on solidifying your image as an undesirable stereotype.

Posted by
13730 posts

Carol, I don't know as anyone means to heap coals. Rather, the OP is apparently not understanding what Eurail's responsibilities are and what they are not, among other things. Also, new travelers who may be browsing the forums might benefit from a discussion regarding the repercussions of undated/incorrectly dated passes or unvalidated tickets, and understanding that a train's conductor is in command of the carriage(s).

Posted by
8293 posts

"It does bring up the point how many times things have to be said."

A thread like this one and many, many others, is like a conversation among a group of people. We all want to contribute and express opinions until the topic fades away and dies. I see nothing wrong with that. Just as in any conversation, you can just stop paying attention if that suits you.

Posted by
31524 posts

Sam,

""I fought the law, and the law won."
John Cougar Mellencamp"

There's also this one - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zAprgEphm3A

Despite the fact that the OP has "left the building", this discussion is a good reminder for others who may be considering use of a Rail pass.

Posted by
16941 posts

He was doing a cover. Who knew? I guess Ken did.

Posted by
8869 posts

Just like with IKEA furniture assembly, "when all else fails, read the instructions"

Posted by
2445 posts

The Bobby Fuller Four version is the one I remember of "I Fought the Law". It was written by Sonny Curtis - he replaced Buddy Holly in the "Crickets", who recorded the song in 1959 or thereabouts.

Posted by
31524 posts

Sam,

"He was doing a cover. Who knew? I guess Ken did."

I suppose those of us who are slightly "older" probably remember the Bobby Fuller version more than any others. Unfortunately, Bobby Fuller had a rather tragic demise at a young age, or there may have been more songs.

In any case, it looks like the OP is non-repentant so all the advice offered was for naught.

Posted by
6513 posts

"I fought the law, and the law won."
John Cougar Mellencamp

Sam, I wasn't aware that Mellencamp ever did a version of that song. He did do "Authority Song" - "I fight authority, authority always wins" - same idea.