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Eurail global pass and train reservations advice needed:

Eurail global pass and train reservations advice needed:

We have purchased the global flexipass for our upcoming trip based on guidance and recommendations from this and other travel forums and now I’m completely confused about reservations.

I can save a trip and add it to the pass but I can’t actually reserve a seat, even on trains where a reservation is highly recommended or required. I get a message that basically says “you can’t book this connection through our self-service system…” and another said “you can book up to 3 hours in advance”. Nothing about being sold out or unavailable or off-line.

Some forums all recommend making reservations “several weeks in advance” for some routes or destinations/trips. Others say just get on the train snd show your pass. (Yikes, really??)

I’ve searched the Eurail website, other train reservation websites (Eurail is not an option when booking) and other travel forums (including “man in seat 61” and all of my Rick Steves travel books and resources ) but not finding the guidance I need.

I’m not often confused but this has me really stumped and would like to know if others have used the Eurail pass and what your experience was like, and/or if you have any advice or guidance. Thanks!

Posted by
21080 posts

What type of pass do you have, what countries are you visiting, and when? If it's convenient for you to list all the trips you're planning to take--or at least all you're trying to get reservations for right now--that may allow for more precise comments.

Posted by
27747 posts

What acraven said is important.

I see that this is your first post here - welcome.

Most advice on these Forums would have been to have done that before buying the pass, and we understand the reservation issues. Please let us know what trips and when, and we will help you as much as we can.

Posted by
7 posts

Thank you for your offers to help!

For travel in the cities we are planning to use an Oyster card (already have) and Swiss pass (already have) and our Paris pass that we were unable to use due to previous canceled trip. The company is extending the expiration date.

We have a global flexipass with 7 days to use in one month. Our itinerary (the month of September) includes the following train travel for which I hope to use 7 days of the pass on the most expensive trips. (each trip below is on a separate day.)

Landing in London Heathrow going directly to York

York to Cheltenham spa

Cheltenham to Penzance

Penzance to London

London to Paris (Eurostar is already booked)

Paris to Lousanne

Lousanne to Lauterbrunnen

Lauterbrunnen to Zermatt (depending on weather we may skip)

Zermatt (or Lauterbrunnen) to Amboise

Amboise back to London (Eurostar portion of trip from Paris to London is also already booked for an overnight stay before our flight home)

I’ve been attempting to make at least our initial reservations for the travel around the UK.
My biggest concern: I know we will be tired and in a brain fog after our overnight flight to London so most concerned about making the initial trip as simple as possible with reservations made in advance. We have booked all of our lodging. So now just trying to work on transport. We do not plan to drive, and enjoy train travel. Really looking forward to it.

Thank you again.

Posted by
2128 posts

I was always under the impression that for trains in the UK pass holders could only make reservations in person at a station. The point of a pass is that you pay through the nose for flexibility i.e. you just turn up and go, so reservations are a bit pointless.

That seems to be the guidance from the man in seat 61 (the most knowledgeable source of all things on rails). Follow the link though for UK info

Posted by
13517 posts

ramblin', the OP said they had already searched "Man in Seat 61" website...although I'll agree that it's normally a very good resource!

rn4hope, not to change the subject but as long as we're talking passes.... You are aware that your Paris Pass will not work at all attractions the way it likely did when you purchased it a year or two ago, or how it's still advertised on the front page of website ("Simply show your pass at any of the below attractions and head inside.")?

Many of the more popular attractions the card covers are now requiring advance reservations. At quick glance, that would include the Louvre, Versailles, Orsay, Orangerie, Centre Pompidou, Picasso Museum... That's just the attractions I checked so I'm sure there are more. Just something to be aware of if you weren't already?

That pass has never been considered a particularly good buy as it was pretty much impossible to make even close to good of the price, unless sightseeing at a dead run, maybe. The more economical choice was the Paris MUSEUM Pass + a carnet of individual public transit tickets or similar but since it (and the Paris Pass) no long covers unlimited, non-reserved visits during the life of the pass, it's lost a ton of its previous value and convenience.

Posted by
1122 posts

I have never been able to figure out how to book a reservation with a Eurail pass from the US. After landing in Europe, I generally went to a ticket office in a train station with my pass and booked all those I was told a reservation was required. Looking for an answer as well here.

Posted by
27747 posts

I don't see any use for an Oyster except perhaps for the journey from Heathrow to Kings Cross for York. Until the Elizabeth Line opens (after your trip if it is relatively soon) your choices really are Tube (Oyster available) from Heathrow on the Piccadilly Line about an hour to Kings Cross St Pancras or the expensive Heathrow Express (Oyster not valid) to Paddington and then Tube, Hammersmith & City Line or Circle Line to Kings Cross St Pancras (Oyster available).

You cannot use Oyster in any other city than London - not York, Cheltenham or in Cornwall.

Eurostar portion of trip from Paris to London is also already booked for an overnight stay before our flight home)

does that mean the overnight is in Paris or in London? What time is your flight?

Are you aware of the covid testing requirements for entry into the UK and re-entry into the UK? Do you have the battery of tests already ordered? And for US/UK into France?

Posted by
7 posts

Thanks for the replies everyone - this is helping me think through the transportation.

After some more digging, It is looking like if you want to use the Eurail pass, you just take a chance and make your reservations up to 3 hours prior to your train journey. If the Eurail designated seats are filled by the time you get there, you pay. So this should be interesting!

I'm sorry, for some reason I can't see all of the replies as I write this but wanted to respond to a couple of concerns that I remember seeing:
We are aware of the Covid testing requirements for this journey and make arrangements for them. Since it is just myself and my husband (fully vaccinated and physically healthy individuals with a nice supply of masks and hand sanitizer), we have decided to proceed with our journey as long as it is still possible. We are happy to comply with all of the testing requirements and have extended our trip to allow for the time it may take to do so. We are very patient and find joy in the journey, and we treat everything that happens on a trip as just another interesting challenge and part of the adventure. We will be checking (and rechecking) the requirements for entry into each country as we go so that we can ensure we are following all of the rules. We are prepared to make adjustments and changes if and when needed. The cancellation policies on many of the lodging choices have been outstanding, sometimes even full cancellation just 6 hours prior to arrival! Hope we don't need to do that to any of these wonderful people but its nice to know its available if we have to make any destination changes.

We will be in London for several days as part of the trip (prior to Paris) so that is why we have invested in a pre-loaded Oyster card to get us started on the Tube and we will re-load if we have to. Our Paris pass is left-over from a trip we had to cancel just as Covid started (we were actually at our transfer airport for a long layover when it became clear that we needed to cancel and return home). Our previous (canceled) trip was going to be a long stay in Paris so we purchased the Paris Pass. It is true, 100%, it would have been a horrible investment for this leg of this trip because it is a short stay this go-round. But on the other hand, since they are allowing us to extend the use of the pass, it should save us some money on entrances for this trip. (I'm so glad I didn't throw it away when it passed the expiration date in 2020!)

Hmmm, I can't think of any other questions that were asked (like I said, I can't see the posts while I write this reply) but thanks again for your efforts to help and offer suggestions and reminders. It is very much appreciated!

Posted by
13517 posts

Hi Donna!
Oh my no, I'm glad you didn't pitch your Paris Passes either! As long as you HAVE them, may as well make use of them, eh? I mostly wanted you to be aware that they won't be as easy to use as the website makes it look on it's main page. Having to make advance, timed-entry reservations now at so many attractions, even when using the card, kind of puts a damper on the former convenience value. You won't have to do that at ALL attractions but most of the biggies look to require it.

Hope you get your Eurail pass confusion put to bed!

Posted by
27747 posts

I've reread. Are you using your Eurailpass for the travel around England? That's somewhat unusual. In 20 years of working on the UK trains I can only recollect seeing one a handful of times.

If so, you are unlikely to actually require reservations for any of the UK trains you mention. Are you travelling First or Standard Class?

Just curious - why the stop in Cheltenham? I grew up there... It has a few attractions (not least the Pittville Pump Room) but not many people go there...

Is the Penzance to London (Paddington it will be) the sleeper? If so you will need sleeper tickets.

For the rest, you can get reservations but you won't be required to. Part of the reason I asked First or Standard. If you are on a non-reservations required train with a Eurailpass you just hop on and show it (completed for the journey), your trip record, and your passport.

You won't need reservations for any of your other trips except those long distance French trains. They are capacity controlled for Eurailpass users and you must purchase non-cheap reservations.

It is a shame you got the Global pass if you are only in France and Switzerland, and perhaps UK....

I didn't see when your trip is, but there are frequently changing covid restrictions as you travel with and between certain countries, usually involving testing and sometimes quarantine. France just very recently removed the the quarantine for visitors travelling from UK; Italy still has them.

Posted by
7 posts

Nigel thanks!

Using the guidelines for when to buy a Eurail pass, and looking at the cost of the longer train trips, led me to make this decision. We are traveling to France and Switzerland as well, with several trips outside major cities.

The purpose for traveling to Cheltenham is to take the bus into Stow. This was recommended as the best place to catch a bus into Stow-in-the-wold from the train (due to no train station in Stow).

I am sure Cheltenham is lovely despite it's lack of sights if a nice person like you came from that village!
Thanks again for your help!

Posted by
27747 posts

A problem using Cheltenham to connect to Stow-on-the-Wold (where as we were children we learned the doggerel, "Where the Wind blows cold", because it is higher than surrounding villages) is that Cheltenham is a fairly large town and the station is in the outskirts not particularly close to the centre where the Regency buildings are and where the bus station is.

Stow's name is from the same wold that is part of the name of the Cotswolds... the hill... Wold means a range of hills which consists of open country overlying a base of limestone or chalk.

There is undoubtedly a bus connecting the two but I don't think the Pulhams or Black & Whites run from the station. I'll look after I wake up.

It is a much shorter bus ride from Moreton-in-Marsh to Stow-on-the-Wold, and Moreton has buses very near the station. But coming from York it would involve a change at Worcester (Shrub Hill or Foregate Street). And continuing south towards Cornwall is much easier from Cheltenham.

Perhaps it would help, for the England bit, if you could put a bit of meat on your actual plans....

Posted by
27747 posts

are you travelling First or Standard class on UK trains?

Posted by
27747 posts

The Pulhams bus services are at

The 801 is the service between Cheltenham and Stow-on-the-Wold. Click on it. Note that it starts in the centre of town and only runs 8 times a day during the week, and with gaps of 90 minutes, and only twice on a summer Sunday.

When is your travel?

That same 801 connects Moreton-in-Marsh station and Stow-on-the-Wold in only 12 minutes. The run from Cheltenham to Stow takes 90 minutes, and that is after you have travelled from the Cheltenham Spa station to the centre of town.

If you want to connect to Cornwall via Moreton-in-Marsh you can change at Worcester.

Posted by
16883 posts

Eurail Global passes have only been valid in Britain for a couple of years and they added the widespread reservation requirement in probably the second year of that offer, and yes, it must be in person. I think it’s primarily for the purpose of counting pass users on each route (and trying to get their share of cash from the Eurail group), since most trains don’t otherwise require seat reservations there.

Since you already have the Eurostar reservation, then the legs from and back to Paris on TGV or TGV Lyria are the next legs to reserve, since they are required and can be limited. I’d normally suggest Rail Europe for that, but they are not yet selling pass holder reservations on their new web site. Instead, see’s booking service or call by telephone with TGV:

Note that many things you read about passes (including our web pages) are pre-pandemic versions of the info and pre-Rail Europe’s total overhaul of their staffing and online booking engine. You shouldn’t need reservations once you connect within Switzerland, unless you want a special first-class panorama seat departing Lausanne via the Golden Pass line.

Posted by
7 posts

Thank you for all of the additional information Nigel and Laura. I am probably looking at too many train apps and should just stick to one! They all tell me different routes to take. I saw in Rick Steves resources that Moreton-in-Marsh was a good place to switch from train to bus for the ride into Stow, but then the train apps and the Cotswalds website led me to choose Cheltenham instead. (Should have known to stick with Mr Steves recommendations!) From the website: "The main bus stations in Gloucestershire & the Cotswolds are at Cheltenham, Gloucester and Stroud." Since two train app searches gave me direct connection to Cheltenham, I chose that for our bus connection destination. (I just tell you that so you'll know where my logic came from for that choice). So thankful for your willingness to help set me straight on all of this as I continue to work to "put meat on the bones" of our plans (quoting you Nigel). After reading your post, I would much rather we catch the bus in Moreton-in-Marsh.
Laura, thank you for the tips as well - so helpful!
Thank you again!

Posted by
27747 posts

m4hope, did you say when your trip is?

Posted by
7 posts

No, pardon me but I did not. I'm reluctant to put too much detailed information in a public forum, even though I doubt thieves frequent these forums, and despite the fact that our house will be constantly occupied by family and friends (and our two large dogs) while we are gone. I always cringe when I see people posting very detailed information about their travels and whereabouts in public forums. I'm normally a very trusting person, However, I have seen too many bad things happen to people and I've also been the victim in a couple of cases - yes, I learned the hard way.

Posted by
27747 posts

fair enough.

But I don't see how you could possibly be traced given the complete lack of information about you here.

No profile, no indication of either the US or Canada, much less your state or province or your town or city.

I can guess that you might be a nurse. That's it.

I was just looking for the season to try to give extra help. I've gone back through and did see September mentioned in your first answer. I guess we don't have much time.

Posted by
3214 posts

Even if you tell us the exact dates you will be away, how will any potential burglar be able to find your house? But if you're uncomfortable with that, knowing roughly when the trip will be helps. If it is an autumn trip or a spring trip makes a difference.