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Eurail Pass or Buy at Station?

I am posting this because this question is asked often. We just returned from Italy to Denmark. We purchased the full 23 country ticket for 15 days. The first piece of bad advice on here is buying at point of sale.  You lose time, flexibility, will probably pay second class to try save money (and still won't), and it isn't worth the hassle.  A pass, whatever you choose, is your absolute best option. There are 4 or 5 county passes.   They are a good option if staying a month or two and only few days of rail travel between.     FYI. Our 15 day pass was about 1300.  We ran the point of sale tab up and the cost would have been over double. If you are over 25 then you must buy first class.  It's worth getting anyway.  Often the second class are crowded, little or no AC. NOTE!  Often you have limited transfer time, things happen fast.  It can be stressful purchasing the rail ticket at the terminal, when the train is leaving in minutes.  A pass beats that. The high speed rail in Italy is the only way to go.   You pay an added reservation charge (surcharge) of about 10 Euros per person.  That can be done at the machine, but it is tricky.  It didn't accept the whole Eurail number.  We beat that by entering all but first number.  Then you pay the reservation fee only. You don't need to purchase it until just before the train leaves.  I.E. not the day before. A sleeper, overnight car may be available.  A private berth is expensive, a couchette bunk is worth it tho.  You need book that well ahead. Our first time using the machine was stressful. A guy helped and he asked for a donation. Some say this was a scam. I say that was the best four Euros we spent. From there, smooth sailing. Some buses are free with a rail ticket, but they don't accept passes. Wierd. Maybe a ticketing office will print you a free rail ticket if you have time.

Posted by
22 posts

Far from it. A professional who travels when he can and goes frugally yet sensibly. Opportunity costs. Is being burdened by a fixxed schedule over 15 days worth a possible savings of a couple hundred or 15 dollars a day? We (2) ate, lodged, rented a touring motorcycle, took in a dozen shows or museums/galleries (like the Borghese or the opening ceremonies for the International Horse Show), a cruise, and a guided tour, and all of these charged admission. We averaged at less than $200 a day or 100 pp. Spontaneous changes allowed for that. And no, we didn't hostel.

Posted by
2033 posts

Surely, Steve, you made a reservation for the Borghese? or did you wait in line for hours, hoping to get a ticket?

Posted by
22 posts

Tom, we travelled 8 days in SW Deutschland the latter part of June and the beginning of July. Incidentally, love lake Knstanz... ...anyway, much of this was regional lines. Generally, the second class cars were stifling hot. First class was empty and cool.

Posted by
403 posts

This is what is known as a strawman argument. I am not aware of anyone who has suggested on this site that the best way to go in all countries is to walk up to the counter and buy tickets for a train leaving in a few moments. What many posters have suggested is that one can purchase tickets online-from National RailEnquries in England, TGV.com in France, etc-and save a great deal by buying in advance. Yes, this admittedly is less flexible than having a railpass, as advance purchase tickets must be used on the specified train or their value is lost. But since railpass holders cannot just hop on fast trains in France, Spain, and some other countries without reservations-which are restricted for railpass holders-I am not sure the flexibility argument is universally valid. And being a person who likes to travel with a fixed itinerary and hotels reserved, I see little value in "flexibility"....others may of course feel differently. Your position, as I understand it, is that railpasses are always and in every situation the best way to go. I disagree strongly.

Posted by
18022 posts

"The first piece of bad advice on here is buying at point of sale." People here who ask whether they should use a rail pass or buy p-p tickets rarely include enough information to know for sure which method will be best, and when they ask, they are NOT told, at least not by the experienced travelers on this site, to buy one or the other, but are told you can't tell without having an itinerary and working out the cost both ways. However, if one does do the math, taking into account all the discounted tickets and regional passes you can get, he will almost never find a rail pass to be the better option. In 2000, I made my first trip to Europe (Germany) since 1990. I just blindly bought a German Rail pass. When I came home, I looked at what a would have paid for p-p tickets for the same trains, and I found that, I had about broken even for full fare on those trains. However, I could have picked slightly different trains and saved some money by buying full fare, point-point tickets. I just discovered the pass finder function on RailEurope. I input my recent trip to Germany/Austria/Czech and it "advised" me but $487 worth of 2nd class rail passes. I actually spent $173 (€135) for travel that should have been covered by the rail passes (I ignored two days of S-Bahn travel in Saxony that would have been required by more days on the rail passes than RE advised, but only cost me €8, total). Had I bought a Eurail 3 country Selekt Pass, it would have cost me $509 if you add the $16 I paid for RT train into Dresden (adding that day to a Eurail pass would required increasing the Selekt pass from 6 to 8 days for $90).

Posted by
22 posts

The key point here is that time and flexibility are huge factors in the decision process. The last thing you want to do is add stress to a vacation. Consider the option to "we'll just catch the next train" or "we'll get off here and go that way instead" or "the weather over there isn't good for a few days, let's circle around the other way" are miles better options than trying to scrimp out a few dollars and having to always hope and pray that there isn't a traffic jam, transit strike, bad weather, or other event that would cause you to re-think your plans. At some point in time you have to ask "am I adding value to the experience by decreasing flexibility?" Focusing on savings, if achieved, of a couple of hundred, may well ruin your $3 to $4,000 per person trip.

Posted by
18022 posts

The only flexibility I gave up on that entire trip was having to ride a specific EC a half hour from Bad Schandau to Dresden on my way back to Freising (Munich). (Actually, I didn't even have to do that since the conductor never checked my Savings Fare ticket on that leg, but I didn't know that in advance.) I guess if I had spent $700 on a global pass (instead of spending the $173 that I did), I would have had the flexibility to make a side trip to Poland when I was in Saxony, but since I didn't have reservations anywhere in Poland, and since I hadn't researched where to go and what to see, I wouldn't have done it anyway. I doubt that I spent an hour, total, buying p-p and Länder ticket on that trip, and I saved over $300 by doing i that way. I have considered writing a book about how to make your trip to Europe more expensive than it needs to be, and you have just given me an example to use.

Posted by
12040 posts

Is this post for real? I'll let the others tear apart some of these statements, but here's what I'll specifically address: "then you must buy first class. It's worth getting anyway. Often the second class are crowded, little or no AC." I don't argue that second class is usually more crowded. But in Germany, the presence or lack of air conditioning is determined by the type of train, not the class of the compartment. However, there are times when the air conditioning is not functioning in specific carriages.

Posted by
18022 posts

"Is this post for real?" Tom, this sound like something written by a travel agent who sells rail passes, and whose business is being hurt by people saving money with point-point tickets purchased over there. His main theme seems to be stress. I can tell you if I knew I was paying three times what I needed to for rail transportation, I would be stressed.

Posted by
2828 posts

This post has an opinion about transportation (which Steve's entitled to, as anyone else), but overreaching statements that can mislead other travelers. I'll add some obvious erroneous assumptions about the passes to what others already did: - more and more trains require not only reservation, but have quotas. That means you can just find no seat for passholders available in the next train even if it is not sold out. Think of it like you trying to redeem miles on your airline, but not being able to do so even if the flight is not yet full. This affect hugely popular routes like those using Thalys, Eurostar and TGVs (including international TGV routes). - private railways do not accept passes. If Steve traveled to Italy, he probably spotted some Italo trains he can't take because they are not covered by passes. People on Helpeline rarely encourage turn-up-and-buy behavior, except on short trips on regional or national trains whose price is fixed. But, hey, on these journeys (think of Brugge-Bruxelles or Firenze-Cinque Terre), it is usually uneconomical to burn a day on your pass for a short trip. Calculations are simple: compare the cost-per-usable-pass-day (usually around € 55-85 1st class depending on the duration of your pass) with the fares of regional trains and you get the sense. If one has problems operating electronic ticket machines with English menus, difficulty buying a ticket is the least of concerns in rail travel compared to finding the correct platform, getting on the correct carriage of train etc.

Posted by
2828 posts

In any case, my insight is that much of this "freedom to change itinerary" is a myth. If one is budget-conscious enough to need to save in transportation and avoid "losing time" at ticket booths, a much bigger saving opportunity exists on pre-booking accommodation, and once your accommodation choices are locked in, it makes all sense to to the same for transportation.

Posted by
4362 posts

Well, now I feel a little foolish for ever buying airline tickets in advance.

Posted by
12376 posts

Hmmmmm. Those 15-day Global passes cost $1202 for two people. That means you are paying $40 a day each to ride trains, whether you ride one that day or not. Did you really ride trains every day? If so, how did you have time to do anything else? For those 8 days you spent in Sw Germany, riding regional trains, did your travel each day add up to more than $40 worth of the right kind of tickets (Länder,etc.)? And for Italy, did you know that you can purchase advance tickets on Trenitalia for the fast Eurostar Italia trains ( Rome to Floremce, etc.) for LESS than the price of a pass holder reservation fee 9 euros. For travel from Italy into either Switzerland or Austria, you can get SMART fares of 19 euros, way less that what you paid for a travel day plus reservation fee. Our most recent trip, to Spain, came in well under $200 for two, and we stayed in the top 3- and 4- star hotels in Barcelona, Madrid, Sevilla, Granada, etc. And traveled between by AVE train on discount tickets. We got advance booking discounts on some hotels and 60% off the train tickets. We gladly give up a bit of flexibility for savings like that. And we completely eliminated the stress of having to search for good losing upon arrival at each place. ( Did that when I traveled around Germany in college and won't don that again).

Posted by
22 posts

Good questions. The 200 a day or 100 (it was actually less and 185 a day total) included: Lodging, Travel insurance (medical)
Food and drink, Entrance to Borghese, Uffizi, Accademia, Vatican Museum, Fredrichbad spa, a private tour of Florence, a rental and insurance for a 1000 Kawasaki and gear for the bike (one day), Sinsheim Technical Museum, bus tickets, souvenirs, tips, and another museum that escapes me, and two 100 dollar back packs. There were other incidental entrance fees e.g. Ludwig Museum in Koln, access to sites, trams to museums, entrance to Berg Eltz... Etc. (edit... Also two Roma Passes for entrance to Forum, Capital Museum and 3 days free transit) Basically everything other than travel by air and train. We prepuchased all tickets to major sites. Loved walking in while people melted in lines for hours.

Posted by
22 posts

Andre, that may be where we differ. We detest a set itinerary for the entire trip. We did Two days in Rome, Two days in Florence, Two days in Rothenburg ob de Tauber, Two days in Koln, the balance were one day jaunts on a whim. Examples. I never would have planned overnighting in Cochem, but that is where we ended up. Glad I did see it and decide to stay. The freedom to say "let's go here" or "let's get off here and go here (or that way)instead" was priceless. Watched the Euro with Italians when they won on penalties. As game time approached for Italy v Deutschland, we wanted to share the experience with German citizens. My girlfriends roots are from Germany, she is fluent. We stopped in on the downtown of Karlsruhe. The game was going poorly, so we left at halftime. Before the game was over, we were in a room in Mannhiem. Point being, none of these experiences are spontaneously achievable on a fixed schedule, all for the point of doing this as cheap as possible.

Posted by
22 posts

Lola, see above. We didn't want to be stuck with leaving any centre at a predetermined time. The ability to leave when we want, early or late, was far more important to us.

Posted by
22 posts

I feel I am spamming my own thread. Andre, re quotas, we heard that could be a concern, particularly in France. There was no such problem in Italy, Germany, Switzerland, or Denmark. We would cheque the DB or SBB (?) the night before for possible routes, and again at each station at the terminals A tip for everyone. Even though your route is free, print off the schedule from the ticket machine (input as though you were buying and select the timetable print option just before the option to pay for the ticket occurs.) This also confirms if there are Reservations required or if no first class, and other key points.

Posted by
12376 posts

"None of these experiences are spontaneously achievable on a fixed schedule". I have to disagree. We were in Italy on a " fixed schedule" in 2010 during the World Cup. We watched Italy win a game in a little sports bar in Verona,with Italians. We watched the game Italy lost in a little sports bar in Lucca, entertained by the owner's running commentary on the deficiencies of the Italian national team. You don't have to be traveling without reservations to enjoy these experiences. In both Verona and Lucca we had lovely 2 bedroom apartments for our family of four, costing around 30 euro pp/pn. You don't get places like that just showing up; you must reserve in advance. And you did not address the point that you can travel on the ES fast trains in Italy for 9 euros, less than the cost of your pass holder reservation fee ( not to mention the $40 you paid for that pass day) by purchasing in advance. For your flexibility in Italy you paid a needless $80 a day on the days you traveled, and apparently did not travel on other days ( one in Rome and one in Florence) so that was $80 wasted there. Not trying to be critical; it sounds like you had a great trip and really enjoyed it. I just think it is naive to promote a rail pass is the most cost-effective way to go. Passes can work well in Switzerland but not Global passes, you need a Swiss pass. I am also curious where you stayed in Switzerland and Denmark that fit your budget? I am very familiar with travel in both places and just close my eyes to price when we go there.

Posted by
22 posts

Hi Lola. Hmmm, none of the spontaneous experiences that WE achieved would have been possible on a preset schedule. Certainly you can plan on a location in advance, but we prefer to talk and learn what is happening in the next few hours from the locals. You can plot your every step at a rail charge savings. We found that the locals pointed us to greater experiences and less costly options than the standard "where to go" guides tell you. That more than offsets the rail pass. In addition, we never had that "we have to go (or stay) because our train is at such and such a time". The key to Switzerland that we found, was to negotiate. Denmark was not part of our travel calculation of 100 pp however, as we stayed for free 4 nights. That was week three. Even then, the Cabinn chains were cost effective, albeit dorm like. 85 a night for a room in Copenhagen. The locals don't eat on Nyhavn way (as example). That 18 dollar open faced sandwich is 3.50 to 4.50 four blocks away.

Posted by
2780 posts

Negotiate in Switzerland? I would like to hear details.

Posted by
31303 posts

Steve, It's great that the Railpasses worked well for your trip and that you're pleased with that choice. However, making a blanket statement that "The first piece of bad advice on here is buying at point of sale" is simply not correct. Each of us here have different travel styles and buying P-P tickets is a better option in some cases. If my calculations are correct, the cost of your Global Pass was C$41.60 per day, which doesn't include reservation fees. Especially in Italy, I can buy a lot of tickets for that including on the Freccia trains if tickets are pre-purchased. Also, as your Pass was consecutive, you're paying for it whether you use it or not. With a "spontaneous" travel style, if you decide to stay in one location for a day or two, the "meter is still ticking" on the Pass. "It can be stressful purchasing the rail ticket at the terminal, when the train is leaving in minutes." I don't find it stressful at all. My ticket includes all trains on the route, so there's no need to buy tickets "when the train is leaving in minutes." I often buy tickets for the outgoing trip when I arrive in a town or a day or two before I'll be travelling. On the day of travel, I simply validate my ticket and hop on the train. "A pass, whatever you choose, is your absolute best option." I DEFINITELY don't agree! It's simply not correct to state that a Pass will be the best option for all travellers in all circumstances. There are an infinite number of rail travel situations. A Pass may be best for some people, P-P tickets may be better for others, or perhaps a combination of methods is best, depending on circumstances. Again, it's great that the Pass worked well for you, but it's not necessarily the best option for all situations. Cheers!

Posted by
31303 posts

Steve, One other comment to add..... For the most part, I don't mind riding in second class cars and find that they're quite comfortable. I usually prefer second class tickets, as the benefits of riding in first class don't seem to be much of an improvement for the extra cost. I've been in a few first class cars where the A/C was non-existent, so buying first class is no guarantee of better comfort. I find that I meet more interesting people in second class, so it's often a more interesting "cultural experience". Learning a bit more about different cultures is one of the reasons I travel. However, I should add that some of the people I've met have been a bit "unusual and unpleasant", but I guess that's part of the experience too.

Posted by
4125 posts

I think what I really take issue with are the one-size-fits-all statements in the original post and on this thread. Rail passes provide a certain kind of convenience, at a price, and with some wicked limitations. The price premium is much less if you prefer first class anyway, less still if you would insist on it. But for some people passes are probably still worth it. I'd prefer to order train tickets in advance, save time, and get huge discounts. Sometimes this is not feasible, and buying day of or a few days before really is the best way to go. I think we are most helpful on this forum when we articulate what the trade-offs are and help people figure out what works best for THEM.

Posted by
26058 posts

We prepuchased all tickets to major sites. Loved walking in while people melted in lines for hours. So you're not philosophically opposed to purchasing in advance? And presumably you're not philosophically opposed to saving money? So why do you cling to shouting how much cheaper your much more expensive method was? I don't remember people here saying buying on the day of travel is the cheapest except for Regional trains which have no discounts. Surely spending a pass-day on a day of non-travel has to be more expensive than paying nothing. Surely €9 or less for a high speed or Regionale train is less expensive than a pass-day.... No?

Posted by
2780 posts

So now three people have pointed out that one can travel in Iitaly much cheaper by buying in advance that with a pass (cheaper than even the reservation fee, not counting the wasted day on a pass) and still no acknowledgement of that fact. And I still would love to hear how one can negotiate lodging prices in Switzerland. I believe the Swiss are too interested in predictability, consistency, and fairness to even consider that, but maybe I'm wrong?

Posted by
2945 posts

This really makes me want to write a basic "When to buy a railpass" post in general. Because Steve you're missing a lot of points. I mean, for starters, you're bragging about your flexibility with the Railpass but then said you took mostly regional trains in SW Germany. You could have taken the same trains with a Happy-Weekend or Baden-Wurttemberg or Bayern or Quel-Durchland ticket for far cheaper. While there is a way to maximize Railpass value, using Railpass days when you're not taking high-speed trains is NOT one of them! No matter what! If you'd done a little more advance planning and research - which does not affect your on-the-ground vacation time - I am sure you could have had the same flexibility and still saved a ton of money. Lee is pretty much the master of this approach on this board. I think there are times when Railpasses have their advantages - if you need flexibility for long-haul, high speed trips in countries that don't require a reservation/supplement for example - but that is pretty much the only time they're useful. And yeah, second class on regional trains can be hot and crowded. That's because you're on a regional train, though. Second class on high speed trains is generally quite nice.

Posted by
22 posts

There are two significant items that I have to add to amend. 1). We were advised that North Americans are not eligible for European passes, I.E. we could only purchase the form we had, or point of sale. The passport must be shown at time of purchase. So, if incorrect, we never would have achieved that added layer of savings, as we don't know about them. On the other hand, maybe the added savings are only for those who reside in Europe. 2) In addition, point of sale may be a better option for those who are traveling short distances, limited days, limited times (we took 30 trains), or some form of combination. To clarify, approx 50 % of the trains were regional. Approx 75% or more of distance was achieved in faster, IC, ICE, or TrainItalia high speed lines. Second class on inter city or express trains was generally crowded tho. It was often near full on regional trains. On one train, the only one that did not have first class, we had to sit apart for 2 hrs (the train was overheating and had to go slower, it should have been 75 m). There was no cultural experience to be gained here... Everyone was hot and grouchy, albeit patiently resigned to the fact we were all in the same boat.

Posted by
22 posts

Nigel, of course I pick my battles. You pretty much have to pre purchase tickets for some sites unless you want to stand in line or pay a premium for a tour guide. We prepuchased for 4 major sites in Italy and the opening ceremonies in Aachen for the horse show. That reminds me. We read and thankfully purchased the Roma Pass at the Airport. That meant no lines for the Roman Forum (it was 36 and sunny), or the Capital museum, and we didn't have to dig for change for any tram or train (don't forget to validate it on the first bus/tram) for 3 days. Nevermind it saved us maybe 10 Euros or more pp. The one item we could have done better on though, had we known, was the Borghese (a must see). We had prepuchased that time and date (as you must), and we did that before we left. We later found out that after using two sites up on the Roma Pass, the Pass would provide a discount on the third site (the Borghese). We could have booked a reservation Time instead of Tickets, and paid the discounted price at point of entry. I recommend people do that because we have heard that if you are not there 30 m before your scheduled time, they give your slot away. Not sure you would get a refund on a ticket, but losing a time slot would not be bad.

Posted by
2780 posts

1). You got bad advice. While some passes may be for residents only (mainly because they cover a long period like a year) the discount tickets Sarah is talking about are for anyone smart enough to ask about them, or to read Bahn.de and the other national websites. They are not just for Europeans. Whoever told you that about local tickets was just trying to sell you a Global Pass and it ended up costing you MORE. You should complain and let them know it was bad advice. 2). 100% of the travel you did on Trenitalia long-distance trains was more expensive on your pass than it would have been on advance purchase tickets.

Posted by
22 posts

Adam, 100% agree. There will be exceptions, and we travelled a long distance over many destinations over 15 days. If I were to do Switzerland again, I would look at the SBB pass, if available. This provides discounts on some other lines that arent otherwise available. Switzerland was kind of staunchy and in some places, to some degree, contrived (a picture of what the tourists want to see instead of reality). Interlaken is a good example. Next trip will be Berlin, Prague, and maybe Budapest and / or even Poland. Or perhaps the south of France, Spain and Portugal. Or perhaps to Munich and rent a motorcycle for ten days and tour into Austria and N Italy and Switzerland again In any of the above trips, a Global or Select pass is probably not a great (let alone best) choice.

Posted by
12040 posts

"On the other hand, maybe the added savings are only for those who reside in Europe." All of the various regional passes are available to anyone. They are well advertised on the Deutsche Bahn website. There are yearly discount cards (Bahncards) available that would only be of advantage to residents who ride the trains frequently, but anyone can buy one. There is no residency requirement.

Posted by
2780 posts

Steve, compare your most recent post with the original statement just above, where you unequivocally stated, " A pass, whatever you choose, is your absolute best option." It wasn't the best option for your trip, and it definitely won't be if you travel in Spain. In Switzerland a Swiss pass works best---sounds like you encountered firsthand the limitations of a Global Pass there. Motorcycle is a great idea for that area.

Posted by
22 posts

Thanks Sasha. I would say I was definitely smart enough but perhaps informed only partially, and perhaps there is a commission that influenced that. Sounds like I will research country passes next trip rather than trust the Travel Agent. You would be very surprised which agency I personally attended... That's all I will say on that. Prebooking trains was not part of this travel plan. I would rather pay a premium for spontaneity, at least for the last trip.

Posted by
22 posts

The information generated here should lead to an entirely new thread. While the topic was Eurail Vs Buying at the Station, there are clearly other options available that weren't part of that comparison. That information is invaluable. Sasha said... Steve, compare your most recent post with the original statement just above, where you unequivocally stated, " A pass, whatever you choose, is your absolute best option." You are right... It should say that generally, a Eurail pass is cheaper and more convenient than buying multiple tickets at the station. There are other ways to save, including country passes. Prebooking can be cheaper as well, if you want to have a set schedule and are not worried about flexibility in changing times and destinations. --- As far as negotiating goes, I don't know how to answer that. It drives people crazy that I seem to be blessed with a knack for picking places that will agree to negotiate. I remember walking out of a hotel one morning a few years back and going down the street and negotiating 6 days at 2/3 of the other rate I was paying, for three times the hotel (and location). Another trip, my friend would park out front while I went in and negotiated. E.G. Rack rate was $195. I came back out to the car and said we are staying here. We were in for $75. He would say "how the heck... That never works for me" Switzerland wasn't a gold medal negotiation, but I was content with $115 including taxes and breakfast for two.

Posted by
2945 posts

Steve, I think you're still confused a bit. North Americans are not eligible for railpasses for Europeans, but what people are talking about here are not those, but rather, other special ticket deals. There are two different kinds: For example, in Germany, if you go to bahn.com (the DeutscheBahn website) and were to input say, a Stuttgart to Berlin query for 2 months from now, you would get a host of choices including a discount ticket for a specific train (in either 1st or 2nd class) or a regular-priced ticket that gives full flexibility on the day of travel. The latter is what you can buy when you get to a train station on day of travel. What I and many others here suggest is if people are willing to lose flexibility, they can save more than 50% on the price of the regular ticket by purchasing it in advance online. This option is open to virtually everybody, you print out your ticket at home. The second option are different regional ticket options in Germany. These are good only on regional trains (i.e. not ICE, IC, or EC trains) but if you are in an area - say, near Lake Constance, and all the trains you will be taking are regional OR you don't mind the extra time on regional trains, these special tickets result in significant savings over using a Railpass day for regional trains, which will never be as cheap. These tickets are totally flexible for the day you purchase them, you pay one time for a group of up to 5 people and can go anywhere in the zone of validity (usually a state or region) for the entire day. For example, a Baden-Wurttemberg ticket starts at 21 Euro for 1 person, and it's 4 Euro more for each additional person. It literally gets you ANYWHERE in Baden-Wurttemburg for the day on regional trains and S-bahn.

Posted by
2945 posts

I do agree with you overall that if you're taking high speed trains and covering long distances AND you want flexibility, get a Railpass. There are a lot of people who come to Europe and just buy a full-price ticket at the station. This is both time-consuming and expensive, and can be more expensive than a Railpass. But if you're taking high-speed trains nothing is cheaper than buying in advance in most cases up to 3 months before your trip.

Posted by
12040 posts

OK, I'm going to say it... Where exactly did you negotiate a room price in Switzerland? Town, name of establishment, or if it was a private residence, an address.

Posted by
12400 posts

Hi, When you go to Poland, you won't need to use a Pass...not worth it... just get the ticket at the counter for day rides. Three times in Poland in the last decade, (2001, 2003, 2005), I just bought the tickets at the counter, 2nd class, no problems on seating. I would say using the Pass depends on your way of traveling, your travel philosophy, goals, objectives, priorities, etc., whether you do only regional traveling and/or long distance, including zig- zagging. If I'm doing a day trip r/t from Frankfurt to Marburg, or Wetzlar, or Koblenz, no need to use a Pass day, buy a point to point ticket from the machine with cash or your credit card, same as if I were to do day trip from Stuttgart-Rastatt (that's a very nice trip), I am not using the Pass. You don't waste a Pass day on a regional train (RB) Use the Pass for rides like Munich-Leipzig, Kiel, or Berlin, Cologne to Wilhelmshaven on the ICE trains. I use a Pass, max days 10 or 11 within 2 months covering France, Austria, and Germany and riding the ICE. Certainly using a Pass is not ideal for all occasions. That's stretching it.

Posted by
12376 posts

I am curious about the Switzerland negotiation too. Where? I completely agree with the statement above (Sasha) that "the Swiss are too interested in predictability, consistency, and fairness to even consider that".
Tthat pretty much sums up the Swiss approach to hospitality, in my experience. Maybe the person with whom you negotiated wasn't actually Swiss, but some other nationality?

Posted by
4362 posts

"We later found out that after using two sites up on the Roma Pass, the Pass would provide a discount on the third site (the Borghese). We could have booked a reservation Time instead of Tickets, and paid the discounted price at point of entry. I recommend people do that because we have heard that if you are not there 30 m before your scheduled time, they give your slot away. Not sure you would get a refund on a ticket, but losing a time slot would not be bad." Another example of why one should buy - and study ahead of time and use - guidebooks. Rick Steves' books would have clearly stated this money-saving strategy and warning about the 30m time slot. Live and Learn - Life's motto. (cont.)

Posted by
4362 posts

(cont.) **The huge point many of us spend hours correcting/expounding upon has to do with the assumption still made by some travel guides/TV programs and well-meaning friends that 'all you have to do is get thee a railpass' and All is Good! It was on my first trip 14 years ago - we spent 5 weeks traveling all over Europe and only needed reservations/supplements for a couple of night trains and 1 or 2 Italian trains (and possibly a French train...). These days with the ease of internet purchases (with the occasional exception of Trenitalia - just stick with it!), the increased number of Italian fast trains, pricing structures, etc., the automatic railpass purchase shouldn't be anymore. For most people who post here, it's their first trip and they're doing what they were told - and then it turns out they don't need nor want a pass. "NOTE! Often you have limited transfer time, things happen fast. It can be stressful purchasing the rail ticket at the terminal, when the train is leaving in minutes. A pass beats that. The high speed rail in Italy is the only way to go...You pay an added reservation charge (surcharge) of about 10 Euros per person. That can be done at the machine, but it is tricky." I, for one, want my ticket in hand before leaving home; I don't want to have to spend 30+m in line at the ticket window or kiosk...apparently I travel to more popular locales :-(

Posted by
31303 posts

Steve, One point to note for future reference.... Should you decide to use a Railpass in future, you might consider buying it from this website. Click the "Railpasses" tab at top for details. Having spoken with them on numerous occasions, I think it's safe to say that Rick's Rail department has a greater depth of knowledge on Railpasses than most Travel Agents. I'm sure they get a commission on sales also, but I've always found them to be a good source of information. Given your home location, should you happen to be in the Seattle area, stop by the office and have a chat with them. Cheers!

Posted by
2780 posts

Ken, when Steve said "Sounds like I will research country passes next trip rather than trust the Travel Agent. You would be very surprised which agency I personally attended... That's all I will say on that." I think he was implying that he did consult with the RS staff and they advised him that the good deals on local transport (the kind Sarah mentioned like Schones Wochenende tickets) are for "European residents only."

Posted by
31303 posts

@Sasha, I noticed that statement, and wondered if that was the travel agent he was referring to. If that's the case, I'm surprised that Rick's staff would have given him anything but perfect information. There are SO MANY possibilities depending on the routes being travelled, countries, etc. That means a lot of work for travellers in doing the "number crunching" to figure out the best options. Cheers!

Posted by
2780 posts

And I see he still hasn't answered Tom's question about where de did that "negotiating" in Switzerland.

Posted by
26058 posts

Steve, are you still in the building?

Posted by
4362 posts

"Sounds like I will research country passes next trip rather than trust the Travel Agent. You would be very surprised which agency I personally attended... That's all I will say on that." Funny; I assumed he was referring to the TA RS uses in Edmonds ;-) I just don't think of ETBD as a TA...

Posted by
26058 posts

I just don't think of ETBD as a TA That's because they aren't a Travel Agent.

Posted by
26058 posts

Maybe a ticketing office will print you a free rail ticket if you have time. Not flippin' likely. Where did that happen, Steve? Circumstances. I think it irresponsible to suggest to new travelers that they can ask for a free ticket.

Posted by
22 posts

Nigel. Not free but a ticket that goes with the Rail Pass, no different than one you get with paying the res fee. It should be able to be done at the terminal... By entering the code and net no chg.