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Europe rail transportation booking...so many companies and offers.

Ok folks. In looking at rail travel in (and between) Germany, Czech, Austria, and Italy, there are so many websites and apparent different companies that offer tickets aboard trains. How do I know which are "real" or legitimate, versus companies or individuals acting as resellers, potentially at a higher price or with itinerary problems that could sink my vacation? Not that all resellers are bad, but if I am dropping thousands and thousands on a vacation, I don't want to risk the basic logistics only to save a few dollars.

Thanks!
AB

Posted by
4665 posts

In almost every case (the exception, for certain US cases, is France, which you didn't ask for) you should use the national rail site of the country you are travelling in, or for international journeys try both and see which has the cheaper fare.

Germany - www.bahn.com
Austria - www.oebb.at, then select the small "English" link in the upper right, under the search box.
Czech Republic - www.cd.cz, then select the small "en" in the top right.
Italy - www.trenitalia.com, then click on the British or American flag in the top right.

Posted by
31272 posts

AB,

For rail trips in Germany and France (and a few other countries), you might also have a look at Capitaine Train. For trips in Italy, you could check Italia Rail, which is linked to the Trenitalia ticketing system.

One point to mention regarding Italy is that it's sometimes better to just buy tickets from a Kiosk or ticket office when you arrive there. You can save some money buy pre-purchase of tickets for the high speed trains, but you must be willing to commit to a specific train, date and departure time as the ticket (and seat reservation) will only be valid for that one train. The cheapest Super Economy tickets are non-refundable and non-changeable, so choose carefully! There's no benefit at all for pre-purchase of tickets for Regionale trains (which is difficult to do anyway). It's just as easy to buy those in Italy. With Regionale tickets, you MUST validate these prior to boarding the train on the day of travel, or risk hefty fines which will be collected on the spot!

Posted by
25598 posts

In Italy, there is a competing train company - different, maroon, very new, very nice, free wifi, TV and movies car, fabulous - called Italo Treno. They run very fast bullet trains on the main line links of major cities.

Very comfy, easy to buy, oh, and leather seats even at the cheapest level.

Posted by
25598 posts

Noting the meridian in the name you have chosen makes me remember that there is a private rail company between Munich and Austria called Meridian.

They are perfectly legit, and run their own website and trains.

Posted by
25598 posts

I've just remembered the Circumvesuviana trains around Naples, too.

Rather than us remembering all the possible choices - some of us here know which are good and which bad - with you having a pretty loose target of 4 whole countries, if you were to share some of the itinerary with us, or at least the main journeys you are interested in we can give directed pointers to you.

Help us help you please.

Posted by
4290 posts

Westbahn between Vienna and Salzburg is a private rail carrier that I highly recommend.

I would say that if you avoid Rail Europe or anything with the word Eurail in it, that would be a good start.

Posted by
16852 posts

For point-to-point tickets there are advantages to going direct to the railway operator by buying tickets either at the train station or through their web site, especially if the site has English and works fairly easily, as those listed above tend to do. Advance-purchase discounts (most available starting 3 months before travel) can be significant, but will limit you to the travel dates and times you pre-select. There's no deadline to buy full-fare tickets, such as the 2nd-class rates summarized on Rick’s Train Travel Time & cost Map (and we think 2nd class is a fine way to travel).

Rail Europe is a US reseller and so applies there own exchange rate and issuing fees, but offers one-stop shopping for those departures you're committed to and also has the advance discounts for German and Italian tickets.

Is this still your travel plan, or has it changed? "2 adults and 4 kids, age 7-17.... spring 2016: Dresden, Prague, Munich/Fussen, Venice, and Rome." Are you flying into Berlin and out from Rome?

For the trip above, you'd only consider a 4-country Eurail Select Pass if you really wanted 1st class. Cost for each person 12 and older is $485, under 12 half that price, and 4 seat reservations about $50 per person. Prices for this pass may change in January.

Posted by
7 posts

Thanks for everything so far! A little more about itinerary:

We'll fly into Frankfurt and rent a car for our Germany, Prague, and Austria activities. The first train ride will be a sleeper car from Frankfurt to Venice. From Venice, we'll head to Cinque Terre. Then on to Pisa. Down to Rome. Down to Naples. Back to Rome for our flight back to the states. So, the train legs we'll need to plan for are:

Frankfurt to Venice
Venice to Monterosso
Monterosso to Pisa
Pisa to Rome
Rome to Naples
Naples to Rome

Hopefully that helps paint the picture.

Thanks / Grazie / Danke/ Merci
-AB

Posted by
25598 posts

Is there a City Night Line service (and will there be one in 2016?) between Frankfurt am Main and Venezia S.L.? My understanding is that the service is from Munich and you need a 3 hour and a bit ICE train connection from Frankfurt to Munich....

All those trains within Italy after your arrival from Germany are pretty short and either Regionale with really cheap tickets or InterCity at €9 early (90 days prior) or Freccia at €19 with 90 days prior.

I certainly see no need for a rail pass on those trains...

Posted by
7 posts

Hi Nigel,

You're correct on the Frankfurt am Main-to-Venice route - there is a stopover in Munich around 11 pm, then the rest of the journey is non-stop. Thanks for pointing that out!

AB

Posted by
17943 posts

Nigel,

Meridian is a private company running their own trains as Bahn regional trains on German Rail tracks under the privatization policy of the Bahn. They accept all German Rail tickets and passes, just like a Bahn train. They also have their own Tageskarte (day ticket) much like the Bayern-Ticket except just for trains on their lines from Munich to Salzburg and Munich to Kufstein and for the trains of the Bayerische Oberland Bahn (BOB) south of Munich.

Both Meridian and BOB are owned by Veolia, an international transportation company (Veolia even runs buses in Denver). BOB, however, has their own tracks and does not accept all passes accepted by the Bahn. BOB does not recognize either Eurail or German Rail passes, but they do recognize the Bayern-Ticket.

If you book in advance on the Bahn website, you can book all the way from Frankfurt to Venice on one Savings Fare ticket. I found fares from Frankfurt for as low as 59€/person using the direct day train from Munich to Venice or 49€ for a connection changing to an Italian train in Verona.

That night train from Munich to Venice used to go over Brenner Pass and via Verona. It now goes through Salzburg and combines (in Salzburg? Villach? Udine?) with a EuroNight train from Vienna.