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Eurorail or SNCF? What to do?

We read in the Rick Steves book about the France railway.
We have no idea what to do.

Travel: (per day)
Paris to Reims to Paris
Paris to Beaune to Geneva
Geneva to Nice
Nice to Cannes (local train)
Cannes to Barcelona

We bought a first class Eurail tickets for 4 countries ($780.00)
We are now told we have to reserve our tickets - additional $226.00

Why would we but the Eurail pass when we went to the en.voyages-sncf.com/en
and were able to reserve our train tickets for (approx) half the price.

We don't understand what the book is saying and need help.... help!?!

Posted by
544 posts

You're right that advance purchase tickets are cheaper than the pass. If you already bought the pass, it looks like there might be a return option with a 15% fee if you bought it through Rail Europe.

Posted by
415 posts

We purchased point to point advanced tickets online most often directly from the train company The total cost of all our tickets was cheaper than 1 adult Eurail pass. And that wasn't even calculating additional reservation fees or trips not covered by the Eurail pass. Plus our 2 kids always traveled at a discounted rate. It took a lot of work though but the savings were more than worth it. I also found seat61.com to be very helpful.

Posted by
21718 posts

Unfortunately, Hollih, you should have check this site prior to purchasing the rail pass. For the most part you don't buy a rail pass to save money. You do it for the convenience of being able to travel anytime on short notice. In France the reservation fees tends to be expensive but in the other countries the fee is around 10 to 15 Euro. With advance, on-line, discounted tickets, it is hard to make a rail pass economical.

Posted by
45 posts

Yes, you have to figure out the point to point cost with reservations versus the Eurail pass with reservations. It is alot of work but usually worth the effort. I bought all our point to point tickets through www.capitainetrain.com and was delighted with their service and prices. I actually like that site the best for any train tickets through most of the large European countries.

Posted by
18302 posts

You don't usually have to buy reservations for all trains between points, only for the fastest express trains. Check the schedule and find regional trains on the same route. Regional trains are what the rail pass was designed for. You can just fill in the date and get on any regional train without any extra charges.

Posted by
3681 posts

The North American attitude lingers that the first thing to do is buy a rail pass for Europe. No, that's the last thing to do, after researching point-to-point tickets. Sorry, this is no help for you now, but store away this link for next time: www.seat61.com

It will help you understand rail systems almost anywhere, and provide strategies for buying tickets, passes and reservations.

Posted by
16883 posts

You could have done this entire trip with just a France Rail Pass; no need to pay for 4 countries. The TGV reservation departing from a French station directly to Barcelona covers the whole route together with a France pass, Spain pass, or pass for both countries (but not a few other pass types). (Or, my earlier suggestion was to fly from Nice to Barcelona.)

FYI, Geneva is the official border station for the trains you're taking, not an extra country. I'm surprised that Geneva is on the itinerary, now, since it does not match your earlier questions about France and Spain. Seat reservation fees are high on the TGV Lyria running directly from Geneva to Nice, but seat reservation fees would be in the normal range if you connect to a domestic TGV at Lyon, instead.

Also, I would not pay to reserve any leg of the train that doesn't require it. Use the DB train schedule link at How to Look Up Train Schedules and Routes Online to know which legs are actually Subject to Compulsory Reservation.

Posted by
24 posts

Thank you everyone (again!)

What a great help you are.

So, what I did was checked our itinerary again and considered point to point. Total was $1220.
Using the Eurail Select Pass ($780) and then booking fees totalled $244 - 20% discount coupon on certain trains = 226.40
Total was $1006.40.

When I called to ask them which pass they would recommend they said the Select Pass (that I was considering).
She never mentioned the France/ Spain pass - which really annoys me! I did think, since Switzerland was added to the mix, it was considered another country so I didn't know to question it. I will now!

Well... I'm usually quite frugal. As a matter of fact all hotels and our first class airlines tickets are all covered by points, so I did well there! This train system will stuck it to me though... live and learn.....?!!?

Thanks again.

Posted by
24 posts

I also just tried using the Eurail France/ Spain pass and it does not cover Geneva!
Maybe the 4 country Eurail pass recommendation was the best...

(We wanted to take this trip to
Drink Champagne in the Champagne region,
Drink Burgundy in the Burgundy region,
Buy a Swiss watch in Switzerland
.... and so much more.

That is how the whirlwind of Switzerland came to fruition... (why not!) :>)

Posted by
8889 posts

Where did you look those prices up? $1220 seams very high for just 5 trips, and 3 of those relatively short trips. I hope you looked them up on the websites of the companies running the trains, or possibly www.capitainetrain.com
Any US-based site quoting prices in $ is liable to have a mark-up. First class is also unnecessary, second class is cheaper. And I hope you were looking at prices for the actual date you intend to travel, and not just the prices for tomorrow.. In many cases the earlier you buy tickets the cheaper.
And, Geneva is a French railways station. It is the border station, jointly run by Swiss and French railways.

Posted by
16883 posts

I don't know who you've been talking with, but do let me know by private message. You have a lot of issues mixed up.

Posted by
7597 posts

The only thing with what Lee mentions not all the trains requiring reservations for passholders -- from the look of it, only Nice-Cannes wouldn't require a reservation. All the rest are TGV or similar.

Posted by
16781 posts

Paris-Reims-paris can be done with local trains if you're willing to accept a change at Epernay and a little more leisurely pace.

Posted by
16883 posts

I also already mentioned a non-reserved Paris-Beaune option by DM; it's early, but OP is/was planning a long day.

Posted by
24 posts

Thanks again everyone.

The Eurail Pass Select was/ is the best option.
We saved over $200 and we still have 1 extra train available to us to use.

We are fully scheduled and booked on trains.

I did check the point to point and using the pass is best. Not always, although most of our travel needed reservations.

Just so you know, Switzerland is NOT included in a France/ Spain pass. I tried it online and I contacted Rail Europe also.

Very helpful although I hope I helped some of you too!

Happy Travels.

Posted by
27720 posts

Just so you know, Switzerland is NOT included in a France/ Spain pass. I tried it online and I contacted Rail Europe also.

I think that you will find that both Laura and the other person you spoke to is right, but in a different way.

Laura is absolutely right that Geneva is considered a French border city. Using a France pass or a France/Spain pass allows you to travel throughout the French network, and Geneva is considered part of the French network, even though it is actually in Switzerland. It is the same thing in Basel, Switzerland. German trains arrive in Basel and treat the fare a German fare, and even local trains from Germany go there. French trains arrive in Basel and the French treat it as a French destination, even for their local trains. And Swiss trains go to the very same station and call it Switzerland.

And the other person you spoke to, if what they said is that Switzerland is not included in a France/Spain pass, is absolutely correct, too. Switzerland is a different country from France and Spain and as such is not included in that pass.

But French border cities are.

Posted by
24 posts

Geneva is not a stop that can be used with the France/ Spain pass.
We were going to get the France/ Spain pass and was told we needed the SelectPass instead just to go to Geneva (no other Stops in Switzerland).

I see what you are saying... but the Eurail contacts are stating differently when it comes to the pass.