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Final decisions on train travel

Our trip will be in mid June to around July 4th. Two adult and two kids 13 and 16.

Land in London on a Thursday. Stay there till Sunday.

-Take Eurostar to Paris Sunday Morning.

Spend Sunday and Monday in Paris.

-Leave Paris to either Caen or Rennes via TGV , rent a car and see Mt. St. Michell and D-Day sites over two days. One night in each area.

-Take TGV back to Paris Thursday morning to see more of Paris.

Leave Thursday night on night train to Berlin, arrive Friday Morning.

Spend day in Berlin, sleep over and take train to Torun Poland from Berlin Sat am to arrive around noon.

Rest of time is spent touring Poland with relatives before return to USA.

Based on what I have seen with the costs of tickets, I really can't see an advantage in a Euro Pass. For March prices I see that the TGV would be 98 Euros each way for the four of us. The night train is supposed ot be real nice if you go first class in a sleeper and the price is not to bad for the privacy and safety.

-What I would ask is about the car rental in France. Does TGV have a package deal with a car or is it the same to just book the train and car seperately? I would like to travel to Caen first and then return the car to Rennes. IS that a lot more or the same cost?

-Eurostar I can book as soon as the window opens up for the date I we need to leave London.

-Has anyone taken the Night train from Paris to Berlin and can comment on our family in one deluxe sleeper or a 4 person couchette?

-Has anyone taken a day time train from Berlin to Torun or to Poznon in Ploand where the connection is?

-Can I book all of the train travel via the Rick Steve's site? EuroRail over the phone was not helpful and I have no issues with paying a fee to a helpfull site instead of inflated ticket prices. I could book all of this myself, but am running into questions about the TGV/Car packages.

-Is there any need for me to get a rail pass?

Posted by
18866 posts

I'll let the "Frankephyles" here advise you on the French part of your trip. However, for Paris to Berlin to Poland, you can get fares and even book tickets on the German Rail website. For night trains, they often have special fares (Sparnight) for rail and overnight accommodations combined for not much more than the surcharge (Reservation price) for accommodations alone with a railpass.

German Rail can give you prices and sells tickets online for trains starting in German up to the first change of trains in Poland (Kutno). The full fare to Kutno is only €44 per adult and the Bahn can sell you an advance purchase Europa-Spezial fare for as low as €29 pP for the adults; the under 15 child, if noted on the ticket, is free. From Kutno to Torun with a Polish Rail fare is probably pretty cheap.

Rick Steves only sells rail passes. I don't know what you meant by "EuroRail". "Eurail ( is the organization that packages and markets railpasses for the national railroads in Europe; they don't sell tickets. RailEurope is a travel agency owned by French Rail; they sell both railpasses and individual tickets, but their tickets are more expensive than the price at the counter over there.

Considering that the two rail legs in France are fairly short, you might find that point-point tickets are less than the cost of a railpass, but you have to find fares and do the comparison yourself.

Posted by
44 posts

Lee, I looked at the DB site for May on a Thursday to see what the prices are.

4 persons in 2 Economy Double cabins 417,00 EUR 801,60 EUR
4 persons in 1 Economy 3-berth + 1 Economy Single cabin 397,00 EUR 781,60 EUR
4 persons in 4 Economy Single cabins 577,00 EUR

The cheaper price is the special while the other is the normal price I guess. This would cost a 100 or so Euros per person for an overnight trip with two cabins.

Does this change dramatically in late June?

What is perplexing is that depending on how you enter the site, you can get slight variations in fares.

I was confused and it is RailEurope that I meant.

I have to really thank Rick Steves for the videos, books and people here for getting us pumped up about this trip. This will be an 18 or so day trip that will be a lifetime of memories for the family.

Posted by
18866 posts

The lower prices are the discounted Europa-Spezial fares These are advance purchase, non-refundable (kind of like airline tickets). They are tiered; as the cheaper ones sell out, more expensive (but still discounted) tickets are what you can get.

The discounted price tiers, themselves, should be the same in June as in May, but if there is more demand for one date than another, the remaining discounted tickets might be more or less. Full fare should be the same either time.

Note there are two routings, on the CNL train all the way; the other an ICE to Mannheim, then the CNL. Full fares are different for the two routings, but the Europa-Spezial fare tiering should be the same.

Posted by
44 posts

This is getting clearer Lee. Once I have the the finer points down I can book at the first day available to get the best fares.

How the train gets to Paris doesn't effect me more then making usre that it is a clean and safe trip for the family with no hassles. It looks like the CNL service has newer cars in service on their web site.

I saw on the DB site that they offer a 1st class fare for thje 4 of us from Berlin to Torun Glovny station for 202 euros.

The site does not show a 2nd class price. If I put in 2nd class I get different times and days. Is this normal?

The Polish rail site has the NEglis version

The Polish rail site has the English version not woking. However, when I searched in my limited POlish I see that their train seems to be the same one from the DB site.

So far, I can book the Eurostar on their site.

Paris tom Berlin and Berlin to Torun can be done via DB.

All that is left is booking the TGV train and the best way to get a car for two days. I would like to go from Paris to Caen for Normandy and stay there one night. The next morning we head to Mt St Michel and stay near there. We drop off the car in Rennes and head back to Paris via a different French landscape .

What I have to find out next is if the car rental offices are near both stations and how to book this. TGV by itself and then a seperate car booking via Avis/Hertz? Or do Costo and other discounts work better if available.

WhenI first looked at what we wanted to do, this was a big mess last year. Watching the TV shows and reading the guide books was a big help in narroiwing this trip down and this forum is great to finalise plans.

Posted by
18866 posts

I guess I didn't look far enough when I was looking at Berlin to Torun. I see there is a direct EC connection and it has prices.

"The site does not show a 2nd class price. If I put in 2nd class I get different times and days. Is this normal?

I used May 13. If I put in 1st class I get the €202,20 price. I created another tab (Firefox) with 2nd class. When I tab back and forth, the date stays the same; nothing on my screen changes except the class and the price. In 2nd class it's €129,60. You must have changed something else.

Posted by
44 posts

Fred, the train from Berlin goes to Torun Glówny, the main station. The train I want to catch leaves after 6 AM and gets in before noon. The other trains take longer and have more stops. I am blessed with great relatives in Poland who want to show off the country in the week we are there. This is also a good excuse for some of them to take their kids on trips as well.

After reading the guide books I can look forward to a scenic drive to St Malmo from Mt St Michel before heading to the sleeping destination. The car gets returned to Rennes the next morning and we head back to Paris.

In Paris we catch up with the rest of the sites and then catch the late train to Berlin. Once in Berlin the guidebook tells be that all of what we want to see is near the train station and within a small radius. Sat morning we head to Poland for a week with family.

4 months ago this was so confusing and complicated until I happend to find the TV shows and bought the travel guides. What was going to be a short trip to Poland is going to be a fantastic trip for the family to London, Paris, Normandy and Berlin. I will give my kids and myself an incredible experience to see the most important historical sites where history was made which directly effected our lives. The art, culture, food, religious, military and scientific discoveries of a big portion of civilization will be alive.

There is still a lot more to see . However, we have bitten off a chewable piece instead of choking on too big a slice.

Posted by
14040 posts


While in Torun, be sure to go to the area of the main square (rynek?) where the Copernicus statue stands, some great architecture's also a very nice walking town. Happy Travels in Torun!!

AND, you are definitely right about the historical and cultural aspects which you want to expose to your kids in Poland, Paris, London, and Berlin. My sentiments exactly.

Posted by
8700 posts

Book your Eurostar tickets up to 120 days in advance at to get the cheapest fares.

Booked well in advance (up to three months allowed) at, you can get a Prem's fare as low as 15 EUR for Paris-Caen and 22 EUR for Rennes-Paris. To keep the site in English and to avoid being bumped to the Rail Europe site which doesn't offer discount fares, choose Great Britain as your country of residence. If you get Prem's fares, you can print the tickets yourself. For any other fare choose to pick up your tickets at any SNCF station in France. (Since you don't actually live in the UK, do not choose to have your tickets mailed to you.)

Booked on the DB site, the lowest discount fares for the Paris-Berlin night train are 237 EUR for four people in a four-bunk couchette, 337 EUR for three people in an economy three-bed sleeper + one person in an economy single sleeper, or 357 EUR for four people in two economy two-bed sleepers. Book ASAP (up to 92 days in advance) to have the best chance of getting the lowest fares.

For car rental I recommend Auto Europe, a consolidator that finds you the best rate from among the companies with which it has contracts. Call their US toll-free number and ask about discounts that don't appear on their Web site.

Posted by
44 posts

Thanks Tim and Lee. I will take this advice and book this myself ASAP. On the DB site what I found when I looked at 2nd class was that the date shifted to Sunday from Sat.

Next is looking at car rentals which I will do from the USA sites. Caen has nearby rental sites and I wonder if the Rennes station has nearby sites as well.

Since we will be out all day in Paris before the later daparture to Berlin, I am leaning towards a sleeper cabin with in room shower if possible.

Posted by
14040 posts


Your question on taking the day train from Berlin to Torun (Thorn)---I did that in July 2005. From Berlin to Torun I had to transfer in Poznan (Posen), which was just short of an hour and then continued from Poznan to Torun. Do you know which staion you're getting off at since there are two stations in Torun? That part was a bit confusing. The terminus for the Poznan-Torun was 3 stations later at Olsztyn (Allenstein). It's a nice and interesting ride if flatland doesn't bore you and seeing part of former West Prussia.

As for getting a pass, don't get a pass just for this leg of your trip. I had a pass but after spending 4 days in Torun including a day trip, I was going back to Germany and later to France. Happy Travels in Poland.

Posted by
8700 posts

You're welcome, Paul.

The Auto Europe site shows pick up and drop off points at the Caen train station and at the Rennes train station.

Posted by
44 posts

Thanks for the help. I will keep updating my adventure in booking.

Posted by
44 posts

Things are moving along for our trip. The airline tickets are bought and what a shock to see the next day that the same trip and class was almost double!!!

The DB people are very prompt in responding to email questions. I can buy the extra charge for the deluxe sleepers, but have to wait till March to buy the 1st class tickets.

Tomorrow I will buy the Eurostar tickets.

Hotels in London , Paris and the Normandy area are booked and paid for. I should be able to take the Tibe from Heathrow to the St. Pancrase area where the hotel is. Hotel in Paris is within walking distance from arriving EuroStar and departing CNL train.

What is left is another hotel in Berlin, tix to Torun, car rental for 2 days and the TGV tickets.

All in all this is all coming together rather nicely and within the budget.

What I would ask is the following.

-Does DB or the French rail charge more or the same when you book via the web or call them in person?

-The CNL train arrives at the Berlin Hauptbahnhof station early in the morning. The hotel I am looking at is 1/2 kilometer away. Is that a walkable distance or is the station area non pedestrian friendly?

The web has changed travel tremendously in doing searches and finding what is in your interest. One thing I am enjoying is using google street views to "walk" through the areas we plan to visit to familiarize myself with them. I wish this was as fast as the XBox games my kids play so I could dash faster and not get delayed due to the bottlenecks.

Posted by
8700 posts

I believe that the best discount fares offered by French Rail are only available via online booking, but I don't know for sure.

Lee from Denver will be able to give you an answer about German Rail bookings.

I don't know what the area is like around the Berlin Hbf, but a 0.5km walk would take around five minutes.

Posted by
18866 posts

-Does DB ... charge more or the same when you book via the web or call them in person?

Paul, I don't think it is the same for web orders vs. prices.

The Sparpreis (from €29 within Germany) offer says there is a €5 charge for personal assistance (the way it is worded, I can't tell if it is per order or per tickets, but it is a little more). I would assume personal assistance means either at the counter or on the phone.

The Europa-spezial offer does not mention personal assistance, so I would assume that is only by web, but I'm not sure.

Without reading the AGB (General Business Conditions, which is voluminous and in German), I can't be absolutely certain.

Update: After scanning the 148 page AGB, I don't see anything about ordering Europa-Spezial or SparNight tickets with personal assistance. I would have to assume these are Internet only offers, so the price by phone would only be the full fare. I did see that the extra charge for personal assistance on the Sparpreis fares is €5 per person. I would have to say that the price for phone orders is higher than the Internet price.

Posted by
14040 posts


The area around Berlin Hauptbahnhof is pedestrian problem there. Good, that your trip planning is coming along. Happy Travels and especially in Poland!!

Posted by
18866 posts

Steve, you have the right idea, but that is not exactly the terminology they used. (Apparently they didn't use Google translator). In the "Beförderungsbedingungen der Deutschen Bahn AG" (Conditions of Carriage of German Rail), § 3.3.1 (page 7 of 148) is entitled "Sparpreis", which is the name, Savings Price, they give to this discounted ticket offer.

Under § Beim Erwerb im personalbedienten Verkauf erhöht sich der Gesamtpreis je Fahrtrichtung um 5 €.

With a little license, By the purchase in personally served sales, increases the total price of each travel direction by 5€. I have also seen "persönlich Bedienung" used. Bedienung is service; Betreuung, I think, means a little more like caring for (nursing) someone. Andreas, Mark, anyone.

In another section farther back, they refer to one instance of "personalbedienten Verkauf" as using the DB Reisezentrum, which is, besides the travel center in a station, what you are using, I think, when you contact them by phone.

They also give a table showing prices of the Dauer-Spezial tickets, now replaced by Sparpreis, as starting at €29 for Internet sales to the first person and €20 for each additional Mitfahrer up to 4. For tickets purchased in "personalbedienten Verkauf" it starts at €34 for the first person and €29 for the 2. to 5. person.

Posted by
430 posts

I think that Betreuung implies the same as the word more commonly used in Austria -- Sachwalter. So... caretaker, still, yes... but implies 'agent'. When I read what you found in context, I end up thinking 'concierge' for some reason. Very curious to see what any of our native speakers say.

EDIT: The more I think about it, I'm sticking with 'personal service agent' or the concept of a 'concierge' as facilitating the sale. Very curious to see what Mark or Andreas say about it.

Posted by
18866 posts

"bedienten" means "serviced", an adjective. The personally serviced?

I guess personalbedienten Verkauf could figuratively mean staffed sale, as opposed to automated sale.

Literally, "personalbedienten Verkauf" mean personally serviced sales.

This is a good example of why I never use Babelfish or Google for translation except to get a general idea of what is being said.

But, in short, some discounted fares charge more for personally service sales; others aren't available except online.

Interesting, Google translates "personalbedienten Verkauf" as "staffed sale", but "staffed sale" as "besetzt Verkauf", and "besetzt Verkauf" as "busy selling".

Posted by
337 posts

Betreuung, I think, means a little more like caring for (nursing) someone.

Yep, Betreuung with regards to persons refers either to a kind of all around care taking (e.g. child, senior, or patient nursing; or in a legal context guardianship) or some form or a comprehensive mentoring/counseling (e.g. like a university teacher mentors a grad student).

In context of tourism I think a guided tour or a club resort with an extensive entertainment program might style itself "betreut." A less exaggerated example might be a personal butler or top notch concierge service.

But simply handing over a ticket at a counter is certainly not Betreuung.

Posted by
44 posts

This is an interesting marketing question in the digital age. I booked the Eurostar at the departure times we wanted direct from Eurostar for @ 258 US Dollars for 4 seats. Using the same computer and doing the same key strokes via Rail Europe's web site had the same tickets for 50 dollars more. I really can't see that there has been 50 dollars in something tangible given in exchange for that sum. 50 Dollars pays for a breakfast or lunch for the family in Europe.

If I have to pay a few extra Euros for a live DB person over the web price, I can see that being worth it to clarify questions I may have. The few hundred dollar difference between booking via DB and Rail Europe for the same travel does not provide any additional value compared to the increased cost.

My next issue will be over returning to Paris via Rennes or Pontorosun depending on the train schedule, car rental return facility or if driving to Rennes from Pontorosun is a worthy drive. We want to return to Paris by lunch time so we can spend some more time in Paris before departing for Berlin in the evening.

One thing I have discovered is that in the persuit of saving dollars and increasing the experience, you really can learn a lot about the country, geography and history before you step on a plane. That is one of the reasons I really enjoyed the way the Rick Steves TV and book guides are set up. Not too stuffy and enough to allow you to be a smarter American instead of an ugly American when you travel.

Posted by
14040 posts


Do your relatives live in Torun? If so, and if you want to take some day trips, I would suggest one town I went to in 2005 by bus from the main bus station in Torun...Chelmno (Kulm), about 50 mins., an interesting West Prussian town in an area that was called Kulmerland that pretty much escaped the horrors of WW II. I didn't have the time to see this other place, which was recommended to me ...Grudziadz (Graudenz). If you go just a bit north (depending on how far your relatives drive you around), be sure to see Kwidzyn (Marienwerder), another historical site in the former West Prussia. Happy Travels...and I do envy your Polish trip!!

Posted by
44 posts

Fred, I am very blessed with relatives living in Torun. What we have is three generations of family with elderly brother and sisters of my mother, their children and now their children's children. I left when I was one year old, so no one has ever seen me and I have never seen them in person. They are all excited for our trip since this will be a special time when everyone can get together and is alive. I do not expect this to be several years from now, so this is the year and my kids are old enough to appreciate this. My mother flies in seperately, ahead of us.

For decades my family has been sending packages of clothes, cash and other esentials to Poland when it was under Communist rule. The changes since the wall and the USSR fell are incredible. It literally is like going from gray to color.

Besides Torun, we want to visit Gdansk, where Solidarity was born, the Baltic areas near there, Krakow, Auschwitz, mountain scenery and the Malbork Castle.

Train tickets from Berlin to Torun will be soon available for sale. We have enough cars and vans for use, but will see about using trains if they are easier.

Another travel idea is to see about boat trips on the Vistula river.

We have plenty of sun and beaches where we live. My goal is to make real the history, good and bad of Western Europe in the Middle ages, the Rennaisance, the World wars, the rise and death of Nazism and Communism, the victims and how these places have changed later.We can see the best and the worst of man. The English language will be explored via the Globe theater in London when we see Macbeth. High speed train connecting London to Paris in a little more than 2 or so hours under the English Channel is what I used to read to my kids at bed time years ago with their train books. The Mona Lisa in person, Glorious Cathedrals, somber places in Normandy and enjoying the local foods can be combined in this trip.

Posted by
14040 posts


I know exactly what you mean as regards to the family of three generations and especially what you said about while everyone is still alive. You got it!! You listed Gdansk (Danzig) and Malbork (Marienburg) as two of your must-sees, my sentiments exactly...spent a week there in July 2003, with Malbork (Marienburg) as a day trip from Gdansk (Danzig) going there by train. That train's main stop is at Tczew (Dirschau) before going to Malbork. The town of Malbork, that old Marienburg as a West Prussian town, was pretty much destroyed and wrecked in 1945.

I am definitely most envious of you and your family's trip in the north of Poland; you have a most enjoyable trip, you hear!! Happy Travels

Posted by
44 posts

It will be a few more weeks before I can book other tickets online. In the mean time, I have been looking at a Hotel in Berlin next door to the main train station. It amkes sense to bae able to just rol out of bed , check out and just walk to the station for a 6:29 AM train.

Has anyone styaed at the Meininger Berlin Station hotel? It looks very new and a 4 person room is only 98 Euros. We only need to sleep over for the night before heading on to Poland.

Our plan is to disembark in Berlin in the morning, drop off the bags here, walk to what we want to see and return later to the hotel. I do not wish to chance being Farther away from this train station and have to travel to the station so early when we can just walk.

Posted by
14040 posts


If you can get a room for 4 at 98 Euro at the Meininger, it's definitely a good deal. Sometimes they charge that amount for a EZ (single rm). I have never stayed with them because they're a bit too pricey, but for 4 at that price it's worth it and being close to Berlin Hauptbahnhof, in and of itself is site to be visited and walked'll see.
Happy Travels!!

Posted by
80 posts

I've stayed at other Meininger's in Germany. They were good quality and good value.

As for Berlin - if you want to maximize your ONE day there (not enough!!) than take a walking tour.

The all day tour offered by Terry Brewer's Tours (google it) are VERY GOOD. I've gone twice, the second time I hauled my 60+ year old mother along. She loved it.

There's just too much history there to NOT get a guide, especially if you are only there for one day.

Posted by
44 posts

My biggest snag right now is the CNL Paris to Berlin tickets via DBahn. An email I recieved a week ago stated that I could purchase 2 deluxe sleepers and wait till mid marhc to buy the 1st class tickets.

The phone number for Britain on their web site gives you a recording about Xmas closings.

The German numbers will have the person telling you that they can connect you to an English speaker. After some time, you get a recording telling you to call bakc later since everyoen is busy.

This ain't looking easy.

Is it normal to buy the sleeper seperately from the tickets if you are looking at a 4 month difference?

I have not been able to get the site to go past the initial time schedule using one portal. A sort of internal error message is generated.

The other portal tells me to wait till 92 days before departure to book.

I am wondering if the problem is that the 8:20 PM departure with no stops does not have any deluxe sleepers while the other trains, for example a one stop ICE to CNL does have Deluxe Sleepers ? This could explain why I can't find Deluxe Sleepers on the 8:20 train.

DBs site is confusing and their phone system has issues. The time difference is 6 hours so it is not too easy to call at their convenience.

Posted by
44 posts

I really wish to thank the people here who have assisted me in deciphering train travel for my family's trip this year. Between the Rick Steve's TV show, web site and books, as well as "The Man in Seat 61" web site along with the responses here I have madea lot of progress in booking the trip.

What is great is how much money you save by booking advance and knowing which web sites to use and how to get tickets. Here is what has happened so far.

FIRST ISSUE is to have your exact dates nailed down so you can start searching for airfares and know exactly when you will be able to travel. A few days in either direction can make a big diffrence in price. ON airfare, based on what we needed, the time in the air and the class we wnated, I am happy with our fare. Just looking a few days later saw the seats available for 4 of us vanish and the price double to get on the same planes!

Hotels were not an issue and I found satisfactory prices and then some of those rooms sold out a week later.

Train travel for 4 was booked based on advice given here.

-EuroStar to Paris 186 Euros same trip 384 today
via EuroStar site.

-Paris to Caen for 92 euro, 2nd class via TGV.europe

-Rennes to Paris 100 Euro 2n class via TGV.europe

Paris night train to Berlin 2 cabins 357 Euro.

Berlin to Torun 1st class 147 Euros, 202 Euros now.

What does perplex me is that I could not book a 4 person cabin via DBahn . 2 Deluxe cabins are about 800 Euros more then 2 economy cabins. I can't see spending that for a toilet, a glass of wine and a meal. I did not see any 4 person single cabin offered on this train.

My next question is about car rental. The deal with and Avis is about 400 USD for what I need. Europecar is around the same price. Avis has 500 K while Eurocar is unlimited.

Is driving from Caen to Mt St Michel, then to Pontarosan and finally to Rennes and taking the Rick Steves guide book scenic route going to take more then 500 K