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How fast do seats fill up on trains?

I'm looking to get a rail pass to travel between Czech Republic, Germany, and the Netherlands. I was looking to get the Eurail Select pass, but just a general inquiry about how it works.

I understand that I can still use the Eurail pass without having to make a reservation as long as the train acknowledges that reservations are not required. How often do seats fill up? If I cannot get onto one train because it's full, am I likely to catch the next train?

thank you all for your help.

Posted by
795 posts

We are in Europe (and Asia) much of the year back and forth and always get the Eurail Global Pass (since we need to go to a lot of countries) so we love the trains. Yes, you can use the Eurail pass without a reservation on train routes that do not require reservations but when it says that reservations are optional, we always make the reservations. Seats can fill up on popular routes at popular traveling times which is why an optional reservation can be helpful. Get there well in advance of the train. to better your chances. The train stations are great for people watching. If you miss one train, reserve the next one.

Posted by
16894 posts

You cannot get "shut out" of any train that does not require a reservation/seat assignment. If it's crowded, you can check for seats in multiple cars or stand in the aisle until a seat becomes free. I have only occasionally had to stand. If one train does seem too full for you, it's probably a short wait for the next one. Within Germany and the Netherlands, most routes have service every hour, or even more often. If some people have made optional seat reservations on those trains, they may be marked with reservation slips that tell which portion of the ride is reserved.

Depending on your specific destinations, you may be able to get away with a cheaper 2-country pass, instead of the 4-country Selectpass. A ticket just from Amsterdam to the closest German border at Emmerich (heading toward Cologne) only costs about $20 in 2nd class. Train tickets in the Czech Republic are also cheap. Or, if you choose the cheapest pass for just Germany, it also covers the German-run bus between Nuremberg or Munich and Prague (bus needs a seat reservation) but does not cover the Czech portion of the train ($20 2nd class) if you travel to/from Berlin.

Posted by
11294 posts

The single best Internet resource for train information is The Man In Seat 61.

First, here is his discussion of whether or not you should get a railpass. Read it twice and make sure you understand it before committing to a pass: http://tinyurl.com/bkw4u6c

For the three countries you listed, reservations are not required on all but a few lines. So, with a valid railpass, you just board the train and find a seat. If you can't find a seat, you stand until someone gets off. These trains cannot be "sold out," and you will always be permitted to board.

If you want to be sure of having a seat, you can buy a reservation; this is definitely recommended for popular routes, at busy times, or if you have a lot of luggage (sitting on your luggage in an aisle is no fun; with a reservation, you just go to your seat and store the luggage above).

Posted by
23465 posts

Before getting the rail pass you really need to do some homework by pricing out your anticipate route to see if the pass works. With advance discount pricing, reservation fees, etc., it gets harder and harder to make a pass economical. If the train has open seating (no required reservations), you just get on and find a seat or stand till a seat becomes available. Trains rarely sell out and if a train is mix of reserved and non-reserved, then it never sells out. And, of course, you will not know that the train is full until you get on and start looking for a seat. The one thing you can bump into with mixed seating is that your are going from A to D and a seat might be reserved from B to C but open before and after. You might get a seat from A to B and be bumped from the seat at B. As long as you are flexible, you should be OK.

Posted by
5450 posts

The poster above (Terry L) is one of the few people who seem to think a rail pass is a good idea. Generally, in the 21st century, rail passes have gone the way of the dodo bird with the advent of low cost airlines. Nearly, if not every, time, point to point tickets purchased in advance, online work out much cheaper than a rail pass. I suggest you read this link for more info:

http://www.seat61.com/Railpass-and-Eurail-pass-guide.htm#Should%20you%20buy%20a%20railpass%20or%20pay-as-you-go

As for trains filling up, that is just not possible in the countries you are planning to visit- at least not in the CR or Germany. Train travel is not like air travel. No one is counting passengers as they get on or off the trains. It would be virtually impossible to know how many people are on a train at a given time. If all the seats are taken you stand! You don't wait for the next train - that would be silly. If you want to ensure you have a seat on a long distance train, you reserve a seat at the station ( not with Eurail, as you will see that a pass makes no sense).

Posted by
7209 posts

I agree with Emily 100%. In fact, this is one of the few reputable travel websites that still promote Rail Passes. I think of Rail Passes like Traveler's Cheques...only people who are uninformed still ask about Traveler's Cheques.

Posted by
8629 posts

Everyone seems to forget that there can be a hidden value to a rail pass. If you don't want to have to spend time searching out advance tickets or tie yourself down to a set schedule, a rail
pass may make sense.

Value is about more than the actual ticket price. If someone has read the information available, on this site and others, and wants a rail pass, let them have it without all this "bashing."

The Rick Steves website has a section about whether a pass is right for you or not and the travel classes held at the Edmonds travel center go into quite a bit of detail about the pros and cons.

Posted by
23465 posts

There is no question for most countries (maybe not France) that there is a convenient factors associated with train passes but you pay a price for that so I am not sure I would call it a hidden value. Now in Italy you have to have a reservation except for the Regionale trains so that means that somewhere, sometimes, you have to get and pay for that reservation. Second, I notice that on most travel sites people are following pretty rigid schedules with enormous advancing planning so the rail pass convenience quickly fades. Just as well buy the discounted tickets.

Posted by
7209 posts

The only country in which a rail pass is useful is expensive Switzerland...and even then it's one of the official Swiss Rail Passes that give you lots of bonuses and big discounts on the high private (and expensive) rails and gondolas. Some countries like France even LIMIT the number of seats available to Eurail Pass holders in addition to adding a supplement as well as a seat reservation. Nope - no hidden value there.

Point to point tickets are very affordable and negate the usefulness or price savings of a Eurail Pass. Case in point - we were on a train from Munich to Fussen with an elderly couple and their Eurail Pass. They used an entire day of their expensive pass to do that little jaunt. We were traveling on a Bavarian Ticket (all 5 of us) same starting point and same ending point for about 30Euro total. I didn't have the heart to tell her how super cheap the trip actually was. They were happy in their minds with their very useful Eurail Pass. Sometimes usefulness is more imagination than anything else. If you like the thoughts of a Eurail Pass and it makes you happy then by all means use it. Otherwise stick to point to point tickets with the savings and same ease of use as long as your capable of using a train station kiosk or your laptop to buy train tickets.

Posted by
16894 posts

You need to do the math yourself. The German Pass is especially cheap and flexible to use, like the Swiss Pass, so if you have several trips within Germany and not much in the neighboring countries, then I'd check the German Pass first. Like most passes, it's even cheaper for pairs of travelers or for those under 26 than for single adults. At this point, only you know your destinations and only you know how committed you are to any particular departure dates and times.

Posted by
12040 posts

Even many (but not all) 2nd class tickets bought on the day of travel are cheaper than the daily cost of a rail pass. So, you're paying a whole lot just for the convenience of not having to use the ticket machines, which are about as easy to negotiate as an ATM. This is especially true for regional trains, which do not offer advanced purchase discounts anyway.

To get back to one of the original questions... when I lived in Germany, I always bought a reservation when riding an ICE (Intercity Express, a fast long distance train between large cities). Not to guarantee myself a seat. As the other posters mentioned, seats are almost always available. But, so that I didn't have to waste time walking through the carriages looking for that empty seat. With a reservation, I know exactly which carriage to board and can procede directly to my vacant seat.

Domestic rail service in the Netherlands is all open seating, with no advanced-purchase discounts. An exception is the Thalys highspeed service, which connects Amsterdam to Rotterdam, Antwerpen, Brussels and Paris. This works more like an airline ticket. And with a rail pass, you would need to purchase a reservation and a supplement. I've seen more than a few rail pass holders have to cough up a hefty sum of money to the ticket collector when they learned to their horror that using the pass was not as simple as they had initially presumed.

Posted by
16 posts

I called the German Embassy, they told me and it is as they said (I checked) the German Passport at its second page states your residence, in my case Montevideo.
Let's see if that's enough for the GRP friends :)