We are going to be traveling from northern Italy through Switzerland and Germany and finishing by going from Trier to Paris. I have used RailEurope to estimate P2P tickets, and it seems like, even with reservations, a 15 day Eurail Global pass will save us money. I am worried about two issues. One is lack of seats for pass holders, which appears to be worse in France than elsewhere. I am also finding that RailEurope doesn't list reservations for many trains, and afraid that if we wait until arrival in Europe, reservations may be scarce. I am having particular problems with reservations from Trier to Paris on the TGV leg, where Raileurope only lists full tickets. Any suggestions? Has the Eurail pass really become such a headache it's not worth it? Thanks, Glenn
If you are using RailEurope to get p2p ticket prices it will come out too high. You can do much better on the individual country's websites, buying advance purchase discount tickets. In Italy, you may find tickets on the IC and ES trains for 9€, less than the cost of a passholder reservation. Bahn.de will sell you a ticket from Trier to Paris for 59€ on the route through Saarbrucken it is 20 min. Faster than the TGV route. Rail Europe wants $109 for that trip. Also, if you are spending much time in Switzerland, the Eurail,pass will not serve you well. In the Berner Oberland, for example, it will only cover 25% once you go above Interlaken into the mountains. So my answer would be yes, for most trips, a Eurail pass is not worth it.
"I am having particular problems with reservations from Trier to Paris on the TGV leg..." French Rail limits the number of "Passholder reservations" available on trains, so often there are seats available but none available to rail pass holders, so even though you have a rail pass, you still have to buy a regular ticket. This is one of the dirty little secrets about rail passes.
"Has the Eurail pass really become such a headache it's not worth it?" For many/most situations, yes. Read this excellent summary before proceeding: http://www.seat61.com/Railpass-and-Eurail-pass-guide.htm#Should%20you%20buy%20a%20railpass%20or%20pay-as-you-go Here's his information about how to check ticket prices for each of your routes: http://www.seat61.com/Europe-train-tickets.htm#How%20to%20buy%20European%20train%20tickets%20online
If you do not want to stuck with everything all set then P2P are probably best. If you want the flexibility of no pre-made reservations then a rail pass may be the best option - you most likely will pay more for this convenience & flexibility. In France if time allows take local or regional trains which do not require reservations or bite the bullet any pay for the high speed trains. When taking local/regional trains you really need to have the rail schedule or internet access - some are milk runs - some are a more direct and you need to know the connections for your route. .
Glenn hs gotten some great advice here and I am wondering what he is thinking. Mthe pass will cost them $644 each, plus the cost of reservations. Seems like tickets would be much less, especially in Italy if they buy them ahead.
Sasha et al. Yes, this advice has been very helpful, and generally confirms what I suspected... it's a close call and depends a lot on the particular itinerary that I settle on. The biggest problem for P2P is RailEurope, which doesn't show all trains and has higher prices than individual country rail services. I am a bit confused on whether, being in the U.S., how I can buy P2P tickets without going through RailEurope. I am reading about ticketing through DB and Trenitalia. One other option that may work out is buying a pass only for Switzerland, or perhaps a SelectPass for only Switzerland and Germany, and dealing with Italy and France P2P. So, I am still working the numbers, but what is clear is that the "old" days of just hopping any train with a Eurail pass are long gone. It's kinda like Disneyland going back to ticket books. Glenn
OK, some questions: 1. Looks like I can create an account on Bahn.de and buy P2P tickets there for our legs that either start, or end, in Germany. How do I actually get the tickets from them... electronic, print-at-home? 2. Trenitalia looks like I can only buy trips that BOTH start and end in Italy? 3. Do the discount fares go away based on a limited number of seats, or a minimun time before the trip, or both? Thanks again for any tips. Glenn
1. For Germany it is an email ticket that you print out. You must have the credit card that you used to purchase the ticket with you as identification. There is a way to specify a different card but don't bother. 2. That could be correct for Italy but I have never tried to buy a ticket beyond Italy. 3. My understanding is that the deep discount tickets are seat based and not time. When the seats are sold, they are gone.
Glenn, I have run across the problem of "limited seats for Passholders" a few times (it doesn't always happen, a matter of luck/chance). When it happens on the day you want to depart, ask if a seat/reservation is available in 2nd class. Your 1st class Global Pass gives those two options. In 2nd class there might be a seat, otherwise choose another dep time, ask in both 1st and 2nd class. Yes, I would agree that this "limited seating for Passholders" is worse in France on the TGV. One time going from Paris-Frankfurt with all seats in 2nd filled for Passholders, I got a seat in 1st class, paid that pricey reservation, and was told that my 1st class seat was the last one available for a Passholder for that departure. Lucky...since that was literally last minute.
Glenn, On hopping on trains with a Eurail pass as in the days of yore being long gone: That still can be done (day) esp in Austria and Germany where the ICE and IC trains don't require mandatory reservations and if you do long rides and zig zag traveling. It's a matter of timing. You can hop on but you may have to stand depending on the route/dep esp on ICE trunk lines.
Glenn, The Man in Seat 61 link that I gave you above will tell you which sites to use for which tickets, and he then has individual pages with all of the necessary "tricks" to use the particular websites. For instance, some tickets need to be bought from the destination country instead of the origin country, and some tickets need to bought in two parts (I believe Italy to Switzerland is like this). Here's the link, made clickable: http://tinyurl.com/yc8x65n I can say (having just done it last year) that buying tickets from German Rail is easy. You print them out at home, and show the printout with the credit card; the conductor scans the printout, swipes your credit card, and you're set. Be sure to put all passengers traveling together on one ticket. For Berlin to Dresden, advance purchase for 1 person was €19 and for 2 people was €29; full fare was €38 per person, with no discount for 2. After a period of difficulty, people here are reporting few problems on the Trenitalia website, provided you register in advance. Details of how to use this site are here: http://www.roninrome.com/transportation/booking-online-using-the-trenitalia-website-updated And, stop using Rail Europe. Not only does it mark up prices, but it doesn't show all the routes. Use the Bahn site to check routes instead.
2. You can definitely buy tickeets for trips that start in Italy and go into Switzerland or Austria on Trenitalia. Try Milan to Brig or Milan to Spiez; or Milan to Luzern or Arth-goldau; or Verona to Innsbruck, if you are going that direction. Look for a Smart Fare to get the best price. Milan to Spiez is 22 euro with Smart Fare. that will get you almost into the Berner Oberland.