We are traveling from Paris to Interlaken then from Interlaken to Florence, then on to Rome. Eurail recommended purchasing a France-Switzerland regional pass for 4 days and Italy one country pass for 3 days. This shoud work out great for our trip but will either of these passes take us from Interaken to Florence?
Lori, One point to note is that the Railpasses will NOT cover the compulsory reservation fees for the "premium" trains. You'll have to pay those separately. Also, in some cases the number of reservations for Pass holders is limited, so once they're gone you'll either have to take a different train or just buy a ticket (probably at full price). You'll need to be VERY careful to ensure that you have valid reservations for trains in Italy (which are specific to each train). If you're caught without reservations for the trains you're riding on, you may be fined on the spot and it won't be cheap! Fines start at €50 per person PLUS the cost of the reservation (currently about €10 each). For the few journeys you'll be taking, I'd probably just use P-P tickets. If you pre-purchase these, the cost can be quite reasonable. Rather than rely on Eurail, you might want to get a "second opinion" by calling the RS Rail department (click the "Contact Us" link at the bottom). They'll be able to provide good advice on your best options. Happy travels!
Lori, they just want to sell you a pass without considering your real needs. I'll bet you can do way better with tickets, plus maybe a Swiss pass of some kind like a Half Fare card, depending on how long you will stay in Switzerland and what you want to do there. Look at it this way. Each day on the 4-day France Switzerland pass costs about $80. Plus for Paris to Basel on the TGV you have to add the reservation fee Ken mentioned. Are you really going to use $80 of travel each day? Remember that this pass does not fully cover lifts innSwitzerland and trains like the Jungfrau. If you plan ahead you can buy discount tickets on the TGV from Paris to Basel. I didn't check the price now but I have seen them offered for 76 CHF and less if you bought on TGV- Europa. You would have to do a lot of running around all over Switzerland to make good use of those 3 more days at $80 each. Going to Italy, you can go from Spiez to Milan for 22 euros buying ahead on Trentialia. Interlaken to Spiez is not much. From Milan to Florence, and Florence to Rome you can get discount fares of 9 or 19 euros. 9 euros is less than you will pay to make a reservation on that same train with your pass, and the ticket includes the seat reservation. Consider these things and look into it more before you buy those passes!
Thanks Ken and Sasha for your responses. You both have given us a lot to consider. Looks like we need to do a lot more homework. Thanks
Lori, you really don't need any passes to do the travel you describe above. You will need to do a bit of homework to check on the fares. The easy way out is to buy the Eurail pass which will be much more expensive. In France, you will pay a supplemental fee on top of the pass to get your seat reservation which is required. Plus, France limits seats to Eurail pass holders. It's all on the Eurail website but I'm sure they don't link you to these pages when selling you a pass. On www.tgv-europe.com, you can get a ticket from Paris to Interlaken for as low as 43Euro depending on the day and time if you book 90 days out. It seems the later in the day you travel, the better the discount. The really nice 8:23 run from Paris Gare-de-Lyon takes 5hrs but I don't see many discounts for this run. The full fare is 125Euros. Journey time for many other runs is about 6hrs. Two hints for working on the www.tgv-europe.com website. 1) S-e-lect a non-USA country such as Great Britain or Canada as your Ticket Collection Country. If you s-e-lect USA, the website will switch you to RailEurope which you do not want. 2) In the gray Book Your Ticket box, uncheck the direct trains box. You'll see all of the runs. If you want a Swiss pass or card of some type, consider this. You really don't need any type of pass unless your Swiss train trips will exceed 220CHF. Your trip from Basel to Interlaken will be about 80CHF. If you are just touring Wengen, Gimmelwald, Muerren, Gimmelwald, etc., you probably still don't need a pass. Fares are 6CHF-12CHF to get around. However, if you are going to the Jungfraujoch or Schilthorn, a Swiss 1/2-fare card could be useful. It costs 110CHF and is good for 30 days.
(Continuing) The round trip fare to the Jungfraujoch is about $180. Schilthorn is about $85. Plus, if you plan on buying this card, wait until you get to Basel and buy it before buying your Basel/Interlaken ticket. You'll save 50% instantly. Next, as you leave Switzerland for Florence, show your card to the agent and you will get a 50% discount on the fare to the Swiss border. The Swiss can sell you the entire ticket from Interlaken to Florence. Once in Italy, you don't need any kind of pass there either. Should you be day-tripping to Lucca, Pisa, Siena or other Tuscan towns, fares are so cheap on the Regionale trains that a pass would be much more expensive. It's under 12Euro to get to any of the places mentioned above. Finally, you did not mention where you will be exiting Europe from. Are you departing from Florence or are there other details you haven't yet mentioned.
The cheapest total fare I found on tgv-europe.com for Paris-Interlaken Ost is €78.20 which includes a Piccolissimo discount fare of €25.00 for Paris-Basel and a standard fare of €53.20 for Basel-Interlaken Ost. Piccolissimo fare tickets sell out quickly so book ASAP (up to three months allowed). Monday-Saturday you can leave Paris as early as 06:15. The first train on Sundays departs at 08:23.