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Rail Europe deplorable and non-existent customer service

If you are thinking of purchasing a rail pass using Rick Steves Rail Europe packages, think again. My husband and I have been planning our month long trip to Europe for the past year and a half. We decided to purchase a rail pass last December on a special noted on Rick's website. it was with Rail Europe. The first thing that went wrong but I didn't even notice until way to late is that I ended up purchasing two passes for each of us. I am not an idiot but sure feel like one. It had something to do with the special was for traveling with a companion so you can see how easy that might be to do. We did purchase the Rail Protection plan which was fortunate for us because my husband had a horrible accident and we ended up cancelling our whole month long trip.

The nightmare with Rail Europe started then, trying to contact their customer service to get the claim started took days upon days of long wait times that never resulted in speaking with anyone. Finally reached someone and the claim was started. You don't get your money back, which I was aware of, instead you get vouchers that you have to use within two years. Not a problem as we do plan another trip to Europe next fall. In the meantime, we did get an email from Rail Europe with our voucher codes and my spouse learned that he could travel after all but for a shorter amount of time. This meant we didn't need a Rail Pass but we do want to purchase some rail tickets before we go (July 1st) since we have these vouchers and way more credit than we will probably be able to spend (earlier mentioned error). Well here we go again!!!

I have tried numerous times to book our trains on Rail Europe.I continue to get an error when I try adding the bookings to the cart. I sent that error to the customer service of Rail Europe in an email last week, they took a few days to reply and wanted more details about the bookings. I copied and pasted the trains that we want to take and send it back to them. That was on Monday, today is Thursday. I have yet to hear back from them and we leave for our trip in two weeks. I tried again today to book the trains and continue to get the error. I tried on my MAC and on my windows computer, it made no difference. It is unlikely I can purchase train tickets at the train station using Rail Europe vouchers so we will eventually just lose all of the money we put in to this in the first place. ($2000).

Posted by
745 posts

This sounds like an awful experience, and I sincerely sympathize with your dreadful tale.
It is not my wish to undermine your remarks,
in fairness
I purchased Eurail pass on this very link last winter for a July, 2017 Scandinavian trip.
I bought a three day pass for two - received a 25% discount on the cost plus I received a free day of travel.
I used the pass in Norway and Sweden.
I encountered no problems of any kind.

Posted by
16171 posts

Purchasing through Rick Steves has nothing to do with it. Purchasing? Well, many have been recommending against it, but people just keep doing it. At least some people still do buy rail passes and are satisfied. Maybe someone from RS org will hear this rant and have some suggestions.

Posted by
2344 posts

I have purchased passes from Rail Europe on its website and didn't have any problems.

With that said, Rail Europe seems to be inconsistent with the RS image of "Europe through the back door" and having a Rail Europe portal on the RS website may give some people a false sense of security, or whatever - like Rail Europe is a better value than what it is in reality.

Posted by
21356 posts

Sounds like a problem. Too bad you didn't come to this site before your made the decision to purchase a pass. There has been hundreds of postings about Rail Europe on this site. You might have had a better understanding of who and what Rail Europe. It is basically a travel agency selling European railroad tickets to North Americans. Obviously the vouchers are no good at ticket office because there is no relationship between the ticket office and Rail Europe. Second, when you buy any ticket there is a whole bunch of fine print that governors how the ticket is used, changed, or refunded. None of us ever read that. Last year I lost a couple of easyJet ticket because I "misunderstood" or miss-assumed the refund policy. Part of travel. It is unfortunately that you did not have a good understanding of the refund policy but who is to blame.

Posted by
7205 posts

Since RS provided you with the portal perhaps RS could offer you support with your problems. I'm sure RS makes quite a bit of profit from funneling customers to RailEurope - don't think you'll hear too many negative reviews of RailEurope from the RS employees, only from travelers.

Sounds like you must have attempted to purchase a Eurail Pass - which is ANOTHER whole story in money waste.

No, you will definitely not be able to show up at the ticket counter anywhere in Europe to purchase tickets with your RailEurope voucher.

Posted by
6887 posts

Sorry for your troubles but Rail Europe is a secondary and more expensive provider of train tickets in Europe. Next time, use the specific railroad websites. Actually, I am surprised that Rick Steves offers a link to their services. I hope you can figure all of this out to your safisfaction.

Posted by
12400 posts

I purchase the Eurail pass from Eurail, even better when there is a promo offering an extra Pass day, ie 11 for the price of ten days, never had to pay for shipping either. I don't deal with Rail Europe.

Posted by
937 posts

I am curious to know if you have tried calling the Rick Steves office to ask for their help. Perhaps one of the travel specialists would have an easier time getting through to Rail Europe. Even if they charged a consultation fee it could save you some money.

Posted by
2158 posts

I feel for you; that’s a ton of money. Could you just purchase passes even though it’s more than you need. It seems like that would be better than losing your entire investment. Or could you plan another trip within the next two years and use your voucher then?

I hope your husband makes a full revovery.

Posted by
12804 posts

Hope your husband is 100% up to snuff soon! :O)

Too bad you didn't come to this site before your made the decision to
purchase a pass. There has been hundreds of postings about Rail Europe
on this site.

As this is your first post, it's uncertain how much research you did on the passes before purchasing them or if you'd spent any time browsing this site for helpful information? As Frank said above, rail passes are often discussed here so you may have been able to avoid some of this unfortunate headache if you'd asked about them. Passes aren't necessarily a good buy for every itinerary or every country nor would Rick or anyone in the organization recommend using them for every trip. get vouchers that you have to use within two years. Not a
problem as we do plan another trip to Europe next fall.

Ah, well that's a bright spot, anyway. Hopefully you can make good use of them next time if you can't get it sorted before your departure in 2 weeks. Do have a good trip, wherever you're going!

Posted by
6778 posts

You said you have another trip to make next Fall, so you have plenty of time to straighten this out and not to despair that things won't work perfectly this July. In other words, it sounds like you're trying to get everything right in a short order but you have a 2 year timeframe to use these vouchers. Take a breather. You acknowledge you made some mistakes and that your plans have shifted - unfortunately, buying pre-set passes from a third party is bound to cause frustration because you've already traded a lot of flexibility away. So relax, don't rush...take the time to really go back and research what should/ could have been done differently. You still haven't lost anything yet - in 2 years you can make that determination. So you found out that Customer Service isn't great...well, many Customer Service operations are lacking in many businesses...when you're counting on them, you have to exercise more patience than you want. But most of the time, things have a way of working themselves out. But you have to calm down and be in a positive state of mind first.

These types of hyperbolical angry posts don't do much for anyone. People have been saying many times on this board how they felt about Rail Europe, so I doubt you'll change many minds.

Posted by
16878 posts

Without more detail, I can't guess at the reasons or solutions for your recent ticket-booking difficulty. This is the busiest time of year for Rail Europe's staff, and compounded by some shopping cart issues that I believe are different from yours, as well as the French rail strikes creating extra work. I have forwarded your concerns in the hope that will generate a faster reply. I'm sure it's Rail Europe's intention that you'll be able to use your voucher as intended. As Agnes rightly mentions, you have two years to use them, for whichever trip will allow you to get maximum value back.

For future or others' reference, a Eurail pass can normally be activated for use in Europe any time within 11 months from the date of purchase, if it still worked for your next travel destinations. That would mean keeping the pass in a safe place until ready to use. (Passes sold with special discounts or extra days are not refundable, and occasionally come pre-activated. Regularly-priced passes have the option to be refunded for cash at about 85%, less Rail Europe's handling fee, if never activated.) It may be that details of the Rail Protection Plan or of your future travel plans prompted you to make the RPP claim earlier rather than later. For some travelers, the other options would be better.

Posted by
2 posts

Some of you folks on this forum are kind of mean. Makes me think not to post my opinion again.

Posted by
1138 posts

For the poster and all others contemplating rail travel in Europe, Asia, Africa and other places as well -- is all you'll ever need to get the best prices at the best times and warnings about what to avoid. We've used it for such disparate journeys as Auckland to Wellington and Capetown to Johannesburg plus all over Europe. Avoid Rail Europe and be sure and book your rail tickets on your own without any middleman, directly with the rail lines. The man in seat 61 will make it very easy to do on your own.

Posted by
2344 posts

Some of you folks on this forum are kind of mean. Makes me think not to post my opinion again.

Actually, I think people are being pretty nice. If you had checked out this forum sooner, you would have realized that Eurail passes aren't always the best idea. It's not Rail Europe's fault that you didn't understand what you were buying. I hope you can use your vouchers for first class journeys on your upcoming trip.

Next time, I would suggest trainline or for buying your train tickets.

Posted by
8293 posts

No one has been mean, just not as sympathetic as you would like.

Posted by
12804 posts

A great suggestion by George! "The Man in Seat 61" is a terrific resource for newbies trying to navigate Europe's train systems. I used it myself for our trips to Italy, Germany and Belgium, and will be using it for maiden voyages to countries we've not yet been to. It doesn't cover every little detail but that's what the forums are for, when one is confused.

I don't think anyone intends to be mean, mjethen. More just encouragement to join the gang here and make good use of the knowledge of those gone before so some unpleasant pitfalls might be avoided. NONE of us want to see someone's trip go south before they even get there! I am personally amazed - often! - at how many kindly, well-traveled folks there are on this site and how much information they're willing to generously share.

So please, come back and tell us how your trip went? And please, ask any questions you might have about the NEXT one that just might save you some future grief? It's sort the "ounce of prevention" that's a whole lot easier to manage than trying to fix a problem after the fact. :O)

Posted by
2525 posts

Two aspects of this matter come to mind. First, is the actual purchase and second, customer service. More than enough responses dealt with the purchase. Does anyone believe adequate or better customer service has been exhibited? For me, customer service is a prime element and often lacking.

Posted by
1984 posts

I have read through all the responses and I don't think anyone has been mean.

I had a very good experience with Rail Europe when I bought 2 train tickets for Paris - Amsterdam in April. We were traveling on a strike day and I called Rail Europe for guidance and they were very helpful. Instead of waiting on the phone, I left a vm with my callback number. They called back several hours later which was fine.

Posted by
1427 posts

mjethen, I empathize with you regarding this situation. Sometimes things go badly. And sometimes we don't get the level of customer service we expect. It's truly unfortunate that all of this happened to you.

I hope you will benefit from the suggestions being offered on how to resolve the current situation and how to avoid similar problems in the future. I see this is your first post on this forum, which of course doesn't mean you haven't been visiting for a while to learn from the many smart, experienced travelers who post here. But perhaps going forward you will do better to ask questions ahead of time. I don't think you will find that people on this forum are mean. Some of us, though, aren't very patient with those who have done things that don't conform with advice that is frequently given on this forum and then post to complain because things didn't turn out well.

There are mean and nice people everywhere, but if you post a negative review of something, you should expect some responses to disagree with your assessment. It doesn't mean they are mean.

Welcome to the forum. I hope you enjoy some great travels in the future, and I will look forward to your questions ahead of time and your trip reports afterwards, as well as the advice you will one day be able to offer others as an experienced traveler with fabulous stories to share who has also made mistakes and learned from them.

Posted by
506 posts

Sounds to me like this is a software issue at Rail Europe. I have had it occur at a National Park Website where they showed a particular room available, but it would not let me book it. It took them a few days to resolve. You are doing what you can which is notify them and wait. I would try again tomorrow and if that does not work, you should contact them again to get an update.