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Rail Pass and Reservations

I plan on taking about three night trains during my trip. However, I'm thinking of reserving one of those bunk-like beds so that I can actually get some sleep! If I were going to purchase a Select Pass for adjoining countries, how do I then make reservations for a bed? Do I do that when I'm in Europe? Let me know if this question makes no sense and I will try to clarify!
Cheers!

Posted by
20309 posts

I don't know about couchettes, but sleeping compartments do get sold out on popular routes at busy times, weekends etc. Check the price on line with your sleeping choice. If you buy in advance (nonrefundable of course) you'll get a better price than using a railpass 99% of the time. Anyway, you have to pay the full price of the supplement for sleeper with or without a railpass.

Posted by
73 posts

So I was thinking of a couchette. I guess my question is, if I have a rail pass, if I want to travel without a reserved seat, then I can just get on the train, right? But if I wanted to reserve anything, how to do I do that? Do I do it here in the US or at the train station? If I have to make reservations, should I still get a rail pass? I"m sorry if I"m not making sense!

Posted by
23412 posts

It depends on the train and the country. You need to provide more information. But, in general. All sleeping compartments will require a reservation and a supplement fee that can be done on line or in person at a rail station. Since sleeping compartments are limited and sell out, you should make that reservation as early as convenient. For regular train service, it varies by country. Most high speed (premium) trains will require a reservation and supplement fee. In France, seats available for rail passes are limited and need to be reserved well in advance. In Italy ALL trains except Regional trains require a seat reservation ranging from 3 to 10 Euro per leg. Rail passes are not the no brainer good deal that they once were 20 years ago. So do your homework. The fee for a seat reservation on French trains can be higher than the advance purchase, discount fee on the same train.

Posted by
73 posts

Thanks so much! I will be traveling in Netherlands, Germany, and Czech Republic if that helps at all!

Posted by
14580 posts

Sarah, "...if I have a rail pass, if I want to travel without a reserved seat, then I can just get on the train, right?" Yes (in the case of Germany), re: night, you may get on if you sit in a compartment where there is a unreserved seat. But, when the controller is checking tickets, and you show your rail Pass, that's not good enough. The controller will ask you to produce the seat reservation, failing which you pay on the spot. The night trains I have taken seating in a compartment or a sleeperette all had one thing in common...the controller was more interested in seeing my seat reservation than my Select Pass, since it's the seat resevation they asked for first.

Posted by
14580 posts

Hi, Apart from the two night trains, what about day rides? How many of them? For Prague-Amsterdam I would recommend doing it this way: take the Prague-Dresden EC train, ca. 2+ hrs. At Dresden Hbf. take the CNL night train to Amsterdam Centraal direct. For that CNL leg you need to reserve, whether you want a couchette (Liegewagen) or just a seat. Time it properly to give yourselves ample time prior to the CNL dep. I prefer at least ca.45 mins.

Posted by
73 posts

Sorry, hopefully this is better. London to Prague to Berlin to Munich to Amsterdam I suppose we will need to fly from London to Prague, but then there is the day train from Prague to Berlin, a night train from Berlin to Munich and (I believe) a night train from Munich to Amsterdam.

Posted by
73 posts

Okay, so I will need to buy my Eurail Select Pass covering BeNeLux, Germany, and Czech Republic and then make my seat reservations for the trains I will be taking. Will I receive all those things in the mail then? I'm sorry for my ignorance. City buses I can do, but trains are a whole new world for me!

Posted by
12040 posts

I could be wrong, but I'm not certain if there are any special night trains between the Netherlands and Germany.

Posted by
8700 posts

It would be very helpful to know exactly on which routes you hope to take night trains. For some of them there may not be any. Also, if you can commit to specific departure dates and times and book well in advance (usually up to 90 days), discount fare point-to-point tickets will be cheaper than a railpass plus the reservation fees that are required for high-speed trains and night trains.

Posted by
14580 posts

Sarah, Before you buy the Pass, consider how many days will you be using the Pass? With Benelux and CZ on your itinerary, I would just get point to point tickets in those countries, ie., no need to include them on a Pass. Get a German Pass covering you to the border, then cover the rest of the way with a point to point ticket. Do you plan on a night train, say Munich to Amsterdam, or Prague to Amsterdam? The CNL runs from Amsterdam to Dresden and Munich, direct.

Posted by
73 posts

The night trains we are considering are from Munich to Berlin and from Prague to Amsterdam. I know exactly when we will be travelling. We will have three travel dates. Perhaps just point to point? Thanks for all your help, it is much appreciated!

Posted by
8700 posts

London-Prague: For timetables for both budget airlines and national carriers use the search engine skyscanner.com. For budget airlines fly either easyJet or Wizz Air. Pay close attention to luggage weight, size, and number limits and to the strictly-enforced check-in deadlines on budget airlines. If you don't have a boarding pass in hand when that deadline arrives, your ticket will be worthless. Or pay a little more and fly British Airways. Prague-Berlin: Book up to 90 days in advance on the Czech Rail site to get discount fares. Berlin-Munich: Book up to 92 days in advance on the German Rail site to get discount fares on the direct CNL night train. Munich-Amsterdam: Book up to 92 days in advance on the German Rail site to get discount fares on the direct CNL night train.

Posted by
73 posts

Tim, Thanks! Unfortunately, I am traveling December/January so I think it might be too late for those discounts! Quite a bummer

Posted by
8700 posts

Sarah, You still might be able to get discount fares for the train rides. The only problem is that European train timetables are revised twice a year. New ones will go into effect on 9 December. As of today you cannot book tickets past 8 December on the German Rail site. The new timetables are likely to match the old ones and they should appear by the end of October or early in November. Keep checking the German Rail site about once a week. Then book ASAP.

Posted by
73 posts

Thanks Tim, that's such valuable information! When I get back from my trip I will have to repay this message board for all the help I have gotten. You all are an experienced bunch of travelers and I can't wait to be a part of that!

Posted by
12040 posts

Nobody else has mentioned this yet, so I'll chime in again. Night trains might seem like a great way to free up sight-seeing time, but in actuality, most of us who have tried them report getting very little sleep, even in a couchette. I took a night train once, and needed to nap for several hours the next day. And you're scheduling three night trains on one trip? You're going to be tired...

Posted by
73 posts

Tom, good point. I've actually rearranged my schedule a bit so there should only be two night trains now. I know that sleep is hard to come by, but I figure, I'll be traveling in the winter so I guess I'll just go to bed early when it gets dark!

Posted by
8700 posts

You're welcome, Sarah. Tom is hardly the only one who cannot sleep on night trains. I, on the other hand, do just fine. But then I can sleep in a reclining seat. However, I don't recommend it for night trains in Europe. It's false economy because you want to arrive rested. 6-person and 4-person couchettes are the same size. The only difference is in how many bunks are pulled down. Go with a 4-person couchette. Spending a little more is well worth it for the extra room you'll get for both people and luggage.

Posted by
73 posts

Thanks for the tip! My brother and I are each travelling with just a carry-on sized backpack, so hopefully we won't have too much trouble with the luggage. I ride the train to commute to work here at home and I can't be on it for more than 10 minutes without dozing off--I find the rocking motion so relaxing--so I'm hoping I won't have an absolutely terrible time sleeping on the train.

Posted by
33116 posts

I'm thinking of reserving one of those bunk-like beds so that I can actually get some sleep! I'm of the gang that got very little sleep in sleeper trains, where my wife and I shared sleeping compartments. I've done sleepers from Chicago to both LA and SF, Chicago to NY, Chicago to DC, LA to Santa Fe (private train), Ft Worth to LA, Ft Worth to Chicago, Montreal to NYC, Bruges to Munich, Brussels to Zurich, Paris to Basel and some more that I don't remember. We always took them to save time and avoid flying (except the LA Santa Fe one) and we never got more than a couple of hours sleep on any of those journeys. I will say that we really enjoyed camp stove coffee at 6 am going over Cajon Pass into LA. That was on the Pacific Railway Society excursion with the National Forum. Fun... But - - we have taken our last sleeper. I've never tried couchettes. The slabs sound so small, and I would have no interest in sharing a compartment with strangers. Not quite the same as a hostel. Trains go too quickly now so the railways concoct circuitous routes and times to stop, usually in stations or freight yards, so they can take long enough to arrive late enough in the morning. There are all sorts of noises, some quite loud or sharp, and European trackwork and points (switches) are sometimes a bit rougher than Dart's.

Posted by
73 posts

All very good points. More than saving money on accommodation, I like the idea of not losing a day to travel. We only have about a month in Europe and I don't know when I'll be able to go back. There's also the environmental factor...and the fact that I'm terrified of planes!

Posted by
14580 posts

Sarah, For the Berlin-Munich ride, taking the early train will get you into Munich in the late afternoon. You don't necessarily have to go at night. The Munich-Amsterdam ride I would do at night, the CNL offers the sleeperette on this leg in addition to the couchette and sleeper. If you have a Pass, the sleeperette is extra, mandatory reservation, ca. 15-20 Euro. For Munich-Amsterdam on the CNL it's the cheapest fare. I took this option once, had no problems sleeping on the armchair seat, the further back in the couch the better. If you have no problems sleeping on the plane, this could be an option. The advantage of taking a night train regardless of being able to fall asleep or not is that the CNL is a direct connection so as to avoid changing one to three times that might be required by day.

Posted by
73 posts

Okay, thanks. I'll definitely consider taking the Berlin/Munich part during the day. Since we are traveling over Christmas and New Year's we are losing a couple of days to the holidays so I'm reluctant to travel during the day, but I do agree that sleeping is important! Thanks so much you all, this has all been great information!

Posted by
14580 posts

Hi, I'm going to address the London-Prague trip and "terrified of planes." To avoid flying option, I myself would do that route like this, but it uses up two days of travel: Take the EuroStar London to Paris Nord, stay one night in Paris at Gare du Nord, several hotels cheap and expensive in the area. Next morning take the Metro at Nord one station to Gare de l'Est or walk over to Est to catch the early ICE train to Frankfurt, dep 0706. This leg has a mandatory seat reservation, 15 Euro 2nd class. Transfer at Frankfurt on to ICE to Dresden Hbf. At Dresden Hbf take the EC train to Prague, ca 2+ hrs. You'll be in Prague by 19:22. You have to change twice but there's ample time for rest, food. The drawback is that from Paris-Prague it's all day on the train and uses up two days. If you take this option, I suggest France-Ger Pass, 2nd class. You can use it for the CNL Munich-Amsterdam night ride.

Posted by
818 posts

New schedule went into effect yesterday for German (bahn.de) trains.

Posted by
42 posts

Here is my question that has to do with this subject. My travel agent mentioned that no Eurail pass will help with my overnight from Cinque Terre to Beaune, France and that I have to pay full price. This can't be can it?? I understand a supplement and reservation but full price? Someone say is isn't so..

Posted by
33116 posts

Which night train do you mean, Jan? There's a 12 hour journey via Milan, with 4 changes of train, with a Euronight from Milan to Dijon for about 6 of those hours (the EN from Venice to Paris). Is that the one you mean? If so, your travel agent may have a point. That train is operated by Thello. They take no passes. I see no other reasonable alternative overnight. If your pass is valid on the days involved and it is valid on both Italian and French trains, it would be valid on the 3 trains from the CT village to Milan, and the regional train from Dijon to Beaune. But no way, no help, full fare on the Thello.

Posted by
8700 posts

Jan, As Nigel says, railpasses aren't accepted for the new Thello night train service. However, your travel agent is wrong about having to buy a full fare ticket. If you book well in advance (up to 90 days allowed) on either trenitalia.com or thello.com, you can get discount fares.

Posted by
8700 posts

Adding to my previous post. The standard fare for a bunk in a 4-person couchette is €96.00. The Smart fare is €55.00. If your travel agent doesn't know about getting discount fares by booking point-to-point tickets well in advance on national rail sites, you need a new agent. I assume that you will be taking other train rides in France. Did your agent tell you that SNCF (French National Rail) limits the number of seats it allocates for passholders on TGVs? If the allotted number of seats are gone for the train of your choice, you will either have to buy a full fare ticket or take a different train. What are all your train routes? Buying p2p tickets in advance may be cheaper than a railpass plus the supplements for seat reservations on trains that require them. With p2p tickets any required seat reservation comes with the ticket and is included in the price of the ticket.