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Rail Pass or Point to Point

I have been reading a ton of info about these rail passes and are still confused. I know that you need a pass for each country that you are going through, if we go with a pass it will be the Global. The confusion starts with seat reservations. Seat reservations What is the advantage of a rail pass if I have to pay for my seat anway? I thought that I could just hop on and off. I think that I need seat reservations for the High Speed trains, but what about the others. Is there a website that list the regional trains? Regional Trains:
Are these trains different for each country or for example take a train from Germany to Italy? How much slower are these trains? Point to Point Tickets: I have done a little math and it seems like it would be cheaper to just pay the point to point tickets (in advance) for my trip, instead of purchasing a Rail Pass and Seat Reservations. I'm I missing something? I realize that this may take some of the fun of traveling by train, but it was few hundred dollars cheaper. Also, could be a stupid question, but with trains moving so fast can you feel it or is it a really smooth ride. thanks for any help

Posted by
18064 posts

"I have done a little math and it seems like it would be cheaper to just pay the point to point tickets" It all depends on how you travel. If you make a lot of long distance trips, a pass might pay, but for the way I travel, a pass doesn't even come close to pay off. The German Rail (Bahn) website will show you schedules all over Europe and indicate if it is a regional train. I don't know of any country that reserves seats on regional trains. You can usually (always?) avoid reservation fees by using regional trains. In Germany, except for ICE Sprinters, of which there are only a few, seat reservations are never required. They might be recommended, but not compulsory. And they are only €4 per seat. In Switzerland, I'm told, reservations are never required. On the other hand, some countries think that some of their trains are too good to be covered entirely by a rail pass and require a supplemental fee to ride them. All seats on these trains are reserved, whether you buy a standard ticket or use a rail pass, so the seat reservation comes along with the supplement. Hence the term reservations. The most expensive reservations are on Thalys, which is not a part of any one national rail line. If you don't get a rail pass and can commit, you can often get advance purchase tickets for less than half the price of the standard tickets you have probably been using in your comparison. From Munich to Verona, there are about 5 direct ECs per day in 5½ hours. Using regional trains it will take 2 hours more and require 2-4 changes. You would probably change trains at or near the border. Express trains are definitely smooth. In 2000, I made two round trips from Freilassing to Berchtesgaden on regional trains. I came back in 2002 and made the same trip on an IC. It was hard to believe we were going the same speed. The IC just seemed to float along.

Posted by
21356 posts

In the old days (whenever that was) a rail pass was a no brainer. And you could jump on and off of trains at well. Most of the trains were the same or nearly so and a mix of reservations and no reservations. If you had to stand, so be it. Those days are gone and especially with computers far easier to have reservation systems. And to make reservations. And, of course, the railroad fare folks learned the same lessons as the air plane have about advance discount purchases, no charge tickets, etc. Now to specifically answer your questions. The seat reservation fee - actually a fee for using a premium train which includes a seat reservation - is not priced the same as a ticket for for long distance trains it is still cheaper with a pass. All high speed speed, premium trains will required a seat reservation. After that is varies by countries. In Italy all trains BUT the regionals require a reservation and a fee. In Germany and also France (I think) the ICs, and IC Express are a mix of reserved and non-reserved seats so you could get on those trains without a reservation. The high speeds trains are truly high speed and you can notice the speed and it is very smooth. And there are infrequent stops so you do go very fast between location. After that they all run about the same speed but the trip time depends on the frequency of stops which is what really slows down the train. The regionals make the most stops, the ICs fewer, the IC Express the fewest. Good luck.

Posted by
5471 posts

I would agree that the growth in reservation fees and high speed trains have killed a bit of the enthusiasm for a pass. This also varies greatly by country, it is more of an impact in France for example, not so much in Germany as Lee mentioned. Other places (Italy) full price tickets for typical short distances are still less than pass days, other places (Greece, Ireland) the rail system is so limited you probably could not travel far enough in a day to pay for a pass day. Of course, yet other countries (Great Britain) are not in the Eurail system. End result: it varies greatly where you are travelling, and how you are travelling. Yes, reserving well ahead will probably save you enough to make the pass not worth it, but will lock you into a schedule and can drive a typical person batty navigating multiple country rail sites. That said, you do not mention where you will be travelling, I have never made Italy work on a pass, as recent as a few years ago, did make Germany and Benelux work rather well, and limited my rail on a couple other trips to not even look at a pass.

Posted by
2949 posts

If you can tell us what countries you're going to and what your basic itinerary is we could tell you better whether a pass makes sense or not. I think they're fantastic for countries that don't require mandatory seat reservations - because even in those countries the seat reservations are generally reasonably priced. But if you're going to be doing a lot of travel in France or Italy the cost adds up real quickly and you might be better off with point to point tickets bought in advance, although at that point you are sacrificing flexibility. (Not that big of a deal IMO - if you can find a way to stay connected with wifi on your trip you can use apps like Offi to always know public transit schedules and routes to make sure you don't miss your train). how much slower regional trains versus high speed trains are can vary. some routes there's virtually no difference. other routes, it can be many, many hours more, with a lot of connections. you really just have to plug everything in point-to-point to figure it out. and it's not a stupid question, but the fast trains are incredibly smooth, generally much smoother than slow trains, even at high speeds. the most annoying physical sensation is a slight feeling of pressure, or your ears popping sometimes. no big deal. but very, very smooth.

Posted by
28 posts

We will traveling through Paris, Amsterdam, Germany, the alps, maybe Austria , and Italy. Thanks for all he info

Posted by
18064 posts

For your leg from Paris to Amsterdam, Thalys does the trip in a little over 3 hours. Other trains (ICs), with nominal reservation fee, will take over 8 hours. Check the rail passes pulldown at the top of the page, "Using your rail pass", I believe, to see the reservation fee for Thalys. As I said, reservations in Germany are €4 and usually not required. Austria is probably similar. Switzerland (I think that's what you mean by "the Alps") doesn't have reservation fees except for special trains like the Glacier Express. I see five countries, at most (Netherlands is in Benelux, which includes Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg and counts as one country). Look at Select passes and, if you can have a firm itinerary, Flexi passes.

Posted by
12400 posts

Hi, Given your itinerary I would get the France-Germany Pass, not the Global Pass, especially if you might include zipping around since you mention traveling through France and Germany. The TGV requires a mandatory reservation, which within France is 3-4 Euro, eg., going from Strasbourg-Paris, or Paris-Perpignan, Paris-Munich is 9 Euro, Paris-Frankfurt 10 Euro, 2nd class. In Germany and Austria you can hop on (day) and off with just your Pass on the ICE. As long as the reservation on the ICE is not mandatory, no need to stand in line to get one and you're not paying for your seat. The Pass gets you on the train, to secure a seat is extra by getting a reservation. Even in high season in the summer, which is the time I always travel, you still will see seats available (day) on the ICE On any regional train in France, Germany you can also just hop on and off.

Posted by
26448 posts

Can you feel it? Yes. Every time with even the smoothest track, all welded and all, the train changes tracks, speeds up, slows down, goes round bends at 250 kph you will know it. If you take a night train at slower speeds on often slower track you may well feel every anthill. To put it into perspective, would you say planes are smooth or do you feel it? Cars? Same answer, I'm afraid. Depend on where, when, how fast, type of train and country.

Posted by
809 posts

How about trams and buses - are they covered. Specifically thinking of in Nurnberg we will arrive by train, store our things at station and want to jump on bus to Documentation Center. It may be a tram (#9) not a bus. Is that covered on my pass and do I just get on and flash pass or swipe or something?

Posted by
5266 posts

Jason: regional trains in Germany cannot be reserved. They sometimes operate across borders. How much slower they are on major rail lines just depends on how many small towns they stop in. In Germany, the RB trains, for example, stop in every hamlet, while the RE (regional express) trains stop less frequently. Traveling from or to smaller towns and on minor train lines, you will not have a choice of train - the fast ones simply aren't used there or don't stop there anyway, and the regional trains are by default the fastest. Example: The 14:30 itinerary from Bacharach to Rothenburg - a popular set of towns to travel between in Germany - requires 4 separate trains - one hour on the regional MRB train to Mainz, 2 hours on the IC train to Würzburg, then one hour on two separate regional RB trains. You don't have to reserve, but if you do, you'll be reserving only the one IC train. You can check "regional train only" trips vs. trips with "fast trains" (IC, ICE, EC) at the German Railways itin. page: http://reiseauskunft.bahn.de/bin/query.exe/en Under "means of transport", check "all" for the fastest options, "only local transport" for regional trains only. This second option is very important if you intend to use the daypasses in Germany like the Bayern ticket (21€/day for one, 29€ for 2-5, within Bavaria) or the Happy Weekend ticket (good all over the country, 40€ for 2-5) since these passes are for the regional trains.

Posted by
5266 posts

bronwen: "How about trams and buses - are they covered." Covered by a railpass? The S-Bahn networks which connect communities are operated by DB in Germany and are covered by railpasses. Here's a sketch of the Nuremberg network: http://www.vgn.de/bfc33cbc-fa91-d849-1b0c-b4fc8062aac0 City transport is otherwise not covered by a railpass. The Bayern Ticket (daypass) (21€ for one, 29€ for 2-5)DOES cover trams and buses in Bavarian cities like Nuremberg. Where are you arriving from? If from somewhere else in Bavaria - like Munich or Würzburg - your Bayern Ticket works within Nuremberg. http://www.bahn.com/i/view/GBR/en/prices/germany/laender-ticket.shtml If you are coming from Rothenburg or Bamberg to Nuremberg, there's a cheaper daypass offered by the local travel authority (VGN) that gets you into town and also allows the use of all city transport - it's about 16€ for a "Tagesticket Plus" (good for 2 adults.) http://www.vgn.de/tickets/?Edition=en&p=1

Posted by
5266 posts

Bronwen: the tram to the Doku-zentrum is a Nuremberg-operated tram and I don't think any railpass covers it. The daypasses above surely would. Or just get a regular ticket or a daypass just for Nuremberg transport - should be about 5€.

Posted by
809 posts

Thanks Russ. We are spending one week traveling around Germany/Austria. Want to be able to take high speed trains (on routes where they are available). Here is our plan with the idea that we'll have rail pass (I know we are moving around a bit - but we are cool with one nighters): Day One (March 31) Arrive DUS at 6:05 AM take train into Cologne (my understanding is this is direct train). Reserve seats on ICE train to Wurzburg (9:37 or 10:19) Day 2 (April 1) train to Bamberg Day 3 (April 2) train to Nurnberg Day 5 (April 4) train to Salzburg (ICE train with reservations??) Day 6 (April 5) RVO bus to Berchesgaten Day 7 (April 6) *train to Munich Day 8 (April 7)
Fly home Thought was we'd get a six day pass. Other thought was to reserve the train to Wurzburg and use Bayern ticket rest of time. Concern there is if flight arrives late and we miss that train on Day 1 then we lose all the $ not just 12 euros to reserve. We are looking at Adult twin pass (for us - two adults) and a Youth for 12 year old. When I do the calculations for the six days - using 21 euros of days between Wurzburg, Bamberg, Nurnberg and the discounted prices for longer trips it looks to me like it is 100 euros more to buy the pass. What do you think? I am fine with paying an extra 100 euros for less hassle and limitations.

Posted by
5266 posts

"Thought was we'd get a six day pass." Well, at least you've chosen to run your travel thoughts past someone. You don't need a six-day pass ($756 total for 3, right?) But you really don't need this trip either. Too much zooming around too much territory. Too many hotel changes. I will help you with what you've proposed - under protest. I will suggest an alternative if you request it. I agree that the adv. sale discount tix are a bad idea on Day 1. Buy ONE regular-priced ticket for 2 adults and 1 child in advance at the DB site. from D'dorf airport (6:50 departure) to W'burg. You can print the ticket at home. The first leg to Cologne can be used on any of the direct RE trains from the airport to Cologne. The second leg should be scheduled for 9:53 out of Cologne for the 148€ (lowest) price. Schedule D'Dorf departure at 6:50 and for a 2 hour layover in Cologne at the DB site; the 9:53 train out of Cologne should appear in the details when you click the arrow at the left side. If you don't catch the 9:53, for whatever reason, the ticket is still good and you can pay the difference for a later departure if more expensive. If you buy a ticket at the airport for Cologne and a separate ticket for Cologne-Würzburg, the trip will cost 15€ more for nothing. W'burg-Bamberg: Regional train (RE, 55 min.) only option. Bayern Ticket (29€) B'berg-N'berg: Pay 42€ for the rare ICE train (36 min.) or 16.20 for a VGN (local transit authority) Tagesticket Plus daypass (45 min.) on the direct RE trains (at 8:33, 9:33) Buy this ticket at a VGN machine. http://www.vgn.de/tickets/?Edition=en&p=1

Posted by
5266 posts

(cont.) Day 5 (April 4) *train to Salzburg: The 9:10 RE train departure takes 4:32 with one change of train - 29 € on a Bayern ticket. The 9:02 ICE/EC trains take 3:07, also one change - cost is 124€, 49€ (right now anyway for "Sparpreis" adv. purchase tickets (the ones with strings attached.) Day 7 (April 6)
*train to Munich: No fast trains out of Berchtesgaden. From Freilassing, where you change, there are. But you save only 25 min. total and pay at least 30€ more for regular tix. Use the Bayern ticket again (29€) Day 8 (April 7) Fly home: Bayern Ticket to airport (29€) So you're looking at 280€ or about $365 for all this way. All the Bayern tickets should be bought at stations in Germany from a DB ticket machine - English interface, use a credit card, easy, buy them all at once if you like, maybe in Würzburg, for the specific dates you need. I never reserve seats for my family of 3. Can't see why you'd need to for the D'dorf-W'burg trip, and of course you cannot reserve seats using the Bayern ticket anyway.

Posted by
809 posts

Thanks. I understand most wouldn't like switching hotels so much but we do. I am going to go read your post thoroughly. I want to be sure we do save that hour from Nurnberg tO Salzburg by taking ICE and we aren't staying in berchesgaten - just going do day, two nights in Salzburg. Thanks.

Posted by
5266 posts

"we aren't staying in berchesgaten - just going do day, two nights in Salzburg." In that case, bronwen, Salzburg to Munich is best done by Bayern Ticket (direct RE train) which saves you about 35 Euros off the regular ticket price and takes just 20 min. longer. Once in B'gaden, are you going to Königssee? Buses 839, 841, and 843 take you there from bus platform 2. 841 schedule: http://www.jennerbahn.de/medien/rvofahrplan841.pdf Taking the Jennerbahn ride? http://www.jennerbahn.de/de/englisch/ (That's "Berchtesgaden", actually.)

Posted by
809 posts

Thanks for the spelling of B'gaden. I do my message board posting frOm the train on my iPhone so spell check is iffy.

Posted by
809 posts

Russell - For the RVO bus - lets say I buy a round trip (return) from Salzburg to Konigssee will that allow us to get on and off the bus anywhere along that route all day? I know we want to see Obersalzburg and Konigssee.

Posted by
18064 posts

There are two ways to get to Berchtesgaden from the Salzburg Bahnhof. You can take a train across the river to Freilassing, Germany. Some trains turn south at Freilassing and go to Berchtesgaden. In other cases, you have to get off in Freilassing and take another train to Berchtesgaden. This trip is best done with a Bayern-Ticket (€29 for 5 p), which will cover any bus travel in Berchtesgaden while you are there. The trains run from Berchtesgaden back to Salzburg until just after 10 PM. There is also a bus, the watzmann express, RVO 840, that runs from the Salzburg Hbf to Berchtesgaden Hbf. It's slightly faster than by train. An RVO Tagesticket (day ticket), for €9,50/p will cover the round trip bus and any other bus transportation while in Berchtesgaden (just like the Bayern-Ticket). One warning, the last bus back to Salzburg leaves the Berchtesgaden Hbf at 6:15 PM, so if you're thinking of staying later, make the entire trip by train. Use of the RVO bus in Berchtesgaden with either ticket is hop on/hop off. Obersalzberg (I'm sure you mean -berg) is not on the way between Koenigssee and Salzburg. You'll have to go back to the Hbf and take another bus, #838 to Obersalzberg.

Posted by
809 posts

Got it. When I get on the 838 do I need to purchase a new ticket for my ride?

Posted by
2949 posts

Russ and Lee are giving you accurate helpful information but I'm gonna throw this out there: consider a tour from Salzburg to B'gaden. You've indicated several times that convenience is important to you, and you have a kid too, so I'd just really consider a tour and let someone else do the driving. We went with one of the tours from the RS Germany book and my in-laws loved it, and I appreciated not dealing with multiple buses and trains for the day. Point-to-point tickets are likely cheaper as the others have said, but I'll second the suggestion that for convince and ease, a German rail pass might suit your needs, particularly if you do go with the tour. It's basically a one-country pass for Germany but it also includes Austria which is really convenient and since you're not going further into Austria than that, there's no need for it. Since you're traveling with a child I'd go ahead and pay the extra for seat reservations no matter what you do. I was told on this board that they aren't neccessary but that really bit me in the ass when I was traveling with elderly relatives who wanted to sit together (nervous about being on trains) and we hit some very busy trains on muptile routes. It's a little extra money for a lot more peace of mind.

Posted by
809 posts

Thanks Sarah - I am considering a tour too. It may be a decision we make a few days prior - see how we feel and what the weather is like. We are going the first week of April so weather could be crappy. Our trip last year was to Peru and we had a guide and a driver for a week, we did not want that again but for one day it may be well worth it. The one tour company that comes up is Viator. Yes, we are traveling with a kid but he's pretty big - he'll be 13 next summer and is already six feet tall. Still I do want to have reserved seats and faster connections.

Posted by
18064 posts

If you bought the RVO Tagesticket or the Bayern-Ticket, they are both valid for unlimited use of the buses in Berchtesgaden. No need to buy another ticket. If you child is under 15 yo, you can get a "Familie Tagesticket" for €22. It covers 2 adults and all of their children under 15.