Rail Pass vs. Individual Tickets

I'm really confused about all the train ticket options and I'm wondering if anyone can help me. Our destinations are: Barcelona Paris Either Bavaria or somewhere in Switzerland (haven't decided yet)
London We have about 7-9 days. I think that individual tickets may be the cheapest way to go, but then I started to look at regional passes and got confused again. Help!

Posted by Roberto
Fremont, CA, USA
3353 posts

None of the above. Your itinerary for 9 days is crazy as it is, don't make it worse by taking the train. The distances are too far even for high speed trains, except for London to Paris. I would fly to BCN first. Visit there then take a flight from BCN to Munich (MUC). Visit Bavaria. Then flight from MUC to Paris. Visit Paris. If you choose Switzerland (Geneva for example) instead of Bavaria, then the train to Paris might make more sense. Lastly I would take a Eurostar train from Paris to London. Visit London. Fly home. A reverse loop would work too. Also you could start from some other city instead of BCN, in any case the cities you have chosen are too far apart (except for London-Paris) to be covered efficiently by train in just 9 days. Flying is more efficient for your itinerary.

Posted by Ray
Portland, Oregon, USA
1358 posts

Hi, ive only used trains for a day or 2 in my travels so far and haven been able to justify buying a pass. My trip this fall will involve more train travel so i will need to look into a pass, but i really doubt it will pencil out. happy trails.

Posted by Tom
Hüttenfeld, Hessen, Germany
9134 posts

The geography of your trip is far too dispersed for "7-9" days. I suggest you do some pruning before trying to figure out pass vs. individual tickets (although the latter will almost certainly be cheaper).

Posted by Frank
Tresana, Highlands Ranch, CO, USA
10888 posts

Unfortunately these days, you really need to do your homework before you can determine if pass is cost effective. In the old days, it was no brainer but with deep discounts for advance purchases, variation from to country to country, the surcharges for using a pass, etc., you just have to price it out. The general thought these days is that it is difficult to make a pass pay unless you are doing a lot of long distance train travel. So the first recommendation is generally, Forget the pass.

Posted by Caroline
Orlando, FL, USA
2 posts

I guess I should have explained a little better. Barcelona is really only included because its where our cruise ports. Once we get off the ship we will be leaving Barcelona to start the rest of our vacation. So the 7-9 days is for 3 cities, not 4, plus the travel time. I appreciate all of your suggestions, truly. But I don't really think its necessary to criticize my timeline. This will probably be the one and only time I get to see Europe so we're trying to pack a lot in. We know it'll be tight but we plan to just see the highlights so that we get to see more destinations. It may not be ideal but its what we're doing. Thank you again.

Posted by Eileen
Texan in CA
3585 posts

It could be more blur, than "tight". We've 'been there, done that', so we're trying to prevent you from rushing around and spending more time getting to places than the time you actually get to spend in those places. Nor are we trying to make you take a slow, pokey trip. We want you to see all that you can, but 7-9 days - not including travel days! - is not much time if you're moving around. Two or possibly three very-closely-positioned places is the most you should try. Every day you change locations, you'll lose up to 1/2 day. From Barcelona - I would fly to Munich. For 69€ you can take a direct (no changes) train to Paris and be there in time for a late lunch. Yes, that train leaves at 6:27; I've done worse ;-) Then you could take the Eurostar train to London and fly home. No Switzerland - too difficult, expensive, and if you're using up precious vacation days to see the Alps, you may see only fog. Boom, boom, boom, boom. Four major European cities! Hopefully, no blur. For the best prices, buy those tickets online ASAP. They get more expensive as time goes along: Munich > Paris and Paris > London.

Posted by Harold
New York, NY, USA
2852 posts

If you had only 7-9 days to spend in the US and were getting off a cruise ship in Miami, would you try to see New York, Washington DC, and New Orleans? If so, your plan is fine. If not, see fewer places. We all want you to enjoy your trip, and not turn it into an endurance test.

Posted by Dawn
Denver, CO
259 posts

If you haven't already, take a look at www.bahn.de and plug in the cities you are thinking about visiting. It will tell you the travel time between each. I find this site invaluable when planning a vacation.

Posted by Ray
Portland, Oregon, USA
1358 posts

hi again, Everyone want to see everything in the limited amount of time they have, its just how we think. And only you know how much you want to take-on/endure on your trip. I remember being yanked around shopping when i was young, so i really dont like to be yanked around when im on vacation. afterall, a vacation is suppose to be fun and relaxing. If it wasnt, id just work until i drop dead. So i try to plan down time on my vacations. as mentioned, some of the places are far apart. and since you made it really clear you want to see/do as much as you can in your short time, i would fly the longer distances just so you can see what you want in the short time you have. happy trails.

Posted by Tom
Hüttenfeld, Hessen, Germany
9134 posts

"But I don't really think its necessary to criticize my timeline. This will probably be the one and only time I get to see Europe" Whether this will be your one and only trip or the first of 20 doesn't matter. The geography and logistics aren't going to change for you, and your wish list is simply far too dispersed for the amount of time you have allotted. You will simply lose too much time in transit to make this itinerary anything but painful. Most of us have tried something similar in the past, and from experience, we will never try it again. So, if this truly will be your one and only trip to Europe... make it more than a survey of the continent's transportation infrastructure.

Posted by Zoe
Toledo, Ohio, US
2529 posts

I'm not a whirlind type of traveler but now that you've explained that it's three cities in about 9 days, it doesn't seem so rushed to me. Roberto's plan sounds like it would work for you. Combined with a cruise, I think you'll have a great trip with beautiful memories of the places you visit.

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
8760 posts

Caroline, I appreciate it that you get your back up when you see your plan discussed and suggestions are made that you don't like. I'll try to see if I can make the original request work, using the trains. I don't know what time your boat gets in at Barcelona, but shall we say early morning in time to catch a train by about noon? And that you want the fastest, most direct trains? And that with about 7-9 days and 3 further cities to visit we will say the remainder of 3 days, 2 days, and 2 days, and you fly out on the next - so all that final day will be dedicated to getting home? So - Day 1 - arrive AM in Barcelona, get to station. 2 possible trains to Paris: can you get to the station by 11 am? The first possible train is at 11:16 and arrives at Paris Gare de Lyon at 20:45 (8:45pm), with changes at Cerbère and Montpellier Saint-Roch. The second possible one leaves at 16:15 and arrives at 22:45 with a 12 minute connection at Figueres. So no time in Paris on day 1. Day 2 - Paris. Day 3 - transit to Munich - you couldn't pick so I've given it a go.
9:10 train from Paris Gare de l'Est, arrive Munich, with one 15 minute change in Mannheim, at 15:28. Get to the hotel and check in, time for dinner and evening in Munich. Day 4 - Munich Day 5 - transit to London 7:38 train from Munich to Cologne, change to Thalys to Brussels, 1:24 in Brussels to make the 30 minute minimum check in cut off for Eurostar, arrive in London 17:03 at the height of the rush hour to get to your hotel. Evening in London. Day 6 - London Day 7 - LOndon Day 8 fly home. I wouldn't do it but if that's what floats your boat go for it. I'd fly and limit myself to 2 cities.