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rail passes

I have been talking with raileurope for bookings for my 2 sons and myself for about 2 weeks in Germany & Belgium. I think the cost of over 2K is really expensive. How can I compare, or to whom do I contact to get alternative transportation options?

Posted by
31437 posts

Carol, If you could provide more specific information on the places you'll be visiting in Germany and Belgium, I'm sure the knowledgeable group here could suggest the best rail options. I doubt that a Railpass will be the most cost effective method, especially if you're buying from Rail Europe. With only a very short two weeks, I suspect you'll only be making a small number of rail journeys. Buying P-P tickets either locally or online well in advance will in most cases be the cheapest method. Cheers!

Posted by
12040 posts

Wipe the existence of Rail Europe from your memory. For trains in Germany, get all your information straight from the source, the Deutsche Bahn website. You can get a rough idea of how much each leg of your trip costs, and if you post exactly what you have planned, some of the rail gurus who hang around this website can probably give you concrete advise on how to save even more. I won't steal too much of their thunder, but to preview, you can save quite a bit of money by committing to advanced purchases. There are also any number of regional, group and time-limited discounts available. For Belgium, the website of the national rail company NMBS isn't quite so user-friendly if you're unfamiliar with the country. But I assume that if you've posted on this website, your trip includes some combination of Brussels, Brugge, Gent, +/- Antwerp. All of these cities are relatively close to each other and trains run bewteen them very frequently. There is no benefit to advanced purchasing, and the base ticket prices aren't very expensive. Because you're traveling in a group, you may want to consider the domestic Belgian rail pass. For about €60 (last time I checked), it gives you 10 trips anywhere within Belgium, but more than one person can use it at the same time. So for example, a round trip between Brussels and Brugge for three people would count for 6 of the 10 trips. No need to pre-purchase, you can buy this pass at any Belgian rail station.

Posted by
5511 posts

Carol: If you post your destinations, travel dates, and sons' ages, I'm sure you'll get some help. Ken and Tom's comments on advance-sale tickets point you in the right direction - away from Rail Europe; a quick glance at the DB site shows an adult fare of 59€ is available for Munich-Bruges, for example. But to get similar fares you might need a bit of help using the site, strategizing your itinerary, etc., help that can't be offered without more details.

Posted by
7 posts

Oh my gosh, you all are wonderful.. I have been talking with Rail Europe and the total cost is almost $2200 USD. The following is our itinerary. In and out of Frankfurt - passengers ages, 67, 28, 26 Frankfurt - rent car drive to Munich 9/16 - 9/18 Munich -Salzburg - train or bus 9/21 Salzburg - Munich - 9/22 catch overnight train to Berlin Berlin - Koln (overnight train) - Brussells - Brugge 9/25 Brugge - Ghent 9/28 Ghent - Brussels 9/29 Brussels - Koln (high speed)- Koblenz 9/30 Koblenz - Bacharach - Rhine boat (maybe KD line) Bacharach - Frankfurt 10/01 catch 2pm flight I have been struggling with this for months, and still don't have it all put together, any help is greatly appreciated. Thank you so so much.
Carol

Posted by
12040 posts

OK, here's some recommendations for starters. Munich-Berlin: Buy your tickets in advanced directly from Deutsche Bahn. Berlin to Köln isn't a good night route, unless you want to make multiple changes overnight, wait around in trainstations after hours or leave at midnight. Unless you want to see Köln, you would probably do better just to fly from Berlin to Brussels, then catch a train from the Brussels airport to Brugge. No need to reserve or buy the airport to Brugge ticket in advanced, just buy it at the station and catch the next train. And recall the Belgian rail pass I mentioned earlier. Brugge-Gent-Brussel: Use the Belgian rail pass or just buy your tickets at the station before you leave. Brussels-Köln: Depending on what time of day you left, either buy an advanced purchase from Deutsche Bahn (if using their three times daily ICE) or from Thalys. Rest of the trip: There's probably some regional pass that would cover the remainder of your time in Germany. Someone on this website should be able to give you more information.

Posted by
661 posts

Carol, This seems like a very busy itinerary, and you will be spending a lot of your valuable vacation time on trains and changing hotels. If your itinerary is at all negotiable and flexible, you may want to re-post the specifics of your itinerary in the "To The West" section and ask for suggestions on streamlining your route. There are a lot of people on here that can work magic with itineraries! Good luck, and have a great trip!

Posted by
18245 posts

Just a suggestion. If you are going from Salzburg to Munich just to catch the night train to Berlin, use the German Rail (Bahn) website to book Salzburg to Berlin as one ticket. With advance purchase, it's probably cheaper than two individual tickets; the combination might even be the same price as Munich to Berlin alone. Also, some of your travel (Munich to Salzburg, Bacharach to Franfkurt) is within one German Land (state) - Rheinland-Pfalz or Bavaria. A Länder-Ticket for these states is 30€ (22€+4€+4€) for three people (10€/P). It's probably not worth using a pass for those legs.

Posted by
31437 posts

Carol, It's unfortunate you hadn't posted earlier, as you could have attended the last monthly meeting of the Denver RS group, and the well travelled group there could have helped you in person to work all this out (especially as you've been "struggling with this for months"). As you'll be leaving fairly soon, you won't be there for the next meeting. Thanks for the additional information, that helps. The others have provided lots of great information, but I have a couple of questions and comments. > Why are you renting a car from Frankfurt to Munich? Where are you planning to stop for the night between 9/16 & 9/18? > It appears that you have a LOT of one-night stops. Are you planning on visiting Salzburg as a day trip from Munich or were you spending a night there? Same question for Brussels - Brugge - Ghent? I find that one-night stops can be very tiring, and don't allow much time to really see anything. > Where are you planning to stay in Bacharach? You can easily board the KD boat there for the trip to St. Goar, returning by train. Cheers!

Posted by
18245 posts

"Berlin to Köln isn't a good night route" CNL 456 leaves Berlin Hbf at half past midnight and gets to Köln one minute before 7 AM.

Posted by
12040 posts

Leaving at midnight doesn't sound too appealing, especially because she then wants to continue to Brugge on the same day. And given that she will have taken a night train just a few days prior, a second night of poor-to-no sleep will likely leave everyone too exhausted to enjoy Belgium. And adding onto something that Ken mentioned. If you want to visit Brugge, Gent and Brussel, just visit them as daytrips from each other. They're all very close (on a clear day, you can see Gent and Brugge from each other) and trains move between them very frequently. Which one to stay in? Most people on this website prefer Brugge, although your party members in their 20s may thank you for considering Gent instead (more nightlife, more of a young adult town). If you want to eat at a lot of high-end restaurants, although Gent and Brugge certainly have their share, Brussel is probably the culinary champion of Belgium.

Posted by
5511 posts

Carol: your situation calls for railpasses. You are crisscrossing Germany, and individual fares will add up quickly, considering the long distances you are traveling and the improbability of snagging the best discounts for the trains you want at this late date. Plus, I'm sure you're already quite frustrated with the planning and ticketing business. Railpasses simplify the whole travel bit as well and allow you to change plans if needed. And they won't cost you $2200. Here's how you can do roughly what you proposed (which is too much.) Frankfurt - Munich 9/16 RAILPASS DAY 1 Munich - Salzburg 9/21 Bayern Ticket (30€ for 3) Salzburg - Munich - Berlin 9/22 RAILPASS DAY 2 Berlin - Koln - Brussells - Brugge 9/25 RAILPASS DAY 3 Brugge - Ghent 9/28 (cheap local ticket - maybe 6€ each) Ghent - Brussels 9/29 (cheap local ticket, maybe 9€ each) Brussels - Koblenz 9/30 RAILPASS DAY 4 Koblenz - Bacharach - Frankfurt 10/01 RAILPASS DAY 5 Math: (Approximate costs for travel in 2nd class)
(1) 5-day Germanrail + Benelux twinpass for two = $562 (1) 5-day Germanrail + Benelux individual pass = $346 Short journey prices as outlined above for three = 75€ = $100 TOTAL: about $1000 I agree with the other posters that you'd be very wise to drop the Day 1 car idea and to cut down on all the travel you have in mind. Something should go.

Posted by
7 posts

I can't believe the incredible responses. Thank you all so so much. Fortunately for me, Lee, who is a frequent poster on this site and seems to be extremely knowledgeable, lives within a few miles of me. He is kind enough to meet with me personally and help me through this maze of train schedules. Part of the problem is that plane tickets have been purchased and many hotel reservations made, I am trying to cut down on some of the travel but don't know if that's realistic at this late date without losing a lot of money in changing or deleting hotel reservations. While we will be traveling light, I know it is a pain to have to carry luggage everywhere. Thank you all again. Please continue with your advice and suggestions. I'm really looking into everything that I might be able to change.

Posted by
11280 posts

If Lee's coming over to give you a personal consultation, you should be set. But I'll just say that unless you specifically booked the hotels as prepaid and non-refundable, you should be able to cancel them without penalty at this point. Policies vary, but most common is that canceling with 1-3 days notice results in no penalty.

Posted by
31437 posts

Carol, If Lee is helping you with your travel plans, you're in good hands! He'll get things sorted quickly.

Posted by
12040 posts

Lee will almost certainly try to convince you to cancel the rental car. I don't always agree with his "trains at all cost" line of argument, but for the reason you planned the rental, I'm probably going to agree with his inevitable advice.

Posted by
18245 posts

Actually, I'm not going to try to convince her to cancel the rental car. For every trip I make, I look at the cost of a rental car vs public transportation. It's just that I've never found a car to be a viable altrnative. But I have a different style of travel than most people. I don't mind someone renting a car if they evaluate the altrnatives and find that it makes sense. 1. Too many people use a rental car because that's what they do in this country and they don't recognize that Europe is different from the US, that it might save them money. They just do the only thing with which they are familiar and make excuses for doing it. 2. Too many people can't figure out the complexity of public transportation in Europe, so they don't consider it. In the United States, we don't have effective transportation, and we have to use our cars to go anywhere. In Germany, I appreciate the freedom of not having to depend on a car.

Posted by
5511 posts

Lee's analysis is on the money. I would add a couple of reasons. 3.) RailEurope and other big-name marketers of railpasses and P2P tickets offer tons of information and advice on the products they sell - but information on much less expensive rail products available elsewhere is NOT part of their game and is generally in short supply elsewhere. Carols' dilemma - "How can I compare, or to whom do I contact to get alternative transportation options?" - shows this well. The high prices that RE and others can fetch because of this information gap make car travel look fairly cheap on the surface. 4.) Germany is exceptional. France, a major destination for North Americans, and several other countries have somewhat underdeveloped rail infrastructures; rail travel in many places is often very ineffective or non-existent. So Americans who have heard this or who have traveled in these countries previously by car will sometimes wrongly assume that trains in Germany will not serve remote areas either, and that a rental is also the right choice in Germany, when in fact Germany has a rail system (and a supporting system of bus transport) that is far more extensive than almost anywhere in Europe. Lee's point about the "complexity" of rail travel is a good one... how can you decide if you don't learn about the options... but it's wise to remember that on top of the rail travel "learning curve," less experienced travelers frequently have a full house of other hurdles, and even when the train would clearly be the best choice, it is sometimes a bridge too far, especially when time is short. When you're tapped out, "Let's just drive" sounds doable.

Posted by
12805 posts

Hi, My suggestion is also to drop the idea of using RailEurope. Using public transportation will be fine for the itinerary you've got planned. If you intend to see historical sites in Bacharach, Kaub am Rhein, and Bingen all in one day, then I'd say get a rental car. I would only recommend a rental car mainly if you plan on seeing some specific site in villages or several villages in the greater Berlin area and also Brussels just as a way to get around to these places, instead of waiting for the train or bus. Not all are served by buses/train.

Posted by
18245 posts

As for her use of a car, it's only for the first two days. She arrives in the afternoon on Monday, so say she rents the car at 14:00 and drives to Baden-Baden. On Tuesday she drives from Baden-Baden to Rothenburg ob der Tauber. On Wednesday she leaves Rothenburg early enough to get to the Munich Hbf, one block from her hotel, in time to return the car before 14:00. She has a reservation for a car for two days for $135. Michelin estimates gas for her trip at 80€, so her total expenses will be about 180€. An ICE from the airport to Baden-Baden is 135€ (for 3). Baden-Baden to RodT, using an advance purchase ticket, is 87€. A Bayern-Ticket from RodT to Munich Hbf is 30€. Total, 252€. If she can't make it to Munich Hbf before the time when she rented the car in Frankfurt, the rental cost would be higher. Also, depending on when the flight arrives, she might be able to catch the S-Bahn to Frankfurt Hbf and take an EC to Baden-Baden, all for 108€.

Posted by
7 posts

Again, my many thanks to all of you for your fabulous suggestions. While it has been a lot of information to digest, Lee helped me book train reservations last evening. The total cost ended up being half of what RailEurope was going to charge me. Woooo Hoooo! Lee is my hero... I need one more piece of information from the group please. Since Lee uses trains he did have information on car rental. I still need to book a car from Frankfurt to Munich. I see there are many choices, does anyone have knowledge or suggestions on car rentals?
Thank you all again.