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Railpass

If we have a Eurail Global flex pass how exactly do we use it? Do we just get on the train and show the ticket man? Do we need to present it to someone before we board train? We will be travelling in France.

Posted by
5159 posts

Is this something you have already purchased or is it a purchase you are still considering?

Most of us find this website, man in seat 61 https://www.seat61.com/
to be full of extremely useful information about train travel in Europe. You should be able to find sections talking about rail passes and also train travel in France. All of this information should be fairly current.

Not current information: It has been several years since I purchased this sort of pass and at that time we had to validate it before use and then write in the date for each day we were using the pass. We would then show this pass to the conductor. I can't help but feel things are probably a bit more advanced technology wise right now, but I don't know for sure. One important thing to note is that some trains in France require reservations that are in addition to the cost of the pass. It used to be that these were limited to a certain number available per train for Eurail Pass holders.

You are wise to do some more research on this topic. If you haven't already purchased these, make sure that they are going to meet your travel needs before purchasing.

Posted by
8 posts

No I haven’t purchased them yet. But tickets in France for a party of 5 are expensive. I will look at info you posted.

Posted by
3824 posts

If you haven't purchased it yet: don't. Passes are terribly inconvenient in France, because all long-distance trains require reservations that cost extra (€10/trip I think), have quotas, and can be cumbersome to obtain.

Posted by
27720 posts

quoting from the Railpasses in France page of the Man in Seat 61,

By all means check out the Interrail pass for France (for European residents, see the Interrail pass information page) or Eurail passes for France (for non-Europeans, see the Eurail pass information page). However, passes have lost their convenience factor as all TGV, ex-Téoz Intercité de jour, & Intercités de Nuit overnight trains now require a seat reservation before boarding. A €10 or €20 reservation fee needs to be paid on top of the pass price for each long-distance journey which must be factored into your budget - the €10 seat reservations have a limited quota, when it sells out the fee becomes €20. For one or two specific journeys, you may find it easier just to book regular cheap advance-purchase tickets...

Posted by
27720 posts

But tickets in France for a party of 5 are expensive.

Eurailpasses for 5 are pretty darn expensive too.

And then when you have to pay 20€ x 5 = 100€ to step on each train after you already bought the pass it really adds up...

Posted by
27720 posts

We can give you more help.

When is the trip? Is that 2 adults and 3 kids (ages)? If you share the trips you expect to make we can help with hints and ways to save money.

There are people on these Forums who live in France, others very experienced in French Railways. ask away.... glad you came here.

Posted by
8 posts

2 adults 3 younger kids 27, 21 and 14. Eurail passes are $1740 for 10 days in 2 months. We will definitely use the 10 days. We will also be staying a few days in Amsterdam and from what I can see the tickets for that trip to and from alone is going to be $800, and we have other day trips that will require pricey tickets. We spent 3 weeks in Italy a few years ago and did not do the rail pass and it worked out fine but it seems prices were cheaper in Italy also. I wonder if it would be better to get a smaller rail pass say for 4 days just to cover the bigger train rides and then do point to point for everything else?

Posted by
4250 posts

If you are sure of your itinerary you can purchase the TGV tickets in advance for a big savings. They start showing up about 3.5 months in advance. (I think they often release entire months in advance as opposed to releasing on a strict 3 month schedule)

Posted by
5559 posts

Carol now's comments should be heeded:

"One important thing to note is that some trains in France require reservations that are in addition to the cost of the pass. It used to be that these were limited to a certain number available per train for Eurail Pass holders."

Posted by
21065 posts

And we've had a few people burned by the quota on rail-pass seats. They couldn't get a seat reservation on the train they wanted, whereas if they had been buying a ticket, there would have been no problem.

If you have a pretty good idea of where you are going in France, a list of specific planned travel legs would be helpful. Buying point-to-point tickets from Paris to Normandy is considerably less expensive than traveling to Bordeaux, just to give one example. We can't help very much if we don't know where you're going.

You are right that French trains are costlier than Italian trains, but the savings can be huge if you are in a position to buy tickets well in advance. I realize that the COVID situation makes buying tickets way, way ahead of time riskier than usual.

Posted by
8 posts

Ok so we are taking trips to Normandy, Mont St Michel, Chenonceau/Amboise/Blois, Strasbourg/Colmar and then to Amsterdam and back and also from Amsterdam day trip to Brugge. I did narrow Eurail pass from 10 days to 7 so the cost is about $1400 v $1750. If it wasn’t for the Amsterdam ride to and from I probably would not get the Eurail pass. But the ride to Amsterdam alone and back almost pays for the 7 day Eurail pass. Most of those tickets are cheap but as I mentioned Amsterdam is pricey and Strasbourg is also expensive.

Posted by
21065 posts

I should have asked earlier about the dates of your trip. What day are you planning to go to Strasbourg? And will you be returning to Paris from there? On the same day?

What day are you planning to go to Amsterdam?

Edited to add: I arbitrarily checked Thalys fares for early May and found that, for many days, there are tickets available for some departures at less than 70 euros (adults). Those were Flexible fares. For early June there are lots of 65-euro Flexible tickets available.

Posted by
8 posts

We are going in November and we will leave for Amsterdam on a Wednesday. I am doing a majority of train travel on weekdays. Strasbourg will be on a Tuesday. Yes I know it will be cold lol.

Posted by
21065 posts

In that case you've got all the time in the world to snag super-discounted tickets. That's assuming you reach a point of sufficient certainty that you'll be able to take the trip at a time when others haven't already bought all the cheapest tickets.

Be sure you're looking on the right websites for tickets. For Amsterdam, that's https://www.thalys.com/fr/en. Tickets are currently available through early July. The standard starting Flexible fare is 65 for adults. Here's the fine print on those fares:

"Exchangeable until the departure time indicated on the ticket. A charge of 0 euro applies, as well as the potential price difference between the old and new ticket. Refundable at 50% in the event of cancellation before the departure time indicated on the ticket. Non refundable after departure."

So you could buy early at the risk of losing 32.50 euros per ticket if the trip gets canceled (and if you don't have trip insurance that covers you reason for cancellation). The Flexible price for tomorrow is 135 euros, so the 65-euro fare that's only half refundable doesn't look like a bad deal to me--much though I don't like committing money far ahead of time.

This is where you can check fares for the French destinations: https://www.sncf-connect.com/en-en/. It will be some time before you can see fares for November, but you can look now at fares for tomorrow . For a one-way ticket tomorrow from Paris to Strasbourg, fares range from 55 to 107 euros; it's possible 107 isn't the maximum, it's just what I saw for tomorrow. If you check fares for June, you'll see some lower-priced options. If anything, I'd expect November to be a bit cheaper if you are comfortable buying Flexible tickets well in advance.

Posted by
27720 posts

Thanks for the additional information. Until we have it all we really can't help much. Please say when your trip is - next week, next year, in August. And for those segments you have identified, for example Amsterdam, please say if these are around specific event days like national holidays, Easter, etc.

You shouldn't have to pay extreme prices - please share when the journeys are.

And where are you looking for those prices? Are you using the national railways or somewhere like Eurail or Raileurope?

EDit: I started writing my last post a couple of hours before I finished it - dinner and trying to deal with 31 March government bureaucracy. I see many of my questions were just answered/asked.

Posted by
27720 posts

is the very expensive Amsterdam trip something like Strasbourg > Amsterdam and then Amsterdam > Paris with Amsterdam > Bruges > Amsterdam in the middle? Or for that would you go at the end of Amsterdam, Amsterdam > Bruges > Brussels > Paris?

That would make a big difference.

There will still be big charges on that bit even with Eurailpass. You'll be TGV (with fees) from Strasbourg to Paris or other connection point and then the really high pass charges on Thalys, which you will use from Paris or Lille or Brussels to Amsterdam. The pass charge on Thalys is often as expensive as cheap advance tickets for the same train. There are ways around but they do involve Thalys avoidance such as via Germany or International Train from Brussels to Amsterdam...

Posted by
12886 posts

Hi,

If I were doing that route Strasbourg to Amsterdam with the Eurail Global Pass (for me it would be the Senior Pass), I would avoid going with Thalys.

Take the S-Bahn Strasbourg to Offenburg, (ca. 30 mins) then Offenburg to Frankfurt on the ICE. Then change to Frankfurt to Amsterdam on the ICE, I've done this route using a Pass.

No mandatory reservations such as that demanded by Thalys. No need to go through Belgium.

Going through Frankfurt is not so much of a deviation.

Posted by
4690 posts

$800 for 5 people to take a round trip train ride from Paris to Amsterdam? Is that what you are getting?

I am thinking that as you are quoting in US Dollars, then you are looking at RailEurope for your fares. Am I correct?

Posted by
8 posts

Yes $800 Paris to Amsterdam and I was looking on the Omio website and a few others like raileurope. But we have actually decided to fly instead $500 round trip Paris to Amsterdam plus it saves so much time.

Posted by
4690 posts

Ok, never use RailEurope for anything. They do not run any trains, they are an overprices travel agency and their information is bad.

Only use the websites of the companies that actually run the trains. Not sure who runs the trains? Use the man in seat 61 website for the correct links on all routes within Europe.

I'm sure that you will quickly find out that the $800 you were seeing is really more like a quarter of that amount in reality...