I am trying to plan our trip to Europe (we leave mid May) and am feeling very overwhelmed with the train travel. Here's our travel plans when we need transportation: Rome to Pompeii (through Naples) to Sorrento (is the Circumvesuviana train covered in a pass?) Sorrento to Florence Florence to Pisa and back (day trip) Florence to Venice Venice overnight train to Glarus, Switzerland (near Zurich) Switzerland to Cochem, Germany Cochem to Paris Paris to Versailles and back (day trip) Paris to Bayeux Bayeux to Mount St Michel and back (day trip) Bayeux to London (through Paris, I know this isn't covered by the pass) I started out confused about how to make reservations (especially for our overnight train) from the U.S., and in trying to research have continually read that point-to-point tickets are much cheaper. But living in the U.S. is a problem for those as well. I do know someone in Germany and could pay her to ship the tickets from her house to ours, but that seems like a lot of trouble unless the point to point really is a lot cheaper. So basically: If you think we should do a pass, how do we make reservations? If you think point-to-point is better, what is the best way to get those? We've never been to Europe before (we're 25, this is our first trip) so any advice would be wonderful. Thank you!
Oy vey! Skip all this planning nonsense, do what we do, book your air fare in and out and your hotel for the first night in and the last night out and then cast your fate to the wind. It is a lot less stressful and WAY FUN!
The is no advantage to purchasing tickets early or in the US EXCEPT for some discounts. The exception to that statement is the overnight trains. Those do fill up and need to be reserved in advance. I assume this is about a six week trip given the amount of travel. Start with bahn.de for all your schedules and prices in Germany. Use the individual trains sites to obtain fares. You do have to do your homework to determine if p2p is cheaper or a pass. Sometimes a limited pass for the long trips and p2p for short trips work better. If you buy a pass, then make the reservation just before you use it or the day before. Again, the except is the night train.
Unlike Jerry, I like to plan so that I don't have to plan while traveling and can save some $. Here's a strategy I might research to see if you can save $. Italy: 4-day Italian pass: $191 (youth) Fly to Paris from Venice. Ryanair: 6 Euros (Wed 5-25?) to 35 Euros. Point-to-point tix within France: http://www.sncf.fr/ Paris to Cochem (29), Cochem to Zurich (39); cheap advance purchase tickets into and out of Germany available on some dates: http://reiseauskunft.bahn.de/bin/query.exe/en fly from Zurich to London (EasyJet?) But I suspect that with this itinerary you'd do well with a 9-or 10-day selectpass for 4 countries at $510 plus a flight to London.
When I look at the DB Bahn sight, almost all of the trains require reservations. But when I look at trenitalia.com (Italy's local sight), there is an IC (inter city) train that I think is covered by the Eurail with no reservations required. Is it common for there to be a lot of unlisted trains that don't require reservations? Or is the DB Bahn what I should go by?
Lindsey, As this is your first trip to Europe, you may find it helpful to have a look at the "Rail Skills" chapter in Europe Through The Back Door. You could also download the free PDF Rail Guide from this website (click the Railpasses tab at the top). If you check the "Railpasses" section of the website, there's a simple cost planner there that will provide an approximate cost for P-P tickets. You can use that information to decide whether a Railpass might be worthwhile. Especially as you'll be leaving very shortly, I wouldn't bother trying to pre-purchase tickets. Especially in Italy, it's very easy to purchase tickets there, a day or two prior to travel. You could also buy them when you arrive in each town, since you'll be at the station anyway. You may find it helpful to have a look at This Excellent Website. I assume you're using open-jaw flights, inbound Rome and outbound London? Do you know the routine for getting from the airport into Rome? I would highly recommend packing along a copy of the Italy 2011 Guidebook! Also, DON'T forget your Money Belts! Continued.....
Lindsey - Part 2.... Regarding each of your rail trips: If you decide to use a Railpass, you can obtain reservations at the stations. Especially in Italy, you DON'T want to be caught without a valid reservation as you'll be fined on the spot and it won't be cheap! Note that with a reserved seat, you'll be assigned a Car (Carozza) no. and a Seat (Posti) no. BE SURE to validate tickets in the yellow machine!!! > Rome to Sorrento / Pompeii - As soon as you get settled in Rome, go to Termini and buy tickets for the EuroStar Italia / Alta Velocita to Napoli Centrale, either at the ticket window or from one of the Kiosks (credit card required). When you arrive in Naples, go downstairs and purchase tickets for the Circumvesuviana. NO, it's not covered by Raiilpasses (AFAIK). My suggestion would be to stow your kit at your Hotel in Sorrento and then go to Pompeii. > Sorrento to Florence - Use the Circumvesuviana back to Naples, and then ES / AV "Frecciarossa" from Napoli Centrale to Firenze S.M. Novella. I'd probably use the train departing Naples at 10:50, arriving Florence at 13:50. The trip is 3H, and with P-P tickets reservations will be included. > Florence to Pisa - I'd probably just check the times on the Trenitalia site and then buy tickets the day of the journey. I haven't checked but it will likely just be Regional trains. > Florence to Venice - You'll be travelling from Firenze S.M. Novella to Venezia Santa Lucia (there are other stations, so be sure to specify). The trains appear to be all "Frecciaargento" fast trains, which take 2H:03M. There are LOTS of trains every day on that route, so I'd probably try to purchase tickets the day prior to travel, and hope to get a "Mini" fare. Continued.....
Lindsey - Part 3.... > Venice to Glarus, CH (overnight) - Which train are you planning to use? Most on that route appear to have at least two changes, including one at ~05:00 so you likely won't get a very "restful" sleep. I would have used a different method and day trains, but that's your choice. > Glarus to Cochem - Which train are you planning to use? The shortest appears to be 7H:15M with two changes. > Cochem to Paris - A relatively easy trip. You'll arrive at Paris Est. Buy a Carnet or single ticket and use the Metro to reach the area of your Hotel. BTW, were you planning on buying a Paris Museum Pass? > Paris to Versailles -You'll use the RER for that trip, and you should be able to buy tickets the day of travel. You could also stop buy one of the SNCF Boutiques in various parts of Paris, and take care of all your ticket purchases for France at the same time, and possibly also your EuroStar ticket. > Paris to Bayeux - You'll need to take the Metro to Gare St. Lazare and then board the train to Bayeux. Which Hotel are you staying at in Bayeux? Are you taking any D-Day tours? You'll probably find a Taxi waiting at the station when you arrive, but I'd recommend asking your Hotel to pre-book a Taxi back to the station on departure day, especially if you'll be leaving in the early morning. > Bayeux to Mont St. Michel - How were you planning to do that day trip? As I recall, there's a Bus provided by the Churchill Hotel, but I don't have many details. Continued.....
Lindsey - final part.... > Bayeux to London - You'll need to retrace your route to Gare St. Lazare and then Metro to Gare du Nord to connect with the EuroStar. You'll arrive in London at St. Pancras International. Without taking a lot of time to analyze this in detail, it's difficult to provide more specific suggestions. It's unfortunate that departure time is so close, as it doesn't allow much time to decide on Railpass choices or to pre-order EuroStar tickets. You might try entering your Itinerary into This Website as it should provide an approximate idea of whether a Railpass or P-P tickets would be most appropriate. Good luck and happy travels!
I just wanted to compliment Ken on that very thoughtful and detailed answer and recommendation! Wow! Just, WOW!!!! Thanks Bill
Deutsche Bahn does not require reservations (although I'm not sure about their night trains)... you don't even need a reservation to travel on an ICE train, although it does make the trip easier.
Maybe Deutsche Bahn does not require a reservation, but most IC trains that cross borders do. If traveling on a railpass. one would do well to check on that.
I agree with Jerry... way too much stress, ...you're young...rent a car and be spontaneous and enjoy and see what Europe has to offer you! Can't believe all these train tickets are less than driving. Certainly more restrictive.
Lindsey, the 2nd-class rail pass, for which you are eligible, is not such a bad deal, and frees you from locking in rail dates now. If it also frees you from tears, I think it is worth it. You will still have to buy reservations on some trains, which you can do in Europe. Arguably it's just as easy to buy tickets at the same time, so maybe that's your easiest alternative. One strategy: Make your reservations (or buy your tickets) at the train station when you first arrive someplace.
Sorry guys, you need to think out your Venice to Glarus leg again. Just because trains run into the night does not mean that that they will be "night trains". No matter which train you take in the evening from Venice you will be sitting around a small station in the middle of nowhere (assuming there is an open station) waiting for your next connection for towards Glarus, because trains don't go there in the middle of the night. Why don't you take a simple easy direct train from Venice to Luzern, Arth-Goldau, or Zurich and spend the night there then head out on a reasonable train in the morning? Its only 1:07 from Zurich to Glarus with one simple change; Venice to Zurich as late as 1720 in 6 and a half hours. I know that's not what you wanted, but it works. Unless you don't mind standing on the platform for several hours....
Lindsey, here is another suggestion. When we plan a long trip (we are currently on a 10-week trip), I book 30 minutes with one of Rick Steves' consultants. I prepare an itinerary and send it to them before the call. For this trip, the consultant filled out a form that she used to compare the cost of point-to-point tickets vs buying a pass. It ended up being cheaper for this trip to buy a global flexi-pass that covered 10 days of travel over a 2 month period of time.
She did the comparisons for me and it was much easier.
There can be just as much stress with a rental car as with trains. With this itinerary, a car would be out of the question. In your situation, I would follow Rita's advice and check with the RS consultant or a trusted travel agent.
Lindsey, How's the planning going??? Hopefully you're getting it sorted.
A combination of car and rail could certainly be figured out and give the flexibility to see Italy and Tuscany on a more relaxed schedule. Depending on how many days there may be plenty of time to explore the small, wonderful villages and not just train from city to city.
While most are planning we are out enjoying the sights and sites.
Wow, thank you so much for all your replies! I went through and did a comparison based on each country's train sites (from the Rick Steves' links in the planning section of a reailpass). I had a range: low on sale and high regular. The low on sale cost was only about $100 cheaper than the railpass with all the reservations (and that's assuming we have to do a reservation for almost every train). And the higher full price point to point tickets were actually more expensive than the railpass+reservation. I think it's worth the $100 risk to have the peace of mind of a railpass. I am rethinking the Venice to Glarus portion of our trip. There was a train that left at 22:51, transferred at Innsbruck at 4:53 (22 minute transfer), tranferred at Zurich at 9:20 (20 min transfer) and arrived in Glarus at 10:27. Is it feasible to do a day trip from Florence to Venice (and return to Florence)? We had planned a day trip to Pisa, but could do Venice instead and then stop in Pisa and head to Glarus on the day we were going to go to Venice. And as much as I like the idea of just buying a plane ticket and not having anything else planned, I am way too much of a planner to be able to do that myself. I admire those of you that can, but I would worry about missing something or stress about where we were going to stay. I'm trying to let go of some of my over-planning on this trip, but it's really hard for me! :-)
Lindsey, Actually, I'm also one that prefers to plan well rather than using "spontaneous" travel methods. It's something that has worked well for me, so that's the way I plan trips every year. I agree that it would be a good idea to revise your plans to use a night train to Glarus. That change at 04:53 would be a real nuisance! If I can think of any further suggestions, I'll post another note.
Lindsey I am rethinking the Venice to Glarus portion of our trip. There was a train that left at 22:51, transferred at Innsbruck at 4:53 (22 minute transfer), tranferred at Zurich at 9:20 (20 min transfer) and arrived in Glarus at 10:27. You're right about that one. I'd missed it and only saw the ones with the very long connections. See, you can do it better than us! The first train is a CityNightLine. You would be paying for a sleeping car that you only used part of the night, and the train only stands up to 5 minutes in Innsbruck so you need to be ready to pounce at 04:31. The second train is a Euronight which only has sleepers in First Class, seats in second. Both have mandatory reservations. When I was your age I might have done that. I'm too old now. Good luck, I'm sure you will build great memories about a great trip!
I wanted to post one final reply and let you know what we decided to do. Your replies were all really helpful, thank you so much! It's like having a group of friends who have traveled the same trip before. We decided to change our German castle to the Neuschwanstein castle (instead of going to Cochem and Burg Eltz). So we are now taking the night train from Venice (departing right before 11) to Munich (arriving at 6:30) and then we'll take a train from Munich to Fussen and the castle. We'll spend the day there and then get on the train and head towards Glarus, but will stay somewhere like Innsbruck or Bern for the night. Then do the last few hours on the train to Glarus. After a few days we'll go from Glarus to Paris. And we did decide on the Rail Pass, it was worth the peace of mind for me. Thanks again!