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Several questions about railpasses and booking tickets...

Ahoy travelers! I recently found this place while looking up info for a long trip to Europe that a friend and I will be taking in September. This will be our first trip to Europe, so much of the details are new to us. Most of our planning has gone smoothly, until we tried to figure out just exactly how the railpass works. Oof. Still, through a LOT of research (including searching through topics here), I think I’ve got it mostly figured out, but there are a few things I wanted to run past the more knowledgeable, more experienced travelers here, to see if I’ve got it right. A warning that this post will be long; I have several questions, so big thanks in advance to anyone who reads all this and can help me out! So without further ado, tell me if any of the following are way off…

-It is generally recommended to avoid buying from RailEurope or similar sites, due to extra fees they add, lack of seat selection, and the fact that they don’t always show full schedules.

-That said: for trains in France (SNCF), it’s impossible to avoid RailEurope if you are trying to book with a railpass, since the SNCF site does not have an accommodation for a railpass holder when making a booking. Nor does the captaintrain site recommended by Seat 61. Thus, one must either use RailEurope with their railpass, or buy regular tickets from the SNCF site or captaintrain WITHOUT a railpass (or at least, without a railpass that covers France specifically).

-For trains in Germany and Austria (DB and OBB), it’s possible, and preferable, to use their sites to book, including with a railpass. If I understand correctly, that’s what the “reservation only” options on each site are, i.e. on DBs site, the “seat only (no ticket)” option next to the Search button: http://i.imgur.com/pxEVoU1.png

And on OBBs, this “Ticket Already Exists” option: http://i.imgur.com/AvyAazV.png

If I have a railpass covering those countries, then what I want to do is go to those sites and pick those options, correct? Or have I grossly misread what those options are for? XD

-About classes: Everything I have seen suggests that an adult railpass MUST be a “first-class” pass. Does this mean I can book first class on any trip covered by my railpass, without paying any more than I would for a second class reservation? (On OBBs site, I noticed that clicking that “Ticket Already Exists” option caused the “first class upgrade” button to show a cost of 0, so I suspect I am correct about this part).

-Finally, this isn’t related to railpasses, but is something I saw while looking at the DB site. Some trips have a little “!” symbol next to them, and when you expand you see warnings. Some of them are a confusing; I’d like to see if anyone here can help clear them up. I’d hate to book a trip, only for our plans to get derailed (ahahaha) by a lack of understanding about just what these notes mean! Another screenshot: http://i.imgur.com/gCRttZZ.png

There are two warnings in the linked image that have me confused. One: “runs not everyday, 3 Sep until 10 Dec 2016.” What is this trying to tell me? That this train does not run everyday during this period? I assume that if the system lets me buy or reserve a ticket for a specific day and time, THAT train will run, yes?

Two: “Hint: departure/arrival replaced by an equivalent station.” I have to admit I have NO idea what this means, or what impact it would have (if any) on our plans if we were trying to book a trip with this warning attached…

Whew! That should be everything. Thanks again to anyone that can shed some light on all this!

Posted by
11507 posts

May I ask, how long is trip and what is your itinerary, railpass is sometimes ( often) not best idea..have you already purchased one?

Posted by
20315 posts

Well, this site is inhabited by a lot of people who consider rail-passes a product whose time has come and gone, kinda like travelers checks. But, they still are here and make sense for some people. Just be aware they are not the cheapest way to go anymore. You've already been to seat61 and seen their caveats.
http://www.seat61.com/Railpass-and-Eurail-pass-guide.htm#.V5nGE7grLIU
and especially this part:
http://www.seat61.com/Railpass-and-Eurail-pass-guide.htm#railpass-or-point-to-point-tickets

That being said, they are sold by RailEurope, and sometimes you will need their services. If you are over 25, the global pass is only available in 1st class.

For Deutsche Bahn, reservations are not required.
For France, any long distance train (TGV, IC) you must buy a pass-holders reservation. The number of these for each train is limited, even if the train has empty seats, so it is important to get these in advance.

From your example for Deutsche Bahn, "runs not everyday" means just that, but if it shows the train as running on the day you want to travel, it will be running. In this case, you can click on the train # and get the complete itinerary for that train and all the days it runs (and doesn't), all the stops. times, services on the train like a bar car and whether or not you can bring bicycles.
The note about stops shows that there is on-going construction on the tracks and/or stations and some stops may be eliminated, and these are mentioned. Between Kassel and Munich this does not apply to you because the effected stations are behind you.

Give us some specifics and there are people here who can explain things better than I. Sniffing out the best tickets to buy and when can be complicated, but only because there are so many alternatives to save money, especially with Deutsche Bahn.

Posted by
2393 posts

Definitely more info would be helpful. Whether a pass makes sense or not depends on the user and type of trip intended. If going the least expensive it likely will not be the cheapest. If you have all of your stops planned out and reservations made for hotels then point to point tickets are likely the best route.

If you want convenience and flexibility passes are awesome. If you plan on just winging it with no set schedule then passes are a great option. If you are not pressed for time you can even move about the countries that require reservations with using the trains that require reservations - it just takes longer.

You need reservations only for those trains that say reservations required - many you can just hop on with a rail pass. We traveled for a month on a rail pass and never made a reservation.

Age can make a difference too as rail passes for under 25's are cheaper and available in 2nd class.

Posted by
33125 posts

It seems like you are heading down the right line.

Railpasses are a pain, especially in France and Italy, because of those pain in the neck reservations, which add to the price of the already expensive pass.

With normal tickets the reservations in France and Italy on the high speed trains are already included.

In Switzerland and Germany the local train company (DB, SBB) will tell you how crowded the segments are expected to be and in Germany advise if reservations are advised. Reservations are exceedingly rare in Switzerland, Belgium and the Netherlands, and impossible on regional trains pretty much everywhere.

As others have said, more information will allow a personalised reply.

Posted by
16894 posts

You should use Rail Europe to book French TGVs that require reservations. You don't need full schedules from them; you just need to book the particular departure that you have selected using DB schedules. Don't attempt to book connections by regional train that might not even take reservations.

For trains that don't require reservations, I'd leave my options open. That's part of the convenience of a rail pass. If you really want a seat assignment, you can book those in train stations on shorter notice. The DB and OBB sites also work as you have found.

First and second class pass holder seat reservations can have different prices, depending on the type of train. See our France rail page or a list of reservation prices in our printable Rail Guide.

Posted by
14580 posts

Hi,

At worse you could be find yourself in a situation where the quota for pass holders has been met for the TGV ride you want to take. That calls for a slight change in plans, not the end of the world. If you have a 1st class Pass, all the better, you request a 1st class reservation or a 2nd class, which ever is available. Have I encountered this? Yes, no big deal, and my buying the reservation was sometimes done literally last minute, such as the night before departure, 12 hrs in the summer, peak season.

Not true that everything re the Pass has to be 1st class, although on one ride from Frankfurt to Paris (day) a few years back a lot of the passengers in the same 1st class coach as I were Americans. The 1st class gives you a bit more flexibility in terms of seat reservation whether it's mandatory such as on the TGV or not, eg, on the ICE. I don't use a 1st Pass anymore, only use a 2nd class.

No need to reserve in Austria with ÕBB in either 1st or 2nd class, I wouldn't.

Posted by
9 posts

Thanks for the replies everyone! Haven’t actually purchased any railpasses or train tickets yet, no. Flights and hotel reservations are the parts that have already been booked so far. I didn't include more full information on our plans because I had intended my post to not be about "should I buy a railpass for this trip or not?" I've done the research and know that its value really depends, that it won't necessarily save any money and whether it's worth it depends on one's priorities. Nevertheless:
The trip is from mid-September to early October, we will be in Europe for a total of 24 days (counting our fly-in and fly-out days). We will visit, in order:
-London (flying into here, it wasn't in our original plan but we found a great rate for a flight into Gatwick with Norwegian Air; we won't even be staying in London for a full day after we land, but will instead head right down to Paris via Eurostar).
-Paris
-Hamburg
-Berlin
-Munich
-Salzburg
-then back to Paris and then on to London for our flight home (at this point we probably will spend a day or two in London before the flight back).

So aside from some day-trips (e.g., while in Paris, we will probably take the TGV out to Strasbourg and back), our main concern with trains is the connection from one city to the next. Eurostar is easy, as having a railpass or not has no bearing on it, but for everything else, the questions remain.

I did some number-crunching before, but I didn’t have all the info I needed then, so I’m about to RE-crunch everything, to see if a railpass will be worth it (and if so, which kind). Now that I’ve confirmed that I know how to buy tickets on the sites for DB and OBB both with and without a railpass, I can proceed.

One other thing, I didn’t see anyone answer this part: the “Hint: departure/arrival replaced by an equivalent station” warning attached to some trips on bahn.com. This almost sounds like they are saying your departure or arrival could be moved to a different station at some point between the time you book and the time your train leaves?? That would be really weird and unfortunate, but I can’t figure out what else this could be. Can anyone confirm what, exactly, this message means?

Posted by
20315 posts

“Hint: departure/arrival replaced by an equivalent station.”

Not sure what this means, but that won't stop me from hypothesizing.

This is for your journey from Berlin to Munich. You've selected a route with 2 train changes at Hanover and Kassel and departs Berlin Hbf (Tief) at 8:52 from track 3-D-G, and has this note.
The next departure is direct at 9:30 and departs Berlin Hbf (Tief) from track 2. Same note.
The next departure is at 9:34 with a train change in Fulda. It departs from Berlin Hbf from track 14 and does not contain this note. Also it does not say "(Tief)".

Berlin Hbf has 5 levels, with tracks 1-8 on the lowest level underground, and tracks 11-16 on the highest level. Thus the underground level is indicated as Berlin Hbf (Tief), meaning "deep" or underground. The upper tracks are above ground and indicated just as Berlin Hbf. No (Tief).

So my hypothesis is that Deutsche Bahn is keeping an option to switch the departure from the lower level to the upper level, depending on traffic that day. This will be known well before hand and noted on the train departure board when you arrive at the station. So this note could be just a standard bit of butt-covering. If you were changing trains in Berlin, that is definitely a good heads-up as the two sets of tracks are 5 levels apart (connected by both elevators and escalators). But since you are originating there, it won't effect you. As I say, just check the departure board when you arrive (note it will not say destination Muenchen, as you are changing trains at Hanover, the actual destination of this train is Koeln/Bonn Airport).

That is my theory and I'm sticking to it. And if you do go with a rail-pass, you can always change your mind and take one of the direct trains. As you can see, during the day there are virtually continuous departures that will get you to Munich one way or the other.

One note, since you are going to Salzburg, that is considered a Bavarian station. So unless you are planning other trips into Austria, you do not need to include it in your rail-pass, thus you can get by with a France-Germany rail pass. And the Munich-Salzburg run is part of the Bavarian rail network, so if you use a local train, travel after 9 am weekdays, it is 23 euro for the 1st person and 5 euro for each additional person. So if you are getting a flex pass, you don't need to use a pass day for that trip as a local ticket costs less than a pass day.

Posted by
12040 posts

The message about a train not running every day doesn't mean that there will be no rail connections possible on that given day between two cities. It just means that regularly scheduled trains at certain times may not run. European trains aren't like airlines (in many ways!), where each airline may only schedule one or two flights between cities per day. Connections usually run hourly, or sometimes even more frequently. So, instead of, let's say, 15 rail options, you may only have 12 on that day.

Posted by
19149 posts

In the case of the screenshot you gave us, if you click on the "ICE 1223" link, it will show you the entire run of the train and you will see that the stations in question, Essen, Bochum, and Dortmund, are before you board in Kassel, so that would not affect you.

“runs not everyday, 3 Sep until 10 Dec 2016.”

The runs not every day is not a warning. You will find it on the bottom of many train details, even ones without the "!" in the triangle. And the hint just means that on the days it doesn't run exactly that schedule, it might run but with different stations. This train will not run that schedule every day during that period, but it will run it on the date you entered. Make sure you entered the date(s) you plan on taking that train.

Eurail passes are for 1st class only, but other, single country passes, like the German Rail pass, can be for 2nd class as well.

Posted by
9 posts

@Sam: that was a good stab! If it weren't for Lee's post, I'd be inclined to suspect that your theory might be right. XD

@ Lee and Tom: Thank you both for the further info! At first when I started looking at all this, everything seemed overwhelming since it was all pretty new to me. But thanks to the replies in this thread and a lot of trying things and research, I think I've got a handle on just about everything I need to know to book the trains for our trip. Hoping to finish up all my number-crunching tonight and make a final decision about railpasses...

Thanks again to everyone who posted!

EDIT: almost forgot about this:

"One note, since you are going to Salzburg, that is considered a
Bavarian station. So unless you are planning other trips into Austria,
you do not need to include it in your rail-pass, thus you can get by
with a France-Germany rail pass. And the Munich-Salzburg run is part
of the Bavarian rail network, so if you use a local train, travel
after 9 am weekdays, it is 23 euro for the 1st person and 5 euro for
each additional person. So if you are getting a flex pass, you don't
need to use a pass day for that trip as a local ticket costs less than
a pass day."

Sam, can you elaborate on this? How is it that you know this? I couldn't find anything on the Eurail site about Salzburg being considered part of the Bavarian rail network, or about that specific trip (Munich to Salzburg) being covered by a German railpass. Not that I don't TRUST you, you see, I just want to be sure I understand all the info myself before I make any plans based on said info, haha...

I did see (when I went back to bahn.com after reading your post) that there is an option from Munich to Salzburg that is 23 euros for a single traveler, and only 28 for two travelers, thus that would be the "only 5 per person after the first" thing you talked about (and it does indeed leave after 9AM). At first I was confused because all it says for type of train is "M". Most of these codes I've been able to figure out ("RJ" = Railjet, "IC" - InterCity, "ICE" = is obviously ICE, etc) but I don't know what M is. But then it occurred to me... could it be this thing?? http://i.imgur.com/Eeu4AL1.jpg

This service is called "Meridian", so that very well could be it? And that'd be great news if so, because I've been wanting to ride that Stadler FLIRT 3 train (the particular train model they use) but didn't know how to book it. This is their website: http://www.der-meridian.de
As far as I can find there's no English option for this service, so I figured I couldn't count on being able to ride it because I can't plan ahead for it.

(As you can see, I don't know a lot about actually buying tickets or riding European trains, but I do know a fair bit about the trains themselves; being a massive rail geek is 50% of why I'm looking forward to this trip!).

Posted by
2393 posts

You should be pricing your point to point tickets on the rail sites for each country.

Schedules for ALL country's trains and pricing for German trains can be found at the German Rail site Deutsche Bahn -

French Trains

Austria Trains

The all day ticket that works for trains to Salzburg is the Bayern Ticket

Posted by
14580 posts

The German rail pass covers going to Salzburg. Even though it is Austria, you will see DB personnel at the Salzburg train station, such as security, (DB Sicherheit)

Posted by
20315 posts

Sam, can you elaborate on this? How is it that you know this? I couldn't find anything on the Eurail site about Salzburg being considered part of the Bavarian rail network, or about that specific trip (Munich to Salzburg) being covered by a German railpass.

Because it is. You've already seen it for yourself. Meridian trains operates the regional trains between Munich and Salzburg and Kufstein, Austria. Eurail will not tell you this because they make more money selling you expensive fast trains than by telling you about inexpensive local transport tickets. As it is, there is actually a cheaper way of getting to Salzburg by getting a Meridian "Guten Tag" ticket for 21 EUR for 1 passenger and 5 EUR for each addtitional passenger after 9 am on their trains. But don't take my word. read this:
https://www.bahn.com/i/view/USA/en/prices/germany-regional/bavaria-ticket.shtml
http://www.der-meridian.de/fahrkarten/das-guten-tag-ticket (in German, use google translate)
http://www.der-meridian.de/strecken-fahrplaene/streckennetz (in German, use google translate)

Posted by
9 posts

Sweet! Not only will we be going to Salzburg from Munich, but we were also planning to take a day trip to Rothenburg while in Munich; since it is also located in Bavaria, it seems that Bavarian ticket would be a good bet! Of course, we'd have to pick a day to use it, but it looks like you can just buy more than one if you want to - one for each day that you're going to want to be traveling around Bavaria. Thanks so much for pointing me to this!

So with that in mind, we probably won't need an Austrian railpass... for our trip from Salzburg back to Paris, a Railjet that goes to Zurich (connecting us with TGV Lyria from there to Paris) is what I'd like to do, because that trip is supposed to be spectacular from what I've seen. So the only reason to get a railpass covering Austria (or Switzerland) would be if having the pass gave us savings over booking those trips the old-fashioned way, which I highly doubt. Looks like we might end up with JUST a German railpass, if we get any pass at all!

Posted by
19149 posts

Meridian is a private company running trains on the Munich, Salzburg, Kufstein network under the privatization policy of the Bahn. They also run trains on the Holzkirchen-Rosenheim stretch. And their sister company BayrischeOberlandBahn (BOB). Runs train from Munich down to Holzkirchen and on three branches to Bayrischzell, Tegernsee, and Lenggries. The Guten-Tag-Ticket is valid on the entire network, but not for local transport on the Munich metro (MVV). Also note that a Eurail pass or German Rail ticket is not valid for the BOB, but a Bayern-Ticket is.

Posted by
9 posts

Hmm... it's hard to say if even the German Railpass is worth it.

You do get flexibility with it... If I wanted to be able to suddenly decide to take extra short train trips, over and above our main city-to-city trips that we have planned, then I'd be able to. Which is nice. To accommodate that, I'd need to get at LEAST a 5 or 7 day pass to cover everything. Which would mean I'm spending 220-280 for a pass... Given that I ran through all our pre-planned trips, including all our intercity connections in Germany, our day trip from Munich to Rothenburg (covered by the Bavaria pass), and out trip from Munich to Salzburg (another Bavaria pass would cover this), and only came up with a grand total of 202, it's a tough call. On the one hand, the pass doesn't seem worth it when JUST comparing the total prices; on the other hand, if we had an issue with a missed connection or something, or I ended up taking more extra trips on regional trains than I thought I would, then that could make the pass worth it after all...

As far as that Meridian to Salzburg (leaving Munich at 9:55AM), it also looks like - from what I have been able to dig up online - it's covered by the Bavaria Day Pass, but NOT by the general "German Rail Pass". So... maybe the German Pass isn't worth it? It seems like the cost savings will be pretty minimal, unless I end up taking a TON of extra small trips while we are in German cities...

Oof this is still tough to figure out!

Posted by
20315 posts

I'll just add some more things to think about. (Don't you just love forums.)

You say you have your lodging booked, so we'll just leave that one alone. You have the trip book-ended from Paris at set dates. In between Paris, you have 4 stops, Hamburg, Berlin, Munich, Salzburg.

You could think about taking an EasyJet flight from Paris Orly to Hamburg. Instead of 8 to 9 hours on a train with at least one change along the way. the Easyjet tickets are in the 40 to 50 EUR range pp plus checked baggage fees. It a 1 hour and 40 minute flight time, plus time to get to and from the airports and the minimum 1 1/2 hour allowance for check in and security and boarding, you are talking at least 4 maybe 5 hours travel time. The only EasyJet flight is at 7:30 pm.

An alternative, you expressed an interest to do a day trip to Strasbourg. You could take the morning TGV to Strasbourg, get 6 hours there, then continue on to Hamburg. It would be a long day, but another thing to think about.

The Salzburg-Paris leg should be booked in advance at the Swiss Rail site, www.sbb.ch/en as they handle both the TGV Lyria and agent for Railjet trains in and out of Switzerland. Looks to be about 91 CHF pp nonflexible. Not the fastest route, but one that passes through the Alps from Salzburg to Zurich. Zurich to Paris is nothing special.

So now I see just 2, maybe 3 big rail trips to book through DB: Hamburg-Berlin, Berlin-Munich, and maybe Strasbourg-Hamburg. Remember, for day trips in Germany, each Land (roughly equivalent to a US state) has its own version of the Laender Ticket, like the Bayern Ticket. Click on the map to each Land's pricing structure. https://www.bahn.com/i/view/USA/en/prices/germany/laender-ticket.shtml

Posted by
9 posts

Thanks for offering up more tips!

Flights... are pretty much out of the question, haha. Not only am I looking forward to abundant train travel way too much, I also dislike flying, and don't want to do anymore than is absolutely necessary. Obviously there's no way around flying to get from home (west coast US) to London to start our trip, and then back again to end it, but beyond that I don't plan to go near an airport!

I thought about the day trip to Strasbourg being packed into our Paris/Hamburg travel day, yeah. Gonna talk it over with my traveling companion and work out what our plan will be; on the one hand, going to Strasbourg on the way to Hamburg would mean more time in Paris, but on the other hand, doing that would mean less time to explore Strasbourg, a bit more stress with connections we have to make and our luggage to deal with, and in order to have a decent amount of time in Strasbourg we'd have to get to Hamburg awfully late (likely well after 9PM). So we'll see.

Re: booking the final segment from Salzburg back to Paris, via Munich.... Hmmm. I dunno, I looked at the SBB site, but (aside from being harder to use; why are there so many steps you have to click through to look at a ticket's full details??), it was more expensive. Booking the same trip as two parts - the Salzburg to Zurich portion via Railjet at oebb.at, and the Zurich to Paris portion via TGV Lyria at captaintrain (or directly from SNCF) - saves us a good $20-30 per person. So I'm not really seeing any reason to book with SBB as opposed to OBB/captaintrain.

INTERESTINGLY... on oebb.at, if instead of booking just "Salzburg to Zurich", you search for "Salzburg to Paris" as one trip, it tells you it can only book a ticket for the Railjet portion, and that the Zurich to Paris portion will require another ticket... but it raises the price of the Railjet Salzburg to Zurich portion! That portion alone is 58 euros if booked as part of the whole trip, as opposed to 29 euros if booked by itself (e.g. booked after searching for "Salzburg to Zurich"). Odd. Discounts for booking things one at a time, for some reason?

Good suggestion on the day pass tickets being available for other regions in Germany! Certainly worth considering for day trips in Hamburg and Berlin, especially if I can basically pick one day to do all (or at least most) of my short train excursions. Buying one regional pass for each region, plus individual tickets for our connection trips, should be a lot cheaper than buying a German railpass. DBs ticket/booking engine is down for maintenance at the moment, so I'll have to look into all of that more later today/tonight.

Seems the only REAL reason to consider the railpass is flexibility and security (e.g. if you miss a connection). Again I'll mull it over with my friend who will be with me and we'll decide how we want to handle this.

Posted by
20315 posts

Yes, good to check both OEBB and TGV against SBB. Keep in mind, that if you book separate nonrefundable tickets, and the connecting arrival train is late, you will not have any recourse, If it is a small price difference, it might be worth it. If it is a big price difference, book the separate tickets, but leave at least an hour of connecting time in Zurich.

Posted by
6745 posts

"...we were also planning to take a day trip to Rothenburg while in Munich; since it is also located in Bavaria, it seems that Bavarian ticket would be a good bet! Of course, we'd have to pick a day to use it, but it looks like you can just buy more than one if you want to - one for each day that you're going to want to be traveling around Bavaria."

You need a Bayern Ticket for each separate day - but you can't just buy a bunch of them at once and then decide later which days you will use them. Travel dates must be specified when purchased. And they aren't refundable. For flexibility, just buy them as you go at the station - they're the same price and never sell out.

Going to Rothenburg takes a long time from Munich, especially by regional train. Check the schedules before deciding on the Bayern Ticket. Even if you use a pre-purchased saver fare ticket and use the connections that include some high-speed long-distance trains, it takes some time... I would probably only go there on the way to somewhere else - it's quite far for a comfortable day trip. (BTW, a day trip that long to a place that touristy would not be my first choice. )

If R'burg is important to you... I suggest that you look into making it a STOPOVER between Berlin and Munich. Rothenburg has station lockers for your stuff. Use the DB site to enter a 4-hour stopover in Rothenburg ob der Tauber, and you'll get a train schedule that requires 2 extra train hours to Munich over the standard travel time of 6 hours; however, this way you will not have to spend a whole day on a day trip to R'burg - and you won't have to pay for an extra ticket - or use up an extra rail pass day either - and you can use the fastest train connections between R'burg and Munich.

Posted by
14580 posts

I use the Austria-German Pass which is also valid for riding the Meridian trains plus the Westbahn trains in Austria. Even though valid on the Westbahn, I buy on board for the single ride instead.

Posted by
9 posts

So I did some more research into everything. Based on the costs, the railpass - even just the German one - probably isn't worth it. We could buy day passes for a couple days each in all of our German city stops, as well as buying day or multi-day tickets for local transit in those cities, and pay for each of our intercity trips as regular tickets, all while paying less than we would if we bought a railpass with enough days to cover the same. Heck, we could go 1st class on all three of our intercity trips and still come out ahead of what a railpass would cost (a 2nd class railpass, mind you). Even if we tried to split the difference and buy a 4 or 5-day pass, using it to cover the most expensive parts and buying the rest individually, we STILL come out ahead (by at least $40-50 per-person) by just ditching the railpass entirely. I don't feel the "security for missed connections" angle is worth the price difference, plus the hassle of trying to arrange it so we always use the railpass for the most expensive parts. PLUS the fact that if you lose it, it's just gone! Can't get it replaced while you're in Europe. If you lose your piece of paper that has your print-at-home ticket on it, correct me if I'm wrong, you could just... print it again, right? Or get help at the station?

At this point, the only one that seems like it might be worth getting is the 10-day consecutive pass. I'm still skeptical, but it can be bought from bahn.com for slightly less than at RailEurope, with a print-at-home option (unlike the "pick your travel days" passes which must be mailed), which is nice. And since it would just be 10 days straight of unlimited trains everyday, it is a lot closer to matching the non-railpass cost total when you factor everything in. But it still would fall behind a bit, given that the Germany portion of our trip is longer than 10 days, so we'd still have to pay some transport costs on the extra days (and the 15-day consecutive is longer than we need, and way too expensive). So it's a possibility, the ability to guarantee unlimited trains everyday for those 10 days is kind of cool. I have two questions about this pass for anyone that might know.

One: since it's print-at-home (unlike passes from RailEurope, or the non-consecutive days passes, which must still be mailed to you even from bahn.com), what happens if you lose it? Are you still just stuck without a railpass for the rest of your trip? Or can you go online and reprint it?

Two: for the Twinpass for two people, can one person travel with the pass while the other stays home? With non-consecutive passes, I know you can do that and it just "uses up" a travel day. But with the 10-day consecutive, you can't use it up, you have unlimited travel for 10 straight days no matter what. So what happens if you have a consecutive Twinpass with two names on it, and one of them shows up alone to use it?

@Russ: Hmm. I appreciate your input, but... this may just be something that varies from one person to the next, the day trip to Rothenburg from Munich (3 hours each way, just trains, no buses or cars involved) isn't all that "long" to me. My friend and I would both rather do it as a day trip than a stopover.

Posted by
20315 posts

If you lose your piece of paper that has your print-at-home ticket on it, correct me if I'm wrong, you could just... print it again, right?

That is correct. I carry my netbook with all the pdf's on it, although I've never had to use that option. You can also print 2 copies and stash one set away in your luggage. I usually travel with a small 3-ring binder with the tickets in plastic sleeves along with hotel reservation confirmations. I'm a bit of a dinosaur that way, but eventually I'll have to join the current century and put everything on a smart phone.

So what happens if you have a consecutive Twinpass with two names on it, and one of them shows up alone to use it?

There is just one pass, so if the pass-holder is there, its not a problem, but the other person can't travel (you have the pass), or will have to buy a ticket to catch up with you later.

Posted by
6745 posts

"@Russ: Hmm. I appreciate your input, but... this may just be something that varies from one person to the next, the day trip to Rothenburg from Munich (3 hours each way, just trains, no buses or cars involved) isn't all that "long" to me. My friend and I would both rather do it as a day trip than a stopover. "

Whatever you prefer of course. It probably varies very little, actually - you are in an elite class - self-confessed "train geeks" - which of course means the trains and the train routes themselves are an extra-important part of the trip. (I lean that way a bit myself in terms of what I find enjoyable... when I travel solo, I don't plan joy rides, but I do end up taking them on "slow" sightseeing days.)

As a train buff you might want a look at the rail schematic for Bavaria.

Also, if detours are your thing, maybe you should take in one or more of Germany's most scenic train rides, none of which seem to be on your itinerary right now:

Middle Rhine River Valley Route: Bingen-Koblenz is top-drawer: http://www.welterbe-atlas.de/uploads/pics/burg-rheinstein-trechtingshausen.JPG

BF Railway - Offenburg (near Strasbourg) to Donaueschingen is very scenic. http://www.black-forest-travel.com/places-of-interest/black-forest-railway.html

The Hells Valley Railway (Hoellentalbahn) between Freiburg and Donaueschingen

The Mosel Valley Line is great too. Koblenz to Bullay is quite nice.

Rail map including both Rhine and Mosel routes, all routes of which are covered by a single day pass, the Rheinland-Pfalz ticket (very much like the Bayern Ticket.)

The scenic Ausserfernbahn route between Garmisch and Kempten through Austria is included on the Bayern Ticket - http://www.philaseiten.de/up/208356/6/8/b5564ce5_h.jpeg

Posted by
9 posts

Ohh thanks for the suggestions!

Hmm, that Bingen/Koblenz route is via the Mittelrheinbahn/Trans Regio, right? Since we're going from Paris to Hamburg via Cologne, I wanted to get a look at that train anyway; we're planning a 4-5 hour stopover in Cologne so I was going to take a ride on it.

But, the Bingen/Koblenz section is the most interesting, you'd say? I don't think we can get from Cologne ALL the way down to that section, then back up to Cologne, in time to catch a train on to Hamburg (at least, not without arriving in the middle of the night, which we really don't want to do). I looked up some times: we'll either settle for just riding the Mittelrheinbahn through some of the cities south of Cologne, but not going all the way down to the Koblenz/Bingen section, OR we could replace Cologne with Koblenz, more or less, using it as our stopover point from which we catch a train to Hamburg. It takes longer than from Cologne to Hamburg, and we'd probably arrive later than is ideal and also might have to leave Paris earlier that morning to make it work compared to if we just went through Cologne, so we'll see. In either case I'll get to ride the Mittelrheinbahn, and it looks like there is still some lovely scenery between Cologne and Koblenz so I don't think we'll be too disappointed either way!

I'll look into the other ones you suggested, as well, to see if any of them are stopover-able or day-trip-able between/from our major destinations. Some of those look really nice so we'll definitely have to see if we can fit any of em in. Thanks for the suggestions!

Posted by
6745 posts

"OR we could replace Cologne with Koblenz, more or less, using it as our stopover point from which we catch a train to Hamburg."

Makes good sense. You do not want to settle for the Koblenz-Cologne section of river. Take the TGV to Mannheim, change there for Mainz, change in Mainz for the MRB train north through the Rhine Valley - then you need no additional side trip to travel through the best part - the Upper Middle Rhine Valley south of Koblenz, a UNESCO World Heritage site dotted with castles and attractive wine villages.

Because the Koblenz Hbf station area and hotels are dreary, I'd advise you to stay just 15 minutes south of Koblenz in Boppard, the largest of those old-world towns. Lots of dining and lodging choices here, a nice riverfront promenade and an attractive old town center - and the station is close to everything.

Weinhaus Roemerburg with walls from Ancient Rome
Severus Stuben
Guide to Boppard
The 4-day Boppard Wine Fest runs Sep. 23-26 and the following weekend as well - amazing fireworks show on Saturday night.

To get the MRB train you want using a DB search: Route yourself from Paris with stopovers in Mainz and St. Goar (but with ZERO stopover time.) Otherwise you may pull up the RE trains from Mainz to Boppard (which are nice too but you want the MRB.)

After your night in Boppard, take the MRB into Koblenz Hbf (aside from Marksburg Castle, the scenery goes downhill here) and then the fastest connections to Hamburg from Koblenz.

Posted by
9 posts

Unfortunately we have to be in Hamburg by the night of the 18th (which is the same day we leave Paris); we'd planned for a certain number of nights in each city, and hotels have already been booked to that effect.

So we can't stay an extra night between Paris and Hamburg, as nice of an idea as that sounds. From Paris to Mannheim is not too long, but the earliest we could get there would be 10:18AM, catching a train that leaves Paris at 6:39, which is a little over my limit for an early rise! But I'd be willing to do it if it meant we could make all this work tho. The connections would be a bit tight; from Mannheim, we'd get to Mainz at 11:18, which would just allow us to catch the MRB at 11:32, and if we took that to Koblenz, and from there on to Cologne, we'd get there at 3-something. The whole thing could be a bit rushed and doesn't leave a lot of room for error if we are trying to catch our original train out of Cologne to get to Hamburg, which I would still like to do because the timing is quite good on it (and it's a faster trip to Hamburg than most of the other options). Trains from Koblenz to Hamburg take longer.

I might consider trying it, but I doubt my friend will want to. I think we'll probably have to settle for seeing some of the route north of Koblenz, or - at most - going a few stops south of Koblenz, before going back. I fully intend for this first trip to Europe to NOT be my last, and so making time for that Bingen/Boppard idea you presented will be high on my list next time!

Posted by
14580 posts

Of course, this trip to Germany and Europe is not going to be your last, if you are desperate enough to go back, as I have been. I've always been so desperate that I had to plan for the next one.

Posted by
20315 posts

Also, in response to the idea of touring the Rhine from Cologne during your stop over, I would not bother. Not much to see scenery wise on the way to Koblenz unless huge oil refineries trip your trigger. There are also the remaining abutments for the historic Remagen bridge.
Too many interesting sites in Cologne for 3 or 4 hours.