SNCF and Deutsche Bahn

I'm thinking of taking my family to Europe in summer 2013, if we can save enough money by then. Our kids will be 12 and 10. It seems from SNCF (the French national rail) website, buying one-way train tickets for Paris to Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland for two adults and two kids is 558 Euros. This is a little over 700 American dollars. Does this sound right, or can I get a better deal? Then for Lauterbrunnen to Salzburg, I checked out the Deustche Bahn website. The slower trains take 9 hours, and one-way tickets for the four of us would be 338 Euros, or 442 American dollars (who knows what the exchange rate will be next year). Does that sound like a good deal? However, the faster train, which would take us to Salzburg in 7 hours, is not reservable online, nor is the price even posted. There's also something about an unknown tariff aboard. Anybody know anything about the tariff or how to buy tickets for that train? After Salzburg, we plan to go over the border into Germany and rent a car from there because the rest of our trip will be in Germany; we'll drop off the car in Frankfurt before flying home. Since I am not familiar with German place names, which German town/city should I rent the Auto Europe car from? Thanks!

Posted by Lee
Lakewood, Colorado
11286 posts

"However, the faster train, which would take us to Salzburg in 7 hours, is not reservable online, nor is the price even posted." The 7 hour connection is probably a combination of Swiss and/or Austrian trains to Innsbruck and an Austrian train from Innsbruck to Salzburg - no German trains. German Rail (Deutsche Bahn) does not sell tickets online, nor show prices, for trains completely outside Germany (actually, the train from Innsbruck to Salzburg goes through Germany from Kufstein to Salzburg, but it is an Austrian train and doesn't stop in Germany, so it is not considered a Germany train). Austrian Rail (www.oebb.at) probably sells that connection online, with advance purchase discount fares. The Bahn also shows connections through Germany (albeit taking more time) that you can purchase online from the Bahn. You just missed them. Some of those connections have fares as low as €39 per adult, and the children, if still under 15, would be free. Those prices are for advance purchase (up to 92 days in advance) but the lowest priced tickets sell out well in advance, particularly in popular summer months, and the prices for the next tickets are higher. "rent a car from there because the rest of our trip will be in Germany". There is little reason to rent a car in German, of all places. Germany has the largest rail network in western Europe and the 2nd most dense, only 1% less dense than Switzerland. And their fares are low. Unless you are on a very inexpensive regional pass, children under 15 travel for free with their parents.

Posted by Jimmy
Clovis, CA, USA
39 posts

Lee, after I posted my question, I told my wife, "I bet you Lee from Colorado will post something." You certainly didn't disappoint! Congrats on making 9,000 posts as of today. If you have any inclination to do so, please write a travel book on Germany. You clearly know so much about Germany, you can probably give travel information in your schlaff. The reason why we are renting a car in Germany is to have freedom and flexibility. We will be going to Neuschwanstein Castle and then working our way up the Romantic Road, then on to Heidelberg and Frankfurt. I don't want to be restricted by the Romantic Road bus schedule.

Posted by Larry
Elk Grove, CA, USA
6735 posts

Jimmy, if you can plan in advance and request the family card from the Swiss, your two children will ride everything for free as long as they are traveling with one parent with a valid ticket. Free means free - even up to the tops of the Jungfrau and Schilthorn. For your journey from Paris to Lauterbrunnen, you might consider the following: 1) Buy a 2-for-1 Swiss Flexi-Pass about 90 days in advance of your travel. Request the Swiss family card. 2) In advance, buy tickets from Paris to Basel. It's an adult fare of 108E but I see non-refundable fares on www.tgv-europe.com for 25E. 3) When you get to Basel, begin using your Flexi-pass. With good planning and your willingness to lock in your travel plans, you can save big money.

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
8761 posts

Work the specials and advance non-refundables correctly and your price will tumble.