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This train stuff is making my head hurt!!!

My husband and I are going on a riverboat cruise in early April. We are staying in Lucern for 3 days afterwards and then need to get back to Amsterdam for our flight home. Being from a small rural Texas town hasn't given us "train travel" experiences We want to take a few side trips while in Lucern and take the train back to Amsterdam. I JUST CAN'T FIGURE OUT HOW TO DO THIS! Sorry for the yelling...can someone help me please!!!

Posted by
16706 posts

Using one of the rail websites (bahn.de or rail.ch) you will see that Luzern to Amsterdam takes about 8 to 9 hours by train, going via Frankfurt or Paris. If I were doing this, I would travel by way of Paris and break up the trip with a night or two there.

Posted by
15419 posts

Well, at least in your part of rural Texas you have an internet connection, and that is a huge step forward to figure this out. This is a map of Europe's rail network. Green lines are super high speed only, purple line are major lines (incl. for high speed train), red lines are all other lines. Download it to your hard drive (cut and paste the URL, it's a large file). http://www.eurail.com/sites/all/files/eurail.com/downloads/2013/eurailmap-2013.pdf Then you need to decide where you want to visit. That is entirely up to you, to your likes and to the time you have available. You might need some research on line to discover what you might like (including in this Rick Steves' website). Once you've decided what towns/cities you'd like to visit, to find schedules and prices go to the website below (German Rail Co.) or the Swiss Rail Co suggested above. http://www.bahn.com/i/view/USA/en/index.shtml To get to a place, enter in the first box (From) the town where you are departing from, then on the second box (To) the town where you are going. Then enter the date and for the time use 00:00 so it will display all the trains for that day. Click on Search button and the website will then show you all the solutions available to get that destinations, including the train changes and all other details. Even the price (when available). If there are many options click on "Later" button to see the options later in the day in the next pages. If you have questions or concerns about a specific route or town you want to visit come back to this forum and ask specific questons. There are a lot of Resident Experts here who have traveled extensively and/or lived in Europe (incl. myself) who will get you there and back safely to Texas without a scratch. Watch out for those Texas Longhorn though. We can't help with those.

Posted by
23431 posts

It would also be more helpful to us if we understood what you cannot figure out. Booking the train is not much different than scheduling a flight from Giddings to somewhere else in the US. Bahn.de is easy site to use to find any European train schedule information. You probably already have your airline tickets so this is for other new travlers. But this is a good example where an open jaw ticket would have been more convenient and probably cheaper than returning to Amsterdam.

Posted by
4 posts

Well, I have only ridden one train in my life. Got on it in Dallas and didn't get off till I got to Odessa. A little nervous about changing trains especially with luggage. I guess it's just fear of the unknown. I am excited but nervous. Thanks everyone for your post. Hopefully the "old dog" can learn some new tricks.
Also a little confused on which type of ticket to buy. Is there one that will take care of the day trips we want to take and the trip back to Amsterdam.

Posted by
2779 posts

You don't have to be nervous. They announce the name of the next station usually around 10 minutes before you get there. Sometimes, especially on local trains, they only do it in German. Do listen to any announcement. You'll definitely understand the names of the cities or towns. Also sometimes you "only" have two minutes to changes trains at the same platform. It may sound short but it really is enough time to get out of the one train, walk a couple of steps to the opposite side of the platform and embark the next train - without having to rush. You don't have to track where you are every minute of a train ride. But especially on longer trips every hour make sure you've got a good understanding of where you are geographically and how much time is left until you've reached your destination. There are maps of the railroad network on every train, usually near the bathrooms. Buy a bottle of water or two before you get on the train. It's just cheaper. Of course, like at airports, they do charge more at train stations than outside. But that's usually still cheaper than on the trains.

Posted by
12040 posts

"Also a little confused on which type of ticket to buy. Is there one that will take care of the day trips we want to take and the trip back to Amsterdam." I think you are confusing individual tickets and railpasses. There probably is some sort of pass that would cover both day trips around Luzern and the long ride to Amsterdam, but it would likely be ridiculously expensive. More than likely, your best bet is to buy an advanced purchase ticket for the Switzerland to Amsterdam portion of the trip (the earlier you buy, the cheaper the ticket). I believe that there may be some sort of pass sold by Swiss Federal Railways (SBB in German) that would cover your daytrips, but I don't know enough about it to comment further.

Posted by
4148 posts

Carolyn, I want to preface my remarks with a comment : All of the previous posts you have received so far are filled with excellent detailed advice from very experienced and knowledgeable travelers . I have learned a great deal from all of the kind people here and it has enabled me to use rail transportation in Europe very well , I owe them all a great deal . However, this is very detailed , and accurate information . IMO in order for you to use it to your best advantage , I would suggest that you spend a fair amount of time on the website " The Man in Seat 61 " ( in reasonably sized bites , so you can gradually absorb it , rather than trying to cram it ) . It will afford you a general perspective that will enable you to appreciate the practical details contained in the previous responses and more to come . I am very sympathetic to the fact that you have little experience of rail , most Americans don't have the opportunity due to the lack of it here . Even in the NY-New England area , while more available , it is paltry compared to the European Continent . Be patient , do a bit of homework , A week or so from now you will undoubtably have a much better grasp of how it works . I think all good rail travelers learn the same way .!!

Posted by
8700 posts

According to the timetables on both the Swiss Rail site and the German Rail site, your fastest route with the fewest connections is Lucern-Basel-Frankfurt-Amsterdam. You can book the entire route on the Swiss Rail site for a standard fare of 227 CHF (€183). Or you can book Lucern-Frankfurt well in advance (up to 90 days allowed) on the Swiss Rail site and get a discount fare of 96 CHF (€78). Book Frankfurt-Amsterdam well in advance (up to 92 days allowed) on the German Rail site to get a discount fare as low as €49. Doing it this way your total fare would be €127. To find out if some type of Swiss pass would be cost effective for your day trips within Switzerland, go to the Swiss Rail site and determine the point-to-point fares for your routes. Compare them to the prices of the various kinds of Swiss passes you can see here.

Posted by
8700 posts

For tips on traveling by train, read this article by Rick Steves.

Posted by
222 posts

You can also use a travel agent. Many trains require reservations in addition to tickets. There are websites like Euraide.com where I have gotten tickets for anywhere in Europe in the past. Do look at the DB site to get some idea of the length of the trips. Don't panic but pack light. Getting on and off the trains with luggage is the hardest part.
Barb

Posted by
8700 posts

One more excellent resource is Budget Europe Travel Service. Call the for professional, friendly, and free advice. Download their free European Planning and Rail Guide.

Posted by
331 posts

Using the train system for the first time can be intimidating, but it is So Amazing and you will Love the experience.The advice the posters have given is great. One simple way to make the trip easier is to try to pack with Carry On luggage only. It's so much faster to just grab your bag and hop on the train rather than hauling suitcases off of the storage racks. It's also much easier to run to your rail connection if you have just one bag.I suggest the Rick Steves convertible bag. It's a suitcase that converts to a backpack. The backpack feature is great for getting on and off trains and running to make connections.