Train - Advance, PTP, & where to purchase?

Hi, I'm traveling from Zurich to the Alps, Geneva, Paris, Nice, Venice, and Munich, and have purchased flights for some legs of the journey. However I am looking to travel by train b/t some cities. What is the best site to purchase train tickets in advance? Also, is purchasing in advance much cheaper (I understand it's better for securing a seat just in case it sells out) than point to point? I like the idea of buying tickets at the station once there for the sake of flexibility, however I'm afraid the increase of price would not justify it. I know some have mentioned purchasing online through the national train website for the countries where you are traveling -- I just can't find which websites these are for Switzerland, France, Italy, and Germany. Any help would be appreciated!

Posted by Lee
Lakewood, Colorado
11275 posts

The best sites for tickets in a single country are the national rail websites - bahn.de for Germany, TGV-Europe for France, Trenitalia for Italy, SBB.ch for Switzerland, etc. In Germany, you can get advance purchase, online fares for routes using an express train (ICE/IC/EC) starting at 29€/person 92 days out (min 3 days). For another 4€/seat you can get reservations. For travel by regional trains in a single state, there are all day, on/off passes for up to 5 people (ex. Bayern-Ticket in Bavaria, 22€ single, 38€ for 5). Regional trains don't take reservations; buy the ticket the morning of travel at the station. Add: You can also get good advance purchase fares for inter-country routes beginning or ending in Germany from the Bahn website.

Posted by Chase
Washington, DC, USA
7 posts

Thank you so much. The fares on these sites are so much better than Rail Europe. I appreciate the info.! Now I'm just debating buying now or waiting until the station. Thanks again. Chase

Posted by Kevin
near Ringwood, Hampshire, UK
521 posts

Chase, to get an idea of the savings you could make by buying in advance, use the journey planner on each of those websites and check how much each journey would cost on Monday and in 90 days time. Some of them may be fixed fares and have no price difference, but others probably will be cheaper. Only you can say whether the extra flexibility is worth the additional cost.

Posted by Lola
Seattle, WA
5444 posts

For travel entirely within Switzerland ( Zurich to Alps to Geneva) there is no advantage to advance purchase. So you can stay completely flexible on that, and just buy as you go. From Geneva to Paris, you can get a very good discount on the TGv with advance purchase. Check both the Swiss and Frence rail sites, www.sbb.ch and TGV-Europa.com,,to compare.

Posted by Lola
Seattle, WA
5444 posts

Also, depending on how much time you are spending in Switzerland and what you plan to do in the Alps, you may benefit from a Half Fare Card or other pass. You can read about them and see prices on the Railpass page on this website. And when you look up,prices for tickets on SBB, note that the default setting for fares is WITH a Half Fare card, so the regular fare may be double the first price you see.