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train reservations in US vs Europe

Hi, I'm planning a 2 week trip to Europe on April 18 and using a eurail pass to get around. The plan is to go from Copenhagen to Amsterdam, Amsterdam to Cologne, Cologne to Paris, Paris to Lucerne, with about 3 nights in between each city. My question is, should I wait till I'm in Europe to make the train reservations or just book it in the US? Also if I make the reservations in Europe, can I make all of it while in Copenhagen? Thanks!

Posted by
1358 posts

Some travelers will tell you to make reservations before you go. I never do. I keep my itinerary flexible so I can change it if I choose.

Therefore I make reservations a day or two before travel. Never had a problem.

There should be no problem in April (not a peak travel month). You may be able to make all of yours in Copenhagen, but do it as soon as you arrive.

Posted by
1573 posts

Please do a search for similar topics discussed numerous times before.

For reservations, I believe it is much cheaper doing it when you arrive in Europe rather than through Rail Europe. Others will confirm/correct this.

Posted by
19166 posts

Rail Europe, like other stateside sellers of tickets and reservations, makes a big profit selling reservations vs. the price you would pay in Europe. You might be able to get reservations only for the part-German routes (Amsterdam to Cologne and Cologne to Paris) online from German Rail; if so, the price should be better.

If you are taking Thalys between Cologne or Brussels and Paris, you will pay not only for a seat reservation, but a fee for using a premium train (Thalys). These "passholder reservations" are limited and sell out during peak times, but I don't think that would happen in April.

Posted by
3 posts


Thanks for the info. I found out that calling Deutsche Bahn directly allowed me to reserve seats on the trains at a much better price than Rail Europe.

e.g. $10 (bahn) vs $22 (rail europe) for an ICE train for 2 passengers.
$115 vs $144 for Thalys 2 passengers
$153 vs $190 for CityNightLine 2 passengers

Their phone number is +49 180 5 99 66 33. I just had to keep saying "english" to their telephone system and got routed to someone who spoke english. I used skype to call them and only got charged ~25 cents a minute.

Posted by
88 posts


Did they ship the reservations to you (if so, how much)? Or do you pick them up there? Or print them?


Posted by
4132 posts

Do you absolutely have to be on a particular train, or will the next or next earlier train do?

If the later, you will be fine reserving in Europe (and you'll probably get on your first choices, too, that time of year).

Posted by
2092 posts

I need to take a train on the 21 May which turns out to be Ascension Day...a big holiday! The best connections out of Switzerland to Paris didn't have any rail pass seats available and even if I wanted to purchase a full-price ticket there weren't any seats left in 2nd class. The alternative for a 1st class rail pass reservation was several more changes and a long train day. Decided to go with a 1st class ticket through Euraide in Massachusetts--they found me a better deal than what I could find on I went ahead and purchased all reservations for 5 of us plus the ticket for $50. (I felt it was worth the $50 since there were certain trains we absolutely needed to have...especially since we'll divide the $50 by 5 of us! The convenience was worth the $50 and Karen and Alan were SO helpful--wonderful to work with.)

I started working on this 78 days before the 21 May and 90 days before our last train trip on 4 June.

Posted by
4555 posts

Darcy...interesting post. I'd sure like to know how a reseller has access to seats that the train company does not, since I believe all they do is contact the rail company themselves. Did you try for your travel time as well? Where were you travelling from in Switzerland?

Posted by
8700 posts


I, too, am intrigued by Darcy's post. It reminds me of an exchange I had with another poster a week or two ago. He had found a cheap fare on Rail Europe for a night train from Switzerland to a neighboring country. (I don't remember which one.) I thought he could do even better by checking the Swiss Rail site. The fares Swiss Rail sent him in an e-mail note turned out to be substantially higher. Since RE's fares are usually higher than those you can find on a country's national rail site, I wonder why this scenario was different.

Posted by
2092 posts

Euraide prices are the same as Euraide in Germany but of course those are probably marked up so I don't know how they "found" them. Yes, I tried and didn't find what I was looking for. I'll be leaving out of Maienfeld, with one change in Zürich. I don't bother to check RailEurope since not all the times are available through them not to mention the fares are higher.