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Train travel/buying tickets

I don't use public transportation much. We live in the country and have none available to us. So I need a little help with the niceties. I've figured out schedules and who to contact to buy. BUT, how far in advance do I have to worry about buying? We are traveling from Koln to London, through Brussels. Can I show up at the station and buy tickets, or should I buy them ahead of time for May? And how far ahead of time?

Posted by
18059 posts

Because parts (all) of the connection are on rail lines for which the Bahn does not sell tickets online, you cannot purchase full fare tickets, so they don't give you a price. However, they do have three connections a day for which there is a special "London Spezial" discount fare, as low as €49 pP,and you can book these online. Sometime, I think within the year, German Rail is going to start dirct ICE service to London, and then those full fare tickets will be available online.

Posted by
95 posts

Lee, does that London Spezial fare mean either way, London-Koln or Koln-London? When I went to the website, and clicked London-Spezial, it automatically loaded London-Koln. When I reversed them, it did a funny "clear" thing and the screen "wobbled." (Sorry my computer-eze is not more extensive!) Do I just order the ticket without knowing the price? Can you understand my lack of confidence?

Posted by
18059 posts

It means either way. Use the Bahn Query page (the Bahn website link I gave you above ) and enter Koeln and London manually. And, it's not only to/from Köln. It's to/from any DB station in Germany. They'll ticket you on regional trains if necessary to get you to Köln.

Posted by
95 posts

I'm sorry, but I'm still not getting the "give us your credit card but we don't know what we'll charge you" part. Do they contact me for confirmation before charging my card, or is it assumed that I'm willing to pay whatever?

Posted by
18059 posts

The best prices you'll get are online from the Bahn website. If you wait until you are in Europe, you'll pay more. I normally travel short distances on routes with a lot of trains, so I can just walk up and buy a ticket. For long routes, like Köln to London, there are probably only one or two connections a day, so if you wait and go to the counter, you'll take the chance of all tickets being sold out. It would be advisable to get London-Spezial fares as soon as you can commit, up to 92 days in advance. The discount fares are tiered, and the lower priced ones sell out first.

Posted by
95 posts

I just did a search, and it tells me "information about fares not possible." ?

Posted by
95 posts

I just did a search, and it tells me "information about fares not possible." ?

Posted by
18059 posts

Are you trying to book a "standard fare" ticket or by clicking "purchase" under the Saving fare column? On the date I selekted, May 12, it is offering a €69 Savings fare. When I click purchase, it shows me the €69 fare and asks for my CC#.. However, under the Standard fare column, I can't get a fare, but I know it will be a lot more. Bottom line, if you want to book this online, you will have to take the "non-refundable" Savings fare or selekt the standard fare and trust them to give you the best possible price (it will probably be the flexible EuroStar price from Brussels to London plus a std Bahn fare from Köln to Brussels). Otherwise, call German Rail in Germany.

Posted by
961 posts

Melody, there are two columns for fares: look at the
"Savings" column where I found two itineraries for 49 and 69 euro fares- I used May 11 to sample for one way. Use the "earlier" or "later" button to find the schedule for the priced journey.

Posted by
95 posts

Boy, do I feel stupid! I am not seeing two columns. On the home page, I see tabs for Home/Offers/Destinations/Services/Trains/Tourism/About DBahn, but nothing about Savings, etc. What the heck am I doing wrong?

Posted by
95 posts

Following the Offers tab, entering our information, searching 2nd class, I'm still getting "fares not available." I guess I'll be calling tomorrow, but I wish I could figure this out online so I didn't have to take out a loan to pay the phone bill...

Posted by
961 posts

You do not want to be on the "offers" page. You should be well past the reservation page where you typed in the city pair. Let's get specific and see what occurs. Are you on the link that Lee gave above? At which station in London do you wish to arrive? Have you seen the popup page that asks your age? The third page is really the answer page, and will have the train schedules, number of connections, type of trains used... and that will have the fares available on each train.
Can you tell us the day you wish to travel from Germany to London?

Posted by
95 posts

I started over, and made sure I went to the page Lee linked. When I entered our ages, the page with fares did pop up, BUT, although there were three possible itineraries, all three said "fares not available." We are leaving Koln for London on May 21.

Posted by
18059 posts

The first train with the London-Spezial fare leaves Köln at 11:43, so if your starting time was too early, you might not see the train on the screen. Try clicking "later". Sorry I'm not real attentive here. I'm working on income tax.

Posted by
95 posts

No need for apology, Lee. I was looking at a train at 1243. -sigh- Phone call in my future!

Posted by
961 posts

OK- I plugged in your date. You can leave at 11.43, 15. 15 ( i.e., 3.15pm) or 15.45 ( 3.45 pm) at 69 euros each ( assuming you are under 60 years of age.) Those are the only priced itineraries. The 11.43 departure is the quickest of the three, has a nice 45 minute transfer time in Brussels, and is actually faster than the one you want. Can you see that page? I think that's the best I can do.
Also, you can expand the schedule by clicking on the arrow on the right.

Posted by
961 posts

hey Melody, for example the first train you CAN book online is : Sorry the columns do not transfer well.) Köln Hbf Fr, 20.05.11 dep 11:43 7 ICE 16 Intercity-Express Bruxelles-Midi Fr, 20.05.11 arr 13:35 transfer 45 min. Bruxelles-Midi EST Fr, 20.05.11 dep 14:29 EST 9139 EUROSTAR Subject to compulsory reservation, Special ticket or supplement required,
London St. Pancras If you buy one of the 3, you will have a small mandatory reservation fee- nice to know where you will be sitting. I'd like to know if you CAN buy the tickets other than the 3 I mentioned above by telephone. Lee?

Posted by
95 posts

Melissa, can you please tell me the exact path, page by page, that you took to find these? I am really feeling inferior, here! :)

Posted by
961 posts

Sure! I'm not Lee, ( or Tim) who can find the most incredible fares, but I've obsessed enough over the DB pages. Ok... first copy and paste http://www.bahn.com At the top look for some tiny flags and UK/Ireland for place of residence- it's next to the 3 'A's that are font size ions. Don't click US . Look on the left, if necessary click on "rail" which is one of the tabs; now at the bottom click where it says "further search options"- click on that. The next page will be advance search options-on that page put in Koln for start, London for destination, then the date ( see the tiny calendar- remember Europe puts the day before the month). "all" for means of transport. Next line, you can leave "standard connection", or you can pick "Duration of however many minutes".
Next lines, fill in travelers, ages, no reduction. Pick 1st or second class ( I've been quoting you the second class fare of 69 euros one way. If you know when you are returning, you can purchase the round trip).

Posted by
961 posts

To continue: then hit search. The next page that pops up is the age page. If the number of traveler are correct, then just insert the age for each and hot 'refresh". People over 60 get a discount. The next page shows three departures- the ones that came up on my screen could not be booked online! Under the "Time" tab, click "later" or "earlier" depending on your page results. You should be able to see the good, bookable fares under the "savings fares". Look for the red fare purchase button, and click on that. You should get a page that shows all the second class and first class fares. Select what you want there, noting it has a change penalty. You will want a seat reservation for 2,50 euros per seat and direction. Select the seating: I prefer compartment, window, quiet zone ( and seriously, that is only my preference. On one ride, a man in the quiet compartment dressed down another fellow for talking quietly to his wife and rustling the newspaper loudly!). You'll meet more people in the saloon or saloon with table ( that's not an old west reference, nor a bar, just a large room.) You can read more about the differences in seating on the Deutsche Bahn site or other places. Select "print at home". You must print out your ticket and you MUST bring the same credit card with you to show the conductor.
Hit the "proceed" button.

Posted by
961 posts

TO continue: Go ahead and register with Deutsche Bahn site, so you can access your reservation again easily. Select the "continue booking" and start filling in the details. Keep going until you get finished! This is the procedure for the one way, you will have the option for your roundtrip selection earlier.
Hope this helps- if not, post again and maybe an expert can help us!

Posted by
95 posts

I think I finally figured it out .I was able to find the fare you mentioned (finally!) but we don't want to leave that early, and it doesn't look like that fare is available later. I will have to call tomorrow and see what the fare is going to be. At least I found the fare you were talking about, and don't feel like such a ninny anymore. But it wasn't really a very obvious path.

Posted by
18059 posts

"we don't want to leave that early" Now I don't get it. The first connection for which you can get the fare leave Köln at 11:43. That's too early? The next connection leaves Köln at 15:45 and gets into London at 20:03! How much later do you want? The last connection leaves Köln at 19:43, has an overnight in Brussels, and gets into London at 7:56 the next morning.

Posted by
95 posts

No, 1143 is not TOO early, but we wanted to get to the Cathedral before we left town, and their tours being at 1030. I saw a fare yesterday for 1243, which, I realize, is not the saver fare, and is the one I coulnd't get a price for. I'm sorry I'm being such a PITA. Maybe just ignore me.

Posted by
4365 posts

Melody, understand that I've only Googled "Cologne Cathedral Tours" and got the About.com page, so... It says the cathedral opens at 6:00am. Walk around before your tour. Store your luggage in a locker at the train station (BUT allow time to get it out before your train departs and with time to get to your platform!!!). The early tour starts at 10:30am, and ends at 11:15am (€6,00). PLENTY of time before your train; if you've never seen a photo of just how close the cathedral is to the train station: http://tripwow.tripadvisor.com/slideshow-photo/cologne-cathedral-from-the-train-station-cologne-germany.html?sid=10076982&fid=upload_12774799361-tpfil02aw-12274 This is from in front of the station; there's a street to cross (bridge) but that's it! Very close.

Posted by
95 posts

I'll have to check that again. I read in the DK tour guide