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What's the point of buying a railpass???

I'm pretty steamed. I just spent over $1200 on two Select Saver Railpasses for 5 countries. I went to look at the itinerary to travel from Paris to Barcelona, and now they want me to cough up another $94 for that trip? Am I missing something??? What's the bloody point of buying a railpass if I still have to pay for a trip??? This is ridiculous.

Posted by
8700 posts

From the fee list in the Railpasses section, it looks like your leg on a Talgo train is the culprit: Here is what the list shows:

AVE, TALGO, EUROMED, ALARIS, ALTARIA
Spain
$45 US in Preference (1st)
$13-20 US in Tourist (2nd)
€17-25 1st class, €5 2nd in EU

You would pay a little less if you wait and make your reservations in Europe. Or you could pick a different route, no legs of which are on a Talgo train. See the timetables at www.bahn.de. Click on "Internat. Guests" for English. After you get summary timetables, click on "Details for all" to see the connection points and the type of train for each leg.

Posted by
8700 posts

Are you taking the night train from Paris to Barcelona? If so, you are paying a supplement for sleeping accommodations (required for passholders on all night trains in Europe).

Click on the Railpasses tab at the top of the page you're reading now to learn about reservation fees and supplements.

Posted by
19 posts

I looked at both. There is a day train through Montpellier...that's the one that wants an extra $94. The night train is substantially more, which I can understand.

Posted by
1629 posts

I'm glad you're checking out your train schedules before you go. Unfortunately, anytime there is a red circle with an "r" inside of it for that particular train route means "compulsory reservation". You have to purchase a seat reservation for that particular train route. Just because you have a railpass doesn't mean you can hop on and off (if a reservation is required for that route). Usually, high speed trains, (TGV, Eurostar, & some IC's)require reservations. If you do not have one, the conductor will fine you. Check the train schedules and see if you find train routes where reservations are not required--usually during the time of day when a lot of people are not commuting. I know it's disconcerting. I had railpasses for Italy in hand this summer when our family of 3 decided to drive instead. Our routes required an additional $500 in reservation fees. Also, when you arrive make sure to check & see if there are any scheduled strikes-you can be kicked off. Good Luck!

Posted by
17976 posts

This won't help Chris, but maybe someone else will read this and learn something. Rail passes are kind of overpromoted on this website, but they are not always such a good deal. The time to look at night train supplements and passholder fares is BEFORE you buy a rail pass.

Posted by
5287 posts

Railpasses have value for those that travel in a manner to take advantage of the features. For a global pass, this means frequent trips that avoid use of premium trains; for a select pass, intense limited days of travel that avoid use of premium trains. I will admit though, as high speed train service continues to improve in Europe, Premium trains are getting harder and harder to avoid between major destinations, and the time savings of Premium trains over regional trains makes them more attractive than in the past. Who knows, maybe in a few years passes will start to include more premium services as high speed service becomes standard. But in the transition, one has to look at their itinerary carefully to get the best deal.

Posted by
19 posts

After looking at the fares for the rest of the trip, I'm finding that that's the highest costing one. The rest are ranging from $20 to $44; and I understand it's cheaper to get the tickets at the departure station rather than online, so we're still within our transportation budget, all things considered. Thanks for the hindsight Lee :)

Posted by
5287 posts

I think it is also important to mention that most places a Premium train goes that will cost an upgrade and a reservation, slower regional trains at no additional cost also go. It does take more work to piece together legs and what you pay is your time. Some look at this as time wasted, opting for the fastest way, I tend to look at it as part of travel and part of the fun. Whether I buy a pass has as much to do with the way I am travelling that trip. If I am just getting from Major Destination to Destination, then point to point usually works. If I am just wandering, stopping where I want, I like the pass.

Posted by
3580 posts

Back to the original question. My main point in buying a railpass is that it helps me with budgeting my trip. By having a large chunk of it prepaid, I need less cash during the trip itself. Sometimes the pass doesn't seem to save me money, but usually I take one or two long train trips that would be $100-150, so that justifies having a pass for the whole vacation. Generally speaking, railpasses in Italy are not a bargain. I sometimes buy a pass for both France and Italy, sometimes just for France. I've bought a pass for 7 days in 15 for southern England to use this month and expect that it will save $$ at less than $30/day.

Posted by
5287 posts

I agree that the country makes a big difference on the value of a pass. We had great value from our Britrail pass, especially since our daughter was free. Northern Europe-good value, Italy-not so much, Greece-Useless under nearly all conditions.

Posted by
5 posts

Passes in Eastern Europe are still a fairly good choice, provided you USE them. It certainly saves the troubles of trying to buy individual tickets at RR stations where English may be hard to impossible to find. (Czech, Magyar,Slovak and Polish are not the most common languages for people to have.)