Where should I buy my global pass?

I remember RS had a list of reasons to buy rail pass through his website but I can't find that now. Maybe there was an extra map or assist with planning?? Should I just buy directly from RailEurope.com? Does anyone have experience with customer service/buying supplements/lost railpass support? I've heard RailEurope makes it easier to get reservations and buy supplements (on the fly) than Eurail. True?

Posted by Tom
Lewiston, NY
10654 posts

Third party rail passes are just about one of the most expensive options for traveling in Europe. And, with all the restrictions the various national rail carriers have placed on pass holders, they're not even particularly convenient anymore. So... before you plop down a large wad of cash... tell us something about your planned trip so that we can provide more information. Don't even think about the terms "RailEurope" or "Eurail" for now.

Posted by 424jennifer
3 posts

Ha, I knew I should have justified my global pass decision in my original post. They really are not the great money saving option I thought they'd be. My trip is 40 days long starting with about 6 days in London. So I have 34 days in the rest of Europe (liking the extra days promotion going on right now). I'm getting the saver pass with my daughter so we save 15% each. We are planning a rail adventure with very few multiple night stays. I estimated ticket costs with RS map and online ticket prices with DB and RailEurope (love how I can click "traveling with a pass" or "not traveling with a pass").

With riding trains extensively the entire time of the pass, ticket prices still come very close! I may not save any money if we decide to linger in a few places! Shocking. I decided on the pass for 2 reasons. I compared 2nd class tickets to 1st class pass and they are about equal (even with supplements and reservation fees). So why not go 1st class. I'd ruin any savings if 2nd class was sold out and I had to buy 1st. Second reason is that advance tickets are not an option. I have a history of changing itineraries/hotels/trains at the last minute. I would be miserable trying to stick to an itinerary to catch certain trains because I got tickets cheap. Thought of a third: I would really enjoy not thinking about my train ticket budget on a daily basis. Just going to stick to the slower regional trains with a few splurges.

We are crazy, fairly experienced travelers but this is our first real train adventure. We will go to France, Brussels, Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, France again, wonder if we can make it to Spain???

Thank you for your replies!!!!

Posted by Tom
Lewiston, NY
10654 posts

"estimated ticket costs with RS map"

Second mistake. That map considerably overestimates the costs of travel between cities and it doesn't account for advanced purchase discounts, which can be significant. Also, domestic rail within Belgium and the Netherlands is pretty cheap. The daily cost for a railpass used in those countries is far more than you would pay by simply buying your ticket at the station. And if you're traveling between Belgium and the Netherlands... well, you'll have some nasty surprises waiting for you when you try to use your pass on Thalys.

The only way to do this is to go online to the appropriate national rail carrier websites and plug and chug the numbers. I don't know when I last read a post on this website where someone found the rail pass option cheaper after doing the math.

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
12356 posts

jennifer

I appreciate all the effort you've put in trying to get the right answers about your travel, and with 34 days of train travel (good grief!! you will need such a vacation when you get home!!) maybe your decision will turn out right, especially as you don't want any advance reservations.

Then turn up here and all of us say that your numbers are wrong. That must be very disheartening.

I'd like to take another look at it and if maybe I've missed something.

I think you must be looking at a one month Global pass with extra 5 days for $2,184.00. Is that right? Since you have 34 days on the continent, but assuming you are using Eurostar from London to either Paris or Brussels and are staying that day in that city, that's 33 pass days, right? So $66.18 per pass day or $33.09 per person per day whether or not you use the train each day? Or, because the national rail companies will quote in Euro (except Switzerland) that's about €24.09.

Now you may achieve that. It is a little difficult to say because we don't have your itinerary and you list countries not cities but in order to go to that many places you must be going to the biggies and they must be pretty close together. So lets try:

  • France, not a very comprehensive regional network, very difficult for
    pass holders on Thalys and TGV trains, significant extra costs and
    rationing for TGVs and Thalys

  • Brussels, trains are really cheap, except for Thalys and TGV - see
    France TGV and Thalys comments

  • Netherlands, trains are really cheap, except for Thalys - see France
    Thalys comments

  • Germany, regional Laender tickets, valid for all non-express trains
    in a particular Land or German state are incredibly cheap. Weekend
    tickets are even cheaper.

  • Austria, the Railjet trains make quick work of the very long
    distances in and out of Vienna

  • Switzerland, prices will be quoted in CHF (Swiss Francs), the default
    on the website is half price (caution) assuming you have a Swiss
    discount card

  • Italy, the cheapest tickets around in Regionale trains,
    Intercity trains and Freccia high speed trains require €3/€10 per leg
    mandatory passholder fees, included in the normal tickets. Note that
    there is not a simple Regionale alternative between Bologna and
    Firenze. Passes are not valid at all on Italo trains nor
    Circumvesuviana trains

  • France - see above, and be aware that passes are not valid on the
    cross border trains between Turin and Milan and Paris.

  • wonder if we can make it to Spain??? dunno about Spain...

I hope you and your daughter have a wonderful holiday, and a nice restful trip home.

Posted by Fred
San Francisco
4159 posts

Hi,

First of all, I am not adverse to using a Pass but under certain conditions. You fit some of those conditions as regards to last minute date or time changes, not being locked in, committing yourself to specific departures, etc. Say, eg., your ICE train from Munich leaves at 0852 to xxx and the next ICE departs at 0952 to xxx. You decide to linger around after breakfast at the Pension/hotel. . Having a Pass allows you that luxury since a discount ticket locks you into a time specific departure. Otherwise you would have had to push it to get to Munich Hbf by 0830 to catch that 0852 discounted ticket departure.

I agree that you avoid dealing with Rail Europe...forget it.

The basic question is do you really need the Global Pass? For the 34 days I would get a ten day Pass, esp if you take long rides esp in Germany, France using the ICE and TGV trains. As for rail assistance in Europe, the office of EurAide is located in numerous cities, Frankfurt, Munich, Vienna, Budapest, Paris.

On night trains if you get a sleeper or couchette, that's an extra expense in addition to the Pass. And, pricey too. The absolute cheapest way at night is to sit in a compartment seat, this seating option fills up too since lots of locals and other tourists, other than just Americans, take night trains. In the summer of 2009 I took the Frankfurt Hbf-Vienna night train, almost a full compartment, 5 people in all: a German woman, solo, a Korean female student solo, a young couple from Singapore, and me...everyone was civil, cool, very nice, spoke in English or German.. On an another night train Hannover to Paris it was not as compatible, shall we say! You do save the time and the hotel/hostel expense. Still, with the Pass it's mandatory you buy a reservation even for a compartment seat.

Keep in mind that you can buy point to point tickets to cover day trips esp in Holland, Belgium, Italy, Save the Pass the Pass for the TGV and ICE rides, and the night trains. Good that you and daughter are experienced travelers in Europe. I go by this: if the Europeans I've seen, regardless of nationality, French, Swedish, Polish, German, Austrian, along with non-Europeans, the Asians, South Americans, etc can hack the vigors of traveling, so can you, plain and simple..

Posted by Fred
San Francisco
4159 posts

Hi,

On "making it to Spain:"...yes, why not? I did part of that route in 2011. My suggestion for making it to Spain if you're coming from Paris is to break up the ride, assuming the destination is Barcelona. Go Paris (Gare de Lyon) to Perpignan on the TGV, takes 5hrs, get a 1st class reservation using the Pass, stay a night or two in Perpignan, then take regional trains to Barcelona. This option depends on your time limit. The other option is to do the entire route direct Paris-Barcelona.

Posted by 424jennifer
3 posts

Whoa! I really have to thank you all. I was composing a response to justify a global pass - see below- and I set it aside to think how I could do it all with tickets. Tickets, tickets, tickets all day and I came up with a really nice itinerary. Much more efficient but still seeing most of original plan. And I think I'll save a bit on trains. Don't know yet, still might need a global pass haha but I have to plug and crunch the numbers. Still, there will be very few advance purchases. How different are the ticket prices online compared to walking into a train station?
For those who aren't exasperated by me....the itinerary:
London, Paris, Geneva, a scenic route or 2 across Switzerland (can't figure it out yet), maybe that castle in Fussen, Munich, Dachau, Salzburg, Venice, Florence, Rome, Cinque de Terre (I'm a RS fangirl), some place in the south of France to visit daughter's friend, Barcelona!? Fly Barcelona to London - It's wicked cheap $39

*can't fly London to Geneva, must spend day in Paris - just one.
*there's a sale on the 2 day Swiss Pass that might save a few bucks - think it gets 50% off one of those expensive funky mountain lift thingies too. Must get pass haha. Ugh, I wan't a pass so I can change it up at any time and not worry bout the money! Promise I'll crunch the numbers. Thanks again.

***IGNORE THIS>>>Thank you all! You guys are amazing. However, given my sketchy outline of an itinerary - I really don't see how we *can't spend over $34pp/day buying tickets. Remember, there will be no advance purchasing going on except for Eurostar London - Paris for which pass will give me $126 savings. (traveling on a Saturday there no getting around it) We can get to Bruge and Brussels without Thaly's and it's included in the pass. (think lunch in Lille) Buying tickets for Paris - Bruge - Brussels 100-150. Brussels to Amsterdam is a wash - can't see a way around thaly's. With pass, I will also save at least $82 on sleeper w/couchette Amsterdam to Munich. (That's using the maninseat61's estimate which I can not find a ticket as cheap as he says) Skipping ahead - save 292 on Golden Pass. Now I'm at $30pp/for the remaining 27 days. I could almost do that in Italy! j/k I see how cheap it is there and RS does pad that map a bit. I know I won't be traveling every one of those days but I'm betting we come darn close. And I understand I might pay a bit more with the pass but I'd rather not think about it while I'm traveling. I'm stubborn huh? Actually, no. I'm still only about 80% convinced a pass is worth it. And maybe if I screw with the itinerary I can make it work with tickets and save a few bucks.
Thank you for your concern about traveling fast and long! Sounds crazy but it's oddly relaxing for us (undiagnosed add??) We spent a month road tripping across USA with every night except 1 in a different hotel. Everyday we had fun sightseeing, walks, museums and oh the food! I'm a little nervous about this one because during a road trip the car is kind of a weird home base. Ah, but we can read and nap at the same time for this one.<<<<<IGNORE THIS

Posted by Tom
Lewiston, NY
10654 posts

"How different are the ticket prices online compared to walking into a train station?"

I'll only comment on those parts of your itinerary I know. Munich to Füssen only saves you about €2 if you buy in advanced, but there's also a Bayern-Ticket that might save you some more money, but I don't know the details. Munich to Dachau is a cheap ride on commuter rail, no advanced purchases necessary or offered (someone who knows the Bayern-Ticket better than I can perhaps comment if you can use it to go to Dachau). Munich to Salzburg isn't particularly expensive, only about €36 if you take the fastest and most expensive option, Railjet. Advanced purchases will shave the price about in half. Otherwise, for the slightly slower, cheaper options, buying in advanced will cut your price from about €29 to €23. So, even if you buy the full price tickets on the day of travel for all of these legs of your trip, you're still paying far less than the daily cost of a 3rd party pass.

Posted by rfollo1
2 posts

All of the information has been very helpful and insightful in thinking about my own plans, which are not as complicated as what everyone has been talking about (above).

I have been trying to pay before we go abroad for anything and everything so as to limit my big/credit card purchases while we are there, but I am a bit confused with the different train companies in Italy. I have looked on TrenItalia for tickets (as a different blog suggested) and those seem to be one trip each (round trip at most), for which you must make your very specific reservation. (For example, Rome to Naples at 9:00 on 14 July seats 7a-d.) Is this right?
We will be traveling between seven different cities in Italy over a month's time in the summer and don't know if TrenItalia or the line that uses the rail pass (which seems to be the public line?) is what I want to book?

If anyone can offer any advice, and clarify the differences in the rail lines in Italy, I would greatly appreciate it.

Posted by Fred
San Francisco
4159 posts

Hi,

Based on the itinerary you have as of 2/23/14, you have the option of doing one night train journey, ie, Munich to Venice.. Any more possiblities as you are revising and updating your plans? Keep in mind that those advance discount tickets lock you in to a date and time specific train, ie, you are sacrificing flexiblity for savings. Also, based on your 2/23/14 itinerary, I would not advise getting a Pass, not enough long distance zig zag traveling. Since you'll be Munich (a great choice), you can go to the EurAide (for help and advice on train tickets, if need be) at the main train station located near the Reisezentrum, where you get tickets from machines or staffed counters. Those DB machines do take US magnetic stripe credit cards, no worries there.

Posted by Emma
Oregon
112 posts

It sounds like you're trying to fit in a lot of travel, so the Eurail Global Saverpass special with extra travel days could be a good value for your trip and flexible to use in areas like Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and Italy. But be aware that you really should reserve before leaving home for any TGV train in or to/from France, because they severely limit the number of places for people with a railpass (and they don't even sell these reservations in the stations less than three days in advance). Rail Europe offers seat and sleeper bookings online (which often have to be shipped to you at home; only a few e-tickets). Seat reservation fees are also required in Italy, Spain, and (expensive fee) if you take the Thalys train from Paris to Brussels or Amsterdam. See discussion of reservation fees at http://www.ricksteves.com/travel-tips/transportation/trains/reservations and on Rick's rail pages specific to France, Italy, Spain, etc.

Posted by Terri Lynn
Nashville, TN, USA
719 posts

We buy Eurailpasses (for 24 countries, maximum number of days) right through Eurail (www.eurail.com) and enjoy worry free travel. In fact, they offer extra free travel days if you do so. There is no difficulty buying anything with them.