Just a question. I often read references to RailEurope in Helpline postings. I have never used the service, and from everything I've read, I can't see the advantage. It seems they mark up the ticket costs, and they only sell tickets for a limited number of trains. Considering that almost all the national rail companies have websites, and that buying a ticket in Europe is as easy as buying lunch, what benefit does RailEurope offer? Can someone enlighten me?
Tom, many many travelers simply haven't discovered what you just posted - namely that most every country has its own train system. And, that its so easy to buy the tickets there. Additionally, North Americans simplay cannot grasp the enormity of the European train system until they get over there. I dare say that many North Americans have rarely been in a real train station during their entire lifetime and now they will be in several. Oh no!. It's bye-bye comfort level. Hello RailEurope. Can you blame them?
Look at it another way. Say that you have never been to Europe and you are just starting out doing some research. You Google Italy+trains. Can you guess what comes up? The first things up with anything to do with travel in Europe is RailEurope. They pay to get that name in front of the travelers. How easy and convenient it is to buy just one ticket and Europe is at your feet. They even have a North American phone number and speak to you in English. Nothing could be more convenient.
We on the site know that they will pay for the convenience. But it saves new travelers time, confusion and weeks and months of research. They only discover the high prices and the fact that the pass doesn't cover everything until after they've received their passes or they show up at a train station and try to get on a Thalys or Italian Eurostar train.
Larry is correct in his observations, but to make it clear, Raileurope has twp products, the passes, and then point to point tickets. Passes, I think, need to be evaluated separately as to whether they are a bargain, including accounting for fees and upcharges, for your itinerary. Point to point tickets from Raileurope are expensive, and yes, they can be had cheaper from National Sites. But, Raileurope is much like Travel Agents used to be, they handle all the details, package it for you, and charge a fee. Any search of the boards here will turn up difficulties in using SCNF and Trenitalia from the US, especially as it comes to payment, plus the hassles of dealing with a partially translated site, knowing the tricks to get they best deals (Let's see....travel with two others, second class, on a Tuesday, get the leisure amiga roundtrips and toss the return ticket...) I can understand why many go with Raileurope. (Except I rarely buy tickets ahead from the US and do use the National sites when able.)