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Would a $800 railpass including France, Belgium/Netherlands, Germany, and Switzerland be worth it?

Hello (:

I was wondering if any of you had experiences with rail-passes in Europe. It would be a youth 15 day 2 month travel pass. My main concern would be the high cost of transportation through Switzerland, which might mean the pass would be worth it. What are you opinions on this? Should I just stick to France, Belgium, Netherlands, and Germany to save costs?

1st Night: Paris
2 Paris
3 Paris
4 Paris
5 Bruges
6 Bruges
7 Amsterdam
8 Amsterdam
9 Amsterdam
10 Cochem, Germany
11 Cochem, Germany
12 Bacharach, Germany
13 Bacharach, Germany
14 Baden-baden, Germany
15 Baden-Baden, Germany
16 Colmar, France
17 Colmar, France
18 Colmar, France
19 Zurich, Switzerland
20 Zurich, Switzerland
21 Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland
22 Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland
23 Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland
24 Bern, Switzerland
25 Bern, Switzerland
26 Lausanne, Switzerland
27 Lausanne, Switzerland
28 Annecy, France
29 Annecy, France
30 Annecy, France
31 Beaune, France
32 Beaune, France
33 Paris, France

Posted by
5011 posts

The days when a Railpass was a bargain are generally behind us. You will need to do some homework to know for sure - figure out what it would cost just for buying all the simple point-to-point tickets (bought in advance, though, to save $$$), add that up and compare that to the costs of a railpass.

Having a railpass may offer some flexibility, but you may be paying a premium for that.

That said, the pace of your trip as outlined above looks pretty fast....

Posted by
5128 posts

Your France journeys may be in jeopardy because of the rail strike.

"Neither side appears ready to back down, with Prime Minister Edouard Philippe warning that the government would not be deterred despite union pledges for three months of rolling stoppages, and possibly more."

http://www.france24.com/en/20180409-france-sncf-rail-strikes-resume-government

I would NOT buy a Eurail pass NOW in any case. If you decide it's worth it, buy it in July once the strike has had a chance to play out. You may have a change of plans between now and then anyway.

I'll take a look at the options for point to point tickets below for a few of your legs...

AMSTERDAM TO COCHEM: I checked the German Railways site just now for July 26 - there's a €19.90 fare available for pre-purchase.

COCHEM TO BACHARACH: €22, normal price at German Railways

BACHARACH TO BADEN-BADEN: €19.90 fare available for pre-purchase at German Railways.

SWITZERLAND: I'd drop Zurich and Lausanne, probably. Yeah, it's expensive. Let's say you finish with Colmar. From nearby Freiburg, Lauterbrunnen is a 3.3 hour train trip, but you can pre-purchase tickets cheaply. Current price is 19.90 at the German Railways site for a morning departure on the date I checked (Aug. 2.) You want to see Bern? Just do that on the way to Lauterbrunnen - it will cost you nothing extra to look around Bern for 4-5 hours. The German Railways site has a stopover feature - you input Bern as a stopover and the amount of time you want there.

So do you kinda see where all this is going? That rail pass is likely to cost you much more. The advance-purchase tickets do ask you to commit to a specific train on a specific day - but it looks like you are planning day to day and have some budget concerns, so they might be a very good trade-off for you. Note that there's a fee for refunds.

You can check the French, Benelux, and Swiss sights on your own - but I'd start with the man in seat 61 for the best tips.

BADEN-BADEN: A place the geriatric upper-class European elite like for gambling and spa treatments. Its train station is a long bus ride from town, so it's a poor place to use as a travel base. I much prefer Freiburg or one of the smaller Black Forest towns.

Posted by
16852 posts

To partly repeat my info on your other thread, shaving a number of countries and/or number of travel days off the pass of course affects the pass price. In the case of point-to-point train tickets, price is more usually based on the distance covered, Outside of Switzerland, speed of the train and advance purchase also make a difference.

Currently, a Eurail Global Youth pass for 15 travel days in 2 months costs $768 or the one-month continuous version costs $787. You only listed 13 potential rail travel routes, so you also might consider a Select pass to cover just your 10 longest travel days in France-Benelux-Germany-Switzerland for $518 (or for $478 without Switzerland).

Food and lodging can easily be your biggest trip cost, so keep an eye on these, regardless of location. You probably need to stick to hostels most of the time.

Posted by
4700 posts

I love trains and generally avoid long bus rides, but for some of these routes (especially Switzerland), buses could save you a lot of money. A few years ago, I was in Freiburg im Breisgau (Germany) and decided at the last minute to do a day trip to Zurich. By then, the easy direct trains were super expensive. But the express buses (would now be the equivalent of FlixBus) were about 1/3 the cost. So I took the bus to Zurich - which was fairly nice and convenient, for a bus!

I still haven't seen a case of a rail pass really being worth it - novice travelers seem to buy them first then post here and ask, "How do I get my money's worth?" I've always just bought individual train tickets. But, I guess a pass does give you some last-minute flexibility. You'll probably save money booking trains in advance if you can nail down your itinerary.

Posted by
5652 posts

Do the "math" (arithmetic). That said, if you don't want to do the lookup and add work, and feel rich, buy the pass and don't look back.

Posted by
26 posts

Thank you all for your help, it really helps me to understand the pros and cons from the pros (: I will calculate the total in the coming days. At the moment, I think that dropping Switzerland will not only save me a boat load of cash, and time, but it will also allow me to concentrate and really enjoy the other cities I will be in since I will have more time. At the moment, I am going to try to create an itinerary with less geographical distances and less, but better cities. So far this is what I have, which I think will end up saving me a lot of money, and be a better experience as a whole.

1st-7th night Paris
8th-9th night bruges, belgium
10th-17th night Amsterdam (and surrounding areas)
18th-25th night western Germany country side
25th-32nd night Eastern France
33rd night Paris

What are your thoughts?

Posted by
5128 posts

My thought is that with more than a month's time, you can spare 2 nights for Lauterbrunnen or nearby, which isn't that far if you'll be in the Black Forest anyway, and which isn't expensive to get to (look for that €20 fare from Freiburg at the DB site.) For a couple of nights you could do groceries and stay in a hostel if need be. But I would crack open the piggy bank (and cut a corner or two elsewhere) and do the Schilthorn lift or similar. There's an early-morning lift/brunch combo ticket to the Schilthorn that comes with a small discount. The Bernese Oberland is spectacular. Nothing else on your most recent itinerary approaches it in terms of natural scenery. (Nothing else in Europe does, actually.)

Posted by
18746 posts

I don't think that fare map is appropriate for most travelers. It appears to show full walk-up fares--the very highest one will ever pay. Most travelers book hotels ahead of time--often weeks or months ahead of time--and have a good chance of finding tickets at a promotional rate. Even if they only do that for a few of their longer travel legs, it can make a large difference in their total transportation cost.

For example:

Rome to Florence: Map $50; Reality: 19.90 euros.
Cologne to Berlin: Map $130; Reality: 44 euros.
Berlin to Munich: Map $145; Reality: 24.90 euros.

The "Reality" fares are the lowest I found by checking a random date in late May. Lower fares may be available. One could spend more by buying a ticket on one on the day's most expensive trains. Or one could spend much, much more (in most cases) by the simple expedient of buying a rail pass.

Posted by
16852 posts

Yes, the map does show full, walk-up fares, which are just as real as any random advance-purchase rate you might select, until you are actually ready to book the ticket. An informed person should know both. Taking the map out of the context in which it was published means that information is missing. See also:

https://www.ricksteves.com/travel-tips/transportation/trains/cost-maps

https://www.ricksteves.com/travel-tips/transportation/trains/buying-tickets

Posted by
26 posts

And I just crunched the numbers regarding transportation if any are interested.
Paris>Brussels $40 1h
Brussels>Ghent $15 30m
Ghent>Brussels $15 30m
Brussels>Amsterdam $40 2h
Amsterdam>Munich $50 8h
Munich>Strasbourg $40 4h
Strasbourg>Reims $30 1h
Reims>Paris $30 1h
Total=around $260 if booked in advance
...The railpasses are a joke.

Posted by
15948 posts

I guess it depends on what price you want to pay for "flexibility". Most people have a hotel they already booked ahead, and they know that on Day X they have to check out and travel to City B where they will check into Hotel Y that they already booked ahead, So the only question is "Do I take the 10 am train or the noon train?" Commit and pay in advance and save a ton. Or maintain your "flexibility" and decide over breakfast.

Posted by
5128 posts

"...The railpasses are a joke."

Well, yes and no.

The rail pass used to be more essential back when travelers lacked easy access to transport information. But nowadays most people plan their hotel stays, journeys, even meals, in much greater detail - scheduling and pre-purchasing train trips is a whole lot easier when the other trip elements are known - and who wouldn't want to take advantage of some of today's cheap advance-sale fares?

Free-spirits for one. Flexibility is not a joke but a serious convenience worth paying for in the eyes of some.

I'm a planner myself, and I follow my plans, but I still use a rail pass now and then when it makes sense. It made sense two years ago - I got a German Rail pass for 7 days and it saved me both some cash and some hassle.

I think it's always good to check both options.