1st class vs. 2nd class train travel

Old Jan 27th, 2004, 08:53 PM
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1st class vs. 2nd class train travel

Could you enlighten me on the differences between first-class and second-class train accommodations in Europe. Specifically: We'll be taking the train from Amsterdam to Brugge and back (non-high-speed, non-reserved).

The cost for first-class is about 50% more. Worth it?
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Old Jan 27th, 2004, 09:09 PM
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Only you can decide if it is worth it to you. Do you think one bottle of wine is worth $30 when another one is only $20? Is one hotel worth $200 a night when you can get another one for $150.

The cars are roomier, less crowded (fewer and larger) seats, generally a little cleaner and nicer. They may likely have better air-conditioning, and are often less crowded. If those things are important to you then it is worth it, if not, then it isn't.
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Old Jan 27th, 2004, 10:52 PM
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well i just got back from europe and i am by far not even close to an experienced traveler... but i rode my share of trains in Europe... I think if the cost isnt too out of ur reach u should spring for the 1st class.. I am not sure of the cost of the individual tickets... i am also unaware of how long that train takes from departure to arrival... take that into consideration.. i took an hour and a half train and 2nd class was fine the 5 hour trains seemed a little long and i wished i had more leg room.. Usually the non reserved trains arent too crowded tho... Thats why they are unreserved (to my understanding) So perhaps 2nd class will be ok in ur situation.. Just take into considertaion the leg room and the space between the seats.. that can be quite important .
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Old Jan 28th, 2004, 01:25 AM
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I take first class unless there is no choice (fortunately that happens rarely). One point to consider: the time of day you plan to travel. If you will be traveling during any rush hour times (when people will be commuting to/from work or Friday pm when people are heading off to their week-end destinations), seriously consider first class. I have been on several rush hour trains in the Amsterdam--Rotterdam corridor that were very, very crowded. Standing room only in second class and almost no seats even in first class. Since you'll be traveling with luggage as well, the extra room in first class should be worth it. Train fares in Belgium and the Netherlands are pretty reasonable to begin with, so the supplement for first class is not actually that bad.
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Old Jan 28th, 2004, 01:51 AM
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Hi BT,

A lot depends on the length of the trip, how crowded the train will be, how much luggage you have, how old you are, and the total dollars saved.

When I was young and poor, I went 2 cl. Now that I am older and wealthier, I go 1 cl.
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Old Jan 28th, 2004, 02:03 AM
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Standards vary a lot between countries and between different types of trains. Second-class in some countries (Denmark, for example) is as comfortable as first-class in others. Second-class on a modern train may be smoother than first-class on an older train. Different trains have different seating arrangements: compartments or open-plan carriages, with seats facing the same way or facing one another with tables in between. Everyone will have their own preference depending on circumstances. Typically, if there are four seats abreast in a second-class carriage, there will be three abreast in first-class.
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Old Jan 28th, 2004, 05:34 AM
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2nd class also affords the opportunity to see more than other 1st class travelers/tourists. One of the reasons I travel is to gain a peek into another culture through learning their language, their politics and their history. Since train travel is so pervasive this is just another glimpse.

I took the 2nd class compartment from Brugge to Binche a couple years ago for the Carnival celebrations. Took several hours and a transfer but was delighted with the conditions and the exposure to others. Never uncomfortable as train service in these countries is top notch.

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Old Jan 28th, 2004, 06:34 AM
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I agree very strongly with "tmh". I travel to other countries to learn about them: the people, language, customs, way of life, etc. So, I don't want to cocoon myself away from the local people. One of the advantages of train travel is that you are mingling with the locals, and you have plenty of time for observing and reading about the places you're visiting.
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Old Jan 28th, 2004, 06:38 AM
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I've traveled on trains out of FRA to Stuttgart in both 1st and 2nd class. I sat on my luggage in 2nd class enough times to know that I want 1st class from now on! I like to know I will have a comfortable place to sit, even if it isn't a long journey! Travel is an adventure, but I don't like to be sitting on my hardsider luggage!!
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Old Jan 28th, 2004, 06:42 AM
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I'm going to try to not sound like some sort of elitist here, but in a way I agree with tmh, about how it's nice to meet or travel with locals. But I disagree with him about them being in 2nd class. Most successful business people in Europe do seem to travel 1st class, and I often meet and talk with them as I travel in 1st class. I enjoy talking with them more than trying to meet some of the locals in 2nd class who are less likely to be "like me" and less likely to speak English, for that matter.

Again, sorry if this sounds snobbish, but I'm not sure how to else to put this. I tend to enjoy people who are more likely to be like me. Like it or not, those people are more likely to be in 1st class cars. I'm more likely to find someone who can tell me about the current opera season in Milan, or an outstanding restaurant in Vienna in 1st than I am in 2nd, for example.
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Old Jan 28th, 2004, 06:52 AM
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Everyone has really good advice. While I generally prefer long hauls in first class, second class is more fun for meeting people, having great discussions with people of different countries and cultures, etc.

Also, check out the amenities and whether there are different trains along the same route. The type of train you take is key. We took a train from Bergen to Oslo -- there were two trains, one pretty much a cattle car, and the other their new signatur train. We were in the signatur train going to Bergen and the difference between the two trains was huge. For that length of travel (8 hours plus many delays on the track, carrying it to nearly 11 hours), it was agony on the cattle car train, particularly since it was hot, there was no air conditioning, and the seats were hard as rocks. It was all 2nd class. The Signatur train, on the other hand, had 1st & 2nd class, and both were comfy, air conditioned, and just a great ride.
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Old Jan 28th, 2004, 07:37 AM
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I'm sorry but i disagree with the implication that you won't get an opportunity to rub elbows with "the locals" unless you travel in 2nd Class. Plenty of "locals" travel 1st Class and they are as eager to "interact" with perfect strangers as the people back in 2nd. I agree with Patrick's assessment of the differences and let's face it: there is a reason they call it "second" class although for people like Rick Steves who probably takes over an entire car when he and his TV crew are on the rails it is adequate...at least while the cameras are rolling!
 
Old Jan 28th, 2004, 08:27 AM
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As with ANY premium travel option, it will be considerably more expensive, and in every case never really worth the percentage increase in cost.

E.g. a first class BA fare to JFK can cost up to thirty times that of an economy fare.

If the increased cost is money you would not spend on upgrading your hotel, or dining in finer restaurants, then upgrade, otherwise spending money on something that represents a small part of your trip is a waste.
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Old Jan 28th, 2004, 10:02 AM
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Patrick - you made my point. I don't want to talk with people "like me" or who speak english. I can do that at home or at work.
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Old Jan 28th, 2004, 10:14 AM
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Hi
I'll summarize, since I agree with most of the responses.

"Worth it?" questions are impossible to answer. A $200 dinner can sometimes be worth it to me, to someone else it could never be worth it even if budget permits. An expensive car is worth it to many people, not to me.

Okay, I haven't been on the route you've mentioned. But, I agree that on the first-class cars I've been in, it's more like first-class on an airplane, bigger and more comfortable seats, fewer seats each car, no sharing your tray table, a snacks person walks through periodically to sell things, car seemed cleaner.
That was the case in France and Italy.

I was recently in a second-class car in England for a 90-minute trip between London and Bath. For so short a trip, the 2nd class was fine for me, and the expense savings was considerable, based on price per hour. So on that short haul, and on that particular budget-minded trip, the 1st class supplement wasn't worth it to me.

If you're going in high season, I'd be more concerned about being able to reserve a seat so as not to end up standing.
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Old Jan 28th, 2004, 10:20 AM
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Correct me if I'm wrong, but except for the Thalys and ICE trains, I don't think you *can* have reserved seats on Dutch trains. All the more reason to go first class--if your budget allows and you're traveling during a busy period. The Dutch have great mass transit and they really take advantage of it, one of the reasons the trains are so crowded!
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Old Jan 28th, 2004, 10:27 AM
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well, tmh, glad I "made your point", but we disagree I guess.
If I were a college age backpacker (and there are times I wish I were) then I'd WANT to be in 2nd class to meet locals -- but again they would in that case be more "like me". But since I'm a retired businessman who likes good things when I travel, I'm more likely to find more in common with the locals I find in 1st class.

It's interesting that you feel you'd rather meet people who have nothing in common with you. I frankly prefer holding converstaions with those whom I do have a lot in common with -- in other words more "like me." But I guess that's what makes us different.

As to not wanting to meet locals who speak English, well sadly I must admit I DO, as I don't speak enough of any other language to have much of a conversation otherwise.
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Old Jan 28th, 2004, 10:56 AM
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The biggest disadvantage about traveling 1st class is that you are the last to arrive at your distination since they are generally the last cars on the train.
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Old Jan 29th, 2004, 03:49 PM
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Please don't take things to heart on this forum. Afterall it is merely a train journey, I doubt any high rollers still use this particular method of transport for a straightforward a-b journey.

Fly! or get a driver to take you.

To pick up on an earlier point, buy what you can afford. If one is dining out and sees a bottle for 300 GBP on the menu, but has it sitting at home having payed maybe 50 GBP for it, should they now pay the premium for having it served at a restaurant?

It's a shortish journey "slum" it in second and treat yourself to a glass or two of something good.
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Old Jan 29th, 2004, 04:59 PM
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You are ok by me Patrick! I appreciate your point of views b/c it helps me formulate my plans. Thanks!
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