Best Train Pass?

Feb 22nd, 2013, 01:03 PM
  #1  
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Best Train Pass?

Hi,

My fiancé (and I are planning our honeymoon from April 25th- May 16th. We are arriving into Paris in the early am on the 26th and leaving from Rome on may 16th. We know it's a pretty aggressive trip as far as locations, but we really want to get a feel for different places. We are active in our late 20s. Our hotels are booked, so now we are looking into trains. We are prepared to rent a car from Florence for Tuscany since no trains go there. Other than Tuscany, we don't plan on renting a car. What rail passes would you suggest we get that would be the most effective for our itinerary? Can we accomplish this all with one pass or will we have to get multiple?

We would prefer flexible times in case we can't make a particular departure, but if we need to actually buy specific times, we can make that work.

Here is the list of cities in order:
Paris- 3 nights
Geneva- 2 nights
Interlaken- 3 nights
Tuscany- 4 nights
Venice- 3 nights
Rome- 5 nights
jeno13 is offline  
Feb 22nd, 2013, 01:21 PM
  #2  
 
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Last year the Eurail select Flexipass could have been your ticket to ride but France has opted out of that pass so it cannot be used on trains in France.

Here is what I would recommend - buying discounted online tickets for both France to Switzerland and in Italy - and getting perhaps a Swiss Pass for Switzerland - Swiss Passes cover oodles of more things than a Eurailpass does in Switzerland too - like coverage in full on mountain trains from Interlaken to Grindelwald, Laugterbrunnen, Murren and Wengen and gives 50% off nearly all aerial gondolas and covers postal buses, etc.

And Swiss Passes are much cheaper per day than Eurailpass and also come in 2nd class at an even cheaper price. A Saverpass is for two to five names on one pass - cheaper than two solo passes by about 18% - and I believe you can travel during the sale period of Swiss Passes this spring where if you complete your travel before the late May you can actually buy two 4-day passes (either consecutive or flexible) for the price of one - an astounding deal (Only applies to 4-day passes and if you can marshall you train travel into a 4-day period the 4-day consecutive pass would be the best deal per day - cheaper per day than a Flexipass is.

Use the pass to get to the Italian border at Domodossola and then get a discounted ticket from www.trenitalia.com to cover trains to Florence, jumping off point for Tuscany and get the online discounted tickets for your other two trips - you do lock yourself into a specific train that way but if you want flexibility just buy full fare tickets - never a problem getting IME and it should not break the bank.

For France to Geneva www.voyages-sncf.com has so-called PREM fares at deep discounts and to get often you must book weeks or months in advance - get one to Geneva - stay there the night and then start your 4-consecutive-day Swiss Pass to go to Interlaken or take boats on Lake Geneva (covered by the pass as are city trams and buses).


For lots of great info on Swiss trains and the Jungfrau Region by Interlaken I always spotlight these super IMO saites - www.seat61.com; www.ricksteves.com and www.budgeteuropetravel.com (check the latter for details on the Swiss 2 for 1 sale this spring to see if the dates fit the dates you will need to be traveling in Switzerland - that is where I heard about the 2 for 1 sale which has happened during off-season times for Switzerland of late fall and late spring.
PalenQ is online now  
Feb 22nd, 2013, 03:37 PM
  #3  
 
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 32,302
Depending on what you plan to do in Switzerland, one of the Swiss passes might be good if you are traveling enough to get the value. Some include transport from the border (France?,Italy?).

>>>We are prepared to rent a car from Florence for Tuscany since no trains go there. Other than Tuscany, we don't plan on renting a car.<<<

Trains go some places in Tuscany so it would depend on where you were going. There are also buses to many hill towns, but generally a car is best. If you are picking up a car, might as well keep it until Venice and drop it there.

You buy Florence/Venice (if you don't keep the car) or Venice/Rome on Trenitalia's website. There are cheap tickets for advance purchase online (as little as 9€ for the fast trains) or the base price listed would also be the walk-up price if you didn't want to book in advance and just take the next train with space (mandatory seating - not included with pass, but included with tickets on Trenitalia).
kybourbon is online now  
Feb 23rd, 2013, 08:11 AM
  #4  
 
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Buses run frequent services to Tuscan hill towns - if just wanting to see a few take the bus if wanting to spend some days weaving around hill towns take the car but you do not need a car to visit any Tuscan hilltown - buses from Florence run constantly to Siena, to me the finest of all Tuscan hill towns and to many others.
PalenQ is online now  
Feb 25th, 2013, 01:15 PM
  #5  
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Thank you so much for your replies. We are staying in Siena. It's good to know that we don't absolutely have to have a car. It's so hard wedding and honeymoon planning at the same time, so this is so helpful! I was able to get my train tickets from France to Geneva for 74 euros for the 2 of us! If I booked on rail europe it would have been 200 dollars. I am amazed! I compared the trips side by side on the each websites to make sure nothing was wrong. Based on the comments, I will definitely get a Swiss Pass. It sounds like the best way to go. A 4 day pass will cover our needs since we are leaving Geneva on May 1st and then leaving Interlakan for Itally on May 4th. We also want to do the Gondolas and the mountain trains. I'm looking into the 2-1 deal. It looks like it definitely happened last year, but I don't see anything yet this year. I don't have to book now, right? I saw last year, the LA Times posted an article on March for the deal that started April 1st. Is there any benefit of booking the train pass now or can I wait? Is there a last date that I should book by if I wait or are they available up until departure?
jeno13 is offline  
Feb 25th, 2013, 02:30 PM
  #6  
 
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I'm not sure why you would look at the LA Times for current train passes. Doesn't make sense. For Swiss passes, you should look at the Swiss site - Swisstravelsystem. Current special is 4 for 1 (4 days + 1 extra day).

http://www.swisstravelsystem.com/en/...ss-4-1-en.html

Some hill towns have bus service from Siena, but it's much easier to tour Tuscany by car.

Here's the bus map.
http://www.sienamobilita.it/mappe/Mappa_EXT.pdf
kybourbon is online now  
Feb 25th, 2013, 07:48 PM
  #7  
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Thanks. I saw an article that the LA times had last year in march letting people know about the pass. I was thinking that maybe the Swiss rail announced the deal in March for April-May travel. I think I am just holding out hope they will do it again, but maybe start offering it later than today. Fingers cross they will do it again. The current deal ends April 30th so it actually wouldn't work for us. How far in advance should I buy the pass?

Thanks for the info on Siena. I think we will rent a car. There are a couple day trips we would like to take and I think it will be easier. What is the best car rental place?
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Feb 26th, 2013, 10:16 AM
  #8  
 
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How far in advance should I buy the pass?>

most agents in U S have no mailing fees unless for rush service so order early enough to avoid mailing fees - and check prices in U S dollars for passes sold here and prices in francs for the exact same pass sold at stations in Switzerland - I have been comparing prices for years now and usually the American dollar pricing for passes bought here has been significantly cheaper than for the same exact pass bought in Switzerland - when I checked a few weeks back that waws true again - but it is not always and if as cheap there as here just buy there but figure in any c credit charges for foreign transactions.

The 2 for 2 on selected passes or extra day is always it seems the same regardless of where you buy the pass but also check that.

The 2 for 1 sale has has been offered for several years now for travel April thru late May - call either www.budgeteuropetravel.com or www.ricksteves.com to ask about sale periods if not on those informative web sites or of course look at www.raileurope.com - but it is impossible for me at least to get thru to anyone there by phone.
PalenQ is online now  
Feb 27th, 2013, 11:43 AM
  #9  
 
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For info on others last fall's 2 for 1 sale covered only 4-day flexi or 4-consecutive day passes and covered travel only between Sep 1 and Nov 30 - expect the same to be so in 2013 as it has been often during that time period - though exactly what may be offered may be tweaked - sometimes an extra day on some or all passes or free trips to selected mountain tops like Mt Pilatus and others normally ocvered only 50%.
PalenQ is online now  
Feb 28th, 2013, 09:57 AM
  #10  
 
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For Swiss passes, you should look at the Swiss site - Swisstravelsystem. Current special is 4 for 1 (4 days + 1 extra day).

http://www.swisstravelsystem.com/en/...ss-4-1-en.html.

It should be noted that this extra day offer is ONLY for 1st class passes, not 2nd class passes that most folks buy.

The 2 for 1 specials have always been for both 1st and 2nd class passes.
PalenQ is online now  
Apr 1st, 2013, 03:49 PM
  #11  
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The wedding is over (it was amazing), now I am in full blown honeymoon planning! I am getting ready to book my train pass for Switzerland, train tickets in Italy and car in Italy. I'm bummed that Switzerland isn't doing the 2-1 pass in May this year. I've been checking the site obsessively.

Here is the plan. We arrive in Geneva at 7:30 PM on 4/29. That train is already booked from Paris. Our hotel is walking distance, so we won't use the train. On 4/30, we will not need to use the rail pass at all as are going outside the city to a watch factory and have a car service picking us up and it is an all-day event. On 5/1, we will leave for Interlaken (not sure what time yet). Then on 5/4, we will be leaving for Florence. I will take your advice and take the train from Interlaken to Domodossola and then buy the direct pass on tren italia into florence. We have decided to stay in Florence on the night of 5/4 and pick up a car in Florence on 5/5 in the afternoon to head to Siena. We are staying outside of Siena so need a car.

Questions:
1. What Swiss Pass is the best? It looks to me that the 4 day consecutive pass will work since I won't need anything on 4/29 or 4/30. That will give us 4 days of train from 5/1-5/4. Does that sound right? We will definitely need to go from Geneva-->Interlaken-->Domodossola and we will use the swiss pass for the additional trains in Interlaken which will be cool. There is two travelling together so we will do saver. Do you think 1st class is worth the upcharge? Do we need to book seats in advance on the Swiss trains if we have a pass or just show up?

2. Is the Domodossola train station the same one that we get on for our Domodossola--> Florence train. It's funny bc on the Swiss website it says it is in Switzerland and on the TrenItalia it says it is in Italy. I'm guessing this is because it is a border town. I'm just paranoid so double checking. I don't want to show up then realize I have to go somewhere else to get on my Italy train.

Once in Italy, I will book point to point tickets and have assigned seatings and times.
1. Domodossola--> Florence pre-booked train
2. Florence (pick up car)--> venice Car- drive from Siena to Venice
3. Venice--> Rome pre-booked train

3. Lastly, for the car rental. I am thinking that it may be best to pick up the car in Florence then drop it off in Venice per the earlier suggestion. What company do you suggest? Any tips on renting a car in Italy. I read car theft is high so I won't leave anything in the car. It looks like a 3.5 hour drive if I drive from Siena to Venice and probably makes more sense than dropping off the car in Florence and taking a train to Venice.

I hope this all make sense. I am trying to make sure that I do everything correctly and as economical as possible. Do you have any suggestions to make my itinerary better? Any insite would be much appreciated! I have never planned a trip this long or with so many moving parts.
jeno13 is offline  
Apr 1st, 2013, 06:15 PM
  #12  
 
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I don't know if a Swiss pass or a Swiss half-fare card would be best. You would have to crunch the numbers. Current special is 4+1 (you get an extra day free)

>>>nce in Italy, I will book point to point tickets and have assigned seatings and times.
1. Domodossola--> Florence pre-booked train<<<

You can buy this in advance on Trenitalia. You wouldn't have to get off the train at Domodossola. Just take the same train (should be an EC train - check to make sure you get the same number train) using your Swiss pass (you might want to make a seat reservation for this) and stay on. You may have to switch seats at Domodossola to your Trenitalia seat numbers.
kybourbon is online now  
Apr 1st, 2013, 06:26 PM
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Do you think 1st class is worth the upcharge? Do we need to book seats in advance on the Swiss trains if we have a pass or just show up?>

No need to ever IME book seats on Swiss trains and many may not even allow it - anyway you likely will find many empty seats on most trains - would not worry about that.

1st class vs 2nd class - well there is a difference but the difference is not as great in Switzerland IMO as in other countries - but the main difference is that on inter-city trains there will guaranteably be many empty seats in first class where 2nd class could be fairly full or at rush hours full - you can always board and after the next stop fend for seats of departing passengers.

I've always had a first-class Swiss Pass because my employer was paying for it and I always loved having the first-class cars - there are always sparsely full - I can hop from side to side as the scenery dictates - not so easy in a fairly full 2nd class car - even on the mountain trains like from Interlaken to Grindelwald or Lauterbrunnen I often have had a whole empty section in 1st class to myself whilst the rest of the train was packed to the gills.

Now many folks say that second-class was very adequate for them and this is true - 2nd class is adequate but just not as nearly as relaxed as first class.

Note on some specialty trains only in 1st class are there panoramic observation cars and on lake boats only the open-air upper deck seats are first-class only - so if taking many of these that could be a factor - and yes laying on the top deck in a lounge chair is a bit better than being restricted to the lower deck.
PalenQ is online now  
Apr 1st, 2013, 09:41 PM
  #14  
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Thanks for your help. I have been doing more research, but I'm not sure if my logic make sense. Assume these numbers are for 2 people and in 2nd class. We may go with 1st class, but for this comparison I did 2nd class.

Do you think it is better to get point to point passes? The 2 main trains I need are Geneva--> Interlaken and Interlaken --> Florence. Based on Rail Europe, the total cost for those two trains point to point is $622 (that would take us directly to Florence). Then we would pay for all of the stuff in between in Switzerland and not take advantage of the all inclusive. We will be using trains/boats/metro/etc. for 4 days. The main trains I want to use are to go to Gimmelwald, Schiltthom, Jungfraujoch. At least in that area (haven't figured out the whole itinerary). I don't think we will use the public transit much in Geneva since a whole day is already taken care of and the next afternoon we are leaving for Interlaken.

The Swiss 4 day pass is $762 for the two of us and then I would have to then buy the tren italia ticket from Domodossola to Florence which is approx $90 for the two of us, so a total of $852.

$852 for the swiss pass plus the ticket to florence vs. not buying the pass and paying $622 plus all other trains that we will take in Switzerland. Do you think the $200 is worth the Swiss Pass? Do you think we will actually get the value of that in those 4 days? I'm not opposed to paying more money if it is worth it; I just don't want to waste money. : )

Thank you so much again for your help!
jeno13 is offline  
Apr 1st, 2013, 09:50 PM
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Why are you pricing tickets on RailEurope when you've already discovered they are more expensive than the national sites?

Have you checked whether there will be a fee for dropping your rental car in a different town from where you picked it up?
thursdaysd is offline  
Apr 1st, 2013, 09:57 PM
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Never mind. I am an idiot. The Swiss 4 day pass would be $476 for 2nd class (i put in first class). Dang forum won't let me edit. Looking at those numbers it would make way more sense to do the Swiss Pass plus the ticket from Domodossola for a total of $566. Cheaper and more inclusive. Sorry for wasting your time if you read that. Looking at too many things at once and got confused. Exactly why I am on the forum. People know way more than I do about this stuff.

I looked up the half fare card and basically that is you pay $120 CHF then you get 50% on mostly everything and it doesn't include museums at all, right? So I would buy it and then get 1/2 fair on train from Geneva--> Interlaken and Interlaken to Domodossla ? Clearly my brain isn't ready for any more math tonight, but am I understanding that correctly?
jeno13 is offline  
Apr 1st, 2013, 10:15 PM
  #17  
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The pricing I got was from Rick Steve's website which went to Rail Europe. So did myswitzerland.com which claims to be "official website of Switzerland Tourism" and the budget europe travel service (BETS) which was listed above. It seems they dead end at rail europe. Is there a better place to go?

I actually haven't figured out the car yet. After I get the swiss pass done, that is my next step. I looked at Auto Europe. From preliminary research, it may look like it would be more expensive to drop it in a different city. They make it seem like it will be the same price and then put a disclaimer saying that it may be more expensive and they will contact you after you book (weird). I haven't done all the research on that yet. Do you have experience booking a car thursdaysd? Any insite would be helpful.
jeno13 is offline  
Apr 1st, 2013, 10:35 PM
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For tickets in Switzerland:

http://www.sbb.ch/en/home.html

For general info on buying train tickets in Europe:

http://seat61.com/Europe-train-tickets.htm

I travel solo so I don't rent cars. People here often recommend AutoEurope.
thursdaysd is offline  
Apr 2nd, 2013, 06:41 AM
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The pricing I got was from Rick Steve's website which went to Rail Europe. So did myswitzerland.com which claims to be "official website of Switzerland Tourism" and the budget europe travel service (BETS) which was listed above. It seems they dead end at rail europe. Is there a better place to go?

RailEurope is part owned by the Swiss Railways and is the only wholesaler of Swiss Passes in the U.S. thus prices are always the same no matter which agent sells them - RE sets the price and everyone has to sell it at that price. The only comparison you should make is to see what that pass costs if bought in Switzerland - check www.swisstravelsystem.com for prices in Swiss francs, keeping in mind any foreign transaction fees for foreign purchases you c c may impose - I have checked often and usually the same pass is cheaper if bought here than there for some reason but not always.
PalenQ is online now  
Apr 2nd, 2013, 07:36 AM
  #20  
 
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I would pick up the car in Florence and drop it off in Venice. Check Kemwel.com, Auto Europe's sister company and be sure to look at deductibles when comparing prices. Drop the car off at Piazzale Roma in Venice. You can take the vaporetto to your Venice hotel from P. Roma.
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