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Best Train Travel for my destinations as well as cost effective? Help!

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Jan 17th, 2010, 09:59 AM
  #1
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Best Train Travel for my destinations as well as cost effective? Help!

I was hoping to get some insight on the best way/most cost effective way to get to each of my destinations:

-Paris to Cannes (don't need any advice on this - I am going to go to TGV-Europe website 3 months in advance and take the high speed train TGV.) Staying for 3 nights in Cannes.

-Cannes to Venice - any deep discount websites to get from Cannes to Venice? I believe I have to connect in Milan. Staying for 4 nights in Venice.

-Venice to Lake Como (Bellagio) - any deep discount websites for this? Staying for 3 nights in Bellagio.

-Lake Como (Bellagio) to Lucerne, Switzerland - any deep discount websites? Staying for 4 nights in Lucerne and then off to the Zurich airport. (train from Lucerne to Zurich)

There seem to be so many options regarding railpasses and then also I have heard I shouldn't go to RailEurope and do anything since it is so expensive. So, I am wondering what is the least expensive way to get from place to place? I already know I want to take the TGV from Paris to Cannes, however that is the only thing I have figured out! Thanks for all your help.
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Jan 17th, 2010, 10:20 AM
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J62
 
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For schedule and fare for trains in Italy check www.trenitalia.com, the website of the Italian railroad. There are discounts for advance purchase.
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Jan 17th, 2010, 11:07 AM
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Take as many night trains as you can.
They will be cheaper than TGV.
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Jan 17th, 2010, 11:11 AM
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I don't think I want to take night trains because the money I spend on the night train I would rather just spend on a hotel and be in the comfort of a regular bed.
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Jan 17th, 2010, 11:15 AM
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People have very different opinions/experiencess with night trains - and getting a berth (even shared room with several strangers) is very expensive - versus deep discounts you can often get on day time trips.
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Jan 17th, 2010, 11:24 AM
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It looks like you can get Cannes-Milan for about 33 Euros on voyages-sncf.com . For the within-Italy train travel, although you can sometimes get some discounts from buying advance tickets, they tend not to be so extreme as you can get for some other parts of Europe.
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Jan 17th, 2010, 11:37 AM
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Will - do you know how far in advance I can purchase my within Italy tickets? Also, can I print them from home? I can print the Cannes to Milan ticket from home, correct?

Thank you Will and others! Keep em' coming if you know of any other discounts. Thank you.
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Jan 17th, 2010, 11:46 AM
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With Trenitalia.com , many posters here have reported trouble getting their credit card accepted. I think that if it works, you can get tickets about 89-90 days in advance just as with the other sites (but possibly it is 60 days - take a look).

As for printing out the Cannes - Milan ticket, be sure to double-check that before purchase, because I am not sure. Because you will be in Paris first, you could also choose the option to pick the ticket up at the train station from an automatic machine in France. When I use voyages-sncf.com, I always put my country as France, and I use the French-language site only, due to glitches with the English site (although I think some people have used the English site successfully). Just make sure not to choose the option to mail it to an address in France, unless you have a reliable French friend who will hold the ticket for you.
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Jan 17th, 2010, 11:52 AM
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You can purchase train tickets 60d in advance.

Venice to Bellagio:
Venice to Como San Giovanni by train
Como SG to Bellagio by bus

Many (most?) people from the US report extreme difficulties buying tickets online with Trenitalia.com. There have been changes recently on their website, but I don't know if that has made purchasing tickets with a US credit card any easier.

Yes, you can print out your ticket at home, assuming you can buy it. Price for 2nd class is 34.10€, and I don't see any discounts available.
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Jan 17th, 2010, 12:09 PM
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I wonder if it is best to just buy a France/Italy Rail Pass since the raileurope website is easy to use and then I can make my seat reservations for additional cost. I just don't want to get ripped off since I have raileurope prices are so high.
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Jan 17th, 2010, 12:17 PM
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I think the reservation costs for the TGV are very high with a pass, and I think there is a supplemental charge, such that the total cost approaches the cost of a deeply discounted ticket. In Italy, the pass is very rarely cost effective. I doubt you'd save money overall, versus buying deeply discounted tickets, but you could do the numbers and see.
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Jan 17th, 2010, 12:39 PM
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Will - The reservation cost with a railpass for the TGV is $19 dollars for 1st class. In regards to Italy, many people say that they report problems with Trenitalia.com when entering their credit card??
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Jan 17th, 2010, 12:45 PM
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problems = unable to complete the purchase. nothing more.
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Jan 17th, 2010, 12:46 PM
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Yes, Trenitalia.com has credit card problems, but you can buy your tickets in Italy without a problem and for not that much more.

What I am saying is that with a rail pass, in addition to the $19 reservation charge for the TGV, there's also a supplemental charge for taking the TGV (at least there was the last time I looked). Be sure to investigate that angle.

Take a look here:
http://www.seat61.com/Railpass.htm
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Jan 17th, 2010, 12:59 PM
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Will - This is what Seat61 said:

"TGV high-speed trains: These run on most long distance routes, and seat reservation is compulsory. A supplement is charged which includes the reservation fee, 3 euros 'off-peak', 10 euros 'peak'"

Does that mean the $19 reservation fee I am seeing on RailEurope includes the supplement charge? That is what I gathered from the statement above.

Also, you mentioned I can buy my tix in Italy. Don't I run the risk of there not being any seats available?
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Jan 17th, 2010, 01:06 PM
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Jill, I should apologize, because I'm not an expert on the TGV, so perhaps that is the total charge.

If you buy your tickets on arrival in Italy for the rest of your Italy travel, it's highly unlikely you will run into sold-out routes. I had this happen when I tried to buy tickets on New Year's Eve for a train in the next hour, but it's otherwise unlikely.
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Jan 17th, 2010, 04:30 PM
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Jill,

Note that if you elect to buy and then pick up tickets in France your American credit card will NOT work in the automatic ticket machines.

You will need to go to a manned booth with your confirmation and the credit card you used to make the purchase.

You can also stop at any SNCF boutique and pick up the tickets in advance.
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Jan 18th, 2010, 09:23 AM
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Several points to keep in mind:

1. A railpass choice (which I wouldn't do) would be either a France Italy 4 days/2month pass for $404 or a 5 days in 2 month select pass for $492. Railpasses would be 1st class seats; with a pass that includes Switzerland you would get a 30% discount on Mt. Rigi excursion in Luzern and 25% off transport museum admission. You would have to pay extra for reservations.

2. The most expensive fare is from Paris to Cannes on TGV. The full walk-up fare is 122.5 Euros second class. However, if you go to the voyages-sncf site whose link is given by WillTravel above, you can get a much cheaper PREM fare. I believe you can buy the TGV fares 4 months out. However, some TGV trains are run as a separate endeavor called iDTGV. When I put in the date June 10 (more than 4 months out) on the voyages website, fares for that date designated iDTGV are 29.4 Euros, so there's a huge price discount for the furthest out advance purchase.

3. The tgv.com site just sends you to the voyages-sncf site when you go to buy tickets. In order to buy the deeply discounted seats, you need to buy them on the voyages-sncf site, and you need to keep the language French or you'll be bumped to a RailEurope site. For tickets you print out at home, it needs to say explicitly,
"imprimer vous-meme. Tarif exclusif Internet."

4. As far as I know, for almost all trains from the French Riviera into Italy, you need to change trains in Ventimiglia, just over the border from France, and continue on from there, and you will have to change in Milan. Your day to Venice will be very long.

5. You can look up fares on the Trenitalia and sbb.ch sites.

6. Rather than take the train to Varenna, and take the ferry, it is easier, and just as fast to take the train to Como, and then a bus which will depart across the street from the train station. If you do decide to go to Varenna, you will be on a Regionale train, and the stops probably will not be announced. Make sure you get a print out of the stops on the train you are taking so you know where you are and will be ready to detrain. You will have about 1 minute to get off the train, and need to be standing by the door with bags in hand when it stops.

7. Reservations on regular Swiss trains (not special excursions like Bernina Express) are never mandatory, so no need to worry about that.
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Jan 18th, 2010, 09:34 AM
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Palenque on Jan 18, 10 at 11:31am
Cannes via Nice to Venice via the Riviera Day Trains - optimal train leaves Nice about 10am - change in Milan arrive Venice 5:40pm

Train from Venice via Milan to Como, railhead for Lake Como - there are some direct Cisalpino (CIS) trains or you can take hourly or more trains and change in Milan - Como is about 40 mins from Milan and on the main rail line to Lucerne (via Lugano) - about 4 hours i suspect Como to Lucerne

Your rail links are pretty straight forward - you may consider the 3-country Eurail Select Pass that would cover it all. For schedules i always use bahn.de - the German Rail web site that is the easiest i have seen to use for schedules all over Europe - just put in your cities and you'll get all the times and details. Some superb sites that may help novices understand the fantastic European rail system - www.budgeteuropetravel.com; www.seat61.com; www.ricksteves.com
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Jan 18th, 2010, 09:34 AM
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lovisa - thank you for all your help. In regards to the Cannes to Venice route I am very frustrated because I will be on a train from 8:20 to 5:40 pm. There are no direct flights and the one decent flight I found on FlyBaboo was 374 Euros. There are also no more night trains either. Any ideas on what to do for this?

In regards to the Venice to Como trip - once I get off the train and onto the bus, where do I go to from there? Does the bus take me to Varenna and then I get on the ferry to Bellagio? (or can I take the bus straight to Bellagio?)
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