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Buying train tickets in Europe v. buying in U.S--which is better?.

Buying train tickets in Europe v. buying in U.S--which is better?.

Sep 29th, 2003, 06:06 AM
  #1  
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Buying train tickets in Europe v. buying in U.S--which is better?.

Will be travelling between Munich, Vienna and Krakow by train. I am about to purchase all of our necessary tickets here in the U.S. via RailEurope. But it was just brought to my attention by someone that they are 30% more expensive thru RailEurope. So I ask you...
1. Is this true? Are they more expensive thru RailEurope?
2. And more importantly, am I taking a chance by waiting to buy them once we are over in Europe?
Must order tickets by today if I am buying here, so need answer today! Thanks for all the help, everyone.
travel_chef1 is offline  
Sep 29th, 2003, 06:34 AM
  #2  
 
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First, yes you will pay a premium for ordering tickets and/or reservations through RailEurope.
But I don't blame you for wanting the comfort of having them in advance. How soon after arrival are you doing your first trip? My usual plan is to go to a local travel agent when you get to your first spot and have them ticket and reserve all your trips. It is really easier than trying to do a number of them at a train station window, and it won't cost you any more. What's more they will often tell you about and book you special discounts like the second person traveling at half price or other "deals".
Patrick is offline  
Sep 29th, 2003, 06:48 AM
  #3  
Intrepid
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I agree with Patrick on this...whereas I've used Raileurope on many occasions and have not minded paying the premium for the convenience, etc., I think that using a local European travel agent is an excellent idea and is much less hassle than standing in lines at the train station...and unless you are trying to book yourself onto some sort of "specialty" train like the Glacier Express and during the "high" season to boot, waiting until you get to Europe is probably going to afford you more than enough lead time to get the tickets secured, any necessary seat reservations, etc. Enjoy your trip.
 
Sep 29th, 2003, 07:01 AM
  #4  
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Patrick/Intrepid,
We arrive into Munich on a Friday morning and plan to leave for Vienna on a Monday morning. So that gives us Friday and Saturday (are they open on Sat.?) to visit a travel agent. Do you think this is enough lead time to get tix? Payment by US-issued credit card ok?
Thanks for the help!
travel_chef1 is offline  
Sep 29th, 2003, 07:33 AM
  #5  
 
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Some travel agents may be open on Sat. The absolute latest they'll be open is 8:00 PM Fri and 6:00 PM Sat (probably will close earlier on Sat). Another idea would be visit the Deutsche Bahn Reisezentrum which is the DB travel agent. They can give the same (actually more) service than the window and they're generally more "user-friendly". There's one at the Munich train station. (There's probably one at the airport as well even though it's not listed as I know there's one at the Frankfurt Airport and in Marburg which aren't listed.)

Having said all that, if you're taking night trains and wan't reservations for particular compartments, it _might_ be worthwhile doing beforehand, even with the extra cost. An alternative to RailEurope is EurAide (http://www.euraide.de) which will make reservations (and I think sell tickets) for cost plus a fixed $35 fee (for all tickets/res in a single order). (They also have an office in the Munich Hauptbahnhof, so they might also be a user-friendly option for getting your tickets once you're there.)

Enjoy your trip,
Paul
sanschag is offline  
Sep 29th, 2003, 07:53 AM
  #6  
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Does anyone second Sanschag's thoughts on reservations and night trains? We have considered taking a night train between Vienna and Krakow but cannot decide if we should take the day train instead to see the scenary, or if it is worth saving the time and travelling at night. Comments, please!
travel_chef1 is offline  
Sep 29th, 2003, 09:35 AM
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Raileurope does have a markup, but it is not always 30 pct. The only way to tell is to compare their prices vs. the national railway's prices. I think their addon service fee is a bit much given the markup (S&H is sort of a given). I think you should look at their price and decide if that is a reasonable price to you, not to decide it would be okay unless I know it is a 25 pct markup. Rail fares in CR and Poland, for example, are real cheap so a 30 pct markup would not necessarily make any difference to me, especially given the hassle of getting the tickets once you get there.

If a fare is $30, and it were $40 on Raileurope but that saved you an hour or two of time at the station in Europe, but some anxiety, would that $10 be worth it to you? I've bought tickets in CR, for example, and it took a long time at the station due to lines. I knew a little Czech and that helped, but many did not.
Christina is offline  
Sep 29th, 2003, 10:31 AM
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Hi,
We too want to visit Krakow from Vienna, but so far I only see day time trains, not overnight for Jan 4, 2004? Can anybody direct me to a web site that would have that info? Also, anybody have an email for a local travel agent in Austria? Thanks,
Lili
lilipad is offline  
Sep 29th, 2003, 11:54 AM
  #9  
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Christina,

Help me out--What is S&H (shipping and handling?) and, how do I find the national railroad prices to compare to RailEurope's? (Websites, etc.) Thanks!
travel_chef1 is offline  
Sep 29th, 2003, 12:26 PM
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Try www.railpass.com
KennyL is offline  
Sep 29th, 2003, 07:16 PM
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Travel Chef1:

I've used RailEurope twice & once I did an online booking without them.

The first time I was buying a few hundred $$ of stuff from them (LondonPass, HeathrowExpress, London Travel Card), some of which had to be purchased outside the UK and the rates RailEurope charge were in line with what the individual web sites were advertising and their ~$20 shipping & handling charge wasn't a lot by comparison (convience was only in having them 'prepaid' as RailEurope only sent coupons, we still had to lineup in London to get exchange the coupons for tickets & we arived at Heathrow, after an overnight flight, ~40 minutes before the booth opened so had to wait to get our HeathrowExpress tickets before heading downtown).

However, we later decided to add a side day trip to to Bath & the RailEurope train rates were very uncompetative (especially when another ~$20 S&H charge was added in) compared to a couple of online services that allowed me to book the tickets online for pickup at the station in London, and I was also able to book the BathPass online for pickup at the Bath tourist office. The UK pickups went flawlessly as well.

The second time I used RailEurope was to purchase train tickets from Budapest to Vienna. We were worried about the language & ticket availability so prepurchase the tickets. The RailEurope premium plus ~$20 S&H charge made the tickets extremely expensive vs buying them in Budapest - in Budapest the train station was on the subway route to our hotel, so stopped by to verify the times/tracks/etc, everyone at the ticket counter spoke fantastic English (& knew what 'customer service' was), the linups were only a few people & there were plenty of seats available on all trains/all classes of fares. If I'd have known that in advance I would have waited & purchased the tickets in Budapest.

In my opinion, if you have some flexiability regarding the day or time of day (if multiple trains each day) you want to go between cities and are comfortable in the language (are are willing to wait to talk to someone who speaks English) then you might want to wait to buy your tickets in Europe & get the (much) cheaper price.

But if you like the convienence of having the booking done before you leave, need/want to travel at a specific time/day & are worried about the language then prebooking with RailEurope may be best for you (while your paying a premium plus S&H with RailEurope its likely that will be $50-$75 extra, given how much the total trip will likely cost the convience/one less worry may be worth it).

Hope this helps,

Z
TravelMaster is offline  
Sep 29th, 2003, 07:35 PM
  #12  
 
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Tickets are definitely cheaper there and easy to get. I went from Vienna to Krakow and back and it was interesting scenery--not great. If you have ever seen WWII movies, some of the woods look very familiar. On the return trip, I was in a compartment with a young man whose father worked for the railroad and he seemed surprised that I hadn't flown. I didn't check the airfare but he seemed to think the different was not that much. I don't know as I paid less that $40 roundtrip and bought the day before at Vienna Sud Station.
LindaW is offline  
Sep 29th, 2003, 08:27 PM
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My only experience has been in the UK, but I have used raileurope.com to purchase Gatwick Express, London Travelcards, and Eurostar tickets. I always use thetrainline.com or qjump.com to book rail tickets within the UK ahead of time, then pick them up when I arrive as they will not mail to the US. That way, you have the assurance of booking ahead of time and getting the advance rates, but you don't have to pay raileurope.com's markups for point-to-point, intra-country journeys. I would assume there are similar sights for other european nation's rail service as well. Good luck!
mek17 is offline  
Sep 30th, 2003, 07:01 AM
  #14  
 
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Sometimes RailEurope's fares are actually cheaper. I looked at the German Rail site recently (www.bahn.de) and saw that RailEurope's fares were actually lower than those in euros bought in Germany on the bahn site. (For walk up tickets that can be used on any train; tickets reserved a certain of amount of time in advance for a sepcific train and not changeable can be significantly cheaper, as are fares bought with Bahn Passes, a yearly pass that can be bought to get up to 50% discounts on most fares). So though RailEurope is often more expensive because they tack a $7 handling fee on each fare segment, even with this fee they can be cheaper. RailEurope sets fares for a whole year once a year and thus currency fluctuations, like has happened in 2003 with the euro appreciating against the dollar, can make their fares cheaper.
PalenqueBob is offline  
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