Go Back  Fodor's Travel Talk Forums > Destinations > Europe
Reload this Page >

Eurail Pass problems on some trains in France and Italy???

Eurail Pass problems on some trains in France and Italy???

Mar 8th, 2008, 07:18 PM
  #1  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jul 2007
Posts: 1,853
Eurail Pass problems on some trains in France and Italy???

In the past few weeks there have been two letters in the Traveller section of The Sydney Morning Herald drawing attention to difficulties experienced by Eurail Pass holders in obtaining seats on trains in France and Italy, the most recent claiming that "On two occasions [in early February] I was told there were no seats for Eurail pass holders but I could buy tickets at full price for the same trains."

I am aware from advice on this site that reservations are usually required these days on long distance express trains in some countries, including France and Italy, but is it now the case that the Eurail pass might not be valid on certain services?
farrermog is offline  
Mar 8th, 2008, 09:18 PM
  #2  
 
Join Date: Jul 2006
Posts: 273
What I found using a Frenchrail pass in 2006 was:

1) Yes, seat reservations are required on certain (many) trains
2) But when you go to make a reservation, the alloted space for Eurail pass holders may be sold out even though full fare or higher fare seats are still available.
3) I found the most desireable times for some of my journeys were sold out if I tried to book the seats close to the departure date. Though, I did have a lot prebooked before I went to France luckily.

So, it's not that Eurail passes are "not allowed" on some trains it's just that the seats may be sold out for pass holders. Very similar to airfares. There are only so many seats available per fare and as the cheapest seats sell out there are still higher fares available.

While a Eurail pass may be cost effective it is not totally carefree and travellers should be prepared to be flexible. Try to prebook your trains before you travel to Europe if you know your itinerary.
lemidi is offline  
Mar 8th, 2008, 09:50 PM
  #3  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jul 2007
Posts: 1,853

lemidi - thanks for the clarification - things have changed since 'the old days'.
farrermog is offline  
Mar 9th, 2008, 01:37 AM
  #4  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 5,129
I encountered this in December when trying to book a TGV journey from Lausanne to Paris. My rail pass gave me a small discount because it was valid in Switzerland, but I had to pay the normal fare from the French border to Paris.
To me, this is extremely dishonest of the SNCF. A rail pass holder has paid in advance for rail travel, so should not have to pay a second time.
Travellers need to be wary when considering a rail pass for France. On many routes, TGVs are the only option, and there may be no discount for a pass holder.
GeoffHamer is offline  
Mar 9th, 2008, 08:03 PM
  #5  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jul 2007
Posts: 1,853

Reservations information from the Eurail site -

http://tinyurl.com/2lrf2k

mentions that 'on some special trains... the number of seats available for Eurail travellers is limited'.
farrermog is offline  
Mar 9th, 2008, 08:06 PM
  #6  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jul 2007
Posts: 1,853

Apart from the two examples given on the Eurail site - Alaris and Thalys - is there any way of knowing which services are subject to a Eurail Pass quota?
farrermog is offline  
Mar 10th, 2008, 04:31 AM
  #7  
 
Join Date: Jul 2006
Posts: 273
I don't think I'd rely on any answer to your question as I believe it is subject to availability as the trains fill with higher revenue fares.

I say this because some trains that were available on Raileurope.com for railpass holders before I left the US were not available when I checked once in France the day before the train ride. So it is capacity controlled and you will probably not get a concrete answer anywhere. Your safest bet if considering a rail pass is to see if you can prereserve your seats on the trains you want before you leave for your trip.

The only trains I had no problem with were the local trains that do not require a reservation or the trains I prereserved before going to France.
lemidi is offline  
Mar 10th, 2008, 04:40 AM
  #8  
 
Join Date: Jul 2006
Posts: 273
From the raileurope website:

"Seat Reservations and Overnight Travel
A pass allows the boarding of a train, bus, plane or boat, but does not guarantee a seat. Seat reservations are optional for most trains but are mandatory for all TGV, Thalys, Cisalpino, Elipsos, AVE, and Italian Day trains and selected EuroCity and InterCity trains and for all sleepers and couchettes. Couchettes. All tickets are sold including any necessary reservations whether selecting a seat or sleeper. If holding a railpass, reservations are sold as passholder fares."

"Reservations for Seats, Sleepers and Couchettes:
Reservations are mandatory on certain day trains and on all night trains.Reservations are based on availability at the time of confirmation. Reservation fees are not included in the pass price and must be purchased separately. On certain high speed trains passengers are required to purchase a pass holder ticket, which includes the cost of the reservation.

Additional Charges:
Seats, sleepers and couchettes, pass holder tickets for travel on trains such as Eurostar, Italian Day trains, AVE, Talgo, Elipsos, Thalys, Cisalpino, etc. luggage checking, and port taxes, are all subject to additional charges which are not covered by the passes. These, including meals and refreshments, are all to be paid separately. Luggage checking, port taxes, meals and refreshments as well as seat reservations, sleepers and couchettes reserved locally must be paid abroad in local currency."


lemidi is offline  
Mar 10th, 2008, 06:01 AM
  #9  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 5,129
The information on the Raileurope website quoted by Lemidi is clearly out of date.
The problem in France is that the SNCF limits the number of seats available to rail pass holders on TGVs. A train may have seats available, but they can only be reserved by paying the full fare even for somebody who has already paid for a rail pass.
The railways in other countries still honour rail passes, and a rail pass in Germany or Switzerland, for example, allows access to any train, with only reservation fees to pay.
GeoffHamer is offline  
Mar 10th, 2008, 06:29 AM
  #10  
 
Join Date: Jul 2006
Posts: 273
It is not out of date. The website clearly states that a seat reservation is mandatory on the TGV.
What they should add however is that the seats are capacity controlled and space is extremely limited to railpass holders and passengers should be flexible with their schedule.

In one of my situations, when I tried to make a reservation the day before I wanted to use my pass on the nonstop TGV from Toulon to Paris I could only get connecting trains or a direct at 5:40AM. When I had checked for the same availability several weeks before there were many more options available at better times even for a pass holder. I should have reserved earlier. I decided on the 5:40AM, yuck and only had to pay the minimal seat reservation fee. If I wanted the better train time of course I could have done as the above poster and paid a full fare
but I wasn't going to do that.

lemidi is offline  
Mar 10th, 2008, 06:46 AM
  #11  
 
Join Date: Jan 2007
Posts: 77,686
This has been a problem on French TGVs now for three or four years - a limited number of seats for passholders even if full fare seats are available

suggest you make your reservations when you buy your pass if the trip has to be done at a specific time, etc. Cost more but in effect may cost less.

In Italy i have not seen any evidence of this problem in my many train trips there recently but you do have to pay a steep supplement of 15 euros for each Eurostar Italia train and that may be what they are complaining about

The French thing simply sucks and will turn folks off buying passes. The worst line seems to be Paris-Avignon-Nice

Often there are alternative trains and routes you can book - like if you can't get on a Paris-Avignon TGV then try the twice hourly Paris-Lyon TGVs and if need be take a regular local train to Avignon, etc.
PalenQ is offline  
Mar 10th, 2008, 07:23 AM
  #12  
ira
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 74,166
Hi F,

What's your itinerary?

You might not want a railpass anyway.

ira is offline  
Mar 10th, 2008, 02:49 PM
  #13  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jul 2007
Posts: 1,853
Thanks everyone and g'day Ira.

I do not have a particular itinerary in mind. As an old fan of European train travel (I have had 1 and 2 month Eurail passes and have also bought point to point tickets in Europe, but all some time ago), I was simply passing on comments by Australian Eurail pass holders about problems recently experienced as it appears that some pass holders (and prospective pass purchasers) may not be aware things have changed over time, for travel on French trains in particular it appears. Oh for the days when the Eurail pass holder could just front up, board virtually any train, flash the pass when the conductor happened along, and that was it!

(BTW, I suspect that travellers from my part of the world will be particularly irritated by the need to make a reservation on so many services as many of us tend to travel to Europe off/ shoulder season when there is usually no problem with seat availability anyway - in the case I quoted at the head of this thread there were apparently plenty of vacant seats on the train - of course, whether they had all been reserved is another thing, but in February??)
farrermog is offline  
Mar 21st, 2008, 12:19 AM
  #14  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jul 2007
Posts: 1,853
Another letter in this weekend's Traveller section of The Sydney Morning Herald pointing to the diminished usefulness of the Eurail pass and additional fares incurred. Also, a letter from the national sales and marketing manager of Rail Plus advising that 'High-speed trains in France and Italy are yield-managed like an airline... Eurail pass holders must buy an additional "pass-holder fare"... We highly recommend buying pass-holder fares before leaving Australia... Also, due to the frequency of trains in Europe... if a train has sold out of pass-holder fares you simply wait for the next one.'
farrermog is offline  

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are On


Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy -

FODOR'S VIDEO

All times are GMT -8. The time now is 05:47 PM.