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Figuring out how to purchase train tickets!!! Can't I just ask Scotty to beam me up?

Figuring out how to purchase train tickets!!! Can't I just ask Scotty to beam me up?

Apr 16th, 2008, 05:09 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Mar 2005
Posts: 104
Figuring out how to purchase train tickets!!! Can't I just ask Scotty to beam me up?

I've searched Fodors and every other site I can come up with. I've looked at all the individual train sites until I'm blue in the face. I called BETS. I know BETS are experts but they sure didn't turn me into one. When I asked "how do I know if I need a railpass?", the answer was "if it saves you money." That was one of the few things I already knew!

I'm not traveling until September but I wanted to get it all figured out before then. My itinerary is:
-London to Paris
-Paris to Wurzburg
-Wurzburg to Rothenburg
-Rothenburg to Hohenschwangau (sp?)
-Hohenschwangau to Venice (overnight)
-Venice to Milan

What I know so far:
- I need to, and can, purchase Eurostar tickets from London to Paris now.
-There will be a little bit of bus travel (Hohenschwangau to Fuesson?) for overnight to Venice.
-I can purchase some tickets 90 days in advance (I think)
-I can purchase some tickets 60 days in advance (I think)

What I don't know:
-Do I need railpasses? There will be 3 of us traveling together (1 adult, 2 seniors)
-What trains need reservations? How do make reservations?
-How do I book tickets? I keep seeing different sites mentioned and some people say they are different prices. However, every site I check shows the same price (entering dates about a month from now).
-When I talked to Bob at BETS, he said I could get Prem fares or some other discount. How do I get these discounts?
-When do I book each of these?
-Do the rates and routes stay the same for a period of time? In other words, is what I am seeing for dates a month from now be the same in September?

I'm sure there's much more I don't know but can't think of any right now. If anyone can walk me through this mess, I would be forever grateful. Please assume I know nothing! Bob at BETS went into explanations as if I knew what he was talking about and really just ended up making me more confused.

Thanks for all your help!
dherron is offline  
Apr 16th, 2008, 06:28 PM
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 32,404
Go to railsaver.com and enter your itinerary, then click only if a pass saves me money. It will tell you which pass they think you need, but keep in mind that even with a pass you will still need to pay for seats on some trains and fees just to ride some of the high-speed trains.

You might want to skip the passes (I don't think they are good for London/Paris leg anyway)and rent a car while in Germany. I would also skip the train from Paris to Germany and take a budget flight (Air Berlin) to an airport close to Wurzburg and pickup a car there. Drop the car before leaving Germany to avoid the hefty out of country drop fee. Car rentals prices are usually better if you rent for at least three days.

Prems (early purchase discount)are available on the French trains website for certain trains/routes.

Trains vary in each country and some tickets include seat reservations and some don't.
kybourbon is offline  
Apr 16th, 2008, 06:36 PM
Join Date: Jun 2003
Posts: 12,174
Eurostar.com for London to Paris.

Voyages-sncf.com for Paris to Wurzburg (or Bahn.de).

Bahn.de is your friend for the German segments, and probably the Germany-Venice segment.

Trenitalia.com for Venice to Milan. You may be able to get a discount price, but if not, you can buy the ticket in Italy.

Even if you can't purchase the tickets now, take a look at all these web sites now with dummy daets to see what the date restrictions are, and to get an idea of how fares vary.
WillTravel is offline  
Apr 17th, 2008, 07:34 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 74,144
Good advice from WT
ira is offline  
Apr 17th, 2008, 07:39 AM
Join Date: Jun 2006
Posts: 17,549
If you're far enough pout and DON'T need a pass then signing up for an account (free) at the germanRail site is worthwhile..you can order tickets and they will send them to you in the mail at no extra charge.

I've used them for tickets and seat reservations for trips within Germany as well as cross-border and overnight services..they are great.
Dukey is offline  
Apr 17th, 2008, 11:22 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Mar 2005
Posts: 104
Thank you so much for all the replies! I'm still not an expert but I am eating this elephant one bite at a time. I still have additional comments and questions if anyone can weigh in.
1. We will not be renting a car.
2. How do I know which trains need reservations? How do I make reservations?
3. When do I book each of these? 90 days out? 60 days out?
4. Do the rates and routes stay the same for a period of time? In other words, is what I am seeing for dates a month from now be the same in September?
5. I was told that bahn.de does not accept certain credit cards, does not mail tickets to the US, and sometimes will not dispense the ticket when you try to get them out of the machine at the train station. Is any of this true?

I have been to all the mentioned websites and put in dummy dates to see what is available. It appears that I can get point-to-point tickets cheaper than buying a pass. I realize there are a lot of variables but is there any way to tell now if I should buy a railpass for travel in September?

I knew I could count on you guys!

dherron is offline  
Apr 17th, 2008, 01:12 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 33,420
The train schedule should have an indicator on the listing if a train requires reservations. I've never made a reservation except in person at a train station, usually. When I've bought tickets online, it was only for high-speed trains (in France or Spain) and the ticket included the reservation, as those trains require them. I don't know the Italian train system.

I have only bought German train tickets in person in a German rail station, so can't advise on that one. I had no problem doing that with my credit cards.
Christina is offline  
Apr 17th, 2008, 01:31 PM
Join Date: Oct 2004
Posts: 1,618

I am not aware of any ``reservations required'' routes like we have in the US (but there might be some that I don't know about, my experience is limited to Germany/Italy local trains). You can pay extra for reserved seats on a particular train/day/time, or just buy the ticket and hope to find a seat.

I have never had problems buying tickets/making reservations a day or two in advance, while over there. I would just ask a local (ticket agent or information booth) if, say, the saturday morning train to Pisa was typcally crowded. I prefer to pay extra for the seat reservation (peace of mind) when I am travelling with my luggage.

The railpass is rarely worth it, IMHO, unless you are traveling every day and going long distances.

For the most part the schedule and prices pretty stable, although a few travel times might be added/subtracted according to season. So summer might be slightly different from September, but not much.

I have had some trouble using the Bahn ticket machines with a US credit card. In one case I had success with a different card; in another case I was able to get my tickets from the agent instead (and used the card that didn't work in the machine). I don't know what the problem was.
capxxx is offline  
Apr 17th, 2008, 01:54 PM
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 24,082
I'm quite sure that Fodorite WillTravel was able to purchase tickets online from Bahn.de and have the tickets mailed to her. Hopefully she'll see this and respond.
yk is offline  
Apr 17th, 2008, 02:15 PM
Join Date: Apr 2003
Posts: 14
No experience on German Trains but Trenitalia is easy. You can buy your tickets on-line and print them yourself -- nothing to pickup at the train station. I know in France, if you have purchased tickets on-line you have to retreive them at a ticket booth in the station. The automated machines don't work with U.S. credit cards, they require a card with a microchip -- sounds like it might be the same situation in Germany.
mindyhanzik is offline  
Apr 17th, 2008, 02:22 PM
Join Date: Jun 2003
Posts: 12,174
Yes, yk is right.

I had Bahn.de mail me tickets (to Canada) and it accepted my MasterCard. I know others have had success in the US. They arrived quite quickly, too.

I've also purchased online self-print tickets on Bahn.de with no problems with my credit card.

Which option is available depends on some factor that I have no idea about.

The main factor that will affect ticket price is if you get the lowest rate. The regular rate and the special rate and some intermediate rates are unlikely to vary much by September, but it makes a huge difference if you get the lowest rate or not.

For our Cologne-Amsterdam tickets, reservations were optional. I purchased them anyway, not knowing for sure whether I should. As it turned out, the train had plenty of space, but it was nice to know we had predetermined seats in the crush of boarding.

Reservations were required as part of the ticket price on some other trains we have taken - Thalys and ICE.

I had credit card problems on the Netherlands site, as have others, but that's not part of your itinerary.

You can figure out if it's a 60-day or 90-day thing by checking 60 days or 90 days out now and seeing what happens.

I'm sure I posted how being perhaps 6 or 8 hours late with my ticket purchases after they became available probably cost me about 40 Euros or more. (I went to a party on that evening instead of staying home to buy tickets.)
WillTravel is offline  
Apr 17th, 2008, 02:33 PM
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 32,404
Some trains such as Italy's AV, ES or ICPlus trains require seat reservations. If you buy (or price)the tickets on Trenitalia, the price will include the seat reservation. If you buy from a reseller or get a railpass then the seat will not be included and you will have to pay extra to reserve a seat (15€ for ES trains). The prices for train tickets won't change, but there are a few discount tickets available in advance. On Trenitalia when you get to fare selection, select Amica for the discount if it's available. Otherwise select standard. 2nd class is fine on AV or ES trains in Italy. AV and ES are the fastest Italian trains with few to no stops.
kybourbon is offline  
Apr 17th, 2008, 02:56 PM
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 3,227
I really would take a flight from Paris to Munich and travel by train from there, your itinerary is through Bavaria if I'm not too lost in geography. And then another flight from Munich to Venice.

Even though I love train travel, those long distances can be very tiring and you said you are travelling with 2 seniors.
kenderina is offline  
Apr 17th, 2008, 03:30 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Mar 2005
Posts: 104
Okay, I think I'm starting to get it! You people are just so helpful!

Please let me know if this plan will work:
- Go to eurostar.com and purchase London to Paris tickets now.
- Go to bahn.de and book Paris to Wurzburg, Wurzburg to Rothenburg, Rothenburg to Hohenschwangau, and Hohenschwangau to Venice (overnight). I would do this either 90 or 60 days out and they will mail the tickets to me. Voyages-sncf.com (for Paris to Wurzburg) simply doesn't work so bahn.de it is. It appears I can book this segment on bahn.de as it shows up when I play with dummy dates.
- Go to trenitalia.com and purchase Venice to Milan. Print tickets from my computer after I purchase.
- IF I need reservations the website will tell me (I think??).
- Cross my fingers and hope I get the discounted fares.

A few more questions:

The German rail site is what? Bahn.de?

Will Eurostar mail the tickets to me?

Some comments:

Planes are probably out as the places we want to visit or are staying are mostly near the train stations. We don't care to travel to far off airports and do security, baggage pick up, etc. And, we really do enjoy trains; relaxing and viewing the scenery.

I really shouldn't be calling my travel mates "seniors". Yes, they are over 60 (barely) but are very young 60's. They are "seniors" only in the sense that they qualify for some discounts.

A good party is worth 40 Euros any day! It was a good party, wasn't it?

dherron is offline  
Apr 17th, 2008, 06:06 PM
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 10,157
You will not get tickets from Trenitalia, just an emailed reservation confirmation and number that you should print and bring with your to show the conductor on the train. Personally, the Trenitalia site is so quirky that I would wait til I reached Venice to purchase the ticket to Milan. You could buy it before leaving the station when you arrive. It's a popular route with plenty of trains, so it shouldn't be a problem to wait.
ellenem is offline  
Apr 17th, 2008, 09:39 PM
Join Date: May 2007
Posts: 7,719
You will not need to buy tickets in advance for those two legs:

Both legs are covered by the Bayern (Bavaria) ticket. That's a day pass for regional trains (and buses), good after 9am on weekdays, all day on weekends/holidays.
It costs 27 Euros for up to 5 people traveling together.

You can exclude high speed trains from itineraries at bahn.de by choosing the option "local trains only" to compare differences in travel time. There should be no major differences since both legs are not using any high speed corridors.
Cowboy1968 is offline  
Apr 18th, 2008, 06:18 AM
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 24,082
To add a little to Cowboy's suggestion on the Bayern Ticket, all 3 of you can travel together for €27/day. It is only valid on regional trains. It also covers local transportation (such as trams, buses in towns/cities).

Here's the link to the Bayern Ticket website:
yk is offline  
Apr 18th, 2008, 03:05 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Mar 2005
Posts: 104
Yes, it's all starting to come together now. Finally!

I did go to bayern-takt.de to check out the Bayern ticket as suggested by ellenem and yk. However, it doesn't appear that it gives me an option to purchase on-line even though it states "Price only at automates and online; from 01. January 2007". Do I need to purchase this at the station? I wanted to purchase on-line, pre-trip as much as possible. If I purchase at the station, do I get them from a booth or machine?

Oh, and one other question: could I use the Bayern ticket for the Hohenschwangau to Milan leg so we can board the overnight to Venice?

As always, you're great!

Thanks for all your help.

dherron is offline  
Apr 18th, 2008, 03:13 PM
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 24,082
dherron- NO NEED to purchase the Bayern ticket in advance. You can buy it from a ticket machine at the station. All machines have English option, and they take CC. The whole transaction will take a few minutes. I think Die Bahn will charge you a fee if you buy the ticket from a real person (like from a ticket window).

AFAIK the Bayern ticket will only be valid as far as the border town. So NO you can't use it to get to MILAN!!!
yk is offline  
Apr 18th, 2008, 03:59 PM
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Join Date: Mar 2005
Posts: 104
Thanks for the quick reply.

So, if I understand correctly, I just show up at the train station in Wurzburg and buy the Bayern ticket from a machine, using my US credit card. I use this to travel to Rothenburg. Since the Rothenburg to Hohenschwangau trip will be on another day, I go to the train station in Rothenburg and buy another Bayern ticket from a machine.

But, I will need to purchase a point-to-point ticket from Hohenschswangau to Milan.

So far, sounds easy enough! I think it'll work!

Thanks again!
dherron is offline  

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