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Is a rail pass better than point to point train tickets?

Is a rail pass better than point to point train tickets?

May 19th, 2012, 02:52 AM
  #1  
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Is a rail pass better than point to point train tickets?

I am heading over to Europe in a month with a friend and we are trying to work out which option is cheaper. I have read that point to point booked through local sites are better for small trips but if we want to travel from France-Germany-Switzerland-Czech Republic-Netherlands-Belgium and back to France which option would be better?
cat1101 is offline  
May 19th, 2012, 04:10 AM
  #2  
 
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You'll have to do the math with your itinerary and timing.
Gretchen is offline  
May 19th, 2012, 04:22 AM
  #3  
 
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I agree. The only way to accurately answer this is to compare the price of a rail pass with the prices of point-to-point tickets. Often, PTP tickets, or a combination of PTP and low-cost airline tickets comes out cheaper.
walkabout is offline  
May 19th, 2012, 04:48 AM
  #4  
 
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The basic idea is that the more you use the pass the cheaper it becomes. Some country's rail tickets per mile are a lot cheaper than others.

I also think the further geographically you go the more a pass might make sense.

But also remember that a pass can eliminate the need to book in advance to get the cheapest fares but on some trains you'll still have to pay for seat reservations. A lot depends on how much advance work you want to do.
Dukey1 is offline  
May 19th, 2012, 05:36 AM
  #5  
 
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Well yes do the math but with the Eurail Select Pass that is first class if you are over 25 and IME of years of incessant European rail travel first class is much much more relaxed - especially in countries like Germany, switzerland, Czech Rep and Belgium and Netherlands where you can hop on any train anytime - flexibility is also to be entered into your calculations - so for fully flexible first class travel the Eurail Select Pass will be a great bargain for that type of travel.

Online discounts must be booked weeks in advance to secure often and typically are not changeable nor refundable.

Great sources of info on planning a European rail extravaganza IMO - www.budgeteuropetravel.com; www.ricksteves.com and www.seat61.com.

and check out the special on Eurail Select Passes where if you buy it before the end of May you get one free extra day if it is a six-day or or longer pass and you can activate the pass anytime within six months of issue - active in europe prior to your first train trip.

So do not figure efficacy of a pass simply by cost - flexibility and first class are also things to consider.
PalenQ is offline  
May 19th, 2012, 06:36 PM
  #6  
 
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Have you considered renting a car? Compared to train costs, it is usually a break even cost for 2 or more folks, and you really have a lot of flexibility which is needed if you are traveling to smaller towns. But if you don't have much time and are only doing the big cities, a Eurail Super saver pass for 2 may be the right answer. Just remember that some French trains require (expensive) reservations and restrict the number of passengers that can use a railpass on some routes.
Travelforbeer is offline  
May 20th, 2012, 07:47 AM
  #7  
 
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some French trains require (expensive) reservations and restrict the number of passengers that can use a railpass on some routes.>

a bit changed recently - no restrictions on pass holders getting seat reservations - but there are two tiers of prices for that - normal usually 3 euros - hardly breaking the bank but if those are not available then it goes up to a rather heft 15 euros or so - but according to Man in Seat 61 recent comments here no longer restricting overall railpass holders - if train is not sold out then you will get a seat reservation, albeit at times perhaps at 15 euros and not 3.
PalenQ is offline  
May 20th, 2012, 12:28 PM
  #8  
 
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if train is not sold out then you will get a seat reservation,

According to the SNCF, the above statement is incorrect. The SNCF does allow, based upon their determination of possible no shows on any given train, the sales of surréservations or reservations without a seat guarantee on certain trains.

Lorsque l'ensemble des sièges numérotés ont été attribués, vous avez la possibilité d'effectuer une réservation sans placement définis. En cas de non-présentation de certains voyageurs, des sièges peuvent être inoccupés. Vous pourrez alors en disposer après le départ du train. S'il n'y a pas de siège libre, vous pourrez prendre place dans la voiture bar ou sur les sièges placés entre les compartiments (strapontin ou banquette).

www.voyages-sncf.com


The surréservation is issued with a car number only. If after the train departs, the holder of a surréservation finds an available seat in the his assigned car, he may occupy that seat. If all seats are occupied, the holder may sit in the bar if a seat is available there or on the bench between cars. However a seat is never guaranteed.
Sarastro is offline  
May 24th, 2012, 01:42 PM
  #9  
 
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sarano - I said if the train is not sold out - nothing about sur-reservation which is a whole different thing I think - anyway I am paraphrasing what Man in Seat 61 posted here - and that is what he said, if I recall correctly - that railpass holders now will be treated like anyone else wishing to buy a ticket on a train that is not already sold out.
PalenQ is offline  
May 24th, 2012, 01:52 PM
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Do they still have to pay what can be hefty supplements for the faster trains?

And as people are mentioning seat61 perhaps a link to his guide on railpasses is in order - http://seat61.com/Railpass-and-Eurail-pass-guide.htm
alanRow is offline  
May 26th, 2012, 05:57 AM
  #11  
 
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Do they still have to pay what can be hefty supplements for the faster trains?>

Only on a handful of trains - mainly the Thalys trains between Paris and Amsterdam. Otherwise I guess if you call 10 euros or so hefty then yes in Italy and Spain on the fastest trains and perhaps in France if, as said above, if the 3 euros seat reservations are sold out yes 15 euros. But on the vast majority of the hundreds of thousands of trains a day rolling all over Europe you can still pretty much just hop on.
PalenQ is offline  
Jun 22nd, 2012, 09:04 AM
  #12  
 
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And as people are mentioning seat61 perhaps a link to his guide on railpasses is in order - http://seat61.com/Railpass-and-Eurail-pass-guide.htm>

hey hey

And if ordering a railpass click on Man in Seat 61's commercial link to RailEurope in the US or Canada and book thru Man's site and he gets a cut of commission - what better source to go to?
PalenQ is offline  
Jun 23rd, 2012, 08:03 AM
  #13  
 
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Cars are great if you want to spend your time in the countryside but if going to the big tourist cities most folks are naturally want to do then cars can be a big hassle in cities - large swathes of many cities are not off-limits to private cars, parking can cost $30 a day or more (this and often predatory toll rates plus $8-9/gal gas often make car rentals more expensive that say a railpass) - many hotels do not offer parking or if do at a steep extra rate - things left in cars parked in cities are subject to theft in places like Prague, etc.

So for city to city travel take the train IMO - for countryside rent a car - and there is a Eurail-Drive pass that gives you a certain number of unlimited calendar train days and a number of your choosing of car rental days - pick up the car at a train station and say drive along the Mosel Valley and return car to another station and get back on the train!
PalenQ is offline  
Jun 23rd, 2012, 09:18 AM
  #14  
 
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This is a 3-way decision, not a 2-way one.

For a typical lomg-distance multi-city trip around Europe, the options are:

1) Ultra-cheap 'budget train fares'. Western European train fares now work like budget airlines. Book early on a no-refunds, no-changes basis, and Paris-Amsterdam starts at €35, Berlin-Prague from €29, Prague-Vienna from €19, Vienna-Rome with couchette €39, and so on. This usually blows railpasses out of the water price-wise, espeically with the extra fees that almost every fast train carries in france, Italy and Spain. The only trick is knowing which train operator website to go for for which route, so I've written a summary at http://www.seat61.com/Europe-train-tickets.htm

2) Railpass. This isn't usually now the money-saving option, it's the gold-plated 'freedom' option. No need to commit to a fixed itienerary. It may or may not save omoney over option (3) below, but is usually more expensive than option (1) above.

3) Full-price tickets bought at the station as you go. Cheap enough for short distances, eg Brussels-Bruges or Florence-Pisa, and also cheap in Eastern Europe. But can now be expensive on longer western European routes. That Paris-Amsterdam Thalys train that started at €35 if you pre-booked a month or two ahead no refunds, no changes, becomes €130 fully-flexible if you buy on the day!
Man_in_seat_61 is offline  
Jul 27th, 2012, 03:52 PM
  #15  
 
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My experience is that point to point tickets are more economical, but we are not the type of tourist who takes a train every day. If you will be constantly on the more, a pass may be advantageous, but as others have said, look up the cost of point to point tickets for your itinerary and compare that to the cost of a rail pass. If it is close, get the railpass as it gives you more flexibility and generally keeps you out of ticket lines (I don't mind ticket lines; I take some comfort in knowing the person who will be selling me the ticket may know a better route, or have some information that would change my plans).

We did buy one-year half fare cards for Swiss travel once, because we planned four trips to Switzerland in a 12-month period. It was a very good buy, but I suspect few people would want to go to Switzerland that much in a year.
clevelandbrown is offline  
Jul 28th, 2012, 10:03 AM
  #16  
 
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This is a 3-way decision, not a 2-way one.>

IMO a 4-way one - throwing first class into the mix - many Eurailpasses are only first class if you are over 25 and IME of years of railing around Europe first class has definite perks - like if reservations are not required - just hopping on trains and nearly always finding lots of empty seats - much easier to store luggage - often IME on a nearby empty seat - 2nd class, perhaps due to the cheap online tickets - is often these days chock full - lot harder to stash bags, etc and a packed train car is never IME as relaxed as one more sparsely filled.

So Man I think you should also enter the first class thing that many passes offer into the mix. Comparing first class pass prices to discounted or regular 2nd class tickets is like comparing apples to oranges.

And I do remember you saying here on one thread you were also 'an aficionado of first class train travel - so if the cost of 2nd class tickets is anywhere in the ballpark of a first class pass IMO go for the pass if the difference is not that great.
PalenQ is offline  
Jul 29th, 2012, 10:09 AM
  #17  
 
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The only trick is knowing which train operator website to go for for which route, so I've written a summary at http://www.seat61.com/Europe-train-tickets.htm>

thanks a lot man for that info and yes Man's commercial site www.seat61.com is a font of great info for European train travel, even though it is somewhat oriented to Brits coming to and fro from Britain - since Man is I believe a retired British railway something.
PalenQ is offline  

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