Rail Europe, Master of Ripoffs

Aug 3rd, 2006, 06:40 PM
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Rail Europe, Master of Ripoffs

Granted, my title is a little forceful, but let me cite my example before you react to my statement. Several of us on the board have commented on the fact that Rail Europe charges more a ticket than the same ticket would cost in Europe.

Two days ago, I set up an account on Die Bahn, the German national rail system, and ordered 2nd class tickets for travel from Munich, main station, to Basel, SBB station.

Because I need to travel on a specific date, I was able to buy a ticket with seat reservations for €50.50, one way.
That amount converts to about $65 US.

I ordered my ticket on-line, paid with a MC credit card. The DB on-line ticket shop sent me my ticket by email, and I printed it with my jet printer on standard sized paper according to the accompanying instructions.

For laughs I thought I would compare prices and find out how much the same ticket would have cost had I ordered it from Rail Europe. I expected to see a cost of about $125.00 plus shipping of about $15.00 more.

How close was my estimate? Well not too close in my opinion. The Rail Europe price for a restricted "economy" ticket on the same date and the same train was $199.00.

That price is more than 300% higher by my calculation than what I paid. If I triple what my cost, I am still a few dollars shy of the cost I might have paid Rail Europe.

Given those facts, I ask myself this question: How can Rail Europe justify the charges?

Those of you curious about using Rail Europe should be aware that under some circumstances you can pay dearly for the convenience.

I even question the convenience!! How much more convenient could DB make it for me?

The transaction compared to many I have completed over the years was a piece of cake.

The main restriction is that I MUST present the exact same credit card in Germany that I used to make the transaction over here.
bob_brown is offline  
Aug 3rd, 2006, 07:03 PM
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That was your experience,,I , however have bought Eurostar tickets from them along with some others so I didn't haver to pay shipping and have paid less.

jody is offline  
Aug 4th, 2006, 05:43 AM
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My experience is that once I requested discounted fare tickets Amsterdam-Paris, then received an email that the discount fare was no longer available.

The second time they tried that, I canceled the order and have been using the SNCF rail website ever since. Although they "don't mail to the US", I *have* received tickets by mail twice (no shipping).
Travelnut is offline  
Aug 4th, 2006, 06:11 AM
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For comparison, I used the DB web site to get fares for trains today for the same journey (München Hbf - Basel SBB) and the one way fares vary between 68.80 euros and 83.80 euros, presumably depending on the type of train and route, etc. This is a Friday afternoon in the peak summer season and trains everywhere will be busy, so these are not cheap advance-purchase fares, but the fares you might pay if you turned up at the station and asked for a ticket for the next train.
GeoffHamer is offline  
Aug 4th, 2006, 06:18 AM
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I am surprised, Bob, that we have not seen your comments on the numerous posts by PalQ which assert that it can sometime be cheaper, or just as cheap, to order tickets through RailEurope.

I have used the Bahn site and been very pleased, as you have. However, there are times when various sites are not as "convenient" as agencies can be for booking some services.

I have also used the much-beloved (here) SNCF site but have found there are times when it has not given me the options that I knew existed for travel.

RailEurope exists, in part, since it is SNCF's marketing arm for North America. (Which is why anyone IN North America cannot [technically] get tickets directly from SNCF) and why the US, Canada, etc., do not appear on SNCF's mail-out drop down list.

And then there are those people who actually either don't know you can sometimes get it cheaper or actually are willing to pay for the convenience and don't care that it costs more.

Are they stupid? Guess you'll just have to ask them.
Dukey is offline  
Aug 4th, 2006, 06:48 AM
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Never mind the expense, my first experience with Rail Europe used through AAA was to be booked on a train that didn't exist. When I checked on my reservations in Europe I had to make new reservations for an additional fee.

Except for a rail pass for Switzerland, I have since booked all trains once I am in Europe.

Explore the possibility of having your tickets mailed to your first hotel if you can't wait until you arrive.
Barbara_in_CT is offline  
Aug 4th, 2006, 06:48 AM
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I have found the same sort of rip-off when trying to book rail tickets for Spain on the Rail Europe website versus the Spanish RENFE website. I thought that I was doing something wrong because the prices were SO incompatible.
fluffnfold is offline  
Aug 4th, 2006, 07:26 AM
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<am surprised, Bob, that we have not seen your comments on the numerous posts by PalQ which assert that it can sometime be cheaper, or just as cheap, to order tickets through RailEurope>

well when i have said that it was before RailEurope recently jacked up ticket prices, starting in Jan - before that many prices, including tickets in Germany for the years 2004 and 2005 were indeed cheaper - and it Italy also at times were as cheap (talking about full fare tickets) - you may notice in my recent posts that i often say RE is much higher in many cases - a search will support this - thus i change my line as the prices change.
That said RE is still very competitive on Eurostar London-Paris and on things like Swiss Railpasses which, for the exactly same pass, is significantly cheaper thru them than if bought in Switzerland.
You obviously can't go back and compare prices of RE and DB from last years but it often was the case RE's was cheaper, especially on ICE trains.
and the statement at the top can still be true - sometimes can be cheaper - to wit RE's current $16 Paris-Amsterdam Thalys special and 50% off Thalys sale (thru end of Aug) - and i have seen $29 tickets for Germany-Italy trains on their site and $19 Nice-Milan so i stand by the statement but i always say check prices and refer folks to the appropriate German, French or Italian web sites.
So i don't think you accurately portrayed my stance on this, which now granted RE's are often highly inflated - i've used these words several times in the recent past - but they still can be as cheap or cheaper in some - some - not nearly all cases.
My advice is to check both sources.
PalQ is offline  
Aug 4th, 2006, 07:31 AM
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>How can Rail Europe justify the charges?<

Where is it written that they have to justify their prices?

ira is online now  
Aug 4th, 2006, 07:48 AM
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In any case RE's $185-199 Munich-Basel fare is ridiculous for them to even quote since they sell a 4-day in one month unlimited travel German railpass at (Twin pass) $150 p.p. - $49 cheaper than their own way one shot ticket. So i guess Bob should use the $150 as a benchmark for how much it's inflated.
Ira - yes - how can hotels and restaurants, etc. justify their prices, etc. We single out RailEurope as Master of Ripoffs where they are certainly not the only ones - has anyone seen airfares skyrocket this year - and not all due to fuel costs.
But with the Internet and places like Fodors and Larry in Colorado, MorganB, WallyK and others pointing out the descrepency the high fares won't pan out in the long run. And again, they are often ridiculous cause they sell a railpass that gives 4 days of travel at a cheaper rate.
PalQ is offline  
Aug 4th, 2006, 08:23 AM
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Comments on PalQ?

I have said nothing for one major reason. Until now, I had not developed any definite facts to support a comment on RE prices. No basis, no comment.

Why no facts? Simple, I lack experience with Rail Europe. In previous years I bought tickets only twice in advance and both times I used the SNCF web site.

This year market the first time I have needed a train ticket in Germany since Die Bahn began its "print at home" service. Usually I wait until I am in Europe before buying, but Die Bahn has been offering good prices for advanced purchases. Therefore I decided to see what was available. Having read elsewhere that RE was often higher, I decided to check it out just to see if I had indeed gotten a cheaper price from Die Bahn.

Normally I don't spend time looking up prices on national rail sites to comapre with Rail Europe's charges just to have something to do. Again, no basis, no comment.

Moreover, I have not needed train tickets between European nations in recent years. On my last 4 trips, I have flown within Europe - EasyJet, Aer Lingus, and Finnair. Again, no reason to worry about rail ticket prices.

If you want to verify my facts, I think it is quite easy to do so. Consult Die Bahn for the ticket prices from Munich main station to Basel, SBB station, 8:40 departure. Then do the same at Rail Europe. I think you will see the same prices I did.

bob_brown is offline  
Aug 4th, 2006, 09:43 AM
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My advice is always the same, check out the local rail companies beforee booking through raileurope, then decide if the (normally) higher cost is worth the reduction in inconvenience.
alanRow is offline  
Aug 9th, 2006, 11:55 AM
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DH and my brother-in-law are coordinating their trip to Baden-Baden from Belgium. My husband will be leaving from Brussels and my BiL will meet up with him in Liege on the train to Koln; then they'll journey together to BB.

BiL made the mistake of contacting Rail Europe. The "best" second class price they could quote him was double the DB full fare for first class! Ridiculous. Fortunately, he didn't buy the ticket from them.
BTilke is offline  
Aug 9th, 2006, 01:43 PM
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I have always purchased mt rail tickets while in Europe. On my next trip I figured the Benelux- Germany railpass would work the best for me. What other choice do I have besisdes Rail Europe.
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