Rail passes--purchase in States or wait?

Feb 20th, 2007, 08:44 AM
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Rail passes--purchase in States or wait?

I just love this site as fodorites are so informative. I am traveling throughout Europe this summer and utilized the railsaver website (wonderful!) but I don't know if I should purchase the different tickets before travel or should I wait until we get to the station to purchase? I am trying to make this trip as stress free as possible and think purchasing it ahead of time might be better? Then what about the reservations? Can that be done at the same time? Thanks in advance for any and all help!
giggles36kd is offline  
Feb 20th, 2007, 08:53 AM
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If you are buying a Eurail railpass then it generally costs more in Europe.

But if not, who knows - information about your itinerary would be useful as Europe isn't one country and what is "true" in the UK isn't going to be "true" in France, let alone Greece or Slovakia or...
alanRow is offline  
Feb 20th, 2007, 08:59 AM
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Whilst virtually all passes can be bought in Europe, some like the Eurailpasses are sold only at the few Eurail Aide offices in some main stations and are primarily for non-Europeans who lose their pass and buy replacements - European residents not being able to buy or use the pass at all. And these passes are usually pegged at 15-20% above the US $ price everytime i've checked so they could cost lots more.
Country passes are different - some can be bought in the country and some cannot (France railpass IMEx) and at times could be a bit cheaper or more expensive - Swiss for example last time i checked were quite a bit more in Switzerland at station than in US thru RailEurope, part owned by Swiss Railways.
But the needed reservations would be a good idea in itself to buy here if you're the type who wants everything pinned down and you just have to board the train. Many of the better trains now in Europe demand reservations before boarding and at times can be hard to get on the spot, especially in France where there seems to be an allotment on the number of railpass reservations given out on TGV runs that can sell out otherwise - this i know for sure so that a Paris-Nice or Avignon passholder reservation (3 euros in France) can be impossible to get but they will sell you a full fare ticket on that same train.
So with Eurailpasses and country passes that are not available in the country, which seems to be many, i'd buy thru RailEurope, after of course investigating whether the pass is better than point to point tickets.
I always recommend BETS (www.budgeteuropetravel.com; 800-44-12387) for passes and their expertise at reservations, which some agents, like Rick Steves, refuse to even do because they are so time consuming and pay no commission virtually. BETS' free European Planning and Rail Guide, available on their home page, will also answer lots of your rail questions - the perfect primer for novices. www.ricksteves.com also has great info for European rail travel and rail passes. Yes you can make any train reservations that are required or desired when you buy your pass..at least thru agents like BETS or RailEurope though again many other agents it seem more and more won't bother with them. Reservations can usually be made in Europe without too much hassle though you do have to go to the train station and wait in line and deal with a language barrier. Unfortunately most ticketing and reservation machines in stations that locals use don't have facilities for reserving with a railpass. As these machines in places like Italy are widely used by locals it seems ticket windows have longer lines as less are open and i think the train company wants folks to use online or machine ticketing. Reservation do cost a bit more here though.
PalenQ is online now  
Feb 20th, 2007, 09:28 AM
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Thanks so much for the information! I was going to use AAA as they provide insurance in case of lost tixs but will look into budgeteurope as well.
giggles36kd is offline  
Feb 20th, 2007, 09:39 AM
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I didn't read the very lengthy and informative post, but how long will you be gone. It may not pay to have a pass at all.
Gretchen is online now  
Feb 20th, 2007, 09:45 AM
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I didn't read the very lengthy post either - it didn't have enough blank lines in it to make it decipherable.
Robespierre is offline  
Feb 20th, 2007, 09:47 AM
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giggles- there are also fees that some agents charge - AAA perhaps does not and neither does BETS (though they have some kind of time requirement for no-fee issuing) but many agents have a $15 handling fee and perhaps a mailing fee. And with the pass you can purchase the optional Pass Protection Plan, at $17 for a Saverpass or $14 for an individual pass or $10 for a solo country pass - this covers the cost of replacement tickets if you lose your pass in Europe. Handling fees for individual train reservations can also be charged - there is always in my experience a $15 reservation fee per total number of reservations, not for each, but there is a charge for each reservation as well - these fees seem standard no matter where you buy you pass.
PalenQ is online now  
Feb 20th, 2007, 01:35 PM
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Oh Boy...there's a lot to these rail passes! I did not provide the details of my trip. I am traveling from Amsterdam to Germany (Bacharach, Rothenburg and Fussen). I think I have Germany narrowed down to a 4 day Flexipass. Next we will base out of Grindlewald, Switzerland. I will also do a 4 day pass. From Switzerland we'll be headed to Paris. I will be using the Metro in Paris so no need for anything other than a point-point ticket. I'll buy a Eurostar ticket to London where we'll use the tube mostly. I did contact AAA and they don't charge a handling or shipping fee. I am still a bit confused about the absolute need for reservations but suppose it's better to have one than not to have a seat, especially since we are traveling in July. Any thoughts are appreciated!
giggles36kd is offline  
Feb 20th, 2007, 02:05 PM
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I just bought a rail pass on www.eurail.com. They are offering a promo -a free day on the Eurail Select Pass.
Kendra is offline  
Feb 21st, 2007, 06:35 AM
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The free extra day on Eurail Select Passes is a RailEurope initiative that all their agents offer or should...most US agents i believe work thru RailEurope so it won't matter where you buy the pass to get the extra day, which is on all types of Eurail Select passes six days or longer. Must buy before 3/31/07 i believe and activate within six months of issue. A good deal if buying such a pass for use after April, gain an extra day.
PalenQ is online now  
Feb 21st, 2007, 06:42 AM
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Hi Kelly,

Have you entered your itinerary at www.railsaver.com and clicked "only if it saves money"?

The high-speed trains require reservations, which you will have to go to the train station or a travel agent to get.

If you buy PtP, the reservations are included in the price.

Also, if you are taking night trains you will have to get your sleeping accomodations the same way.

Have you looked up train schedules at www.bahn.de?

What's your itinerary?

ira is offline  
Feb 21st, 2007, 08:44 AM
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You can save real money if you buy your Paris-London Eurostar tickets ahead of time. That's also true elsewhere in France, but it doesn't sound like you'll be training elsewhere in France.
Mimar is offline  
Feb 21st, 2007, 02:31 PM
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Thanks for all the great suggestions! I am going to purchase through my AAA travel agent as they provide insurance in case the tickets are lost/stolen. I really am thankful for all the feedback!
giggles36kd is offline  
Feb 21st, 2007, 03:49 PM
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Watch out!

AAA doesn't give away anything - except maybe travel guides to US destinations and passport photos.

But the cost of that insurance might well be hidden in their markup on the tickets.
Robespierre is offline  
Feb 22nd, 2007, 06:08 AM
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You should ask AAA explicitly about railpasses, if they are considered tickets. I know FedEx, etc. won't insure tickets or railpasses and will only reimburse you for the cost of the paper they are printed on.

If you lose you pass on the last day will they give you a full replacement pass, not knowing really how days you've used it. not like airline tickets as there is no way to know how or when a railpass has been used.

I'd check to see the explicit coverage.
PalenQ is online now  

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