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Rail questions: Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland

Rail questions: Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland

Old Jan 20th, 2003, 10:15 AM
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Rail questions: Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland

I'm planning a trip for September 2003, and have these questions about using the trains (already had the car vs. train discussion, we're sticking with trains right now).

Netherlands train tickets:
Plan: travel from Amsterdam to Koln, wish to depart at Utrecht. The most direct route on die Bahn site for this utilizes either EC or ICE trains, and indicates "please reserve". I deduce I need to purchase each leg separately, ie. Amsterdam to Utrecht, visit, then separate ticket for Utrecht to Koln, which requires a reservation. Please confirm or correct me.
(I'm thinking Utrecht, but is Arnhem more interesting?)

Germany train tickets:
Plan: travel from Koln to St Goar, explore around this area (short train hops), then St Goar to Basel. (3-4 days of train travel).
Estimated point-to-point for Koln/Frankfurt/Basel route on Rick Steve's map is about $100 per person, while the German Flexipass Twin 2nd cl. price is $135. Am I right that the pass would be beneficial for coming close to p-t-p ticket price, but giving additional benefit of 'on / off' style travel (and also short boat cruise)?

Switzerland train tickets:
Plan: travel from Basel to Luzern, stay in Luzern, travel to Zurich (fly home). I'm guessing it's best to just buy point-to-point at the local stations for this portion. My question here is: which of these types of trains would allow a passenger to get off at an intermediate stop for a look around, then to reboard a different train to continue on to Luzern? "Schnellzug" or "InterCity" ?
I don't think InterCity will allow it, b/c die Bahn indicates "please reserve".
Obviously, I'm not much of a 'wing it' personality type. I planned to this detail for our last trip and it went very smoothly, and was a great experience. I also feel if something does go wrong, it should be minimal.
Thanks for any clarifications you can make about my thoughts above.
Old Jan 21st, 2003, 07:21 AM
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My post sank like a stone! Anyone out there with advice? thanks...
Old Jan 21st, 2003, 07:26 AM
Eye Spy
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Log onto the Dutch National Railroad website (Nederlandse Spoorwegen) at www.ns.nl There is an English language option if you do not read Dutch. You can take the Intercity from Utrecht to Koeln -- I have done it many times and you never have to get off the train. The total trip takes about 2.5 hours and makes intermittent stops in Arhem and then in Germany, in Duesseldorf and then Koeln. It's a very good way to go. Good for you!
Old Jan 21st, 2003, 07:28 AM
Eye Spy
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I like Arnhem and Utrecht but for me, Utrecht is more interesting. The countryside around Arnhem (Gelderland) has many interesting sites to explore as does the Province of Utrecht.
Old Jan 21st, 2003, 07:34 AM
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Thanks, EyeSpy... but actually, I'm trying to figure out best way to train from Amsterdam to Cologne, WITH stops in either/both Utrecht and Arnhem along the way.
I've had one Holland-only train experience, where you bought a ticket for A to D, but could get off at B and C if you wanted to, and reboard a later train to finish ride to D. The die Bahn selections for Ams-Cologne seem to require seat reservations, so I think I have to break up the ticketing. Does that sound right?
For Germany pass, are any reservations required to explore along the Rhine?
ie. base in St Goar, visit Boppard, Bacharach, etc.
Is a "Schnellzug" the kind of train that will allow a hop off/ reboard later kind of trip?
Thanks again
Old Jan 21st, 2003, 08:46 AM
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Regarding Germany Tickets:

The Railpass does seem like it might work well for you, especially since you'd get a "free" Rhine cruise. Keep in mind you can get somewhat cheaper fares under the new DB price structure. If you buy your tickets one day ahead for a specific train, you get 10% off and a companion gets another 50% off that fare. (I don't think you can get the companion fare with the "normal", walk up, take any train price.) Checking the DB website shows that Rick Steves prices are about right. You _might_ be able to use the pass for the German part of the Amsterdam->Cologne trip, but I'm not sure how you would go about validating for that day. Perhaps they'll know at either the Amsterdam international ticket desk or you can contact DB via email.

Most of the trains along the Rhine will be "Regional Bahn" (RB), which are the "lowest" class of DB train (I think). You will most definately not need reservations for these. (You can't even make them.) On non-"Reservation Required" trains (in Germany all but a few of the ICE trains), you can simply hop on and off.

Enjoy your trip,
Old Jan 21st, 2003, 08:56 AM
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Thanks, Paul... I feel a plan coming together...
Old Jan 21st, 2003, 08:56 AM
Hans H
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Ah, the wonders of the German railway system. Since the middle of December, a new price system has been introduced which I normally describe with words unfitting in polite company (as do a lot of other people). Beside the point that I don't understand it yet, it's also way to complicated to be explained here.

Okay, some of the new ideas which might be of help for you:

Prior to the reform, tickets were valid for a months after purchase and you could hop off the train. By now, they are valid only for the day of the purchase. You got to pay 15 Euro if you change the ticket. It might be the much more convenient way to go if you simply buy tickets at every station (there are ticket machines which take credit cards if you want to avoid queues).

Good thing: Children under 14 ride for free. If a group travels, only one pays the full price, the rest pays only half. Keep that in mind before buying passes.

If you reserve a ticket a week in advance, you get another 40% discount. But this ticket is valid only for one train and only a limited number of tickets per train are sold with this discount. If you miss the train, there goes the discount and you gotta pay another 15 Euro.

"Please reserve" doesn't mean (as far as I know, but that's no guarantee) that you have to reserve. The Thalys or some Night Trains need a reservation, but most trains don't. If you look into the German page, the German word is Reservierungspflicht if you got to have a reservation.

Old Jan 21st, 2003, 04:03 PM
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I know a lot of posters here prefer to save money by buying point to point tickets, but I am a believer in the Eurail or Europass, even if it is slightly more expensive. For starters you can hop on and off any train anywhere anytime. Secondly you will not have the problems of (sometimes) long lines at ticket offices, and the occasional language/translation problem. In Germany you can cruise the Rhine between Cologne and Mainz for free with the pass, and in Switzerland most lake cruises are also included. You are also travelling 1st.Class on the trains, less crowded, bigger seats, some observation cars in Switzerland etc. Check out a 3/4 country Europass - it could save you a lot of time and hassle for little, if any, extra cost.
Old Jan 22nd, 2003, 05:12 AM
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Yes, Tony, that is what I'm figuring out here... I'd prefer the convenience of a pass, too, and I'm willing to pay a small premium over the cost of p-to-p tickets (but not a LOT more)...so all of the above information will help me determine what to buy. Thanks!
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