Top Two European Ripoffs

Old Nov 8th, 2002, 08:55 AM
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Top Two European Ripoffs

My candidates:

1. Rail Europe - for charging much higher prices than the actual rail lines.

2. Those hike and bike tour groups who charge upwards of $200 per night when it can be done much, much more cheaply on your own.
Old Nov 8th, 2002, 09:02 AM
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Ann , I agree.
Some times I feel like taking one of those hiking tours, but when I add up I know we can do it on our own for much, much less..
Rail Europe is a shameless.
I also noticed that European restaurants favored by US travel guide books and newspapers like the NYTimes and others after a while their quality goes down and prices go up.

Old Nov 8th, 2002, 09:19 AM
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I disagree with respect to Rail Europe. You are paying for American convenience and customer service which, generally speaking, bets customer service in Europe (UK anyway). I bought tickets for the eurostar for my last trip. I bought them in advance from rail europe so I wouldn't have to waste my limited time in europe trying to buy tickets (for which reservations were required). the day I was to travel from London to france there was a multi-day rail strike. I ended up having to fly rather than take the train. When I got to Paris I called the eurostar office to ask for a refund and was told that the only way to get it was to go to one of the train stations (I forget which) and wait in line with the all the other people who had the same problem. I called again and spoke to an equally unhelpful person who gave the same info. that was not exactly the way I wanted to spend my limited time in Europe so I decided to take my changes and deal with it when I got home. when I got back to the US I sent my tickets to Rail Europe and got a full refund. Obviously not every traveler will encounter a strike but the point is that Rail Europe (and the bike trips for htat matter) are charging you for the service they provide which is taking care of the arrangements for you.
Old Nov 8th, 2002, 10:38 AM
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I sort of agree with you regarding the hiking and biking trips, and have only done them on my own. But I have to admit that what they do offer -- companionship of like-minded individuals (especially important to a lot of their clients who are singles) is something you can't get on your own. One of the best times we ever had was when we happened to be at a small lodge in New Zealand that was practically taken over by a Backroads bicycle group from the US. We joined in the fun they were having and I must say the friendships in the group were great.

One other point is that I always have to leave luggage at one place, bike one way and then return by train or bus, or else make a backtrack circle to get to my starting point. Those tour groups move your stuff from point A to point B so you can keep going in one direction, and not worry about it.
Old Nov 8th, 2002, 10:50 AM
Bob Brown
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Rail Europe is a rip. When I can order the same ticket through the SNCF web site, pay for it, and pick it up with minimal delay in Paris AND save about 75%, I consider my self to have avoided a major rip off. I have done that 3 times, and no problems.

What is the need to buy tickets over here anyhow? What rail trip makes it mandatory? I bought mine over here because of weekend travel.
Old Nov 8th, 2002, 05:32 PM
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I don't understand the point of Rail Europe either - you can always book the tickets ahead and pick them up with your credit card when you arrive at the train station. You don't have to speak a word to anyone and it's perfectly efficient and effecive. If I had the tickets in hand at the start of the trip, I'd probably lose them anyway!

Customer service, in cases where it serves no essenatial purpose, is usually a euphemism for being nosy and too talkative.
Old Nov 8th, 2002, 11:50 PM
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I tend not to begrudge people who sell a service; after all you choose to pay for it or not.

The tour companies have wages to pay and costs to bear so they're bound to be dearer than doing it yourself. And I for one, would offer an arm and leg to not have to carry my baggage when walking.

But I HATE those tourist shops outside visitor attractions and the cafes there. Everything is more expensive than elsewhere and they trade on gullibility and need (coffee, juice for a frctious child, the use of the loo), and I would strike them DOWN!!
Old Nov 9th, 2002, 05:25 AM
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Are you all saying that a eurail pass is a rip off? Please post here ASAP to let us know.
Old Nov 9th, 2002, 05:36 AM
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Zash, No, but Rail Europe is a company in the US that charges exhorbitant amounts to get you tickets in Europe. I e-mailed them once and gave them the price they charge for a specific ticket and one from the train station. Rail Europe charged almost double plus postage. I don't mind a small fee for their service, but this is rediculous. They never answered me. No surprise.
Old Nov 9th, 2002, 12:42 PM
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Biggest European ripoff BY FAR????

London. Period. End of story.

Great city, but SOO overpriced and NOT worth what you're paying, especially since you can get the same in Madrid, Rome or Berlin for half.
Old Nov 9th, 2002, 12:53 PM
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Thanks for venting, Anon, but you must know something I don't. I go to London and see one or two wonderful plays or musicals every day. I'm not sure how you can do that in any of the cities you mention. It's the main reason I go to London, and that alone makes it "worth it" to me.

And by the way, I have spent more for every hotel room I've had in Berlin, Madrid, and Rome than I do for a wonderful flat I rent in London in Covent Garden. I also know where to go in London for really great food at reasonable prices, but I think that's possible in every city. You just have to learn where.
Old Nov 9th, 2002, 08:53 PM
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I always add London on to any of my European travels since I love taking advantage of the great theater, as well as museums, windowshopping through those great food halls at Harrod's and Fortnum and Mason's, etc. Would you mind sharing the name of the flat you rent in Covent Gardens?

Happy travels!
Old Nov 9th, 2002, 09:31 PM
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I don't hike & bike so I don't know about that.

But I do agree with RailEurope being a ripoff. Four years ago I bought train tickets from them and didn't realize that you can buy directly from SNCF or Swiss Rail. This year I checked the fares on the SNCF and the Swiss Rail websites and compared them with what Rail Europe charges. Rail Europe charges at least 50% more than if you buy directly. They have many surcharges. When I ordered tickets from Swiss Rail the only fee I paid was the postage fee which was only $3.00.

Sally mentions that customers pay Rail Europe for their services. Well, you can get the same services and more when you buy directly from the rail company. For example, Swiss Rail has a refund policy. You don't pay extra for this service.
Old Nov 10th, 2002, 12:28 AM
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Regarding the bike and hike trips, I agree that they are overpriced. With a bike, you can do loop trips for two or three days, then move to another base for a few days. Same with hiking, and you can often take a quick bus or train tri to a nearby starting point for the day. I have priced these trips, and they double or slightly more than double to what I could do on my own.

As one of the posters pointed out, they do add companionship, which you can't put a price on. However, I have found that it is not difficult to meet people while travelling, particularly when going solo. Of course, there is no guarantee of this, and these people you meet on the fly will not be companions for an entire trip.

Someone above mentioned Eurail passes, which is not the same as Rail Europe (the main gripe on this thread). I think the various rail passes are fine if used to ones advantage. I do think they are often a waste - I think many people buy them but do not use nearly the value of them. Gaining a bit of convenience by lsoing lots of money - often not even realizing that indvidual tkts would be cheaper. Not the fault of the sellers - but buyer beware.
Old Nov 10th, 2002, 05:57 AM
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A 'ripoff' to me would be only if the vendor wasn't being honest about what they were charging. If they charge more than what other comparable vendors do, or what it would cost me to do it myself, and yet still stay in business, then fair enough. Market price isn't determined by what other vendors charge, but what consumers are willing to pay. I cheerfully paid a pound for a bottle of ice cold water sold by an enterprising fellow in a London park one baking hot day. Had the vendor been charging what many would have considered a 'fair' price, he would have sold out his stock in the first five minutes, to people who might have been less pressed for time and energy than I was. As it is, I doubt he would have lugged a heavy ice filled cooler to the park simply to sell for the 'normal' price. He needed incentive to provide this service - and the higher markup on price was the incentive.

Interesting thread.
Old Nov 10th, 2002, 06:16 AM
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Andrea, I rent "my flat" from Farnum and Christ, an agency that handles individually owned flats in London. The one I get is on Floral Street between the Opera House and Leicester Square. Email me if you want more information, or contact Farnum and Christ at 1-800-366-2048 or their minimal website at
Old Nov 10th, 2002, 07:32 AM
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Rail Europe provides a service, so I can't get angry with them. However, since arranging transporation without them requires no or just a little more effort, then I'd say their mark-up for service is not truly a "value."

Hmm, about the hiking and biking trips...I disagree with how you're looking at them. The tours in general are not charging you $200 a night for room and board. They are charging you for all that they provide. If you don't like what they provide, then you can't attach value to it.

I like what I me, I'm buying service at what I consider to be a fair price. Here's why: from the time I start the trip, to the time it ends,I have fun. No work. Just fun. I don't have to keep track of or lug my luggage. I don't have to transport my bike. I don't have to plan the day's trail. I don't have to argue with my kids and husband about the day's trail. If one of us wants to go on a longer ride, he has companionship. And if another of us wants to skip all the exercise and do something else, he probably would have someone else that would like to do that, too. In other words, no guilt for indulging in one's own whim without the express written consent of other family members! My picnic lunch is waiting for me; my clean, oiled, bike is waiting for me. If there is an accident, I have knowledgeable people who have ties to local emergency agencies (I don't have to lug my first aid kit on my bike!). I still get to mingle with the locals (it's hard not to mingle on a bike!), still get to have a lot of time on my own, yet the only drudgery I have is taking care of laundry (I'm not willing to pay extra for the hotel service--we all have our "value" systems!)

Old Nov 10th, 2002, 08:20 AM
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Can we get off the Rail Europe tack for a little while? Americans have several other options -- (I can't believe I'm saying this, but: try a travel agent, assuming she/he DOESN'T use Rail Europe).

The worst rip-off I have EVER endured was the bus tour to Toledo/Escorial/Los Caidos arranged by Madrid hotels. There are several companies, but they all seem to do the same, awful thing.

To summarize, they corral tourists into a godawful place to wait an hour for a "lunch" of canned soup, canned fruit cup, rubber twice-frozen chicken, and vinegary wine; then chase them through the streets of Toledo with cameras for souvenir "candids" to be hawked later; only give tourists a breathlessly brief tour of one or two of the highlights; then corral them into a "factory outlet store" where the local style of jewelry and metal work is sold at outrageous prices for extremely shoddy workmanship. Total time sightseeing is about 1/4 of total time being treated like stupid cattle.

I'd had decent luck with bus tours in other places, although there were usually efforts to funnel people toward one or another place to spend souvenir money. But this was orders of magnitude worse.
Old Nov 10th, 2002, 03:55 PM
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MMM, thank you for that post, it made me realize my earlier definition of 'ripoff' wasn't stringent enough. Let me give it another try: A ripoff occurs if the vendor isn't honest about what he is charging, OR if the buyer is manipulated into buying a good or a service by virtue of it being described in exaggerated terms. Your tour was certainly described in exaggerated terms: being held captive to a sales pitch is not sightseeing, nor is standing around for an hour. Thanks for the heads-up on that one.
Old Nov 11th, 2002, 04:17 AM
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MMM--You truly did define the difference between rip-off and "bad value."
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