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Train Pass Advice needed for Austria, Germany, Switzerland, France trip

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Aug 3rd, 2014, 06:09 AM
  #1
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Train Pass Advice needed for Austria, Germany, Switzerland, France trip

We are a middle aged couple from Australia and need your expert advice with train pass options. Our itinerary is as follows and all are booked except the Salzburg/Tirol area which is still up for discussion.

30/8 to 2/9 – Vienna
3/9 to 5/9 – Munich
6/9 to 9/9 – Salzburg/Tirol Area (not yet booked)
10/9 to 14/9 – Wengen
15/9 to 18/9 – Burgundy
19/9 to 25/9 – Paris

We are planning to drive around the Salzburg/Tirol and Burgundy countryside and so our major train travel would likely be as follows:

3/9 – Vienna to Munich
6/9 – Munich to Salzburg
10/9 – Innsbruck to Wengen
15/9 – Wengen to Basel
19/9 – Beaune to Paris

I have tried to price all the above separate journeys at full price (First Class) and came up with around AU$897 per person. In addition to these trips above we would have local Jungfrau region travel on trains, cable cars etc. and perhaps a day trip out from Paris which are not included in the estimated price.

I am thinking that the Euro Select 4 country pass might be my best option with the 5 days pass costing AU$520. (8 days - AU$659 and 10 days - AU$754)

My understanding is that this pass would also give us 25-50% discount on many of the trains/cableways in the Jungfrau region and would not use a day of travel on the cards.

Any advice on whether I am on the right track would be very much appreciated.

Thanks
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Aug 3rd, 2014, 08:36 AM
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For fully flexible at will hop on travel in first class that pass should be a good deal even if it only gets you 25% off the trains above Interlaken like to Wengen - at least with discounts you need not burn a day on your flexipass - only 100% covered things do that.

But the pass will not get you a carte blanche 25-50% off all cables and trains above Interlaken - just certain ones - see the Eurailpass map for details - I think 25% discount is tops on anything above Interlaken.

If traveling around the Jungfrau on pricey excursions like to Jungfraujoch (25% off with Eurail) and Schilthorn, cables, etc check out the Jungfarubahn Pass that is sold locally and covers virtually everything that moves in the Jungfrau Region.

For great info on European trains check these IMO suprb sources: www.ricksteves.com; www.budgeteuropetravel.com and www.seat61.com.

I have had zillions of first-class passes and always am glad I have first class - always or nearly so empty seats if just hopping on (as you can with the pass on your intinerary except for Dijon to Paris, requires a TGV seat reservations - the train Beaune to Dijon is a regional train you can just hop on.

First-class seats are much bigger, more room to store luggage since fewer seats in the train compartment and IME often many empty seats to put your luggage on in eye shot.
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Aug 4th, 2014, 05:03 AM
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Thanks PalenQ for your detailed response.

We love First Class travel especially with luggage and thought the pass would give us more flexibility than buying tickets in advance.

I really like the look of the Jungfraubahn Pass which would suit us hiking around the area and catching various trains and cable cars. We will most likely also go up to the Jungfraujoch so this makes it an even better option with that 50% discount.

I'll do some more investigation and costings but just wanted to clarify - did you mean that it might be worth buying both the Euro Select 5 day pass and the Jungfraubahn pass? Or perhaps buying point to point for the other 5 trips would be a better option.

Thanks
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Aug 4th, 2014, 06:02 AM
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"I have tried to price all the above separate journeys at full price (First Class) and came up with around AU$897 per person."

For two, that is €1242 at current rates. You probably checked Raileurope, which marks up very heavily the actual cost of such tickets.

"I am thinking that the Euro Select 4 country pass might be my best option with the 5 days pass costing AU$520."

For two, that's €720.

A quick look at the DB and Austrian websites indicates both the above options are very pricey ones. Prices below are for TWO adult passengers.

3/9 – Vienna to Munich: €58-€78 (DB, saver fare)
6/9 – Munich to Salzburg: €27 (DB, Bayern ticket)
10/9 – Innsbruck to Wengen: €98 (oebb)
15/9 – Wengen to Basel: €58 (DB saver fare, using Wengen-Freiburg, just get off in Basel.)

(Saver fares are tied to specific trains - so you will need to meet your trains on time on 3/9 and 15/9.)

19/9 – Beaune to Paris: €119 at inflated Raileurope prices (I'm too drowsy to try the SNCF site - but you can.)

That's a total €360 so far for both of you for 4 of the 5 journeys in 2nd class - about 1/3 what you originally estimated for p2p tickets and half the cost of the railpasses. (You can look up the 1st class prices if you wish, which will cost a little more, but 2nd class is great in these countries.)

DB: http://reiseauskunft.bahn.de/bin/query.exe/en
OEBB: http://www.oebb.at/en/#
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Aug 4th, 2014, 06:36 AM
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Train Pass Advice needed for Austria, Germany, Switzerland, France trip
Posted by: annmu07 on Aug 3, 14 at 9:09am
I have tried to price all the above separate journeys at full price (First Class) and came up with around AU$897 per person.


Russ, I used www.xe.com/ to check on the conversion rates. AU$ 897 is € 623.

annmu07, For an illustrated introduction to European trains see http://tinyurl.com/3yegmo6.
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Aug 4th, 2014, 06:42 AM
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Something went amiss with the TinyURL link in my post. It should be http://tinyurl.com/eym5b
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Aug 4th, 2014, 06:45 AM
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"Russ, I used www.xe.com/ to check on the conversion rates. AU$ 897 is € 623."

That's exactly right. And TWO tickets at €623 each is €1246 (oanda says €1242, my figure.)

But my point about what source you check for ticket prices was not about conversion rates at all. It was about checking inflated rail ticket prices at Raileurope or some other marketer of rail tickets. The national railways will provide much better prices and deals.
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Aug 4th, 2014, 06:57 AM
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Russ on Aug 4, 14 at 9:45am
"Russ, I used www.xe.com/ to check on the conversion rates. AU$ 897 is € 623."
That's exactly right. And TWO tickets at €623 each is €1246 (oanda says €1242, my figure.)
But my point about what source you check for ticket prices was not about conversion rates at all. It was about checking inflated rail ticket prices at Raileurope or some other marketer of rail tickets. The national railways will provide much better prices and deals.


Oops, my bad. Didn't see your twofer. You are absolutely and painfully correct in stating that Raileurope and other marketers have inflated prices. I only use them for rail passes, and never for tickets or reservations.
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Aug 4th, 2014, 12:03 PM
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That's a total €360 so far for both of you for 4 of the 5 journeys in 2nd class - about 1/3 what you originally estimated for p2p tickets and half the cost of the railpasses>

comparing apples to oranges in two ways:

if one wants full flexibility to hop any train anytime then a pass would I think be much cheaper than walk-up first-class fares

nd comparing 2nd class to 1st class - yes 2nd class is OK - very OK but IME of decades of riding zillions of trains there is always a substantial difference between first and second class (in spite of the Fodor's mantra there is very little difference) - for one thing first-class will have many more empty seats for just hopping on and bigger seats - easier to leisurely stow luggage - often IME on a nearby vacant seat.

2nd class is usually much more crowded and not unusual to be full (you can still board if it's SRO and find a seat when folks get off at stops down the line) - for folks carrying a lot of luggage first-class provides IME significant benefits over 2nd class - especially just hopping on and say finding two seats empty together.

so do you want total flexibility or not? Do you want a more relaxed journey or not?

If no to each then do the 2nd class advance pruchse - you must often purchase weeke in advance to get the limited in number discounted tickets and then there are restrictions on changing - none allowed - you must refund and re-bbok and perhaps by then tickets in that fare categroy will not be available and refunds - 15 euro per ticket - but that is the cheapest way to go if that if on a starvation budget - IMO on the trip of a lifetime go in more comfort and flexibility to hop any train anytime folks like me is priceless.

Well that's my take based on zillions of train rides in those countries - others have different experiences and different recommendations, as they should.
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Aug 4th, 2014, 03:21 PM
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19/9 – Beaune to Paris: €119 at inflated Raileurope prices (I'm too drowsy to try the SNCF site - but you can.>

the thing distorted here is the 199 euros that one would think RE would charge for all trains - yet a quick look for 9-19 sees two morning connections Beaune to Paris for 62 $ or about 85 euros - lot cheaper than 119 euros which would be the most expensive train RE has that day - cherry picking for the worst fares and not mentioning two nice links leaving Beaune aroun d9 am for 62 euros.
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Aug 4th, 2014, 03:39 PM
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But a check of voyages-sncf.com does indeed yield much cheaper prices for the same trains that RE was charging $62 (@ 85 euros) - offering same trains for about 55-60 euros - so yes RE overcharges but not nearly as much as if they charged 119 euros for those trains - and sncf.com had several Beaune to Paris TER trains at 48.87 euros - these are much slower regional trains and not TGVs and those are full fare fully exchangeable tickets that you can buy the same price on the day of the train - cheapest tickets needing no advance purchase - regional trains are about two hours slower but if not in a rush enjoy the landscapes better at 100 mph than at about twice that speed on TGVs.
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Aug 4th, 2014, 10:43 PM
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"cherry picking for the worst fares and not mentioning..."

My POINT, PQ, was that EVEN IF the OP took the pricier RE €119 fare option, (the only one I glanced at, actually) the total of all 5 point-to-point journeys is a fraction of the 5-day railpass price.

(Why exactly would I "cherry pick" for an expensive point-to-point fare, PQ, when my whole point was that point to point fares are much CHEAPER???? You need to ask yourself such questions before uttering completely absurd and foolish accusations such as this.)
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Aug 5th, 2014, 06:15 AM
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$488 - is the cost of a five-day Eurail Saver Flexipass, making it about $90 a day or about 63 euros for fully flexible first-class travel - quite a good deal for total flexibility and first class to boot. A great deal - you could save some with second-class advance purchase with restrictions of change/refunds but you give away so much.
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Aug 5th, 2014, 07:15 AM
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"But a check of voyages-sncf.com does indeed yield much cheaper prices for the same trains that RE was charging $62 (@ 85 euros) - offering same trains for about 55-60 euros."

You are right, PQ - and the price you found matches mine. Not bothering yourself with details, you failed to see that the €119 price I gave was FOR TWO and was added in to a total for TWO of €360. Do the math:

3/9 – Vienna to Munich: €58-€78 (DB, saver fare)
6/9 – Munich to Salzburg: €27 (DB, Bayern ticket)
10/9 – Innsbruck to Wengen: €98 (oebb)
15/9 – Wengen to Basel: €58 (DB saver fare, using Wengen-Freiburg, just get off in Basel.)

ADD €119 for the trip to Paris = €360.

"$488 - is the cost of a five-day Eurail Saver Flexipass"

Assuming that's accurate, that's $976 for TWO = €727.

"...you could save some with second-class advance purchase,"

"SOME"???? Do the math. It's €360 (total for adv. purchase, etc.) vs. €727 (total for the railpasses you suggested.) The savings to the OP amount to €367, or $492 - or a 50% savings altogether.

$500 in savings should not be glossed over so casually just because $500 is a paltry sum in your eyes. I bought a transatlantic round-trip airfare 2 years ago for only a little more than that, and I'm pretty sure most of us would find an extra $500 handy for numerous other purposes.
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Aug 5th, 2014, 07:42 AM
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you failed to see that the €119 price I gave was FOR TWO>

Yes my mistake - did not read your preamble. Sorry.
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Aug 5th, 2014, 08:56 AM
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I bought a transatlantic round-trip airfare 2 years ago for only a little more than that, and I'm pretty sure most of us would find an extra $500 handy for numerous other purposes.>

Well yes - and so could folks here who typically spend $200+ a night on a hotel easily find some for half the price and you keep missing my point - which is:

IF you want first-class travel, which despite your claim there is very little difference, and total flexibility (except in France) then the pass would be a good deal - IF they don't care about the benefits of first class and are willing to put up with restrictions - like the Bavarian Pass can be used only on regional trains which are much slower as they stop incessantly and are not nearly as comfy as higher speed trains that pass is not valid on and are willing to virtually book in stone weeks before the trip, etc.

Then yes that is the way to go as you show. But try, just try to wrap your head around the fact that some of us like the much more relaxed first-class travel and consider flexibility priceless - I always try to show both aspects, something your prescriptive take that cheapest is always best, does not.

The more info, the more discussion about various possibilities the better - not just a one-sided take.

Cheers and Prost!
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Aug 5th, 2014, 09:47 AM
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"restrictions - like the Bavarian Pass can be used only on regional trains which are much slower as they stop incessantly and are not nearly as comfy as higher speed trains."

Bavaria Ticket trains = maybe 30 minutes slower to Salzburg. ALL 4 other journeys suggested use the fastest connections, PQ.
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Aug 5th, 2014, 12:49 PM
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The Bavarian Pass comes in first class too at very little more than 2nd class and IME regional trains (Meridien) can get quite full at times if say school kinds swarm aboard for a stop or two as these trains at times act like school buses - nice to be out of high school in your first-class section where IME most of the seats will be empty.

And though others may say there is very little difference between first and second class to me at least after zillions of train rides a significant difference - mainly in many empty seats with SRO at times in 2nd class.

Regional trains stop 12-14 times usually en route to Salzburg - RailJet trains do not stop at all and are about 30 minutes faster - not that much I agree on such a short trip but RJ are the classier new trains that are much much more comfy than regional trains, many of which I've ridden even have hard plastic seats.

For comfy I'd try to get the RailJet if you had a day on a pass to burn - if not then I'd do the Bavarian Ticket but pay the several extra euros to go first class in case they do get overcrowded =, especially at rush hours.

Bavarian Cards I do believe have a 9 am and before black out Mon-Fri but not sure of that - otherwise no restrictions except have to take regional trains - but the savings can be huge as Russ has shown.
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Aug 5th, 2014, 01:24 PM
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First-class Bavarian Lander Tickets cost 50 euros for two vs 27 in 2nd class - 23 euros more or about 11.5 euros more each way - a bit more than I recalled but still IMO worth it for the potential overcrowding I have experienced not uncommonly (nor routinely either) of those trains on week days.
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Aug 6th, 2014, 06:43 AM
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Oops - about the first-class Lander Ticket for Bavaria - first class for two is 23 euros more but that is for 4 trips - two folks going to Salzburg and two coming back so it is about 6 euros extra p.p. each way to be assured of peace and comfort in first class - a no-brainer to me.
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