train reservations...again

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May 17th, 2007, 09:20 AM
  #1
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train reservations...again

I just am not clear on the whole reserve thing-i read everyone on hre speak of their reserved seat and I am confused, my very first time ever on a train! -we will have railpasses and will travel through at least 8 major cities in the first weeks of June...so my question is do I make the reservation as soon as we get into the city that we will stay in for a few days-but I may not know the exact time of day we would like to leave that particular city - or can I call, even if we don't speak French, we'd do ok in Italian, tho, and reserve over the phone - oh, please do advise. Thanks so much, Leslie
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May 17th, 2007, 09:32 AM
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A reservation is for a specific train and specific seat on it. All trains don't require reservations of course, but many of the major route trains do, especially if they are the high-speed or express service.

Unfortunately, you can't make reservations and then go whenever you want, that's true, you need to make some plans. YOu can do it right before you get on, if you want. There just might be a risk it is sold out, but it's hard to say without knowing the exact dates/times/trains you want to take. I wouldn't know anything specific about them, probably, but others might. I know in France, some of the very popular TGV runs might be full at the more peak time periods and days, as I've been on one that was. Most are not, however.
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May 17th, 2007, 09:33 AM
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oh, another thought -- I haven't used a railpass in quite a few years, and had no trouble getting reservations with it as they weren't limited that I know of (I mean they didn't limit the seats for railpass holders). However, I think I've read on there that some trains do limit railpass holders only to certain seats, so they might run out of those. Sort of like FF mile awards.
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May 17th, 2007, 09:38 AM
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sounds like you're a European rail novice - for relatively clueless folks like you - and don't take that negatively - i always refer folks to two great sources that will answer these and many other questions about a Eurail trip:
www.ricksteves.com - his site has great tips for rail travelers as well as cheap flights you may want to mix in with train travel. and www.budgeteuropetravel.com where you can request the free and excellent European Planning & Rail Guide that also answers many such questions and is a great primer on using trains - reservations, etc. and www.railsaver.com will help you determine whether a pass is warranted for your travel plans. Fodorites are the best resource i've seen and there are so many experts here that will be at your beck and call if you pose questions like these.
Generally you can make any mandatory reservations as you go along with some exceptions - TGV trains in France seem to have an allotment on the number of railpass reservations they make - especially on the Paris-Avignon-Nice line - these i suggest you make here when you buy your pass. Italy, Spain mandate reservations on many trains and these seem easy enough to get there - yes when you come into one city make a reservation for going out.
Language is no real barrier but have your info printed out - the best sight for schedules i know of is the German rail web site, for schedules in all of Europe. Go to the www.budgeteuropetravel.com site i mention above and on the home page click on the link All European Railway Timetables and this links you to the German site's English schedule page where you put in the departure town and arrival and date and you'll get all the train schedules for that date. (The home page gives several good tips on using the site, which in some cases will even tell you the platform your train will come in on.) Anyway print out the info for trains you are expecting to take and reserve in Europe and just give this to the ticket window and there will be no language problem and show your passes and point out 1st class if your pass is. You won't have any language problem. And budget europe also answers any questions at 800-441-2387 whether you buy a pass from them or not. Pass prices are universal it seems but mailing fees can vary. I always recommend budget europe because in my long experience with them i think they have experts and if making reservations this helps. But pass prices are the same anywhere, being rather a cartel.
Any questions?
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May 17th, 2007, 11:24 AM
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what exact trains will you be taking that you're concerned about reservations on, if you know?
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May 17th, 2007, 12:11 PM
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This has been asked and answered many times at Fodors, most recently at
http://tinyurl.com/2khhqa.

I think you are suffering from fear of the unknown. Keep studying and taking notes. After one ride you will be a train pro.

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May 17th, 2007, 07:22 PM
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Good Lord, how do I begin to thank youall? PalenQ, Christine and hopscotch-great info and you're absolutely right, it's that fear of the unknown, in a country that I would not communicate well, I'm sure. But I will keep studying and researching the sites youall gave me - Pal, it is the 2 longest runs- Amsterdam to Paris and Paris to Nice that I am most concerned about, but I'm sure they will work out ok - again, thanks for the aid, will think of youall when I have a seat on the train, ok?
Leslie
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May 18th, 2007, 06:12 AM
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If you go first class Amsterdam to Paris with a pass will be fine but i've seen 2nd class Thalys tickets - the only train to go thru - sold for for a few days in advance. The problem is first class costs about $40 supplement because of the fairly good meal with wine served at your seat in 1st class. 2nd class reservations are about $15 or so, maybe a bit more.

The Paris-Nice TGVs do present real problems getting passholder reservations. I would encourage you to book this one when buying your pass if it is crucial to you. I have heard and personally experience this -"no pass fares available but you can buy a full fare ticket" - one lady told me this happened and she went to another window, turned on the tears and got the seat with a pass. But no certaintly.
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May 18th, 2007, 06:45 AM
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If a train is fully booked, there are often alternatives. From Amsterdam, there are hourly trains to Brussels, with no reserved seats, then Thalys TGVs from Brussels to Paris are usually every half hour. The total journey time is only slightly longer than on the direct Amsterdam-Paris Thalys train.
From Paris to Nice, there are many connections via Marseille or Toulon. There is no high-speed line from Marseille to Nice so, again, changing trains doesn't necessarily add much to the total journey time, and may even be a chance to have lunch in one of Marseille's restaurants.
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May 19th, 2007, 06:51 AM
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Geoff gives good tips - there is even another variant on the Amsterdam-Paris route - IC train to Brussels, local train to Lille then TGV to Paris - of course longer but if all else fails and you avoid potentially full TGVs.

As for Paris-Nice - even Paris-Avignon trains have the same problem so as Paris-Marseille go via Avignon these too could be problematic for passes. But it's another option.
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