Train travel first or 2nd class??

Old Apr 16th, 2000, 11:51 AM
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Train travel first or 2nd class??

My family of four will be taking three 3 hour train rides in Germany this June. Is there much difference in quality between first and second class or is it just the number of seats? Are there as many non smoking 2nd class cars as first class?
Old Apr 16th, 2000, 12:35 PM
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We had Europasses on our recent trip which are first class but have ridden second class and there isn't enough difference to warrant the extra cost IMO. First class seats are a bit nicer and sometimes we had a compartment to ourselves. Second class cars are more crowded but that's where you meet the locals. There are equal numbers of nonsmoking cars; sometimes a car is divided into smoking and nonsmoking by a glass wall.
German trains are very nice. Have fun!
Old Apr 16th, 2000, 12:53 PM
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I have always preferred to pay the extra for first class. The main reason for this is that you will probably get a seat. In these days of budget cutbacks this is no small advantage.

The second advantage is that you are not sharing a car with school kids who are somewhat loud.

I believe the seats are a bit more comfortable, but this is not the reason I buy a first class rail pass.

I believe the "meeting the locals" argument for 2nd class is overrated. If they are like most locals they just want to get from A to B with no hassle. Unstructured meaningful encounters with locals rarely occur.
Old Apr 16th, 2000, 03:21 PM
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I would recommend first class (more baggage room, seats, etc.) although in Germany second class is superior to some countries' first class (depending on which type of train you are using). In June the holiday season will be starting, reaching its zenith in July, so maybe first class will guarantee a seat.
Old Apr 16th, 2000, 03:24 PM
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Re "meeting the locals" - we met a local businessman in a first class carriage in Germany who said to my friend and I "you know you are sitting in first class". He assumed we shouldn't be there, as we were dressed in jeans and parkas with black trainers on our feet (mind you, the jeans were "designer" jeans!). We replied that yes, we knew we were in 1st class and had 1st class tickets. Obviously he didn't believe us, because he watched us very closely when the guard came around checking our ticket. He looked rather put out when the guard didn't move us out!!
Old Apr 16th, 2000, 11:25 PM
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The difference between 1st and 2nd class on German trains are not much, unlike airplanes. There are other differences between the two.

As someone said if students travel, they travel in the 2nd class. The ones we encountered were teenagers and they were loud and walking up and down the aisle. They took over the door area as a rock concert hall and blasted their stereo. We counldn't wait to get off the train.

There tends to be more empty seats in the 1st class, but... if you can find the 1st class car, that is. If you don't have to change trains, this does not apply to you. Trains like ICE are very very long and within the time they get us to switch the trains, we often couldn't find 1st class cars in time with our luggages and ended up in 2nd class cars.

We did not have much luck talking to locals on trains in Germany. They all kept to themselves often hogging the 4 facing seats, discouraging anyone else to sit near them. The only time we talked to someone else was when we were stuck in a same car with loud teenagers and a businessman and us looked each other "do we have to put up with this?" expression and took turns making sure the door to the loud boarding area was shut to minimize the blasting stereo noise.

That was not the case in UK or in France. People would readily sit across from us and greet each other giving a chance to start conversations.
Old Apr 19th, 2000, 12:39 PM
Roger & Amy
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Hey Gus,

Amy and I recommend you go first-class if it is the busy time of year. There isn't much difference between first and second when it comes to comfort (unless you are traveling in Italy) but first class allows you to have a quiet ride sans teenagers playing their ghetto-blasters. In Italy, going second-class is taking your life into your own hands. Germany, however, is safe and the trains run on time!
Old Apr 20th, 2000, 06:19 AM
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I just had to respond to Amy & Gus about taking your life in your hands if you travel 2nd class in Italy. We traveled in 1996 from MIlan to Florence, Pisa and back in 2nd class. The people were friendly and even agreed to photograph me & my girlfriend a couple of times. Also, on the way to Pisa, we were busy chatting and lost track of the stations. So at the next station I stood up to check. Being originally from India, I am used to station names written in black on a yellow background. So I confidently reported that the station was not Pisa, but something else altogether (the word which slips my mind.) A minute later an Italian man sitting behind us looked over at us and with a smile said that the 'station name' I'd read meant "Ladies restroom"! Needless to say, my girlfriend lost all faith in my ability to navigate for the remainder of the trip.
Old Apr 25th, 2000, 01:13 PM
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Thanks for the replies. I/m still undecided. But I have something to think about.
Old Apr 25th, 2000, 01:38 PM
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I have no idea, either, how traveling second class on Italian trains equates to taking your life in your hands. I have never traveled in anything but second class. No problem. And if no seats remain in second class, then you can go to first class, if there are seats, which there usually are. Especially on short runs, paying the extra difference just doesn't make that much sense. I would much rather spend my money on a nice meal than on dubiously and at best, marginally better seats. Believe me, second class on an Italian train for three hours is nothing like the hell of a transatlantic flight from the central time zone on an American airline.
Old Apr 25th, 2000, 06:28 PM
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We have only traveled 2nd class and have never regretted it. If you have money to burn, go 1st class. Please note, though, that the benefits of 1st class train travel aren't the same as first class plane travel. 1st and 2nd class train travel are really close to being similar in comfort (as compared to the very different comfort levels found between first and 2nd class plane travel). Even during commuting times, we found a place to sit w/out problems. We ran into kids on the trains after school, but they tend to congregate together on the same train cars. So they are easily avoided (at least en masse). Another thing: Others may speak to this differently, but German trains are either school bus-like (spartan benches) or wonderfully comfortable. FWIIW: I don't think we have been exposed to locals any more in 2nd class than one would be in first class.
Old Apr 26th, 2000, 05:22 AM
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My wife and myself and my two preteen daughters just got back from a 9 day trip to France. Between cities we traveled by train 2nd class except the final leg from Montpellier to Paris CDG for the trip home. On this leg we traveled first class TGV.

IMHO, if you can afford the difference, go first class. The seats recline and are more comfortable, the cars are less crowded and roomier and there's more luggage rack space. In the TGV first class car there are some seats with tables in between. It made for a more relaxing journey.
Old Apr 26th, 2000, 08:57 AM
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In my experience, second class cars in Western Europe are just fine. Yes, you do sometimes run into school groups.
On the other hand, have you shared a first class car with a group of adults returning from some sort of convention?
They can be every bit as loud as the kids - and drunk to boot...

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