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Warnings About Advance Purchase of Eurostar Italia Train Tickets

Warnings About Advance Purchase of Eurostar Italia Train Tickets

Sep 24th, 2004, 07:49 AM
  #1  
GAC
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Warnings About Advance Purchase of Eurostar Italia Train Tickets

Many Fodorites have inquired whether it's a good idea to purchase Eurostar Italia (ES) train tickets in advance, such as through the Trenitalia internet web site, in order to avoid the need to stand in line at the ticket window of the train station on the day of departure.

Fodorites need to know that there are DANGERS in such advance purchases, which are described in this advisory posting.

First of all, you should ask yourself the question: is it really necessary to purchase in advance? What is the motivation?

If the motivation is to "lock in" a promotional rate such as the "Sabato di Trenitalia" rate for ES and Intercity (IC) trains, an advance purchase makes a great deal of sense. Otherwise, consider the following:

Frequency of ES trains between major tourist cities:

Rome/Florence: every 60 minutes OR LESS
Rome/Naples: nearly every 60 minutes
Rome/Milan: every 60 minutes
Rome/Florence/Venice: every two hours
Milan/Verona/Venice: nearly every two hours
Milan/Naples: every two hours

Each ES train can accommodate up to 590 passengers. It is rather unlikely that you won't find seats on the train of your first choice (particularly if travelling first class). If the train originates from your departure city, you have even less to worry. Even if your desired ES train happens to be full (not likely), there will be another ES train departing shortly.

If you do decide to purchase in advance, be aware of the PENALTIES for reservation changes or ticket cancellation:

Reservation Change:

1. Allowed free of charge, and even more than once, if change is made BEFORE the departure time of the ES train for which a reservation is held.

2. If you hold a paper ticket ("biglietto cartaceo"), a reservation change is allowed up to 24 hours AFTER departure of the ES train for which a reservation is held, for a fee of 3 Euros.

3. If you hold an electronic ticket ("biglietto elettronico"), such as via an internet sale, a reservation change is allowed only up to ONE HOUR AFTER departure of the ES train for which a reservation is held, for a fee of 3 Euros.

Ticket Cancellation:

1. If ticket is cancelled PRIOR to the departure time of the train for which a reservation is held, a 20% penalty is withheld from the amount refunded.

2. If you hold a paper ticket and cancel within 24 hours AFTER the departure of the train for which a reservation is held, a 50% penalty is withheld.

3. If you hold an electronic ticket and cancel within ONE HOUR AFTER the departure of the train for which a reservation is held, at 50% penalty is withheld.

4. The ticket has NO RESIDUAL VALUE if not used or cancelled within the foregoing time frames. In other words, the ES ticket is always partially non-rufundable, and can become totally non-refundable.

So, WHAT ARE THE DANGERS? Let's say you hold an electronic ES ticket, and your plane (or other common carrier) arrives late, so you miss the train connection. If you miss the ONE HOUR deadline for changing your seat reservation to a later ES train, your ticket has become VALUELESS, and you'll have to puchase a new ES ticket at full price!!!!!

POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS:

1. Don't buy the ticket in advance. Instead, buy it at the ticket window of the train station of departure, at a local travel agency, or at the Malpensa or Fiumicino airport ticket offices. If buying at the airport, allow sufficient connection time (15-20 minutes at minimum) at Milano Centrale or Roma Termini, as the case may be.

2. If buying in advance (particularly by internet), err on the side of late arrival and reserve a LATER departing train. If your plane arrives on time, you can always change to an EARLIER departing ES train for no charge.

To summarize, an advance purchase (and particularly an electronic advance purchase) of an ES ticket is usually not worth the risks attendant in the event of tardiness in arrival at your station of train departure, unless you're aiming to "lock in" a promotional rate.

You can read more about these rules in the Trenitalia website.

www.trenitalia.com
GAC is offline  
Sep 27th, 2004, 06:47 AM
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GAC
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GAC is offline  
Sep 27th, 2004, 07:18 AM
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We just got back from Rome and Venice. We were taking the train from Rome to Venice on a certain day, and I didn't want to deal with getting tickets there. I ordered online from Trenitalia, first class ES*, and had no problmes. I had heard that it was usually no problem getting tickets, but on our train (a Wednesday morning at 8:55) it seemed that every seat (at least in first class) was full. I'm sure I could have gotten them once I got there, a few days before our train, but not having to go do it or worry about it was nice. It was all taken care of when we got there, and I would recommend it if you know the date you want to travel.
almesq is offline  
Sep 27th, 2004, 07:25 AM
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That's a very good message.
In Italy (or any other country), if you buy the sort of train ticket that is limited to a specific train, you are taking a risk. To be sure of catching your train, you'll need to aim to get to the station with plenty of time to spare, whereas if you have an ordinary train ticket, you have the flexibility to catch a later train with no penalty - and therefore, you can get aim to get to the station just in time without having to worry about the consequences. As "GAC" says, trains are frequent on most main routes, and trains are rarely fully booked in advance.
I wouldn't dream of booking an Italian train ticket before arriving in Italy, and have rarely had any problems buying a ticket for the next train.
GeoffHamer is offline  
Sep 27th, 2004, 07:28 AM
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I never did understand the need to buy online before arriving, except a crucial leg on day one. Thanks GAC--you continue to amaze with your clear logic.
bobthenavigator is offline  
Sep 28th, 2004, 05:42 PM
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Actually it was easier for us to get the tickets ahead of time. We knew what day we would be traveling to each town, and knew that we would probably wake up, eat breakfast, and head to the station. So we got tickets for those 2 days, both in the late morning. It worked out great. We got to the station a little bit ahead of time, looked to see what platform our train was leaving from, and got on it. Our seats were reserved so we just found our seats and took off. The train was full so I was glad we booked ahead. Also, there was no waiting in line with our luggage tht day. So to get to my point - if you know when you will be traveling to, and don't plan on having to make changes, it doesn't hurt to get the tickets ahead of time. I got mine at selectitaly.com and it was all very easy.
purplefreak is offline  
Sep 28th, 2004, 05:55 PM
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The more I travel, the less I feel a need to purchase train tickets or railpasses in advance. I usually just go to the train station a day or two before the excursion (or in the off-season, just show up right before)and buy them at the window with a credit card. The ticket agent can tell me if a reservation is required on that route or if its needed to guarantee a seat.
Its simpler and cheaper that way. And it appears thats what the local folks do.
Sometimes, there are special same-day roundtrip deals. Inquire at the ticket window and you might be pleasantly surprised if planning a daytrip.
platzman is offline  
Sep 28th, 2004, 06:36 PM
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Thank you, GAC, for this very useful and clearly stated advice.
suntravler is offline  
Sep 28th, 2004, 07:03 PM
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Purplefreak - Selectitaly adds a delivery fee of $40 to send tickets to the states and $10 to send in Italy.
kybourbon is offline  
Sep 29th, 2004, 07:59 AM
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ira
 
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They also add $19 reservation fee for ES*.

It is just as easy, and much cheaper, to buy tickets directly from www.trenitalia.com/en.
ira is offline  
Sep 29th, 2004, 08:03 AM
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Ira,

Don't you have to pay the $19. reservation fee for ES even when you buy them there?
sandi_travelnut is offline  
Sep 29th, 2004, 08:32 AM
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There is a risk to not making reservations ahead of time.

On my last trip (June 03) I was unable to get the train of my choice, or any in the morning for that matter, from Venice to Florence. And yes, this was first class.

My hotel concierge was successful in getting me a smoking car (yuk).

This was all with 3 days advance notice.

I wish I had made prior reservations, like I had done on my earlier trip.

So, to each his own, just be forewarned that you might not get what you want.
xRoadWarrior is offline  
Sep 29th, 2004, 08:40 AM
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What about overnight trains? We will be on an overnight from Salerno to La Spezia in May and would like one of the compartments with only 2 beds. I think the train we want is ICN768 on May 20th. From what I can tell (if Trenitalia doesn't change the schedules between now and then), we would catch it in Salerno at 11:35pm and arrive in La Spezia at 6:59am. According to what I have read on the boards, we cannot try to book our sleeping compartment until 60 days in advance. If we don't pre-book, is there really a chance that the compartment will still be available only a day or two before we take the train?
Thanks!
TexasAggie is offline  
Sep 29th, 2004, 08:48 AM
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It can be difficult to predict when sleeping cars need to be booked in advance. For daytime trains, there are many alternatives, including slower trains, but for an overnight journey, you obviously want a specific type of accommodation, and there may not be any other overnight train. Generally, the railways provide enough carriages for normal traffic (if the night train were fully booked every night, weeks in advance, the railway would add extra carriages or an extra train). If you're travelling in May, you need to check carefully for public holidays which will affect demand.
GeoffHamer is offline  
Sep 29th, 2004, 09:06 AM
  #15  
GAC
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Texas Aggie: sleeping compartments and even couchettes should be reserved in advance. You can reserve up to 60 days in advance on Italian trains. Bear in mind that there are relatively few sleeping compartments available, and the more specific your request, the more in advance the reservation should be made. You can always change your reservation to an earlier or later departing train (subject to availability) by giving at least 24 hours ADVANCE notice.
GAC is offline  
Sep 29th, 2004, 09:09 AM
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Thanks Geoff and GAC. We will go with our original plan of reserving 60 days ahead for our sleeping compartment since we do prefer the private rooms and they are likely to be in short supply. Very much appreciate the info!
TexasAggie is offline  
Sep 30th, 2004, 06:48 AM
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Sandi_travelnut - No you don't pay a $19 reservation fee when you buy them there. The price of Eurostar (ES) trains on the Trenitalia website INCLUDES your seat reservation.
Example prices including seat reservation:
Rome-Naples ES 1st class 32.54E 2nd class-22.21E
Rome-Florence 1st cl 42.35E 2nd cl 29.44E
Florence-Venice 1st cl 39.25E 2nd cl 26.6E
This is all you pay!
If you buy on a site like Select Italy they will tack on fees such as delivery or seat reservation for their profit and will add big $$$$ to your cost.
kybourbon is offline  
Jul 28th, 2006, 10:27 AM
  #18  
GAC
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IMPORTANT UPDATE:

The one hour grace period described in my original posting above has been extended to THREE HOURS, for any "standard" fare ticket on an ES or Intercity Plus (ICP) train.

The "rules" are actually more complicated. You can read a summary of them in my posting of July 27, 2006 at:

www.slowtrav.com
Under the heading "Trenitalia News"

or you can read the full rules yourself on the Trenitalia website:

www.trenitalia.com
GAC is offline  
Jul 28th, 2006, 10:37 AM
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Let me add another reason not to buy ahead. I almost pre-bought my tickets between Florence and Venice last November. Arriving in Florence I found out about a train strike called for my travel day but the strike was only called for the morning hours. I went to a local travel agent and bought first class departing SMN at 2pm and had no problems. The termini was jammed and second class riders packed like sardines. I, as they say, sat like a lady and felt like a million having averted any inconvience caused by the strike.
Margaretlb is offline  
Jul 28th, 2006, 10:51 AM
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I wouldn't expect there to be tickets on a ES* Friday or Sunday since they are big travel days. We bought our tickets a few days ahead before each leg of train travel and we ended up getting the last few reservations.

Believe me, we missed our train from Venice-Rome-Naples ES* because of an ACTV strike and we got stuck on a crowded IC train that took 11 hours to make the same trip. The risk-reward ratio doesn't make sense not to make reservations at least a couple of days in advance on busy days.

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