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Eurail passes versus prebooked or point to point tickets

Melbourne, Australia
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Eurail passes versus prebooked or point to point tickets

Hi all,

I have been researching and getting conflicting advice regarding eurail passes versus buying rail tickets as you go or online prebooking and am very confused! My daughter and I will be travelling from Lyon France to Paris, then Paris to Bordeaux, from there to San Sebastián in Spain, a few trips within Spain then on to Montpellier in France again, few trips along the coast to Monaco, Italy taking a few more trips, then flying out of Geneva over a four week period. Was advised by a travel agent to purchase a Eurail Select Saver Pass for 10 trips in 4 countries at a cost of around $800 AUD from Australia. We thought this expensive and then researched and thought buying our own online would be cheaper but am unsure. Also travelling May-June so would it be difficult to purchase tickets on the day as we travel and more expensive? Thanks for any advice!

Le Bugue, France
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1. Re: Eurail passes versus prebooked or point to point tickets

Purchasing tickets on the day you travel will be by FAR the most expensive alternative. Every national RR system offers discounted tickets for booking online well in advance, and Rail Europe passes are normally a very high-priced option (touted by travel agents who don't know what they're talking about). But only you can do the real math. The French RR system is SNCf; the Italian is Trenitalia; the Spanish is Renfe. Check out the very informative ManInSeat61 website for authoritative information and do the math.

Sydney, Australia
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2. Re: Eurail passes versus prebooked or point to point tickets

Travel agents in Australia are hopeless when it comes to train travel in Europe. They know nothing about how it actually works, and just want to sell expensive passes to get the commission.

A Eurail Pass in France, Spain and Italy is a really bad idea. All the fast trains have compulsory seat reservations, and you have to make these reservations and pay extra for them. There is no way of doing this online except for Italy), unless you pay the very high prices charged by RailEurope. In addition, in France there is a strict limit on the number of seats available to passholders, so you may not be able to get on the train you want without paying the full price.

Tickets for your travel dates will have been on sale for some months now, and the cheapest tickets may have sold out on some trains. Buy NOW for the best prices.

France: www.capitainetrain.com

Spain: www.renfe.com/EN/viajeros/index.html and for hints on buying tripadvisor.com/Travel-g187514-c80518/Madrid…

Italy: www.trenitalia.com or www.italotreno.it using the Italian names for cities

Melbourne, Australia
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3. Re: Eurail passes versus prebooked or point to point tickets

Thank you very much that is most helpful

Melbourne, Australia
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4. Re: Eurail passes versus prebooked or point to point tickets

Thank you that is just as I had suspected as the agent got quite annoyed when I did not book a pass there and then and said I had been doing some research! On another point do you think we need to lock in all our accommodation at that time of year as we would still like to retain some flexibility?

Sydney, Australia
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5. Re: Eurail passes versus prebooked or point to point tickets

If you lock in your train travel, you might as well lock in your accommodation. Do you really want to spend your precious holiday time looking for somewhere to sleep?

Chateaurenard...
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6. Re: Eurail passes versus prebooked or point to point tickets

The last week in May contains Ascension Day which is a public holiday. Accommodation could be in short supply that week if you don't pre-book.

Quainton, United...
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7. Re: Eurail passes versus prebooked or point to point tickets

It isn't rocket science, just basic maths.

Au$800 = €540 = €40 per day. Add the €10 or so TGV reservation fee, that's €50 per day assuming 1 trip per day.

You can go online to www.capitanetrain.com and book Lyon to Paris from €20, Paris to Bordeaux from €25 IF you book 2-3 months ahead, no refunds, no changes to travel plans. Reservation automatically included, no hidden fees.

OR you can walk up to the ticket office on the day and buy a ticket. In which case it ain't €20, it's a full-flex €95 from Paris to Lyon, €94 Paris-Bordeaux.

So, the reason for the 'conflicting information' is now clear - European train operators now have airline-style pricing which typically means a pass isn't as good as cheap advance-purchase deals (which of course lock you in to specific dates and trains) but can be better than the walk-up on-the-day megabucks price.

The other issue is quotas. France has quotas for passholders which often sell out. This can make using a pass to, from or within France a nightmare. This alone would make me wary of passes for France.

Edited: 17 April 2014, 13:59
Melbourne, Australia
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8. Re: Eurail passes versus prebooked or point to point tickets

Good point I'll get on to it!

Loire Valley
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9. Re: Eurail passes versus prebooked or point to point tickets

I actually think they can be good value, as long as youre travelling on non-express trains, and haven't got a plan. Being able to just walk up to a station and get on a train at a drop of a hat is hugely liberating. I have done them in the past, and would probably do them again if I was just intent on sitting on a train and watching the world pass my window at a reasonable pace.

By value, I don't necessarily mean financially - the freedom to travel by just getting on a train can have a value that is above the cost.

Edited: 18 April 2014, 09:07
Bellflower...
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10. Re: Eurail passes versus prebooked or point to point tickets

Bonjour, Samantha,

We have ridden with Eurail passes and it is as WizardofAus said: "to get on a train at a drop of a hat is hugely liberating" and "the freedom to travel by just getting on a train can have a value that is above the cost." It's fun to say, "Shall we go to ____________ today?" and get on a train without having to stop to buy a ticket.

However, value vs cost does have to be considered. We are going to France and Germany in September. Referring to Capitaine, I made an Excel spreadsheet of various destinations based on buying a ticket one day in advance and 90 days in advance and compared the totals to the Savers pass. I entered only long distance trips, not small local trips. The cost of buying tickets for the two of us even one day in advance was half the cost of the Savers pass, which would still require reservation fees in some cases.

I would recommend that you make comparisons, as I did. It may be time consuming, but it will help with your decision.

MrsJAS