European rail schedules vary by season?
Replies: 11 - Last Post: Sep 1, 2012 5:57 AM Last Post By: lindgold42
Aug 31, 2012 7:48 PM
European rail schedules vary by season?Friends and I are planning a 14 day rail trip. None of us have ever been to Europe. I've been using the Raileurope schedule to just get an idea of schedules on the days of travel. Since there is no schedule available for April, 2013, I'm concerned that there will be a big difference in the trains between our selected cities. We are more comfortable planning ahead then winging it.
Our itinerary is:
Barcelona to Marseille to Turin to Cologne to Brugge to Paris. One full day in each until Paris. Day of train travel in between. Is there a better way to get an idea of schedules at that time of the year?
I have no trouble with the current scheduling that I see. I guess what I'm asking will there always be trains between these cities no matter what time of year it is? We want to book hotel rooms as soon as possible but have to make sure we can get where we're going.
Aug 31, 2012 8:21 PM
1I wouldn't worry too much, the European train system is VERY convenient. Considering that you'll be traveling in April (the beginning of the on-season), each and every city you will be visiting will be easily accessible by train. The one thing to keep in mind is reservations. In case you didn't know, you will be charged a compulsory Reservation Fee for just about every train you take. The slower, regional trains will probably not charge this fee, but buyer beware. Slower trains (such as in Italy) can be VERY crowded and sometimes less than comfortable with no air conditioning. I would recommend trying to stay on High-Speed Rail. Most countries like France, Italy, and Germany will charge you about 10-20 Euro for a reservation good for 2 people (maybe more, I don't know because I've only been in a group of 2) The place to avoid if money is an issue is Amsterdam. The Dutch train company that runs the SUPER FAST (300 miles per hour!) Thalys train charges around 300 Euro for a reservation fee. Ouch! Anyhow, you might want to try and reserve some seats on the train before you even leave. Personally, I couldn't figure out how to do it from the US, but there might be a way to do it. When I was there last August, I generally just reserved my train trip out of town as soon as I arrived in that town, giving myself only a few days and I was fine. Another thing to keep in mind is that overnight trains must be reserved WAY ahead of time. I wasn't able to get on any overnight trains on my trip, but I found my way just simply using my Eurail Global Pass. Remember, where there's a will, there's a way. For example, there may not be that many trains from Marseille to Turin, but if you reserve a seat on the high-speed train as soon as you arrive in Marseille you should be fine. If worse comes to worse, you can catch the high speed train from Marseille to Nice (or Lyon), and then use a regional Italian train to get across the border to Turin. Basically, don't worry and just do as much planning as you can before you leave. The trains that I found to be the best are the French TGV, the Eurostar Italia, and the German HBF, all of which run at over 200 miles per hour. Also, try to avoid using the Thalys train on your visit to Brugge, a German train will get you there for much cheaper. Good luck and happy travels!
Aug 31, 2012 10:16 PM
Lindgold, don;t use Raileurope. They are a middleman and will usually charge more. Buy tickets directly from the national train companies and check your train times at http://www.bahn.de/i/view/overseas/en/index.shtml
Very often a Eurail pass is not worth it btw.
And the schedules barely change year on year- a few minutes here, a few minutes there on most routes.
You've also picked some unusual destinations. (Turin? Cologne?) any particular reason?
Aug 31, 2012 11:02 PM
To put it as simply as possible: this is ridiculously wrong.
I can't even imagine a professional scamming operation charging a €300 reservation fee on a ticket that can be as low as €35.
300mph is also on the fast side.
Aug 31, 2012 11:26 PM
4I'm 100% sure that's what I paid last August. I had a Eurail Global Pass and upon arrival in Amsterdam, I reserved my train back to Paris. I'm not talking about tickets, I had a pass and that's what they charged me. The attendant at the station informed me that it was 300 Euro for the reservation fee. I complained, as did several other travelers, to no avail. They informed me that I could use the much slower regional train for free but it would take around 12 hours to reach Paris. I found the Thalys train to be a ripoff, but that's just my opinion based on my own personal experience. Maybe the reservation fee has changed in a year, but that's what I paid for a two person reservation last August. I'm pretty sure you can avoid all that nonsense by just using German trains instead though...
Aug 31, 2012 11:31 PM
5That has to do with the Eurail Pass. You could have even bought a regular Thalys ticket at a lower price. The French rail system has a similar policy with reservation fees related to the Eurail Pass.
So statements such as
reflects your not being aware of how the Pass works in practice,or even how the various national train systems work. You're drawing all the wrong conclusions.
Aug 31, 2012 11:51 PM
The prices vary according to demand. If you want to travel on Friday afternoon, for example, you will probably have to pay more. But there will be cheap fares available for most days if you book early enough. In most countries, tickets go on sale three months before the departure.
More about train travel in Europe: http://www.seat61.com/
Many websites such as Booking.com and Hotels.com don't charge anything for cancelling room reservations, which might be practical in case you want to change your travel dates to get cheapest train tickets.
Sometimes it pays off to do some research before travelling. A ticket from Amsterdam to Paris will cost 35 euros if you book early enough. Besides Thalys runs 300 km/h (186 mph), not 300 mph).
I'm pretty sure you can avoid all that nonsense by just using German trains instead though...
There are no German trains from Amsterdam to Paris.
Sep 1, 2012 12:55 AM
7"..a German HBF which runs over 200 miles per hour..." nobody would ever catch a train then. HBF is the main train station which luckily stays put where it was built. The ICE is the fast train in Germany.
OP, the schedule changes in December to the winter schedule and in June for the summer one. There are hardly any changes in the German system, a few minutes is usually the most.
From mid November the new schedules are usually online and you can check which trains you like to take.
Sep 1, 2012 1:33 AM
8Lindgold, don;t use Raileurope. They are a middleman and will usually charge more
If you take time to sign up to Rail Europe's e-newsletter, it has some excellent offers.
It may very well charge over the odds for buying a fare - but that's not always the case.
Thalys Paris-Amsterdam-Paris does not travel at 300mph. Nor is there a €300 reservation fee.
Sep 1, 2012 2:43 AM
9You may have paid a 300 euro reservation fee for two train tickets from Amsterdam (to where, you don't say). Very few others have.
Here is nearly everything the reputable Man in Seat 61 has to say about using a Eurail pass in The Netherlands:
Amsterdam to Brussels by hourly ordinary InterCity train: No supplement to pay, seat reservation is unnecessary and not even possible on these trains, you turn up and hop on, show your Eurail pass when asked.
Amsterdam to Brussels & Paris by Thalys high-speed train: A special passholder fare applies, a whopping €39 in 2nd class, a massive €62 in 1st class. The €39 passholder fare is only €6 less than the cheap fare you can buy without a pass at www.thalys.com!
Amsterdam to Germany (Berlin, Cologne, Frankfurt & so on) by IC or ICE train: No supplement, reservation optional.
Amsterdam to Zurich, Munich, Prague or Copenhagen by City Night Line sleeper train: Seat €17.50, couchette in 6-bunk compartment €27.50 euros, couchette in 4-bunk compartment €37.50, berth in 3-bed sleeper €50, berth in 2-berth sleeper €70, berth in single-berth sleeper €110 (all bookable with a 2nd class pass). With 1st class pass, berth in 2-berth sleeper with shower €70, berth in single-bed sleeper with shower €110. Book at www.bahn.de (do an enquiry on the journey planner, locate the direct sleeper train, click to check availability as if you were going to buy a normal ticket, then look for the 'Book only extra charge' link at the bottom and on the next page select 'Pass offer').
Amsterdam to Warsaw by EuroNight Jan Kiepura sleeper train: Seat €4, couchette in 6-bunk compartment €20, couchette in 4-bunk compartment €25, berth in 3-bed sleeper €32, berth in 2-berth sleeper €52, berth in single-berth sleeper €112 (all bookable with a 2nd class pass). With 1st class pass, berth in 2-berth sleeper with shower €65, berth in single-bed sleeper with shower €125s. Book at www.bahn.de (do an enquiry on the journey planner, locate the direct sleeper train, click to check availability as if you were going to buy a normal ticket, then look for the 'Book only extra charge' link at the bottom and on the next page select 'Pass offer')+
Please be sure you're providing accurate information and that you're distinguishing your personal experience from what is true at all times for all people.
Sep 1, 2012 3:26 AM
10I guess what I'm asking will there always be trains between these cities no matter what time of year it is?
Yes, there'll be. In some routes (e.g.: Barcelona-Marseille) you could need to change trains though.
Since there is no schedule available for April, 2013,
The schedule for April 2013 will be available in mid Dec. 2012 (perhaps earlier). BTW, it could be better to use the schedule available in the web of the DB bahn (it usually has less bugs than the schedule in RailEurope).
Sep 1, 2012 5:57 AM
11Wow, thanks for all the info. I've been reading this forum and will now use the seat 61 site and the DB one also. As to why we have this schedule it's mainly for the "experience" I think. We're not big museum goers or will want to do lots of sight-seeing. I know that sounds odd but hey, we're not kids anymore and this is kind of a "bucket list" thing.
We're also pretty realistic about a hectic schedule like this. The rest of our itinerary is two days in Paris and then two days in London and then to Southhampton for a cruise back to the US. Maiden voyage of the ship...sound familiar? We can rest then.
From the responses I'll relax a bit more re April trains times. We were considering getting the 5 day pass from Eurorailways. Even with extra costs we think that it will be easier to deal with then separate tickets. But I'll still check out the ticketing as we get nearer the date.
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