I'm going to be travelling throughout Europe for a couple months and will frequently be using trains for point to point travel. I don't want to get a eurorail pass because it won't be worth it for what I'm going to be doing. I just have two questions: 1) Would it be worth it to reserve tickets online or should I just buy them at the station? 2) Is there a database that shows exactly what station I should get off at?? A lot of the cities I plan on going to have multiple stops throughout the city, but I can't differentiate between them. Also, if anyone knows of any English websites for train search engines in Poland, Czech, Italy, Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia, France, or Germany, please tell me what websites they are! It would be greatly appreciated! Thanks!!
Check out seat61.com/. A great resource that will point you to a number of sites that will help you figure out schedules and how to book online (if you choose to do that).
In most cities I have been to in Europe, the trains running between two locations usually only run out of one of the stations (for example - travelling Paris to Brussels you will leave from Paris North and arrive at Brussels South station). Usually there is decent, tram, subway or bus service from the train stations, so no worries on getting around. I couldn't find a decent site to cover them all, but could always find a site with a decent map of the subway system and street grid to download for free. Usually would take me around 30 minutes of google searching, though.
A small point from our experience....On the train from Prague to Vienna, the signs denoting whether carriage seats are reserved or not should be ignored- i.e. assume that they ARE booked (they showed 'not reserved' but were reserved).After being turfed out of 3 different compartments, I finally found a place to sit while my DH sat on our cases in an aisle for the whole trip. We had been told at the station that we didn't need to book, but everyone else HAD!! The train personal told me at one stage that we had to get off the train because we hadn't booked a seat(but we did have tickets!! A VERY unpleasant experience, but the only bad one over 6 weeks of train travel.)
that a very useful website for many european railways
As for Italy, you can check here:
I can tell you that:
Rome Termini is the central station of Rome.
Rome Tiburtina is quite central as well, and connected by underground to Termini station. Outside Tiburtina station there's a big bus terminal, where leaves buses for south of Italy and for abroad. Beware of gipsies, pickpockets and other kind of strange people at tiburtina station.
Florence Santa Maria Novella is the central station of Florence.
Venice Santa Lucia is the central station in Venice (but Mestre is well connected by train)
As for reservation, I can tell you my experience in Italy.
You can reserve only fast trains (intercity, eurocity, eurostars). Eurostars are the faster and more expensive trains, reservation is compulsory only for eurostar trains and for some special intercity trains.
During vacations periods (this year:easter, week end 22nd-25th of april, week end 28 of april-1st of may, week end 1st of june-4th of june, and during summer, 1st of November, 8st of December,during christmas vacations)trains are really crowded (and often delayed), especially the ones that run from north to south. In that case reserving is advisable. In other period is not necessary to reserve; and it's true that reserved seats are not noticed outside the wagon.
you can also check here:
if there are last minute offers for some trains (usually a long route for 10 euros, but leaving at strange hours, or running during the night).
If you are going to Germany, book online about 3-4 weeks ahead. You pay the highest price possible if you walk up to the ticket counter 15 minutes before the train leaves and buy it then.
Especially for one-way long distance travels, you can get significant lower deals online or up to 2 weeks before travel at any ticket office in Germany. (19 EUR special offer for the CNL nighttrain instead of 150 EUR for example.)
I don't know about other countries, though.
Thanks for all the replies and advice!! I've used a lot of the links you offered for information. If anyone has any advice with train and bus travel in Croatia, Bosnia, and/or Serbia(Yugoslavia) that would be amazing!! I'm really nervous about travelling during this portion of my trip, because it's so hard to find travel information for these countries. The few websites I've found don't have English versions and I can't read any of these languages. But thanks again for the advice thus far!
PS - Does anyone know if Railkey.com is a good source to search and buy train tickets?? Thanks.
Croatia, Bosnia, and/or Serbia(Yugoslavia)
You can get basic train timeatables (and for all of Europe) at www.bahn.de (German railways)./ They have an English version, and for most of Europe are actually more accurate and up to date than the national webpages are...
In all of Cro/Bos/ser M, I normally work it out as I go along, and rarely have any problem. Buses are generally the way to go in all 3.
Bosnia is not worth worrying much about trains as there are 4 trains... Bus is generally much more convenient.
Croatian buses and ferries are also much more useful ingeneral than trains, exceptiing on (Germany/Austria/Switzerland) Slovenia - Zagreb - Serbia treks, and a few connections to Venice, Wien and Budapest. Details on www.bahn.de.
Ferry timetables are at something like www.jadrolinja.hr (if it's not that, it's very similar).
Serbia/M, trains are basically useful to get down to the Montenegran coast, the main Slovenia - Croatia - Belgrade - Macedonia/Bulgaria main line, plus 1 day and night each to Budapest and Timisoara/Bucharest. Use busses for anything else.
Bus timetables I always source locally, although most are frequent enough that you don't need any great planning and can just turn up (or check the day before)
If you can get to a library or a bookstore, teh Thomas Cook European rail timetable is very good and as accurate as possible. It doesn't mention all the local trains, but everything of likely use will be in it. The Balkan pages are small, so you could photocopy them, or just write what you need.