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hire a car, eurorail or bus? help!

Travel Forums Europe hire a car, eurorail or bus? help!

1. Posted by kickpleat (Budding Member 5 posts) 9y

My husband and I just purchased our flights to europe so I'm right now in hectic planning mode. We're flying into Frankfurt on Aug. 27 and our return flight leaves Franfurt on Oct. 1. We want to travel as cheaply as possible but we also value our time ;)

We plan on visiting Rhine/Koblenz/Koln area, Belgium (Ghent, Brugges, Antwerp, Brussles), Amsterdam and day long bike trips around Northern Holland, Berlin and Vilnius.

What makes most sense? Purchasing a 5 day Benelux Eurorail pass? 5 day 3 country select eurorail pass? or just get point to point train and bus tickets? We're also considering hiring a car but we aren't sure about added costs associated with renting. As well, we wouldn't want to drive in big cities and search/pay for parking, etc.

As you can see, I need all the help I can get! Thanks!

2. Posted by t_maia (Travel Guru 3289 posts) 9y

If you are only travelling in the Benelux-Cologne area and to and from Frankfurt I think it would make the most sense to use the train and buy point-to-point tickets. Buy them in advance over the internet from www.bahn.de and you'll save lots of money compared to a Eurail pass. Same can be said for Netherlands-Berlin.

If you could please post an initiary we could advice you on which tickets to get. Since you mentioned Vilnius, can I assume that you are flying there with a budget flight? If yes, which airline from which city? And what is your budget? Are you going for "tight budget, want it cheap" or "good value for money, not lacking comfort" ?

For example: If you want it cheap, the best way to get to Berlin from the Netherlands is to travel on a Saturday or Sunday first to the German border and then to take regional trains all the way to Berlin, travelling on weekend-ticket (SWE). SWE is 33 EUR for a party of up to 5 people regardless of the distance travelled, so the savings can be substantial considering that Amsterdam-Berlin is 95-120 EUR per person regular ticket. The difference in travel time however is 7 hours compared to 14 hours and 0 or 2 changes compared to 8 changes.

3. Posted by kickpleat (Budding Member 5 posts) 9y

We don't have a real initiary with dates, as we plan on being relatively free with our time, but here is what we are thinking:

From August 27 - October 1

Arrive in Frankfurt, stay 1 night (we already have 1 host lined up via couchsurfing.com)
Koblenz
Koln
Ghent
Brugges
Brussels
Antwerp
Luxembourg
Amsterdam & day trips around Holland via bike
Berlin
Vilnius
Kaunas
Frankfurt

We've found some cheap flights from Berlin to Vilnius and from Kaunas to Frankfurt, but we are thinking of buying the 2nd class Savers Benelux-Germany Pass (for 6 days in 2 months it's $288). If you think point to point would be cheaper than the pass, I'd love to hear about it! We do plan on keeping things relatively cheap. We plan on couch surfing at least a third of the time and the rest in hostel double rooms or b&bs (which seem cheap in some cities). I think we've ruled out car travel (don't want to pay for parking or worry about leaving the car somewhere!) but the eurorail pass can be confusing. Is it best for long journeys only? Any added help would be great :)

4. Posted by t_maia (Travel Guru 3289 posts) 9y

By using simple math, the Eurail pass is only worth it if you are using it for 6 train trips each costing with regular ticket more than 36 EUR per person.

I'll leave it to you to figure out most of the cost of the trips you are taking by using www.bahn.de, www.ns.nl and www.b-rail.be. www.jizdenka.cz gives the prices for tickets crossing the border, if the other websites flunk. My guess is that if you use all available methods of saving on ticket costs buying individual tickets will work out cheaper.

I already explained on how to go on the cheap from Amsterdam to Berlin, if you are willing to do this, don't buy the passes. For Amsterdam-Berlin also look for cheap flights if you don't get the passes.

The SWE Ticket can be used to get from Koblenz to Cologne if you are willing to put this journey on Sep 1st or 2nd. Cheapest available regular ticket is 31. EUR per person, SWE is 33 EUR for the two of you. Buy it at the vending machine in the train station, the ticket counters charge 2 EUR service fee.

If you are willing to pick a date you can buy tickets online. Deutsche Bahn has special offers for 29 EUR per person if you book online at least 2 weeks in advance. Same for Dutch train tickets.

Frankfurt-Koblenz is 41.60 EUR for both of you with the cheapest regular tickets, but if you are willing to go to Mainz or Wiesbaden with S-Bahn (which is like Metro) you can buy the Rheinland-Pfalz-Laender-Ticket for 25 EUR there. This ticket is valid for both of you in local trains in Rhineland from 9 a.m. to 3 a.m. te next day without limiting distance and will get you to Koblenz. I recommend you go via Mainz, as I have been told that the szenery is better on this side. Hop on and off as you wish along the line, Bacharach is supposed to be awesome. The Rhineland Ticket can also be used for trips around Koblenz, see the network.

For Cologne-Gent I would consider taking the bus to Gent to save money. See http://www.touring.de/ Ticket is 16 EUR per person plus 3 EUR fees compared to 40 EUR per person with train.

Counting now through I see you don't even have 6 train journeys left if you use SWE or fly to get to Berlin. Hah, problem solved! I only hope the Dutch people here have some similar money-saving ideas for you for the rest of your trip.

BTW, are you flying from Vilnius to Frankfurt Fraport or Frankfurt(Hahn)? If you are flying to Hahn, use the transit bus or buy the Rhineland Ticket again to get to Frankfurt.

[ Edit: Edited on Aug 14, 2007, at 4:31 AM by t_maia ]

5. Posted by Herr Bert (Moderator 1384 posts) 9y

The Belgian cities are so close to eachother that a pass, would be not necessary.

I would also try to find a cheap ticket from Amsterdam to Berlin. (Check Transavia) They are not always cheap, but if you book far ahead you can save money comparing using the train from Amsterdam to Berlin.

Getting to Luxembourg from Antwerpen and then to Amsterdam is a serious de-tour, and for what it's worth. Luxembourg is not really worth seeing. If you go there to add another country to your list, fine by me. But then see if you can spent time in Vianden rather than Luxembourg town. If you want to visit, then do it when going from the Rhine Valley on the way to Belgium.

When going from Brussels to Amsterdam don't try to use the Thalys cause it is expensive.

If you really want to save money using the train in the Netherlands, than you should get to Holland almost direct after landing. Until the 31st, you can buy a Zomertour ticket (Summertour), which allows two people to travel by train unlimited for two seperate days. In your case you could get to the border in Holland (let's say coming from Cologne/Koblenz, that that would be either Heerlen or Venlo. Buy a Zomertour ticket and travel on to Amsterdam. and us the same ticket (the second of the available days) to leave Holland. If you do it like that I would go to Belgium, and maybe see if you can get a flight from Brussels Airport (Zaventem) or from Brussels-South (Charleroi) to Berlin to continue the trip as planned (check Brussels Airlines). When you return to Frankfurt, you could still use the days you planned for at the beginning of the trip in the Rhine Valley (and Luxembourg).

For Zomertour there are a couple of limitations. They can be bought until the 31st of August, and have to be used by the 6th of September. It is only on the dutch part of the www.ns.nl website. But it says you can buy them at the ticketmachines or at the counter. They cost 59 euros for two persons, for two days of free travel. So it slashes the trainticket to under 15 euro each. (one from the border to Amsterdam, and one from Amsterdam to the border). Note that they will not be valid for the Thalys. But you can travel to the last station near to the Belgium border, and buy a ticket from there to one of the Belgium cities.

[ Edit: Edited on Aug 14, 2007, at 2:13 PM by Herr Bert ]

6. Posted by ZuCCi.FL (Budding Member 3 posts) 9y

Like mentioned in previous posts, Belgium is a small country. All the cities are easy to reach by train. The cheapest way is to buy a "RAILPASS" wich has 10 individual trips ( so 5 for you and 5 for your hubby) and it's valid for all over Belgium. I think that the pass costs 65Euro.

When you plan to take the train from Antwerp to Amsterdam, you better take the regular train. It is approximally 3 hours and it 'll cost you about 40Euro/pers (roundtrip)
Thalys is expensive, that's right but might be a little more comfortable.

For tram, bus and subway you can buy a day pass wich will cost a few Euros.

Have a safe trip!

7. Posted by Chad_E (Budding Member 23 posts) 9y

Hi,

I travel to Europe quite a bit, and I always rent a car. I use Kemwel Holiday Auto. I book them from the US, and I have found them to be cheaper than any other rental site. The train is nice, but I like the freedom of a car. And the great thing, at least as far as insurance is concerned, booking with a credit card will preclude the need for this. But check with your credit card company.

I'm a firm believer in rental cars. Just can't beat the convenience. Oh, if this is the way you go, go to Borders or Barnes and Noble, and invest in a good motoring atlas. Michellin makes a great one, although it is a little large. But hey, you're in a car so who cares..

Please feel free to contact me directly if you have any questions..

And enjoy..

Chad

8. Posted by kickpleat (Budding Member 5 posts) 9y

Quoting ZuCCi.FL

Like mentioned in previous posts, Belgium is a small country. All the cities are easy to reach by train. The cheapest way is to buy a "RAILPASS" wich has 10 individual trips ( so 5 for you and 5 for your hubby) and it's valid for all over Belgium. I think that the pass costs 65Euro.

Thank you for this information. I've since gone onto all the train sites and figured out the cost for each of our trips. We'll definitely skip the Benelux pass and get the Belgium Railpass for 10 trips which makes way more sense and will be much cheaper. Thank you!