I will be purchasing a 1month continuous rail pass.(ttp://www.raileurope.co.uk/inter-rail/global_passes/default.asp)I intend t visit the major cities in various countries.
Am i naive in thinking that i can just go to a train station and board a train with this pass. Or am i open to other charges and having to making reservations in advance?
It essentially depends on the train service. If you use a high speed service such as Thalys trains (for instance Brussels to Cologne) then you require a reservation for these services. In a lot of other cases you can board a train without a reservation, but if it's busy then you could end up standing or sitting on the floor. You do have to pay supplements/reservation fees on certain trains, but with the odd exception these are usually very small charges (2-5 Euros or something of that nature). The exceptions are the high speed trains already mentioned - Thalys, the ICE Sprinter in Germany and others - and sleeper cars where you can pay a supplement up to around 20 Euros.
With all this said, I think far too much is made of supplements in general discourse and for most of the journeys you make you won't have to worry a great deal about them, nor will they put a large hole in your budget. It's sort of like the equivalent of having a pass to eat at any restaurant you like for free, but still having to give people tips when you eat at a fancy one.
Thankyou for the response. It was really helpful i appreciate it.
These supplements are they payable onboard the train or will i have to go to a ticket office beforehand. Also if i was to use Thalys for example would i be able to make a same day reservation at the station if theres availability?
Sorry for all the Q's just getting the last minute nerves out the way before i head off!
In all cases (except one) where you do need a resv, if you buy ontrain it will cost more than beforehand, though still not huge amounts. At this time of year, you can usually get pretty much any resv the same day, excepting some fri and sun services used by people going away for the weekend, or those around public/national holidays. A day before (or longer) is always preferable, especially if you have to be on a specific train.
Note that ALL TGV trains (France and France-neighbouring countries) and high speed/long distance trains in Spain require a reservation beforehand. Italy doesn't anymore, BUT only 2 carriages on any train are unreserved. In the rest of Europe, you can generally travel without, but you won't always get a seat. For any night train that passes through France or Germany, or is classed a Hotel train, or where you want more than a basic seat (eg a couchette) you will need to purchase a resv in advance.
Note that Thalys (a private company) resvs are also the most expensive ones for day trains that there are, so if possible, avoid them and use the alternatives, though if going from Amsterdam or Köln through to Paris, the hassle of changing a couple of times and extra time may be worth the extra expense to you. Yes, you will be able to buy the same day if available, though Thalys loadings are generally very high, so there is no guarentee, especially at peak times, that there will be space.
Have you looked into buying the tickets point to point yet? If you already have an idea of where you want to go to you could easily compare the price of the train pass to the total of a bunch of bus, plane and train tickets. Train prices in Europe are much lower than in the UK, take that into account.
The global pass averages to a daily price of 14 to 29 EUR (depending upon the type), which is equivalent to the price of roughly 2 hours of 2nd class train travel in Western Europe. You'll therefore need to spend more than 60 hours on trains (waiting time not included) in order to make the pass worthwhile.
The 10 in 22 days flexi-pass should also be an option, it is much cheaper and if you only go a number of longer distances much more economical. All you have to do is watch out that you end up in a country with cheap rail fare (Czech Republic) or special discounted offers (Germany) and before you fly or bus it home to the UK. The difference is 125 pounds (167 EUR) for the youth pass - there is a lot you can do with this kind of money to cover the transport of your last 8 days of your trip.
[ Edit: Edited on Feb 4, 2008, at 8:53 PM by t_maia ]