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Railway tickets - to buy early or not

Travel Forums Europe Railway tickets - to buy early or not

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1. Posted by ja05 (Budding Member, 5 posts) 22 Jul '08 19:43

I'm planning my trip to Germany, Switzerland, Austria and Czech for the end of October until the beginning of November and I need some help with my railway ticket purchasing.

I will be buying independently from each countries regional railway authorities however I don't know when to make the purchase.

Some people have told me that it is much cheaper when you purchase while in the country a day or two prior to the trip, as appose to buying it online.

Others have told me to purchase the rail tickets online in advance as they are on sale three months in advance.

I have contradicting advice and would like someone to clear it up for me please.
I'm backpacking and budget is fairly restricted.

I look forward to your reponses.

Ja

2. Posted by t_maia (Moderator, 3291 posts) 22 Jul '08 19:51

Depends on the route. For some special offers and in the Czech Republic it makes sense to just buy the tickets at the train stations. For long-distance trains in Germany I can strongly recommend buying in advance, similar should be true for Austria and Switzerland. If you wait until 2 days before the train departs all the special offers will be gone. The last special offers from Deutsche Bahn are usually on sale 14 days before the train departs and at that point often only the more expensive 1st class seats are available at a discount.

Could you pretty please post a rough schedule of your travel plans? And do you want it cheap-cheap (including slow travel on regional trains, many changes and waits at drafty train stations) or do you need your comfort? Are you a single traveller or with friends or family? Got a bike with you?

[ Edit: Edited on Jul 22, 2008, at 7:58 PM by t_maia ]

3. Posted by tigasista (Budding Member, 26 posts) 22 Jul '08 20:23

Hi

What website do you use for booking all of your train travel?

I've looked at Rail Europe, but I'm not sure whether it would give you the best/current deals?

4. Posted by ja05 (Budding Member, 5 posts) 22 Jul '08 20:33

I have set up my travel plans if you'd like to review it and give me some hints.
It's called "East meets West - Europe and The Gulf"

Thanks for the swift reply

Ja

5. Posted by ja05 (Budding Member, 5 posts) 22 Jul '08 20:35

Traveling single and light. I don't want the trip to be long but I don't need first class. Just give me a seat and I'm happy with it.
Budget is definitely a concern, I'm backpacking.

6. Posted by ja05 (Budding Member, 5 posts) 22 Jul '08 20:39

Based on my research I've done via online and talking to people I have found the following.
Depending on your age (younger than 26) and depending on how many countries/cities you are to visit Euro Rail can be affordable. However not in all cases. I've been told that it used to be cheaper.

I am using individual national railways. I'm booking separately for each trip. Depending on where you're interested in going I can provide you with some links.

7. Posted by t_maia (Moderator, 3291 posts) 22 Jul '08 20:48

Reason I asked about slow travel was that it is possible to use special offers like the "Happy-Weekend-Ticket" in Germany. Happy-Weekend-T. allows you to travel all over Germany on a Sat or Sun for the joke fare of 35 EUR, but only on regional trains. Similar offers exist in the individual Laender, most noteably the Bavaria-Ticket. The most common example for using this type of ticket is for travelling between Munich and Frankfurt Airport. With ICE train it takes 4 hours, no changes are needed and cost is 85 EUR regular fare. With Bavaria Ticket combined with a RMV ticket the same distance is 6 hours and requires 2-3 changes but costs only 29 EUR.

Prague-Frankfurt doesn't make any sense to me, IIRC the train connections on this route are awful. Do you have to be in Frankfurt at that time? If not I would go Prague-Vienna-Munich-Frankfurt-Zurich or Prague-Munich-Vienna.

BTW, do you have time for side trips, say to Cesky Krumlov or Salzburg?

@ tigasista: Rail Europe sucks. Worst site ever. Always use the websites of the individual railway companies in Europe to book tickets or buy at the counter in the train station. I use http://reiseauskunft.bahn.de/bin/query.exe/en for schedules in Europe and www.jizdenka.cz for price estimates.

[ Edit: Edited on Jul 22, 2008, at 9:02 PM by t_maia ]

8. Posted by tigasista (Budding Member, 26 posts) 22 Jul '08 21:31

So where do you find the travel specials?

And what if I'm traveling between 2 countries? e.g. from Bern to Barcelona? What website would I use in that instance?

9. Posted by t_maia (Moderator, 3291 posts) 22 Jul '08 22:20

4 websites:

www.sbb.ch
www.voyages.sncf.fr and that stupid TGV Europe site (can't find it right now)
www.renfe.es

It is difficult to buy a ticket directly from Bern to Barcelona. It is normally done so that you buy Bern-France and France-Barcelona, with Bern-France either from the French or the Swiss Railway and the France-Barcelona part from the French. Bern-Barcelona would be a case where a Eurail pass would be most useful, as you'd only need to worry about the reservation and not the tickets. You would reserve Bern-France with the Swiss and France-Barcelona with the French.

But let's keep it to the countries mentioned above:

Germany, national as well as international ticket originating in Germany:
http://reiseauskunft.bahn.de/bin/query.exe/en

Austria, national and some selected international tickets:
http://www.oebb.at

Switzerland: http://www.sbb.ch

Czech: buy at the counter or from the conductor

Due to reasons inherent in the TCV tariff system a trick is to avoid buying international tickets. You get the cheapest one-way ticket from Munich to Prague (or vice versa) by taking Bavaria-Ticket to the border and then getting a national Czech railway ticket from the Czech conductor.

See the site of the expert: http://members.virtualtourist.com/m/b883d/

[ Edit: Edited on Jul 22, 2008, at 10:45 PM by t_maia ]

10. Posted by tway (Travel Guru, 7274 posts) 23 Jul '08 05:51

We waited to buy our tickets out of Switzerland and all the student tickets were sold out. Ended up costing us a small fortune. Plus we booked tickets online in advance for Marseille-Paris and got 1st Class for less than coach. Bonus! I'm not sure how the system works, but booking ahead--if your route is planned--always worked out better for us.