if you were to use them to buy national tickets for the Netherlands, you would be overcharged as much as 60%. .
Ditto for Germany.
Rail ticketing in Europe is a science in itself, just as complicated as flight tickets and air fare. With the offer to buy in advance over the internet to get cheaper fares most rail companies in Europe have complicated the process of getting cheap tickets in the last few years. Germany is especially complicated, with all the special offers that are available (buy in advance + travel on regional trains only). Throw in international fares into the mix and you have total chaos.
RailEurope's solution to this is normally to just sell you regular fare tickets. Unfortunately this isn't very smart. I live in Germany and I haven't paid regular fare in years, I always use the special offers.
I guess it's all very well arguing the toss over Rail Europe when you live in Europe, but for someone who lives on the other side of the world, it's a good starting point. Not everyone knows the details of every individual country's rail company (or companies in the case of Britain) and the relevant websites. You can check SNCF, RENFE, Trenitalia etc but sometimes life's too short.
I'm not saying you shouldn't use them; in fact they make an extremely useful starting point. I'm just saying you shouldn't book with them too quickly.
[ Edit: Edited on 10-Jul-2009, at 08:49 by bentivogli ]
I've been travelling by trains across 3 continents for years. Rail Europe have never ripped me off. OK, yes it's possible to buy a ticket in one country to the border, walk over to the next country and get another ticket onward. It'll save money - for sure, but for someone who's coming from the other side of the planet, an agent is gonna do them good - and Rail Europe is one of the very best.
[ Edit: Edited on 10-Jul-2009, at 12:52 by Redpaddy ]
I would have a one suggestion for you when traveling between the countries. These days it is cheaper in Europe to take a flight than taking a train or a bus. There are lots of budget airlines and the prices are really low. Just have a look at http://www.low-cost-airline-guide.com/ for example to see that the prices are really competitive to those offered by train companies. This would be my suggestions to travel from country to country and it will let you save a lot of money. As for the traveling within the country, it depends, if the cities are far - check flights, if not too far - train or bus will be the best option.
I always do it this way and it lets me to save some serious cash. Times changed and it is amazing that flight are cheaper than even buses.
Have a great trip
Incidentally, I would like to know where I can find a country's national rail company quote - v - Rail Europe and the 60% difference in the cost of a ticket, cos I ain't never seen a margin like that - in all the years I've used them. Furthermore, as an example - Dutch Rail hate assisting when a train is cancelled and there's more than an hours delay. Do it through Rail Europe and you'll get help - and probably a refund, pro-rata. Much the same goes for DB (German Railways). They'll happily take your money, but you got a complaint and need help?? You'll be lucky!!
We are a couple who are planning a trip around Europe, planning on starting in Paris at the beginning of January, heading down to Madrid, then Barcelona, to Nice, Switzerland and then travelling around Italy, finishing the trip at the beginning of February. We are wanting to stay in each major city for approx 3-4 days and do day trips to sites close by. We are wanting to do this within 5 weeks.
To get back to your original question (and away from the discussion of national rail companies vs RailEurope), have you checked out the Eurolines bus pass yet? If you only want to connect to the big cities the prices for the bus pass can be a lot cheaper than train. See www.eurolines.com