I’m confused!

How to choose/book trains when traveling - Purchasing pass for France, Germany, Belgium, Netherlands, and Switzerland

Ok. So I've never used a Rail Europe pass before. My friend and I will be traveling in July/August and are planning on getting a 5 country pass (For France, Germany, Belgium, Netherlands, and Switzerland). I understand we have five travel days within 2 months-I figure this is plenty since we'll just use one day to go from country to country-and within that country, we'll stay around the main city.

My question is, do we just show up to the train station and hope there is a train there? Do we have to make reservations in advance/are there certain trains and schedules we have to follow?

Thank you!!!
1 person has
this question
  • Jeff (Official Rep) May 23, 2012 20:57
    Hi Jennifer,

    For travel in those countries, you would actually purchase a 4 country Eurail Select Pass. Belgium and the Netherlands are included as a part of the 'Benelux'. The Benelux covers Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg and counts them as one country for the purpose of rail passes. Therefore, you would include the Benelux as one of the 'countries' on your Eurail Select Pass, along with France, Germany and Switzerland. You can purchase the Eurail Select Pass here: http://www.raileurope.com/rail-ticket....

    A rail pass covers the ticket costs on trains between different cities in the country or countries included on the pass. When applicable, reservations are a supplementary cost to a rail pass, just as they would be factored into the cost of individual point-to-point tickets (therefore, a rail pass still often works out to be the most economical option for travelers taking multiple trains while in Europe that cover more substantial distances).

    Reservations are required on all high-speed trains, night trains, and many international routes. Generally, high-speed trains connect most of the larger cities and more popular destinations in western Europe.

    In France, most major cities are connected almost exclusively by high-speed trains. Therefore, it is likely that reservations will be required for many of your trips there.

    Throughout the rest of Europe, reservations are required on high-speed trains. In Germany, however, reservations are not required on the high-speed trains, but they are highly recommended. In any case, there are generally regular trains operating along the same routes as the high-speed trains in Germany, for which reservations would not at all be needed or even accepted. The high-speed trains in Germany are labeled as 'Inter City Express' (ICE) trains. We would recommend booking reservations on these trains, especially during the busy Spring and Summer travel season.

    Regular trains operating within the Benelux region do not even accept reservations, so the rail pass is all you would need to board. However, reservations would be required on most trains operating internationally between the Benelux countries and France or Germany, as well as the high-speed Thalys trains that operate as an option along some routes.

    Regular trains operating within Switzerland do not require reservations. In fact, most trains within Switzerland do not even accept reservations. Therefore, unless you are taking a specialty Swiss scenic train (see 'Scenic Trains & Airport Transfers' after clicking on 'Train FAQ' from our homepage), the rail pass is all you would need to board trains in Switzerland.

    After you add the pass to your shopping cart, you would click 'Continue Shopping' to add your reservations for any reservable trains and check reservation costs. On the next screen, you would then click 'Buy a Reservation' under where it says 'Reservations for Pass Holders' (if starting on the homepage, you would just click on 'Book a Reservation for Your Pass').

    Reservable trains in these countries can be booked within 90 days of an intended date of departure. If your intended date of departure happens to fall outside of this time frame, you would just enter a date within the next 90 days to get an idea of the reservation cost and view schedules.

    For planning purposes, you can just view the schedules for any non-reservable trains (i.e. trains in the Benelux and Switzerland) by entering the cities under 'Check Fares and Schedules' on the homepage of our website and clicking the option to 'Check Schedules'.
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