Suggestions for rail travel: Madrid to Ponferrada (Spain), Ponferrada to Villars-sur-Ollon (Switzerland), Villars-sur-Olons to Paris, Paris to Blois, Blois to London, London to Edinburgh, Edinburgh to Manchester, and Manchester to London Gatwick Airport

Hello, I'm very impressed with the details other travelers have gained from this forum! I'm hoping I can also get some guidance as a novice traveler. I was leaning towards the 15 day/2month global pass taking the following mandatory trips where we will be spending a week in each place and then taking day-trips where there are non-reservation trains available just to explore especially in Switzerland. I was happily surprised to see that Great Britain is included in Eurail, can I get assurance this will not change before the end of summer 2019.This June my family and I will be traveling from: Madrid to Ponferrada, Spain,Ponferrada to Villars-sur-Ollons, Switzerland, Villars-sur-Ollons to Paris, Paris to Blois, France, Blois to London, London to Edinburgh, Edinburgh to Manchester, Manchester to Gatwick Airport London.
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  • Jeff (Official Rep) April 16, 2019 20:21
    Hi Kimberly,

    For your itinerary, the Eurail Global Pass would be your best option. For the Eurail Global Pass, you would click here: https://www.raileurope.com/pass/eurail-global-pass-5880.

    For this much travel, 1st class would definitely be recommended.

    Rest assured, the United Kingdom will be included on the Eurail Global Pass. They wouldn't announce any changes to the pass until the start of next year. In any case, if you purchase the Eurail Global Pass while the UK is part of it, travel within the UK would be honored.

    When reservations are needed, you would purchase them by searching a route on our homepage (www.raileurope.com), checking the box that says ‘I have a rail pass’, and then indicating the type of rail pass with which you'll be traveling (i.e. a ‘Eurail Global Pass’).

    I'll run through your itinerary to advise what you'll need to do for each trip. There's a lot of travel here, so just go through each trip one-by-one.

    Madrid to Ponferrada with a Eurail Global Pass

    There is one direct train from Madrid to Ponferrada, which departs out of the Madrid Chamartin station. This train is an Alvia train, which would require reservations as a supplement to the rail pass.

    Currently, passholder reservations for this train can be booked on our website but only for dates up until end of May and only in 2nd class. We expect the rail network of Spain to open up June dates at some point within the next 2 or 3 weeks. Generally, trains in Spain should be able to be booked within 60-90 days of an intended departure.

    If you want to be reserved in 1st class on this train, you would have to send an email with your request to customercare@raileurope.com and we'll try to get that set up for you.

    If the timing of the direct train doesn't work for you, other connections from Madrid to Ponferrada involve changing trains once in Leon along the way. The trains from Madrid to Leon are Alvia trains, which do require reservations. Most trains from Leon to Ponferrada would require reservations, as well. However, passholder reservations for the trains from Madrid to Leon are not able to be booked on our website at this time. Therefore, if you want to take one of these trains, you would instead have to send an email with your request to customercare@raileurope.com.

    Ponferrada to Villars-sur-Ollon with a Eurail Global Pass

    The fastest and most feasible connection from Ponferrada to Villars-sur-Ollon takes just over 21 hours in duration and involves 4 transfers along the way; first in Barcelona, then in Valence, then in Geneva, and then in Aigle. The train from Ponferrada to Barcelona is an overnight train. From Aigle to Villars-sur-Ollon, you would take a bus.

    The night train from Ponferrada to Barcelona carries single sleeping compartments, double sleeping compartments, and reclining seats. Due to an error, our website would only offer one of these accommodation types when you go to try to purchase these reservations on our website. If you're interested in one of the accommodation types that isn't shown, you would have to send an email with your request to customercare@raileurope.com. To view the accommodation type when you pull up the results of a search, you would click the fare itself and then the link for 'Fare details'.

    This night train runs daily (except for Saturdays) up until June 17th. After June 17th, it has departures every day of the week. Just like the trains from Madrid to Ponferrada, the night train from Ponferrada to Barcelona is currently only able to be booked for dates up until end of May. Once again, we expect the rail network of Spain to open up June dates at some point within the next 2 or 3 weeks.

    Trains from Barcelona to Valence are France-Spain High Speed trains, which also require reservations as a supplement to a rail pass. For travel with a rail pass, reservations from Barcelona to Valence can be purchased by doing a search for this segment on our homepage, checking the box that says ‘I have a rail pass’, and then indicating the type of rail pass with which you'll be traveling (i.e. a ‘Eurail Global Pass’). Generally, France-Spain High Speed trains can be reserved once within 120 days of an intended departure date.

    Trains from Valence to Geneva (TER trains) and trains from Geneva to Aigle (regional Intercity trains) do not accept reservations. Therefore, the Eurail Global Pass is all you would need to board these trains. For planning purposes, you can still use the route search feature on our homepage just to view schedules for these trains. Generally, when you're just searching schedules for non-reservable trains, you would have to leave the 'I have a rail pass' box unchecked for the schedules display.

    For the final segment from Aigle to Villars-sur-Ollon, you would take a bus. For the bus, you would to board locally upon arrival.

    Villars-sur-Ollon to Paris with a Eurail Global Pass

    For a trip from Villars-sur-Ollon to Paris, you would first have to get back to Geneva. In Geneva, you can board a high-speed TGV Lyria train that would take you right to Paris.

    To get from Villars-sur-Ollon to Geneva, you would take a regional train from Villars-sur-Ollon to Bex and then another regional train from Bex to Geneva. These trains do not accept reservations, so the Eurail Global Pass is all you would need to board.

    Schedules for the trains from Villars-sur-Ollon to Bex are not able to be viewed on our website, but these trains depart hourly throughout the day and the ride takes about 45 minutes. For planning, you can use the route search feature on our homepage to check schedules from Bex to Geneva by leaving the 'I have a rail pass' box unchecked when you do your search.

    For travel with a rail pass, you can purchase reservations from Geneva to Paris by searching this segment of the route on our homepage, checking the box that says ‘I have a rail pass’, and then indicating the type of rail pass with which you'll be traveling (i.e. a ‘Eurail Global Pass’). Generally, the TGV Lyria from Geneva to Paris can be reserved once within 120 days of an intended departure date.

    Paris to Blois with a Eurail Global Pass

    From Paris to Blois, most rail connections take 1.5 to 2 hours and involve changing trains once in St Pierre des Corps along the way. These connections involve taking a high-speed TGV from the Paris Montparnasse station to St Pierre des Corps and a regional TER train from St Pierre des Corps to Blois. Reservations are only required on the TGV segment. TER trains do not accept reservations, so the Eurail Global Pass is all you would need to board for the segment from St Pierre des Corps to Blois.

    For travel with a rail pass, you would purchase reservations from Paris to Blois by searching the route on our homepage, checking the box that says ‘I have a rail pass’, and then indicating the type of rail pass with which you'll be traveling (i.e. a ‘Eurail Global Pass’). Once again, your actual reservation would only be on the segment from Paris to St Pierre des Corps and then there would be open seating on the segment from St Pierre des Corps to Blois.

    Generally, reservable trains in France can be booked once within 90 days of an intended departure date.

    Blois to London with a Eurail Global Pass

    Connections from Blois to London take 6.5 to 7 hours in duration and involve 2 transfer en route; once in St Pierre des Corps and then in Paris (in Paris, you would also have to transfer between 2 different stations).

    To get from Blois back to Paris, you would again take that regional TER train from Blois to St Pierre des Corps and then a high-speed TGV from St Pierre des Corps to Paris. Once again, it would be open seating on the TER segment from Blois to St Pierre des Corps and then you would need to have reservations on the TGV segment from St Pierre des Corps to Paris.

    The trains from St Pierre des Corps arrive into the Paris Montparnasse station, while the trains from Paris to London only depart from the Paris Nord station.

    To commute from the Montparnasse station to the Nord station, you would take M4 of the Paris Métro. The ride on the Métro from Montparnasse to Nord would only take about 17 minutes, but you would still should have at least 1 hour and 40 minutes between your arrival into Montparnasse and your departure out of Nord. The Eurostar train from Paris to London requires passengers with rail passes to check in 45 minutes prior to departure, so I added additional time. You would pay to board the Métro locally at the turnstiles before boarding. At Montparnasse, you should also expect a bit of a walk to the area for the Métro from the platform where your train would arrive into.

    The Eurostar from Paris to London also require reservations as a supplement to rail passes. When purchasing your reservations for a trip all the way from Blois to London, you would just have to actually break up your search in Paris. Therefore, you would do one search from Blois to Paris and then another search from Paris to London. Once again, just be sure to allow yourself at least about 1 hour and 40 minutes between your arrival into Montparnasse from Blois/St Pierre des Corps and your departure out of Nord to London.

    London to Edinburgh with a Eurail Global Pass

    There are direct trains from London to Edinburgh, on which reservations are highly recommended as a supplement to rail passes. For trains in UK, however, passholder reservations are only able to be purchased locally when you're there. You can purchase the reservations by going to the ticket window in the station and mentioning that you have the Eurail Global Pass. You might want to try booking this reservation as soon as you arrive into London from Paris.

    For planning purposes, you can still use the route search feature on our homepage just to view schedules for trains from London to Edinburgh. When you do this search, you would have to leave the 'I have a rail pass' box unchecked for the schedules to display.

    Edinburgh to Manchester with a Eurail Global Pass

    There are also direct trains from Edinburgh to Manchester, on which reservations would again be highly recommended as a supplement to rail passes. Once again, passholder reservations for trains in the UK are only able to be purchased locally when you're there, so you would have to do this at the ticket window in the station.

    You can use the route search feature on our homepage to view schedules for trains from Edinburgh to Manchester -- just remember to leave the 'I have a rail pass' box unchecked when you enter your search.

    Manchester to London Gatwick Airport with a Eurail Global Pass

    To get from Manchester to Gatwick Airport, you would first take a direct train from Manchester back to the city of London. On the trains from Manchester to London, reservations might not be necessary, but you can always check at the station once you get to the UK.

    To get to Gatwick Airport, you can use your Eurail Global Pass to take the Gatwick Express, which departs out of the London Victoria station.

    The trains from Manchester arrive into the London Euston station. To get from the Euston station to the Victoria station, you would take the Victoria Line of the London Tube. The ride from Euston to Victoria on the Tube would only take about 10 minutes.

    You can still view schedules from Manchester to the city of London by using the route search feature on our homepage and leaving the 'I have a rail pass' box unchecked when you enter your search.

    Gatwick Express trains from London Victoria to the airport depart frequently throughout the day and the ride takes about 30-35 minutes.
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  • I’m grateful!
    I can't thank you enough, Jeff. You have eased all my anxiety about how we will get around once in Europe. I will definitely advise all my friends and contacts to look into Eurail when they travel. You deserve a raise ; ) Thanks a million!
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