Europe Trains Guide Forum
User Info
Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.
Did you miss your activation email?
November 21, 2018, 08:35:21 am

Login with username, password and session length
Search:     Advanced search
News
Welcome
Forum Stats
2803 Posts in 516 Topics by 761 Members
Latest Member: Ursula Surrey
Home Help Search Login Register
Europe Trains Guide Forum  |  General discussion  |  Travel plans, routes and timetables  |  Eight train trips... too much? Is this trip possible by train?
« previous next »
Pages: [1] 2 Go Down Print
Author Topic: Eight train trips... too much? Is this trip possible by train?  (Read 13902 times)
EuroFascination
Newbie
*
Posts: 14

View Profile
« on: January 27, 2012, 06:24:19 am »

I've planned an aggressive road trip this summer with this route) for two adults and two kids (15, 11) that I'm trying to convert to a train-based trip.

I've taken a stab at the list of eight train legs we would need to take.

To simply our trip I'm considering dropping Bavaria and spending more time in Colmar, FR.

Please don't look up all the schedules yet.... is it possible to do this many legs by train and not go crazy?  Or is it better to drive? 

Pete
Logged
tUt
Administrator
Hero Member
*****
Posts: 1228

View Profile EuropeTrainsGuide
« Reply #1 on: January 27, 2012, 07:07:11 pm »

...is it possible to do this many legs by train and not go crazy?
Why not? Train travel in Western Europe is relatively easy and in most cases much faster comparing to car travel. Plus rail networks in all of your planned countries are rather extensive. Just an example: Paris-Colmar will take <3 hours by direct high-speed TGV train (or around 3:30 with one change in Strasbourg). Colmar-Interlaken as well take around 3-3.5 hours with one change in Basel. From Interlaken to Lauterbrunnen (last train station from where cable car runs to Murren) it's only 20 minutes. Interlaken-Luzern is just 2 hours by direct train. Luzern-Fussen is a bit more complicated, you'll have to make at least 2 change and total travel time will be like 6-7 hours (depending on connection). Fussen-Venice overnight is definitely possible, you'll just need to get to Munich where it's easy to catch CNL overnight train to Venice. With Italy you again have a huge choice of trains, Venice-Florence (from 2 hours), Florence-La Spezia (2-3 hours depending on connection), La Spezia-Rome (3:30-4:30 hours depending on connection).
So don't think your travel legs are that crazy, especially since in most cases scenery will be quite nice and you won't even feel time passing ;)
Or is it better to drive?
That really depends on your personal/family preferences. Train will hardly lose in comfort, but obviously with car you will be more mobile (stops to take photo, eat, simply change itinerary a bit etc.). Also, taking into consideration family of 4, car actually might turn out as a cheaper option. Don't know exactly which rent price range/fuel consumption option you looked at, but train tickets, even smartly purchased (like discounted, group etc.) won't be that cheap in total.
Logged
Get 10% off your next hotel stay and support our forum by utilizing our special Booking.com partner link when you make your next hotel booking!
EuroFascination
Newbie
*
Posts: 14

View Profile
« Reply #2 on: January 28, 2012, 01:49:55 am »

I'd like to price this trip.  Is that something you can do?  I'm having a terrible time with the three country train websites.  Many of the sites  say "no solution" or won't give a price when there is obviously a route!

Even if the train costs more I'm feeling drawn to the train.

If we price it for February, is that representative of summer prices?

We also want to use the lifts in the Alps... does that mean we should buy a Swiss pass?  This is all so confusing.

Pete
Logged
tUt
Administrator
Hero Member
*****
Posts: 1228

View Profile EuropeTrainsGuide
« Reply #3 on: January 28, 2012, 07:32:40 pm »

Ok, so let's assume minimal fares you'll pay:
Paris-Colmar: if you purchase the tickets in advance online from tgv-europe.com website*, then you can get Prem's offer and fare Paris-Colmar for as low as 25 EUR per person, which isn't that bad in this case.
*tgv-europe.com is a bit tricky, when you search routes it asks you about "Select your country" and if you input something like US, Australia etc. it automatically redirects you to the ticket agency Rail Europe, which is an 'evil' thing, since they will sell you same ticket, but more expensive and with commission charged. Thus it's better just to input any EU country instead (anyway nobody checks your residence and it's not printed on a ticket), then you'll get direct access to French railway system and normal fares.
Colmar-Interlaken/Murren: Since you anyway will need to change in Basel, it also makes sense to 'break' your tickets via Basel, which will save you a lot. Thus first you need to purchase Colmar-Basel tickets, normal full fare for all 4 will be 44.8 EUR, but you can as well benefit from ticket called "DISCOVERY CHILD PLUS", that's discounted ticket for up to 5 passengers with at least one child <12. Such ticket for 4 cost 33.6 EUR (you can see it on tgv-europe website as well). Then Basel-Interlaken part best to be done with ticket under offer SBB SuperSaver. That is also a discounted ticket that needs to be purchased online from SBB website (see link above). You can get up to 50% off regular fare with SuperSaver ticket. So instead of 56 CHF for regular Basel-Interlaken ticket you'll pay only 28 (. If you aren't lucky with SuperSaver tickets, then regular Basel-Murren via Interlaken ticket cost 73.6 CHF per person.
Murren/Interlaken-Luzern: here again SuperSaver ticket Interlaken-Luzern is your best option, you can catch for as low as 12 CHF per person (while regular fare is 30 CHF)
Luzern-Fussen: in this case you actually have a few options. Easiest one will be just to purchase in advance discounted international tickets (either Luzern-Fussen from 49 EUR or Zurich-Fussen from 39 EUR per person). Or you can again use SuperSaver ticket from Luzern to a place like Romanshorn (from 18 CHF per person). From Romanshorn you can get a ferry over Boden lake to German Friedrichshafen. From from Friedrichshafen to Fussen you can already take advantage of DB group ticket (best will be first to purchase Friedrichshafen-Lindau (Lindau) ticket for 11 EUR (for all 4) and then already from Lindau Bavaria group ticket for 29 EUR (for all 4).
Fussen-Venice: here again you'll need to take advantage of discounted ticket bought online in advance (this time on DB website). 4 berth compartment (ticket+reservation) will cost you at least 267 EUR for all. You can also get other options, you'll see them when enter all the data on DB website.
Venice-Florence: again two major choices here: a) go to TrenItalia website and purchase in advance discounted tickets (offer called "MINI") for a high-speed or InterCity train. Full fare for high-speed EuroStar train is 43 EUR or 24 EUR for InterCity train, while "Mini" tickets allow you to save >50% out of this fares; b) another relatively cheap way to travel and not to worry about purhasing anything in advance is use regional trains, they are a bit slower, but much cheaper and ticket Venice-Florence will cost you around 15 EUR even if you purchase it like 5 min. before train departure.
Florence-La Spezia: the easiest part, since you don't need to purchase anything in advance. Just come to the station and buy direct ticket for 9,4 EUR per person, then board any of multiple direct regional trains.
La Spezia-Rome: again two option (as with Venice-Florence) - either purchased in advance MINI ticket for fast FRECCIABIANCA/InterCity train or slower regional train (a bit more than 20 EUR per person)

NB Also remember that most of the discounted tickets (like Prem's for France, SuperSaver for Switzerland or MINI for Italy) is a type of tickets strictly tied to a specific time and train, often non-xchangeable/non-refundable (we advise you to read carefully rules of the offer in every case). Thus with such tickets you get a good price, but low flexibility.

If we price it for February, is that representative of summer prices?
Pretty much, railway companies rather rarely change fares in the middle of the season, so you can count on app. same fares during next summer. But you need to understand that demand during peak season is higher, thus discounted (limited in number) tickets might be sold out much faster. So in case you decide to use it, makes sense to start purchasing almost immediately after they become available, thus 3-2 month in advance.
We also want to use the lifts in the Alps... does that mean we should buy a Swiss pass?
What exactly you mean by lifts? Cable cars like Lauterbrunnen-Murren?
If to speak in general, then Swiss pass isn't always a solution (it's not that cheap), especially when things like SuperSaver tickets available.
Best thing to do is simply to count total sum of point-to-point tickets and compare it with pass fare.
« Last Edit: February 15, 2013, 11:25:33 am by tUt » Logged
Get 10% off your next hotel stay and support our forum by utilizing our special Booking.com partner link when you make your next hotel booking!
EuroFascination
Newbie
*
Posts: 14

View Profile
« Reply #4 on: January 29, 2012, 03:38:54 am »

1) I think the driving cost is around $1,900.  I added up the absolute lowest cost of your figures and it came in also around $1,900 for best case scenario (early and lucky). Worst case I guess could be $500 more.  I'm strongly leaning on the train option because of quality of life issues: A) driving 2,500km, B) relaxation, C) "romantic fixation" on trains D) Hopefully faster overall.
2) Are any of the best deals available now--or do they all start 2-3 months ahead of time?
3) For overnight sleeper to Venice, I was only able to find triples and 6-bunks.
4) Do we have to go north to Munich to catch an overnight sleeper to Venice?

I read your post slowly but I'm now going to pick it apart leg-by-leg and manually price them and try to learn these sites.

I don't know how to thank you for such a lengthy and detailed answer--thanks so much!

Pete
Logged
tUt
Administrator
Hero Member
*****
Posts: 1228

View Profile EuropeTrainsGuide
« Reply #5 on: January 30, 2012, 12:13:26 am »

Are any of the best deals available now--or do they all start 2-3 months ahead of time?
Not really, it's just technological thing for rail companies. In order to definitely guarantee timetable, type of carriage etc. they can't sell it very in advance. Also during peak season (like summer vacation time) additional trains/carriages added.
Actually you can yourself control when it's time to purchase your ticket --> check farthest day available for sale. For instance, DB has a rule about 92 days in advance purchase, thus today you can buy Fussen/Munich-Venice ticket for 29/04, but not 30/04. Same with Italy, EuroStar train tickets available May 6 at latest etc.
For overnight sleeper to Venice, I was only able to find triples and 6-bunks.
Strange... at the end of you booking you should get something like this, as you can see, it's possible to choose any 2nd class ticket option here (either seats, 6 berth couchette, 4 berth couchette etc.)
Do we have to go north to Munich to catch an overnight sleeper to Venice?
Not necessarily, it's just easier and cheaper via Munich because of only one change and basically free ride on segment Fussen-Munich (ticket Fussen-Venice costs same as just Munich-Venice). If you don't want to go via Munich, then you can catch a bus to Austrian Reutte or Garmisch-Partenkirchen, from where trains run to Innsbruck, while there you again catch same Munich-Venice overnight train. Tickets Innsbruck-Venice can be bought from OeBB website
I read your post slowly but I'm now going to pick it apart leg-by-leg and manually price them and try to learn these sites.
Yep, that's the way to proceed. Just get acquainted with all the info, websites, tariffs etc., then, if something puzzling comes up, ask us, we will try to help  ;)

Worst case I guess could be $500 more.
Well, it's a bit optimistic. If you don't go with discounted/group etc. options (that we tried to describe in the previous post) and instead just rely on standard full fare tickets, then expenses might be higher. Just compare Fussen-Venice (for 4) with discounted offer and next column stating normal fare, difference is like 200 EUR. Or Paris-Colmar full fare of 75 EUR per person vs. discounted 25 EUR ticket.
So to conclude, if you catch cheapest tickets, then total expenses might be rather low, but in case you miss something or will have to rapidly change itinerary, then you might end up spending more. Thus we advise you carefully consider all the pros and cons
Logged
Get 10% off your next hotel stay and support our forum by utilizing our special Booking.com partner link when you make your next hotel booking!
EuroFascination
Newbie
*
Posts: 14

View Profile
« Reply #6 on: February 14, 2012, 03:39:37 pm »

We've decided to re-arrange our trip greatly to do "trains" instead of "car" and it was your advice that made it possible!!!

On our current itinerary (revision 12, *sigh*) we'll be traveling from Zug to Venice.   As much as I want a night trail experience, my research shows that the Switzerland to Italy crossing is not to be missed so we're going to do it in daylight.  We have two options:
1) Zug -> Venice via Milan (nice fare... CHF 52)
2) Zug -> Innsbruck (stay night for quick visit); next day Innsbruck -> Venice.

I've heard that scenery over Alps is bit nicer through Innsbruck than via Milan.  Would you concur?   Or am I splitting hairs and they're both just wonderful?  Is that route (for the beauty) worth three additional hours of train travel?

Pete
Logged
tUt
Administrator
Hero Member
*****
Posts: 1228

View Profile EuropeTrainsGuide
« Reply #7 on: February 15, 2012, 02:17:10 am »

I've heard that scenery over Alps is bit nicer through Innsbruck than via Milan.
Yep, among those interested in such kind of sightseeing most do prefer scenery on Innsbruck-Brenner route. But at the same time route via Lugano also quite nice (especially for somebody who never seen it), like areas around Zug-Arth-Goldau and then Lugano-Como stretch is marvelous in a nice weather.
Is that route (for the beauty) worth three additional hours of train travel?
Difficult question, since besides actual difference in pass to cross, you also get a ride Zug-Innsbruck via western Austria, which isn't the worst segment in terms of natural beauty either + you get to see a bit of Innsbruck as well. On the contrary faster route and potential stop in Milan also tempting
Zug -> Venice via Milan (nice fare... CHF 52)
By 52 CHF you mean full ticket Zug-Milan? Since there is also available SuperSaver tickets Switzerland-Italy (bookable online via SBB wesbite), including Zug-Milan, which cost as low as 24 CHF (if purchased in advance)
Logged
Get 10% off your next hotel stay and support our forum by utilizing our special Booking.com partner link when you make your next hotel booking!
EuroFascination
Newbie
*
Posts: 14

View Profile
« Reply #8 on: March 13, 2012, 06:27:26 pm »

I'm so happy for all the help you're giving me.  I've been able to find some of the discounts you write about.

I've also reverse-engineered the fare lookup tables to figure out how far I can book.

I'm still confused about Mini-Fares in Italy.  I can't seem to find any.  Here is one screen shot:
http://gyazo.com/a66dbe609f15f69f92851fef656cf926

I found the 43E fare, but not the MINI.  Do you know how to hunt from them?  Looking for Venezia to Firenze or Pisa.

Also, have you heard about the new fast train service called Italo?  I wonder when those will go on sale and if they'll have any low prices to start ;)  I notice they go from  Venezia to Firenze.
Logged
tUt
Administrator
Hero Member
*****
Posts: 1228

View Profile EuropeTrainsGuide
« Reply #9 on: March 13, 2012, 10:15:39 pm »

I found the 43E fare, but not the MINI.  Do you know how to hunt from them?
You just need to go one step further ;)
Let's take a look at particular example, exactly in a month from now. First you have this page
Select the connection you need, then click 'Continue' and you'll see next page -->

Here you have a number of fares offered, 43 EUR one is 'base', same price you pay at the station, while lower you can see discounted 'MINI' offer, in this case it's 29 EUR (but it actually starts from 9 EUR). Carefully read details (in 'More info') regarding the fare and proceed.
Also, have you heard about the new fast train service called Italo?
Rumors had been circulating for a long time already. It's all about private rail operator company NTV planning to enter the market, but judging from their website nothing yet known
Logged
Get 10% off your next hotel stay and support our forum by utilizing our special Booking.com partner link when you make your next hotel booking!
EuroFascination
Newbie
*
Posts: 14

View Profile
« Reply #10 on: March 19, 2012, 06:18:15 am »

Again you are rocking my world and I really appreciate it!

For Paris to Colmar I'm using voyages-sncf.com site in French to bypass the rail europe fees (which are painful):
http://gyazo.com/9df0070b896ef0f9f663692c5449338f

The warning message says I have a chip on my card to use machine to pick up tickets.  Are you sure I can go to a person at a ticket window and give them the confirmation number to pick up the tickets as long as I bring the exact credit card I used online to purchase them?

Here is the scary message, translated:
http://gyazo.com/f950648ab2620260c765af3460ee9a09

Thanks again so very much,
Peter
Logged
tUt
Administrator
Hero Member
*****
Posts: 1228

View Profile EuropeTrainsGuide
« Reply #11 on: March 19, 2012, 12:21:46 pm »

The warning message says I have a chip on my card to use machine to pick up tickets.  Are you sure I can go to a person at a ticket window and give them the confirmation number to pick up the tickets as long as I bring the exact credit card I used online to purchase them?
As far as we know yes, that's just technical limitation for SNCF ticket machines. The case is that currently most EU banks issue chip-cards, so self-service ticket machines work with those. If you don't use ticket machines, then any card (besides virtual) should work fine. More info about this option here
Second, there is always other options available, for instance you can receive your ticket by post. Other methods (not all of them available in your case, but still) can be found here

Also here is the screenshot of options precisely in case of Paris-Colmar direct TGV:

As you can see, note about chip and pin cards present only regarding automatic ticket machines. In addition, just to stay totally safe, you can as well email them directly and ask particularly about the issue ;)
Logged
Get 10% off your next hotel stay and support our forum by utilizing our special Booking.com partner link when you make your next hotel booking!
EuroFascination
Newbie
*
Posts: 14

View Profile
« Reply #12 on: March 19, 2012, 01:45:36 pm »

Thank you for the info.

1) It's odd that I tried it with both French and English(Canada) and neither site gave me the "Retrieval in a French Station" option of your screen shot.
2) I don't think they will postal mail tickets to United States.... US is the only site not listed (I think forcing us across the pond in US to use Rail Europe site).

I wrote them... good idea!

Pete
Logged
tUt
Administrator
Hero Member
*****
Posts: 1228

View Profile EuropeTrainsGuide
« Reply #13 on: March 19, 2012, 05:36:28 pm »

It's odd that I tried it with both French and English(Canada) and neither site gave me the "Retrieval in a French Station" option of your screen shot.
Well, if you choose 'France' in the very beginning than it redirects you to voyage-sncf website, it's basically tailored for French customers, so not every option might be available. In case you choose 'Canada', then it redirects you to canadian RailEurope website, which isn't what you want either. So maybe you should try it via different browser (so it won't redirect you automatically remembering you previous choice) this link (www.tgv-europe.com/en), then everything should work fine ;)
I don't think they will postal mail tickets to United States.... US is the only site not listed (I think forcing us across the pond in US to use Rail Europe site).
Probably, but there is also an option "Send the tickets to another person or address", imho, it can justify overseas postal mail. Other option is to send the tickets to your French hotel, you'll probably book in advance as well. We tried Canadian address and it works. But anyway, "retrieval at the station option" (after SNCF confirms possibility to use non-chip card) seems to be the smartest choice.

p.s. just in case, there is a third option 'self-printed e-ticket', it's available for Paris-Strasbourg or Paris-Mulhouse routes, thus you can buy Paris-Strasbourg tickets (which actually can be essentially cheaper than Paris-Colmar), then just standard fare ticket Strasbourg-Colmar for a short 30 min. journey for next regional train
« Last Edit: October 16, 2013, 02:38:55 pm by tUt » Logged
Get 10% off your next hotel stay and support our forum by utilizing our special Booking.com partner link when you make your next hotel booking!
EuroFascination
Newbie
*
Posts: 14

View Profile
« Reply #14 on: March 24, 2012, 12:29:57 pm »

SNCF replied to my question.. YES!, they acknowledge that one can indeed pick up the tickets at a counter, but there is an 8 euro fee for the group:

Quote
You wish to retrieve your tickets with your chip-less card.
I am pleased to inform, introduce yourself to any sncf counter in order to obtain your tickets,
an extra 8 euro fee would be asked.
I am pleased to inform, the 8 euro fee would apply for each booking reference,
in your case it should be only once.
Logged
Pages: [1] 2 Go Up Print 
« previous next »
 

SMF 2.0.15 | SMF © 2017, Simple Machines