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Messages - tUt

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1
Someone did suggest this (https://gotrip.ge/en/) and I contacted them and they said they have drivers that can both take me to Alaverdi and then I can get another one to get back for about $36 US each way.  That's probably what I'd have to do and gives me a chance to stay 2 nights or so there and hike around a lot.
Sounds like more or less ok price for such trip (unless there are some hidden commission or something) and since it's an agency it should be safer than trying to find a taxi yourself
I've always tried to avoid local taxi's being a foreigner and the reputation of them scamming people, especially when I don't speak the language (or at least very well).  So I tend to avoid them.
True, sometimes it's a risk, especially in countries where you don't speak local language, while locals almost don't speak English (once had a taxi trouble of that kind in Egypt), but one option also can be to find a reliable driver via friends/fellow travelers who traveled there earlier and know someone trustworthy. I think local taxi drivers quite often try to give their client a card or tel. number, so that they or their friends use the service again. 

Also with flights I didn't realize the tension between Armenia and Turkey and flying to Yerevan isn't as easy as others.  So I've decided if I go on this trip, I'll just fly into Baku and spend a few days there and take the night train sleeper to Tbilisi.  I have friends from the UK that told me I should do it anyways.  Much better connection times and easier to fly to there and out of Batumi than going to Yerevan.
Tensions between Turkey and Armenia are very old, however you shouldn't forget about tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan as well (google Karabakh conflict). Not sure about exact situation nowadays, but it used to be not recommended to visit Armenia and Azerbaijan on the same trip with one and the same passport, because if the border guards will see Azeri/Armenian stamp in your passport you might end up having rather unpleasant conversation conversation with the officials (afair, it's worse with Armenian stamp on Azeri border than with Azeri stamps on Armenian border, but still). So unless you have two passports (one to enter/exit Azerbaijan and the other for Armenia), you should check the current situation visiting both countries in one trip.

I just would like to somehow have some time and a few nights somewhere worthwhile in Armenia at least.  Maybe there are cheap flights from Tbilisi to Yerevan and I can just spend a few days around the capitol and fly back?
You really that against the Yerevan-Tbilisi train ride and a short bus ride? E.g. Taxi Tbilisi-Alaverdi --> sightseeing --> local bus to Yerevan (it won't take more than a few hours) --> sightseeing --> overnight train to Tbilisi. Remember it was super expensive (counting the very short distance between Tbilisi and Yerevan) to fly from Georgia to Armenia + with a flight you miss the view along the road

2
I did some research and found out the train between Yerevan and Tbilisi is not only long, uncomfortable and just highly not recommended, so was curious about other options if they exists trying to get between Yerevan and Tbilisi and spending a night.
Armenia & Georgia are both very marshrutkas based countries, Ukraine is the "railway heaven" compared to those two :) In Armenia and Georgia train is an ok option only on very few connections (like Tbilisi-Batumi), so in this context overnighter from Yerevan to Tbilisi is actually not that bad in terms of travel time/comfort, especially taking into consideration its curvy route on the Armenian side
So just wondering if you had any input on this idea at all?
An alternative to marshrutka in that part of the world is actually a taxi (on popular routes, like Tbilisi-Yerevan, it can be even in form of car sharing --> used it myself). Using a taxi won't be much faster, however way more comfortable. A few years ago it was about 200-250 lari (or 75-100 USD) per car for the entire 6 or so hour ride from Tbilisi to Yerevan, so if it was 4 passengers, then the price per person was not that much higher than marshrutka actually ;)   
It seems there is a that same train from Yerevan that goes to the station in Alaverdi, but it seems like it's once a day.
Yep, it's the same Yerevan-Tbilisi train, but it doesn't even run every day, only once in two days - http://www.ukzhd.am/raspisanie/en/raspisanie.html . And the schedule for journeys to Alaverdi is horrible, so don't think it makes sense to use it. The train is only for direct passengers between the capitals

But didn't know if there was another option.  Getting to Alaverdi, I can't seem to find any train for some reason. Also can't find any buses either.
Well, if I were you and wanted more or less comfortable trip, would probably do it this way: a) take a local bus/car shared taxi from Yerevan to Alaverdi (=will be rather cheap); b) next day with a help of your hotel/B&B personal rent a local taxi for yourself and just go around to those places you are interested; c) on the third day either get a local taxi to take you all the way to Tbilisi (with the sightseeing stops along the way) or, if it's too expensive (like >40-50 usd or so), then just take it across the ARM-GEO border to Sadakhlo and then use local marshrutka/shared taxi to Tbilisi (=again a very cheap option). NB: dealing with taxis should be done only when you already in Armenia/Georgia (won't be a problem, locals will gladly help), because pre-booking it from abroad is a bad idea, since you'll overpay a lot.
Totally different approach might be to try to find some travel agency with the organized tour (like Tbilisi to Northern Armenia), it's more like an option for lazy ones and those who don't want to deal with local transport, but it can work and save you time.   

It's another option before I get a flight in Feb.
You want to go to Georgia/Armenia in February? Though the winter scenery will be rather nice, but the weather might not be perfect for those long journeys through the mountains with many sightseeing stops. Think that recently many people these days do go to Georgia during the winter season, but it's mostly for skiing (Kazbegi or Svaneti region) and staying in bigger cities (like Tbilisi/Batumi) with the nightlife, food, etc.

3
All other train travel questions / Re: OeBB Nightjet seats compartment?
« on: December 12, 2018, 06:57:25 pm »
But the photos of the nightjet.com website show armrests between the seats. Are these armrests movable?
Yes, from the photos and train scheme it seems that those NJ carriages are old OeBB bmz type seating carriages (used to be very common for OeBB and other railway companies in the region), thus armrests definitely can be folded up and won't be a problem   
In the 1970's in compartments on some trains had opposing seats that could be pulled together or nearly together. This made a makeshift bed that one could lie on. Is this possible on present day OeBB Nightjet trains?
No, the seats in these bmz carriages can be pulled toward the center a bit, but not as nearly together as it used to be possible in older carriages with similar 6 seats compartment design (AFAIR, in this region of Europe the last carriages with the chance to have the proper "makeshift bed" in the seating compartment were used by Serbian Railways (e.g. overnighter Belgrade-Budapest)

4
Getting from Lille to Brussels airport is relatively easy, since Lille is connected to Brussels by numerous high-speed trains (TGV, Thalys, EuroStar), so it actually takes <40 minutes to get to Brussels. Those trains arrive to the so-called Brussels-Midi train station, so you'll need to make a quick train change there for the local train that will take you (ride will be about 20 min.) directly to the airport. At the end your whole journey will be slightly more than an hour of time in total.

It's still too early to book train tickets for next September, but you can check app. timetables & fares on Belgium railways website - b-europe.com, while when the time will come you will be able to book your ticket there as well

5
What would be the nearest city in Switzerland from Milan? Not really bothered which city in Switzerland we can see as long as we can save more time.
Well, nearest interesting (and relatively big) one is probably Lugano, you can then just make like a day trip there (it's only an hour away from Milan) and then come back to Milan to catch a cheap flight to the Netherlands. Or, alternatively, just continue from Lugano to one of the major Swiss airport (Geneva, Basel, Zurich), thus anyway end up traveling through the Switzerland by land (quite an experience itself, btw).
Also can I just book the tickets to Venice and Florence when I get there or do I need to purchase them in advance?
The thing here is that buying in advance allows you to get much cheaper (=discounted) tickets, while before departure you'll end up paying full standard fare price (=might be times higher than the cheapest discounted tickets). The only category of trains in Italy where you can disregard "early bird=cheap" rule is the regional trains, but those are somewhat slower compared to the high-speed one for which you can get good deals when buying in advance.
I could scratch off Florence from our IT and replace it with any country on the way to the remaining countries(Switzerland,Amsterdam, France) any suggestion on this?
Hmm... Florence is anyway on your route from Rome to Venice, so purely logistically it makes sense to stop there + it's a very beautiful city. But if we do speak about the alternative destination, what are your preferences? Old towns? Nature sightseeing (e.g. mountains, lakes)? Something else?

6
Well, it is possible to squeeze in 1 more destination, however it all depends on your sightseeing practices & interests. If you are not that much into museums and places far from the city centers, then you can more or less manage to see majority of attractions in two days per city. Obviously one can spend much more time in each of those, but for the first visit it might be ok itinerary (at least it will definitely give a good feel of what you like in Europe & to what kind of places you would prefer to come back :)

Rome to Florence: easy & cheap. If you ok buying discounted (non-returnable) tickets in advance, then you can get good deals for as low as 9 euro per person. There are two big railway companies serving the route - state owned Trenitalia & private operator - Italo, so you can check which one is cheaper for your preferred time.
Florence to Venice: more or less the same story as above, buying discounted ticket in advance can get you a very good price
Venice to Switzerland: here it kind of depends on where in Switzerland you want to go (mountains? Zurich? Geneva?), but in general you can start with the same TrenItalia website to see rough travel times & connections available (majority will be with change in Milan)
Switzerland to Amsterdam: it won't be very fast by train (at least 8-9 hours), so perhaps it might make sense to look into flights here (--> plenty of lowcost options, e.g. EasyJet directly to Amsterdam from Basel or Geneva for as low as 20-30 euro)
Amsterdam to Paris: probably won't be super cheap, but still relatively easy, since you have plenty of direct high-speed Thalys trains
Paris to Manchester: yet again, just like with Switzerland to Amsterdam, it is possible to travel the whole way by train with change in London (EuroStar Paris-London & then domestic train to Manchester), however it will take you >5 hours. So flying might be a good alternative option here as well


7
Yep, the overall logic in situations like this would suggest that "I" (or any other third option) should stand for mixed/indifferent or something alike, meaning not just M or F. However in the CFR version it indeed looks somewhat confusing

8
It's something I've never experienced, so it's a must do for me :)
Having no doors indeed looks and feels a bit weird at first, however this type of carriage is way more spacious than usual 6 berth couchettes somewhere in Europe, passenger can easily seat on the lower berth, bigger distance between the opposite berths, huge table, lots of space for luggage, etc. So in some sense, and especially if the journey is more than standard 7-8 hours overnight, platskartnyj might be more comfortable than 2nd class couchette.
Think I will just book the Chisinau - Iasi train when I get to Moldova. To be honest, I can't see how to book it only to Iasi, but it seems like I won't need to, anyway,
It's only two weeks in advance sale (i.e. today it's max June 15) and in the "Destinație" section you need to select blue "Iasi" & not "Iasi-Socola", then it's relatively straight forward (i.e. on the next page you enter name & passport #, while next comes the bank card details info)

9
I hope you don't mind me making this into a super-thread for my trip? But I have some questions about the Moldova and Romania leg, if I may?
Sure, why not )))

I would like to travel by train from Chisinau to Iasi, on a Thursday. How accurate is the Moldovan Railways site? It states that a train runs every day (105, the Chisinau to Bucharest train), from 16:56 - 22:21. Do you have any feeling if this info is right, or more or less right at least? :D
It looks a bit weird indeed, but if one knows how to use it, then it's possible to extract all the necessary info. Regarding the overnighter Chisinau-Iasi-Bucharest info is correct, it's basically a flagship train for Moldova Railways.
I assume that I will be able to buy some sort of ticket a day or two before?
Actually it's possible to purchase ticket even online on their website (however the interface is either in Moldavian/Romanian or Russian). Since this train is kind of expensive option for locals (frequent minibuses & buses are much cheaper) you hardly will have any problems buying your ticket at the counter already in Chisinau.
And do you know if the train has the classic Eastern Europe set-up (every carriage a sleeper)?
Yep, it's pretty short & only sleepers (i.e. 2nd class 4 bed compartment ("kupe") or 1st class 2 bed (SV/Lux)), you can see the price difference yourself (see link above).
I think this train goes to Iasi station proper, and the weekend train only goes to Iasi Socola - am I right?
Yes, it's related to the fact that weekend DMU runs on wide gauge, while with 105 they change the bogies to 1435



the link for Moldovan Rail schedule on the main page is broken (no problem to click through from the main site though) just FYI and maintenance.
Thanks for pointing it out, fixed it
I know you said that the Lviv to Odesa route sold out quickly in summer, but ALL the decent (i.e. not aisle) 3rd class berths sold out by 9 am on the day of sale. Crazy!
Well, that's what happens when you have super cheap rail tickets & summer peak season. Which date you are looking for? There might be a few tricks in order not to hunt for a good tickets right after the sale starts

10
When booking via the official site, which are the bottom bunks in 3rd class? I think it is probably 1 and 3 etc. (with the line under the number). Am I right?
Yep, odd numbers designate bottom beds in both 2nd class (kupe) and 3rd class (platskarnyj) carriages, in 1st class (SV/Lux) it's only bottom ones, no upper beds at all

11
...it is invaluable to us Aussies as even travel agents are unable to assist inless you are booking a tour with them.
Well, most travel agents only know how to sell you the most expensive option anyhow :) So I don't think you lost much by not doing your bookings via agencies, maybe besides your time, but in this case point-to-point tickets bought from the actual operating rail companies would save you a lot of money, so your time=savings ;)

Depart London for Brussells (we will not be doing Amsterdam now)
This one is very easy, just make sure you purchase your tickets either via Belgium railways (NMBS/SNCB) or Eurostar websites, since the agencies (like Rail Europe) tend to overcharge unexperienced travelers on routes like this.
Brussells to Heidelberg
Again, Belgium railways (NMBS/SNCB) website is your choice here, otherwise it won't be much different from buying Amsterdam-Heildeberg from the Dutch railways
Vienna to Salzburg   (is there a scenic route for this or for
Salzburg to Lucerne
Vienna-Salzburg... not really, however with Salzburg-Lucerne both routes (or via Bavaria or via Innsbuck/Western Austria) are rather scenic scenic, with the later its a lot of mountains, while with the former you'll get to see a bit of Lake Constance and some mountains
Is there a train from Veroma to Ljubljana?  Or do we do a bus?
No direct trains, but direct buses (e.g. FlixBus) are available (4:30-6 hours depending on connection/bus company)

Most places we are staying 2 nights and some 3 nights.  I have tried to work out so travelling in day time only and arriving before dark.  So may mean early wake up.  The accomodation booked is near the train station for conveince...your ideas are again welcome and whether this is too much or doable.
Sure, especially with your plan to have roughly 2-3 days stopovers without traveling, making a day long trip afterward won't be very tiring. Plus it's not like you'll be doing 10+ hours journeys or something like it, your longest trip would be <7 hours, which is ok on more or less decent trains

I hear and read about strikes on the rails.   Will any of my itinerary effected?
Well, big paralyzing strikes are more a thing for Romance-speaking Europe (i.e. France, Spain, Italy), while with Germanic speaking countries (e.g. Germany, Switzerland, Austria) and nearest neighbours it's not very likely, especially with fancy international connections. Imho, don't think with your itinerary you should worry much ;)

As we are travelling between 24th November in UK to 23rd December through Belguim, Germany, Hungary, Austria, Switzerland to Slovenia is the snow something that can delay trains?
It might, but essential delays happen only in the extraordinary snow situations, so you should get very lucky to end up in one of those. With shorter weather related delays you shouldn't really worry much, it won't be a problem, since it will be railways' job to exchange your ticket, get you as soon as possible to your destination and so on.

What other things do we have to be aware off?
In the touristic cities it's mostly about rip-off money exchange points (i.e. make sure you know the correct exchange rate), unworthy expensive city tours/restaurants on the main squares or the walking steets and, in some countries (e.g. Italy), pickpocketing, so just be careful with your wallet, passports & cellphones

12
Heidelberg to Nuremberg: it's the journey within Germany, so it's kind of logical to use already mentioned multiple times in the previous post German Railways (DB) website for purchasing your tickets. The distance is not very lengthy here (around 3 hour travel), so it will be pretty easy to get the discounted tickets for as low as 19 euro per person or, in case you want to be more adventurous and don't purchase your tickets in advance, then DB passes for regional trains (Happy Weekend Ticket (Schönes-Wochenende-Ticket) or Quer-durchs-Land-Ticket) are your best option.

Nuremberg-Prague: well, if your stopover in Nuremberg won't be very long (<48 hours), then you can actually do a small ticket trick - purchase one through ticket Heidelberg-Nuremberg-Prague (starts from only 24,9 euro) with the intentionally forced intermediate stop in Nuremberg for up to 48 hours. If the journey is longer, then you can buy a separate Nuremberg-Prague ticket (with DB bus it's from 14,9 euro, while with FlixBus or RegioJet companies it might be even cheaper). Also possible to go the entire route by train, but it will take much longer and won't be cheaper.

Salzburg to Lucerne: as was already mentioned earlier, in this case you should first of all decide whether you want to travel to Switzerland via Bavaria (Munich, e.g. Munich to Luzern discounted ticket start from 29 euro or you can travel with the so-called Bavaria Lander Ticket=regional pass for entire Bavaria and then Swiss SuperSaver ticket) or throughout entire Western Austria (i.e. via Innsbruck, discounted tickets start from 34 euro per person). With the later option your number one website would be the Austrian Railways (OeBB) http://europetrainsguide.com/Advice/How-to-Buy-Train-Tickets/Austria-OeBB.html , while with the journey via Bavaria the German Railway (DB) website would be of help.

Lucerne to Chur: domestic Swiss trips are easy, link to the Swiss Railway (SBB) was already given earlier, cheapest option would be also mentioned earlier SuperSaver ticket

Chur to Tirano: well, if you necessarily want to take the Bernina Express train, then it's https://www.rhb.ch/en/panoramic-trains/bernina-express , but you can travel the very same route on the regular (=less touristy) trains for much cheaper (in this case once again SuperSaver Ticket bought from the Swiss Railways website are your best option)

From Tirano  is there maybe 2  nice village or town, that has a train stop, you could suggest on the way to Ljibujana that we could stay overnight please. other than Milan, Lake Como or Venice.
Hmm... it kind of depends on your preferences (nature, mountains, old towns, etc.). Getting out of Tirano by rail only means going westward to Como area first, so if you don't want to make this detour, then maybe it makes sense to use the bus to Edolo and switch to train there? Otherwise nearby interesting town is Bergamo (most people skip it, but it's very nice actually), then there is obviously Verona (touristy, but still), already mentioned earlier Triest is also very nice place. If you want more nature & mountains, then South Tyrol might be your choice (however it's not super convenient to get there from Tirano)

13
Any idea why a two-berth sleeper is 392 UAH compared to 592 for the later train? Is it just a question of distance?
It's not about distance in this case, since it's almost the same (with 107 it is 526 km, while with 13 it's 553 km), and not about train category (both seems to be "Night Fast"), but probably about UZ "brandedness" divide of trains or even separate cars, meaning that ticket for a newer (or just in better shape) car would be sold with a higher coefficient to the base price. Sometimes it's very funny when within one and the same train you might take one and the same car category, but actually pay a different price, because one of those cars will have higher coefficient

Are there any timetable changes in Ukraine, or will these trains run unchanged in July?
Some time ago UZ switched to the European trend of changing train timetable during the second weekend of December, so with the regular trains there shouldn't be any changes. However, on some routes UZ tends to add seasonal trains during summer or holidays, so there might be some extra trains available actually

14
As you guys seem particularly knowledgeable about this route, may I ask a couple of more questions?
Sure :)

Do you know how it works on the SK / Ukraine border (bearing in mind that I won't take the sleeper from Kosice, but will take the 'shuttle' train over the border)?
Keep in mind that you'll need to change trains in Cierna nad Tisou (Slovak border station), since there are no direct seating cars from Kosice (only passengers from sleeper cars don't need to switch cars in Cierna), otherwise everything is easy and smooth, that border crossing is not very popular, so on Cierna-Chop leg you might end up like the only passengers or only with a few fellow travelers.
From what I've read, Slovak formalities will be done on the train.
Yep, but it's not done at the Cierna station, the train departs as usual, but then in the middle of the field closer to the border there is a sort of improvised border checkpoint stop where Slovak officials would enter and check your passports (might take it for a check to their cabin outside) and maybe luggage by the customs official.
Then, once I am in Chop, I will go to some special border desk and get the entry stamp, which should take just a few minutes? 
Here your train will just stop at the platform next the station building, you get out and go inside (usually there are couple border guards showing you the way and making sure you enter the right door). Inside there is a huge room with a few border guards cubicles for passport check, you go there first and after there will be the customs officers next to the big tables, but they might not even stop you. You will walk from the door beneath the white timetable. The ticket desk (first international & next domestic) will be on your right, you can see it on the photo as well (beneath the Soviet mosaic or whatever that is)
Then, can I leave and collect my ticket
Hmm, I think for both trains (107 & 13) you can actually print your ticket yourself at home. The pdf after the purchase will say if you need to print it at the ticket desk only (usually it's for some irregular/seasonal trains and not a year round/regular ones).
wander around the station / go outside? It seems like I should have plenty of time to connect trains - do you agree? (I will be catching the 3 o'clock-ish train from Kosice).
The train station isn't very interesting (unless you are a fan of the late Soviet architecture), so you can take a walk (next door there is local trains station, it kind of even looks like it's bigger than the long-distance trains one) or just go to the store to buy some food (there was kind of a small supermarket on the left from the station square or some cafes/shops on the square next to the local trains station, which is on the right from the long-distance trains station square). Anyhow, you have plenty of time till 20:35/20:56, nothing to worry about.
I am still not sure which train I will connect to: either the 20:35 or 20:56. Any preferences? We (2 of us) did want to take a 2-berth sleeper, but that seems only bookable on the 20:56 train.  https://booking.uz.gov.ua/en/?from=2218115&to=2200300&date=2018-05-12&time=00%3A00&url=train-list    I suppose it would be best to arrive in Khmelnitskiy at 8 am rather than 6:30 am...
Maybe Maxy, as a local, can confirm it, but it seems like 13 indeed will be a better option in your case
And is it fine to collect my pre-bought Chop-Khmelnitskiy ticket at Chop station? I'm not gonna be penned in some customs waiting area am I?
No, no, UA officials usually are rather friendly (obviously unless you are Russian national), so would be surprised if you spend more than 10 minutes on all the checks on UA side. Regarding the ticket printing, as was already said earlier, you might not need to go to the ticket desk at all

15
Maxy already did a great job in explaining your options, but perhaps the only thing which makes sense to add here is that maybe you don't really need to travel all the way from Amsterdam to southern Italy by land, which is way too time consuming. Imho, in your situation it seems to make more sense to fly half way and then use an overnighter, in this case you can depart on the afternoon on May 13 and be in Naples already next morning. Most obvious choice would be to fly to Northern Italy (Turin or Milan or Genoa) and then take one of the direct Italian domestic overnight trains to Naples (most likely will look something like this). Or, if you want some adventure, you can fly to some place like Vienna and then take an overnight train from there. Or do a reverse, i.e. use an overnighter first and then fly to Naples.

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