Eurail Budgeting Confusion
Here is the list of countries I plan on visiting, with cities I find interesting:
Italy (Rome, Florence)
Austria (Salzburg, Vienna)
Czech Republic (Prague)
Germany (Berlin, Frankfurt)
Back to France (Strasbourg, Paris)
I plan on purchasing a Eurail pass, but I'm getting stuck when it comes to the website's reservation fee section. Can someone help me decipher this page http://www.eurail.com/eurail-reservations-supplements-international-trains OR give me a rough idea of the fees I can expect to rack up getting to these cities?
Thank you in advance!!
Reservation fees vary from around 5 Euro to 25 Euro depending what rail line you are traveling on. As you can see on the link you posted, first class reservation fees are a bit higher than the second class.
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You’re going to be near enough to it that you might want to consider adding Munich to your itinerary, maybe at the expense of Frankfurt. Berlin > Munich > Strasbourg would only involve a little more travel than going via FFM. Or if you have some reason for visiting Frankfurt, you could go Florence > Munich > Salzburg. Munich’s only about two hours from Salzburg.
If you haven’t used it already, the Deutsche Bahn (German Rail) site is great for planning rail itineraries.
Also, Frankfurt sucks. Bad. Do Munich and take a day trip down to Neuschwanstein castle - I think it's 30 Euro for a RT ticket even without the Eurail pass. All tours to the castle/area are a bad deal.
Consider a trip over to Sienna as well from Florence.
Prague is great! Make sure to stay near the heart of the town. If you're ok with hostels the Clown and Bard (don't do the 32 person dorm) and the Elf Hostel are both good. Also, eat outside the old city and you'll save a bundle. Prices within the tourist district while slightly cheaper are still set to European prices. Once you get outside the old town (usually just past the train station) - prices halve.
Have a blast!
Skip Frankfurt, it sucks. Munich is better, but Berlin is best. Awesome city. Spend a little extra time there.
Overall I didn't enjoy Austria. It was like a more boring, more expensive version of Germany. Salzburg is worth going to for the mountains, but I wouldn't spend more than two nights each in Vienna and Salzburg.
Personally, I disliked Italy, but I know a lot of people will disagree with me. Except Rome. Rome was legend. I wish I would have known, I would have skipped through Florence and spent more time in Rome. As it is, I think Rome deserves at least four nights. At least. And that's if you're in a big hurry, which I was at that point unfortunately.
Also, since it will be summer and reservations for Eurail pass holders fill up fast, I suggest buying your reservations before you even leave home, if you can. I know it cuts down on the spontaneity of the trip, but since you don't have much time and I doubt you want to get stuck in Paris (like I did) buying your reservations wayyyy in advance is probably the smartest thing. I thought three days in advance in the middle of the low season would be enough, but I was wrong. I ended up having to buy an 80-euro flight to get back to Madrid. Don't be dumb like me.
When I went, each reservation in Italy cost 10 euro, no reservations necessary in Germany, France varied, Austria, no reservations necessary.
Question -- Why is Berlin so much fun? Just wondering.. I've heard from a friend that Berlin is awesome but I'm not sure if he's just saying that because he considers drinking one of his top 5 favorite things to do.. haha
As far as reservation fees, I've traveled on a Eurail pass through 20+ countries so I know a bit about this. Of the countries you're visiting, reservation fees are the worst in Italy. Except for regional trains, which are mostly free, every train has a reservation fee of between €5-25. Germany has no reservation fees when traveling domestically, only internationally and if I remember correctly it's about €5. France's fees are about €3.50.
These fees are greater if you don't get them ahead of time. For example, I would often get on a train without reserving a seat. I usually did this if I was running late or when I was told there were no seats available, but what they really meant was they didn't want to give up a seat to a railpass holder, this was a major issue in France. So when the conductor asked for my ticket or reservation, I would say I didn't have one and they would charge me €10 for a reservation instead of the €3.50.
Looking at your itinerary, I'm not sure that a Eurail pass is the best option for you. The basic rule of thumb is the farther north you go the more expensive the tickets get and the better a deal a Eurail pass is. So if you're spending a lot of time north of the Alps, then a Eurail pass is a good deal. If you're spending a lot of time in the Mediterranean and Eastern Europe then it's not a very good deal at all. In Italy and Spain a Eurail pass is practically worthless, since reservation fees can sometimes be even more than the tickets themselves! (e.g. Madrid to Toledo is €14 via AVE train, but €20 for a reservation fee.)
I bought a three month consecutive Eurail pass and used it every day or every other day. I think I made about 70 rides total, on over 100 trains. At $22/day that wasn't a bad deal, since I also slept on the train a lot. Definitely look into how much it would cost to do the trip without a pass and see if you're really saving or losing money.
Also, be careful with Prague, since you'll probably have to go through Slovakia and they'll hit you up for €20 on the train just for passing through. I got hit twice passing through Eastern Europe, and that was near the end of my trip when I couldn't really afford it.
With 48 days and a two month consecutive pass you could really do a lot of damage and I suggest you look into opening up your itinerary a bit more if you are up for the challenge. Here's a sample itinerary you can do in about that time, except I'd skip Madrid and go straight from Prague to Berlin.
I know it's a lot to take in, but for your first trip I think that's a good thing. You can get a taste of everything and see what you like. I consider it like going into an ice cream shop and trying all the flavors. That way you know for future trips what you may or may not like, and aren't stuck too long in a place you may not like (which happened to me in Spain and Croatia) and you take full advantage of that expensive Eurail pass.
I would definitely recommend you check out Rick Steves' "Best of Europe" and "Europe Through the Back Door" guides even just to look over his sample itineraries. Don't take them as gospel, I added and removed a lot, and many of my favorite places aren't on that map (Portugal, Slovenia, Denmark, Norway, and the Amalfi Coast) but it's a good jumping off point for your own planning.
I paid €10 to fly from Madrid to Valencia via Ryanair, which was less than the cost of a seat reservation and took less than an hour in flight time. You can get international flights averaging around €25 between most popular destinations if you reserve your ticket early enough. I got a ticket from the Greek island of Santorini to London for $139 with only a week's notice.
Eurail passes are great if you use them a lot and in expensive countries. They're horrible if you only plan to make a few connections in cheaper countries over a long period of time.
- Annecy is a beautiful lakeside town straddling the Alps, an overnight train from Paris
- Pisa is an easy day trip from the Cinque Terre, maybe check out Lucca too
- The Amalfi coast is arguably the most beautiful stretch of land you'll ever see
- Tuscan hill towns of Siena, Assisi, and San Gimignano are easy day trips from Florence
- Neuschwanstein Castle and the Romantic Road are easy day trips from Munich
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