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Raileurope.com: See Europe by train
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Old 12-22-2008, 08:27 AM   #1
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Default i bought my ticket! ahhhh!

i bought my ticket last night. how terrifying!
i will be flying into paris on 1/26 and flying out of madrid on 2/16...can i get a little help with a few things?
i'm a bit confused as to how traveling around by train works. so there's the eurail pass which allows you to purchase a number of days of traveling to a number of bordering countries, right? what exactly does that mean? in other words will i take the train from paris on let's say 2/3 to amsterdam and that'll count as one day of travel to one neighboring country, correct? but will this really be a FULL day of travel? will it only take a few hours or should i expect to be sitting around all day? i'm just confused about this whole thing....what if i want to explore smaller cities around amsterdam or any of the other cities i visit? is my pass valid for those trains too? do those count as a travel day? sorry, for all the questions...i don't feel like this has been well explained on the eurail website. many unanswered questions with this area....anyone know of good websites that explain well?
also, any suggestions as to where i should go? here's what i'm thinking....fly into paris on 1/26, spend 4-5 days there
train to amsterdam for 2-3 days
train to berlin for 3-4 days
train to switzerland or austria....any suggestions for which is cooler? better cities to visit?? help! for a few days
train to venice and rome for a week combined likely
train/boat to barcelona (possibly) and then madrid where i will fly out of.
what do you think?

also, for booking my eurail pass once i buy it do i need to make reservations for when i get there? the thing is i want a very open ended trip...i want to wake up and decide that today i will go to rome you know?

sorry for all the questions! thanks!
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Old 12-22-2008, 08:44 AM   #2
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It looks like you'll have about 3 weeks for the trip (if I'm counting days correctly), so it looks like you're not trying to squeeze in way too much. The only issue I see is that a train/boat from Italy to Barcelona would take a really long time. I've never done it, but I know Switzerland to Barcelona is usually an overnighter. Madrid's maybe another 4 hours from Barcelona too by train.

I haven't been to Austria, but I have been to Switzerland and hear that the alps are much nicer in Switzerland.

As far as the Eurail goes, each day you can travel as much as you want by train and it only uses one day on your eurail pass. You can use an entire day for only a 3 hour train trip, but if you need to you, have the full day to travel. As far as I know, the rail pass is valid for most trains in whatever countries you get it for (some passes allow 3,4, or 5 adjacent countries while others include over 20 countries), but I think they send you a booklet that explains some trains that aren't covered, but you still may get discounts. For example, once I got to Switzerland, I had to take another train, bus, and gondola up to my hostel. These were not fully covered by the eurail pass, but I did get a discount. Also keep in mind, that some of the high speed trains require you to pay for a reservation that the eurail pass doesn't cover. This can usually range from 3-10 euros (maybe more, but I never spent more than 10 on a reservation).

Rick Steves gives a lot of good advice about rail passes here:

But we recommend you buy your pass through Tpunk! http://www.travelpunk.com/blog/eurail-passes/

Good luck, things work out in the end, and it's really not that tough once you find the right resources!
Life's a garden, dig it - Joe Dirt

Barcelona and Beyond, My 2008 European Blog:
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Old 12-22-2008, 08:47 AM   #3
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Congrats on buying your ticket. You've made the leap. It certainly is terrifying. Hopefully its equal parts exciting as well.

From your itinerary it seems like you're going for 21 days. Thats not too much time when you factor in traveling so you might want to pare down your list of cities.

You had a lot of questions, let start with Eurail passes. There are several different passes from Global, 22-country passes, to single country ones. I always liked the Select Pass. You can choose 3, 4, or 5 adjoined countries and get up to 15 travel days. That would probably fit your trip. You could choose France, Italy, Spain, Germany, Switzerland. Something like that.

So a travel day means that you can use any trains within the system (almost all trains are covered except like intercity metros/subways/trams). A nighttrain that leaves after 7pm and goes all night and the next morning only counts as that second day. If you were in Amsterdam and wanted to catch a train to a smaller city, yes it would count as a travel day.

Many times you do need to make reservations but if you just want to take a day train to Rome one day from another large city, you should be able to book the reservation minutes before boarding the train, especially this time of year. Overnight trains and infrequent routes are where you need to do it ahead of time.

I would suggest reading www.RailEurope.com and also searching for some answers on these boards. We get these same questions a lot.
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