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Question on European Rail System


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So this July my girlfriend and I are planning a little 2 week vacation to Europe, Namely the cities of London, Paris, Nice, Berlin and Copenhagen, in that order.

The most practical way for us to get around from city to city is by train, however in looking it up we're getting more confused on the railway system. Our main goal is to get from city to city via train, the quicker, easier and cheaper the better. I'll put all that out there to see what our options are.

If any other Haif'ers traveled to Europe in recent years and gotten around via the railways, any advice you can offer will be much appreciated!

Edited by Geoff8201
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Only inter-city Euro rail i've used was around italy. It was as easy to use and get around as any European airport. From what I remember, seems all the written literature there on routes and fares were also available in english.

I imagine most other euro rails are as easy to use.

London tube is also pretty easy to get around. Take the express in from the gatwick or heathrow, and enjoy your oyster.

I wish i had my iphone in london a few years ago.. if you have one.. there are plenty of Tube Apps... there might be some for other euro rails as well if you have the iphone.

One thing that might make it confusing is several cities including London, like the NE, have several agencies running things.. like the Docklands Railroad.. but that shouldn't effect transfers or ease of use.

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I live in London right now, so I'll be glad to help a Haifer where I can.

What do you have arranged so far? How restrictive is your budget?

If you fly into London, likely Heathrow or Gatwick. Both have express trains into central London and both have regular trains. The express is twice the cost for half the time - so it depends how rushed you are.

The Eurostar is the train to Paris from London and we just took it a few weeks ago. Really easy, 2 hour trip. If you book far enough in advance you can get pretty reasonable rates, as long as it's not a holiday weekend or something. It leaves from St Pancras international (Kings Cross/St Pancras on the underground map). Just remember that it is like airport security on that trip (passport control, x-ray, etc.) so plan to be there about 45 minutes before your train leaves. That means that if you aren't staying in Central London, and you have a train leaving between 6 - 8am it can be a bit difficult to get to the station. Just build that into your plan. www.journeyplanner.org is pretty easy to get guidance on how to get around in London.

The Eurostar then drops you off in Paris at Gare Du Nord, in the North of Paris, and their metro is very efficient too, to get to where you need to go to. The Paris Metro has a journey planner as well, but I can't find an english link, so if you can't navigate the web page in French, it could be a bit more tricky.

I'm not going to be too much help from there, but you should checkout to see if a Eurorail pass is best for you or not. You can google it and start to get some suggestions on where/how to buy tickets in advance.

One thing to keep in mind, while you can get some dirt cheap tickets, you may still pay $100 or more to get between some cities and some of those trips aren't short (5 hours Paris to Nice). Train is nice and pretty convinient, but a budget airline (if you don't have checked luggage - which I would recommend to avoid) may be a cheaper option on occassion. I just googled and saw $150 for a 1 way trip to Nice, but I'm paying less than that this weekend for a round-trip flight with EasyJet to Nice from London. And it can save a few hours.

Feel free to PM me if you need/want suggestions for London, Paris or Nice. I'd be glad to help.

Edit: 1 other thing - if you don't have a Bank of America checking account, it may be worth opening up an account just to put your spending money in there. They have the best exhange program with international banks. You can use a Barclay's ATM in UK and a BNP Paribas ATM in France to get cash, and they don't charge you any fees for the transaction.

Edited by CSOM
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Where are you getting your information? With one or more of the rail passes that you will purchase before leaving the U.S., you should have no trouble getting from place to place.

Have you looked at the Rick Steves books? They are designed for those of us who take care of our own transportation and lodging in Europe instead of being herded around on a tour.

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Where are you getting your information? With one or more of the rail passes that you will purchase before leaving the U.S., you should have no trouble getting from place to place.

Have you looked at the Rick Steves books? They are designed for those of us who take care of our own transportation and lodging in Europe instead of being herded around on a tour.

Ditto that - Rick is great and we swear by his books when travelling Europe.

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What are you finding confusing? For the most part train travel is very straightforward and not as headache inducing as flying. It's good you're digging up the turntables now. A lot of less obvious routes (eg Berlin-Copenhagen) might not run frequently or at convenient times).

I'm not sure if they're sold in the US, but in London stop and pick up some DK Eyewitness Travel books for the cities you are visiting. These are very popular and are perfect for a 3 day stay in the city.

Have fun!

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Thanks everyone for the replies!

So far this is still a work in progress so still doing research.

CSOM, you input was plentiful and very helpful. We think at this point we may do a flight from Nice to Berlin to save time and money. We're doing 5 cities in two weeks, so time is important but so is budget, as always.

Will update on what we end up doing, sorry for the lack of reply on my part, been busy, sick and haven't had time to think about this.

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I second to consider budget airlines instead of trains to save time and often money. Or alternatively concentrate on a smaller region to explore - your plan sounds a bit too ambitious to see anything in depth. As for rail passes vs tickets check railsaver.com which compares various options based on your itinerary and gives you a best option. I am currently planning Munich/Austria/Switzerland travel and it looks like I am saving a lot by getting Austria pass and individual tickets elsewhere over the 3-country pass.

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Thanks everyone for the replies!

So far this is still a work in progress so still doing research.

CSOM, you input was plentiful and very helpful. We think at this point we may do a flight from Nice to Berlin to save time and money. We're doing 5 cities in two weeks, so time is important but so is budget, as always.

Will update on what we end up doing, sorry for the lack of reply on my part, been busy, sick and haven't had time to think about this.

No worries - glad I could help. Just be careful on the checked baggage piece though. We carried on to Nice on Saturday no problems, but coming back on Tuesday they told us they were too big and we had to check them - 44 Euro in total for 2 bags (ouch!). In Nice, it's bus 98 to/from the airport - it's 4 euro per person and you can pay on the bus. Train station is kind of far away from the old town or the beach, but it's maybe a 25 minute walk if you're up for it. Let me know if you need other suggestions.

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