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What sites to book train travel - Italy/Switz/Germany

Seattle, Washington
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What sites to book train travel - Italy/Switz/Germany

My friend and I will by flying into Rome and out of Munich, but using trains between. We'll probably do Cinque Terre and some of Tuscany, onto Lucerne in Switzerland, and then onto Germany. We may also do a quick side trip to Salzburg, Austria.

1. Should we book any of our trains in advance or do it at the stations?

2. If we book ahead of time online, what are the recommended sites? I hear Eurail and/or Rail Europe are overpriced?

3. What are the different "classes" for seating? Does anyone recommend overnight trains to save on lodging for a night or two along the way or is it too hard to sleep?

We are U.S. citizens and will be traveling this September.

Thanks for any advice!!

Sydney, Australia
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1. Re: What sites to book train travel - Italy/Switz/Germany

1. In September, you should not need to book ahead. In Italy, if your plans are firm, you can make some savings with inflexible advance purchase Mini fares that go on sale 60 days before travel and can be as low as €9.

2. Buy from the national train operators:

Italy: www.trenitalia.com/homepage_en.html

Switzerland: www.sbb.ch/en

Germany: reiseauskunft.bahn.de/bin/query.exe/en?

Austria: www.oebb.at/en/index.jsp

3. Second class seating is just fine, and usually more comfortable than domestic first on a US airline. First class is a waste of money. I do not recommend overnight trains. Private compartments are expensive, and if you choose to sleep in a seat, you are sleeping in a room full of strangers, any of whom may want to steal from you.

For much good advice on train travel in Europe, see www.seat61.com

Quainton, United...
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2. Re: What sites to book train travel - Italy/Switz/Germany

The other tip is to break the journeys down where necessary.

For example, Florence to Luzern is best booked as Florence-Milan at www.fsitaliane.it (the Italian Railways site), looking for a cheap Mini fare if you pre-book, then Milan-Luzern looking for a 'Smart' fare if you pre-book one of the few direct trains, or Milan-Arth Goldau (the junction station) if you use an indirect train, buying the Arth Goldau to Luzern connecting ticket at the station or at the Swiss site www.sbb.ch (as the Italian site won't do Swiss trains, only direct trains from Italy.

Imperia, Italy
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3. Re: What sites to book train travel - Italy/Switz/Germany

Most high speed Freccia trains and many InterCity trains in Italy can now be booked four months ahead. This means that they can be booked far earlier than journeys requiring a combination of one of these fast trains with a local Regional train.

So to save money (by getting the cheapest advance Mini fares before they sell out) for the Cinque Terre, book Roma Termini to la Spezia and Monterosso to Milano Centrale separately as soon as you can on www.fsitaliane.it/lefrecce.html

Ticket on Regional trains to and between all the Cinque Terre stations have no advance reductions and no seat reservations so cannot sell out. Buy tickets for these in Italy, e.g. from a ticket machine (to avoid queues) or booking office in Rome or la Spezia or another station.

Edited: 25 May 2012, 21:21
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4. Re: What sites to book train travel - Italy/Switz/Germany

To add to the above....

- There's no reason to book domestic Swiss tickets ahead of time. So, doing as Man in Seat 61 says, you can buy your Italy-Switzerland ticket ahead of time and just get the remaining leg of your journey at the station.

- You can probably save with an advance booking into Germany from DeutscheBahn.

- If you're going to Salzburg, a Bayern Ticket can save you money, though it is not good for express trains or for weekday departures before 9AM. The ticket can be bought day of travel from a ticket machine.

- I too am not a fan of overnight trains, since I find them a false economy. You often arrive very early in a city - hours before you can check into a hotel - without a good night's sleep. I'm also not sure if any of your travel legs really merits an overnight train.

5. Re: What sites to book train travel - Italy/Switz/Germany

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