Booking European Train Travel

My first European train ride was taking the train from London to Brussels. It was so easy.  Despite living in New York, or maybe “because I live I New York”, I was expecting complications.   Well Europe is very unlike New York.  In New York, I have no idea how tourists handle the subway, let alone commuter rail elsewhere.  The subway is never operating fully as it is supposed to.  Never.  There’s always trains skipping stops or going over other lines or whatever.  In Europe, you are taking this train; you look for it on that sign, and get on it.  That’s really it.

My first ride, we got on the train in London and got off in Brussels.  We then took a local train to Geel, which was the town we were staying at.  We had to transfer two or three times.  Even this was simple.  There are preprinted timetables all over the place and most of them tell you ON A PREPRINTED TIMETABLE what track you will be on.  Because the train always comes on that track.  Really??  because I have taken the Long island Railroad from Penn Station fifty bazillion times in New York and its always on different tracks every time.   What a novel concept, the train runs on the same track all the time, to the point where it can be labeled correctly on a preprinted schedule!  This was so easy!

Once my fear of living my life was completely wiped out by this trip, I was able to start work on my second trip. This trip would be a real trip.  Not a starter trip, not a “cling to Rachel” trip, not an anything other than “I’M GOING TO SEE THE WORLD!” trip.

Planning train travel can be a huge pain.   Right now I am working on my upcoming trip. I am going from Paris to Naples.  I checked flights and on the day I want to go, it leaves at 6:30 am. so id have to be up by at least 4:00 am to get up, get dressed, go to the airport, go through security, land in Naples, get to my hotel…..pass out from being so exhausted and probably not be ready to go anywhere until evening…..after which I would probably not be able to sleep at night since I had napped.

My other option is to spend all day on a train.  Honestly, this may be my preferred option, although I haven’t fully made up my mind yet.

Bahn.de has all the schedules you need.  But they do not sell tickets for routes that do not include Germany.  So then you need to figure that out.  There are so many options out there and you should check routes and prices on all of them.  You should also keep track on where you saw what price.  There is nothing like spending two hours pricing everything only to find out you now don’t remember what website you found that $13 ticket from Milan to Rome on.

To give you an idea, when I had still been planning to go to Bern, and then from Bern to Italy, I had to check prices on both the Swiss train website, then on Italiarail and Trenitalia.  These ended up being the options:

Bern to Naples 7:34-15:55
Train# 51 Departs Bern at  07:34 and Arrives  Naples Centrale 15:55
$163 italiarail
$185  sbb.ch

But by not buying one ticket and instead buying a ticket for each leg:

Bern to Naples 7:34 – 16:43
Bern to Milan italiarail       $32 7:34 – 10:34
Milan to Rome italiarail      $52 11:00 – 13:55
Rome to Naples italiarail    $13 14:39 – 16:43
total = $97

Bern to Naples 14:00 – 18:15
Bern to Milan italiarail       $32 7:34 – 10:34
Milan to Naples italiarail    $55 14:00 – 18:15
total = $87

Bern to Naples 7:34 – 00:05
Bern to Milan italiarail       $32 7:34 – 10:34
Milan to Naples italiarail     $13 15:05 – 12:05
total = $45

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Buying one ticket for the full trip is way more expensive than buying a ticket from Bern to Milan and then a second ticket from Milan to Naples.  If you had started out on the sbb.ch website and saw a ticket for $185 and booked it without looking any further, you would have overpaid greatly.

Even with doing two separate tickets, there are still multiple options.  All leaving Switzerland at the same time, all arriving different times, all different prices, all found on different websites. It pays to do research.

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