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33 replies
Booking Italian Rail Tickets
revyd
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I’ve come to the conclusion that in our case, buying point to point tickets in advance will be the cheapest option over a railpass. That being said, I would like to be able to buy our tickets from each individual country’s rail line online, but I have heard that it is next to impossible to buy a ticket online from http://trenitalia.co… without a credit card issued in Italy.
So my question is: has anyone been able to purchase tickets from that site with a canadian or american issued credit card?

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augustin25
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It’s been a few years, but I’ve done it with no problem. It’s not just that website that can have issues with North American cards. I’ve had a number of sites not accept one card, but accept another, and sites seem to accept/reject different cards. Good luck.

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I also bought tickets from trenitalia.com several years ago (2004) with an American issued credit card. The only problem I had was that my e-mail provider considered the e-mail from trenitalia with ID and password to be spam. I think I had to re-join using my husband’s name and e-mail to get a new user ID and password.

I also bought a number of tickets with my American credit card from the kiosks in various Italian train stations. I think we had one post about a year ago from someone who had a problem with trenitalia taking their credit card, but I certainly haven’t heard of lots of problems.

I don’t recall seeing any specials on trentitalia, so what’s the advantage of buying tickets so far in advance? I’d just wait until I got to Italy and use the kiosk — it’s fast, easy and user-friendly in English.

revyd
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If there is no advantage in buying tickets in advance I won’t. I haven’t thoroughly checked the trenitalia.com site yet but I know that the renfe.es site offers pretty good discounts for advance purchases.
Maybe it’s just a spanish rail thing

If I buy the tickets at the kiosk, how will I know which route/schedule is the cheaper ticket? From looking at the website, tickets seem to vary considerably depending on what time of day you travel. Okay maybe they don’t vary much for similar routes, but there is some variation.

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augustin25
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You may not need this, but in case you’re planning on booking in English on the Renfe website be advised that if you switch to English on the homepage it often doesn’t show you all available trains and specials for some reason. Here are some directions I posted for someone in the past if you want to book in English:

1) go to http://www.renfe.com
2) At the top left hand part of the page under where it says “Compra de Billetes” check the circle for either “Ida y Vuelta” (roundtrip) or “Ida” (one-way ticket).
3) Choose your departure and arrivale cities from the drop down menus.
4) Enter your travel date(s) using the calendar.
5) In the box that say “Num. Viajeros” enter how many tickets you want to buy.
6) click “Buscar”

A new window will open and in that new window you can select for English on the bottom left hand side of the page. You should then be able to complete the process in English, with access to the lower online special fares.

revyd
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Thanks augustin, fortunately for me, I’ve travelled to spanish speaking countries enough to be able to find my way around the website fairly easily.

I love how people are so willing to help on this site. Awesome

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oldlady
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There are often good specials on the German rail website and I’ve also seen specials on the Austrian, Netherlands and I think French sites. I don’t recall seeing any in Spain, but I haven’t spent much time on that site.

What were you planning for a single day in Caen? I would seriously look at changing your itinerary to take Eurostar from Paris to London, 2 1/2 hours as opposed to a hectic 5 (with getting to/from airports, check-in time, etc.) to fly or a very long and grueling day by train, bus, ferry. Visit Caen as an overnight trip from Paris. Even going back to Paris to catch Eurostar will be nearly as fast as flying from Caen and faster than any other option. Use www.eurostar.com to look for cheap leisure fares and other specials.

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I had a problem buying tickets last year from the Italian website with an American credit card, as did the other girls I was traveling with. We were studying abroad and wanted to buy tickets online to save a trip down to Termini to buy thickets there, but it wouldn’t accept any of our credit cards because they were American. I’m not sure if that was just a temporary problem, however.
It is really easy to buy tickets at the kiosk at the station, and there I had no problems purchasing with my credit card. Tickets for Italy are way cheaper than I’ve seen for Spain (as I’ve been researching for my trip this summer) so you should be all set to just buy when you are there.

I am leaving from Boston, MA with $5000 for 47 days
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revyd
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Oldlady,

We’re primarily planning to see Juno Beach and relax while in Caen. We will take a late train from Paris, spend the night in Caen then take an overnight ferry to Portsmouth. I know it would probably be quicker to take the Eurostar to London but we wanted to change it up a bit with the ferry.

DreamingOfItaly,

Thanks for the information. That’s pretty much confirms what I have heard elsewhere.

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revyd wrote:
If I buy the tickets at the kiosk, how will I know which route/schedule is the cheaper ticket? From looking at the website, tickets seem to vary considerably depending on what time of day you travel. Okay maybe they don’t vary much for similar routes, but there is some variation.

The kiosk steps are very simply and straightforward. You’ll be able to scroll through all the train time/routes for that day you’re purchasing tickets for, and select the one you want. There is some variation depending on the type of train you take. The fastest routes (and generally means less stops) on the Eurostar are most expensive. Other trains are slower and make fewer stops, and are cheaper. For example, last year I remember it was about 30 euros one way to Florence on the fastest train (less than 2 hrs) but only about 15.50 euros for a 3-hr ish train. Also, if you travel really early in the morning (like 6 or 7 am) it might be cheaper as well.

I am leaving from Boston, MA with $5000 for 47 days
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DreamingOfItaly wrote:
Tickets for Italy are way cheaper than I’ve seen for Spain (as I’ve been researching for my trip this summer) so you should be all set to just buy when you are there.

Definitely try to book your Spain tickets ahead of time if you’re ok with having your dates set in advance. Advance purchase second class web fare on the high-speed AVE between Barcelona and Madrid is as low as 45 euros, whereas the standard fare is 113.

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Quote:
We’re primarily planning to see Juno Beach and relax while in Caen. We will take a late train from Paris, spend the night in Caen then take an overnight ferry to Portsmouth. I know it would probably be quicker to take the Eurostar to London but we wanted to change it up a bit with the ferry.
Been there, done that — which is why I recommend taking Eurostar instead.

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Booked a train from Rome to Pisa through trenitalia.com – it was really easy and I got 30% off the fare, gonna book my train from Pisa to Florence through them as soon as the fares are bookable!

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oldlady
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Vegasadict:

Quote:
I got 30% off the fare,
What did you pay? Standard fare, without reservation, is 29 euros, one way. Did you get get 30% off that? Great deal!

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oldlady wrote:
Vegasadict:
Quote:
I got 30% off the fare,
What did you pay? Standard fare, without reservation, is 29 euros, one way. Did you get get 30% off that? Great deal!

Yeah, the 30% off fare comes up as 20 euros. I’m going to have my brother book his tickets for Pisa-Rome tomorrow. I think I’m going to book my Florence to Basel tickets as two separate legs using the 30% off fare for Florence-Milan (36 euros after discount) and a Smart 2 fare for Milan to Basel (29 euros). Standard fares would total 127 euros.

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oldlady wrote:
Vegasadict:
Quote:
I got 30% off the fare,
What did you pay? Standard fare, without reservation, is 29 euros, one way. Did you get get 30% off that? Great deal!

No I paid €28, the original fare was €39.50 (earlier train) as I need to be in Florence the same evening.

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Quote:
No I paid €28, the original fare was €39.50 (earlier train) as I need to be in Florence the same evening.
I think most of the difference is a regional train (no reservation) versus EurostarItalia with a 10 euro reservation fee.

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Grrrr. Just tried to book and it wouldn’t take any of my cards. It rejected a Visa debit card, two Visa credit cards, and a Mastercard credit card.

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Well, it will be quick and easy to buy at the kiosk.

Did you “sign up” with the trenitalia website before you tried to buy the ticket?

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Yes, I’m signed up. I’m trying to book online because reduced fares will be sold out soon. By booking now I can save €56 per person. A number of people posting on the Rick Steves and Flyertalk forums said they called Trenitalia customer service and were told they just won’t accept American cards online. Some people seem to get around it by getting a virtual card number; I know that Citi and Bank of America both offer this. However, as with most of my experiences with Bank of America, it doesn’t work correctly when I try to generate the virtual number. All is not lost yet; I can book the tickets for within Italy using the Postoclick option, allowing me to reserve now at the reduced fare and pay when I retrieve the tickets in Italy. I might also try to call and book via phone.

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I think a some of the European transportation sites won’t accept any card for a transaction once the 1st one doesn’t work.

What’s the route and the date? A random check of Rome to Venice shows what look like great specials for the overnight train. For day trains there were different prices, but because of varying reservation costs, not specials.

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The tickets are for Florence-Milan and Milan-Zurich on June 11. I was able to book the Milan-Zurich leg at the reduced €19 price (regular fare €59) on the SNCF website and will just pick up the tickets in Paris the first week of June. now I have to figure out how to book the Florence-Milan leg at the 30% off fare; I misunderstood how the Postoclick option works. This is a bit of a PITA but it will save a lot over booking once we get there.

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augustin25 wrote:
The tickets are for Florence-Milan and Milan-Zurich on June 11. I was able to book the Milan-Zurich leg at the reduced €19 price (regular fare €59) on the SNCF website and will just pick up the tickets in Paris the first week of June. now I have to figure out how to book the Florence-Milan leg at the 30% off fare; I misunderstood how the Postoclick option works. This is a bit of a PITA but it will save a lot over booking once we get there.

I was just taking a look at the Postoclick conditions and it says that you must pay for the tickets within 24hours of the booking.

From the Postoclick regulations:

“Payments of such bookings must be made within 24 hours from the booking and in all cases at least 24 hours prior to the train departure for seats and 48 hours for Couchettes or WL.”

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Yeah, that’s the monkey wrench in my plans. When I read it at 3:30 a.m. I thought it said you had until 24 hours before departure to pay

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I am travelling to Italy in June and have also discovered that point to point tickets will cost less. However, everywhere I read about booking in advance it seems impossible from the US!! If I arrive in Rome on a Friday and want to travel to Venice on Sunday how much trouble will I have finding seats on such short notice? I would like to take the overnight train to save on a hotel room. Will the kiosk tell me that I need to book a seat/couchette reservation? Also, your thoughts on what type of seat I would want on that trip will be appreciated!

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Departure Arrival Length of Partial Journey Length of Journey
Roma Tiburtina 00:47 Bologna Centrale 05:27 04:40 07:26
Bologna Centrale 06:02 Venezia S. Lucia 08:13 02:11
Please, will you experienced Italian riders answer a few more questions!
The above was copied from trentitalia. The first train is Espresso the 2nd is Regionale.
Will the regional train make many local stops that aren’t shown? IF so, is it too difficult to sleep through the noise? Is changing trains in Bologna easy to handle when you are sleep deprived? Is 00:47 47 minutes after midnight?
Thanks for the help!

Smile MK

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You leave Rome’s Tiburtina station (not Termini, the biggest station in Rome) at 00:47 AM — and arrive at Bologna’s Central station at 5:17AM. The duration of that part of the trip is 4 hours and 40 minutes. You change trains in Bologna (with a layover of 45 minutes) and leave on the new train at 6:02 arriving at Santa Lucia Station (the one that’s across the causeway, actually “in” Venice) at 8:13. The duration of this part of the journey is 2 hours and 11 minutes. 7 hours 26 minutes is the total time for the journey. I’m not quite sure why it doesn’t add up exactly — either because it’s only calculated to Maestre or because part of the layover in Bologna is also included in one of the legs.

Where did you put together this schedule? I don’t see it at either trenitalia or on the German rail website — which is the best place to find schedules, intermediate stops, etc. You will definitely stop at Venice Maestre (the “mainland” station which shows in red on the schedule) and will have other stops as well, but I can not find your train to look them up on the German rail website. Overnight trains are specifically designed to take about 8 hours, so you theoretically get some sleep and freight trains have priority between midnight and about 6:00. You’ll definitely be stopped part of the time, sometimes on a siding, for a freight train to pass.

This is probably the worst possible way to get from Rome to Venice. Why would you take an overnight train for this — a 3 1/2 hour journey during the day?

BTW, from the “details for selection” on the trenitalia website for a similar routing it says “reservations must be made in Italy.” I think the cheap price you see for some overnight trains in Italy is because they don’t include the reservation….

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I got this from the Trentitalia site & just copied it over then the computer messed up the lines to make it hard to read. I did see the reservations after clicking details so I have all the costs. The overnight was so we could save a few pennies by not paying the high Venetian prices for a room.
What is the address for the German site? Will I be able to purchase tickets there?
Thanks, Old Lady, I appreciate your help!

Smile MK

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Quote:
The overnight was so we could save a few pennies by not paying the high Venetian prices for a room.
With the required reservation (probably 30 euros for a couchette) you probably won’t save anything over the cost of a hostel in Maestre. If you really want to take an overnight train, then take direct one at 22:36.
Quote:
What is the address for the German site?
http://reiseauskunft…
Quote:
Will I be able to purchase tickets there?
Only for tickets in Germany.

I do not see your train on the trenitalia website — I have no doubt that you can put together this routing/time schedule, but it’s not one that pops up on a standard search for dates around today. What’s your date?

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I haven’t gone back to the Trenitalia site to figure out why you can’t see the same list I saw. But, I did just now visit the German site; why is that one considered better? It appears that the German site does not provide fare info so both sites are needed.
The date is June 5th or 6th; we don’t want to stay in Maestre, we want to be in the middle of all the sites therefore we are paying a premium for a room-even cheap rooms aren’t cheap!
After Vencie we are going to Levanto near the Cinque Terre ; I haven’t looked in a couple of weeks but at that time I didn’t find a train connection to Levanto. Do you know how to make that trip?

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Ok, I just looked at the German site for Levanto and it’s there. I don’t see how to find out what towns the connections are in. Your insight is very helpful, thanks!

Smile MK

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There is no general “better” for rail websites. Each individual national rail company runs it’s own website, so you really need to check the websites for all the countries you’re traveling in. The links are in this sticky http://www.eurotrip…. and under transportation on the “travel tips” tab. The German rail website is the best for planning because it lists schedules for all over Europe — including some local trains, connections that involve buses and ferries, etc. Most of the others only show the the trains within that country. Some, like trenitalia, only show the tickets you can buy on-line and omit the trains where you can’t buy the ticket on-line.

On the German site, click on the specific train so see the connections. Then you can click on “show intermediate stops” to see all of the stops.

The German site will be close enough for planning purposes, but sometimes the national rail company (e.g. trenitalia in Italy) makes small changes (maybe 5 minutes) in the schedules and it’s a few weeks before bahn.de picks them up. Check the national rail company website or the departure board at the station for exact times before your trip.

I still do not see your train on a schedule query on trenitalia, but did find it on bahnde. The “intermediates stops are all after Bologna:
Roma Tiburtina 0:47
Bologna Centrale arr 05:27
Bologna Centrale dep 06:02
Ferrara dep 06:37
Rovigo dep 06:59
Monselice dep 07:14
Terme Euganee-Abano-Montegrotto dep 07:24
Padova dep 07:38
Venezia Mestre dep 08:03
Venezia Santa Lucia arr 08:13

I think you’ll want to take the direct overnight train at 22:36 instead. IMO, an overnight train on this route is not a good way to save a few bucks.

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Thanks, Old Lady! I don’t think that many stops will make it easy to sleep! Elsewhere I was told to consider flying because the local airlines are inexpensive – I will check into that next. Getting so excited, the trip will be here soon!

Smile MK

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This is a 3 1/2 hour train ride, from the Termini (where you’ll have to catch the bus or train to the airport) across the causeway into Venice. Flying is going to take closer to 5 1/2 hours by the time you add getting to/from airports, check-in time, security time, etc. to flight time. You can take a train at any time of day that’s most convenient. A flight in the early afternoon kills the entire day for sightseeing.

Be sure to add the costs for buses to/from the airports, baggage fees, booking fees, taxes, etc. when comparing the cost to the train.