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39 replies
Done some research-Now need advice
moomagoo
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I’ve been doing some research on DB Bahn, railsaver and italiarail. I generally have my trip structured the way I would like and I’m trying to figure some of my travel out to make sure the trip structure is realistic. There’s so much information swimming in my head right now that I’m not really sure how to ask my questions.

One of my trips is from Burgundy to Draguignan. I haven’t settled my plans in Burgundy yet (I won’t have a car), so I don’t know exactly where I’ll be. I’ve looked at Auxerre (friend of a friend has a house in Yonne) and Dijon. It looks like the easiest place to catch a train from would be Dijon? I’ll need, I think, to go from Burgundy to either Marseille or Nice. Not wanting to give up my entire afternoon to take the 16:16-22:37 from Dijon to Nice and then still having to catch a bus, I thought I’d do a night train. I think I can take a night train from Neuilly les Dijon to Nice (17:52-8:03) then take a Regional Express Nice to Les Arc Draguignan 8:35-9:50. This overnight has 4 stops, though. I don’t know if that means I have to physically drag myself to a new train at each stop or what.

If you’re still with me, here are my questions about this scenario:

  • I couldn’t seem to get any info about night trains off railsaver, so I went over to Bahn. Bahn has info, but no prices. Also, I had to approximate my dates. Are the run times of trains pretty much the same from week to week? Where would I go to book this trip since I can’t do it on Bahn and I can’t find it on railsaver? I’m still trying to figure out how much point to point tickets will be vs. a rail pass, so where can I find prices? I did plug my trip into the trip planner thing (can’t remember the name right now) and it said a 5 day adult flexipass would be good for me, but I’m still not sure.
  • What do the stops on the overnight mean? Do I have to get off one train and onto another? If so, this would count as two different days on my rail pass (if I get one), right? Would it even be worth taking an overnight train if I have to change trains four times and it takes like 14 hours?
  • How do you know which trips will need a seat reservation? If you have a railpass, you still have to pay extra for a reservation? Can someone please help me out with what is extra outside a railpass?
  • Finally, I looked up on Bahn how to get from Nice to Draguignan and it said to take the Regional Express. Is that a bus? Or a regional train? Where do I buy this ticket or book it? Do these usually leave from the same train station or would I have to go to a bus station or other train station?

I’m sorry there is so much here. I really tried to do my homework before asking. I have other questions, but I think if some of these questions are answered here it will point me in the right direction to answer some of the others for myself. Thanks a million!

I am leaving from Nashville, TN with $3000 for 21 days
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Regional Express trains are just little local trains. Usually they run many many times a day and can’t even be reserved sometimes. You would just buy this ticket in Nice once you get there.
Seat reservations are extra cost from the rail pass, but you don’t always HAVE to reserve a seat. On the TGV in France, and other high-speed trains it’s almost always required (prices vary by country, but it’s only €3-5 on TGV) but regional/local trains (as mentioned above) don’t require or even take reservations sometimes. Also, these regional tickets are usually very cheap and you don’t need to use up a day on your railpass… just buy the ticket outright at a train station (any station in France, not just the city the train departs from, should be able to give you a ticket). Depends on how long the train ride is, but the regional trains in my experience only cost 10-25 euros.

That night train doesn’t seem worth it, I’d try to take a morning train if possible. I estimated the date of this trip (did May 19, since you seem to be going in late May) and according to the SNCF website, you can get a train from Dijon a little before 6:00am to Marseilles (stopover: 1.5hrs) and be in Draguignan by 12:30pm. (all by train, not sure where you got that you would need to take a bus there) Alternatively, you could take a train from Dijon to Lyon at 6:30am and stop over there for about the same time, then get into Draguignan approx. 12:30pm. This trip is a little bit shorter. The cheapest price right now (if you buy online) is €38,50. If you have a railpass, this will be covered except the reservation fee (both of these are on TGV’s).
Either way you’ll still have a whole afternoon free.

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oldlady
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This overnight has 4 stops, though. I don’t know if that means I have to physically drag myself to a new train at each stop or what.
Stops or connections? Any night train makes at least a couple of stops — no issue, just stay on the train. Connections mean you need to drag yourself and your gear off one train and on onto another — usually just across the platform, but sometimes involving up and down serious steps to get from one platform to another. Your 16:16 train is a direct train, meaning it has no connections. However, it makes 9 stops. If it has a number (other than “0”) in the “changes” column on Bahn.de, then it’s a connection and you have to go from one train to another. Click on the specific train to see where the connections are and how long you have to get from one train to another. Often an “odd” overnight routing means l-o-n-g connections. You may be sitting in a train station (that’s effectively “closed” since there’s little or no staff there) for 4 or 5 hours in the middle of the night. You can then click on “show intermediate stops” to see the other places the train stops. Stops are usually less than 4 minutes.

Bahn.de is the German rail website — great for schedules anywhere and prices in Germany. It will not give you pricing for trains outside Germany. Use the French national rail company, www.sncf.com Links to national rail websites are in the “rail links” sticky on this forum or under “transportation” on the “travel tips” tab. You will have to do some hunting around to find local trains on the sncf site, and the pages you need may not be in English.

The best source for information on costs for overnight trains is here: http://www.euraide.d… This link (from the Rick Steves website) only covers the major overnight trains (certainly won’t have anything with multiple connections), but it will give you an idea about costs if you pick a similar length of trip in the same countries. The link is not up to date, so don’t count on it for exact times and train numbers.

Bahn.de will sometimes give you bus connections if the bus is run by the national rail company in lieu of a train. In that case it will say “bus” in the “products column. As Kayling says “regional express” is a regional train.

moomagoo
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Thanks! Did you use www.sncf.com to estimate that trip between Dijon and Draguignan? Thanks for answering the question about regional trains. I got the idea that I would need to get a bus from Nice to Draguignan because my friend who lives in Draguignan said I would. Maybe she meant I’d have to get a bus from the train station to her house. I’ll have to ask again.

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moomagoo
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Thanks for the SNCF link. I had looked for that, but must have missed it.

So if I’m doing a journey between countries (ex. Rome to Paris), do I buy two separate tickets—one for the portion in Rome and one for the portion in Paris? Or can I buy the whole thing from the Italian rail site? Do I buy the ticket from the rail company for the country of departure or arrival? I know this is probably a “duh” question, but I’m confused.

Thanks.

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So if I’m doing a journey between countries (ex. Rome to Paris), do I buy two separate tickets—one for the portion in Rome and one for the portion in Paris? Or can I buy the whole thing from the Italian rail site? Do I buy the ticket from the rail company for the country of departure or arrival? I know this is probably a “duh” question, but I’m confused.
Not a duh question at all. You should buy this as one ticket. It will be easy at the train station, just go to the “international” ticket window (or set of windows), or any window if there isn’t a specific international one. To buy on line, I would check both the country of departure and the arrival country as specials sometimes show up on one site and not the other. Also, some countries don’t sell international tickets on-line or only sell those originating in their country, some sites are easier to buy from than others and there may be a difference in the options available for picking up, printing, or shipping the tickets — and this could be a major issue. As an example, with the Italian site you can sometimes get an e-ticket, but other times you get a confirmation number that you enter at the automated kiosk at the train station to print out your ticket — fine if you’re going from Rome to Paris, but not good if you’re going from Paris to Rome.

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So, would this whole process be simplified if I just got a rail pass, or would it still be just as complicated? I know I would have to make seat reservations still, but would it take some of the pressure off?

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Yes, I used the SNCF website to do that trip between Dijon and Draguignan. It’s quite a handy website for travel in France. Smile
Also, yes a railpass might definitely take some of the pressure off. With a railpass, you’ll just go to the ticket counter and ask for a reservation between X and Y cities, at Z time if you know which train you want to use. Otherwise, they’ll just ask morning/afternoon/evening and “Is Q time ok?” once they pull up the schedule of available trains.

The downsides to Railpasses:
1) they can be more expensive than point-to-point tickets if you are taking alot of cheap regional trains instead of fast trains like the TGV. BTW, regional trains typically do not require a reservation and I wouldn’t bother making one unless you happened to be there during a holiday.
2) some trains allot only a certain amount of reservations for rail pass holders. That means sometimes you may be able to still buy a regular ticket, but the “rail pass holder” reservations are gone. (thus either you will need to wait on another train to use your railpass, or not use a day on the railpass and buy a regular ticket instead)
3) Making reservations is pretty easy as I said above, but they do require an extra fee on top of your rail pass price, whereas when you buy a point-to-point ticket, the reservation of a seat is included in the price. Sometimes reservations without tickets can be ridiculous: in Italy, for example, on the Eurostar Italia, it is 10€ for a reservation w/ railpass. The ticket itself only costs 44€ including a reserved seat and can sometimes be bought for cheaper online. It depends on the type of railpass, but from what I’ve seen, when you divide the number of days on the pass by the total cost it usually comes out to be around 35-45€ per day, so in this case, you may have lost money.

From what I understand, a railpass is typically worth it in expensive train countries like France and Germany, and not worth it in countries with cheap train travel like Spain and Italy. Since your trip includes one of each, who knows? You might luck out with cheap “prem’s” fares on the SNCF website, so I would probably go with no railpass in this case.

ETA: also, I might’ve made this up but I just seemed to recall you saying you were older than 25, meaning you wouldn’t benefit from a youth railpass. In that case, I definitely would NOT get a railpass. All the cheap tickets on the national train websites are 2nd class, and it’s not nearly as different between the classes on trains as it is on airplanes. 2nd class trains are quite comfortable in my experience.

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oldlady
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Kayling, while you’re right that a railpass probably isn’t good for this itinerary, you’ve got the reasons wrong. You ALWAYS pay for the reservation if you choose to take a train that requires one.

Quote:
1) they can be more expensive than point-to-point tickets if you are taking alot of cheap regional trains instead of fast trains like the TGV. BTW, regional trains typically do not require a reservation and I wouldn’t bother making one unless you happened to be there during a holiday.
Actually this ISN’T an issue with a railpass. You pay extra for the reservation regardless of whether or not you use a railpass. If you’re using a railpass and take a specific train that requires a reservation, you have to pay extra for the reservation. If you’re buying a ticket for a train that requires a reservation it will cost more than the standard fare for that route because it includes the reservation.
Quote:
2) some trains allot only a certain amount of reservations for rail pass holders. That means sometimes you may be able to still buy a regular ticket, but the “rail pass holder” reservations are gone. (thus either you will need to wait on another train to use your railpass, or not use a day on the railpass and buy a regular ticket instead)
The railpass is actually an EXTRA benefit on these trains. Sometimes you can get a special “passholder” reservation for 10 euros when the regular reservation price is over 20 euros. Again, you will pay for the reservation if you take that train whether you use a railpass or not. You might get the cheaper 10 euro reservation because you have a railpass — you’ll always pay 20 euros if you don’t have a railpass.

3) It is true that train tickets are relatively cheap in Italy so a railpass may not save money there. Base price for your 44 euro ticket would be 34 euros — so you’d compare 34 euros to the average cost of the day of a railpass which would usually be a tossup. I probably wouldn’t buy a railpass for this limited itineary.
Kayling05
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I was talking about trains that DON’T require reservations. Usually these are cheap trains that run often in small regions, and there’s no need for a reservation here.

Also, the reservation is typically included in the total quoted price on websites, not specifically in the ticket price itself. Sorry if that was unclear from what I said. Like said, if you are buying a 44 euro ticket, the reservation would be included that price (34 euros base + 10 reservation). This is just what I’ve seen when checking prices on trenitalia and SNCF websites. On DB Bahn, they’re not included in the ticket price because they’re not required, even on ICE fast trains. Recommended, but not required (but only 2.50€ each way, so why not get one?).

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I am leaving from busan, SK with $1000 for 13 days
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I was talking about trains that DON’T require reservations. Usually these are cheap trains that run often in small regions, and there’s no need for a reservation here

Right, the prices for local/regional trains are the prices you should use to compare to a railpass — not the prices for the premier trains that include an expensive reservation.

I was trying to de-bunk the myth that reservations only cost extra when you use a railpass. You always pay for a reservation if you choose to take a train that requires one — unless, of course, you find one of those great specials that includes reservation.

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Thanks for the info.

Quote:
Right, the prices for local/regional trains are the prices you should use to compare to a railpass — not the prices for the premier trains that include an expensive reservation.

Why is this so? It seems that the more expensive trains are the ones I need to worry about the most, since it seems much easier to find a decent fare on a regional train than one of the more expensive premier trains.

I am 31, so I guess a rail pass is not as good a deal for me. I’m going to do a little more research before I make the final decision. If I just buy point to point tickets, wouldn’t it be easier/cheaper to just buy them online here in the US before I leave? Or would it be better to buy them as I go? I know everyone on this site is really into flexibility and would probably advise against having such a set itinerary. However, I only have 19 days and I don’t want to spend half of my time trying to figure out rail travel and what to do. And I really want to stay away from computer cafes as much as possible. I’m prone to dithering.

Would I just buy the tickets here online and wait until I got over there to make seat reservations? I think I’m just really intimidated by the rail system, having not grown up in places with decent public transportation.

I’m hoping to have a more complete itinerary in the next week, and maybe that will help me get a better idea of the cost of my rail travel. I just have to figure out what to do about Burgundy. I’m thinking of skipping it and going straight to Draguignan, or maybe just a one day stop in Dijon. Or maybe I’ll do something entirely different.

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Why is this so? It seems that the more expensive trains are the ones I need to worry about the most, since it seems much easier to find a decent fare on a regional train than one of the more expensive premier trains.
Because you’re going to have to pay extra to use your railpass on the train with the premium fare. Ticket prices are set based on the distance. The basic ticket price is the same for a specific route (like Rome to Florence) no matter which train you take. Your railpass covers the basic ticket price — so that’s what you should compare to. If you choose a train that requires a reservation, then you have to pay extra for the reservation as it’s not covered by the railpass.
Quote:
I am 31, so I guess a rail pass is not as good a deal for me.
A railpass isn’t a good deal for you because you’re only taking 2 train trips and you’re over 25. The short itinerary is the bigger factor in your case.
Quote:
Would I just buy the tickets here online and wait until I got over there to make seat reservations?
If you buy your ticket on-line for a specific train (specific date and time) it will include the reservation if it’s required. If you aren’t willing to commit to a specific date and time before you leave home then wait until you get to Europe and buy the ticket after you get there — it will include the reservation if you specify the train (date and time) when you buy it.

As for your stop in Burgundy. The ticket part of your ticket-plus-reservation combo will probably be good for up to 60 days, so you could stop in Burgundy for a couple of days and then continue on. You’ll need to buy a separate reservation for the rest of the trip if you take a train that requires one. This is tricky as they often punch your ticket to show it’s been used, so explain what you want to do to the ticket agent when you buy the ticket and to the conductor on the train — or try to buy a ticket with a “via” stopover.

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I totally understand about being wigged out by trains. Public transportation is completely non-existent in Alabama where I live. The first time I was ever on a real train (non-subway) was when I went to France in 2008. It seems really complicated when you are here, but actually it’s quite simple once you get there.

For this itinerary, I would buy tickets here in the US if you are trying to get those cheap early fares (on the national train websites like SNCF and trenitalia). If not, you can probably wait until you get there and buy it a few days beforehand at a train station.

I agree with oldlady on using the via option if you want to stop over in Burgundy just for a bit. Often you can stopover somewhere for up to 48 hours on the same ticket.

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My boyfriend and i had some problems too trying to pick our trains and stuff. but we just had a travel agent do our rail passes and stuff .. it was to much work trying to find all these different trains getting on and off… she done it in a week and its cheaper than we thought it was going to be. Plus we read somewhere that your railpasses have to be approved or something with a lisenced travel agent anyways so we just had the travel agent do all of ours for us. she booked everything and reservd all our night trains and everything.

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My boyfriend and i had some problems too trying to pick our trains and stuff. but we just had a travel agent do our rail passes and stuff .. it was to much work trying to find all these different trains getting on and off… she done it in a week and its cheaper than we thought it was going to be.
I have used a travel agent to book train tickets when I couldn’t book them myself, but it’s really expensive. It doubled the price of the point to point tickets I bought. I’m guessing you paid at least $200 more than if you’d done it yourself and you’ve lost the flexibility of sleeping in an extra hour some morning.

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Yea but we were wanting to get up early each morning anyways because we want to make sure we get to see everything in europe . plus he gets up super early everyday anyways. getting up early is only gona bother me really.lol but im gonna be too excited to sleep in. yea we prolly are paying more but we are just happy its out of the way and we didnt have to do anything.. we worked for about four hours one day trying to figure out how we would schedule the trains and we didnt get any where. we both work all day long so we never get a chance to work on our europe stuff. so we were just like yea lets just pay someone to do it for us,lol yea its the lazy way but it worked out pretty well. she got us a few overnight trains and a flight from london to ibiza for a pretty good price so what the hey.

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I had no idea that a stopover/via was possible. Is there a place or book or something that just gives a whole run down on all the rules and ins and outs of rail travel? It seems there is so much to it.

So, if I use the via option and my itinerary works the way I have it now, I would take the train from Paris to Draguignan with a stopover in Burgundy (somewhere), then from Draguingnan to Pistoia, spend a couple of nights in a hostel near Pistoia, get dropped off by the hostel shuttle in Florence and spend a couple days there, take the train from Florence to Rome, four days in Rome, then the overnight train from Rome to Paris.

I have got to find the time and energy to look up all this on the rail sites again and start making some decisions. I leave in about 49 days and it’s flying by at warp speed.

Thanks for the tip!

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Thanks for the encouragement. I’m sure it will be fine. I’m just imagining myself with wandering around in a train station trying to read the boards and find my train and missing it. I’m sure you’re right and it will all make much more sense when I get over there. Then maybe next time I’ll feel a little more free and relaxed about it.

I think I am definitely leaning towards point to point tickets. I just need to sit down and work on it.

Thanks a million!

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Quote:
Plus we read somewhere that your railpasses have to be approved or something with a lisenced travel agent anyways

Where did you hear this? Does anyone else know if this is true?

Thanks. Have a great trip!

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Quote: Plus we read somewhere that your railpasses have to be approved or something with a lisenced travel agent anyways
I think this is referring to having your railpass validated. The pass is validated twice — the 1st time by the selling agency before it’s mailed to you. You have 6 months from that validation date to begin using the pass. You have to have the pass validated at the train station in Europe before you can use it. This is usually at a special office or window in the station — sometimes that office is a travel agency office. This explanation, pasted from the Rick Steves site is the best I know of:
Quote:
Validate your pass at any station: It’s easy. At any European train station (or some travel agencies), present your railpass and passport to a railway official at a ticket window. The ticket agent (not you) will write in your passport number, and the first and last dates of your travel period, and stamp the validation box on the far right. For example, a two-month validity period starting May 15 will end at midnight on July 14. You may want to write these dates European style (15.05.10– 14.07.10) on a slip of paper to show the ticket agent. All trips and bonuses must be started and finished within the valid life of your pass. If you have a group pass (i.e., a Saverpass or Twin Pass), all group members must be present when the pass is validated.
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BTW, moomagoo, Rick Steves has a pretty excellent rail travel in Europe guide on his website here. It’s a PDF file, and this is the most updated (2010) version. I haven’t read through this one, but I read the 2009 version and I doubt they are much different if at all. I even learned some stuff when I read it and I consider myself fairly knowledgeable (from research and experience) about European trains.

Oh and it’s REALLY simple to find your train in a train station. All languages in Europe pretty much use the same numbers as we do, so just look for the track number on your ticket and find it in the station… easy peasy. Those sign boards usually have the time and track number of all trains leaving for X city in a fairly easy to read format too. Even when I was in the Netherlands, where I do not speak the language AT ALL, I had no problems (except finding the exit lol but that might’ve had to do with all the construction they have been doing at Centraal station…)

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Here’s a question: when I go to sncf.com and try to look up schedules and fares, it takes me to raileurope.com, so why don’t I just go directly to raileurope.com? Or am I doing something wrong?

Also, I do see how I can get from Dijon to Les Arcs Draguignan by taking the fast train, then the local train. Apparently, Les Arcs Draguignan is about 11km from Draguignan. I’m not sure if Emmanuelle will have access to a car at that time, but I guess I could always take a taxi. Ugh.

The issue seems to be in trying to get from Draguignan to Pistoia. The raileurope site doesn’t want to recognize that trip. I think this is something I’m going to have to think about another day. I just got really tired all of a sudden. Monday has officially kicked my butt.

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Here’s a question: when I go to sncf.com and try to look up schedules and fares, it takes me to raileurope.com, so why don’t I just go directly to raileurope.com?
You’ll pay at least 35 % more for the same ticket if you buy from raileurope. I think sncf.com is directing you there because you’re telling it you’re buying from USA. You need to say you’re buying from France to find the standard fare for the ticket and any available specials.
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The issue seems to be in trying to get from Draguignan to Pistoia. The raileurope site doesn’t want to recognize that trip.
raileurope only sells tickets between fairly major cities. You’ll need to buy from sncf.com (and you may have to go to pages for local trains) or wait until you get to Europe to buy a ticket to a smaller city.

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Apparently sncf owns raileurope so that’s why you get redirected to the more expensive site. Smile
If you want to book on the sncf.com site, I’ve been told that what you should do is either book in french or choose a more obscure european nation and then pick english. Good Luck!

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I always forget that the sncf website does that because I speak French so I always go through the French version of the site (which works fine and gives real fares). It’s actually quite simple to go through the French version (many of the words are the same/similar in English) but if you want any help booking through the French version, let me know and I’ll be happy to translate!

oldlady wrote:
raileurope only sells tickets between fairly major cities. You’ll need to buy from sncf.com (and you may have to go to pages for local trains) or wait until you get to Europe to buy a ticket to a smaller city.

It’s also possible that Pistoia doesn’t have a train station. Shocking, but there are some small towns in France which don’t. You may have to take a bus between Draguignan and Pistoia. Also, if Les Arcs Draguignan train station is that far from where your friend actually stays, that might be what she was talking about when she mentioned taking a bus. There might be a bus from the station to the actual Centre Ville (center of town) of Draguignan.

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Thanks. This definitely helped.

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I’ve spent the entire night researching on sncf.com in French. You’re right, it’s not that difficult to understand. Well, it isn’t and it is. I’ve had to use (gasp!) Babel Fish a few times.

So, here is what I have so far:

May 14-17: Paris, staying in hostel.

May 18: Either Dijon or Avignon. If Dijon, depart Paris 8h28, arrive Dijon 10h05 (19euro). Sight-see, wander, nice dinner, night in hotel. Depart Dijon 19May 5h49, Marselle 9h20 and depart 10h59, arrive Les Arcs Draguignan (LAD) 12h18 (38,50euro).
If Avignon, depart Paris 18May 9h16, arrive Avignon 11h56 (25euro). Haven’t done enough research to say what I’d do in Avignon. Depart Avignon Centre 19May 9h42, quick stop trip to Avignon TGV, arrive LAD 12h18 (28,89euro).

May 19-22 or 23 in Draguignan w/ Emmanuelle

May 22 or 23: Here’s where things get tricky. There is a hostel in Italy where I really want to stay. They have a shuttle from Pistoia in the evening. I would like to stay at the hostel Sunday night, May 23-Wednesday morning, May 26, then take their morning shuttle to Florence and spend two days in Florence. The trick is getting from LAD to Pistoia on either Saturday night or Sunday. I’ve tried searching Nice to Florence and then doing the LAD to Nice and Florence to Pistoia legs separately. I’ve tried all different combinations and can’t seem to make this trip happen. There does seem to be a train station in Pistoia.
There is a shuttle from LAD to Nice Ville at 9h23, arriving 10h31 (12euro), on Saturday, 22May. Then a train departing Nice Riquier at 13h57 and arriving (after a couple of stops or changes, not sure which) at Firenze SMN at 21h. But then I still can’t figure out how to get to Pistoia. I’ve tried sncf and trenitalia. Trenitalia is even more confusing to me than sncf. I can’t figure out why sometimes it says I can’t buy the tickets. Is it because they are sold out? Is it because those trips don’t actually exist and they are just theoretical?

From Trenitalia, I did figure out that I can get from Florence to Rome on May 28, 8h10 to 9h45 for 44 euro. (Although, it says that this is Adult ticket at base fare, which I’m not sure of. Does this mean that this is the ticket price without the reservation and I still need to purchase my reservation?)

Then I did find that (most important of all), I can get from Rome to Paris on 31 May. Departing Rome at 20h and (after a stop or change, can’t remember which) arriving in Paris Bercy at 8h19 on 1 June for 216 euro for 1st class, or 191 euro for 2nd class. Not sure if this is one of those times you splurge for 1st class and get a couchette or not. Although I think 2nd class couchettes are available on this train. Not sure what the diffrence is. I suppose I really need to go ahead and book this one, since this trip is the second most certain thing about my trip. But still not sure if I need a rail pass. Also, if I don’t start to see the light of day with the rest of this rail travel soon, I’m going to scrap the rest of the trip and just spend the whole three weeks in Paris and not take the train anywhere except Versailles. I suppose there could be worse ways to spend three weeks of my life.

Wow, if you stuck with me through all that, you deserve a medal.

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From what I understand about trenitalia’s website, it shows some trips that aren’t bookable online because they are local trains (no reservations). But it lists them so you know the time/date. That’s what I gathered anyway.

Where did you get those night train prices? I looked on SNCF’s website and got the night train between Roma Termini and Paris Bercy departing 18h20 arrive 9h20 (no stops/changes) for only 55 euros! (special fare, but even the regular 2nd class fare on that trip is only 117 euros, which is still far from the 191 you said) I would book this ASAP if I were you!!

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Ah, ok that makes sense about trenitalia.

Do you have to punch in something special to see night trains? In all my research, I have not seen one train that departs and then doesn’t have changes in the middle of the night. I also don’t see any box that says night train. Maybe it’s because I was trying to squeeze that extra two hours from Rome and didn’t look early enough.

One more thing (for now), where sncf says “Sélectionnez le pays de réception ou de retrait des billets,” I should leave the menu on “France,” right? If I chose US, it redirects me to raileurope. Now, how do I get my tickets? Would it just give me some sort of confirmation number and I take that to a ticket window anywhere in France and pick up the tickets? Or would I just go to the different train station for each trip and pick up a ticket? That makes me nervous. It also makes me wonder if, when I enter my Visa, it’s going to say, “Hey, you sneaky American!” and kick me over to raileurope.com.

Oh, I did go to sncf and find that fair from Rome to Paris. I’m going to try to book that tonight after work. No time now. Or maybe at lunch. I guess this is where the rubber meets the road. Yikes!

Do you have any opinion on my Dijon/Avignon decision? I’m sure they’re both lovely places, but if you were going to do one, which? I chose Burgundy originally because Emmanuelle lives in the south, so I chose some middle ground. But it seems I would save a ton on travel time if I just went straight to Avignon and spent the day. I just don’t know.

You have been incredibly helpful and patient and I appreciate it immensely. I really don’t know what I would have done without everyone here at eurotrip. Thanks again!
You have been incredibly el

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I did it! I booked the Rome/Paris trip! I can’t believe it. It wasn’t as scary as I thought it would be. I couldn’t have done it without you, though. Well, since you found the trip and all. It ended up being about $75. I think that’s with seat reservation, as it did ask me what type of seating I would like.

I feel like I’m finally getting an idea of how all this works. Do you think it would be a big mistake to leave some of the rail trips until I get over there and see how things are going? My fear is that I’ll just end up blowing a bunch of money on expensive rail trips because I leave it too late or because I can’t sit here and compare the prices. I’m sure it would be fine to wait to buy my ticket from Paris to Dijon or Avignon (if I ever decide which), but I would guess I should go ahead and get the trip from Nice to Florence nailed down, right? (I did go back and find a regional train between Florence and Pistoia, btw.) Although, I feel I would definitely need to go ahead and make my reservations for accommodations before I leave the US. And if I know I have to be at that hostel or hotel, why not go ahead and book the rail ticket?

Ugh, I am like the anti-eurotripper with all my worries and scheduling.

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Do you think it would be a big mistake to leave some of the rail trips until I get over there and see how things are going?
I think this will be fine, particularly for a route where no specials are available. If there are no specials available, then the ticket will cost the same 10 minutes before departure as it does today.

While the tickets you bought are probably non-refundable (or have a serious penalty if you do get a refund) you might be able to change the date/time without too much penalty. If you paid “standard fare” for the ticket, you’ll probably only be out the cost of the reservation if you need to change — and you can sometimes change a reservation with no fee (or a very small one) if you do it before the original date and time. Even with a special fare you might be able to change the ticket for the difference between what you paid and standard fare — although this would be less likely than making a change with a standard fare ticket.

I would plan as if any e-ticket is not refundable and not changeable, but if plans changed, I’d definitely try to get the ticket changed. — before the original departure date.
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When a trip on sncf is marked “A saisir, dernières places disponibles !” should I go ahead and book it? It seems like all of the TGV trains are marked this way, but I don’t know if that’s just SOP or if it really means they’re running out of seats.

Do you know?

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Well, it does mean “only a few places left!” pretty much, so I would book it if possible.

I’m glad your booking experience on the Rome-Paris trip went well. Did you go with a T6 couchette?

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I didn’t get a T6 couchette. I got a couchette superieure. I think that’s a step down. But the T6 couchettes weren’t available when I booked.

I guess I need to hop on that other discount ticket. Maybe it will still be available.

One thing I didn’t think about is, after I purchased my ticket at the sncf website, my debit card was frozen a couple days later. I figured out what the problem was right away and got it turned back on, but I’ll have to call them every time I make a purchase on a foreign site now. Although, I did go ahead and tell them my dates of travel and won’t have to worry about that.

Thanks again!

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Couchette Superieure is a top bunk, Inferieure is a lower bunk — you may be in a T4 (4 berths instead of 6) instead of a couchette — sometimes they’re the same price.

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Couchette Superieure is a top bunk, Inferieure is a lower bunk — you may be in a T4 (4 berths instead of 6) instead of a couchette — I think some trains in France only have T4s and the price may be the same as a couchette..

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One last question. I promise, this is it!

It looks like I waited too long to book into a hotel in Dijon, so I’m considering my options. I could go straight from Paris to Les Arcs D. on a fabulous overnight fare leaving late 17 May (45euro for 2nd class, or 57euro for 1st). This would not only give me an extra day with my friend (kind of an extra day and a half), it would also save me basically 2 nights of accommodations on this trip. Downside is, it would cut out another aspect of France, so I would really only see Paris and the south.

Or, and this is my real question, you and OldLady mentioned doing a via? So I could leave Paris early on the 18th, maybe, and stop off in Dijon or someplace else in the middle, and walk around and have lunch, then continue on to Draguignan for that night. The thing is, I can’t figure out how that works. I see the place on sncf to put in my via stop, but I can’t tell it for how long, so it only gives me like an hour in that place, but that doesn’t seem like long enough to even find my way out of the bus station and back in again, much less have lunch and walk around. Would a via even be worth trying? It sounds, perhaps, like this would be more trouble than it’s worth and I should just go with the excellent overnight fare.

I’ve spent too much time planning my stay in Italy and neglected France, which I now regret, but I have no energy left for it. And I’m running out of time!

Thanks as always!

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It looks like I waited too long to book into a hotel in Dijon, so I’m considering my options.
I found several inexpensive private rooms in Dijon for your night on this site. I really don’t think you’ll have trouble finding a reasonably priced place to stay, even if you just show up at 2:00 in the afternoon without a reservation. However, I’m not sure how much you’d get of “another aspect of France” by a single day in Dijon. I think your overnight train and extra time with your friend is an excellent idea — you have a much better chance of actually experiencing a place with a local friend.

I tried and couldn’t figure out how to do a “via” for a certain length of time on sncf.com The options it gave me were about an hour in Dijon, not worth it. However, depending on the exact times, two tickets: Paris to Dijon and Dijon to Draguignan is only about 10 euros or so more than the single ticket….

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I’ve decided to give Dijon a miss this time. I think an extra day with Emmanuelle will be worth missing Dijon. I will be back someday, right? That’s the way I’ve been told to think of it.
Thanks for being on the spot with advice these long weeks as I’ve done my planning. I’m going to start doing my booking now. I’m down to 36 days until departure. This is the biggest trip I’ve ever done (nothing compared to some people on here, I know) and I’m nervous and excited.

I’ve posted my itinerary here. I’d love your comments and suggestions!

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