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Can I buy individual train fares or do I have to buy the Eurail pass?

  • 14 January 2022
  • 5 replies
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Hi, I’ve been trying to book the overnight train to Rovaneimi from Helsinki but it only shows me the timetables and won’t allow me to book without a Eurail pass. The pass is hundreds of dollars (US traveler) and I’d only be booking this train with return and the speed train from Paris to Provence. Thanks!

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Best answer by rvdborgt 14 January 2022, 19:03

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Userlevel 7
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For just these few trips, using a pass is probably too expensive but you can check and compare. You didn't mention where you looked for prices but I assume it was on the Eurail website. In that case, it is correct you can only book pass fares there.

Normal tickets can be booked through the operators themselves. In Finland, that's VR and in France, that's SNCF. All operators also sell pass reservations but not all of them do that online; VR and SNCF don't, unfortunately.

The Eurail website only seems to offer seats for Finnish night trains and no beds. @Nanja, is that a known issue? I tested Rovaniemi - Helsinki on 2 Feb. dep. 17:45. The VR website shows lots of free sleeping compartments.

Ah okay I see. Yeah, when I search for the routes on Google, all the search results are from Eurail. Do you think I’ll have to call to purchase the pass ahead of time? They said to book the seat ahead of time cause they sell out so I don’t want to risk buying that same day when we arrive. Don’t know if it’ll be way less busy cause of Covid. We’re arriving 3.5 hours in Helsinki before the last evening train leaves so there’s not any wiggle room really. 

Userlevel 7
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Ah okay I see. Yeah, when I search for the routes on Google, all the search results are from Eurail.

That depends on what you feed Google with. For me, "train helsinki rovaniemi” has the first hit from the VR website. "Eurail” is the name of the pass, so if you use that in your search, then you will end up with hits about the Eurail pass and/or from the Eurail website.

Do you think I’ll have to call to purchase the pass ahead of time? They said to book the seat ahead of time cause they sell out so I don’t want to risk buying that same day when we arrive. Don’t know if it’ll be way less busy cause of Covid. We’re arriving 3.5 hours in Helsinki before the last evening train leaves so there’s not any wiggle room really. 

The Eurail pass is currently only available as a mobile pass and there is no need to buy that a long time in advance. An hour before travelling is enough but if you've never used it before a few days is maybe better. Booking a sleeper reservation is probably best done via phone to VR (look under Finland on this page). There are 2 night trains from Helsinki to Rovaniemi, by the way, with 4 hours in between them.

But do compare the price of a pass plus reservations with buying normal tickets. As to the reservations with a Eurail pass: a sleeper compartment (2 beds) should be 29 EUR (with washing facilities) or 34 EUR (with toilet+shower), per person. A TGV reservation in France is 10 or 20 EUR per person (12 or 22 from the Eurail website).

Userlevel 7
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This indeed a known issue, rvdborgt and a difficult case in a way. To begin with, VR offers only seats and single/double sleepers on their night trains currently. Sleepers are always gender specific, but our self-service has a problem with mapping those compartments with the gender of the traveler. This is something we once started working on but logic is quite complex and due to other priorities this has not been finished. So currently, only accommodation can be booked where gender is not relevant: seats and single sleeper. For double sleeper the logic needs to be improved. This applies to night trains in few other countries too, but in most cases gender-neutral couchettes are available in other countries.

We realize this is very inconvenient and troublesome for travelers, especially that Finnish trains cannot be really booked online for Pass Holders, only by calling the Call Center. We hope to improve it in the near future. Cheers, 

Userlevel 2
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I would add that VR's chatbot is absolutely magnificent. Almost real-time with bullet precise answers. 

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