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Should I buy Eurail pass first then book seats? Where do I reserve seats?


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Hi! I am new to this forum and planning our first trip via train in Europe. It is very overwhelming, but I think I understand, but would like help to confirm.

Here is our itinerary for the first week of Aug (family of 4)

  • Day 1: Paris - Geneva
  • Day 2: Geneva-Montreaux then Montreux-Interlaken (Goldenpass express)
  • Day 3: Interlaken-Milan
  • Day 4: Milan-Venice

I am planning on buying the Eurail 1st class flexible pass (4 days in 1 month pass)

My question is: Once I buy my Eurail pass, where do I book seats for these segments? My understanding is that the Eurail site isn’t quite up to date (and doesn’t go that far out) and so seat reservations should be made directly on TGV, sncf, Trenitalia or other sites? I already booked my seats for GoldenPass express directly on gpx site. 

Thank you in advance!

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Best answer by rvdborgt 7 March 2024, 07:52

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To book:

Paris-Geneva: raileurope.com

Geneva-Montreux-Interlaken: no reservation needed

Interlaken-Milan: depends on the route. There will be engineering works on the Italian part, with bus replacement. I'd go for the scenic route Interlaken-Domodossola-Locarno-Milan. You can do this reservation-free. Use sbb.ch to plan (but the Italian summer timetables are still far from complete).

Milan-Venice: raileurope.com or tickets.oebb.at

General advice on reservations:

https://www.seat61.com/interrail-and-eurail-reservations.htm

Thank you for the reply. 

For Paris-Geneva, when I go on raileurope.com I should select “add railpass” and specify eurail pass to book just the seats correct? Any recommendation for upper or lower deck, and if we are family of 4 should we choose duo or table options?

For Geneva-Montreux-Interlaken, I made seat reservations for the Montreux-Interlaken segment through gpx site because I wanted the prestige class train. Hopefully I did that right? 

For Interlaken-Milan, we are short on time so I don’t think the scenic route will be an option. On some sites I am seeing that there is 6:30pm train that goes to Spiez and then direct to Milan. Are you saying part of the journey will be by bus? Do you have any other suggestions? 

Appreciate the help

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Yes that's the way to go on Rail Europe. Upper deck is more fun and better for the views. :)

Table option if you want to sit together.

Btw if you want to save money you could do this easy workaround. Direct TGVs to Geneva have a 39€ reservation fee in 1st class, however if you alight at Bellegarde (the previous stop, right before the border) it costs 10-20€ per person. It's then a short hop on a regional train across the border -> all in all it takes about 30 min longer.

Yes there will be a bus from Domodossola to Milan. Expect a 1h-1h30 longer journey than usual.

Appreciate all the help on this forum! If I book the 1st call Eurail pass, can I still choose 2nd class seats on TGV trains or other trains that require reservations? I am only thinking of 1st class pass in order to sit in the Prestige class on the Goldenpass express.

Or is it possible to buy at 2nd class Eurail pass and just upgrade 1 journey/day on Goldenpass express to 1st class?

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Easier (and probably cheaper) to book a 1st class pass in the first place, especially with the sale.

Upgrades are possible in Switzerland but they're not cheap.

Yes you can sit in 2nd class but why would you? :) The reservation fee is 10€ cheaper on the Paris - Geneva TGV but otherwise no difference.

I guarantee you'll be grateful for 1st class during peak season : bigger seats, less busy,...

If I want to avoid the Domodossola to Milan construction, would an option to take a train from Interlaken to Bern, then take the direct train from Bern to Milan? Would this route also go through Domodossola?

Also when do the timetables for the Italy trains come out for Aug? It doesn’t look like I can see anything yet.

thanks!

This train does also go through Domodossolo (means it will not run). (Going that way would mean going from Interlaken via Spiez to Bern and directly back to Spiez so doesn’t make any sense.)

But there’s no need to avoid this. There’s a frequent direct bus service between Domodossola and Milano (2h 20min; that’s about 55min more than by train).

Some timetables for August are already published. Depends on train type and route. You do already see the replacement busses between Domodossloa and Milano if this is your question. Missing trains will appear step by step.

Thank you for the reply. We are looking to travel on Aug 6 from Interlaken to Milan at around 6pm. Right now when I look on raileurope.com it comes backing saying they couldn’t find any results. On the rail planner app, I only see journeys that are 7+ hours long? If i look at earlier dates (in June), there is a 3h 55 journey from Interlaken to Milan at 6:30pm. So I am hoping when the Aug timetable is updated, I will see that journey again with some added time (55min) for the bus from Domodossola?

 

Timetable for August 6th (already published):

18.30 Interlaken Ost

18.52 Spiez

Change trains

19.05 Spiez

20.12 Domodossola 

Change from train to bus

20.30 Domodossola

22.50 Milano Centrale 

thank you. Where are you seeing that schedule? I haven’t been able to find it on rail europe or rail planner. Do I need to reserve seats on any of those segment? I bought a 1st class Eurail pass.

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Use the companies planners. DB Navigator app and bahn.com are reliable tools of the German Railways but still dependant on the companies sending their data to the European database.

For now you can check Interlaken Ost - Domodossola on SBB app/sbb.ch and Domodossola - Milano Centrale on trenitalia.com.

In a week or two the buses should appear everywhere. There's no rush, don't worry.

The replacement buses seem to require reservations. There is no assigned seating so it's probably to make sure that everyone has a seat. They should be available through Rail Europe or ÖBB. In any case a regular ticket for it costs 10€ while a regular train ticket is 25€ (and a passholder reservation 10-13€).

Rail Planner shouldn't be used to plan. It is unreliable and less frequently updated. I only use it to log trains.

Thank you for the details. Would another option be to enjoy the scenic train from Interlaken to Lucerne and then take a direct bus from Lucerne to Milan? If yes, would those busses be covered by the Eurail pass? It looks like the driving distance is about 3 hours from Lucerne to Milan.

Thank you for the details. Would another option be to enjoy the scenic train from Interlaken to Lucerne and then take a direct bus from Lucerne to Milan? If yes, would those busses be covered by the Eurail pass? It looks like the driving distance is about 3 hours from Lucerne to Milan.

That's possible (but it's more close to 4 hours by daytime bus). But these would be busses not covered by your railpass so you need to pay for it.

But why should you want to go by bus if you are holding a railpass?

Maybe you are not aware of being in a different part of Switzerland now and going into Italy a completely different way? From Luzern to Milano it's possible to go by train at least every hour (direct connections do require a reservation; personally I'd avoid them and change in Lugano to a regional train).

Thank you all for your help so far. I am trying to book seats for a direct train from Milan Centrale to Venice S. Lucia on Thu 8 Aug in the morning. The rail europe site doesn’t show any direct trains on that day. Is it too soon to book our seats? We have 1st class Eurail passes.

I hope I am not too late and those trains are sold out?

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Thank you all for your help so far. I am trying to book seats for a direct train from Milan Centrale to Venice S. Lucia on Thu 8 Aug in the morning. The rail europe site doesn’t show any direct trains on that day. Is it too soon to book our seats? We have 1st class Eurail passes.

I hope I am not too late and those trains are sold out?

You're too early. It looks like there will be engineering work and timetables are noot final yet.

Italian day trains don't often sell out and it they do, it's around busy days (begin/end of holidays etc.) and then still only a few days in advance. Just keep trying regularly.

Thank you, that is a relief!

Would this itinerary below likely get sold out (for first week of Aug)? Should I book this one now?

18.30 Interlaken Ost

18.52 Spiez

Change trains

19.05 Spiez

20.12 Domodossola 

Change from train to bus

20.30 Domodossola

22.50 Milano Centrale

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Swiss trains cannot (and shouldn't) be booked. Simply hop on and sit wherever you want, the train ends are always less busy.

The bus is unlikely to sell out in the evening, maybe book a few days early in case. A ticket costs 10€ (no idea with passes, reservations seem to be required).

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The bus is unlikely to sell out in the evening, maybe book a few days early in case. A ticket costs 10€ (no idea with passes, reservations seem to be required).

Freccialink buses are €5 for a pass reservation. Maybe also for this EC replacement bus? I don't know.

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Appreciate all the help on this forum! If I book the 1st call Eurail pass, can I still choose 2nd class seats on TGV trains or other trains that require reservations? I am only thinking of 1st class pass in order to sit in the Prestige class on the Goldenpass express.

Or is it possible to buy at 2nd class Eurail pass and just upgrade 1 journey/day on Goldenpass express to 1st class?

for the prestige class you need on top of the 1st class pass a reservation and upgrade bookable via official website of Goldenpass Express.

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