Haven't even left for trip yet and already disappointed

  • 21 April 2022
  • 6 replies
  • 677 views

Like the title says. My partner and I purchased two two-month passes a couple weeks ago in anticipation for our upcoming trip of Western Europe and I can say, without a doubt, that the user experience of this website/service has been incredibly poor, confusing, unhelpful, and unnecessarily stressful. There are a multitude of reasons why so I’m going to list them out numerically.

  1. Consistent missing data - Whenever we first wanted to make reservations/plan out our trip, the entire country of Ireland and the majority of the UK stations were missing from the search bar. They simply would not appear. We kept scrambling around to figure out what to do and if we misread the locations served. We eventually went on the Irishrail website and placed a reservation just in case. A couple of days later both Ireland and a handful of different UK stations were functioning again on the app/website. It worked out either way because we wanted to place a reservation leaving the Dublin Station anyway and it must be done through the Irishrail website (which is something left to be desired itself). 
  2. Misalignments between the website and app - There are multiple instances where the train times and locations are different/do not exist when you’re trying to search it on the website and then compare it to the times/locations in the app, or vice versa.
  3. Clunky app/website design - speaks for itself. It is very awkward and inconvenient when trying to place/delete/revise a certain reservation.
  4. Downplaying the need for reservations - speaks for itself. My partner and I were surprised by the large quantity of reservations we had to make for our trip, which obviously ended up being quite costly. There’s also an additional booking fee whenever you do place a reservation, which drives up the price even further. It seems rather deceitful that this service promotes it’s convenience/affordability, but, after my experience so far, it is neither of those things, and we haven’t even left yet. 
  5. Inactive/broken links - This was the issue that ultimately prompted me to write this post. After going through the process of selecting the handful of reservations I can actually make through the Eurail website, I went into my cart to begin reviewing and making my payment. First, the “Go to checkout” button would often malfunction and I would have to mess around with the website until I could get it to pop up again. In addition to this, the cart logo in the top right showed that there was nothing in my cart to begin with, which wasn’t true, so not being able to have that option made the process of getting the “Go to checkout” button to work more frustrating. Second, once I was able to get in, the “Continue to travel details” button would also malfunction constantly, and I would have to mess around with this process through multiple different search engines until I was finally able to get it to work. Third, this exact same issue occurred whenever I tried to click the “Review your order” button. Whenever I was finally able to get to the second to last page of the process, I was given an error and was told to find an alternate connection for one of the trains I selected to reserve, thus demanding me to repeat this entire process all over again. I know I’m coming off as nit-picky about this, but for a service this large and this popular, issues like these shouldn’t occur. And, having this much uncertainty towards the quality of this service, which is used as our main method of traveling through foreign countries, makes planning for the trip much more stressful. 
  6. The lack of some kind of live customer service is frustrating, and I truly hope that my partner and I do not get tangled up in a time-sensitive issue as we will likely have to wait several hours for a response. However, I am fully anticipating this due to the numerous flaws/difficulties I have already ran through while utilizing this service. 

Overall, I can easily say that I am extremely disappointed with this service and regret purchasing these two passes. I do believe it would have been easier (and quite possibly cheaper) to simply purchase each separate ticket we needed for our trip individually. I truly am sad to say this because I loved the idea of being able to access my train information all in one application and not have to worry about the multitude of different train services we will have to take once we begin our trip, but the multiple issues that I have been dealing with has already outweighed any potential benefits.

I would like to hear from anyone willing to discuss about their experience with this service during their trip. What did you like? What didn’t you like? Should we be prepared for something unexpected? Do you have any advice to help make our experience with this service better? Please, let us know!!!


6 replies

Userlevel 7
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As to timetables: the app is offline and only gets an update about once a month, so it's not reliable enough to plan. In general, national websites or apps are more up to date and for international planning, the German railways website (or DB Navigator app) is a good choice. In case of differences, a national website or the operator's website is more reliable than any other source. The app comes last in terms of reliability.

Some railways however don't send their timetable data to the European Timetable Centre (or only a part or only sometimes) and then other websites or the rail planner app basically can't know about them. Irish railways is an example. Or Spanish railways.

The participating railways themselves determine if you need to buy reservations and what the price is. In some countries, reservations are mandatory for all long distance trains (e.g. France, Italy, Spain) and in others, reservations are optional or not even possible, except for night trains (e.g. Great Britain, Germany, Switzerland, Austria). It makes a big difference where you travel.

In addition, some railways send incorrect or incomplete data about reservations, as you can see in Great Britain, where some day trains are displayed with mandatory reservations, but which is incorrect.

Depending on the country, there are also alternatives to make reservations, see e.g. this list or this thread, and some of those don't have booking fees or are cheaper altogether (e.g. German railways for optional reservations).

The error message that you have to find an alternative connection can have multiple causes. Sometimes, the train is actually (almost) full but at other times it's not clear what the problem is and you can still book via an alternative or if you book trains separately. If you give details of trains you'd like to book (origin, destination, date, departure time) then people can suggest alternative ways to book.

I have to say I fully agree.  I purchased our passes yesterday for a trip to France in June.  I’ve not been able to reserve any seats so far.  The website is unhelpful.  The information given before booking does not match the information once the passes have been purchased in terms of availability and costs.  I’m struggling to see why this is beneficial in any way.  I’d love it if someone could tell me the benefits as so far I'm really disappointed. 

The same for NS. NO any WAY TO CONTACT THEM. Really bad!

I purchased 5 travel day eurail passes for our trip to Netherlands and Sweden in July .  I have spent MANY hours since trying to link passes to trip, book reservations, figure out time zone differences between the app and website, and contact customer service.  It has been the most frustrating and confusing travel experience I have ever had and I have not left yet. The interaction with the app and the website leaves much to be desired.  The people in customer service are the ONLY bright light of this experience.
I might say that I have traveled with Eurail since 1967 and never had the issues this presents now.  


I noticed that the original post was from 2 years ago.  Is anyone else having any of these issues now?

Userlevel 7
Badge +9

I purchased 5 travel day eurail passes for our trip to Netherlands and Sweden in July .  I have spent MANY hours since trying to link passes to trip, book reservations, figure out time zone differences between the app and website, and contact customer service.  It has been the most frustrating and confusing travel experience I have ever had and I have not left yet. The interaction with the app and the website leaves much to be desired.  The people in customer service are the ONLY bright light of this experience.
I might say that I have traveled with Eurail since 1967 and never had the issues this presents now.  

I noticed that the original post was from 2 years ago.  Is anyone else having any of these issues now?

If you want less stress, then don't use the Eurail website or the rail planner app to plan, and don't book reservations via Eurail. Instead, check this page:

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

It'll be cheaper and generally work better.

Userlevel 1
Badge

Interrail charging a booking fee for what is essentially a limitation of their own product is a bit of a joke. I know it’s not them who make the choice whether you need reservations and how much, but the fee is entirely their own choice. You can now book most reservations through raileurope.com which has a great interface and is simple to use. They don’t charge a fee on top.

It’s a shame this is your first introduction to European trains as they are wonderful and once you get to grips with it all, not as hard as it first appears. A lot of it is down to the fact that you have many different operators running it all and the required level of cooperation hasn’t been reached yet. Interrail could do a better job of smoothing all that over so you never have to think about that.

As someone else said, seat61.com is the bible for all this information. Go there first and have him tell you what to do, where to book etc.

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