Report back on experimental Greek train reservation pre-booking method

  • 21 November 2022
  • 4 replies
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Userlevel 5
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  • Railly clever
  • 164 replies

Hi all,

As you may or may not know, I tried and succeeded the other month in booking a couple of seat reservations with Hellenic Train by lightly abusing their query form. I got a formal response confirming that my reservations had been made but that I would need to collect the tickets from the station. The method is displayed on the last page of this thread: 

Today was the moment of truth; I went down to Thessalonike’s railway station to collect my tickets, armed with a printout of my email reply from Hellenic Train. The cashier at the ticket desk did accept the validity of the correspondence once shown my pass, but he also said (unsurprisingly really) that he had never seen this kind of thing done before, and that he had no way of retrieving my tickets. He also was unable to select the seats detailed in the email (because of course, unless something had gone wrong somewhere along the line, they had been reserved for me!).

I perhaps should have tried to ask if a different colleague could help, but I don’t really like to do that if I can possibly avoid it as it comes across as a bit patronising.

In the end, he just gave me seat reservation tickets for different seats on the same trains; less than ideal, because I assume there will now be unreserved seats on two trains that nobody can book.

Even despite all this palaver, I would still recommend booking this way for two reasons.

  1. Clearly reservation retrieval must be possible in some way, otherwise the email correspondent would have politely declined my request at the first instance. The more often Inter/Eurailers do this, the more familiar with the technique the ticket counter staff will become.
  2. There may at times be a genuine risk of not being able to get a ticket for the exact train you want if you have to wait to arrive in Greece. The soonest I could have bought my ticket by conventional means in this instance would have been the day before travel, and it was for one of only two evening departures that day between the two largest cities in the country. If the worst comes to the worst, the train is fully-booked, and they can’t work out how to retrieve your ticket, but they can see the seat has been reserved (and they know by default that there won’t be anyone else sitting in it), they’ll just have to find some other way of approving your journey - even if it’s just by writing another, yet more authoritative letter for you to show on the train.

4 replies

Userlevel 7
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Efcharisto=thanks. Nice to see someone takes this effort and thinks along. Yes, you are rail-clever.

Oh-btw: in such cases staff should have a direct call nr for internal help with such ´problems´-maybe even also printed on that mail?

Dit the mail already tell which car/seat nr? In that case you could simply have taken that-but that OSE did not get the income for it.

Userlevel 5
Badge +4

Efcharisto=thanks. Nice to see someone takes this effort and thinks along. Yes, you are rail-clever.

Efcharisto poli for saying so! But…

Oh-btw: in such cases staff should have a direct call nr for internal help with such ´problems´-maybe even also printed on that mail?

This definitely should have occurred to me! The email has indeed been signed off by an individual; she works in Prices and Statistics in the Commercial Passenger Transportation Department, and her name, phone number and email address are all displayed in the bottom margin. So yes, I’d fully agree - whoever tries this next should remember to ask the ticket desk attendant to call that number if they encounter problems.

Dit the mail already tell which car/seat nr? In that case you could simply have taken that-but that OSE did not get the income for it.

It does; they are the seats I requested specifically - on today’s Pendolino I had booked the only solo seat on the entire train. Of course I still want and intend to sit there, so I really hope that after dealing with me, the cashier did not find some way of cancelling the first booking I had made to put it back on general sale. 🤔 I shall have to see what happens...

Userlevel 5
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There may at times be a genuine risk of not being able to get a ticket for the exact train you want if you have to wait to arrive in Greece.

Having now taken these two journeys, I can refine this statement a bit more.

It definitely applies for IC trains, which appear to be extremely popular and almost full to capacity (I took one around 1PM from Athens to Palaiofarsalos).

ICE (Pendolino) trains on the other hand...

Because they are (for the time being) barely 10 minutes faster between Thessalonike and Athens, run only twice per day, and I think cost a fair bit more, people avoid them. As things stand, I think you could book these the day before if you had to. From what I could see, there weren’t that many travellers in 2nd class either.

They’re very pleasantly refurbished and the ambience is nice, but the electricals need a bit of attention; my phone charger plug spectacularly exploded about ten minutes into the journey, and though I was lent a replacement by the conductor, the flow of electricity shut off completely about 20 minutes later (on all the sockets I tried around the carriage) and never came back online after that.

Conductors on neither train cared that my seat wasn’t the one displayed on the ticket, so if this retrieval problem happens to anyone else, just remember that your original seats won’t have been resold and will still be available for you.


 

The only other useful tip from my current trip (totally unrelated to anything to do with Greece) is that you must put your foot down and insist that night train conductors inspect your mobile pass when you board. When I took the EN Dacia between Budapest and Bucharest, I showed my reservation ticket and then tried to show my daily pass QR code, but the conductor wasn’t interested and kept saying that everything was fine.

But sure enough, in the early hours of the morning straight after the Hungarian and Romanian passport inspections, he had changed his mind, and of course my Interrail ticket had not been available since midnight. It all worked out alright in the end, but it was a bit annoying having to type a long explanation about how travel days work and why I could no longer show the right ticket into Google Translate when I very much wanted to get back to sleep.

Userlevel 7
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There is an agreement between some of the operators that only the departure and destination railway would check the mobile Pass during inspection, but it doesn't include CFR:

I think you should complain to customer service (and CFR) and ask for a solution.

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