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.
- 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.
- 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.