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  1. #1
    Senior Member Gotte's Avatar
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    Eurorail, anyone tried it?

    I can see why people fly.

    I;m trying to put together a tour with my friend. We were looking at Prague to Berlin (and still are), but I;m not keen on flying with my bike (I know, it will probably be okay, but I;m a worrier). Also, I;m trying to be greener. Anyway, I decided to check out the possibility of going by trian from Manchester UK to Salzburg. Simple, I thought. UK section would probably be difficult, but on the continent it should be a breeze. Then I tried to get a rough price.
    Hmmm, have to search teh first part of my journey to Paris only, then do another search. When I try and search for Paris to Salzburg, I;m given some not very clear message that they offer various services from which I should choose. Of course there is no link, no instruction as to what to do. So I can;t even find a price for the journey, let alone an itinerary.

    But anyway, enough of the ranting. Anyone here made an extended journey such as the one I plan, if so, how was it?

  2. #2
    Macro Geek
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    A possible solution to your question is in your subject: "Eurorail, anyone tried it?"

    Consider buying a Eurorail Pass. The pass greatly simplifies train travel through the continent. For many trips, you don't even need to make reservations. You just show up and get on the train. (There are exceptions, though.) The pass is not cheap, but it pays for itself quickly, especially if you take several trips and/or are travelling long distances. The pass makes it practical to fly to an "inexpensive" airport that is far to your starting or ending point. On one trip, I used the pass to travel from Paris to Strasbourg (where I began my trip); from a small city in eastern France (where I ended the first leg) to Geneva, Switzerland (where I went to visit friends for a few days); from Geneva to Dijon (where I began the second leg); and a few days later, from Dijon to Paris.

  3. #3
    Numbler Cornchops's Avatar
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    We were in Europe last summer, with our bikes. We had two separate tours, one in Slovakia/Hungary, one in Italy. We took the train inbetween.

    Here was our issue: On local trains in Slovenia and Italy, bringing bikes was no problem. All of the trains had bike hangers, or rooms that could hold them. No problems at all.

    However, when we went from Budapest to Slovenia, we took an international train (a EuroRail eligible train). Very few of these have bike cars, and the reservation lady was very distressed about it. "Bicycles very difficult." Our options were limited, and we ended up with a six-hour layover in Salzburg, which was okay, but not necessarily desirable. We had to go a fairly round-about way, so that we could have bicycle cars the whole way.

    In hindsight, we would have taken a local Hungarian train to the border with Slovenia, ridden across the border, and then taken a local Slovenian train to our destination. Easier, cheaper, faster.

    The international train was a more comfortable ride, to be sure. I don't know if that is enough of a trade-off.

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    http://www.seat61.com/

    This site with a bit of browsing should give you the answers you are looking for.

    Remember within Europe there are in effect two main types of trains: The expensive, very fast, (150-200mph) express trains which go under different names in each country, TGV, InterCity, ICE, EuroStar etc these tend not to take bikes (unless in a package less than a certain size, like aircraft packaging)

    And then there is the normal service which is slower (50-120 mph), stops more often, has more restrictions (typically no rush hour travel), but is usually equipped for bikes.

    Also keep in mind Europe is not a single country (yet...), there is no single rail system, no single language, no single currency, therefore cross border travel involves a degree of challenge, but that is all part of the adventure.

    And by the way a Eurorail pass is valid all over the European Union and even some countries outside, but not, however valid in the UK.

  5. #5
    Senior Member jakuma's Avatar
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    'Also keep in mind Europe is not a single country (yet...), there is no single rail system, no single language, no single currency, therefore cross border travel involves a degree of challenge, but that is all part of the adventure.

    And by the way a Eurorail pass is valid all over the European Union and even some countries outside, but not, however valid in the UK.'[/QUOTE]



    In the UK ther is no single rail provider, thanks to Thatcher there are probably as many as all of continent!

    You can get by with the Euro for most countries! There is not even a single currency in the UK because most of England will not take Scottish notes. If you go to England from Scotland you can go the the Bank of Scotland's 'foriegn currency' desk and get English notes though!

    The likely reason that the Eurorail pass is not valid in the UK is that it would require rail services to be on time and inexpensive.
    True bike touring is a lot of stopping

  6. #6
    Senior Member Gotte's Avatar
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    The likely reason that the Eurorail pass is not valid in the UK is that it would require rail services to be on time and inexpensive.
    I agree with you there. I always assumed the most difficult part of the journey (and still assume, even with the difficulties of finding anything on the internet), would be from my home in Manchester to Waterloo or dover. I've heard so many horror stories of bikes not being allowed on trains, trains being late, cancelled, seats double sold. I never travel by train in this country for that reason.

    Anyway, thanks for the info, chaps. Much appreciated.

  7. #7
    Senior Member cyclezealot's Avatar
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    glad you posted this thread. Anxious to see response of others. Never used it since being a committed cyclist. But, this May. We have a rail pass for Hungary, Romania. Anyone used trains there. Is it easy to lug along your bikes? I know most long distance trains in France, Spain require bikes be boxed.

  8. #8
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    I took the train in both England and France in 2003. I didn't plan anything ... all I did was to cycle up to the station and wait for the train. In a couple places I had to buy a ticket before they let me onto the platform, in all the rest of the places, I just boarded the car with the little bicycle on it, parked my bicycle in the bicycle spot, sat down ... and then paid for my trip.

    It worked GREAT!! Everyone was very friendly and helpful. People helped me onto the trains with my bicycle, people translated for me, people chatted with me. I had a lovely time. I've still got a little bit of green paint on my fender where it got caught in the door of a train between Paris and Caen, and I'm leaving it there as a souvenir.


    I'm planning to return to France this coming summer, and if all goes well, I'll do some touring in some other countries over there. I plan to take the train again, and since the unplanned approach worked so well in 2003, I plan to use that approach again.


    Oh ... just one thing ... there are some super fast trains in France (I forget what they are called), but they don't allow bicycles during peak hours (like 7 am to 9 am and 3 pm to 5 pm or something) ... if you're like me and don't get going until 10 am, you should be fine.

  9. #9
    Senior Member cyclezealot's Avatar
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    I think it's the fast trains that require bikes be boxed up. Let's say you are taking a 3 hour train trip to some nearby region. And one has to box up the bike over and over every couple of days. That is a royal pain in the arse. Is that how it is?

  10. #10
    Senior Member onbike 1939's Avatar
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    snip<It worked GREAT!! Everyone was very friendly and helpful. People helped me onto the trains with my bicycle, people translated for me, people chatted with me. I had a lovely time. I've still got a little bit of green paint on my fender where it got caught in the door of a train between Paris and Caen, and I'm leaving it there as a souvenir.>

    Well, they would be wouldn't they. I mean you're female and what with the mask, a bit mysterious.

    Who knows Machka, I may see you in France this summer as I'm planning to be there from the end of June to the first week in August. If you are anywhere near the west coast of France or in the Burgundy region keep an eye out for a bald, white-bearded, elderly gentleman, riding a Thorn and pulling a trailer.

    The fast trains (200mph+) are called TGV. Fares are complicated in France. The day is divided into time zones i.e. the busy and non-busy periods. If you book a "green" period, then the fare is cheaper. If you book ahead, then the further you book ahead the cheaper it is. Again, senior citizens are allowed cheaper fares.

  11. #11
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cyclezealot
    I think it's the fast trains that require bikes be boxed up. Let's say you are taking a 3 hour train trip to some nearby region. And one has to box up the bike over and over every couple of days. That is a royal pain in the arse. Is that how it is?

    From what I experienced, bicycles do not have to be boxed. Maybe they do on the fast trains (yes, TGV, how could I have forgotten ... my jaw dropped on the platform when one of them roared past!!) but there are tons of slower trains where you can just ride up, and roll the bicycle on.

  12. #12
    Hypoxic Member head_wind's Avatar
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    I may not be up-to-date but there isn't _a_ EurailPass. First there are numerous
    kinds of EurailPass's, 30 day continuous, several days usable over several weeks,
    and others. There are also individual country rail passes. You will need to figure
    out what makes sense for you.

    Last time I used a EurailPass, in '99 there was a quota system instituted. A train
    I wanted had the maximun number of rail pass seats already reserved (TGV) and
    they were willing to sell ordinary tickets!!

    Standard train caution: there are charts in the station indicating which cars on a
    given train go where. Trains will often be split up later.

  13. #13
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Train sites:

    http://www.eurail.com/
    http://www.eurorailways.com/
    http://www.eurostar.com/dynamic/index.jsp'

    And the one I travelled with some of the time:
    http://www.voyages-sncf.com/dynamic/...=cmdHomepageUK
    http://www.voyages-sncf.com/leisure/fr/launch/home/

  14. #14
    Senior Member cyclezealot's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Machka
    From what I experienced, bicycles do not have to be boxed. Maybe they do on the fast trains (yes, TGV, how could I have forgotten ... my jaw dropped on the platform when one of them roared past!!) but there are tons of slower trains where you can just ride up, and roll the bicycle on.
    I love the TGV. Almost as fast as flying. Smooth and a Kronenburg 1664 goes down smooth and easy at 140 mph. Even if you have to box up your bike.

  15. #15
    I'm made of earth! becnal's Avatar
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    Gotte, I see a price of €133 for the night train from Paris to Salzburg. It has roll-on bike service.

    If I were you, I would take the ferry to Calais or Dunkirk, then take a roll-on bike service train to Paris, then take the roll-on bike service night train to Salzburg.

    The most expensive part of the trip will be Manchester to Dover, but as that is your home country, I won't presume to tell you the best way to get to dover.

    Only the French train website tells you the prices of the train journey because your journey begins in France. However, the German train website tells you that the Night train from Paris to Salzburg does have a bike compartment.

  16. #16
    I'm made of earth! becnal's Avatar
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    Gotte, if you could tell me the dates you want to travel and your points of origin and destination for the return trip as well, I can help you with that. I love playing with the train schedules!

  17. #17
    Senior Member jakuma's Avatar
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    Gotte, I know from experience that becnal loves train schedules and extremely helpful! I have yet to thank him for his efforts on my trip to Germany last Sept. Becnal, it was fantastic and I am looking forward to continuing my Roman frontier ride sometime this year. Cheers!
    True bike touring is a lot of stopping

  18. #18
    Senior Member Gotte's Avatar
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    Wow, thanks, chaps, and Becnal, if the offer still stands, I'd be more than happy to accept it.

    My friend and I are in a bit of a flux, though. Our trip by necessity has to be cheap, and is limited to 9 days. The two preferred trips are from Prague to Berlin (we really liked this idea as it has Dresden in the centre, and we've both been to Berlin and would like to revisit it, even if it was just for a day or so), and from Boden see to Salzburg.
    The main reason we chose these destinations is that we'd like to visit Germany again, and the flights were relatively simple.
    We were set on the Prague Berlin option until last week, when we found our relatively easy flights with BA, had gone. Now Prague Berlin depends on Czech airlines (not good with bikes, apparently), and air Berlin. The times aren;t good, either.

    Then I found a link to the Bodensee, Konigsee cycle route, which looked breathtaking - cycling right the way along the alps. We can get okay flights to Stuttgart and pretty decent flights back from Salzburg, both with Thomson (well, one with their German partner). I like them because they say you have to pay a £15 surcharge for taking your bike, but for that you get space guaranteed on the plane - not so with many other airlines).

    Anyway, to cut a long and tedious story short, the route that seems to be beckoning us is the Bodensee to Salzburg route (My friend spent some time in the Bodensee area in his youth, and would like to see it again)

    again, my main consideration is time and price, but I would like to be greener, and if the option was there to travel down to Bodensee by train, and back from Salzburg by train, or if we decided on a Black Forest tour, just to the southern Black forest area, then I would take it. I imagine it would be a great adventure, which is what we are both after really.

    So if you feel like crunching a few numbers and looking at a few timetables (something that tends to make my head bleed), then I would be very grateful.

    Our tour dates are April 20th to 29th (in that we have to be back in Manchester on the night of 29th.

    Again, many thanks. You are a star.

  19. #19
    I'm made of earth! becnal's Avatar
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    The Esterbauer Bikeline map books are absolutely reliable. They are simply the best bike map books in the world. They have the map book for the bike route that leads from Bodensee to Salzburg. It's called "Bodensee-Königssee-Radweg" and you can find it here:

    http://www.esterbauer.com/buecher/ht...r_frameset.htm

    Let me get on that itinerary.

  20. #20
    Senior Member filtersweep's Avatar
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    There are some epic bike routes, like the north sea route---

    As far as getting into travel by bike, you might want to carefully consider routes that avoid tunnels.

    It is no problem flying by bike if you have a hard case-- but where will you leave it? Will you have a home base? Many airports have "lockers" that are attended (not actual lockers- more like a coat check). I know NWA/KLM allows a bike to fly free as checked luggage.

    If you are traveling the end of April, it will be colder than you think. Spring generally starts later here than in the US.

  21. #21
    Videre non videri
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    Not that it's in your current plans, but stay out of Sweden, though. Bikes are not allowed on trains at all (not even in a special compartment or anything), except for a small number of commuter train lines in a few cities. Well, if you disassemble your bike and carry it in a big bag, that doesn't look like it has a bike in it, you'll be fine, but that's rarely an option...

  22. #22
    Senior Member Gotte's Avatar
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    Thanks for that, chaps, much appreciated.
    Filtersweep, I'm from the UK, which I can assure you is pretty chilly in April, so I'll be prepared for that .

  23. #23
    Senior Member cyclezealot's Avatar
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    Anyone familiar with the trains in Romania and Hungary. I suspect they are all slow trains. We have a eurailpass thats good for only those two countrys. Not sure yet how we are going to get from Montpelier, FR to Vienna and lug along our bikes. ?

  24. #24
    I'm made of earth! becnal's Avatar
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    Hey Gotte,

    There is a night train that goes direct from Paris to Ulm, which is just north of Bodensee (Lake Constance). WOuld you consider riding from Ulm down to the Bodensee-KonigseeRadweg?

  25. #25
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    i just toured 17 countries with my bike. getting around by train is very doable if you're flexible with your time schedule. in benelux and germany it's a breeze. czech republic, slovenia, and croatia are somewhat difficult. you can usually take a train most anywhere, but you're limited as to which ones you can take, and some days they don't have any at all. poland is nearly impossible. I couldn't find any trains to take me around. That's alright, i was content to just bike it all anyway. Spain is also pretty difficult, smaller regional trains are few and far between. i didn't train at all in hungary or slovakia, so i can't really help you there. but i think it should be about the same as czech republic. italy is pretty easy to get around on trains in the north, in the south it becomes more problematic.

    none of the big eurostar trains allow bikes, which really sucks. i managed to find one night train in france that would let me take a bike on, and i was very surprised to find it.

    really, your best bet will likely be to fly. i found riding with my bike on trains to be a big hassle.

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