Eurail

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Eurail Pass Refunds- Strikes
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I recently traveled through Western Europe with a group of my friends. All of us are college students and don't have much money to spare, so we looked in to (and ended up purchasing) Eurail Youth Passes. We ordered them well in advance and received them in plenty of time and good condition. Our travel included a mix of airline flights and train trips, so we were not going to use them until about a week into our trip.

When we went to the Barcelona, Spain main train station to have our passes validated and get seat reservations, the agent told us that the French train workers were striking and they had no idea when it would end. Absolutely every train into France was canceled, with the exception of one to Paris (we had just come from Paris and were trying to get to Nice). Fortunately, we had gone to the station the day before we planned to depart (and when our hostel reservation ended), so with some scrambling we secured a place to spend the night.

As soon as we left the train station, I got on a computer to look up what kind of accommodations Eurail made for strikes. I Googled "Eurail refunds" and clicked on the first link, which took me to eurailnet.com, a website that sells Eurail passes. On the first page Google linked me to, it specifically stated that a full refund would be made for passes that went unused due to strikes. Although inconvenienced and forced to incur additional expenses, my friends and I ended up fine-- we took a ferry to our next stop. We did not use our Eurail passes at all and had them endorsed "not used" by an Italian railway official, as the Eurail website instructed.

I eventually made it home to the United States, where I promptly mailed off my unused pass to the Eurail refund processing center. I included a letter explaining what had happened, providing my phone number and requesting that the refund administrator call me if for any reason I would not be receiving a full refund, as their website said I would. Over a month later, a credit finally posted to my bank account-- but it was only for 85% of the pass price. After a significant amount of searching-- their website says that the company no longer offers customer service via telephone and only accepts requests via its website (which one of my travel companions did and despite their guarantee of a response within three days, never received a reply)-- I found a phone number where I could reach one. Over the course of four days (and a weekend; they are completely closed Saturdays and Sundays) I was passed around from agent to agent, each of whom would promise me a call back once they had a chance to research the matter and NONE-- I repeat not a single one-- EVER called me back. I spoke with four different agents (one each day, each referring me to the next after I would call them back because they never called me), the last of whom promised me a phone call from yet another agent (which also never happened) and told me that I had looked on the wrong website-- apparently, there are many different distributors of Eurail passes and even though there is only one distribution and customer service center, they would not honor the strike guarantee of the website Google pulled up (despite the fact that it listed their phone number and address as its own and is a licensed distributor of the passes).

Anyway, I know this is a long review, but here is WHAT I'VE LEARNED from my experience: unless for some reason you really have your heart set on using a Eurail pass, skip it. It is not worth the headache and frustration of dealing with them if for any reason something happens with your pass. Their employees are completely unhelpful, unresponsive, and really couldn't care less about your problem. If you must buy a Eurail pass, understand that you will be screwed if the European rail workers decide to strike-- something that the Eurail website describes as "rare" but in reality is quite common, as I was told by the Spanish railway official who informed me of the strike. Apparently, the French especially strike a lot. Their website paints a very different picture than the reality of traveling using Eurail, and if you're hoping for help from their US operations center, don't hold your breath.
     
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BobJohn on 2008-07-31:
I hope you still had a good time. If it were possible (I don't know about the age restrictions) it might have been cheaper to split the cost and rent a car or van. Maybe an idea for your next trip. I found (not youth rates) that Eurorail cost more for two of us than if we rented a samll car and with a car we have a lot more flexibility where and when we go. Caveat though - gas prices.
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Budapest to Venice Eurail Overnight trip
Posted by on
I had the misfortune of taking the NIGHTTRAIN from Budapest to Venice, it was a NIGHTMARE!!! Eurail brochure implied a pleasant uninterrupted journey, overnight sleep/rest wonderful service.... The Eurail Train 240 EN Coach 424, Two bed sleeper????? 10 May 2009, cost us two days fare in Eurail, the only time the train leaves is exactly 4.35pm Budapest Keleti, so that you are forced to use two days, that was EUR 200, then we had to purchase an extra bed/crossing fee of EUR 140,on top of that. Which would have been OK had the train been even remotely decent, but it was gross, we had no showers in our coach 424, exposed pipes and awful toilet, no floor covering, Dry detergent for hand wash, steel antiquated grosser than the worst public toilet that you were to scared to go into, dirty and unfriendly, NIGHTMARE. That train should be banned from Eurail, and the staff, especially the kitchen staff, shame on you! The excuse of a breakfast which was supposed to be included, was the most disgusting excuse of a meal I have ever had put in front of me. One traveller asked for milk for her tea, and they hunted her down for payment as it wasn’t included with her breakfast..... Brochure says we were supposed to enjoy a pleasurable journey without sleep interruption, instead, we had the worst accommodation imaginable, disgusting, THEN!!!! every border crossing we were woken up for passport checks, by nasty loud and very rude "POLIZIA!" that woke us up, flashed lights in our eyes, had sniffer dogs, wanted to know if we had alcohol or cigarettes to declare???!!!! What the? We will fly across the world, spend a fortune on eating out, accommodation, EURAIL PASSSES and then what, they thought we might traffic in TOBACCO? Very unpleasant I do NOT recommend this journey. Have had many pleasant Eurail trips, but this one, DO NOT DO IT. There were two other couples, the US ones were supposed to train back to Budapest, they cashed in their return trip and caught a flight back, we were only going one way, thank the Lord!
     
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madconsumer on 2009-07-03:
next time charter a private plane.
Ben There on 2009-07-03:
I remember back in the days before the EU you were stopped almost at every border for passport checks. This has nothing to do with the trains, but with the government of the country you are entering. The train companies have no authority over border police so it is not their fault they were rude.

As for the condition of the train, that sounds like a typical Italian or Hungarian train. If this was your first overnight train that is a shame as some of the other ones can be very nice.

As for using 2 days on your rail pass, IIRC anything leaving after 7pm on a train that does not involve a transfer is the only way to travel on two days of rail while using only one day of allotment. Unfortunately you picked a really far distance to travel - that distance must have taken at least 12 hours.

Was the additional 140EUR your suppliment to upgrade your rail pass, or did you want to buy the last bed in the cabin to have a private room?
Anonymous on 2009-07-03:
Yeah but how was Venice?
Eloise on 2009-07-03:
You really can't hold the train responsible for stopping at border check points.
BokiBean on 2009-07-04:
Nasty! But honestly, it makes for a better story than just a boring old train ride...
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Eurail Pass almost useless in France
Posted by on
PARIS, FRANCE -- I was foolish enough to buy a 4coutry Eurail pass to make a journey from Switzerland to Portugal. There is effectively no capacity made available on french long distance trains (TGV) for the Eurail pass. I was unable to book a direct train from Geneva to Paris on a Monday afternoon over a week in advance or a any connection from Paris to Irun on the Spanish border for a Wednesday/Thursday. I was ultimately forced to buy another ticket full fare ticket for the train I wanted to travel on - but was denied with a pass.

The SNCF knowingly creates this situation and locks out capacity while continuing to promote the pass for sale - leaving pass travelers stranded, frustrated and out of pocket. Attempts to get appropriate action or a refund fall on deaf ears.

Don't waste your money on a Eurail pass if you journey involves France.
     
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Alain on 2010-07-01:
This is interesting. I have a niece traveling in Europe later this year. I'll pass this warning along to her.
Ben There on 2010-07-01:
I have had no problems in the past with rail passes - was there something going on with the two specific days you were traveling?
BEJ on 2010-07-01:
I too have traveled many a time with Eurail and Britrail passes and have had no difficulties. Could there be that there were special circumstances around the days you wanted to travel?
IanD on 2010-07-02:
I too have had no previous problems with Eurail passes.... but the SNCF is now imposing extremely tight limits on the seats available for the passes on its trains right through the European summer. Unless you buy your pass very early and find a way to lock in the seats you want on specific days - the pass is effectively useless. After being 'obliged' to buy another full fare ticket to gain a reservation for the train I wanted to travel on, I was still left without a reserved seat as the train was overbooked.... to top it off the TGV broke down twice leaving stressed passengers wondering about onward connections. We were passed into a chaotic bus transfer from Hendaye to Irun with hapless SNCF staff unable to manage the process.

By contrast the RENFE trenhotel from Irun to Lisbon was a great... totally recommend it - if only you could get a connection to it in France
Russell on 2011-07-20:
It's true, adding France to the Eurail pass is next to useless you will end up paying twice.

20 years ago it was a good deal but I have been stung twice in the past 2 year as was someone else I know.

The Swiss Rail reservation people will give you an honest answer as they are sick of being on the receiving end of people who can not get seats to France with this pass.

One comment made to me was that they believe the SNCF only makes available 50 seats per TGV to pass holders. A TGV has 18 wagons with 78 seats that would mean 50 seats out of 1,404 or only 3.5 % of seats.

I would like to see the SNCF come clean on the number of seats they provide

As an example of what a rip off this is I asked Swiss reservations on July 17 which TGV from Switzerland had a seat for a Eurail pass on July 18. TGVs run to Paris from Zurich, Bern, Lausanne and Geneva and there are several per day.

The Swiss reservations replied "NONE".
They explained to me that France does not think it gets a decent cut from thei deal so they do not provide enough seats to pass holders.

I then asked them to check all days in the future to find the first date with a seat available on a TGV to Paris for a Eurail pass. They kindly did this and the reply was AUGUST 24 th

So no seats available for Eurail pass holders from July 17 to August 24.

They can not use the excuse that it is holidays etc because the I know it happens anytime of the year.

Despite having your expensive pass you will be told if you buy a full price ticket on the spot they can find room for you.

Same thing happened to a friend who wanted to go from Paris to Venice. He was told it would cost him a few hundred Euro despite having the pass.

The French had a word "ESCROQUERIE" which I believe in English translates to Swindle or Rippoff:

Save your money , do not throw it away by including France on the Eurail pass
Voceman on 2014-06-05:
I don't know the details behind my experience, but there are enough warnings here to alert anyone to France travel challenges. I have managed to complete a booking with Euro Railways which was a tortuous process, between a website that tries to put a modern face on a creaky back office and occasionally available chat support. I started planning a June trip one month in advance which had to contribute to problems. Ended up with only one trip leaving France to Barcelona and found no economy by getting a Eurorail pass. Paying almost $500 for first class pass the seat to Barcelona was another $125. Enough to make you wish to take a plane. The other discovery is that many (most) trains in France are not covered by the Eurorail pass. Mostly this is a cautionary tale about expectations of Eurorail pass. My guess is a France pass would have served us better.
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