Ticketing/reservation help for a Euro-rail novice
April 22, 2010 5:21 PM   Subscribe

This summer I'm taking a trip to Europe that includes taking a train from Krakow to Hamburg (with a connection in Berlin) and then Kiel to Prague (also connecting in Berlin). Just booked the tickets online through bahn.de, but for the first stretch of the trip (Krakow to Berlin) it could not book me a reservation. What do I do now? The train is a Euro City (EC), so I'm pretty sure I need a reservation. Or do I? I'm used to taking Amtrak, so of course I have to plead ignorance on this. Please help a Euro-rail novice!
posted by squawk to Travel & Transportation (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Clarification: I have a ticket for all legs of this journey, just not a reserved seat for the train in question.
posted by squawk at 5:23 PM on April 22, 2010

Nope, you shouldn't need a reservation, it just means you might have bad seats or have to stand.
posted by deansfurniture5 at 5:31 PM on April 22, 2010

Just got back from a trip where I went between Salzburg-Prague-Dresden-Berlin-Frankfurt by rail. I didn't reserve any of the tickets online. I showed up at each station relatively ignorant of the train schedule and used the electronic ticket machine (with English translation.) The longest I had to wait for a train was a little over an hour. In most cases the price the machine asked me to pay was less than the price quoted on raileurope.com - in Austria and Czech Republic the price was half as much as the online quoted price.

Like deansfurniture5 said, there is a risk of not getting a seat. This happened to me once on a 45-minute connecting train to Frankfurt and I had to stand. Otherwise, getting a seat was not a problem.
posted by Yiggs at 6:57 PM on April 22, 2010

Yep. As long as you have a ticket, you'll be able to get on the train --- it's basically the same scheme as SEPTA, NJTransit, or LIRR. You'll get a seat 99% of the time, but might not during rush hour on a particularly bad day. Any long-haul train should provide a reserved seat, or at the very least, guarantee that the train isn't oversold.

For a great guide to rail travel within Europe, check Seat 61. It's admittedly UK-centric, but has fantastic advice for travel within Europe nevertheless.

Oh, and the train to Prague is slowwww.
posted by schmod at 7:30 PM on April 22, 2010

Just make sure you get on the right car (certain cars are usually reserved seating, while others are first come first serve).

Couple of years ago boarding a train in Frankfurt, I got on a near-empty train and took one seat at random. Half an hour later we stopped and the whole train filled up with screaming German school children and I was told I was in a reserved seat, and by that point everything in the fcfs cars had filled too, so I wound up standing.

Don't be like me!
posted by mannequito at 8:30 PM on April 22, 2010

Thanks everyone. I contacted Deutsche Bahn's customer service and found out that, indeed, this train doesn't require a reservation. I may make a reservation at the station anyway, just to have the peace of mind of not having to stand the entire trip.
posted by squawk at 7:58 AM on April 23, 2010

Polish trains are pretty uncrowded depending on when you're traveling, and Krakow Głowny (Krakow Main) station is easy to navigate. Though there's not a huge amount of English signage, look for the "międzynarodowy" (international) counter in the ticket hall (windows 15-16, I think...it's obvious and not that big).

If for some reason you can't get on this specific train, look into traveling via Warsaw (less than 3 hours away on the fastest "EIC" trains), then catching the six-times-daily Berlin-Warszawa Express (about 6 hours).

Note that the amazing bahn.de also produces something called a "personal timetable" - pop in Kraków Głowny to Hamburg Hbf and specify what sorts of connections you'd like to see and you'll see basically every possible incarnation of possible journey in a nice printable PDF like this.
posted by mdonley at 1:27 PM on April 23, 2010

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