Railpass use in Italy and France

1. On Feb. 17, ’05, we went to Gare de Lyon in Paris to activate our multi-country saverpass (seven days, four countries, two people, good for two months) and make seat reservations for travel starting on Feb. 21 to/within/from Italy and Belgium.

FrenchRail (SNCF) said they will not validate passes until the actual day of travel for trains that do not need a seat reservation or until the day you are ready to make a seat reservation for future travel. I told them that we were going to Chartres that afternoon just to get the pass activated.

2. There are/may be a limited number of first- and second-class seats available for Eurailpass holders on trains requiring a premium reservation (TGV, Thalys, ES, etc.) during peak travel times or seasons. This fact is mentioned in the “fine print” in the Eurailpass user guide.

We had to pay two full fares for Paris to Milan for travel on the 8:04 TGV on Monday Feb. 21 or take a later train arriving past 9:30 p.m. Not only was it for a Monday morning but it was the start of the spring-break ski travel season. The train was packed in first and second class.

3. There is no problem in France making reservations for travel to/from/within Italy with the SNCF. However, I was told in Milan by Trenitalia that they could not make reservations for a trip from Paris- Nord to Brussels on the Thalys if we wanted to do Milan-Paris-Brussels. We could only get a reservation for Milan to Brussels via Geneva, Switzerland.

By pestering enough people in Milan Central and a travel agency in downtown Milan, I was directed to what turned out to be the Rail Europe office in downtown Milan. They were very friendly and could make reservations for all trains. They told me that their office is difficult to find since they are not allowed to advertise their presence. They also said that the Trenitalia computer reservation system cannot “talk” to the Thalys or some of the other reservation systems in Europe.


Champaign, IL