Google Maps, along with other map apps, has made traveling from one place to another much easier than it used to be. All you need to do is type in your starting place and destination and you’ll get detailed information on how to get there. If you’re looking at taking a train, if you input your departure time, you’ll even get a selection of trains you can take.
However, Google Maps leaves out one important piece of the puzzle, the price of a ticket. If you truly want to comparison shop, you’ll need to know how much a ticket on each train will cost. A local train will be cheaper than express or high-speed options. So how can you find out the price?
It’s not easy.
Take a trip from Munich to Frankfurt.
If you click on the hyperlinks, you’ll go to the website of the railway running the train. Clicking on the “buy tickets” link will take you right to the purchase page on the Deutsche Bahn website.
I don’t speak German and I don’t want to buy a ticket when I can’t understand anything on the webpage. Fortunately, if you’re using the Chrome browser, it can translate the site for you.
That’s much better. Of course, if you want to see the entire site in English, you can start on the home page and change the language setting. No chance of Google mistranslating something and you accidentally buying tickets for the wrong train.
Of course, if this is too overwhelming, you can always just buy a ticket at the station. However, if you’re traveling during a busy season, seats on the train might be sold out or only have the expensive ones left.
While doing my research, I found another option available for those who just want a one-stop-shop for their train tickets. There’s a website called Rail Europe and it looks like it’s the Expedia of rail tickets.
Just type in your cities and the travel date and number of passengers.
Here are the results of the same search as above.
There’s also a toggle bar at the top of the screen where you can narrow the time, connections, type of train and price. You can also set it only to show flexible tickets, which you can use on a different train than the one you booked. Otherwise, your ticket is only good on the one you reserved.
No worrying about Euros or converting the time from a 24-hour clock to the 12-hour version we use in the U.S. You also don’t have to worry about ticket types and names you can’t pronounce. All of the ticket restrictions are clearly spelled out when you make the reservation. For this convenience, they do charge more than if you’d buy direct from the railway. For the above ticket, the fee was $7.95.
I view this the same as buying a ticket from a travel agent. They take away the guesswork about your purchase and for that convenience, you pay them a little bit extra. If you’re someone who’s not familiar with European rail lines, like us, this doesn’t seem like too much more to pay.
Technology makes it possible to do things yourself that used to be impossible. I’d never even consider trying to book a train ticket on a German website, even if I was using Babel Fish to translate (remember that website? Here’s what happened to it) (Note from Sharon: OMG, I remember Babel Fish! Hey, speaking of old computer stuff, did you know that you can still play Commander Keen online?). Even using the English version of a website, there’s still little idiosyncrasies when booking tickets in a different country. Using a website that lets you search in English in a format familiar to you might be an appealing option, as long as you understand you’ll be paying extra for the convenience.
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary