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I have a European rail pass, bought in the US, but to go really long distances I still have to order reservations (without ticket). The lines I'm particularly interested in are TGV in France, ICE, and Thalys. Everywhere I read says to do this at the station, but it seems like you wouldn't be able to make reservations for French trains from Germany, and if I wait until I'm in France it will be too late.

Deutsche Bahn's website only sells reservations for trains within Germany. Supposedly you can search and order them at raileurope.com, but every single one is "unavailable." raileurope.co.uk seems to work, but the prices for TGV lines are all about £18, much more than the €3-5 that this guy says they should be. Most other websites are a pain to navigate and only seem to sell full tickets in the end.

Surely there's another way?

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2 Answers

As far as I know, Raileurope is the right site. The normal site for train tickets in France is TGV-Europe (the international version of Voyages-SNCF, but neither sells reservations without tickets, as far as I can see.

I tried booking a reservation with Eurail for next week and one for September. I was given the option in September but not next week. I suspect that like other fares, there is a quota of reservations for Eurail, Interrail and similar passes, and that quota is already full for many summer trains.

I don't know if you can get different quotas by booking on-site. I wouldn't be surprised if the quota was a time bomb in your pass's advertised fares, designed to make you pay more than you intended. Sadly, hidden charges are par for the course with many transportation companies; SNCF's gimmick is seat quotas per fare type.

Trains without compulsory reservations (TER and Intercités) are not subject to quotas, you can board any one you like. Depending on where you're going, this may make the trip very long.

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Thank you for the answer. It seems there must be other sites than Raileurope to order passes though, as they don't even sell them in Euros. And apparently I can get one through the UK site but not the US site. That's why I can't believe it would be the only site. I've never ordered a reservation but I assume it wouldn't matter where I got it from, seeing as they usually recommend you just order them at the station. –  eds Jul 6 '12 at 11:24
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Also the Deutsche Bahn website has a handy option to only show routes using local trains, which never require reservations, but like you said it can take twice as long. –  eds Jul 6 '12 at 11:25
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Raileurope.co.uk currently has a problem with its booking system (due to a change in the French reservation system "Resarail"). My website, loco2.com, will be selling the reservations soon at the same prices as Rail Europe, but we are integrated with the same booking system, and so we are suffering from the same problem. We don't know when it will be fixed, but hopefully soon (we are waiting for SNCF to fix it).

I don't think it is possible to book French reservations online anywhere whilst this is broken (I don't think you can book reservation-only tickets at the main French site, voyages-sncf.com). However, you can probably book over the phone by calling Rail Europe (which Rail Europe number you call will depend on where you are). You can book non-French reservations on other national sites (e.g. Deutsche Bahn for German trains).

See this post for more information.

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