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I and my wife will be traveling on a EuRail pass in a couple of weeks. I am aware that many fast trains in Europe, including the ICE International, require a supplement and sometimes a reservation. We are travelling from the Netherlands to Dusseldorf in Germany and further travels within Germany.

I have found it impossible to book a reservation and pay the supplement through RailEurope or EuRail on the ICE 123 (Amsterdam-Utrecht and then into Germany); EuRail tells me my order number is wrong for their system. DBahn won't complete a reservation that crosses an international border. And NS-International won't sell me anything but a full ticket.

We will have to go to the counter in the Netherlands anyway, to activate the EuRail pass, and I know I can pay the surcharge then. What risk is there on the ICE to not getting a seat reservation?

  • 1
    in countries where the reservation is optional, they will sell you a ticket anyway, but in countries like in Italy you risk not being able to get a ticket at all. I don't know about the Netherlands and Germany though. – Formagella Jun 5 '15 at 18:02
  • @Formagella how far in advance should I purchase an Italian Freccia reservation? We'll be in Europe (Germany, Switzerland) a week and a half before we get to Italy. Could we try to buy the reservation at a DBahn station? – Rob Perkins Jun 9 '15 at 16:16
  • I don't know, but I've seen more than one girl crying in front of a ticket machine at 16 on friday because there are no tickets left for the day for their destination. You can buy tickets online months in advance but in June they change the timetable (not sure when, 13th or so) so maybe you cannot do that for a train after the change, if buying before the change. I guess you have to try on the website. The more in advance you buy, the more likely you can get a discounted ticket (there's a limited number of those). List of strikes: scioperi.mit.gov.it/mit2/public/scioperi – Formagella Jun 9 '15 at 16:49
  • @RobPerkins, the link in my answer, how to make reservations with a rail pass, might show you what you need to do. I would buy as soon as you are sure that you want to travel that day and time. Reservations are cheap, tickets with reservations less so but still better than not being able to travel. – Willeke Jun 9 '15 at 19:15
  • The websites are fine but the followup question is whether DBahn or Oebb will broker a Frecce reservation at the ticket counter? – Rob Perkins Jun 9 '15 at 21:37
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I can answer "What risk is there on the ICE to not getting a seat reservation?" for the Dutch part, as I take this train every work day, without reservation.

There is an electronic display above each pair of seats that says on which stretch the seat is reserved, e.g. if it says "Utrecht - Frankfurt" and you sit there when the train is in Utrecht, you are likely to be asked to move to another seat. Many of these people do show up (but not all of them). There are also 6-seat rooms that have the displays besides the doors.

There are also seats that say "Ggf. freigeben". It means that the seat may be reserved, it was available for "Express Reservierung" (don't ask me how to do an express reservation). In practice you won't often have to stand up if you sit here, but it does happen.

Many seats will also show no reservation, so it would be best to pick one of those.

Most of the time, there is enough place to sit, so a reservation isn't really necessary. On some times and some days the train may be very full, mostly due to inside-Netherlands commuters like me (we leave in Arnhem at the latest), and on some moments like the start of the weekend due to actual international travellers. Then you're unlucky and will have to stand, but luckily the Bistro serves drinks...

After Arnhem, the train becomes much quieter. I don't know if it becomes busier again after Duisburg.

  • Thank you for this! I had forgotten about the labels above the seats. I imagine this is much less of a risk in 1. Klasse than in 2. Klasse? – Rob Perkins Jun 15 '15 at 18:32
  • I'm not sure, I'm always in 1. klasse and don't have a good idea of how full the train is in 2. What time of day are you travelling? Commuters are an issue during rush hour only, mostly the train leaving Utrecht at 17:02. – RemcoGerlich Jun 15 '15 at 19:31
  • We want to catch a 10:15 from Schiphol to Utrecht, and connect to the ICE that leaves Amsterdam at 11:00 or so. – Rob Perkins Jun 15 '15 at 21:47
  • There should be plenty of space in the train, and you have a lot of time in Utrecht, won't be a problem at all. – RemcoGerlich Jun 16 '15 at 6:10
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You have to pay a surcharge to use the ICE trains within the Netherlands, you do not need to hold a reservation, an international ticket covers your surcharge. See this page.

A good site for all train travel questions, in Europe and the rest of the world, is the site of the Man in Seat Sixty-One, here on the how to make reservations with a rail pass (but that also works when you have a train ticket already.)

If you have a rail pass, either Eurail or InterRail you do not need to pay the surcharge on the ICE trains within the Netherlands, see this page for Eurail or InterRail and go down till you see the paragraph about the Netherlands. Here a quote of the Eurail pass.

Amsterdam to Germany (Berlin, Cologne, Frankfurt & so on) by IC or ICE train: No supplement, reservation optional.

When using the Eurail pass in Germany you can use most IC trains without having to pay for a reservations. There are a few trains which do require a reservation, as explained on this page, in the Germany section, prices in the quote current in 2015.

Using a Eurail pass in Germany is easy, as reservation is optional not mandatory on almost all German domestic daytime trains and there are no supplements to pay, even on fast InterCity (IC) or high-speed InterCityExpress (ICE) trains. So you can simply hop on any train, find an empty seat and show your pass when asked. The only exceptions are a tiny handful of ICE Sprinter trains aimed at the business market, marked in the timetable as 'reservation obligatory', on which a seat reservation is mandatory for €11.50 in 2nd class, €16.50 in 1st class.

You can easily find which trains have a compulsory reservation if you check your intended train on the German rail planner.

  • Is the Eurail pass an international ticket? – Rob Perkins Jun 5 '15 at 18:43
  • Sorry, I forgot to add that our purpose is to cross into Germany; I've edited the question to add that detail. My intent was to ask about both Germany and the Netherlands. – Rob Perkins Jun 5 '15 at 22:23
  • Thank you to everyone who gave us advice. Our trip from Schiphol to Dusseldorf was effortless and easy. – Rob Perkins Jun 30 '15 at 11:52

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