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September 18, 2009

Eurail Pass

There's "Japan Rail Pass" for foreign tourists in Japan. You can use all JR lines and some Express trains such as Narita Express and Shinkansen without paying extra money (but reservation needed) for some days in sequence.

And in Europe, there's Eurail Pass. But I am not really sure if it was really useful or not. It might be difficult to make it really "useful" as it can be used most of the Europe countries (except for the UK) and could be very complicated. Carl can use it as he's living in Japan for a while.

今回買ったのは、「フランスーベネルクス セイバーパス」という種類。欧州は広いので、使う国を限定することで、より安くなります。ちなみに、ベネルクスは、「ベルギー」「ネザーランド(オランダ)」「ルクセンブルグ」の総称。ベルギーしか行かなかったけど、この3国は小さいからか、ひとまとめ。「セイバーパス」は2人以上のグループで行動をともにする場合、チケットが更に安くなるというもの。 また、ユーレイルパスも、日数が選べますが、決められた期間内なら、使う日を選ぶことができます。
This time, we bought "France-Benelux Saver Pass". You can choose some countries you'll visit and the pass could be cheaper then. (FYI Benelux=Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg) And "Savor Pass" is for a group of more than 2 people who travel together and it is also cheaper. You can also choose the number of days and on which days you use (not necessarily in a row).

Since JPY has been stronger, we bought it online and sent by mail, bus as there weren't enough time, we sent it to Carl's home in France. Still it was a kind of express mail so it costed 20 euros I think (by the way, it was sent from Ireland). I guess it was sixty some thousand yen for 6 days/ 2 people.

When we arrived in France, we needed to "validate" the pass. But it was Saturday and the tourist office at a station (sort of larger one, though) was closed (!!). Fortunately, the ordinal counter guy kindly did it although it wasn't his job. Plus, I got a feeling that not so many station staff know very well about Eurail Pass.

I wish if the pass could be used for Paris Metro and RER...

We used the pass for TGV and Thalys (to Belgium) and Belgian domestic railways. It was recommended on the official website that we should reserve the seats in Europe and we did so. For TGV, we have to pay 3 euros for one reservation and 27 euros (!) for Thalys.

The problem is...
We reserved trains for the trip to North (west) France (Mont Saint-Michel etc) at the station near Paris and at St-Malo for the rest of the trip. According to the madame at the counter (I believe she was no expert in the pass), the number of seats for Eurail Pass users were limited in every train. So it was very difficult to find convenient trains and the seats weren't good either (not next to each other etc..). Especially for Nimes in Southern France, although Nimes is one of TGV stations, we couldn't find a direct train and needed to change in the middle and it was very early in the morning too! Furthermore, we were charged double fee for changing TGV!! It's ridiculous!!

In addition, most of the trains we used were late (in Belgium, too), and if you use TGV, and it was late for more than 30 minutes, they would refund several % of the fee. On our way back from Nimes, the TGV was 30 minutes late, but they announced it wasn't their fault (it was some passenger's fault?) and there's no refund, Carl told me so smiling. Ils ont raison??

We weren't fully satisfied with the pass, Carl calculated all the fees and still found it was cheaper to use the pass. I don't know which was bad...Eurail Pass or SNCF (or Belgian?).

And I think it would have been sooooooo hard but for Carl's French. I would like to talk about this language problem some day...

I can hardly forget the phrase that my sister-in-law taught me :
Vive la SNCF!! (フランス国鉄万歳!)


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