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Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Train tickets

Have you ever tried to make a train reservation online? I've been trying for months to get us on the night train from Warsaw to Budapest. It works like this: only one site, Travelocity, does train reservations at all. I know:

1. Why not go to the Eurail site? Because you can't use it from the US.

2. Why not go to other travel sites? I went to the US ones. Some of the other European ones can't be accessed from the US, either, and others simply don't work.

3. Why not wait until you get to Warsaw? Because the travel sites tell you to make you overnight train reservations "well in advance."

But even Travelocity had its limits. For the first serveral months, I tried to make the reservations, went partway through the procedure (up until you try to pay) only to be told it was too early. "But fill out this form and we'll notify you when reservations for that date are open." Fine. I filled it out. Twice.

To be on the safe side, I didn't wait for the notification. Instead, every week to ten days, I would visit the site and try again, discover I was still too early, and receive a message asking me to fill out the notification form. But I figured twice was enough.

Finally, just after midnight on May 1, I tried again, and voila! I was allowed to make a reservation. AND pay! So I did, and you know what? A private sleeper is a luxury-level item. Okay, yes, it does include room, board AND transportation. Those are good. The adventure is good. It's unique. Because we're not doing it again.

But here's the kicker: you can't have your tickets. 1. You are in the US. You can't wait to collect them in Europe. 2. You can't print them off the computer, because you are in the US, etc.

Then how the hell do I get my freakin' tickets??? Anyone want to guess?

Snail mail. In fact, UPS Second Day service. That'll be $20, please. They arrived yesterday, three tiny little pieces of paper with CARBON obviously typed on a TYPEWRITER.

And I still haven't gotten my notification that reservations are now being accepted. Welcome to the 21st century.

ETA: The notification that tickets were available finally appeared on May 10. Way to go, Travelocity!


  1. How dark ages. Can't wait to hear what life is like when you are actually there.

  2. I wish I had realized that the Dark Ages tickets were a portent of things to come.

  3. Sounds like my experiences when I lived in England, before the internet. I needed a fax from my bank in the US faxed to me at a copy shop in London, but my US bank employees didn't know how to send a fax to another country. "Ah don't thank that's possible, we cain't send them faxes to other countries. We don't know whut to dall for the phone number." I told them what to do, and then, "We ain't allowed to do thay-at."

    Then someone paid me in cash in the UK in pounds sterling some money he owed me. I needed to get the cash somehow to my bank in the US so I could use it to pay my credit card, but no one in the UK knew what to do, not even a bank (I wasn't allowed to have a bank account in England because I wasn't allowed to work there). I was advised to send the cash in the post across the ocean to my bank. about not?

    A friend of mine in the UK is an author, in the late 1990s he wrote a book for a US publisher, and they sent him an advance check drawn from a US bank in US dollars. He had no idea what to do because his bank in the UK refused to accept it. He had to send it back and no one at his publisher's in the US knew any other way to pay him other than Western Union.

    Looks like the whole US-Europe connection is still in the dark ages if your ticket problem is anything to go by. And I thought things were easier now because of the internet. Looks like not.

  4. Not only that, but, as soon as you learn how to do a thing coordinating "there" and "here" they change it anyway.

    I lived in the UK in 1986 and 87 and was allowed a bank account, no idea why. The British system at that time made the US look like the Dark Ages. It was embarassing.