When I arrived in Bratislava, I purchased my ticket for the overnight train to Kraków and a couchette reservation. At the time, that sounded rather nice – and, as the lady had convinced me – cheap. However, while that was the cheapest way to hang out on the sleeper train, I wasn’t excited by sharing a room with five other strangers, my fat suitcase, and on a thin little bed. I’m not a travel snob, but I’m not in university either.
I figured, after a peek at the Slovak Rail website, I would simply exchange the couchette reservation for a sleeper reservation. In a sleeper, there is only three beds, but sort of real beds, a blanket, pillow, sink in the compartment, a decent breakfast snack, a water bottle, and some room for luggage. That sounded much better. Thank you, Man in Seat Sixty-One, for sorting out the language of European trains for me. Great site, by the way, for help on train travel in Europe.
After having a fabulous lunch at a local brewery, I took the bus back to the train station with the intention of changing the reservation. My train didn’t leave until 11 PM(ish), but I didn’t want to wait until the depths of night to sort it out. At the station, I went right to Customer Service, sorted out with a few people what I wanted to do. This involved a partial refund of the original reservation (understandable) and paying for the new sleeper, which was more expensive. Straight forward, right?
Incorrect. I got to the part where there was a short form to fill out for the refund and pay for the new ticket. The staffer informed me she needed my passport for the refund. Now, up to this point, I had bought both my train ticket and the couchette reservation without a passport. My name wasn’t on the tickets – it was just a ticket. I explained that I carried a copy of my passport, but I don’t carry my passport around (unless it’s necessary to) because my luggage was in storage at my hotel in town.
That wasn’t good enough. She handed my money back, shrugged and just stared at me until I left.
More determined now to just get this done, I went back to my hotel from the bus, grabbed my passport, and hopped the bus back to the station. I went up to the Customer Service, but the woman I’d been working with before wasn’t on duty any more. I approached another counter, explained what I was after. She sorted out the refund price, worked out the new price, and brought out that refund form once more.
I took out my passport and put it on the table.
“Here’s my passport,” I said, passing it to her.
Her look was confused.
“I don’t need your passport.”
Imagine my expression.
“I was just here and was told that I needed my passport in order to change the reservation.”
“No, you don’t need it. Just fill out your name and sign the form.”
Heaven. Help. Me.
I filled out the form, paid the difference, and retrieved my new reservation for a sleeper.
Well, that had taken up just over an hour of my time, so I didn’t have enough time to visit both Devon Castle (20 minutes outside the city by bus) and Bratislava Castle, eat, get my luggage, and get to the train station for my night train.
Instead of being incredibly pissed, I started laughing to myself on the bus ride back to town. The whole situation was actually quite hilarious. This is traveling, after all. It can’t be perfect, or it’d be boring.
I was now really good at using the local bus to the train station, buying bus tickets from the machines, and changing reservations on trains. Whilst I couldn’t apply these newly acquired skills everywhere, they were things I could use again sometime, somewhere.