Planning a post-grad or post-study abroad trip through Europe is always an exciting (and tiring) process. One of the most intricate bits of planning your trip can be choosing transportation– there are so many options that it often make trip planning confusing and overwhelming. So to help you figure out which is best for you, let’s focus on the famous Eurail Pass.
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First things first… what is a Eurail pass?
It’s a ticket that allows you to travel by train throughout 27 countries in Europe. After paying a one-time fee for your pass, you are able to explore Europe at your own pace. You present the pass instead of buying individual tickets and it can save you a lot of money while allowing you to be flexible when hopping between countries.
What’s the difference between Eurail and Rail Europe?
When I was deciding where to buy my pass from I came across many websites and started getting even more confused. The simplest way to put it is that Rail Europe is a reseller of the Eurail pass. I prefer to book my pass directly from the Eurail website because there are no extra booking fees.
Non-European residents can only use a Eurail pass, while European residents can use only use an InterRail pass. If you have been living in Europe for at least six months you can purchase an InterRail pass. If you have the option of buying an InterRail pass, do it because it’s much cheaper. Still a bit confused as to where you stand? You can answer some questions here to figure out which pass you should buy.
Eurail Pass Discounts
You may be eligible for one of Eurail’s discounts. If you are, take advantage– you could save a ton! Travelers between the ages of 12-25 are eligible for a Youth Discount, which gets you a 35% discount on 2nd class passes. If you’re over 25 years old and are traveling in a group two to five people you can buy a Saver Pass and get a 15% discount on the adult prices.
What kind of passes can you buy?
There are quite a few different options for your Eurail pass, and the one you should get depends on where you plan on traveling with it and for how long.
• Global Pass – This is considered the best value-for-money pass. It allows you to explore up to 24 countries, all with one pass.
• Select Pass – This pass lets you discover four bordering countries of your choice, great for if you want to explore one area in Europe but not be restricted to just one country (see One Country Pass below.)
• Regional Pass – This pass has 25 different region options. It combines two to three neighboring countries in one pass. This is a great option if you want to focus your trip on a specific region. It’s generally great, unless you are thinking about traveling Scandinavia. If you are, look into flights from Norwegian or Scandinavian Airlines , because those are usually cheaper and more convenient than the Scandinavian Regional Pass.
• One Country Pass – This pass allows you to focus your trip on one country like Italy or Spain. You have 19 different country options. Germany is not offered on the one country pass Eurail pass, but you can find another option for a Germany-only pass here.
Eurail helps you choose the right pass on this page. The price of each pass varies depending on the length of time you plan on using it.
How do travel days work?
Choosing which pass to buy will depend on the number of travel days you want it to be valid for. There are two types of Eurail passes with different numbers of travel days.
• Flexi pass – This pass is more like a “hop on and hop off” pass. For example you can buy a “10 days within two months” global pass or a “six days within two months” select pass. These “days” are only counted when you are physically on a train traveling from one city to another. Travel days do not have to be consecutive and you decide during your trip when you use them.
• Continuous pass – this has a “continuous” option. They are available from 15 days to three months and are allowed to be used everyday until it expires.
Overnight trains are the perfect way to save time and money. If you are going to be spending the night sleeping anyway, why not combine sleeping and traveling? If you have a flexi pass there is also a “7 P.M. rule” which can save you travel days! This rule means that you only have to use a single travel day when you travel on a direct night train that departs after 7 P.M. and arrives at its final stop after 4 A.M.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of buying a Eurail Pass?
Convenience and flexibility
A Eurail pass allows you to travel stress free whenever you want. As long as you know the train schedules and know if you need a reservation or not, then traveling will be a breeze! I suggest downloading the Rail Planner app on your phone. It allows you to search train schedules without needing wifi.
This is the only tricky part about using a Eurail pass. Whether you buy a regular train ticket or use a Eurail pass, reservations are not included. Not all trains require reservations, but it is good to know which ones do.
The Rail Planner app will let you know if the train requires a reservation or not; you can also check the Eurail timetable. There are many ways to make reservations, but when I traveled with my Eurail pass, all of the trains I took that needed reservations required me to make them at the train station. Learn from my mistake- make the reservation as soon as you arrive at the train station! I thought I would be fine so I tried making reservations about an hour before the train departed and every time I tried there were either no more reservations available or the only seats left were expensive 1st class tickets, so I had to change my travel schedule a bunch of times.
There is also a way to avoid reservations, which you can read more about here.
There are many extra benefits that come along with the Eurail pass, but they depend on the country. You can see the Eurail pass benefits by country here. One of the most used benefits is the discounted and free travel on multiple European ferry routes.
Rail Pass or Individual Tickets?
Sometimes, individual tickets may work out cheaper than a Eurail pass. Take some time to do the math before you purchase.
You should also look into budget airlines and buses to see which options fit your budget and your plans the best. Regardless of your transportation, have fun and enjoy it– sometimes the trip can be an even greater experience than the destination.