The Eurail Pass is pretty great, and I highly recommend it. They have a sale going (as of this post) for 20-32% off! It saved me a lot of time and hassle during my month in Europe and I used it to get to seven different cities. However, if you have the time, you should definitely check out flights as they can be insanely cheap within Europe. If don’t have time like I didn’t, the Eurail Pass is a flexible, convenient way to get around.
For discounts, check out their Deals page. They currently have a sale of 20-32% off all passes! (As of this post.)
I have a love-hate relationship with planning: it’s addicting as hell, but it just sucks up so much time. So when I learned about the Eurail Pass and how simple it was to use, I was sold.
Before I continue, I want to mention that two of my hosts in Europe told me that flights can be insanely cheap (around 20 euros or less) if you buy them early enough. I would definitely look into that if you have the time because it could save a lot of money, but if you don’t have time, you can’t seem to find them anywhere, or they don’t exist for your route, read on. Or if you just want to know more about the Eurail Pass and traveling by train in Europe.
What’s a Eurail Pass?
The Eurail Pass lets you use trains, buses, and boats all over Europe (28 different countries!) without buying a ticket for each trip. All you have to do is use their app and tell it where you’re from, where you’re headed, and when. Before you get on the train – or before someone checks your ticket – you just need to write down which station you’re departing from, the final destination, and the times. Basically, your pass is your ticket. There three simple steps that are outlined both here and on your pass.
- Before your first trip, activate your ticket at your travel agent or a train station ticket desk. You only need to do this once.
- Update the Travel Diary details before each journey. If you have a Flexi Pass, also enter the correct travel date in blue or black permanent ink (no pencil!) on your ticket. Never change a date!
- It is compulsory to show your Eurail Pass and valid passport/identity document on the train.
Here’s an example: let’s say you’re going from Venice to Bologna. You put the information into the Rail Planner App and see what it pops out.
As you can see, you have to change trains in Padova. You’ll have two entries.
- Date: 26.08
- Time: 00:47
- From: Venezia Mestre
- To: Padova
Easy, right? Just get on the train, fill out the right info, and enjoy the ride. Here’s my old pass to give you an idea. Please excuse the crap handwriting.
Now, let’s look at the second leg of the trip. You’ll see that from Padova to Bologna, there’s a little R and that it says “Reservation compulsory.” If you see that, there are a few extra steps.
- Purchase the reservation ticket. You can do this at the train station or online.
- Activate your reservation. You do this at the train station on the little machines. You put your ticket in and it’ll activate it.
Now, you fill out the information on your Eurail Pass and you’re good to go! You can go here for more information on reservation fees. The range seems a little scary, but the average price has been accurate for me (10-20 euros).
Types of Passes
There are a lot of things that will influence what kind of pass you want and the price: your age, your travel companions, your desired comfort level, the length of your trip, and how many countries you plan on visiting.
|Youth||Anyone from the age of 12 to 27 is considered a youth. 27. Pretty awesome.|
|Adult||28 and over.|
|Family||These are available for families with kids from 4 to 11. Children ride free!|
|Number of Countries|
|One Country||Visit cities all over a country or region with a One Country Pass. There are even two special “One Country” Passes that allow you to travel to multiple countries.
Not quite sure why, but they have a separate site for single rail passes for Germany.
|Select||Pick 2, 3, or 4 bordering countries that you’d like to visit.|
|Global||Visit 5 or more countries so… wherever you want to go. If you’re traveling with another person and are an adult, you can save 15% extra on your pass!|
|Length of Trip|
|X Days within Y Months||If you’re traveling for a month, chances are good that you’re not going to be on the train every day, or even every other day. With one of these passes, you can pick any X days to move to your next city and your pass will expire in Y months. With this, you’ll probably want to know how many places you’ll be visiting; if you’re going to six different cities, you’ll be on a train five times and using the pass for five days.|
|X Days/Months Continuous||You’ll be able to use this pass any day for X days/months. This is probably better if you’re planning on a fast-paced trip or if you really just have no idea how many places you’ll be hitting. In terms of total length of time, these do cost a lot more, so if you have a rough estimate I definitely recommend not getting this.
For example, a 1 Month Continuous Global Pass costs $774 right now while the 7 Days within 1 Month Global Pass costs $469. $300+ difference, and with the latter you could spend 3-4 days in 8 different locations. Good amount of time with tons of different cities.
Once you get back from your trip, send your pass back to them (no stamp required) for a free gift! Unfortunately, I’m a hoarder and a sentimentalist – I’ll likely be keeping my pass for a while. But be sure to let me know what you get!
I knew I was going to go to Europe, but when my dog died, I moved my trip up, threw some plans together, and left. I credit my ability to do so to the flexibility of the Eurail Pass. As much as I loved it though, there were definitely a few downsides. So here’s the breakdown!
I had a general outline of where I wanted to go in Europe, but I was able to add or remove different cities on a whim because of how flexible the Eurail Pass was. Last minute trip to Belgium? Hop on a train. Random visit to Spain? Why not. On the off chance you need a reservation, I never had an issue just showing up the the station and buying one from a machine.
The app tells you all the information you need to know, and all you have to do is write it down in your pass. Quick and easy.
As an American, I’m more used to flying everywhere; our country’s massive in terms of size, and it’s not absurd for us to drive four hours from Cincinnati to Cleveland. Since I never really thought about it, I was surprised to hear that there are way more train stations than there are airports in Europe. Even in the States, not every city has an airport nearby.
In a foreign country, renting a car sounds like a hassle. So does trying to find your way to a small town without renting one. With stations in towns as small and remote as Arles, France or Kiruna, Sweden, the Eurail Pass lets you go virtually anywhere and spits you out right into the city.
Again, check the flight prices first. If you’re planning in advance, they could actually be a lot cheaper. If it’s not though, there are specials that run throughout the year (there’s one as of this post, for example) and discounts for people 27 and under and groups of 2 or more.
I think most of the time, I either didn’t need a reservation or it only costed 10-20 Euros. I do remember one time it was over 50 Euros, which peeved me a bit. If it really bothers you, you can check the app to take trains where you don’t need reservations. For the most part, I still just showed up at the station, checked the app to see if I needed a reservation, and bought one at the machines or online when necessary.
Flights have layovers too, but at least there are usually shops and restaurants. Train stations aren’t much fun unless you’re in a major one. In many cases, the sole purpose is to pick and drop people off; there’s not much to do but wait unless you leave to see the town you’re in. If that’s your plan, be sure to pack light.