A month travelling around Europe. We choose spring as the perfect time to travel with Eurail Pass, to try one of the most traditional ways to explore Europe. After 17 trains trips, we figured out some truths and understood why some people love Eurail Passes, and why others not that much. So we decided to put some information together to help you decided if it is worth or not to travel with Eurail Pass.
There are many options of Eurail Passes and we are going to talk about them later. First I want to point out that we travelled with a Eurail Global Pass 1st class. It means that we could take as many trains as we wanted in whole Europe [28 countries included], during a period of 30 days. The first class wasn´t an essential thing for us, but as we are over 26 years [don’t tell this to anyone else, ok!] we can only get Eurail Pass 1st class. However, on the end of the trip I was glad with this compulsory issue, it made the journey much more comfortable.
This was our first experience travelling with long distance trains and Eurail Pass. And after 17 trains trips we decide to put some questions on the table to help you understand the good and the bad aspects of travel with Eurail pass.
7 Reasons why you should [or not] travel with Eurail Pass
– 1º » Travel with Eurail Pass is easy
Yes, it is! Definitely one of the easiest ways of traveling around Europe!
The idea of only one ticket, many connections, and an overwhelming option of timetable is what I call an easy way of travelling.
We took 17 trains, we crossed 7 countries, an endless amount of cities, villages… and believe or not, we had no problem. When we started our journey I wasn’t convinced by the label “easy way of travelling”, but turned out to be an extremely smooth experience. Why? First of all, you don’t need to do check-in, you can arrive at the station just 20 – 30 minutes in advance, you don’t need to pass by X-ray, passport control, either drop your luggage over the counter [unless you are travelling from France to UK]. You just arrive, find your train, your seat and relax.
Before the first trip, you will need to validate the pass at the train station ticket window, after that you don’t need to worry about anything else. The crew from the train will approach you during the journey just to check the pass and passport, no further questions, nothing. Even to cross the country’s borders was easy, only in Spain and Switzerland the immigration officer questioned about our travels plans.
Another easy aspect is that most of the train stations are located in the city center and are well-connected with public transportation, what makes super easy to get in and out of the places.
– 2º » Travel with Eurail Pass is flexible
Yes, especially if you have an open plan and will travel for a long period!
For us, the Eurail Pass was perfect. We knew beforehand the cities and countries we want to visit, and the average of days we would spend there. So we didn’t need to book anything in advance, we just search for the best route and the timetable to organize our departure and arrival time. Also, if you miss a train [what happened with us after a long night partying in Paris] we just waited for next one, no changing of bookings, no changing tickets, nothing.
One important fact about flexibility: local and regional trains run almost every hour, so it’s easy to catch the next one and keep moving. However, the high-speed trains and border connection are not so often. To make our travel planning easy, we downloaded the Eurail App in my mobile so we could search the connections, timetables and type of trains in a simple click. The app work offline what is great!
I would say that travel with Eurail Pass is far more flexible than travel by bus and flights. It takes more time as you are going to spend few hours travelling and looking at stunning landscapes, but it is hassle free. After one month, travelling by train in Europe was difficult to go back to the low-cost airlines restrictions.
– 3º » You can make your own itinerary with Eurail Pass
If you are going to travel just in one or 2 countries, it is easy, you can use the route planner on the Eurail website and you will find the timetables and best options for you. Although if you are going to travel long distances and reach many different countries, things get a little bit more complicated and trick.
The Eurail Pass covers all Europe, from Portugal to Turkey, going up to Sweden and even Ireland is on the map, but not all the train services are included freely on the passes. This is why many people say it is not worth to travel with Eurail Pass because sometimes you may need to make reservations and even pay some extra fees. About the fees we are going to talk in the next topic, first I want to focus on choosing the itinerary.
We travelled over a month without doing any reservation and without paying any extra fee. How? We choose to travel only with local and regional trains. On the Eurail App there is a function to search only those types of trains, excluding the ones that need a reservation. So you only need to show up in the station and walk in the train. Of course, the trips are longer and sometimes you will need to do several connections between point A and B, but this is the adventure of travelling.
We started our trip in Milan and our first destination was Paris. But before arriving in the French capital we passed by Bellinzona [IT], Basel [CH], Mulhouse [FR], Belfort [FR] and then Paris. A journey of 12 hours with amazing views from the north of Italy, Swiss Alps, French countryside. A few stops for coffee, snacks and some running between platforms to catch the next train. If we did the same trip with a TGV high-speed and direct train it would take 7 hours, a faster option, but with some extra costs.
To choose the route between Milan and Paris was easy, no reservation and no extra fees. Most of the regional trains were empty, comfy and the French train stations have a good WiFi. Perfect for bloggers! 🙂
When we moved from Paris to Amsterdam [and lost the first train because of my hangover, shame on me!] we choose local and regional trains again. Nine hours trip, 3 stops between cities and another great journey [as Rob told me, because I slept the whole trip]. Here is a good example of flexibility, because we missed the first train that was in our travel plan we had to do different connections, all then sorted out with our mobile app.
Summing up, the itinerary is easy to organize, there are plenty of options if you don’t mind the long hours in the train and some waiting time at the stations. Although, if you prefer a straightforward trip in high-speed, you might have to deal with online reservations, previous booking and some additional fees.
– 4º » Extra fees & fares you have to be aware of
There are some fares and fees that are not included in the price of the Eurail Pass and you must have to consider them before buying the passes. All these fares are explained on the Eurail website and that´s why you have to read the contract carefully, and ask them some extra help in case you are in doubt.
What are these fares and fees about?
They are reservation fee and high-speed train fare. So if you want to travel by an overnight train, or make a reservation to secure your first class seat you will need to pay for it. How much? It all depends on which country you are travelling to and the train company. Sometimes the extra cost of an overnight train might be cheaper than a night in a hotel, you will need to do the math if saving money is an important issue for you. [for us it is! 😉 ]
The high-speed train fare is not the same for all the countries too. In France and Italy [the most complicated countries for travelling with Eurail Pass on high-speed trains] you can only travel with TGV and Freccia with previous booking, and that will cost you some euros. For example, from Italy to France [by TGV] your extra fee will be from €48 – 80€ [1st class] or from €33 to €60 [2nd class]. Ouchh!!! You can check the list of fees here.
However, in countries like Germany, Netherlands and Switzerland you can travel with high-speed without reservation. The only problem is if the first class is fully booked you might have to grab a seat on the 2nd class car. The German trains and service are amazing, first class with good WiFi, nice restaurants and even free candies! We travelled from Amsterdam to Berlin on the exactly day the German train workers went on a strike, even though we had no problem. With our Eurail Pass we just follow the instructions and the new timetable.
During our month travelling with Eurail Pass we didn’t pay any extra fee or fare because we choose our itinerary based on local, regional and medium speed trains. We save some bucks while spending a few more hours on the trains. A deal that was positive for us, but maybe not for everybody.
– 5º » So, Is it travel with Eurail Pass worth the money?
This is the trickiest question ever, and our answer is: Yes and No!
It is worth the money if you have time enough to search for the best connection, to enjoy the long distance rides, and if the train journey itself is part of your travel experience. Here we’ll be comparing the costs of 1 month Global Pass, so let´s go to our magic numbers!
Our figures and costs with Eurail Pass
Eurail Global Pass 30 days – € 917 [per person] Fees & Fares booking or high-speed trains – € 0
Days travelling – roughly 2 days and a half [55 hours]
If we bought single train trips
Trains tickets – € 715 [per person, average price using high-speed train. Not considering overnight trains] Fees & Fares booking or high-speed trains – € 0
Days travelling – roughly 1 day and a half
If we did the same trip by flight
Flight tickets – € 390[average internet price for low-cost airlines per person]
PS: We can´t calculate exactly the cost of a flight or a single train tickets because the price changes a lot. Sometimes you can get a great deal booking in advance, or a last-minute purchase can save you a couple of bucks. You never know. In this account we should also consider the expenses with transportation to/from the airports, plus the cost of the checked luggage. Here we did a simple calculation to help you think and decide if it is worth of not to invest and travel with Eurail Pass. If you want to get the real figures you might need to research deeper.
Bottom line, if you look only to the figures, it is not cheap to travel with Eurail Pass. But if you think wisely it makes sense to buy the Global Pass if you are going for a long trip around Europe with no fixed plan. If you think of the costs for cancelling and remarking a flight ticket, or change dates and destinations in the last-minute, then for sure you will spend much more than the price of the Eurail Pass. That´s why you have to think clear about what type of experience you want during your Eurotrip!
– 6º » Travel with Eurail Pass is a worthy experience
Oh yeah baby!!
No doubt about it! There is no better way to see and experience Europe than travelling by train. Especially with Eurail Pass that gives you the flexibility to enjoy as much time as you want in each destination. Also you can take the local trains, passing by big cities, tiny villages and landscapes that you will make your trip memorable.
I would say that travel with Eurail Pass is not about saving money, it is about the experience. Is about feeling like a local while changing trains and eating local food at the stations, is about meeting people on the seat next to you and learn different cultures, maybe even change your next destination because of this.
The train trip was part of the whole travel experience. We were not focused on arriving in different places, but about the journey till there. Travel with Eurail Pass worked perfectly, specially because we were prepared and we knew all the rules. We could never do the same trip with low-cost flights or last-minute trains. The Eurail Pass may be more expensive than other types of transportation but we think it’s a worthy experience.
Our itinerary with Eurail Global Pass was: Italy » Switzerland » France » Belgium » Netherlands » Germany »Switzerland » France » Spain.
– 7º » Different passes for different travellers
Now that you already know all the information about how to travel with Eurail Pass, the next step is to go to their website and try to find a pass that suits your travel plan. You can choose by the amount of countries you want to visit, duration of the trip, student pass, family package… Their bestsellers are:
Global Pass for 28 countries – you can buy for a short trip or up to 3 months, this last option is a pretty good deal.
4 / 2 or 1 Country Pass – you can choose the countries and how many days you want to spend travelling.
All the passes have different prices with good reduction for students. For some countries [like Brazil] the delivery by post is free. Compare the all the passes, read the rules and buy the tickets straight from their website. I would also recommend you to follow them on Facebook for good deals and sales, there is always something going on there!
Hope our 7 reasons why you should [or not] travel with Eurail Pass have helped you to plan your next train trip in Europe. If your route includes Spain, Portugal and Turkey keep reading the blog, we wrote many articles about the big cities and also some hidden gems. Or if you want to explore Eastern Europe, Sofia in Bulgaria can be a good call too.
There are so many interesting destinations, beautiful cities, and amazing people to discover, that our next Eurotrip might be with a 3 months Eurail Pass [the longest pass they have and also the number of days our Schengen Visa allows 😉 ].
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If you are European, our friends Ivana & Gianni from Nomad is Beautiful wrote a very useful guide on how to use Interrail.
And you, would you travel by train around Europe? Did you travel with Eurail Pass? Share your experiences!
PS 2: Our Global Passes were a courtesy from Eurail. However, doesn´t matter who paid the bill you always receive our truly opinion.