You’ve dreamt of going to Europe forever. Things are slowly beginning to come together. You love the idea of travelling around Europe by train. Train travel through Europe is one of the best ways to get around Europe. You’re feeling excited, but also overwhelmed. What is the best Eurail pass to get? With so many choices, you’re afraid to pick the wrong one. You definitely don’t want to waste your hard earned money.
Every chance you get (probably while at work) you’ve been researching things for your trip to Europe. You’d rather research things to do, rather than how you will get around. The Eurail pass (some call it Eurorail, or Euro passes) seems to be the best option for you, but do you get the Eurail Global Pass or the Eurail Select Pass? What about how to use the Eurail pass? You’re afraid if you don’t understand what you are booking soon, you’ll never be able to choose the best Eurail pass for your trip.
Know what? You aren’t alone. I assure you, it’s not as complicated as you think. By the end of this post you will know how to book the best Eurail pass for you. Let me show you how.
"...the most flexible way to travel Europe by train."
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Understanding Travelling Around Europe by Train
Travelling around Europe by train is amazing. Booking your Europe rail tickets can be a lot of work. Generally, you should start looking to book trains about three months in advance of your trip. Any further in advance and you may not see the prices yet. Too close to your trip and the prices can be really high.
There are many options such as first-class and second-class, reserved seating and non-reserved seating. You can even choose quiet cars where you shouldn’t use your phone. Many railways offer a discount card, which can save you a certain percentage, which only is of value if you book enough tickets. Sometimes you can book a certain train, other times you can get on any train on that route.
Have you been overwhelmed with the options? Eurail simplifies all this.
First-Class vs Second-Class in Europe
When you travel Europe by train, you can choose 1st class or 2nd class train travel. 1st and 2nd class difference varies from country to country. Naturally, First-Class is more expensive than Second-Class. What else is there to it?
Simply put, First class will be less crowded during peak times and on popular routes. The seats will be marginally wider than second class. Not like when you walk through first or business class on an airplane and everyone has their own little pods. First class generally, is quieter. People are more apt to keep to themselves. They will try and get some work done or take a nap.
Now this doesn’t mean Second Class is rowdy and noisy. I’ve spent almost all of my train travel in Second Class and it was just as quiet. It can be a more social environment potentially. Comfort wise, there isn't a huge difference.
In the end, you are on the same train, to the same place, at the same time.
Eurail Discounts and Benefits
Before we talk about how to choose the best Eurail pass, let's talk about the basic benefits of a Eurail pass.
Eurail passes are available to people that do not reside in Europe.
For residents of Europe you can get the Interrail Passes here.
The advantage to the Eurail train pass is that you explore Europe in your own way, whatever your travel style. If you want to travel Europe by rail, a Eurail Pass simplifies it. With a Eurail Pass you can go wherever you want, whenever you want, making it the most flexible way to travel Europe by train. Also, the stresses of missing a train are gone. Just hop on the next train with a flash of your pass.
Eurail Pass now includes the United Kingdom. Yay!!!
The Eurail pass prices vary depending, which pass you choose and what class you want to travel in. They often have deals throughout the year for up to 35% off.
Other regular Eurail pass discounts are:
- Kids under 4 travel for free with an accompanying adult. They may be required to sit on your lap if it is busy.
- Kids aged 4-11 travel for free (require Eurail Child Pass)
- Youth discount of 20% if you are 27 or younger with Eurail Youth Pass
- Couple and small groups of 2-5 travellers save 15%
Other Benefits of a Eurail Pass
You can get discounts on ferries, city cards (which also gets you discounts on local attractions), hotel rooms and museum tickets.
How to Choose the Best Eurail Pass for You
Eurail Global Pass vs Eurail Select Pass
When it comes to choosing the best Eurail pass you should ask yourself these basic questions to start.
How many countries are you visiting?
1-4 Countries (bordering)
Eurail Select Pass
The Eurail Select Pass generally applies to bordering countries. This means that if you were to pick 3 countries that don't border each other, it may need to be a 4 country pass for the country your are travelling through. Don't worry they help you figure that out.
Benelux is Belgium, Netherlands, and Luxembourg combined, counting at one country.
The pairings of Croatia/Slovenia & Montenegro/Serbia are also is considered one country each.
Eurail Global Pass
The Eurail Global Pass is best if you are travelling to or through 5-31 countries.
Continuous vs Flexi Pass
How many days are you traveling by train?
You have to consider what you are using the train travel for? Are you just using it to go from location to location? Are you also using it to explore once you are in a location? Europe is nice and small so you can take the train to other cities nearby.
For example, imagine you are staying in Munich for a week. You could take the train to Nuremberg in just over an hour. Make a day trip there! No need to find accommodations there either. This would be within one travel day.
So you can really put the rail system to use. Pick a home base and go explore!
Now the question is, what kind of traveller are you?
A Continuous plan will be more expensive, but gives you more freedom to fly by the seat of your pants.
Most common are 15 day, 22 day, and 1,2,3 month continuous.
That means you can travel everyday if you want, within that selected number of days.
If you know how often you will be travelling, you can save some money versus the Continuous plan.
There are all kinds of options of often x amount of days in 1 or 2 months. Use them all at once, or spread them out, it's up to you.
5 Easy Steps to Booking a Eurail Pass
So you've got an idea what you want to book. So lets walk through a booking together. If you already know what you want, go book your Eurail Global or Select Passes here.
Just remember, the pass gets snail mailed to you. So make sure to book well in advance of your trip so that you get it before you leave.
I like to use Eurail's handy tool to finding the right Eurail pass. What it does so well is, it helps you see potential options you may not have considered. So let's give it a try.
You can click on the button below and follow along. You'll see how easy it is!
- 1Okay, so we are on the first page. Plug in how many days your whole trip will be.
- 2Then select who will be travelling. Remember 2-5 people travelling together save 15%. Under 27 saves 20%. Children under 11 are free (4-11 require a pass, but it's still free)
- 3On the next screen you'll see a map and a plus sign to add a country to your trip. You can click on the map, but I prefer the green plus button. Think of the countries you plan to visit and start plugging them in. You can also choose "All of Europe", just remember, no UK unfortunately.
- 4Keep adding the countries you want to travel to.
Once you are done adding countries and travel days, click Finish Planning and reveal the best Passes. Don't forget to select First or Second Class. You can now see what pass Eurail recommends based on what you entered.
It selected the Eurail Global Pass, 15 days with in 2 months. So you can decide to go with this plan, and travel to more places or make adjustments. So let's try that.
To make adjustments, click the Change Details for each country you want to adjust. In this example, maybe 4 days of travel in Germany and France is too much. So you adjust both to two days.
Now it recommends the Eurail Three Country Select Pass (remember Belgium and Netherlands are part of the Benelux group counting as one) and you can travel 8 days within 2 months if you want and it's $523 cheaper.
Don't be afraid to play around. You can make adjustments to fit any budget!
- 5Now Book it!
When you go to book your pass, you'll see a few extras if you want like insurance. One thing you need to decide is whether you want to activate your pass when you place your order. We'll talk about that next in "How to Use Your Eurail Pass".
Activate a Eurail Pass
Your Eurail Pass will be mailed to you, so make sure to book it well in advance of your trip. It needs to be activated.
Your Eurail Pass has to be activated within 11 months of the issuing date. There are two ways you can do that. If you know your exact start and end date of your train travel, then you can activate it at the time of purchase. If you don't know any exact dates yet, activate it at a train station.
At Time of Purchase Online
When you are checking out, you will see an option to activate your Eurail pass. You need your passport number handy, otherwise you can't do it at this time. Check the box and follow the instructions.
At a Train Station
Find the ticket office at any large train station of any of the participating Eurail countries. They will fill out your start and end date, along with your passport number. Make sure they stamp it to validate it. Now it is activated.
How to Use a Eurail Pass
Congratulations! You have booked your Eurail Pass. How exciting! Now what?
If you are using a Flexi Pass (e.g. 15 days in 2 months), the Eurail 7pm rule can save you some travel days. A travel day is considered a 24 hour period starting at midnight to 11:59 pm on the same calendar day. So you can take as many trains in that 24 hour period.
With the 7 pm rule, you would count 1 travel day instead of 2 travel days when you travel overnight. Sweet!
Here's how it works. If you travel on a train (or multiple trains) that departs after 7 pm and it arrives (at it's final stop) after 4 am (even if you leave the train before 4 am), this counts as one travel day. You would only enter the arrival date in travel calendar (see below).
Your train leaves at 7:07 pm on Tuesday and you arrive at your final destination at 3:15 am Wednesday. In this case, you write down your day of arrival in the Travel Calendar. The best part is, you can still use your pass until 11:59 pm of that day! (Wednesday)
Good to know!
The ÖBB Nightjet between Rome and Munich/Vienna, leaving at 18:58, is also included in the 7 p.m. rule.
The Hungarian Railways night train between Budapest-Keleti and Split, leaving at 18:53, is also included in the 7 p.m. rule.
You have your Eurail Flexi pass in hand (e.g. 5 days in 1 month). You are about to travel on your first train. Before you board, you need to fill out the date on the travel calendar.
This is to keep track of the days used on your Eurail Flexi Pass.
You will also need to fill out your Eurail travel diary. Be sure to fill out all the personal details (name, address, etc.) Before you board the train, fill out the travel details for train, bus or boat (see example below ). Forgetting to do so, could result in a fine!
The convenient thing about a Eurail Pass is that you can hop on and off the trains without a reservation. This means you can sit anywhere (except in reserved seat). But some trains do require you to have a reservation.
As a general rule, all European night trains and most high-speed trains require a reservation. Other scenarios may require a reservation, such as high season of June to September, or in countries like Italy, Spain and especially France.
How to Make Train Reservations
The Eurail Timetable is your best reference to determine if you require a reservation or not. You can check it here. Just check the box that says, "Avoid trains the require reservations", and bam, it only shows you trains that don't require a reservation. Awesome huh?
The Rail Planner App also allows you to filter out trains with reservations.
Rail Planner App
Use the app to search all the train schedules for the trains you might be taking. It allows you to see the timetable offline, which helps you save precious data on your phone. (Read about Using Your Own Phone while travelling)
Other usefully benefits of the app are:
5 Best Eurail Travel Tips
The Rail Planner App will help you plan your trip even when you are offline. It will also help you avoid trains that require reservations if you want.
While the Rail Planner App is great, local knowledge is better. So double check with the person at the info desk in the train station to see if there is a better route for you to take.
Taking the overnight train saves you time and money. You save a night's accommodation and you don't spend a day on the train when you could be seeing the sites. Plus using the 7pm rule, you can save a day travel on your Eurail Pass. Remember it might require a reservation, so plan ahead. If you are travelling through a scenic region like the Alps you may want to travel by day.
The advantage of a Eurail Pass is that you can hop on and off. When a train takes you through a major city on route to your final destination, why not get out and explore for a couple of hours? The main train station will be connected to the subway system, which will get you to the city centre or major sites fast. Take advantage of the storage lockers at the train station to store your bags. Then just hop back on a later train to your next destination.
Most trains will have food available, and it's actually pretty good. If you are travelling on a budget, bring your own snacks. You can always purchase if you need or when you can't resist that croissant.
The Eurail Pass is one of the best ways to travel Europe. Picking which one is based on your travel style. Base your decision on the number of countries and travel days you anticipate in each. Start with their Find the Right Eurail Pass page, and make adjustments to find the right pass for you.
Have you used a Eurail Pass? Share your experience in the comments!
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