Your guide to deciding if you should get a Europe rail pass

Swiss rail journey Eurail

If you’ve ever dreamed of travelling Europe, chances are you’ve done a little research into your trip and the logistics behind it. You may have also thought about travelling Europe by rail – it’s one of the easiest and most scenic ways to get around – but the price, as well as the wealth of information out there about European rail passes can make it a little confusing as to whether you should get one or not. Here’s a bit of simple information to help you decide if you should purchase a Eurail pass, the official European rail ticket.

About the Eurail pass

The rail network in Europe is fast, modern, comfortable and extensive, travelling to both big cities and smaller villages. The Eurail pass is available in several different versions: single-country, two-country, three-country and multi-country passes, as well as a global pass that covers all of Europe. Each rail pass will give you additional discounts in your destination countries as well, such as for museums, bus trips and even cruises. You just have to check the Eurail website to see what benefits there are for each country.

Read more: A scenic railway journey to stop you in your tracks

What’s your plan?

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The first step in deciding whether you should get a Eurail pass is mapping out a general itinerary for your trip. If you are visiting countries that border each other, travelling through many different countries or want a bit of flexibility when you travel, getting a Eurail pass can be a great way to go.

What’s the catch?

The purpose of the Eurail pass is to be convenient as well as cost effective. There’s no real ‘catch’ for the Eurail pass, but you need to be aware of your itinerary and whether it will indeed save you money.

If you are only travelling through eastern, central or southern Europe, it will usually be cheaper to purchase your tickets directly through the rail operator either in advance or at the train station.

Do a little bit of research on how much your fares will cost you if you went without the rail pass. If you are only doing a few local trips or one or two long-distance international trips, it will be cheaper to go without.

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It’s important to be clear on the validation of your rail pass as well. You have the option to purchase a pass that is valid for a set amount of days within a period. For example, a France to Italy pass costs $456 for travel for four days within two months. The same pass costs $746 for 10 days within two months. Don’t buy more than you need. It’s better to buy a five-day pass and have to purchase an extra ticket or two than buying a 10-day pass ‘just to be safe’. If you do opt for a rail pass, make the most of it – days not used are wasted, as are countries not visited.

Another thing to note is that the pass is paper only so should be treated like cash. If you lose it or if it is stolen, it’s gone. You can purchase insurance for your rail pass for an additional cost.

Read more: 5 must-do stops on the Trans-Siberian Railway

Reserving seats

You will need to make reservations on high-speed, overnight, scenic and international trains, which can be done online or by calling Eurail in advance. If you forget to do this, you may end up standing in the aisles of the train for hours on end. The unreserved seating section can get very packed on some trains as well. If you forget to reserve your seat and there are free seats, it’s not necessarily a lucky break – someone who has reserved the seat may be getting on a little further down the line and won’t hesitate to kick you out. Reserving seats costs a fee as well, so be sure to factor this in when doing your cost comparisons.

With all of that said, a Eurail pass can be a convenient, cost-effective way to get around Europe – the proof is in your itinerary.

Have you ever used a Eurail pass? Tell us about your experience in the comments below.

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