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Trains are low-hassle, low stress, with loads of legroom, you can wander to the bar or restaurant. Or feel free to bring your own picnic and your own bottle of wine or beer, it's allowed on trains! Back to top. Eurail is the brand name for the range of railpasses offered to overseas visitors giving unlimited travel on trains run by over 30 European train operators, see the list of participating countries below or see the Eurail map.
Eurail is not a train operator and there no special 'Eurail' trains. You use the regular scheduled trains run by the participating train operators, the same trains that we Europeans travel on. The team in Utrecht run the official Eurail website www. As it happens, I've been there to discuss scheme improvements with them, nice people!
You can choose a Eurail pass giving unlimited travel for various periods of time on the national rail networks of just one of the 33 participating countries a one-country pass or all 33 countries a global pass. The different types of Eurail pass are explained here. To understand how Eurail passes work, which trains they cover, and how reservations work, see how a Eurail pass works here. These non-Eurail passes are explained here.
Over recent years Eurail passes for overseas visitors and Interrail passes for European residents have converged. The countries participating in the Eurail pass scheme are:. See map of countries participating in the Eurail scheme. Adult - which should be self explanatory. Youth - for anyone aged under 28 on the first day of pass validity - it used to be under 26 until Child - for kids aged under Children inclusive get a free Eurail pass when accompanying someone on an Adult pass, although they still need to pay any relevant reservation fees.
On some retailer's website this is shown as 'family'. Note that you have to have an Adult pass to get the free Child passes, you can't get them with Youth or Senior passes. Infants - children aged under 4 travel free on trains anyway and don't need any pass, nor do they pay any reservation fees.
In some countries the age limit for infants is 5 or even 6, so don't pay if you don't have to, see the age limits for each European country here. Where are you going? A Eurail Global pass covers all 33 participating countries, see the list or see map of rail network in the Eurail countries.
A Eurail Single-Country pass covers just one country of your choice. A one-country pass is cheaper than buying a global pass covering all the countries. How long for? You can buy Eurail passes giving unlimited train travel for various periods of time. But you need to get your head around two different concepts.
Continuous passes give unlimited travel every day for a continuous period of time, either 15 days, 22 days or 1, 2 or 3 months, starting on any date you like. These give the ultimate in freedom and flexibility, but to make them worthwhile you need to be on a train every day or two.
Flexi passes are more economical if you plan to stay put for a number of days between each train ride. Flexi passes give 4, 5, 7, 10 or 15 days unlimited travel within an overall 1 or 2 month period. For example, take the 5 days in 1 month pass: The overall 1 month starts ticking on the date you validate your pass at a station, you can then 'spend' each of your 5 days of unlimited travel any time during that 1 month period, on whatever dates you like, just by writing the date in one of the 5 boxes printed on your pass each time you want to use one of your travel days.
All the one-country passes are of this flexi type. The 3-day pass was changed to 4 days in January You can now choose 1st or 2nd class with any pass type. But 1st class seating is available on most longer-distance trans and if you can afford it, 1st class is obviously nicer, with wider, plusher seats, more legroom.
In 1st class there are usually more businessmen tapping on laptops and fewer families with kids. Don't assume 1st class gets you any food or drink or free limo transfers or complimentary massages or whatever, this is not an airline.
Your default assumption should be that 2nd class seating is nice, 1st class seating is nicer, and it's normally just the nicer seating with fewer people per car that you're paying for when you go 1st class. Sometimes a 1st class pass will get you into a first class lounge at a station , but more often than not it won't. That may help you decide! As well as the large and well-known Eurail pass range, several countries do their own non-Eurail pass, which can be worth checking.
The Swiss Travel Pass is what you want for Switzerland as there is no one-country Eurail pass for that country. I've summed these up here. They're priced in euros, but obviously you can buy in your own currency. You can check these prices and buy online at the official Eurail website www.
Check current exchange rates. Buy a pass direct from www. Hard-copy pass or mobile pass? If you buy at www. The mobile option was introduced in September Advantages of a mobile pass : 1 You download it, so delivery is instant, there's no delay while it is mailed to you; 2 It's free, there's no shipping cost; 3 You can start using the pass on any date you like within the following 11 months, keeping your options open, unlike a printed pass which arrives with your chosen start date already printed on it which cannot be changed; 4 the pass is on your phone, you always have it with you, one less thing to carry around; 5 it's easier to enter travel diary details legibly on a phone screen than write in biro on a flimsy printed travel diary on a busy station platform.
I've used a mobile pass myself, it's easy to use, well-written and works well. You need to connect the app to the internet via WiFi or mobile data at least every 3 days to keep the app updated and the pass valid. Advantages of a hard copy pass : 1 If your phone runs out of battery you can still show a paper pass but an Anker battery pack solves this and is a good backup plan for your phone anyway ; 2 If you drop your phone and it breaks you can still show a paper pass; 3 You can keep the paper pass as a souvenir afterwards!
Forgive me for saying so, but overseas visitors sometimes seem brainwashed into thinking that they have to buy a Eurail pass to use trains in Europe. Of course they don't. They can buy the same cheap point-to-point tickets that we Europeans buy, at the same prices, using the same train operator websites that we use. If you have a simple fixed pre-planned itinerary, buying cheap advance-purchase train fares is almost always the cheapest option, see the How to Buy European Train Tickets page.
Buying a Eurail pass isn't usually about saving money, it's trading up to a ticket that gives you the freedom to explore flexibly yet affordably in a world where most cheap airline or train tickets are inflexible with no-refunds and no-changes. Let's use a typical journey as an example Let's assume your itinerary includes a journey from Berlin to Prague It's not a trick question!
It's also the easiest option, book it online at the German Railways website and show it on your phone. Click, click, booked! So if you're only planning 2, 3 or maybe 4 such trips and your dates are confirmed, maybe your accommodation is pre-booked and you're happy to commit to a specific train a month or two in advance on a no-refunds, no-changes basis, then advance-purchase tickets are the cheapest option. I explain the best way to buy tickets for specific routes on the how to buy tickets page.
With an advance-purchase ticket you're nailing your plans to the floor months in advance. Trading up to a Eurail pass gives you the freedom to travel when you want - or even where you want, you can decide on the spur of the moment not to go to Prague after all, but to Budapest instead. And as a pass gives you unlimited travel all day, you can make additional journeys before or after this one if you need to. For a longer and more complex tour of Europe, using a stack of advance-purchase tickets would be risky: If a flood, fire, landslide or national strike knocked out one journey, the rest of the trip could come crashing down like a house of cards because advance-purchase tickets become worthless if you miss the train.
A Eurail pass gives you the flexibility to re-plan, re-schedule or even re-route as necessary. For example, Mrs 61 and I once travelled to Italy from my in-laws' house in the Netherlands using a pass. The day before we were due to return, a train accident in Belgium completely blocked our planned Milan-Paris-Rotterdam route, but with our passes we could easily divert via Milan-Zurich-Cologne-Rotterdam.
That flexibility can be worth paying for, a form of built-in insurance. Let's take a more expensive example: Amsterdam-Berlin:. In this case, the day adult Eurail pass is only a little more per day than the cheapest advance-purchase fare, and the day youth Eurail saves money over that fare.
It'd be cheaper to buy a 4-days-inmonth pass plus a normal ticket for a short hop like these, than to buy a 5-days-inmonth pass. Common sense, surely? You can check prices for specific journey by selecting the starting city here. Remember to factor in the passholder reservation fees When comparing point-to-point fares with a Eurail pass, the point to point fares you see online always include the cost of any compulsory reservation. But if you use a pass, you sometimes have to pay a reservation fee in addition to the cost of the Eurail.
Here's a rule of thumb:. It's a 4-way decision:. It's risky to generalise, but I'll have a go, for those without the patience to do the maths as explained in the next section Don't buy a pass! A railpass is overkill for a few short local journeys. Obvious, I hope If you can book months ahead, have a fixed itinerary with all your accommodation pre-booked, the cheapest option is to commit to specific trains on a no-refunds-no-changes-to-travel-plans basis using advance-purchase point-to-point tickets bought direct from the relevant operator, following my route-specific advice here.
If you don't really need the unlimited train rides, unlimited distance and unlimited flexibility of a pass, you can save a lot of money this way. Just remember that if you need to travel tomorrow with all the advance fares sold out, a pass could still be cheaper. Overseas travel agents often don't know about these cheap advance-purchase train fares, and overseas agency sites often can't access the cheap fares for every route.
For a few long train rides where you DON'T want to nail your plans to the floor A pass may well save money over longer-distance full-flex fares bought at the station, if you travel far enough each day, even if it costs more than cheap advance-purchase fares. For an extensive itinerary with many train rides covering several weeks For a longer trip, say several weeks exploring every major city in Europe or a very long journey such as London to Istanbul, I'd buy a railpass even if advance-purchase fares were cheaper.
A Eurail pass allows you to flex your dates, trains and routes as necessary. If you're under 28 years old, consider a pass The youth Eurail pass compares well with even the cheapest advance-purchase fares. For one or two or three specific journeys, I'd still buy advance-purchase tickets, but for anything more than that consider the pass.
Even if it costs a few euros more, the extra flexibility is worth it, giving you the ability to change your mind or divert via another route or train if something goes wrong with one leg of the itinerary. Incidentally, the age limit for Youth passes changed in , anyone under 28 now qualifies for a youth pass, previously it was under The free Eurail passes for children under 12 may swing the balance towards buying a pass, even for a pre-planned itinerary.
Now you really have to do the maths, as shown in the next section. You can mix-and-match a pass with point-to-point tickets Or if the start of your trip is known and fixed, but you want to stay flexible for the rest, you could buy a cheap ticket for the first journey or two, then use a railpass. And if your plan includes a few short local hops, use point-to-point tickets for those, and buy a cheaper pass with fewer unlimited travel days to cover the longer journeys.
Perhaps you came to this page thinking that railpasses save money , but these days they often don't. It's more accurate to think of them as trading up to affordable go-as-you-please flexibility. Stands to reason, really.
Step 1, work out what a Eurail pass costs per day Working out the cost per day makes it easier to see if it'll save money over the point-to-point prices. Just divide the pass cost by the number of days travel it gives you or, for a continuous pass, by the actual number of days you think you'll be using it. I've worked it out for you with 2nd class flexi passes here:.
Step 2, factor in any likely Eurail reservation fees You need to pay reservation fees for certain trains in addition to the cost of the pass. The cost can be significant if you're visiting the pass-unfriendly countries, but might be negligible if you're visiting pass-friendly countries. For planning purposes, here's my rough - but still pretty accurate - rule of thumb again:.
Step 3, work out what point to point fares would be Go to the How to buy European train tickets page and select the starting city for each journey you plan to make. On the following page, select the destination city. I'll tell you the best routes and trains between those cities and which website to use to book or price it. European trains normally open for reservations 90 days before departure or in a few cases or days and in eastern Europe only 60 days, If your European trip is still many months away, pick a random date in the next days and check fares for that date.
The prices won't change much! Don't rely on a ticketing agency in your home country to tell you point to point fares, or believe 'point to point comparisons' made by people trying to sell you a railpass. Overseas agencies often can't access the cheap fares for every operator. So I repeat, follow the advice on the How to buy European train tickets page.
You'll usually also see a more expensive fare called standard or Standardpreis or Flexpreis or Base price or similar, which is the top-of-the-range fare which you'd pay at the station on the day. So if you demand flexibility, this is the price with which to compare the cost per day of a pass. Yes, a Eurail may well save money over these expensive on-the-day full-price fares, depending on how far you travel.
Eurail passes only make financial sense for Italy if you plan to travel a significant distance every day, or perhaps make two medium-distance trips every day, which few people do. And if you're prepared to forego flexibility and book cheap no-refunds no-changes advance purchase fares you can save a lot of money over the cost of a pass. This is the cheapest way to make such a circuit if you can book ahead and don't need flexibility. If you want to stay flexible, a Eurail pass can save money over full-flex on-the-day prices.
Booked months ahead at www. I would think long and hard before choosing to make a London-Paris-Brussels-Amsterdam circuit using a pass rather than advance-purchase tickets. A Eurail pass gives unlimited travel on all the train services run by the national train operator in all of the countries it covers. It includes both domestic and international trains. Unlimited means unlimited: You can take as many trains as you like, 1 train or 20 trains, 8 miles or miles.
Eurail passes also cover certain private train operators, and even a few ferry services. You need to make a reservation for a small fee on some trains, more about that below , and pay for a berth on night trains if you want one. Eurail passes does not give free travel on metros, cable cars, trolleys, trams or buses in big cities as these are usually run by an urban transit authority. Nor on some minor private train operators such as Euskotren narrow-gauge trains in Spain or the Circumvesuviana Naples-Pompeii-Sorrento.
Passes also don't cover a few private operators who now compete with the state-owned national operator on a handful of routes, such as Italo high-speed trains which competes with Italian national operator Trenitalia, or lo-cost Ouigo trains in France or Avlo in Spain as although both are subsidiaries of the national operator, they've been set up as a separate companies.
If in doubt, see my country-by-country guide. Continuous passes are valid for a continuous period starting on the date you activate the pass. For example, if you activated a 1-month pass on 10 July, it would give continuous unlimited travel from on 10 July until on 9 August.
Flexi type passes have an overall validity which starts ticking on your first travel day, a date you choose when you activate the pass. You can then spend each of your remaining travel days on any dates you like within that overall validity period. For example, if you activated a 5-days-inmonth pass on 10 July, your first day of unlimited travel would be 10 July, you can spend each of the remaining 4 days unlimited travel on any dates you like until 9 August, let's say 12 July, 17 July, 23 July and 2 August.
In fact, a pass day can cover you beyond midnight if using a sleeper train. Tip: No-one forces you to use a pass for every train. For example, suppose you plan to make a day trip from Florence to Pisa. Engage brain! How to find train times around Europe on which you can use your Eurail pass Use the excellent German Railways online timetable at www.
It covers pretty much the whole of Europe. As a general rule, any train shown in its database can be used with a Eurail pass, although passholder reservation fees must be paid on some. It will also show which trains have compulsory reservations.
Go to www. This is this a great Europe-wide timetable app which you can use to check train times whilst on the move as the timetable works offline, with no mobile data costs. If you buy a Eurail mobile pass, the pass sits in the Railplanner app on your mobile. What about ferries, for example Italy to Greece? A few euros for port taxes needs to be paid, and cabin berths are extra. The country-by-country guide explains which specific trains require a reservation in each country and roughly how much it costs, but here is my rough - but pretty accurate - rule of thumb In virtually all countries, you can just hop on any local, regional or suburban train at any time, sit in any empty seat and show your Eurail pass to the conductor when asked.
In these countries, seat reservation even on long-distance trains is usually optional and there's nothing extra to pay unless you want a reserved seat, or couchette or sleeper on an overnight train. You can just hop on any train without a reservation, sit in any unreserved empty seat, and show your Eurail pass when asked by the conductor - even premier high-speed trains like Germany's superb ICE or Austria's excellent railjet trains.
Trains cannot 'sell out'. Passes retain their 'hop on any train' convenience factor for travel in and between these countries. The key exceptions in these countries are as follows : International journeys to or from France or Italy do require compulsory seat reservation with a fee to pay.
All this is explained in the country-by-country guide. In these countries, passholders must make a reservation and pay a fee for almost every inter-city journey, including international journeys starting or ending in these countries. See the country-by-country guide for details of which trains need a reservation, what these cost, and how to make them.
Remember that with a flexi type pass, an overnight train only uses one pass day, the date of departure, see the explanation here. See the country-by-country guide for costs for specific sleeper routes. Sometimes you can avoid paying a reservation fee fairly easily if you don't mind a slower or less comfortable journey.
The choice is yours! In other cases avoiding a fee is more trouble than it's worth, as it would mean a relay-race of local trains taking hours longer and involving umpteen changes of train. Tip: To see if there is a reasonable no-fee alternative, try using the Europe-wide online timetable at www.
Couchettes, 4-berth : Much more room than 6-berth! Overnight trains What's the difference between a couchette and a sleeper? How much does it cost? You need to pay a fee to use a couchette or sleeper with your pass. To give you an idea, here are the passholder supplements for the most common type of sleeper train, a Nightjet. Berth fees for specific routes are listed in the Eurail pass reservation guide.
If you are alone and book a single sleeper you get the whole compartment to yourself, if you book a bed in a double sleeper, you get one bed, some other passenger of the same gender gets the other bed and you'll share with them. Only a 2nd class ticket or pass is needed for all accommodation types on Nightjet , even single or double deluxe sleepers.
However, in much of eastern Europe, a 1st class pass is necessary to travel in a single-berth sleeper, a 2nd class pass is OK for berths in a double or triple. Using a pass on a sleeper train If you have a flexi-type pass, an overnight train only uses one day on your pass, the day of departure. Here is the new rule, which replaced the old 'After ' rule in January A Flexi pass day normally runs from midnight to midnight.
But if you board any overnight train before midnight, and do not change trains after midnight , you only need to use one day on a Flexi pass, the day of departure. It no longer matters what time your sleeper train leaves on day 1, or what time it arrives on day 2.
The date you enter on your pass is that of day 1. As normal, you get unlimited travel from midnight to midnight on day 1, so can take other trains on day 1 in addition to the sleeper train, all on the same pass day. You can then continue your journey on that direct overnight train until you get off at your destination on Day 2. The only proviso is that you cannot change trains after midnight , and that both the departure day and arrival day must fall within the overall validity period of the pass.
For example, if you wanted to take the Dacia Express leaving Vienna at 42 on the 1st August and arriving Bucharest at on the 2nd August, you'd use 1st August as one of your unlimited travel days, this covers the whole of the sleeper journey, even the part on 2nd August - in this example well into in the afternoon.
This gives you unlimited travel all day on 1st August, so it would also cover any other journeys you wanted to make on that day, for example a preceding journey from Prague to Vienna to connect with the sleeper. On the other hand, if you wanted to take an onward train from Bucharest to Constanta on 2nd August after getting off the sleeper, that means using up another travel day, this time dated 2nd August.
But even if you don't use any other trains on 2nd August, that day of arrival still needs to fall within the overall validity period of your pass, in other words, if you had a 5-days-inmonth flexi pass the 2nd August must be inside the 1 month period, it cannot be Day 32 just outside it. Got it? How to use a mobile pass The mobile pass sits in the Railplanner app on your smartphone, and instead of a printed travel diary, you simply use the app's journey planner to add a journey to your trip, and then when you actually take that train to your pass.
The in-app instructions are very clear and well-written. Buy the pass: You can buy a Eurail pass up to 11 months in advance. You do not need to decide exactly when you will use the pass, it can be activated on any date you choose within the next 11 months. So if your plans alter or your trip is postponed, no worries. How to buy a pass. Download the app: Get the Railplanner app for iPhone or Android at www. Step 1 of 3: Load your pass into the app: After buying the pass, you are sent a confirmation email with your pass number.
Follow the instructions to load the pass into the app by entering your pass number. Step 2 of 3: Connect your pass to a trip The next step is to create a Trip and connect the pass to it. Think of a Trip as a personal in-app folder in which you can store interesting journeys individual trains or journeys involving multiple trains found using the app's journey planner that you may or may not end up taking with your pass.
Your trip lives in the My trip tab on the app. A pass can only be connected to one trip. Step 3 of 3: Activate your pass: When you know for sure when you want to start using your pass, follow the in-app instructions to activate it, entering your passport number and desired start date. With a flexi-type pass, you choose the date of your first unlimited travel day and the overall validity period the overall 1 or 2 month period starts ticking from that date.
Even after doing this, you can still change your mind - you can alter the start date any time until the day before, Central European Time. However, once the first pass day has started at CET, you can't change your mind. Look up trains using the app's planner Open the app, click on Planner at the bottom and use the journey planner to look up train times. In the search results, find a departure that suits you, click on it for details, then click Save journey to add it to your Trip.
This pass is cheaper and also allows you to choose the class you want to travel in. While buying train tickets in advance is the best way to score cheap deals, it does limit your ability to be spontaneous. With an Eurail Pass, you can just wing it. Get up in the morning, pick a destination and hop on a train without wasting time figuring out the most cost-effective deals. This is one of the main reasons why people invest in an Eurail Pass. An Eurail Pass also comes in handy when you are taking long journeys between cities on high-speed trains.
These tickets are expensive, so a pass will help you save substantially. But remember that if you travel through a country where the Eurail Pass is not valid, you'll have to buy an additional ticket for that part of the journey. While you can purchase the pass at all European train stations, it will be more expensive than if you order it online. To order online, check out the official website or the RailEurope website. If your train travel will be limited to a few short journeys from one city to another, then point-to-point tickets from one destination to the other are what you should go for over an Eurail Pass.
You can buy tickets at the station as and when you need to, or purchase them a few months in advance if you have an itinerary in place. Buying tickets online is the best way to score deals and discounts.
But there is no single website where you'll be able to find all the tickets for Europe. Instead, you will have to go to each country's own individual rail website to book tickets. And you're likely to find astonishingly cheap fares if you book in advance.
But remember that most of these tickets will be non-refundable and non-changeable, which shouldn't be a problem if you have a pre-decided itinerary. Then comes the issue of receiving your tickets. Some rail companies will email you the tickets, which you will simply have to validate at the station. Others, however, might ask you to pick them up from the station of that country. For example, if you are booking a ticket from Paris to Brussels on Belgium's rail website, you'll only be able to get your tickets from a station in Belgium.
Bizarre, right? There will be some pre-booked tickets that you'll be able to print out at automated ticket machines at the station as well. All I'm saying is that it is important to check where you will be able to retrieve your tickets at the time of booking them.
Purchasing tickets at the train station is a good option if you're making a short journey or are travelling anywhere in Eastern Europe. Booking online for trips in eastern Europe is tough or just not available, such as with Warsaw-Kiev or Bucharest-Istanbul, and tickets at the station are usually pretty cheap.
Some cheap day time trips, however, can be bought in advance here. Ask around or find the validating machine and push your ticket inside. The machine will stamp it with the date and time, and you'll be good to go. Once inside the train, the ticket checker will confirm that the ticket has been validated. You don't need to upgrade to first class, unless your company is paying for it. Don't panic, they'll hand it over to you on time.
Now that you know how to book tickets and acquire a rail pass, let me give you the lowdown on the most picturesque train journeys that should find a place on your European itinerary. A km journey near the coast looks out to the turquoise sea and comes with idyllic views of vineyards and groves. This journey takes you through some ignored Swedish territory with a hour long train ride that will even help you spot some elk and reindeer in the wild Swedish countryside.
Have you taken a train journey in Europe with the Eurail Pass? How was your experience? Share it on Tripoto and become a part of the largest travel community!
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