Travel by rail is a great way to explore Europe. There is the Eurail pass and then there are point to point tickets. Don’t make the mistake of thinking your only option is a Eurail pass to get around by train. Some folks are fooled into thinking that taking a train in Europe always has to mean buying a Eurail pass. No it does not! You can buy the same cheap point-to-point tickets that Europeans buy, at the same prices with no added booking fees, direct from the same train operator websites that they use.
Yes Europe has cheap budget train fares in Europe – the rail equivalent of budget airline fares – if you buy in advance direct from the relevant operator & don’t mind committing to a specific date & train. If you have a pre-planned fixed itinerary, these cheap advance-purchase train fares can blow a railpass out of the water price-wise. For example, Prague to Vienna from $24 in 2nd class or $34 in 1st, when an adult 1st class Eurail pass typically costs $60 to $95 per day. Thanks to the internet, you can buy these cheap advance-purchase fares from the USA or Australia just as easily as someone in the UK. But as we said, you are locked in to specific train on a specific day. No show, no refund. So plan accordingly.
Now as for the legendary Eurail pass……
There are actually two great railpass offerings, Eurail for overseas visitors and InterRail for European residents. So before we start, decide which applies to you.
If you live outside Europe, you qualify for a Eurail pass and we will cover the options here.
If you live in Europe, you qualify for an InterRail pass, so hop over to the InterRail page to get your pass..
The guidelines for which of the many passes both offer is pretty much the same.
Follow these guidelines to narrow down your options and buy the right rail pass for travel in Europe.
- What countries do you want to visit?
- You can pick from one to 28 and the Eurail Global Pass is one of the most popular as it gives you access to all 28 countries.
- Now if you just want to visit 3 or 4 countries that are all adjacent to one and another, then the Eurail Select Pass is the one for you. You only pay for the countries you want to visit. You can select 2, 3, or 4 of your favorite countries, as long as they share a border. For example you can combine France, Italy, Spain and the Benelux.
- Just visiting one country? Then choose from the different Eurail One Country Passes. Of all of them the most popular passes is the Eurail Italy Pass.
- Next, decide how far you want to travel and how often.
- Each Eurail Pass has a different validity period. For the Eurail Global Pass it ranges from 5 days to 3 months. For the Select Pass it ranges from 5 to 10 days.
- Do you plan to travel every day? Then choose a Eurail Pass with a continuous validity. For example: with the Eurail Global Pass 22 days continuous, you can you travel on 22 consecutive days.
- or will you travel every few days? Then choose a Eurail Pass with flexible validity. For example: with the Eurail Global Pass 15 days within 2 months, you’re free to choose 15 days on which you want to travel on trains, during a period of 2 months.
- Now figure out what discounts you qualify for. No, Eurail and InterRail do not offer any interline discounts but they do offer other discounts which you might qualify for. Those are:
- Are you under 28 on the first day your Pass is valid? Then you can get a discounted youth pass.
- Two adults or more can get a group discount by buying a Saver Pass. You will need to travel together since you share one pass.
- Children under 12 travel for free with Eurail with at least 1 adult on a Eurail pass. Click here for information on Family Discounts information.
- Do you prefer 1st or 2nd class?
- Personally I prefer 1st class when going on trains in Europe. Not that much more for better seats and service but the choice is yours to make.
- Eurail Passes are available for 1st class and 2nd class, depending on the pass you choose. A 1st class Eurail Pass is also valid for 2nd class train travel. The facilities and services provided in each class vary per train, and depend upon the railway company you travel with.
Once you have the answers to these 4 questions you should be able to narrow down the Eurail pass that is right for your next trip to Europe
- You can buy a Eurail pass if you live outside Europe, for example in the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Asia or Africa.
- You must buy a Eurail pass before you get here, you cannot buy Eurail passes when you get to Europe.
- If you live in Europe or in the Russian Federation, Morocco, Algeria,Turkey or Tunisia you can’t buy a Eurail pass. Instead you qualify for the InterRail pass range, and it’s is usually a better deal. InterRail passes cover exactly the same trains as Eurail, with the same fees for the same reservations, so an American and a Brit can easily travel together, one using a Eurail pass, the other an InterRail pass.