Travel Europe by Train With a Eurail Pass: Here is Everything You Need to Know
You will then probably have got very confused about the countless options, scared yourself off the idea, and put it back in your ‘dream’s box, and that ‘one day’ to do list.If you have ever dreamed of traveling around Europe, either across the continent itself or in a particular country or two, then you will have no doubt looked into how actually to go about realizing your dream.
Have you heard of the Eurail pass? If not, it’s really time to clue yourself up on it! Maybe you’ve heard of it, and you don’t know much about it, but in either case, this guide is designed to show you exactly what a Eurail pass is, who it’s for, what it can offer you, what it will cost you, and exactly how to use it.
Nowadays, however, travel across Europe is significantly less complicated than it once was, and there are many companies out there who are there to help people just like you realize their dreams.
8 Common Eurail Pass Pitfalls to Avoid
Okay, so with everything in life there are mistakes to avoid, and the Eurail pass is no different.
- Make sure you activate your pass. Otherwise, you’re going nowhere!
- Check your journeys ahead of time to see whether you need to make reservations
- Don’t forget to book your sleeping accommodation if you are heading off on night trains, and remember that this will cost you more in addition to your pass price
- If traveling by ferry, make sure your pass is valid for country of arrival and departure
- Keep a log of the journeys you have made, to ensure you don’t go over your allotted amount
- Always travel together if you are on a family pass because all names will be on the one single document
- Remember to keep your passport and pass together at all times
- Travel light!
What is a Eurail Pass?
Traveling around Europe is made easy by a Eurail pass, which allows you to access train and ferry travel, without having to make single reservations for every single journey you want to make.
To make it a little more simple, a Eurail pass is:
- Perfect for traveling across different landscapes, allowing you to see the differing sights, without having to put in much research on your journey yourself.
- Valid for a set number of days, allowing you to make a certain number of trips within that limit of days – this will become clearer as we discuss the particular pass options.
- A single travel document, which you can use to travel in the allocated European countries you have chosen (more on that later), without having to head to the ticket office and buy single tickets every single time.
- Ideal for single travelers, groups, and families, with various pass options available.
- A great way to travel in comfort, and to arrive in the center of the destination you have chosen, without having to find taxis to take you from airports to the heart of the city, for example.
- Also an excellent way to meet new people, and like-minded travelers.
9 Eurail Pass Travel Travel Limitations
There are of course some limitations and a few of those pesky terms and conditions to take into account, but this is the same with any kind of purchase you make or any travel you arrange. Because we have to talk red tape occasionally, bear these points in mind:
- You can only use a Eurail pass if you are not a resident of Europe; if you are a resident, then you need to travel with an Interrail pass, which is different to the one we are talking about now.
- The pass is valid only with specific companies, e.g. train and ferry companies.
- You must always activate your pass before using it, but this is very easy to do – just activate it when you buy it online, or head to a large European train station to activate it that way. Activation needs to be within 11 months of the purchase date.
- Some high speed and night trains will require a reservation ahead of time – you can do this online or over the telephone.
- If you are traveling as a group or family, you will need to travel together at all times, as the pass will have all travelers’ names on it.
- Those aged between 12-25 years can purchase a 1st class youth pass to travel with.
- If you are traveling with children, you need to know these bits of advice:
Children aged 4 and under don’t need a pass, however, during busy times you may have to sit them on your knee to save space
- If you have children aged 4-11 years they travel for free but will need a child pass, and should always have an adult with them at all times
- When buying a family pass, up to 2 children are able to travel with just one adult, however if you are travelling with more than 2 children as a single adult, you will need to buy a 1st class youth pass for each child over the limit of 2, e.g. if you are travelling with 4 children, you can have 2 on the family pass, and then buy an extra 2 1st class youth passes for the others.
Okay, the small print out of the way, let’s get onto the exciting stuff!
Eurail Select Pass
This particular pass allows you to travel in 2, 3, or 4 countries sharing a border, traveling by train. This kind of pass means you need to do a little research ahead of time, in order to pinpoint which countries you want to visit.
Choose from the following passes:
- 4 countries
- 3 countries
- 2 countries
These are some of the most popular variations to pick from:
- Austria-Czech Republic
- Austria- Slovakia
- Czech Republic – Germany
- Czech Republic – Slovenia
- Denmark – Germany
Pricing-wise, you are looking at the following prices:
- 4 countries start from 167 euros
- 3 countries start from 156 euros
- 2 countries start from 130 euros
This particular pass is for people who want to put together their own journey, or those who are traveling on one of the suggested itineraries we mentioned in the section beforehand.
One Country Pass
If you want to spend your time exploring just one particular country, then you need to be purchasing this particular pass. You can use either high speed or regional trains to move across the country, visiting various cities, towns, and villages. Italy is the most popular country to visit; there are varying prices from country to country.
As an example at the prices you are looking at:
- Austria – 130 euros
- Greece – 81 euros
- Greek Islands – 160 euros
- Italy – 130 euros
- Spain – 151 euros
- Norway – 151 euros
- Denmark – 109 euros
- Benelux – 130 euros
- Portugal – 81 euros
As you will see, you will easily save money by purchasing this kind of ticket, as opposed to buying single journey tickets every single time you want to board a train.
Where Can You Go With a Eurail Pass?
The options are endless!
Different pass options give you the freedom to tailor-make your trip to the way you want it, but you need to give where you want to go some thought beforehand because that will dictate what kind of pass you are going to buy. The Eurail company themselves have put together several itineraries if you are a little short on inspiration, and this will give you a little food for thought.
Honeymoon trip in Europe. For that extra special holiday you can head to some of the most romantic cities on the continent by purchasing the Austria-Czech Republic-Italy pass. You will visit Rome, Florence, Venice, Vienna, and Prague as part of this itinerary.
Western Europe. The Global Pass will take you across some of the gems of Western Europe, including Paris, Geneva, Interlaken, Innsbruck, Salzburg, Munich, Berlin, Amsterdam, Bruges.
Eastern Europe. Moving on from the Western European version, the Eastern European itinerary will take you to such wonders as Prague, Budapest, Brasov, Split, Bled, and Vienna. Again, you need the Global Pass for this.
European Highlights itinerary. For this particular itinerary you will need to purchase a Global Pass, which allows you to travel for 15 continuous days within a two months’ period. You will see Paris, Versailles, Amsterdam, Berlin, Prague, Salzburg (Austria), Fussen (Germany), Venice, Florence, Rome, Vatican City, Monte Carlo, and Barcelona.
One month in Europe itinerary. This itinerary will also need a Global Pass, because of the ground you are going to cover, and this will send you across 10 different countries, including Ghent (Belgium), Rotterdam, Leipzig (Germany), Warsaw, Budapest, Belgrade, Sarajevo, Zagreb, Bologna, and Lyon.
Three weeks in Europe itinerary. Another itinerary you need a Global Pass for, and covering seven different countries, including such destinations as Milan, Venice, Munich, Vienna, Budapest, Prague, Berlin, Amsterdam, Paris, and Nice.
Two weeks’ foodie tour. Do you love gastronomy? In that case, purchase yourself a France-Italy-Spain pass and head off to Paris, San Sebastian, Barcelona, Lyon, Bologna, and Rome, sampling various foodie delights as you go.
Ten days in Europe. A Benelux-France-Germany pass will take you to three of the most iconic capital cities in the whole of the continent, covering Paris, Amsterdam, and Berlin. If you want to add extra travel time to this particular itinerary, then you can call into Belgium and Luxembourg too.
One week in Central Europe. If you purchase the Austria-Croatia-Slovenia Pass, you can travel for four days within a two months’ period, including visits to Split (Croatia), Karlovac (Croatia), Lake Bled (Slovenia), Vienna (Austria).
Eurail Pass Options Explained
We mentioned before that you ned to look at where you’re going to travel ahead of time, in order to choose the correct pass for you, and this section will show you exactly why.
This is the most popular pass option, and that is because it allows you a large amount of flexibility. This pass means you can travel to five or more countries, giving you options to travel across 28 different participating countries. There are several pricing options included in this pass, so let’s look at those now:
- 5 days within 1 month plus 1 free travel day – 2nd class – 300 euros per adult & children aged 12-25 years
- 7 days within 1 month plus 1 free travel day – 365 euros per adult & children aged 12-25 years
- 10 days within 2 months and 2 free travel days – 450 euros per adult & children aged 12-25 years
- 15 days within 2 months and 2 free travel days – 589 euros per adult & children aged 12-25 years
- 15 days continuous and 2 free travel days – 383 euros per adult & children aged 12-25 years
- 22 days continuous and 3 free travel days – 492 euros per adult & children aged 12-25 years
- 1 month continuous and 4 free days – 604 euros per adult & children aged 12-25 years
- 2 months continuous – 851 euros per adult & children aged 12-25 years
- 3 months continuous – 1048 euros per adult & children aged 12-25 years
How to Use a Eurail Pass
Once you purchase you pass online, you have 11 months to activate it, and this can be done either at any of the major European train stations on the continent, or you can do it online. Once you have activated it, you’re ready to go.
From here, you need to start planning your journey and deciding when and where you’re going to travel. You can use a combination of regional or high-speed trains, as well as night trains and ferries, but some of these will need reservations, so do check this out ahead of time.
At the time of travel, you will need to fill in your travel diary before you get onboard, because this is your record to show of where you have been and how many times, and if you are asked, you will need to show your ID, e.g. passport, and your Eurail pass.
It’s that simple!
Types of Eurail Pass Transport
You can choose between regional trains, high-speed trains, night trains, or ferries, depending on where you are going. Regional trains are very frequent and don’t often require reservations, however, high-speed trains sometimes do, depending on where you are traveling to and from – again, check your particular route before booking.
Regional trains. These are great for meeting locals, seeing local landscapes, and for flexibility too because you can go off the beaten track a little, and really explore a destination. If you miss a train, it’s not really a big deal, because you can jump on the next one, without needing to reserve your spot.
High-speed trains. If you don’t really enjoy the getting from A to B part of the deal, then you can use high-speed trains in comfort, often with food too. You will need to reserve these most of the time, but if you reserve, then it means you get a seat, even if it’s busy and crowded. Book your seat online to avoid disappointment.
Night trains. If you have long distances to travel, and you want to do it with minimal fuss then a night train is for you, and you can choose your accommodation in addition to your pass price; so, if you want to sleep in total luxury, you’re going to pay more than if you want to sleep in slightly more budgetary conditions. Of course, you will need to reserve your sleeping accommodation ahead of time, and this can be done online or over the telephone.
Ferries. It’s not all about trains, as you can take a number of ferry journeys as part of your Eurail pass. These journeys have to be part of companies which are associated with the company, but these are quite plentiful. Associated companies include:
- Balearia in Spain
- Blue Star Ferries in Greece
- Finnlines in Finland-Germany-Sweden
- Fjord Line Ferries in Norway-Denmark
- Grimaldi lines in Italy-Spain-Greece
- HML in Italy-Greece
- Irish Ferries from Ireland-France-Great Britain
- Minoan Lines – Italy to Greece
- SNAV Ferries from Croatia-Italy
- Stena Line from Netherlands-Ireland-GBSuperfast Ferries from Italy-Greece
- Tallink Silja from Finland-Sweden
Ferry journeys need to be reserved ahead of time, and if you are traveling internationally, e.g., crossing from one border to another, then you need to have a pass which is valid for both the country of departure and the country of arrival too.
How to Maximize Your Eurail Pass
If you want to get the most for your money, then you are going to need to think before you buy. Grab a map and look at where you want to go, work out which countries you need to cross into, and look at which passes will work out the most cost-effective for you. If you are looking to go for a longer term travel plan, crossing several borders, then a Global Pass is for you, however, if you don’t want to be too international, then look at lesser options, in order to cut down on how much cash you spend.
You can also combine your Eurail pass with buying single tickets for train journeys, if these are incredibly cheap, don’t need reserving, and will get you to another part of the country with minimal fuss. This means you are maximizing your travel plan, without spending too much extra money, and while reserving your Eurail journeys for those trips which are longer distances, and therefore would cost you more if you were paying for the outright.
To Sum Up…
Put simply, a Eurail pass is a fantastic way to see the wonders and passing landscapes of Europe, and provided you meet all the criteria, and you check out where you want to go ahead of time, to ensure you purchase the correct pass, there’s no reason why this particular initiative shouldn’t save you cash, time, and open your eyes to some of the best destinations the continent has to offer.