When booking our trip to Europe I was torn between purchasing a Eurail pass or not. (Eurail is the correct spelling of what we Americans tend to call a “EuroRail” pass). Jim and I were going to be travelling in 3 mainland European countries only by train so it seemed like a good plan, but was it? So when is a Eurail pass a good deal and when is it a waste of money? And how do the Eurail passes work?
A Eurail pass is primarily a train ticket that allows great freedom when travelling in Europe that is only available to non-European residents. There are many options, and because of which, a wide range of costs. A great resource that goes into depth on Eurail passes is Rick Steves’ Europe website. It goes over the different type of Eurail passes and their individual pros and cons. The general idea is that you purchase a ticket that has a set number of days that you can use it for as many train trips that you want to go on. It has to be validated before its used, and if used properly can save you a lot of money and time!
When using a Eurail pass you can board a train without stopping at the ticket office. Its quick and allows you great flexibility. Once on the train and in a seat you just write down that day’s date on your pass and it acts as your ticket. This allows you to have the most flexible travel schedule so you can board any trains. There are a few exceptions, including overnight trains and some trains that require reservations, but for the most part you are able to travel with great freedom.
With a Eurail pass you get additional discounts and it can be used for more than train trips! Some of the best freebies are the free transport on International Ferries, the scenic river cruises in Germany, and Swiss Lake Cruises!.
The tickets range for youth travelers (26 or younger) from $297 (5 days, 2 months, 3 neighboring countries) to $1316 (21 countries, 3 months unlimited travel). The best prices are for those 26 years old and under, but don’t despair if you are over 26, you still can find some good deals if you are travelling with a companion (15% discount). The Eurail is expensive but if you are doing lots of long trips, it may be a worthwhile deal.
How do you know if the Eurail pass is for you? The way we determined this was to look at the trips we were going to take, find out the prices and then directly compare it to the price of the similar pass. Our five day pass valid for travel in Germany and Switzerland ended up costing about the same as our per day travels for that 5 days but made it comparable and with the added flexibility made it a good choice. I used Rick Steves’ map of prices/times and his worksheet to determine what would be a good deal. (He also has country specific maps if you’ll be mostly travelling in one country.)
The last time I was in Europe I lived Germany in a dormitory-style apartment building while attending school at Universitat Dortmund.
(That’s me in the front row, third from the right.)
This allowed me to purchase a DB Card, which gave me 25% off all my train tickets. I compared it to the Eurail pass and it was much cheaper since the majority of my traveling was going to be within Germany. If you’re going to be living in one country and doing most of your traveling in that country check out its’ discount passes for a cheaper way to travel!