Europe is such a diverse continent with so much to see. What’s great about traveling through Europe is that you can pretty much get from one place to another without flying! If our article on the best train rides in Europe has convinced you why train travel is amazing, you’ll want to learn about the how to enjoy unlimited train rides through Eurail Pass. Read everything below to know what it is, its advantages, and how to use it the best way possible!
What is a Eurail Pass?
In a nutshell, a Eurail Pass is a single ticket that allows non-EU residents unlimited train travel on almost any train line in Europe. There are some very important exemptions and specifications to it but don’t worry, we’ll explain the details down below so keep reading.
This unlimited, almost-all encompassing ticket was first introduced in 1959 with only 13 participating countries. Today, it has grown much larger with some very exciting and important updates:
- The Eurail Pass as of 2019 includes 31 countries! The UK has also joined which means that the Rail Pass now includes trips on the EuroStar from London to Paris. Along with the addition of the UK are Lithuania and Macedonia.
- The Eurail Pass does not include Ukraine, Belarus, Russia, Estonia, Latvia or Albania.
- You can use the Eurail Pass to get on Greek Island ferry boats.
- Metros and buses are not included in the Eurail Pass.
Types of Eurail Passes
Basically, there are 2 types of Eurail Passes. (1) Continuous journey and (2) Flexi-type. The continuous journey rail pass allows you continuous unlimited travel between the day you start using the pass until the last day. Whereas the Flexi-Type rail pass only allows unlimited travel within 24 hours of each day you decide to use the pass.
The image below perfectly shows the difference between the 15-day continuous journey rail pass and the 15-day flexi type rail pass. Click here to see all the different kinds of passes available.
In addition, there is also the One Country Pass which allows you unlimited train travel throughout a single country. This would be the right pass for travellers who are intending to see many places in one country during most of the trip. Click here to see which European countries have the pass.
Advantages of the Eurail Pass
1. It’s the perfect option for spontaneous travellers as you can just hop on and off any train you like and go to any destination you can think of.
2. The Eurail Pass is best for those travelling Europe for a long period of time. The shortest pass is for a continuous journey of 15 days or for 3 separate days within a month.
3. The Eurail Pass serves as a kind of insurance because unlike single point-to-point tickets, when you miss a train, you can just take the next train without worries!
4. It’s a great travel option for those under 28 years old (Youth Rail Pass) or for those over 59 years old (Senior Rail Pass).
5. It’s a great option for families with kids because children under 12 years old get the rail passes for FREE!
Disadvantages of the Eurail Pass
Hearing ‘unlimited train travel’ undoubtedly sounds like a dream and like a great deal you shouldn’t pass up but there are actually a few compelling reasons why the Eurail Pass might not be perfect for you.
1. It’s pretty expensive especially when you compare it to buying point-to-point tickets. For example, the cheapest pass which is about 217€ allows travel for 3 days within a month. Though you can ride an unlimited number of trains for 3 days, you can probably save money by booking point-to-point tickets in advance if you’re certain of your destinations.
- Often, 2nd class point-to-point tickets between cities can be as cheap as 20€! All you need to do is book early so you can catch the best prices.
2. Even if you have the Eurail Pass, you’ll still have to pay a reservation fee when you ride certain trains. Reservation fees cost about 4€ to as much as 30€ especially when you want to ride trains that go to France. If you ride a lot of trains that require reservation fees on top of the Eurail Pass, it can all add up to be more expensive.
3. The Eurail Pass is not worth it for traveling between short distances. Nowadays, European train companies price their tickets as dynamically as airlines do. So if you’re a planner and you can decide your itinerary 2 months ahead, you can definitely get those cheap 20€ fast-train tickets to travel from one city to another!
4. Finally, the most logical reason for not getting the Eurail Pass is if you’re not planning on taking more than 1 train per day. This generally applies to those who are thinking of getting the Flexi-Type Pass.
How to use the Rail Pass
Using the Eurail Pass is pretty simple but there are some very important steps you must not miss doing:
– You must get your Eurail Pass validated for the first time you’re using it. You can get it done at one of the main train stations in any of the 31 countries included in the pass. The booking clerk will enter your start date that will determine how long your pass is valid for.
– The Eurail Pass actually serves like a travel journal. You’ll have to write down on the pass the dates and times of each train you ride. If you don’t, there’s a risk of getting fined!
– For taking an overnight train, it will only use up 1 day of your pass. But your arrival date must fall within the entire validity period of your pass!
– For all the train schedules throughout Europe, we highly recommend downloading the Railplanner App. This mobile app is perfect because it also works offline! You can also make passholder reservations here for some trains.
If you’re looking to go on an exciting adventure to see many places in Europe, the Eurail Pass would be a great travel tool! Just make sure that you carefully do the math and balance your pros and cons!
In general, what you’re essentially paying for when getting the Eurail Pass is the convenience. It’s great for times when sudden travel plans change or for when there are events that are beyond your control like railway strikes. However, if you’re great at planning ahead and looking for cheap train fares, you’re much better off traveling without the Eurail Pass.