At one time, traveling Europe by train was every budget traveler’s goal. You’d stuff as much as possible into a backpack, stay at hostels throughout the continent, and let Europe’s extensive train system take you everywhere.
Nowadays, thanks to Ryanair and other budget airlines, traveling by train in Europe isn’t always the cheapest. Today, there are a handful of things to consider before getting on board with the Eurail Pass.
When you start looking at whether a Eurail Pass is worth it, one of the first surprises you’ll encounter is that your rail pass isn’t the only pass or ticket you might need while traveling in Europe. Sure, your pass will get you from Paris to Milan without any hassles, but you’ll need to learn how to use Milan’s public transportation system while exploring the town.
However, just because your Eurail Pass isn’t good everywhere you might travel in Europe doesn’t mean it’s a waste of money. On the contrary, you might find that the unlimited train travel Eurail Pass is exactly what you need to get the most out of your European travels.
Let’s look at what makes the Eurail Pass great, why you might want to purchase one, and the alternatives you might want to consider should your plans not mesh perfectly with what the Eurail Pass provides.
Show Table of Contents
- What is a Eurail Pass?
- Our Eurail Pass Review Approach
- Benefits of Train Travel Across Europe
- How Does the Eurail Pass Work?
- Options for Your Eurail Pass
- How to Find a Deal on Your Eurail Pass
- Reducing the Cost of Your Eurail Pass
- Is a Eurail Pass Worth It? The Short Answer
- Should You Get a Eurail Pass?
- Eurail Pass Pros and Cons
- Ease-Of-Use: 5/5
- Features: 4/5
- Customer Service: 2/5
- Value for Money: 3/5
- Eurail Pass Versus Other Options
- Eurail Pass Versus Point-to-Point Tickets
- Eurail Pass Versus Booking Flights
- Eurail Pass Versus Bus Travel
- Eurail Pass Versus a Rental Car
- Eurail Pass Alternative Options
- Eurail Pass vs Trainline
- Eurail Pass vs Omio
- Eurail Pass vs Rail Europe
- The Final Verdict: Is a Eurail Pass Worth It?
- What are the benefits of buying a Eurail Pass?
- What is not covered by Eurail Pass?
- Is Eurail the best way to travel through Europe?
- Is it cheaper to train or fly around Europe?
- Eurail Pass
- Customer Service
- Value for Money
What is a Eurail Pass?
A Eurail Pass is a reusable train pass that allows unlimited rides with several participating train networks throughout Europe. Passes are valid from four days to three months and are offered as a single country or global pass. You may use your global pass in 33 different European countries.
The Eurail Pass was introduced in 1959 and was initially usable in 13 different countries by foreign travelers to Europe. Eventually, the Eurail company would also introduce a pass for European citizens called the Interrail Pass. Today, the company makes it possible to ride trains to more than 30,000 European destinations.
See Related: Useful Tips for Long-Distance Train Travel
Our Eurail Pass Review Approach
From first class to coach class, ViaTravelers writers and editors have experienced a little bit of everything when it comes to Europe’s incredible train system.
Long envied by travelers from other continents (North America especially), the high-speed train system of Europe is something that virtually every traveler has considered before booking a trip. Even European city metro systems offer a wealth of conveniences for international travelers.
After traveling through dozens of European countries via rail, we decided to pool our experience with the modes of transportation in Europe to help you decide whether you should consider Eurail Passes for your trip. Will you choose a point-to-point ticket, or will you carry a Eurail Pass in your pocket?
But before we delve into the nitty-gritty of the pass, let’s take a look at why you might want to consider one in the first place:
Benefits of Train Travel Across Europe
The marvel of modern flight allows us to explore the world and reach destinations that would have taken our ancestors weeks or months.
When it comes to traversing Europe, the safety and modernity of air travel don’t automatically place it higher than traveling by rail, especially when you hold a pass that allows you to ride on as many trains as you can in a particular amount of time.
If you have but nascent experience traveling by train, consider the following as reasons to enjoy train travel through Europe:
- Lots of legroom
- Flexible travel options
- Some trains are faster than flying
- Trains get you into the heart of the city
- Overnight trains can save money
- The scenery is magnificent
- Train travel is greener than flying
- Considerably better food
With all of these positives, you might wonder why anyone would ever travel by anything other than train. Well, there are some drawbacks which will become apparent in good time.
How Does the Eurail Pass Work?
A Eurail Pass gives pass holders unlimited train travel for their pass. Some restrictions on travel and other requirements are crucial to consider, and the pass is only for tourists, not European citizens.
Generally speaking, a Eurail Pass is a ticket you buy with a set duration that allows you to travel on multiple trains as much as you want on Europe’s excellent train system.
Here are a few of the critical aspects of the pass:
Options for Your Eurail Pass
The first decision you’ll make for your pass is whether to get a Eurail Global Pass or the Eurail Single Country Pass. If you’re headed to France for a month, the single-country pass is undoubtedly the way to go. If you’re headed from Amsterdam to Dubrovnik, you’ll need the Global Pass.
Your second decision is which pass to get based on your age. If you’re an adult, you pay the standard rate for the pass. If you’re a senior over the age of 60, you’ll enjoy a 10 percent discount over the adult pass price.
Children 4 to 11 years old can travel free if they have an adult accompanying them who has an adult pass. If a child doesn’t have an adult traveling with them (maybe you have two or three kids and one adult), you’ll buy the Youth Eurail Pass.
Infants and toddlers under four get to travel free on trains, so you don’t need to worry about buying an extra pass for tiny children and babies.
The third detail to consider is the length of your travel and the style of your travel. You can buy a continuous pass that is usable at any time in your chosen duration or a flexi bass, which is a more economical option if you plan on traveling between cities every few days.
The final consideration is whether you’ll travel via First or Second classes. For the most part, the Second class is the most economical way to use a Eurail Pass, and the quality of the Second class is comfortable and convenient. Some trains don’t even have a First class anyway.
You do have an option to upgrade to a First class pass, with added cost. You might benefit from First class, should your travel take you on long-distance trains throughout Europe where the seats are more comfortable than Second class. First class usually has fewer travelers, too, so if you enjoy your space, First class is the way to go.
So, to review, you’ll need to decide and determine the following things to get the right pass:
- Single country or multiple countries
- Age of the traveler
- Length of travel
- Class of travel
At the end of these considerations, you might end up deciding that a Eurail Pass isn’t truly worth it. You may decide to purchase a few regional passes instead, especially if you won’t travel too far during your vacation. You do have many options, and you’ll find it helpful to investigate all of them.
For instance, you can buy a Renfe Spain Pass for travel in Spain, which can cost less than a Eurail Pass in certain conditions. When in doubt, price out all of your options so that you can find the best deal, whether that’s a First class Eurail Global Pass or a regional pass like the Swiss Travel Pass in Switzerland.
See Related: Eurostar Standard vs Premier: What’s Better?
How to Find a Deal on Your Eurail Pass
If you access the Eurail Pass website at the right time, you might benefit from one of the sales offered throughout the year. Eurail Passes go on sale periodically, and you should check the site out in the months before your travel begins to find discounts.
Black Friday is a popular time for pass discounts, but the discount usually requires you to travel within a certain timeframe. You can get a 15% discount on a pass if you travel between February and April. The key is to check as early as possible to get your single-country or global passes as cheaply as possible.
Reducing the Cost of Your Eurail Pass
If you don’t score a sale on your Eurail Pass, there’s no need to panic! You can still make some decisions to help you enjoy a lower price for your trip. The first consideration is to look at when you’ll be in Europe and how often you’ll travel.
Imagine you’re visiting Berlin and will stay there for a week before heading to Zurich and a few other destinations. Don’t bother with a Eurail Pass for your first five days in Europe. Enjoy Berlin, and then buy your pass to cover your travel when you begin your journey to Zurich and beyond.
And think about the other side of your trip, too. After you’ve visited all the countries you want on your vacation, you might not need the pass anymore. Don’t buy a pass for your trip if you don’t travel the entire time.
Another way to reduce the cost of your Eurail Pass is to look at the actual train prices for individual train tickets. You might realize that you don’t need a pass and can book a few individual train rides for far less money. Always compare your itinerary and how much you expect to use the trains to determine the value of your Eurail Pass.
A final consideration is how reservation fees and added fees for trips on a sleeper train or overnight train may impact the value and cost of your pass. Take a look at the routes you plan to travel and figure out how many train reservations you may need to make during that time.
If you’re able to avoid making reservations and paying extra fees for the majority of your trip, you’ll find the Eurail Pass might offer the most affordable and convenient option for traveling Europe.
See Related: How to Travel From London to Amsterdam
Is a Eurail Pass Worth It? The Short Answer
Well, it depends. Do you seek convenience during your European vacation? Are you loathe to make reservations in advance and want to jump on a train to wherever the winds take you?
The Eurail Pass can offer incredible freedom, especially when choosing the Eurail Global Pass, which lets you travel between 33 participating European countries.
But, should you buy a Eurail pass if you’re only spending a week in Europe? You can certainly enjoy traveling on Europe’s high-speed trains during that time, but you might find greater convenience with point-to-point tickets rather than a pass that covers you from start to finish.
Are you taking a month to travel from Eastern Europe to Scandinavia? Do you envision yourself watching the countryside roll by for hours as you travel the continent? Or, will you stay in one spot for most of your trip, seeing everything you possibly can in a single location?
You have multiple options regarding the type and duration of your Eurail Pass. Let us make sure you choose the best option. Read on to learn more about European trains and how a rail pass might benefit you (or not).
Should You Get a Eurail Pass?
Depending on your mode of travel and the length of your European vacation, you could find yourself paying more than a thousand Euros to get around Europe, whether that’s by air, land, or sea.
Since a Eurail Pass can represent quite an investment, you may want to consider travel insurance to guard against any delays or problems that occur before and during your trip. It’s heartbreaking to invest so much time and energy into a trip only to have something happen that ends up costing you so much more in the long run.
Once you’ve protected your trip from unforeseen problems, you can begin your investigation into whether to add a Eurail Pass to your list.
Eurail Pass Pros and Cons
Every travel program out there has its pros and cons, and many of those positive aspects are related to features like convenience and price. Here are a few pros and cons of the Eurail Pass, which can help you decide whether the pass is worth your time and money.
- Incredible Freedom with Unlimited Travel: Although there are a few restrictions on travel with the Eurail Pass and the Eurail Global Pass, the pass does allow pass holders an incredible amount of freedom overall, without a lot of time spent booking tickets.
- No Luggage Fees: One of the most nerve-wracking facets of flying is putting your luggage on the scale or in the size box. You won’t find anyone pointing at your luggage and telling you to sit it on a scale at the train station, so you won’t need to carry extra Euros just in case you bought too many trinkets and now your luggage is a half kilo over the weight limit.
- Access to Lounges in Some Countries: Just like you might find at an airport, some train stations feature lounges for relaxation and dining, which may come in handy when you have a few minutes or hours to spare before your train departs. Your Eurail Pass may give you free access to a lounge.
- Incredible Views During Your Journey: Europe’s train system passes through magnificent mountain ranges, spectacular valleys, and towering cities, and you’ll get to see all of it from the comfort of your seat.
- Eurail Passes Are Now Available on Your Phone: At one time, the only option for Eurail Pass holders was to carry a pass in a wallet or pocket. In the last few years, the company introduced a digital pass that means you can use your smartphone to access your mobile pass. You can also use their convenient app for planning and booking tickets.
- Eurail Pass Cost Isn’t the Cheapest: For many people, the Eurail Pass and Eurail Global Pass aren’t worth it. If you want to see Europe on a shoestring budget, you’ll find that a combination of flights and bus travel is usually the cheapest. So when you purchase a Eurail Pass, it’s probably going to be for the convenience rather than the cost.
- European Citizens Must Buy the Interrail Pass: European citizens must buy an Interrail Pass rather than a Eurail Pass. Like the Eurail Pass, many trains require seat reservations, and the European citizen doesn’t include reservations, so you have to book your seats early to score a seat during the high travel season.
- Some Routes Require Seat Reservations: You may need to pay additional reservation fees for a seat when you travel, whether you have a rail pass or not. The best way to avoid having to get a reservation is to find trains that don’t require one.
- Some Areas of Europe are Too Cheap for Eurail Passes: If you’re traveling in Eastern Europe or parts of Southern Europe, you might find that the cost of a Eurail Pass is much more expensive than simply purchasing point-to-point tickets. If the entirety of your travel will occur in a less expensive area of Europe, you might want to purchase your train tickets singly and in advance for a better price.
- Some Areas Require Bus Travel to Reach: The train system that crisscrosses Europe is incredible, but even some local trains don’t reach the smallest towns. In such circumstances, you might need to pair your train ride with a bus ride to reach your final destination. This is often true for flight travel, too, so the only way you can avoid having to use multiple modes of transportation is to rent a car yourself and drive Europe.
Rating the services of a company will always be a subjective process, and some of the issues or perks we list here might not matter to you. These ratings can help you decide whether your rail pass price is worth it.
Eurail Passes work in 32 different countries and can help you travel nearly effortlessly across Europe. You’ll certainly find it easier to enjoy train rides throughout Europe than you might air travel.
If you love convenience, buy a Eurail Pass. Traveling by train’s easier and less stressful than any other transportation mode.
You’re far more likely to stumble upon a train station in Europe than you are an airport (there are more than 36,000 train stations but fewer than 3,600 airports in Europe).
The primary feature of a Eurail Pass is that it allows you to wander up to train stations across the continent and travel to your next destination.
Yet, some train companies require that you purchase seat reservations before you ride, so the process isn’t 100 percent without hassle or cost.
It’s mildly disconcerting to buy a Eurail Global Pass and then realize you must purchase a reservation for a “ride as much as you can” style of pass.
Customer Service: 2/5
The Eurail Pass is convenient until you have a problem. Unfortunately, one of the biggest drawbacks of using a pass is that the company doesn’t actually have a customer service telephone.
The best way to contact the company should you have a problem while traveling is via a chatbot that will transfer you to an agent should the bot not have the answer to your question.
A company you can only contact online means you must have internet access during your European travels, or you risk experiencing a problem you can’t solve because you can’t contact the company.
Value for Money: 3/5
The value of buying a pass that offers unlimited train travel is only as useful as you make it.
If you purchase your Eurail passes and only use them a few times, your overall value wouldn’t be as much as someone who used their pass a few dozen times over a week.
For some travelers, the Eurail Pass is an incredible value. For others, it’s a rather expensive convenience.
Eurail Pass Versus Other Options
Using a Eurail Pass is just one option for your European travel plans. You can choose single tickets to get you from point A to point B and take to the skies on “puddle jumpers” that will take you as few as 55 miles (Helsinki, Finland, to Tallinn, Estonia, flight).
Let’s quickly look at your alternatives to the Eurail Pass and how they stack up.
Eurail Pass Versus Point-to-Point Tickets
If you’re dead-set on finding cheap tickets, the Eurail Pass won’t offer you the bargain basement price you want. Scoring deals on individual tickets well before your trip will almost always get you around Europe for less money.
If you have every step of your European travels mapped out, spending some time looking for deals on your train tickets will help you stick to a tiny budget. If you want a little freedom to wander around during your itinerary, the Eurail Pass could help you save money in the long run by making it easier to make last-minute decisions during your European vacation.
Eurail Pass Versus Booking Flights
You might not believe it, but sometimes taking a flight is cheaper than taking the train when you’re traveling inside a country or from one country to another in Europe. We do have a few tricks for booking cheap flights to and around Europe, and resources like Skyscanner and Going.com can help you out.
But if you’re really looking to pinch the pennies and aren’t bothered by spartan travel, you might consider a budget airline.
If you’ve got any experience at all traveling in Europe, you’ve probably heard of Ryanair, which is one of the cheapest airlines operating in the modern era. Per one report, Ryanair flights average less than 82 Euros per ticket, which is one of the lowest you’ll find.
As long as you’re willing to deal with some of the strange rules and quirks – and having to pay for everything as an add-on (and I do mean EVERYTHING), you can get places pretty darn cheap on Ryanair and similar airlines.
The one caveat is that you must spend those extra hours getting to the airport, waiting to get through security, and all the other time-consuming facets of air travel. For train travel, you can arrive seconds before your train departs and spend no additional time waiting to board.
Eurail Pass Versus Bus Travel
Traveling by bus is often the least expensive option for European travel, but you give up some creature comforts when choosing a bus pass rather than a Eurail Pass. You’ll generally find yourself enjoying less space on a bus trip than you might on a train car. The bathrooms aren’t always as accessible on a bus either.
Options include FlixBus, which has the largest bus network with service in 26 different countries, and Eurolines, a network of different bus companies that work together.
It definitely takes more effort to travel by bus throughout Europe, but it’s definitely doable as long as you’re willing to put some extra time into your itinerary. You won’t want to travel by bus if you have small children since it’s difficult to get up and walk around while on a bus during transit.
Eurail Pass Versus a Rental Car
A few cities in Europe stand out as a big NO when it comes to foreigners driving rental cars. If you’re an American, you’ll probably have an aneurysm trying to drive on the left side of the road in London, the road laws in Paris will give you a heart attack, and you might faint dead away should you try to drive in Rome where people drive like they don’t want to live.
Outside of a few dicey areas, Europe is relatively easy for travelers who decide to find a rental car for their journey. It’s pretty straightforward to find a vehicle in Europe with Rentalcars.com, Kayak.com, or even Booking.com, and booking far in advance can get you some super sweet deals.
Driving does offer incredible freedom for scheduling your vacation, too. There’s no need to rely on the train schedule. The big drawback to renting a car is that you must find parking everywhere you go, which is often the toughest part of driving in Europe.
Eurail Pass Alternative Options
If you decide the Eurail Pass is worth it over other modes of transportation, you should take just a few minutes to compare the pass against other European rail passes. Although the Eurail Pass does allow you to access train routes across the entire continent, there are other options. Here are a few others to consider:
Eurail Pass vs Trainline
If you’ll only travel by train a few times during your stay in Europe, you might not need the convenience of a Eurail pass and may benefit from buying your tickets singly through Trainline. If you’re willing to search ahead of time, you can often score some great discounts on tickets with Trainline.
You can access your tickets with Trainline via an app as your Eurail passes, so they’re both convenient options. If you only have a little time before you depart to find your tickets with Trainline, the simplicity and convenience of a Eurail pass are worth it. However, if you only need a single train ticket or just a few tickets, Trainline might be the better option to save money.
Eurail Pass vs Omio
If you’re willing to take whatever mode of transport is the cheapest, whether it takes longer or isn’t as comfortable as a train, Omio will help you get your savings.
The one caveat is that you must put in the work ahead of time so you have all of your travel plans cemented and your tickets in hand before you depart on your travels.
Eurail Pass vs Rail Europe
One of the major differences between booking with Rail Europe is that you can usually score bigger discounts on tickets with Rail Europe versus buying a Eurail Pass. Still, those savings depend on how early you buy train tickets.
Technically, Rail Europe resells train tickets, so you’ll see big sales occasionally that aren’t matched on the Eurail website. If you’re in search of a particular route that isn’t offered on the Eurail network, check Rail Europe, which has some routes that aren’t offered with Eurail passes.
The Final Verdict: Is a Eurail Pass Worth It?
The best feature of the Eurail Pass is that you can jump on and off a train whenever you want (no, not when it’s hurdling down the tracks, obviously!) without having to pay extra fees or any of that nonsense you’ll find with other modes of transportation like planes.
There’s a chance that the Eurail Pass itself might not offer the best value for your trip, depending on your circumstances, budget, plans, and ability to plan (or not plan). If you want the freedom to explore and travel in a truly convenient manner in one of the best rail systems on the planet, a Eurail Pass should be your go-to plan.
On the other hand, if you’re carefully budgeting every step of your journey or you’re not really doing too much traveling, you might not need to spend your hard-earned Dollars, Pounds, Krona, or Euros on a Eurail Pass or a Eurail Global Pass. If you’re spending a week in Paris and then heading to Rome for a week, you probably don’t need a Eurail Pass.
Just buy a plane ticket from Paris to Rome. However, if you’re interested in looking at all the cool little towns along the way, your Eurail Pass offers you the ideal amount of convenience to hop on and hop off in whatever hamlet, village, or town you’d like.
What are the benefits of buying a Eurail Pass?
The biggest value of the Eurail Pass is that it gives you incredible freedom to travel when and where you want throughout Europe. The pass can save money for some travelers, as well as help travelers score deals and bonuses on hotel stays, tickets to numerous parks and museums, and other modes of transportation.
What is not covered by Eurail Pass?
Eurail Passes aren’t usable for metro systems within cities like buses or on city train systems. Eurail Passes are only useable on trains that run between cities. Some train companies also require that users purchase a seat reservation in advance, even pass holders.
Is Eurail the best way to travel through Europe?
Trains are a fast and convenient option for traveling between cities in Europe, but the Eurail Pass isn’t the cheapest option for travel. Whether you should buy it depends wholly on your budget, traveling style, and preferences.
Is it cheaper to train or fly around Europe?
As long as you’re looking for deals, you can travel more cheaply by air than you can by train. Eurail Passes allow you to enjoy the convenience of rail travel, but you often pay more for the experience than you might on a budget airline.
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Value for Money7.0/10
- Incredible Freedom with Unlimited Travel
- No Luggage Fees
- Access to Lounges in Some Countries
- Incredible Views During Your Journey
- Eurail Passes Are Now Available on Your Phone
- Eurail Pass Cost Isn't the Cheapest
- European Citizens Must Buy the Interrail Pass
- Some Routes Require Seat Reservations
- Some Areas of Europe are Too Cheap for Eurail Passes
- Some Areas Require Bus Travel to Reach
- About the Author
- Latest Posts
Kyle Kroeger is the Founder and Owner of ViaTravelers.com. He is a seasoned traveler and entrepreneur. Kyle started ViaTravelers.com to help travelers find their next adventure, whether it’s exploring new places or revisiting old favorites.
He’s a converted finance nerd and Excel jockey turned world wonderer (and may try to get lost on purpose). He loves listening to people’s stories from around the world as well as sharing his own experiences traveling the globe. He loves travel so much that he moved from his hometown of Minneapolis to Amsterdam with his small family to travel Europe full-time.