Travel Europe By Train With A Eurail Pass: Everything You Need To Know
If you have ever dreamed of traveling around Europe, either across the continent itself or in a particular country or two, you will have no doubt looked into how to go about realizing your dream. Most likely, you ended up confused about the countless options, scared yourself off the idea, and put it back in your “dreams box” and that “some day” to do list.
Nowadays, however, travel across Europe is significantly less complicated than it once was. There are many companies out there ready to help people realize their Europe travel dreams.
Grab your backpack and let’s go to Europe. Have you heard of the Eurail pass? If not, it’s really time to clue yourself up on it! Maybe you’ve heard of Eurail, 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. You’ll learn who it’s for, what it can offer you, what it will cost you, and exactly how to use it.
Read on to be completely enlightened or jump to all the details here.
What Is A Eurail Pass?
Traveling around Europe is made easy with a Eurail pass, which allows you to access train and ferry travel, without having to make single reservations for each individual journey.
To make it a little more simple, a Eurail pass is:
- 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 time.
- Ideal for single travelers, groups, and families, with various pass options available.
- Perfect for traveling through multiple countries, allowing you to see the different sights of Europe, without having to spend countless hours researching how you will get there.
- 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 various pass options below.
- A great way to travel in comfort, and to arrive in the heart of your chosen destinations. No need to find taxis to take you from airports to the city center and vice versa.
- An excellent way to meet new people and like-minded travelers.
9 Eurail Pass Travel Requirements
There are of course some limitations to take into consideration with the Eurail Pass that you need to be aware of before making your purchase. These include the following.
- You can only use a Eurail pass if you are not a resident of Europe. If you are a resident, you need to travel with an Interrail pass, which is different from the Eurail pass.
- There are specific train and ferry companies that can be used with the pass.
- 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 activate it at a European train station. 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 the travelers’ names listed.
- Those aged between 12-25 years can purchase a 1st class youth pass.
- If you are traveling with children, you might want to know that children aged 4 and under don’t need a pass.
- If you have children aged 4-11 years, they can also travel for free, but will need a child pass. They should also 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 traveling 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.
Where Can You Go With A Eurail Pass?
The options are endless!
Different pass options give you the freedom to customize your trip. That said, you do need to give some thought to where you want to go beforehand because that will dictate the type of pass you purchase. If you are looking for some inspiration, Eurail have put together several itineraries, which will give you some ideas.
Eurail Pass Itineraries
European highlights itinerary. For this 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 also requires a Global Pass because of the ground you are going to cover. It will take you to some of Europe’s best cities, including Ghent, Rotterdam, Leipzig, Warsaw, Budapest, Belgrade, Sarajevo, Zagreb, Bologna, and Lyon.
Three weeks in Europe itinerary. This is another itinerary where you’ll need a Global Pass, and covers seven different countries. On this trip, you’ll visit the cities of Milan, Venice, Munich, Vienna, Budapest, Prague, Berlin, Amsterdam, Paris, and Nice.
Two weeks foodie tour. Do you love gastronomy? In that case, get 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 Europe: Paris, Amsterdam, and Berlin. If you want to add extra travel time to this itinerary, 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 month period, and visit Split (Croatia), Karlovac (Croatia), Lake Bled (Slovenia), and Vienna (Austria).
Honeymoon trip to 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.
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, and 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. For this journey, you’ll need the Global Pass.
If you’re heading to Prague, check out this guide on the best accommodation options. Written by locals, it covers all budgets and areas.
If you don’t want to stick to an itinerary and you prefer to fly by the seat of your pants, you can visit various countries as part of a two-, three-, or four-country pass. Or you could simply head to just one country and explore it inside and out. Some of the most popular participating countries in the scheme include:
- Greece (You have to see Athens)
- Benelux – This groups together Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg, giving you the freedom to travel across the three as part of one pass option.
Eurail Pass Options Explained
We previously mentioned that you need to look at where you’re going to travel ahead of time. This way, you can pick the perfect pass for you, and this section will show you exactly why.
Because of its extreme flexibility, this is the most popular pass option. The Global Pass allows you to travel to five or more countries, simply take your pick from the 28 participating European countries. There are several Global Pass options available, so consider what fits your travel plans best.
- 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
Eurail Select Pass
This pass allows you to travel by train in two, three, or four countries sharing a border. This pass means that you need to do a little research ahead of time, in order to pinpoint which countries you want to visit.
Some of the most popular Eurail Select Pass options include:
- Austria-Czech Republic
- Austria- Slovakia
- Czech Republic – Germany
- Czech Republic – Slovenia
- Denmark – Germany
Eurail Select Pass Prices:
- 2 countries start from 130 euros
- 3 countries start from 156 euros
- 4 countries start from 167 euros
One Country Pass
If you want to spend your time exploring just one country, then the One Country Pass is for you. You can use either high-speed or regional trains to move across the country, visiting various cities, towns, and villages on the way. This pass is very popular with travelers in highlight-filled countries such as Italy.
As an example some of the One Country Pass prices are:
- 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 can see, you will easily save money by purchasing this ticket, as opposed to buying single journey tickets every single time you want to board a train.
How To Use A Eurail Pass
Once you purchase your pass online, you have 11 months to activate it. You can do this either at any of the major European train stations, or 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. Keep in mind, though, that some of these will need reservations, so do check this out ahead of time.
At the time of travel, you have to fill in your travel diary before you get on board. This is your record that shows 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!
What’s the safest way to carry around all these important documents? Check out our favorite anti-theft backpacks!
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. High-speed trains, on the other hand, sometimes do, depending on where you are traveling. Again, check your route before booking.
These are great for exploring a destination, seeing local landscapes, and for flexibility, too, because you can go off the beaten track. 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.
If you don’t really enjoy the getting-from-A-to-B part of the deal, you can use high-speed trains. Highly comfortable, they often have a food car, too. You will need to reserve these most of the time. If you reserve, you get a guaranteed assigned seat, even if it’s busy and crowded. Book your seat online to avoid disappointment.
If you have long distances to travel, and you want to do it with minimal fuss, a night train could be a great option for you. You can choose your accommodation, too. So, if you want to sleep in total luxury, you’re going to pay extra for that service. Of course, you will need to reserve your sleeping accommodation ahead of time, which is possible online or over the telephone.
It’s not all about trains, though. You can also take a number of ferry journeys as part of your Eurail pass. Although, you are required to use ferries that are part of the Eurail network, there are quite a few of them. No need to worry. Associated companies include the following.
- 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. Also, if you are traveling internationally, e.g., crossing from one border to another, you need to have a pass that is valid for both the country of departure and the country of arrival.
How To Maximize Your Eurail Pass
If you want to get the most for your money, you’ll to need to think before you buy. Grab a map and look at where you want to go, work out the counties you want to visit and the sequence you’d like to see them. Then, look at which passes will be the most cost-effective for you.
8 Common Eurail Pass Pitfalls To Avoid
Okay, so just like with everything else in life, there are mistakes that others have made that we can learn from. The Eurail pass is no different.
- Buy your pass early
- Make sure to 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. 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 one single document
- Remember to keep your passport and pass together at all times
- Travel light, but don’t forget essential clothes like travel bras (women) and travel pants for men!
To Sum Up…
Put simply, a Eurail pass is a fantastic way to see the wonders and passing landscapes of Europe. Provided you meet all the criteria, and you plan your itinerary ahead of time, you’ll save cash, time, and see some of the best destinations the continent has to offer by train.
Bon voyage! Please let us know if you have any other Eurail Pass travel tips, or if you have any questions below.