In-Depth Europe Travel Guide Part Two: To Eurail Or Not To Eurail

Have you read part one? Read this first.

What’s the best way to travel around Europe? Sure riding an airplane could give you an unparalleled view of the country but how about taking a more intimate way to travel Europe? Nothing beats the scenic views of Italy or France as you ride on one of the trains using a Eurail pass. Wouldn’t that be amazing? Good news is Europe is well connected (how you wish it were like this in the Philippines) and you can just jump from one country to another hassle-free. You just need your visa, money (yeah you gotta have some of those), eurail pass and you’re ready to go! But what is a Eurail Pass?

These babies look like this



Eurail passes are train passes/tickets that give you unlimited number of times to ride the rail system and travel around 24 countries in Europe.

The different kinds of Eurail Passes:
1. One Country Pass
Get This When: You’re just stuck in 1 country for a long time
Price: Starting from 37 Euros, varies among countries
Validity: 3-10 days within 2 months

2. Regional Pass
Get This When: You only choose to roam around 2 countries
Price: Starting from 131 Euros, varies among countries
Validity: 4-10 days within 2 months

3. Select Pass
Get This When: You plan to hop between 3-5 countries
Price: Starting from 234 Euros, varies among countries
Validity: 5-15 days within 2 months

4. Global Pass
Get This When: Europe is your oyster and you are king
Price: Starting from 369 Euros – 1018 Euros
Validity: Choose from 10 days within 2 months, 15 days within 2 months, 15 travel days in a row, 21 travel days in a row, 1 months of travel days in a row, 2 months of travel days in a row, 3 months of travel days in a row

These are also only available for non-Europeans and are cheaper alternatives when one needs to hop around MULTIPLY countries in a few weeks. But there’s actually a debate whether Eurail passes are necessary or not. Sometimes if you think about it, you only save a hundred bucks (you could use those 100 bucks somewhere else though, it’s still helpful). I mean wouldn’t flying from Berlin to Spain be easier and faster instead of taking a 24-hour train ride? In this case, yes by all means please take the flight instead because it would be a time saver for your trip. But if you need to go to a lot of places in just a short time, the Eurail pass is definitely for you.

Let me break the pros and cons down for you:

Pros:
1. A more relaxed traveling experience. There’s absolutely no checking in or anything here. You just board the train on time and GO GO GO!
2. Practical for those going to 3 or more places. For example, going from Paris to Berlin could take about 400++ euros because you still need to buy the stopovers from Paris-Lyon, Lyon-Berlin etc. trains so it’s really pricey. With the Eurail pass (depending on which you choose, one eurail pass can already be availed at 365 euros), you can hop in any number of trains for one day or for consecutive of 15 days. Imagine where you can go and how much money you’d save.
3. UNLIMITED BAGGAGE WEIGHT
4. Simple to use, please look at this photo again. You just need to let the conductor fill this out on the first day (PLEASE DO NOT FORGET THIS, we almost forgot this and it would have been very embarrassing if we didn’t fill this up). After that, you just fill in the card the day you rode on the train. Another conductor inside the train will then check your passes or if they’re really strict (WHICH THEY ARE NOT) will puncture a hole to show that that particular has been used. But seriously only trains in Switzerland have very strict conductors, otherwise, you’re ready to go! *wink* Actually in general, Europeans practice the rule of honesty and hardly anyone checks your tickets. So guys, remember to emulate them and always be honest :)


5. Great for the spontaneous! It really gives you flexibility. Switching from Paris-Geneva to Paris-Barcelona is easy as pie!

Cons:
1. You still need to reserve a seat and sometimes there’s even a RESERVATION FEE. I know it’s outrageous since you’ve already booked a eurail pass and then you still have to pay, but this is one of the downsides really.
2. DO NOT EVER TAKE COUCHETTE/OVERNIGHT TRAIN WITH BED. It is cramped and sometimes it smells. Imagine the single bed in your room, multiply that size by 2 and you’ve got the overnight train compartment size. Then add 5 more beds so you can fit 6 beds (no bunk beds here! Only triples) in that compartment. GEESH. I actually like the seats better for overnight rides.
3. If there’s a strike, you’re kind of doomed with your plans and let me tell you, there’s ALWAYS a train strike in Europe. ALWAYS. I remember last time we had to go from Paris-Berlin and our train got delayed 2x I thought we were never going to get there. Good thing is they had us transported to an overnight bus and we got to go to another place in Germany (Manheim! With their amazing yummy breads <3) but bad thing is, our reservation fees because we booked a Couchette/overnight bed couldn't be revoked and we lost some money there :/ Plus European bus drivers drive really fast. But they're kind of funny too. Okay wait I'm getting sidetracked.

Here are a few more tips from the man in Seat61 (please go to his website, IT COVERS EVERYTHING. He helped me a lot in planning for our trips.

1. The first thing to realise is that many European trains are now priced airline-style. Just like the budget airlines, trains in much of western Europe now have variable prices. If you are willing to pre-book 1 to 3 months in advance on a no refunds, no-changes-to-travel-plans basis, you’ll easily find some unbeatable ‘budget train fares’.

So it’s not a 2-way decision, it’s a 3-way decision.

Option 1: Pre-book cheap point-to-point budget train tickets online from the relevant train operator’s website.
Option 2: Buy flexible regular-price point-to-point tickets at the station as you go. You certainly don’t need a €70-per-day railpass to go from Florence to Pisa, a €7 hop, but in this case a pass will save money over the €130 full-price fare from Paris to Amsterdam, even with the passholder reservation fee added.
Option 3: Buy a railpass for unlimited flexible travel. Usually the gold-plated option. Ultimate freedom and flexibility, but you pay for it. May or may not save money over option (2), but usually more expensive than option (1).

2. Why not mix-and-match a railpass with budget train tickets, to save money on key pre-planned parts of your trip? For example, for 11 days of train travel in Europe, it’s cheaper to buy a 10-day Eurail Global pass plus one point-to-point ticket for the shortest/cheapest of all your train rides, than to buy the next pass size up, which is a 15-day Eurail pass. If the start of your trip is known and fixed, but you want to stay flexible for the rest, you could buy a cheap ticket for the first one or two journeys, then start using a railpass.

3. Are you just making a few short trips? To state the obvious, if all you want to do is make a few short €10 train trips, why buy a $700 Eurail pass? For example, Florence to Pisa costs around €7, so why buy a railpass costing around €40-€50 per day just to make a €7 journey? The only way to know for sure whether a railpass or point-to-point would be cheaper is to work out the point to point prices for most of the trips you’re planning using the various European train operator websites (not overseas ticketing agency websites which often charge more or ignore the cheap deals, I mean buying direct from the French railways website, the German railways website, and so on, at European prices with all the European special deals).

4. Passes seldom make sense for Italy! Italy deserves a special mention as it’s such a popular destination. Rail passes seldom make financial sense here, even compared to buying full-price tickets at the station on the day.

So what’s the final word? RESEARCH, RESEARCH, RESEARCH. You gotta work out the pass-price-per-day as this will help you determine which one is more affordable. Saving a little money goes a long way in Europe.

Some helpful links:
Austria www.oebb.at
Belgium www.b-rail.be
France www.tgv-europe.com
Germany www.bahn.de
Italy www.trenitalia.com
Netherlands www.ns.nl
Portugal www.cp.pt
Switzerland www.sbb.ch
Spain www.renfe.com
Sweden www.sj.se

So you ask, did it help me save money? A STRONG RESOUNDING YES! Imagine I was able to travel to 3 cities in France, 4 cities in Netherlands and 2 cities in Germany.(Unfortunately France isn’t available/included in the Regional passes anymore because… I HAVE NO IDEA WHY. You need to purchase Global Pass if you want France to be included) It saved me a fortune on train tickets. I did purchase tickets individually in Italy and just flew to Spain because Easyjet gave us a really good price. Don’t forget to plan ahead and purchase your tickets as soon as you have made an itinerary because it will definitely save you a LOT.

Speaking of budget, wait for my next post… it’s all going to be about


4 Comments

  1. If France is not included, how can I get to Italy with the Eurail? Is that the same with the Eurorail? LOL. It’s still confusing but I’ll definitely reread it again and hopefully, magegets ko siya! :)) thank you!!!

    [Reply my friend]

    Tiff kNo Gravatar Reply:

    Hi Kisty! Haha eurorail is the rail system. Eurail passes are the tickets :) You need to buy Global passes to include France. Check out their website to find more detailed passes :) hehehe just ask, don’t worry!

    [Reply my friend]

  2. I would love to travel some of the countries in europe by train. Its not only romantic but most of the european films that I have watched use train and not airplanes to get to the other country around the continent :D Legit european style of travelling :D

    [Reply my friend]

  3. Tiff! Did you read my mind or something? I’ve been planning my eurotrip for AGES (well okay, a few weeks) Hopefully will have plans put into motion by next year! So exciting :D Btw, I nominated you for the Leibster Blog Award.

    [Reply my friend]

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