Last month we went on a trip to Central Europe for 2 weeks and visited 7 cities in 4 countries. When we were planning our trip as two women and two children, the only transportation we had in mind was the train. When we revealed the journeys we would make, we decided that the best alternative for us in terms of price performance was to use Eurail Pass. When I shared the Eurail Pass on Instagram, it received a lot of interest, and many questions were asked. Though I tried to answer most of them, character limits prevented me from going into detail. Hence, I wanted to dedicate a separate blog post to this topic, explaining every detail, hoping it will guide those researching interrail travel in Europe. So, let’s begin, I’ll explain what Eurail Pass is and how to travel Europe with Eurail.
What is Eurail Pass?
Eurail pass is a card that makes life easier for those traveling by train in 33 European countries. It allows you to travel both more affordable and more flexible. It can be used on local trains, international trains, high-speed trains, and night trains. It is not valid for inner-city rail systems like subways and trams, but it can be used on trains from airports to city centers.
Eurail or Interrail?
Interrail is a concept many of us have heard of, but not everyone knows exactly how it is applied. Traveling abroad by train is generally referred to as interrailing. In fact, Interrail is a card that can be used by European Union citizens and those with residency in the EU. In practice, it’s the same as Eurail, but Eurail is the card used by non-EU citizens.
Which Lines is Eurail Pass Valid On?
Eurail is valid in 33 countries in Europe: Germany, Austria, Belgium, United Kingdom, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Croatia, Netherlands, Ireland, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Italy, Montenegro, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Hungary, Macedonia, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Turkey, Greece. You can use your Pass on national railways and most private railways in the countries where your Pass is valid. Some popular trains like Eurostar, Thalys, TGV, and AVE are included in the Eurail Pass, but on busy routes, you may need to make a seat reservation for a small additional fee. Even very famous train journeys like the Bernina Express are included in the pass, but reservations are necessary. Reservations are also required on night trains. Reservation fees start at €3 but can be much higher depending on the normal ticket price.
First Class or Second Class?
We chose first class because the price difference wasn’t much, but the amenities it offered were significantly better. First of all, the seats are much more comfortable and spacious, and in some trains, first-class sections were separated into private rooms. For example, our Munich – Prague train coincided with the Easter holiday and was abnormally crowded. We traveled comfortably in our private room for the 5.5-hour journey. In second class, everyone was crammed together, even if you had a reservation and found a seat, someone would be standing next to you, so imagine that environment, the corridors were overflowing. Apart from comfort, there’s internet access, power outlets at each seat, and service from the restaurant to your seat. On some trains, they even distributed free water and often offered chocolate treats. Honestly, it was my first time traveling first class on a train, and from now on, especially for long journeys, I’ll prefer first class. The Eurail pass prices are very good, in my opinion.
Is There an Age Limit for Eurail Pass?
There’s no age limit for using the Eurail Pass, but there are different prices for different age groups.
People over 60 get a 10% discount off the normal adult price.
Youth between 12-27 get a 25% discount off the normal adult price.
Children aged 4-11 can get a free Eurail pass added to an adult pass, not to a youth or senior pass. Each adult can add up to 2 children.
Children under 4 travel free on trains anyway and don’t need any pass, nor do they have to pay reservation fees. In some countries, the free age limit for children goes up to 6, so it’s worth checking the age limits for the countries you plan to use before adding children to the pass.
What are the Types of Eurail Passes?
Eurail Global Pass: A pass that you can use in all countries where Eurail is valid in Europe. You can travel to more than 30,000 points in 33 countries with a single pass. It includes both international and domestic transportation. Prices start at $211.
Eurail One Country Pass: Available in 29 countries where Eurail is valid, it can only be used within the country for which the pass is purchased. As single country passes are cheaper than the global pass, it makes more sense to get one if your travel doesn’t include multiple countries. Prices start at $59.
The cards also vary in terms of usage duration. For example, unlimited use for 2 months, 15 days of use within 2 months, unlimited for 3 months, 7 days of use within 1 month, etc. Let’s say you got an unlimited pass for 1 month; after activating your pass, you can take as many train journeys as you like for a month. If you get a ticket valid for 4 days of use within a month, the process goes like this. From the moment you activate your card, you have 1 month, but this time you can use the train for 4 days. You used your ticket today, you marked your first train day, and you can take unlimited train rides for 24 hours. Then you didn’t use the train for 4 days and used your ticket again on the 5th day, you have unlimited train rights again for 24 hours, and so on until you mark your 4th day, after which the pass expires.
How to Buy a Eurail Pass?
You can purchase your Eurail pass online from here. After selecting the most suitable Eurail Pass from the options I described above, you complete the purchase, and a pass code is sent to your email.
How to Use Eurail Pass?
Download the Rail Planner app on your phone. Even if you don’t get a Eurail pass, you can still check train lines from the app. For example, you can check whether the train lines you’re considering are valid with Eurail. To see the trains included in the pass, you can use the “Pass Network Only” filter in the app. To find trains on your route that don’t require a reservation, use the “No seat reservations required” filter. In short, you can do your preliminary research from here even before buying the pass. After purchasing the pass, you register it in the app with your surname and the pass code sent to your email, and your pass is ready to use.
What are the Advantages of Eurail Pass?
The biggest advantage of the Eurail Pass is its flexibility and, of course, the price when used correctly. We activated our tickets whenever we caught a train. We were traveling with children and sometimes managed to catch a train an hour later than planned on day trips, activating the ticket once on board. The same goes for returns; we took whatever train we could once we finished exploring a city. For example, we were supposed to take a morning train from Prague to Vienna but extended our stay in Prague and took an evening train instead. Such flexibility is difficult with normal tickets because either you buy them in advance or you scramble to get last-minute tickets.
If you’re going to use a lot of trains and the prices on the lines you use are high, using a Eurail pass is likely to offer you a price advantage. Also, in some routes, ticket prices can be very high at certain times, but with a pass, price fluctuations don’t affect you. For example, if you’re traveling from Munich to Nuremberg, the Saturday 9 am train can be twice as expensive as the noon train because it’s a popular time, or the return at 7 pm can be much more expensive than other times, and this doesn’t concern you with a pass.
Things to Consider Before Buying Eurail Pass
Before buying a Eurail Pass, definitely check the trains you plan to use through the rail planner app and do a price comparison. For example, if it requires a reservation, add these prices too and see if it’s beneficial. We didn’t have any routes requiring reservations on our itinerary, and we were mostly going to use two trains a day. Buying individual first-class tickets for each was incredibly expensive; it was really half the price in total with the pass. But let’s say you’re going to Italy and will use 2-3 short-distance trains. Train tickets are generally around €5, so getting a pass for 3-4 train rides doesn’t make sense.
I hope my article on interrail in Europe is useful for you to travel affordably and freely with a Eurail Pass. If you have any questions, please write them in the comments. It would be great if you could leave a comment about your experience after reading this post and traveling with Eurail.
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