The last thing you want to do as you plan your European adventure is worry about rail passes. It isn’t an especially exciting part of the trip, but it does have the potential to save you a serious amount of money if its services match your trip. Information online argues between the merits and problems of Eurail passes and you can find plenty of opinions on both sides of the question “Is it worth it?” Here’s a list of tips, tricks and information about Eurail passes to hopefully help you find your answer.
A Eurail pass is a comprehensive European train ticket. There are a ton of different options and combinations of options that come together to create a customized plan for your trip. A Eurail Pass can cover two countries all the way up to 22 countries!
Depending on the kind of pass you choose, they can be effective in the following 25 countries: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Luxembourg, Montenegro, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Ireland, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.
Rail passes are all about math. Nothing matters about a rail pass if it isn’t going to save you money, so be sure to take the time to track the numbers and confirm that they will save you money. The easiest way to do this is to compare and contrast. Take the cost of the Eurail Pass, divided by the number of train journeys you will be taking, and see if the average cost of individual tickets will be more or less than the average pass price. If it is lower, you are most likely saving money (and effort). If the average is higher, you probably aren’t saving enough money to make the Eurail Pass worth it.
There are no Eurail Passes for point-to-point tickets, but instead for more than one trip between or within a set number of countries. The benefit of a Eurail pass is to purchase ahead of time so you have flexibility and ease of travel without having to pick and choose every train trip before you leave. Plus, if you buy your pass before you leave Australia, you will save on general 20% over the cost of tickets purchased the day before travel.
Another consideration: depending on your planning style, the choice may be better or worse. If you like flexibility in your plans, then the Eurail plays to your benefit. You save on last minute ticket prices by ensuring you have a seat without prior planning. If you like to have a more scheduled and strict travel plan, then you will probably be better off without a Eurail Pass because advance booking costs for point-to-point travel are 50% less than buying train tickets the day before or the day of travel.
Remember, the devil is in the details! In the case of Eurail Passes, a lot of the complaints come from customers who didn’t read the fine print. There are notes in there about reservation fees for some countries, extra costs and reservation requirements for overnight travel, and more. Saving money takes time, patience and attention to detail, and if you aren’t going to be able to put in the time to make sure it adds up, you may be better off with point-to-point tickets.
If you are train-setting across Europe look into the Global Pass which allows you to travel to all countries within the group’s network) or if you are looking to stay more local, opt for the single country passes which, contrary to their name, allows for general travel between two to three countries. Be sure to do your research and read the fine print about allowances and restrictions for your Eurail pass. Better to figure it out before you leave than when you find yourself stranded in a train station in the middle of the night surrounded by folks who don’t speak the same language as yourself.
With all of the above being said, overall the Eurail Pass system is a popular, cost-effective option for people looking to travel throughout Europe via train. Take your trip details into account and start researching your Eurail options. Then, when you’ve found the option for you, visit Rail Europe to purchase your passes. They have superb customer service and can answer any lingering questions you have before you press the “buy now” button.
Now that you’ve learned everything you need to know about choosing a rail pass or point-to-point tickets, you can move on with the rest of the fun parts of planning a European holiday. Before you leave, be sure to purchase your rail pass (if it’s right for you!) and an international travel insurance policy from Cover-More Australia. No matter where you end up, Cover-More will have your back.
Image courtesy of Flickr user Anne Mocarski