Pros & Cons of the Eurail Pass

Pros and cons of the Eurail Pass // Nattie on the Road

One of the most common ways to travel around Europe is by train, it’s the favored mode of transport for backpackers and luxury travelers alike. Whether you are going to be traveling around just one country or hopping from country to country across the continent you’ve probably heard that the Eurail pass is the way to go. Depending on your trip and where you will be going you may be wondering if getting a Eurail Pass is worth it? After several trips and experiences traveling by train through Europe with a pass I’ve compiled a list of pro’s and cons of the Eurail pass to help you figure out if it’s right for you.

How it works:

There are three types of passes, one country, multi country (up to 4), or the “global pass” which is good for travel in 28 European countries. Then you select how long you want it to be good for, for example you can do six travel days within one month time, or up to three months straight. You have to validate the pass the first time you use it, so when you take your first train you must go to the ticket window and have them validate it. Then each time you take a train you have to write down the date and where you are traveling in the space provided. It’s worth noting that you can take as many trains as you want in one travel day. For regional trains you will not always need a seat reservation, but for high speed, international, and overnight trains you’ll need to purchase a seat reservation. You can either do it online or at the ticket office at the train station.

Pros & Cons of the Eurail Pass // Nattie on the Road

Pros:

  • Freedom of easy movement around one country or through Europe.
  • Regional train tickets are paid up front, you don’t have to worry about buying them at train stations you can just hop on the train.
  • You can take multiple trains a day on one ticket, since the pass works by the day.
  • You get a discount on making seat reservations on trains that require them.
  • If you are under 26, the tickets are cheaper than if you are older.
  • If you are good at planning and know exactly where and when you are going to have travel days you can buy a pass that is only exactly what you need for the number of countries and travel days.
  • Traveling by train is a cool way to see the countryside, or mountains or wherever you are traveling through.

Pros & Cons of the Eurail Pass // Nattie on the Road

Cons:

  • Unlike most the of the advertising says, a lot of the time you can’t just hop on any train you like and have the pass cover it. High speed, international, and overnight trains all require a seat reservation which you have to pay extra for.
  • It’s only valid for the countries and the number days you’ve bought it for, so there’s not a ton of room for flexibility or plan changing.
  • If you are over 26 you can only purchase a 1st class ticket which is more expensive, and sometimes even when you have your first class ticket there isn’t any room in the first class cars so you end up in 2nd class anyways. Not that there’s anything wrong with 2nd class (I’d go for it every time to save money), but it’s a bummer to have to pay for a first class ticket and not get to sit there.
  • Popular routes and times of year fill up with reservations, so if you haven’t made a reservation ahead of time you could be shit out of luck.
  • It’s a physical ticket, you have to fill it out with a pen, and if you lose it you’re fucked.

Conclusion:

  • Drop the idea, that you can just hop on any train with your pass and be good, you can’t, you’ll get in trouble, and you’ll have to pay fines.
  • Pay attention to the types of trains you are taking and make reservations when needed.
  • Really plan out where you are going and how many travel days you’ll need so that you don’t overpay for time or countries. And if you’re not the planning type be ok with the fact that you might be overpaying by adding extra time or countries to your pass.

Pros & Cons of the Eurail Pass // Nattie on the Road

Is it worth it?

  • Yes, if you are going to traveling around a lot and mostly by train, paying for seat reservations is still going to be cheaper than buying individual train tickets every time. Also if you are under 26, take advantage of those discounted prices!
  • No, if you are going to be only making a few trips by train, then buying individual tickets will probably be cheaper.

So overall it’s a good idea to get one if you are going to be spending a summer traveling around Europe. You just really have to pay attention to what trains you are taking, and remember to pay the extra for those trains that require it. 

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