So, you're on a budget. Someone may have suggested you should get a Eurail Pass but there are so many options... Will it work out better in the long run? Easier? Well, I bought a 3 Months Unlimited pass and here's my thoughts, regrets and advice.
1. First, figure out your itinerary
There are a few different options for a Eurail Pass, and you will need to have an idea of your itinerary to decide which you should pick. Which countries are you thinking of? For how long? What’s your budget and time? Ultimately, this will make the decision for you.
Most of the ‘Global’ (international) Eurail passes are based on using your ticket for a set number of travel days for example, 10 travel days within 2 months. This means you have 10 seperate days over a 2 month period where you can use Eurail approved trains to go wherever you want.
You plan to travel throughout Northern Europe for 2 months, seeing about 8 different countries. Then the 10 days in 2 months option would be best for you.
2. Do a few sums
Search on Go Euro to compare ticket prices for all transport options. Plug in a few of your planned routes and you’ll start to get an idea of how much a few train tickets will cost vs the price of the Pass. The main difference will be which countries you plan to travel through - some have very expensive train tickets.
Example: Selecting the One Country option of 8 travel days through only France costs €292. On average, a train ticket to get you from A to B in France cost €15. Therefore, in France it may better to buy your tickets as you go.
Compared to selecting the 7 travel days through 33 countries option costs €226, where are a single ticket in Switzerland can cost upwards of €60. So, go with the Eurail Pass.
3. Investigate alternate transport options
Europe is so well connected that sometimes the train isn’t always the best option. Buses generally take longer, but will more often be the cheaper option with Flix Bus fares going for as low as €6.
Train from Milan to Florence: €22
Bus from Milan to Florence: €9
So, what does that all mean for you?
When it is worth it:
In countries with well established infrastructure, trains are more comfortable, fast, and regular. These countries include Switzerland, Germany, Netherlands and Austria. Tickets are also much more expensive so a Eurail Pass may be beneficial.
Also, the 3 Months Unlimited option is ideal if you’re wanting to be flexible with your itinerary or still not sure where you’ll go!
When to reconsider:
Countries such as Spain, Portugal and France require you to make reservations on top of your ticket. Your Eurail Pass does not cover reservations, so you’ll still have to pay and this can be anywhere from €10 upwards. Countries such as Italy, Spain and Greece have reasonably cheap train tickets, particularly the earlier you book them.
There are also pretty good bus services on offer in Europe - use a Route Map to see alternate bus routes which may be significantly cheaper than taking a train.