Buying Eurail Passes

We just got our Eurail passes to travel by train while in Europe and wanted to share some information and tips that may be helpful to you if you’re trying to figure out whether to buy these passes and which option to buy. This was by far the biggest purchase for our trip, even more than our plane tickets. Ultimately, it will be well worth it since travelling by train is such a convenient way to travel across Europe. We got our passes in the mail much faster than we expected, which was a nice bonus!

Here’s a few tips we learned during the process:

Buy Early – We weren’t able to buy our passes when Eurail was having a sale in the Spring. We had to wait until Summer when they tend to jack up their prices. We still feel we got a good value but we could have saved hundreds of dollars if we’d bought earlier in the year, since they use dynamic pricing, meaning their prices fluctuate over the course of the year.

Get Your Discount – If you’re travelling with at least 1 other person and you’ll be travelling together the whole time, then make sure to get your 15% discount offered by Eurail for groups. You’ll see a checkbox for this when selecting your pass.

Go 2nd Class if Possible – Unless you really like first class, there’s not much difference between first and second class on the trains in Europe according to everything we’ve read from experienced travelers online. Some passes require you to buy first class (like the Global Pass) but many give you the option to buy 1st or 2nd. We also read that travelling in second class tends to give you more opportunities to socialize and meet locals and other travelers, since many 1st class riders are business people who are working on their laptops or just want to be left alone. I have no idea if that’s true since I haven’t actually been there yet, but this is what we’ve read during our research.

Do Your Homework – Read up on how Eurail passes work, where you’ll be able to go, the pricing, etc. In some cases, buying a Eurail Pass may actually not be the best way to go, depending on where you’re travelling and how long. You’ll also need to know how many travel days you’ll need (I recommend estimating a little on the higher end just in case!).

We decided to buy two separate 2-country “Select” passes. One pass is for travelling in France and Italy and one is for France and Spain. Each travel pass is good for up to 10 days of travel over a 2 month period. This may seem like an unusual way to go but these are the reasons we went this route:

  1. More Flexibility – We get double the travel days (20 days total) compared to buying a 10 day pass with 3-countries. This allows us to travel more, especially in France where buying individual train tickets tends to cost more compared to Italy and Spain. We’re travelling with an open-ended itinerary as we want to be able to be spontaneous, so this is ideal for us. Also, since you can only use the travel days within the 2 month window after activating each pass, this allows us to save one set of passes for later in the trip since we’re planning to go for about 3 months total.
  2. Better Value – This seems counter-intuitive at first. Buying a 3-country Select pass for 2 people for 10 travel days in 2 months for France, Italy, and Spain would have run $1152.00 based on current prices (including 15% discount for travelling together). Buying two 2-country passes costed us a total of $1688.00. However, we get a total of 20 travel days instead of 10. This means the price per travel day is $115.20 for the 3-country pass compared to $84.40 per day for the 2-country passes. Keep in mind those prices are for both of us as well; the cost would be half for a single traveler. We’ll also be making side trips outside of Italy, France, and Spain, but we figured it would be more cost-effective to buy individual tickets or even flying for those trips rather than forking out $2500-$3500 for a 2 or 3 month continuous Global Pass which allows you to travel anywhere in Eurail’s service area in Europe.

If you’re thinking of buying Eurail passes, weigh your options carefully. For many, buying 2 or 3 country Select Passes may be a better option. For others, buying a Global Pass may be best. If you’re visiting mainly one country, then a One Country Pass is obviously your best deal. Also, in some cases, flying within Europe can be the same or lower in cost than taking a train. One resource we found helpful with deciding what passes to buy was Rick Steve’s site. He has great info on Eurail passes and very handy train fare maps that give you a better idea of whether buying a Eurail pass is a good value for your trip.

I hope this information is helpful to you and until next time, keep it jolly out there!

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