Thinking of backpacking through Europe this summer? Visiting a bunch of cities throughout just one or two countries? A Eurail Pass from Rail Europe may be worth looking into and could save you a lot of money and stress. *I’m not getting paid to promote Rail Europe – I just know summer is coming and that means backpacking season! Also, I’ve used their Global Pass before and I figure my facts and opinions may help anyone with doubts.
Rail Europe offers several pass options that cover regions or single countries. Here are the main ones:
- Eurail *Country Name* Pass
- Select Pass
- Global Pass
- Balkan FlexiPass
- BritRail Pass – England, Scotland and Wales
- Eurail Benelux Pass – Belgium, The Netherlands (Holland), and Luxembourg
- Central Europe Triangle Pass – Choose between Vienna/Budapest/ Prague OR Vienna/Prague/Salzburg
Let’s take a look at the top 4 in more detail:
– *Country* Pass –
Rail Europe offers passes specific to individual countries. The most popular ones are France, Italy, Germany, and a handful of options for Switzerland and a few others. This is a great selection if you’re traveling to a couple cities in just one country. The specifics vary based on country but let’s use the Italy Pass for an example. It’s available for 3, 4, 5 or 8 days within 1 month, consecutively or not. For the France pass, you can choose a continuous-day pass for 2, 4, 5, 8 or 15 travel days; or a flexi pass offering choice of 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, or 9 non-consecutive days within a one-month period or 15 non-consecutive days within a two-month period. In a nutshell, you’re almost guaranteed to find something to suit your trip.
Price: Varies by country; Youth discounts available and Children <12 are usually free with an adult
- Eurail offers A LOT of deals and promotions on single country rail passes – like a free extra travel day – especially for popular destinations like France, Italy, Germany, and England.
- With a Eurail pass, you’re eligible for discounts on some ferries, additional trains, and even at some attractions and restaurants.
- For travel in say, Italy, reservations are needed for almost every journey. This means that on top of the pass, you could end up dishing out an extra $20 or more just for a reservation. These can be made within 90 of activating the pass but when you’re last-minute planning, it can be frustrating.
I had a hiccup in Amsterdam because I did not make a reservation there were no trains available leaving to Paris for the next couple days. We needed to meet our hosts there ASAP. Long story short: we took a train to Belgium, stayed a night, then trained to Paris – it was a big stress-fest since we did not know we had to make a res and we were working with limited time.
- Some major lines are not included, such as the Eurostar and the Italo, but generally you’re covered. Just make sure you check it first and ask so you don’t get fined.
- Rail passes must be printed and shipped before travel, so it’s difficult to purchase one while traveling. Standard shipping is free for purchases over $499, but any lower and you could be paying $18-36 for express mail.
– Select Pass –
This pass gives you unlimited travel on the national rail networks of 2, 3 or 4 bordering countries connected by train or ship. It’s available for 4, 5, 6, 8 or 10 days of train travel within a two-month period and there’s an option for consecutive or non-consecutive days.
Price: Starting at 2nd class youth $152; 2nd class adult $185
- Again, very flexible and you’re sure to find something to suit your travel needs.
- Really convenient if you’re sticking to a couple countries that neighbor each other.
- Rail passes must be printed and shipped before travel
- Reservations may be required when traveling on high speed, international or overnight trains with this rail pass.
– Global Pass –
I purchased a Eurail Global Pass for my trip through Europe back in 2009. I went through STAtravel at the time and my agent advised me that this was the best option. This particular pass gives you unlimited rail travel on the national railroads of the participating 28 Eurail countries. You can choose between a continuous pass good for 15 or 22 travel days, or 1, 2 or 3 travel months; or a flexi pass offering 5 or 7 travel days of travel within a 1 month period or 10 or 15 travel days to be used within a 2-month period, with your choice of consecutive or non-consecutive travel days. Basically, if you’re backpacking Europe for 2 months, you can opt for the Flexi-15day and take a train journey somewhere new every 4 days or so.
Price: 2nd class Youth starting at $350pp ; 1st class Adult starting at $534pp
- It really is convenient if you plan to be covering a lot of ground and making a lot of small journeys all over Europe.
- Great for getting to summer events & festivals where the price would otherwise fluctuate if you didn’t have the pass. For example: I paid about $100 this past summer on my last minute train to Oktoberfest in Munich and these kids in my compartment had their journey totally covered as part of their Eurail Pass.
- Discount for 2 to 5 people traveling together.
- Rail passes must be printed and shipped before travel
- Same as the other passes, some journeys require a reservation.
– Balkan Pass –
This is fantastic! If you’re doing some Eastern European backpacking out of the Schengen then this is a good option. It includes Bulgaria, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Greece, Montenegro, Republic of Macedonia, Romania, Serbia, The Serbian Entity of Bosnia Herzegovina, and Turkey. You have a choice of 5, 10, or 15 days of unlimited train travel in a one-month period.
Price: Starting at $99 for youth 2nd class; $166 for adult 2nd class
- NO RESERVATION NEEDED so you can hop on & hop off as you please!
- Senior discounts in addition to youth and child fares
- Same as before, the paper copy must be shipped which could prove annoying if you opt last minute to do 3 months through these countries to spend time out of the Schengen.
- In Greece, reservations are required when taking InterCity Express trains. Reservations can only be purchased at a train station in Greece.
There are plenty more select country passes to choose from as well as day trips that Rail Europe offers. If you need a bit of help choosing the right pass for you, you can input your drafted plans into their planner here and they’ll give you an idea of a good fit.
Also, I’m available to help with any rail pass, backpacking, and Europe trip planning – contact me!