Are Eurail passes good value?

Jeremy will visit Europe later this year and wants to know if it’s good value to buy a Eurail pass instead of purchasing point-to-point tickets. In Travel SOS, Leon has deigned to the superior knowledge of European rail guru Lyn Tan, so he too can learn the answer to Jeremy’s question.

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Q. Jeremy
I’m going to visit Europe in September and I want to do some rail travel. I’ve been told that Eurail passes are the way to go, but I’m wondering how they work and whether they’re better value than just buying one-way tickets from one town to the next.

A. Leon: You know, Jeremy, I’m big enough to admit that I don’t know the answer to this one. But I do know someone who does. Lyn Tan works closely with European Rail and is a rail travel guru. So I contacted Lyn to find out the answers to your questions (and I’ll learn a bit, too!)

Q. What are the pros and cons of single tickets versus Eurail passes?
A. Lyn: Point-to-point (PtP) tickets don’t offer the flexibility that passes offer – i.e. you can’t change trains/travel times should you need to. Eurail Passes offer much more flexibility as you can hop on and off at any time.

Q. How do I estimate the value of a Eurail pass? (i.e. what number of travel/trips would I have to do to make a pass worthwhile?)
A. Usually, PtP tickets are best for shorter trips. If you are travelling to three or more cities that require long-ish travel time, you’re most likely to get more bang for your buck with a Pass. A good way to decide is to use a Eurail Pass calculator.

Q. Is a Eurail pass the least expensive way to travel around Europe?
A. Yes, but only if you’re planning to visit more than three or four cities that require a bit of travel time. If you’re planning to visit cities that are close to each other, it’s best to look at PtP tickets to work out if those tickets are cheaper. Bear in mind the flexibility factor of the Pass as well, versus PtP tickets.

Q. Where can I travel with a Eurail Pass?
A. There are four types of Eurail Passes: Eurail Select Pass for two, three, four adjoining countries, and the Eurail Global Pass which covers 28 countries.

Q. Do I need to reserve seats for a train?
A. Yes, for high-speed trains and inter-country trains. However, most regional trains within the same country don’t require seat reservations (but it’s always good to check to avoid any fines). The best way to save on seat reservations is to see if the route you’d like to travel on is serviced by a regional train. The journey might take a bit longer, but you’ll have more beer money!

Q. Are there any extra fees? (i.e. different countries, border charges, etc)
A.
No, the seat reservations you pay for are it.

Hope that helps, Jeremy!

Read more about European rail journeys at www.raileurope.com.au

If you have a Travel SOS question, email it to [email protected] and we’ll do our best to answer it for you (or find someone who can!).


Written by Leon Della Bosca

Leon Della Bosca has worked in publishing and media in one form or another for around 25 years. He's a voracious reader, word spinner and art, writing, design, painting, drawing, travel and photography enthusiast. You'll often find him roaming through galleries or exploring the streets of his beloved Melbourne and surrounding suburbs, sketchpad or notebook in hand, smiling.
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