Are Eurail passes as good a deal as they’re made out to be?

Jeremy has asked if Eurail passes are the cheapest way to travel around Europe.

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 newsletters@yourlifechoices.com.au and we’ll do our best to answer it for you (or find someone who can!).


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    COMMENTS

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    MICK
    6th Jan 2018
    8:25am
    The cost of rail travel in France is off the scale. Not sure about other cities but we have realised that rail is pretty inflexible and this was driven home by a couple who we saw in a Tourist Bureau in France pulling their hair out trying to get back to a railway hub. This wasted at least half a day, something which one simply cannot do when on a mission overseas.
    We got a really nice car for a month in France which cost us under $700 (for the whole month). We are doing the same thing this year in Italy although driving is the causer of stress in a foreign country when you are in a strange place with road rules which can be different on the right hand side of the road and left hand side of the vehicle.
    Life is a set of challenges. Driving is but what you can achieve is humungous. Why catch a train? It is like having a straight jacket on and your trip will be substandard in comparison. Everyone to their own I guess so good luck.
    Arisaid
    7th Jan 2018
    5:16am
    We have travelled extensively around mainly France and Spain by train and found it to be economical and very pleasant. Staff have been most helpful. We have also travelled around both countries extensively by car. Good in that you are freer as to where you can go. However, whilst driving in Italy it was an absolute nightmare! The Italians are the worst drivers we have ever come across. Dangerous big time. Also, by car we found that the GPS would often take us miles out of our way and if there were road works - well throw the GPS out of the window! However, now that we are older travellers rail is the safer way to go. We have never had a problem when changing travel times etc. By train just make sure you go to the correct station in big cities as there are often different ones with similar names. Nearly got caught out on that one.
    Mondo
    8th Jan 2018
    10:55am
    Some time ago we planned a Eurail trip around Europe but in some of the out of the way places we were arriving and leaving at awful times. Imagine arriving in a small town at 2.00am and looking for accommodation? In larger cities it would mean staying at fairly central thus expensive hotels. We decided that when taking into account accommodation and travel costs, the lugging of suitcases in cities the cost of buying rather than cooking our own food and overall travel flexibility, hiring a camper van was by far the best option.


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