Train travel is one of the best ways to get around Europe. The views are amazing, the seats are comfortable, and you travel from city centre to city centre without the frustration associated with going to the airport. If you’ve decided to travel extensively through Europe, you’ll need to decide whether to buy point-to-point tickets or get a railpass like Eurail or Interrail. There are many reasons why a Eurail pass might be the right choice.
If you’re under 26, Eurail passes are great value, around €36 a day for a pass that allows you 15 days of travel within two months (my favourite option). This is a LOT cheaper than many rail journeys in countries where train travel is expensive — such as Switzerland, Austria, Germany, France, and all of Scandinavia. The adult version of the same pass is around €57 a day (though there’s a 15% discount if two or more people are travelling together, which takes it down to €48), which isn’t nearly as good value. However, for many journeys it’s still cheaper than buying point-to-point tickets on the day of travel.
Also, since you buy your Eurail pass before your trip, you don’t have to worry about budgeting for transport while you’re travelling. You’ve already paid for it, and can get on with spending your money on other things and enjoying your trip. This will also save you time, as you won’t have to search for the cheapest option for each journey — you’ve already decided to go by train, now you just need to find the train times and connections.
Flexibility of time
One of the major advantages of a Eurail pass is how much more flexible your options are. If you like a place and decide to stay a few days longer (or if you hate a place and want to leave immediately), there’s no problem. Just show up at the train station when you feel like it and hop on a train. In contrast, if you buy point-to-point tickets in advance, you’re stuck with the journey you picked — or you have to waste time and money changing it.
If you choose trains that don’t require a seat reservation, a Eurail pass could save you a fair bit of time as well, since you won’t have to stand in line to get your tickets — you can just jump straight on the train. This is especially useful if you have a tendency to run late (I might be speaking from experience here).
Flexibility of destination
Europe is amazing, and there’s so much to see. It’s a very good idea to have a relatively fixed itinerary if you’re short on time, to make sure that you see everything you want to see. But if you have a little more time, you might want to let yourself be swayed, to go places on a whim. This is easy to do with a Eurail pass.
Even if you want to stick to an itinerary, a Eurail pass gives you the flexibility to add extra stops into your journey. When travelling from Prague to Vienna, we decided to go the long way around and visit Plzen and Linz en route. It took all day, but it was an adventure — and we got to drink beer and hang out with a friend of ours. If we’d done this on point-to-point tickets, we would have spent a total of €72 — travelling second class — while our Eurail passes were worth €48 per day and gave us first-class travel. Plus, we didn’t have to mess around buying tickets, which is a huge advantage.
A Eurail pass is a great option for travelling in Europe, though you might want to consider combining it with some budget flights or point-to-point bus or train tickets to get the best value out of it.
Check out prices for Eurail passes here.