Should you buy a 2014 Eurail Pass? Here’s how to decide

Munich Train stationAt least a decade or two ago, the dream of anyone planning to travel around Europe was to buy a Eurail Saver Pass. They were almost certain to save money, plus they allowed for a freewheeling style of travel where you could go anywhere you wanted at a moment’s notice. But things have changed, and Eurail Passes have some new restrictions along with fierce price competition from discount airlines, so whether or not to buy a pass is a complicated issue.

You could spend several days hunting down the point-to-point prices and creating a spreadsheet to determine how much your possible routes would cost with each type of travel, but for the majority of people it’s possible to ask a few questions and the answer will be clear. Having done extensive pricing research, and having traveled around Europe both with and without Eurail Passes, we have boiled the main decision down to the key elements below.

If you are age 25 or younger, a Eurail Pass is probably worth it

Amsterdam Centraal StationThose 26 years old or over must buy the 1st Class version of any Eurail Pass, which is 50% more expensive, and the added comfort isn’t a big deal to most people. But travelers age 12 to 25 can buy the 2nd Class versions at the lowest prices, and the seats are comfortable enough for virtually everyone.

With this in mind, if you are lucky enough to still be 25 or younger, you should seriously think about getting a Eurail Global Pass Youth, partly because the sense of freedom instantly gets more expensive at age 26.

>>>Check prices on Eurail Global Passes (US and Canada)
>>>Check prices on Eurail Global Passes (rest of the world)

If you are planning on traveling in 1st Class anyway, a Eurail Pass is probably worth it

Most 2nd Class trains provide similar comfort and legroom to Business Class airline seats, or at least close enough, so for most people it’s not worth the added expense for 1st Class. However, if you are rich or elderly or fear contact with strangers, a 1st Class Eurail Pass is probably worth it no matter what.

If you’re a group of 2 to 5 people who will always travel together, then you save 15% on a 1st Class rail pass

Perhaps the most compelling deal of all is called a Eurail Saver Pass, which is good for 2 to 5 passengers in 1st Class who will always be traveling together. Everyone travels on the same pass, and it’s 15% per person cheaper than individual passes. It’s available for the Global Pass (which includes all participating countries) as well as many of the regional passes like the France-Italy Pass, but not on all of them.

The bottom line on this one is that 1st Class tickets and passes generally cost 50% more than 2nd Class tickets and passes, and since those of us over 25 years old can’t get a 2nd Class pass, this 15% discount on 1st Class is ideal. We get nicer seats, more legroom, no crowds, and we only pay 27.5% more than in 2nd Class (e.g. 2nd Class = €100, 1st Class = €150, Saver is 15% off so only €127.50).

>>>Check prices on Eurail Saver Passes

If you’ll be touring major cities within 1 to 4 countries, a regional or single-country pass might be perfect, and Second Class passes are available for all ages

The most efficient rail passes on offer these days are probably the ones that cover 1 to 4 countries, but only for certain types of trips. Basically, you need to be making longer jumps on faster express trains for the passes to save you money, and if you are doing that they can be perfect. For example, if you are visiting Italy and stopping in Turin, Milan, Verona, and then Venice, you are only covering 250 kilometers with 3 train journeys so it’s cheaper to pay as you go. But if you are going Milan to Venice to Florence to Rome then it’s more like 600 kilometers with 3 journeys and a pass will save money.

The same is true when combining countries in a regional pass. Most major cities in Europe are at least two hours apart by express train, which can be expensive individually. The larger the country the more those tickets between major cities cost so passes make even more sense. Also, most regional or single country passes are available in Second Class for all ages, so that saves even more. The bottom line is, if you are stopping nightly in smaller nearby cities a pass isn’t worth it, but if you are connecting the major tourist highlight destinations it might be a great deal.

>>>Check prices for Single Country Passes
>>>Check prices for Multiple Country Passes

By the way, the Eurostar (between London and Paris or Brussels or Amsterdam) is a separate system and you should buy early

The European rail system is confusing at first, so it’s worth pointing out that the Eurostar trains between London and Paris or Brussels are a totally different system and the prices are more like air tickets. In other words, they start out cheap 6 months in advance and prices go up as the travel date approaches. For that reason it’s wise to book Eurostar tickets as early as possible. If you buy a Eurail Pass you can get a Eurostar discount through the same company.

Our recent tests show that Eurostar fares one-way from London to Paris can be as low as €49 if you book about 3 months out, or as expensive as €177 for the same seat if you wait until the day of travel to buy. Round-trip/return tickets can be even cheaper if there is a promotion running.

>>>Check Eurostar prices

If you are on a really low budget, a Eurail Pass isn’t a good idea

Here’s the thing. As we’ll discuss below, there are many potential benefits to Eurail Passes, and they will often save you money, but they do cost a lot and they only really save you money when traveling in the more expensive countries.

So let’s say you have a flight to Rome and then US$2,000 to last you a month after you arrive. Buying a Eurail Pass before you go would help you see a lot in that month, but you’d practically need to sleep in parks for your funds to last the whole time. You’d be better off moving slowly in the southern countries, or just in Italy itself, as a way to have the best holiday on your budget. You might also be tempted to use a Eurail Pass mostly on night trains so you can save the cost of a hotel or hostel, but those aren’t ideal for most of us.

The cheapest way to get around Europe by rail is to buy all train tickets online at least a couple months in advance. The fares are low, but they are non-refundable and non-changeable. See how far in advance you should buy train tickets to get those attractive fares.

If more than a little of your travel will be in eastern Europe, a Eurail Pass isn’t a good idea

While eastern Europe (Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary, Ukraine, Croatia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Serbia etc), is where you’ll find almost all of the continent’s best travel bargains, its rail infrastructure continues to lag way behind. About half the region isn’t even part of the “Eurail Zone” and general rail coverage is still spotty in much of the rest. Worse still, in some areas the trains are much slower than buses, so you really have to research each leg individually.

The good news is that the trains operating in this region, and the buses that operate alongside and/or where trains aren’t running, are quite cheap. So if any significant part of your trip will be into this region, a rail pass doesn’t make sense.

Basic types of Eurail Passes

Long gone are the days of the simple options, replaced by specialized passes that are meant to appeal to different styles. It should be pretty easy to figure out which is best for you, and then keep going down the page to decide if it’s worth it at all.

Eurail Global Pass – 10 or 15 days out of 2 months

With this pass you buy either 10 or 15 travel days throughout the entire system within a 2-month period starting on your first day of travel. This is the better option for most people covering a lot of ground.

Eurail Global Pass – 15 to 90 consecutive days

This variation allows for unlimited travel on the system for between 15 and 90 total days. They are really only a good idea for people who are certain they are going to travel very often, with much of it being in the north of Europe. The problem with them is that if you really try to get your money’s worth, you will probably ruin your trip by spending too much time on trains in general.

Eurail Select Pass – 4 neighboring countries

These passes allow 5 to 15 travel days within 2 months, for 4 neighboring countries of your choosing. For reasons we’ll discuss below, they are a great deal for northern countries, and probably poor value in the south.

Eurail Regional Pass – 2 to 4 neighboring countries

Similar to the option just above, but these are for specific popular “regions” like France and Spain or Croatia, Hungary, and Slovenia. They are great options if one exactly fits your own travel plans.

One Country Pass

Obviously these are for travel within one country only. Again, they can be great deals if you plan on extensively moving around one particular country.

Where to buy your Eurail Pass

Eurail Passes are cheapest and easiest to buy online, primarily from two main sources which offer all the same products at the exact same prices:

Raileurope.com (US and Canada) and Raileurope-world.com (rest of the world)

Price of Travel is a partner with this company, and if you use the links of this site we earn a small commission to help keep this site online. They were founded in the 1930s and are based in New York, but owned primarily by the French and Swiss rail companies. They offer free shipping (2 to 3 business days) on all orders of US$399 or more.

Eurail.com

This is a newer company based in the Netherlands but with fulfillment offices in the US and Ireland.

Reservations on European trains for rail pass holders

For most of the fastest trains between major cities you’ll need to reserve a seat even with a rail pass. It can usually be done just before you leave and the cost is usually around €5. Here’s a full list of which European trains require reservations and which don’t.

Factors to consider when thinking about any Eurail Pass

Assuming you know which Eurail Saver Pass option is the best one for your type of trip by now, we’ll go over the main factors that should help you decide whether it’s the best idea for you.

Eurail Passes are best for standard ‘medium length’ journeys

Belgium StationIn almost all of Europe, the major cities tend to be between 4 and 8 hours apart by train, and these journeys are perfect for Eurail Passes. For example, from Vienna to Munich it takes about 5 hours on the train, and it’s scenic and relaxing. Flying between those cities would take about the same amount of time once you factor in airport transportation and security lines, and it’s far less pleasant.

However, if you are determined to travel between Rome and Paris, it’s about a 14-hour journey that will almost certainly be overnight. In this case, a cheap plane ticket is probably better, although taking shorter hops on the train is even better, so spend a day or two in Milan or Lyon on the way instead.

And of course, if you prefer to stop in various small towns between the big ones, then a Eurail Pass won’t pay off, except for the traditional kind for unlimited travel in a given period.

Eurail Passes are better value in northern Europe, France, and Spain, and poor value in Italy

Once you do a bit of research you’ll quickly learn that train tickets (and almost everything else) are much more expensive in Germany, Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and Finland than they are in Greece, Italy, Portugal, and Spain. With this in mind, the regional passes can make sense if you are spending time in the south, but the Global Passes almost certainly won’t. Train tickets in Spain used to be fairly cheap, but in recent years they’ve added new high-speed trains between the major cities, and these are quite expensive.

Unlike most other countries, Italy really subsidizes its train tickets so they are quite reasonable even on travel day, and very cheap if you buy a month or more in advance. For example, you can go between Rome and Florence for around €49 if you buy on travel day, and as little as €19 if you buy well in advance. In most other countries, fares are double or triple that much for similar rides.

So consider your planned itinerary. If more than half of it is in the Mediterranean countries then look into a Regional Pass or just buy tickets as you go, because they tend to be pretty cheap. But if you are planning on spending at least half your time in Paris and places to the north of it, then a Eurail Pass is probably a money saver because those tickets are expensive.

Trains are almost always better than planes

Flying sucks, even in Europe

Until you’ve experienced the joy of traveling around Europe by train you might be tempted to “maximize” your time by flying low-cost airlines between each city. This would be a mistake. In order to get truly cheap airfares you have to purchase long in advance, buying non-refundable tickets. You might also have to commit to flights in the very early morning or in the late evening, because cheap tickets on convenient flights sell out quickly.

And again, most European airports are around an hour outside of the city. They are often on the main train lines, which helps, but still you have to deal with the madness of security and also try to get there at least two hours early. From one city center to any other city center it’s about 5 hours minimum, even if they are close, and those are pretty miserable hours.

Train travel is a positive experience

Austria ViewWhile it’s true that you do have to reserve a seat on many long-distance trains these days, you can usually do it just before it leaves, or the night before to be safe. And with many trains you can literally just hop on board as it’s pulling out of the station.

Not only are all the seats comfortable on trains, but you also have an interesting view most of the time. Better still, trains deposit you in the heart of every city, which is usually the neighborhood with the cheapest hotels and food. It’s a wonderful feeling to step off a relaxing train ride, buy a hot dog or sandwich at a local shop, and then be in your hotel room only about 10 minutes later.

Eurail Passes are better than train tickets alone

As someone who enjoys the process of crunching numbers and looking for value, I have to also mention that I’d buy a Eurail Pass even if it seemed like it would cost a bit more than the individual tickets. With a pass you get an extra element of freedom that is worth a lot more than you might expect until you’ve used one.

Haltingen StationIf you fly, you absolutely have to lock in your exact schedule weeks or months in advance, and if you buy train tickets individually you will be spending hours in queues and then waiting around. You can buy European train tickets in advance, though the convenience comes along with an extra fee. But with a Eurail Pass, on most routes you can just hop on any train you feel like.

Let’s say you are heading from Amsterdam to Hamburg tomorrow morning. The 9am train you planned for might seem a bit ambitious after a long night out, so you can instead opt for the 10am or 11am train. As long as you walk into Centraal Station 10 or so minutes before departure, you are on. If you are flying you can’t change your ticket, and if you are buying train tickets as you go you have to be in line at the international desk at the train station at least 30 minutes early, and even then you might miss it if they are busy.

Freedom and getting to feel like a big shot

Dublin StationBill Gates doesn’t worry about the cost of plane tickets or train tickets. He just goes where he wants, when he wants. When you have a Eurail Pass, you get a taste of this yourself, and even if you don’t end up doing any new spontaneous legs within your trip, it’s a great feeling.

Let’s say you are staying at a hostel in Brussels, and two groups of new friends suggest that you go along with them to their next stops. One group is going to Bruges, which is a short and cheap journey, so you can join them by buying individual tickets (unless you have the unlimited pass, making it free). Then you restart your trip from Bruges, on to your next destination. The other group is headed to Berlin on a night train, which is long and expensive, but with a Eurail Pass you don’t even have to think about the cost. On you go, just like a rich guy.

Buying a Eurail Pass is great for those who might run out of money

We all know people who keep meticulous track of every penny they spend, and who are always putting money away for a rainy day. And we all know people who can take a US$100 “entertainment fund” and burn through almost all of it in just a few hours. For the first type of person, a Eurail Pass can help you keep track of expenses, but it’s really the second type of person these are best for.

It’s sad to hear about people who have big plans to see their dream destinations, but they run out of money for transportation halfway into the trip, so they have to just stay put until they fly home. It happens. Locking in your major transportation costs before you leave home, and probably saving money in the process, is a wise move for anyone who isn’t as disciplined as they’d like with their money.

>>>Check prices on Eurail Passes

Bottom line: If you want to keep travel costs down, your choices will usually be a Eurail Pass or buying tickets at least a month or more early

In the last few years, almost every long-distance train ride in Europe has switched to a pricing system similar to low-cost airlines. In other words, tickets go on sale 2 to 6 months ahead of time at very low prices, and they keep getting more expensive as the train fills up and the date approaches. For most trips where a rail pass is possible, this is how things stack up:

Cheapest possible way: Buy advanced (non-refundable, non-changeable) train tickets at least 30 days in advance

Next cheapest way: Buy a Eurail Pass and make seat reservations as you go, usually only a day or less in advance.

Most expensive way: Buy train tickets as you go, or less than a week in advance.

Thinking about it this way should make the choice a bit easier. If you are the type who likes to plan each day and travel segment long before you even leave home, then buy tickets online for the best prices. This can be the best strategy for most shorter trips (10 days or less) because you simply don’t have enough time to change many things as you go anyway.

Buying a Eurail Pass won’t be quite as cheap, but you are buying a LOT of flexibility with the extra money. If you dream of making up your plans as you go, or even making up your plans just a few days in advance, this is almost always your best bet.

But if you wait too long, and just show up looking to buy train tickets as you go, they are going to cost a fortune. As recently as only a few years ago all seats would be the same price on many rail systems, so you could always just wing it. When each country computerized its rail systems so they can sell advanced tickets cheaper, they also had to keep track of seat reservations, so the whole pricing structure had changed to favor advanced ticket buyers and rail pass holders over those who’d prefer to just hop on any train as it is leaving the station.

Have a rail pass or itinerary question of your own?

It wasn’t planned but scores of people began asking me rail pass and itinerary questions at the bottom of this article and a few others. I’m happy to keep answering them and now I’m trying to organize them better as well so they are easier for other people to find.

If you have a question about specific types of European rail passes, please ask it in the comments below.

But if you have a question more about a European itinerary or other non-rail-pass questions, please click over to the European itineraries Q & A article and ask in the comments of that one.



628 Responses to “Should you buy a 2014 Eurail Pass? Here’s how to decide”

I’m travelling 53 days just in Eastern Europe and almost all of the trip will be by train/bus. Do you recommend to buy a Europass?

 

    Rafael, I’m glad you asked this because I should have mentioned Eastern Europe and I will add it. About half of Eastern Europe isn’t part of the Eurail system, so you have to compare your itinerary to the main map. Also, just as bad, the trains in the included parts of Eastern Europe tend to be as slow or slower than buses. Coverage is spotty as well, so probably not a good fit for your trip. -Roger

     

Thanks Roger.
So I think I have to buy each stretch of my trip separate – always comparing the price and the duration of the trip to choose between train of bus. And is not a problem if I but the tickets one day before, am I right?
Thank you again,
Rafa.

 

    Rafael, exactly right. I spent most of this summer traveling around Eastern Europe (currently in Serbia) and even in high season it was easy to buy tickets even just before departure. But for international trains I think it’s wise to buy the day before because sometimes the lines at those windows are long, and once you have a ticket you can breeze into the station at the last minute. If you buy tickets the day of, you have to get there quite early just to be sure.

    And don’t hesitate to take the buses because they tend to be comfortable and pretty fast as long as you get the express ones rather than the ones that stop in each town. Bon voyage. -Roger

     

I will accept your recommendations.
Actually, my budget is the same as the European Backpacker Index 2012.
Hope it works! =)
Thank you again and as a frequent reader of this website, I have one feedback:
I think you can post more topics about Eastern Europe. I know that is more common go to Western Europe but I guess EE has they beautiful places as well.

Looking forward the next topic,
Rafa.

 
Vikram says:

Im planning on travelling for roughly 12-14 days in Europe where I want to cover Italy 4-5 days(Rome and Florence/Venice),Spain 4 days(Barcelona and Valencia/Seville) , 3-4 days Amsterdam and Brussels (Maybe) and end up in France (Paris)(Base in Europe). I am awfully confused on what to chose as flights seem cheaper. I plan on taking the 3 or 4 Countries pass. Catch a flight from London and go to Benalux-Italy-Spain-France(If I choose the 4 country option)What would you suggest?
> Does the pass cover the local trains in Italy and Spain? eg (Rome-Venice-Florence)?
Note: I am 24, and have no problem with booking in advance whether its trains or flights.
Thank you in advance…

 

    Vikram,

    Normally I am the last one to say that people are trying to see too much in too little time, but for you, this is a crazy itinerary.

    The train passes definitely cover all the local trains, so going from Venice to Rome would be covered, but really you should think about cutting at least half of your destinations before deciding on trains vs. planes. The thing is, whether you are taking trains or flying, it eats up most of a day whenever you change cities. Even if flying, you’ll have to leave your hotel at 9am to catch a noon flight, and you won’t check into your hotel in the new city until 4pm. Trains can be better and at least you see something on the way. For example, Florence to Rome only takes a couple hours with good scenery, and you don’t waste time going to and from airports.

    For you, in 12 to 14 days, I’d recommend Venice (1 day), Florence (2 to 3 days), and Rome (3 to 4 days) as minimums, and then add Paris or Barcelona for the rest. Save the rest for your next trip.
    -Roger

     
      Vikram says:

      Thank you for your reply,
      Actually Paris is taken care of as I a relative staying there so I would be spending 3-4 (Either in the beginning or the end of the journey) days in Paris anyway.SO excluding Paris I have 12-14 days left to cover the places I mentioned. So 7 days in Italy, 5 days Spain and 2 days in Amsterdam seems ok? Or am I pushing it too much again? To sum it up I have 18-20 days minimum for all the mentioned places so what would you suggest…
      Thanks in Advance

       

        Vikram,
        I think 7 days in Italy works okay as a minimum, but longer would be better, of course. Five days in Spain should be good if you stay in and around Barcelona rather than trying to hit multiple cities that are many hours away from each other. You might even take a day or two in Nice, France along the way. It’s interesting and very close to Cannes and Monaco for day trips.

        If you want to spend 2 days in Amsterdam then you’ll definitely need to fly. I’d recommend saving it for another trip where you also hit Berlin and Prague and Bruges, but I understand the draw of Amsterdam, and you can have a fun 2 days there if you can work out good flights. -Roger

         
      Douglas Cooper says:

      I love reading the advice you’re giving; it’s very informative and helpful!

      Last year, my partner and I flew into Nuremberg, where we took the trains (a Select Pass/3 countries) to several cities all over Bavaria/Thuringia; Prague; and Switzerland. It was a truly wonderful experience, although we had a couple of mishaps along the way.

      I was very careful in planning every side trip, noting the train number and it’s route. That proved very helpful because we were having dinner in Eisenach and I knew we had to be at the station at a certain time to catch our train back to Furth before leaving to Prague the next morning.
      We arrive at the station and the attendant tells us that there are no trains leaving until the next morning. I insisted that she search the listings, but she kept denying it. I found the train number in my diary and asked her to look it up. Sure enough, the train was on time. So, it’s important to keep some notes!

      OK, my question:
      We’re going to be flying into Prague…and we want to visit a couple of cities in Poland, back to Prague, then to Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia, Croatia…before ending up in Palermo, Italy. We’ll be spending two months for all of this.

      What would you suggest?

      Thanks!
      Doug

       

        Douglas,

        I appreciate the compliments, and I can relate to your story of that mystery train. We can’t always assume that the local employees know everything that is going on.

        As for your upcoming trip, I’d be able to provide even better advice in a few months since I’m going to be touring that whole area starting in September, including quite a few places that I’ve yet to visit. In Poland I’ll recommend the obvious, which is Krakow, and it also happens to be one of my favorite cities in Europe for its very pleasant and gorgeous town center along with very affordable prices. On my upcoming trip I’ll be stopping in Warsaw and Wroclaw, and possibly Gdansk as well. Most people agree that Krakow is the star of the show and that Warsaw isn’t as interesting, but still I’ve heard generally good things about those other cities.

        After Prague again I’d recommend Salzburg and then Vienna, of course. Salzburg is a wonderful town for tourists, the sort of place most people daydream about moving to after a first visit. The train trip to Vienna will be quite scenic, and Vienna is one of Europe’s great cities as a former empire HQ.

        As for Slovakia, my only experience is a visit to Bratislava, which in basically a suburb of Vienna. To be honest, I didn’t find anything very compelling there, at least compared to the other cities you’ll be visiting. If you want to spend a day or two there I imagine you’d enjoy it, but if you skipped it I don’t think you’d regret it.

        Obviously in Hungary you’ll visit Budapest, which joins Krakow on the list of great value and very worthwhile. Beyond that, I can’t say much until after my upcoming trip. There isn’t really a “second city” that I hear much about in Hungary. Slovenia is another that I’ll be visiting for the first time later this year, but again, I haven’t heard many raves about it, which is one reason why I’ve waited this long.

        Croatia is a different story though. Zagreb is pleasant enough for a couple days, but the charms of Croatia are along the coast. You can take the train down to Split and then a bus down to Dubrovnik, both of which are highly recommended. There are also several popular islands off the coast between those two towns, and I hear great things about those as well. Of all of the former Yugoslavia countries, Croatia got by far the best real estate and it has most of the remaining highlights. The coast of Croatia isn’t nearly as cheap as most other places on your list, just so you plan for that. There is also Plitvice National Park, which looks amazing though I’ve yet to visit myself.

        From Split or Dubrovnik you can take a ferry to Italy, and the Dubrovnik to Bari one would probably serve you best. From there you can take trains across to Sicily (including the trainferry). In two months you could easily see all of the places mentioned above and still have extra time to add in some things you find out about on the way. I hope this helps, and I’m sure you’ll have a fantastic trip. -Roger

         
          Douglas Cooper says:

          Roger….
          What type of rail pass should we get? We had the Select Pass (3 countries/ 1st class) the last trip…and that was MORE than sufficient, although, the trip back from Basel to Furth dipped down into Austria and we had to pay (we weren’t expecting that..but it was a minimal fee).

          With the countries that we want to visit, do you think we should get another Select pass (I’m not even sure how to map that one out…) and get separate side trips along the way?

          All the accommodations are easy, since MOST of them are with friends who own apartments/inns to rent…so, there’s some leniency with too many time constraints.

          My biggest concern, then, is what type of EURail pass to get.

          Thanks!
          Doug

           

          Douglas,

          As of two months ago, the only Select Eurail Pass is the 4-country version. You could conceivably get one for Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary, and Austria, but I don’t think it would be good value for you. Except for Austria, those are among the cheapest countries for individual train tickets. A Select Pass can be very good value for France, Germany, Spain and many others because those fares are very high when you buy at the last minute. But for the trips you seem to be planning, I’m not sure that the total would pay for a rail pass even if you bought the tickets on the day of travel. You might try to check fares on bahn.de (the German rail site) just to confirm.

          If you buy those tickets online in advance (from the official rail site of your departure country) they will be far less than the cost of a rail pass. And it’s a little coincidence that you mention Furth because that’s where my grandmother lived so I spent a couple partial summers there in my youth. Let me know if this makes sense and if you have other questions. -Roger

           
          Douglas Cooper says:

          Thanks! I was thinking that we would do a 3 country pass (Czech Republic, Austria, Poland) and then just buy side trips while we’re there. The main trip from there would be traveling down to Split…and then of course, we’ll ferry onto Italy.

          Furth was where we had our “home base”, basically. We had GREAT accommodations at Quality Hotel Bavaria on Nurnbergerstrasse. The staff was WONDERFUL and our breakfasts (every morning before boarding trains) was exceptional. The staff there made us feel very much like family…and that was greatly appreciated.

          So, from there, we would venture out to Prague and back and through Switzerland, and then returning back to Bavaria and Thuringia.

          Furth is a LOVELY town with a very low-key pace.

          Oh, the place we stayed in Prague was BEAUTIFUL and VERY inexpensive while being convenient to the rail station and a decent walk to the different points of interest.

           

Marisol,

Your last question first, yes, I do think you are attempting way too much for 33 days. Two days is enough for Venice or Bruges, and even for Athens if you stick to the main sites. I’d skip Ibiza and Hamburg on this trip, unless you have specific reasons for those. In fact, I’d save Amsterdam and Bruges for another trip as well.

One way to think about it is that any day you are traveling, you don’t have time for sightseeing. With 14 destinations in 33 days, you’ll only have about 20 days of actually seeing what you are going to see. From the time you check out of your hotel, even if it’s near the train station, it will be probably 6 to 8 hours before you check into the hotel in the next city. Even if you fly it’s about the same amount of time spent going to and from airports. After a day traveling, you won’t want to rush to a museum if you get in at 4pm.

However, if you do include most of these cities, I’d recommend a 30-day Eurail Global Pass or a 10 travel days out of 60 Eurail Global Pass. -Roger

 
hussain, ashraf says:

Dear Roger
I have gone through your site and got many information including the correspondences between the travelers and yourself. It’s nice, helpful and interesting and therefore tempted me to consult you for your expert advise for my plan to central Europe.

I am a student of University of Indianapolis-USA (Athens Campus), Athens and want to travel 4-5 countries’ major cities starting from 27 June ’13 for one week. The plan is as under:

27/6 Athens – Milan (1310-1445) by flight
as I have already bought a ticket in EasyJet (from Athens to.
Paris on 1-Jul which I will get changed on Athens-Milan on
27/6). Direct from the airport to Milan city tour and night stay.

28/6 Milan-Venice by rail (03hrs)
early morning rail to Venice, roaming around the city/site seeing until late evening.

29/6 Venice-Innsbruck by rail (5hrs)
Late-night rail with berth to Innsbruck. Arrival in morning in Innsbruck, the whole day visit the city, night stay.

30/6 Innsbruck-Munich, by rail (3hrs)
Morning rail to Munich, the whole day visit, stay the night.

1/7 Munich-Zurich, by rail, (5hrs)
Late-night rail with berth to Zurich. Arrival in morning Zurich. The whole day visit the city, alps and other sites visits.02 nights stay.

3/7 Zurich to Paris, by rail,
Early morning 01-02AM with rail berth to Paris. The whole day visit of the city. Late night flight to Athens.

I know this seems very hectic, but I have not much time and at the same time wana visit such countries.

I therefore need your help in this regard. Pls. guide me about the railway pass as well as other information useful in this connection.
I’d be very much thankful for your prompt advise.

Vey best regards
Hussain, Ashraf
[email protected]

 

    Ashraf,

    The best and cheapest pass for this trip would be a 5 Travel Days in 2 months 4-Country Select Youth Pass for Italy, Austria, Germany, and Switzerland. As of 2013, France can’t be included in a Select Pass (3, 4, or 5 countries), and your itinerary is way too short for a Global Pass. That would obviously cover your first 4 journeys completely, but you could also use it for the Switzerland part of the Zurich to Paris trip. So you’d go to reserve a seat in Zurich, and you can use your pass for the Zurich to Basel portion, and they’ll just charge you for the France portion. -Roger

     
      ashraf says:

      Lots of thanks Roger
      Your advice is a good guide.
      I’d try to follow the same.
      Once again much thanks
      ashraf

       
Ellen Powell says:

Hi Roger,

THANK YOU so much for all your advice. I am still struggling with what pass to buy (if indeed I do so). My husband and I have a vague idea of timing but nothing set in stone. We are both under 26 and travelling in September so not as peak as say June/July/August. I also organise very well so we get a lot in our days and don’t tend to do lots of the night life in the countries. The plan is to do overnight trains wherever possible too. Here’s how our itinerary is looking so far:

1. Flying to Turkey from London (Not sure where in Turkey yet as with all the trouble going on in instanbul) staying here a couple of nights
2. Ferrying to Greek Islands (Mykonos 1 night, Santorini 2 -3 nights, Athens 1-2 nights)
3. Either flying or training to Italy from Athens – (Florence 2 nights, Cinque Terre 3 nights, Verona 1 night, Venice (Been to venice before so only passing through) 1 day and then overnight train from Venice to Munich. I have spent a lot of time in Rome but my husband hasn’t so if we had to pass through Rome via train we would stop here for a day.
4. Overnight train from Venice to munich. Staying here for 3-5 days with a few day trips
5. Munich to Vienna. Staying in Vienna 3 nights
6. Vienna to Prague. Staying for 3 nights
7. Prague to Sweden, Sweden to Norway and maybe possibly VIA copenhagen for a day if it is easier

The last leg (Norway and Sweden) we have allowed around 7 days for but haven’t researched it enough to know where to stay etc.

Sorry for vague itinerary.. it’s looking about 4-5 weeks in total. However I was also toying with the possibility of not including turkey/greece/italy in the eurail time and just paying as we went but not sure which way provides better value. We try travel late night or early morning as well but I haven’t allowed some travel days in areas as still researching. The dilemma is mainly if the pass is worth it and then I will start reserving seats and accommodation.

Many thanks in advance for all your help!!
Ellen

 

    Ellen,

    As of now there is no international train service out of Greece (or Turkey for that matter) so you’ll want to fly to Italy. And those trips within Italy will all be fairly short and cheap, so you wouldn’t want to use a pass for them.

    For the rest of the trip you’ll be covering too many countries for a Select Pass, and you won’t have enough travel days for a Global Pass (they start at 10), so there isn’t really a pass that works for you. That’s unfortunate because any trip after Prague would be quite expensive on its own. Prague to Stockholm would take a very long time so a night train to Copenhagen might be more realistic. But honestly, if I were you I’d fly from Prague to Stockholm as it’s almost certain to be much cheaper, and the scenery up there isn’t too amazing either.

    When you sort out the Scandinavian part of your itinerary it might make sense to buy a Norway-Sweden Regional Rail Pass. Those start at 4 travel days, and if you are trying to see a lot in a week it’s probably going to save you money. Also, (and you might already know this) when planning for Norway you’ll want to spend no more than one night in Oslo, and concentrate on the fjords and such near Bergen. Hopefully this helps, and feel free to follow up if you have other questions. -Roger

     

Clarenz,

Does this mean you are planning on visiting all 12 cities in 15 days? Obviously that means that you’d be spending around 4 hours each day on a train, and even though these are scenic journeys, I wouldn’t recommend going nearly that fast. Not that you asked, but I’d skip Brussels (or spend a few hours there on your way from Amsterdam to Paris), skip Milan, skip Pisa (or just spend a few hours there on a day trip from Florence), and probably save Munich or Berlin for another trip.

Unfortunately, you can include France on a 3, 4, or 5-country Select Pass, so if you want to go through the country you’d need a Global Pass. The good news is that you’ll save the most money with a 15-Continuous Day Global Pass with the Saver option (two traveling together). Even if you only take 8 or 9 journeys, it would be cheaper than individual tickets because you are going through mostly expensive areas. And with the Continuous 15-day option, you can change cities every day if you have the energy, at no extra cost. -Roger

 

    Clarenz,

    Yes, that’s correct. Eurail Passes are only available outside of Europe. European residents can buy different passes that are more restrictive and usually more expensive as well.

    Booking hostels in advance is wise, especially during high season since the cheaper and better places fill up on most days. There are 8 daily express trains from Amsterdam to Paris, leaving at least every two hours. You have to reserve a seat even if you have a rail pass though. Here’s a link to the schedule for that route: http://www.thalys.com/nl/en/train-timetables/Amsterdam/Paris
    -Roger

     

    Clarenz,

    I’m not sure how long shipping takes to SE Asia from France (where Rail Europe is located) but I’d think 1 to 2 weeks. However, all of these rail passes can be validated any time within 6 months of purchase, so if you ordered one in July you can start using it in October or even December. I hope this helps. -Roger

     

    Clarenz,

    My understanding is that seat reservations are basically the same price regardless of where you book them. The problem in this particular case is it sounds like you are booking on one of the TGVs in France, and those high-speed luxury trains do have a higher reservation fee, as well as a quota of pass-holders.

    Here’s a list of all the reservation fees where they are needed.

    The average of the ones that require reservations is about €5, but there are a few exceptions, particularly the TGVs in France. -Roger

     
    Clarenz says:

    Hi Roger,

    Would like to get your advice on below items:
    I already plan to buy Global pass for my Europe trip, do you think I should make a seat reservation at the same time as well?Or I should make reservation of seat(5Euro) when I’m arrive at the train station?
    The reason i ask because currently Rail Europe Train has summer sales(Example: 1200 Euro discount 80 Euro).
    But I face the problem was from the website i cannot found the cheap )5Euro) seat reservation as you mention to me before. Therefore until now I still do not buy the global pass yet.
    Pls help.
    In addition, would like to know if I purchase goods(bad) at Paris but I will flight from Munich to my hometown, can I claim the tax at Munich airport for goods that bought at Paris?

     
    Clarenz says:

    Hi Roger,

    Would like to get your advice on below items:
    I already bought Global pass for my Europe trip(15days), I would like to know is it for those day trip on domestic train still need to make reservation or with Global pass, the domestic train/metro is free?

    By the way, how to go to Mount Tiltis from Bern / Interlaken?
    Is there any additional charge / train fees?
    I will depart from Paris to Swiss- Interlaken & Mount Tiltis then only procees to Milano.

    Pls help.
    In addition, would like to know if I purchase goods(eg: bag) at Paris but I will flight from Munich to my hometown, can I claim the tax at Munich airport for goods that bought at Paris? What item that can rebate for VAT tax?

    Thanks in advance.

     

      Clarenz,

      I’ll answer those that I know in order…

      Depending on the country and the type of train you are taking, you may need a seat reservation even with a rail pass. Here’s a list that covers all of them:

      http://www.priceoftravel.com/3388/which-european-trains-need-reservations-find-out-here/

      On a day that you are using a rail pass, you can ride domestic trains and suburban rail lines for free, but not buses or subways or other urban public transportation.

      To reach Mt. Titlus you take a train to Engelberg, which is the town at its base. From Bern it takes a bit under 2 hours and from Interlaken it takes a bit under 3 hours. Trains leave hourly from both cities.

      I’ve never actually done the VAT rebate thing so I’m not sure, but I do think it’s for one country at a time so you’d have to claim your refund when leaving the country of the purchase, because it’s them that collects the tax. The country next door probably doesn’t want to refund tax they didn’t collect, though again, I’m not really sure. -Roger

       
L.A. says:

Hi Roger,

I am going to Europe for five weeks. I am landing in London and heading back home from Rome. So far this is how my itinerary looks:

London – Paris
Paris – Amsterdam
Amsterdam – Berlin
Berlin – Prague
Prague – Krakow
Krakow – Budapest
Budapest – Vienna
Vienna – Munich
Munich -Venice
Venice – Florence
Florence – Rome

I have been toying with the idea of buying a Global pass, but I am 27 years old, which means I would have to get the first class. Do you think it is worth it?

Thanks!

 

    L.A.,

    This is a tough one. London to Paris will be on the Eurostar, which you probably know is separate and should be bought as soon as possible for the lowest fares. Then Paris to Amsterdam is going to cost about €80 even for second class unless you reserve well in advance, and the Amsterdam to Berlin will be about the same. After that it gets a bit cheaper individually, so traveling in Second Class, your cheapest bet is going to be buying as you go. Unfortunately there is no pass other than the Global that would work for you, and traveling solo you don’t qualify for the 15% Saver discount.

    On the other hand, if you don’t mind spending a bit more it’s really nice to do a trip like this in First Class the whole way. This is a really fun and ambitious itinerary where buying many of the tickets well in advance would save you some money, but with a rail pass you can pretty much go wherever whenever you want, which is worth a lot on a long trip like this. So if you are in a cheap mood, buy as you go, though for a bit of a splurge it might be worth it. -Roger

     
June says:

Hi Roger,

I am going to Europe for 22 days from July- August to attend my friend’s wedding in Italy. Need your advice on buying tickets. Eurail Pass is too expensive and I am planning to travel with plane and train.

My trip starts from Amsterdam – Brussels-Italy (Milan, Rome) – Prague – Amsterdam

Here is my plan:
Jul 28 – 30 Amsterdam
31 Brussels / Liege
1 Aug- Fly to Milan
1-9 Italy (Milan, Rome or Venice)
10-14 Prague
14-15 Brussels/Liege (to attend a festival)
16-18 Amsterdam

I want to spend more days in Prague so thinking of skipping Venice and Florence, just visit Milan and Rome. My friend’s wedding is at Laveno, about 30mins from Milan. Do you think the itinerary is too hectic?

 

    June,

    No, I don’t think your itinerary is too hectic at all. I’d say it’s very nicely paced and if anything, you could squeeze in a bit more if you wanted. Five days in Prague is plenty (you can see the main attractions in 3 days) so if you’ve never been to Venice before I would not skip it on this trip, especially since a 24-hour stay is ideal anyway. And Florence is actually more interesting than Milan for most people, but there is plenty to see in both. This looks good. -Roger

     
      June says:

      Many thanks for your prompt reply!

      I usually don’t plan so detailed in advance as I always believe no plan is the best plan! Will you suggest me to buy pay as you go ticket instead of rail pass? Also Not sure if I should buy Italia rail pass.

       
Ellen Powell says:

Hi again Roger,

Sorry – I didn’t think you would reply so quickly so thank you again! Your advice sounds great.

So you don’t think at 15 or 21 day continuous global pass would work after italy? It would be for Munich, Prague, Vienna, Sweden and Norway legs. However I will look into the other options of flying and the pass for Norway-Sweden as they sound like a very good idea!

Thanks again,
Ellen

 
Ellen Powell says:

Hi Roger, I have reversed my itinerary because of weather and changed it slightly…

Flying London – Bergen and travelling from here to Oslo by train
Oslo to Copenhagan
Copenhagan to Prague
Prague to Vienna
Vienna to Munich
Munich to Venice.

Italy and Greece I will pay as we go. Do you think the above now qualifies for a eurail pass as I have found norway transport VERY expensive. However doing the norway in a nutshell tour still makes you pay 150 euros… at a loss of what to do! Sorry for being annoying.

Many thanks,
Ellen

 

    Ellen,

    Between your two new comments, I’m unsure what you are asking now. On the above itinerary, you’d still be traveling through more than 5 countries so a Global Pass is your only option, but with only 5 journeys it’s hard to imagine a 10-day Global Pass being cheaper than paying as you go. From Prague to Venice those trips won’t cost too much on their own, although from Oslo to Copenhagen to Prague they will. Since the distances up north are great, flying is almost certainly the best and cheapest option, then just pay as you go from Prague onwards. If I’m misunderstanding your current question, feel free to ask again. -Roger

     
Charolette Stoehr says:

I am attending a study abroad program in Siena, Italy Fall term. My 19 yr old son will be accompanying me. I don’t believe I will need a eurail pass as most of my travel is included in program but my son will be traveling extensively throughout Europe. Mainly he wants to travel to Spain, Amsterdam and Germany. In addition he and I will be visiting Ireland on a school break. What kind of eurail pass would be best for him? It is difficult because we don’t know when or where he will be traveling.

 
Gigi says:

Hello Roger,

I am traveling with one other person for a total of 28 days from Spain to Italy. The buses from city to city in Spain are relatively cheap, and we have already purchased a plane ticket to get from Barcelona to Amsterdam. However, as you mentioned, I am finding that the bus and train tickets individually are much more expensive in The Netherlands and Germany. Do you think it would be wise to purchase a Eurorail pass for the Netherlands to Germany to Italy portion of the trip? Or would it end up cheaper to wait until we get there to purchase individual tickets?

Malaga to Granada (July 25)
Granada to Madrid (July 26)
Madrid to Barcelona (July 29)
Barcelona to Amsterdam (Aug 1)
Amsterdam to Bremen (Aug 5)
Bremen to Berlin (Aug 7)
Berlin to Munich (Aug 9)
Munich to Fussen (Aug 11)
Fussen to Genoa (Aug 12)

Thank you!
Gigi

 
    Gigi says:

    I realize that the dates above don’t amount to 28 days, but the portion of the trip from Genoa to the south of Italy is going to consist of a family friend driving!

     

    Gigi,

    The only pass that would make sense would be the Select Pass for 4 countries, with 5 travel days out of 60. You could get it for Netherlands, Germany, Austria, and Italy and it would cover all 5 journeys and save you money. If you are both 26 or older you’ll need to get a First Class pass, but you’ll qualify for the Saver option, which is quite a good deal for first class. -Roger

     
Patt r says:

Roger, what an awesome site you have! We will be travelling from jul 20-aug 11, 2013

We will be flying into Amsterdam and are staying in zoetermeer 3 nights. Then
Rothenburg
Baden, Baden
Bern,
Turin
Paris

Can you confirm if you think a 1st class 4 country select pass, 8 days in 30 (we over 26) is the best way to go? We do know that France is not included, and we will be in turin aug 1 for the Worlds Master Games, flying out of Paris.

Thank you!

 

    Patt R,

    Hmmm…from your description I’m only seeing 5 train journeys, including the one to Paris that would only partially be covered by a Select Pass. If you can let me know the rest of your plans I will help, but for just what you’ve mentioned so far it doesn’t look like a good use of a pass. -Roger

     
      Patt r says:

      Roger,

      While in Bern we will do a day trip to Interlacken area and when in Turin we are likely to have a few free days between games and thought we would probably do some day excursions within the area.

      Would you recommend a different pass? I wondered after reading these comments if it would be less expensive to purchase tickets for the shorter day trips but we are not yet certain where the day trips will be to.

       

        Patt,

        With what you have in mind you are certainly better off buying individual tickets as you go. Even in Switzerland, a ticket for a 2-hour journey might only be €25 or less, so even two in one day won’t really make good use of a more expensive pass. In other words, it won’t be cheap either way, but without a pass you’ll have a bit more flexibility and it should cost less as well. -Roger

         
          Patt r says:

          roger: so we are best off to just purchase all individual tickets rather than even the 5 day Select Pass and individual tickets for the shorter trips?

           

          Patt r,

          In the plan you’ve provided, only one or two of your journeys are long enough to be worth using a pass on, but since all the others are shorter and cheaper, it just doesn’t make sense to buy a pass. You can sometimes even find special deals for traveling within Germany that are very cheap on weekends and such, so I’m confident that just buying as you go will be the cheapest option for you. -Roger

           
Michael K says:

Hi Roger! Hopefully you are still monitoring this article, I am very conflicted as whether to get myself a Eurail pass or not. I will be spending about 20 days in Europe(first time travelling solo), and while I have a general idea for an itinerary, I am very much open to improvising as I go along. The general plan is Barcelona >(airplane most likely) Rome > Cinque Terre > Austria/Slovenia cities > Prague > (Poland if time) > Berlin > Amsterdam. Basically I have 20 days(Sep 12 to Oct 1) to get from Barcelona to Amsterdam and I don’t know if I get a Eurail Global Pass for 15 consecutive days (conisdering time in the beginning and end cities) or just buy passes as I go. Also not sure if I am being too ambitious or not.

Any advice on whether to spring for a pass or not would be appreciated!

 

    Michael,

    I think maybe you are being a bit too ambitious, but not by much so I think this could work out for you. Flying from Barcelona to Rome is wise, and you’ll probably want to skip Poland on this trip. Fortunately, most of your journeys will be through relatively cheap areas for trains, so you’ll spend the least if you buy individually. You might try to buy that Berlin to Amsterdam one as soon as possible on the German rail site to lock in a decent fare, and most of the rest will be fairly cheap even if you buy on the day. Have fun. -Roger

     
Patt r says:

And I forgot to mention that my husband and I would get a pass for both of us to travel together which gives a discount I think you said.

 
Ben 92 says:

Hi Rodger

me and a pal a thinking of getting about Europe towards the end of the year. we would like to visit Berlin, Krakow, Prague and maybe Amsterdam. would you recommend one of these eurail passes? oh and we are planning to do this in 15 days. you seem like you know what your talking about and would like some advice :) cheers

 

    Ben 92,

    If your itinerary will consist of only those 4 cities then you are best off just buying train tickets as you go. The shortest pass available is for 5 journeys and you only seem to be planning 3 or 4, at least two of which are going to be relatively cheap. And 15 days for those 4 cities seems perfect so I think you are on the right track with all of this. If there’s more to it let me know and I’ll try to help. -Roger

     
Krissa says:

Hi,

A couple friends and I are planning a backpacking trip through Europe in the Summer of 2014. I think right now I am hung up on the EurRail pass. I think we are looking at the Global pass as we will be traveling distances (4-8) hours to multiple countries and we dont have a set itinerary either. We have places we would like to visit (Belgium, Amsterdam, Berlin, Prague, Austria, Italy, Switzerland, Paris) I see on the EuroRail.com site there is a similar travel destination/itinerary like this too… I think the hold up is is the Global Eurorail pass the way to go or is the just purchasing place to place the best option.
Thank you so much in advance for your insight!

Krissa

 

    Krissa,

    For your question, and especially since you have nearly a year to figure it out, I’ll refer you to the article above. Based on what you are telling me now, you are perfect candidates for a Eurail Pass that will both save you money but also add flexibility. Doing a classic itinerary like you mention where you are traveling several hours between each stop means that the individual tickets would be quite expensive. For example, if you buy a Global Pass with 10 travel days out of 60, you’ll be able to go pretty much anywhere you want because you’ve already paid for the journeys at a low rate. But if you buy as you go, and you are thinking about, say, Paris to Berlin, you might freak out when you learn that it’s €110 each way if you buy a day or two before you go.

    Buying individual tickets as you go is only best for shorter trips and especially those that aren’t covering much ground with each hop. If you budget for the Global Pass you’ll be able to go anywhere, and if you have a few short trips mixed in you can pay for those individually as you go. -Roger

     
Nick says:

Hi Roger,

This is a very useful page! My wife and I are travelling around Europe for 3 months this year August 3rd-October 30th. We’re spending the first couple weeks in Iceland and the last 2 in England, so are considering the 2 month pass for the time between. Of these two months, we are spending the first month in the France, Netherlands, Germany, Czech, Austria area and the second month in the Italy, Croatia, Switzerland area. We have about 3 weeks of accommodation booked, and are leaving the other 5 weeks free to book as we go. We would rather train than fly so we can experience the countries more.

I’m thinking the Eurail pass is a good idea for us but am not sure if we should go for the 15 days in 2 months or just bite the bullet and go 2 months unlimited. I really like the idea of not thinking about how many of the 15 days we have used up. We are 30 and 28 so the unlimited is starting to get pretty pricey.

What are your thoughts?

Nick

 

    Nick,

    This sounds like a fantastic trip. I’m quite confident that you’ll get the best value from the 15 days in 2 months option. For one thing, the train rides within Italy are fairly reasonable when bought on their own, and the same is true in Croatia so you’ll end up saving money that way. And while the concept of being able to travel anywhere for one flat fee sounds appealing, it would most likely encourage you to move around faster than you really should. Already, 15 travel days in 2 months is one travel day every four, which is just about perfect. Then you add in a few trips within Italy and Croatia that you pay individually and you are up to maybe 20 travel days out of 60. That’s just about the most you’d really want to do anyway, and if you did 25 or 30 days the trip would be a blur.

    So go with the 15 days in 60 option and use the pass for all of your more expensive rides. This also gives you the benefit of still being able to do some shorter trips without feeling like you are wasting the pass. Either way, it’ll be great. -Roger

     
Marissa says:

Hi
Starting in the fall of 2014 i want to go to europe for almost a year. I’m planning on staying and working in the uk for the first 4-5 months and then backpacking around for the rest. I am just starting to plan my itinerary but I wanted to probably start in Amsterdam, then go through Germany, maybe jump over to Prague, hopefully down to croatia, then spend a lot of time covering Italy and France. I want to be able to hit alot of places that aren’t necessarily the big cities. Are there trains that go there? I was looking at maybe getting the Benelux/Germany pass to start and then later using a france/italy pass? The rest of my trips i was thinking I could just book at the time. Do you think this would work? I’m a little confused about whether or not it will be worth it because I am going to be backpacking for longer than two months. Would i be allowed to activate one pass at one time and another later on in my trip? Thanks!

 

    Marissa,

    Train coverage is quite amazing in most of Europe and they go to pretty much every town you’d be interested in. The exceptions are in Greece, Turkey, Croatia, and the Baltic states as well, but in all of these cases you’ll find buses that are quite comfortable and even cheaper than trains.

    If you are going really slow and you have 6 months to travel, it’s debatable whether any rail passes would be good value. They tend to be best for people trying to see a lot in a 2 week to 2 month period. However, trains in Benelux, Germany, and France do tend to be expensive when purchased as you go, so if you plan a part of your trip where you’ll be covering quite a bit of ground in those areas then a pass could work well. You’ll really want to figure out a fairly specific itinerary before you’ll know whether it’s good value.

    And there is no central system that keeps track of who has purchased or activated which pass, so you can buy multiple passes and activate them whenever you like. The key things to remember are that you can’t buy a Eurail Pass from within Europe, but you can buy them six months in advance before activating them. In other words, for a situation such as yours it would be best to have someone buy them while you are in the UK from home and have them send them off to you a couple weeks before you arrive in Amsterdam. From the time they are issued you’ll have 6 months to begin using them, so you’ll be set. -Roger

     
Shankar says:

Hi Roger,
Fantastic page and thanks for such in depth details.
Myself and my wife are planning a trip from the 25th of July till the 13th of August.
The planned trip is Frankfurt-Cologne-Amsterdam-Paris-Zurich-Frankfurt. Do you think the Global pass is more convenient or should I stick to the 4/5 country pass. Since its 2 of us, i am sure the 15% discount should be good as well.
Also, will it be sufficient if we make our reservations just one day prior from these cities as i went through the websites and am a bit confused.

 

    Shankar,

    Thank you. The situation is slightly complicated in the fact that France can’t be included in the 3 to 5-country Select Passes. So a Global Pass would be better except that the shortest duration is 10 journeys or 15 consecutive days. For a 3-week trip with only 5 travel legs, a Global Pass wouldn’t pay off. Your one good option is to get a 4-country 5-journey Select Pass, and the only extra you’d have to pay is for the two portions within France, which is easy to do when you reserve your seats. In other words, when you get your seat from Amsterdam to Paris, you’ll be asked to pay for the portion from the France border to Paris because your pass will cover the rest.

    For these journeys you should be fine making your seat reservations the day before or even on the day, except for the Amsterdam to Paris leg where you’ll want to make the reservation a few days out, perhaps the day you arrive in Amsterdam. The high-speed trains on that route can sell out for the better times a few days ahead. They leave about once an hour and if you wait until the day before you might have to leave at 7am or 2pm rather than in between, although you’ll certainly get a seat on one train on the day you want, even if it’s not the ideal time. -Roger

     
Mo says:

Hi Roger,
I’ll be travelling for the first time in Europe and was getting a bit intimated by all the planning that is needed. But your tips and suggestions have been very reassuring. So I want to thank you for that.
So after reading this article, I have some idea of what kind of Eurail pass I should be buying, but I thought I should still run it by you.
I am planning to travel to the following cities in the next month:
Budapest (3 days), Vienna (3 days), Prague (3 days), Berlin (3 days), and Amsterdam (2 days), with about 4 days to spare and left quite open.
I plan to stick mainly to the major touristy things in and around these cities, and perhaps travel to small towns around them. I don’t anticipate travelling to other major cities close to any of these cities though. I was first thinking of getting a global pass (15 continuous days perhaps) as I thought it would cover me for most of my trip. But after reading your article, it seems like the global pass is probably not the best pass to buy for my situation. I was under the impression that a Eurail pass will cover me local transport within/around a city, but from what I have read here and on other pages, it is not. This means that I won’t be using Eurail everyday for travelling. Now I hear something about how the Berlin S-bahn is covered in the Eurail pass, but I didn’t quite get it. Maybe you can shed some light on that.
Given my itinerary, what type of Eurail pass do you think suits my situation? 5 country Eurail pass, or some sort of combination of Select and Regional passes?
Any advice on the most economical kind of Eurail pass will be highly appreciated. Thanks!

 

    Mo,

    It looks like you are only planning on 4 longer train rides on this trip, and if that’s the final plan I think you are better off paying as you go. The cheapest Eurail Pass that could work would be the 5-country, 5-journeys Select Pass, but based on this itinerary it would be cheaper to buy as you go. Of those 4 journeys you mention, the only one that is sort of expensive is the Berlin to Amsterdam one.

    However, if you decide to add another major stop with those 4 extra days (as long as it’s in one of the 5 countries, most likely Germany), then that Select Pass might work well. For example, you could go to Munich between Berlin and Amsterdam. But if you want to stick more or less with what you’ve written, just buy as you go and try to get that last one early online to save money.

    In Germany all the major cities have S-Bahn systems, which are suburban rail lines, and those are covered by a pass on the days you designate as travel days. But the 5 largest German cities also have U-Bahn systems, which are (mostly) underground/subway lines, and those are not covered, though they are pretty cheap anyway.

    One strategy I recommend to get the most out of a pass on a trip like yours (where most of your journeys are 5 hours or less) is to get an early train, say, from Prague to Berlin. If you arrive by 1pm or so you can put your bags at the hostel or hotel, and then head right back out to, say, Dresden, for the afternoon and return to Berlin that evening. That’s just one hypothetical example of how you can get great value from a pass because all those legs would be free since it’s one travel day. All of the cities on your list have other interesting cities just an hour or two away by train, so you could do that several times. -Roger

     
      Mo says:

      Thanks so much for the quick reply Roger. I really appreciate you taking the time to actually look at my itinerary and give me a response specific to my situation. -Mo

       
      Mo says:

      Hey Roger,
      I really like the idea of using the same travel day to go to a nearby city, like from Berlin to Dresden and back. Can you advice other close by cities to the 5 main cities that I have mentioned that you think are worth seeing?
      Thanks

       

Hi Roger,

Can I use Euro global pass or Euro select pass in Switzerland for the following travel;

1)From Basel to Luzern
2)From Luzern to Interlaken and back
3)From Interlaken to Jungfraujoch and back
4)From Luzern to Engelberg and back

May I know the type of train in these sectors(like Ec, IC etc.,)

Best Regards,

Srinivas.

 

    Srinivas,

    You could use either of those passes for these trips within Switzerland, but if this is your whole itinerary you’d be better off with a Swiss Pass, which is sold on its own from a different system. Or you might just buy as you go. These are all relatively short journeys that won’t cost too much on their own, although if you are going there and back on the same day then a rail pass probably would save you money.

    The exception is the Interlaken to Jungfraujoch leg, which is a private and very expensive railway. They offer discounts of 25% to Eurail Pass holders and 50% to Swiss Pass holders, but you can’t use a pass for the travel day.

    Most of these are on Regional trains rather than the ICs, although Basel to Luzern is part of a high speed line so those are available as well. All the trains in Switzerland are comfortable and modern, and since all of these journeys are around 2 hours or less, any train should be fine. -Roger

     

      Hi Roger,
      Thanks four quick reply. I am giving below my final program for train journeys after arriving Frankfurt by air: We are two people.
      1) Frankfurt – Minden
      Stay at Minden for 2 days
      2) Minden – Amsterdam
      Stay at Amsterdam for 2 days
      3) Amsterdam – Lucerne(Luzern) – same day travel
      Stay at Luzern for 3 days
      4) Luzern – Interlaken and back( to visit Jungfraujoch)
      5) Luzern to Engelberg and back ( to visit Mt. tilts)
      6) Luzern to Venice –Same day travel via Milano
      Stay at Venice for 1 day
      7) Venice to Basel -Same day travel via Milano
      Stay at Basel for 1 day
      8) Basel to Frankfurt
      Depart from Frankfurt by air to home.
      Can you please suggest the type of pass(Global or Flexi) for the whole trip?
      Best Regards,
      Srinivas.

       

        Srinivas,

        Your trip looks ideal for a 4-country Select Pass with 8 journeys in 60 days. Go to that link and put in Germany, Netherlands, Switzerland, and Italy, with 8 journeys and it will show good prices for 2nd Class or if you are 26 or over you’ll get the 1st Class Saver Pass for two people traveling together. The Global Passes start at 10 journeys and you are only planning 8 travel days so these are ideal. And you’ll save quite a bit with a pass for this itinerary because all these individual tickets (counting the Swiss round trips) will be expensive on their own.

        As for Lucerne hotels, as far as I know it’s pretty much the cheapest hotel town in that area, and the problem is that Switzerland in general is expensive. You might try going to hostelbookers.com and looking for a private double room in a hostel there, which should be cheaper than most hotels. -Roger

         

Hi Roger,

This is in continuation of my previous message. I selected Luzern to visit Jungfraujoch and Mt. tilts. I found the hotel accomodation at Luzern is quite expensive. Is there any other place to stay and visit these places in terms of time and money.

Best Regards,

Srinivas.

 

Hi Roger,

Thanks again for quick reply. I will follow your advice.

Best Regards,

Srinivas.

 
Maria says:

Aloha Roger from Maui! My new husband and I will be honeymooning in Europe for the month of October. We’re not sure about transportation plans….which train pass to purchase and need your help. We are starting in Amsterdam – Paris – Switzerland? (have friends there) – Venice – Amolfi Coast – Barcelona – Portugal. Would like to take the ferry from Italy to Barcelona and have heard that it’s cheaper and more efficient to take buses in Spain and Portugal. Thinking about flying from Barcelona to Lisbon or Porto. What train pass would you recommend purchasing if you were on a budget and trying to make every dollar count? Thank you so much!!

 

    Maria,

    For this itinerary there isn’t really a good rail pass option, or at least one that would save you money. The problem is that you don’t have enough journeys to make a Global Pass worthwhile, and if you are going through France you can’t get a Select Pass (3 to 5 countries). What I’d recommend is buying those first two train tickets in advance online (buying early saves money on those), and probably book the ferry to Barcelona early online as well.

    If you are skipping Madrid then I think flying to Lisbon is a good idea, and even from Madrid it’s an overnight train to Lisbon anyway. Book that flight ASAP as well. It’s true that buses are cheaper in Spain and Portugal and they go many places that trains don’t, so they are the best option. The only exceptions are between the major cities in Spain, many of which have high-speed trains that cover great distances in only a couple hours. -Roger

     
Rohit says:

Hi Roger,

I am planning a trip to europe for like 12 days with my family of 4 . I plan to cover spain, france, austria
4 days each. What pass should I buy ? I plan to cover 2 cities in each country .
But with france out of erourail network, i am really confused with what to do

 

    Rohit,

    For this trip you are best off getting a France-Spain Pass and paying for Austria as you go. The France-Spain Pass is available as a Family Pass in First or Second Class so it’s a great deal, especially considering that individual train tickets in both countries are fairly expensive. You can get them for 4, 5, or 6 travel days, and one of those will be ideal for your trip, depending on your exact itinerary.

    Your complication comes in that you have to go through another country to reach Austria from France. You might be better off flying. Let us know the specifics of which cities you are visiting in which order and I can help you sort out the best way to do it. -Roger

     
Bharat Rajgor says:

hi roger.. thanks a lot for providing very good info regarding eurail.. my self is an Indian and working as a News Reader with All India Radio, Ahmedabad.. aged 59.. after retirement I want to travel the whole Europe thru eurail.. will u please help me to plan out the route of it?

 

    Bharat,

    That sounds like an amazing trip you’ve got in mind. The thing about Eurail Passes is that they are best for people who are trying to see many different cities in a period of 2 weeks to 2 months. For shorter or longer trips, there are better options. So I’d need to know how long you intend to travel and how fast you prefer to go, and based on that I can help you with more specifics. -Roger

     
Eleni says:

Good afternoon Roger and Hello from New York
I am graduating college next year finally lol and would like to go backpacking through Europe. May I please ask your suggestions on where to go and what makes sense? I am going for 21 days and I would like to see Ireland, Scotland, England, Amsterdam, Germany, Denmark, Spain and Portugal. I have already been to Belgium, France and Greece so not looking to add that to my trip. Any suggestions I would greatly appreciate it. Thanks in advance

 

    Eleni,

    It’s hard to get too specific without knowing much about your tastes and such, but the first thing I can say is that 7 countries in 21 days is too many. In fact, I’d think of your itinerary as 3 separate trips in the long run. You’ve been to 3 European countries already so you know you enjoy it and want to do more of it. Also, you are still young enough that you’ll have many more opportunities to tour all the different regions in depth.

    So what I’d recommend, assuming you are really dealing with just 3 weeks, is to first choose either the British Isles, northern Europe, or the Iberian Peninsula for this trip. Which would you do first if you were planning on doing them one per year for the next three years? Once you answer that question, I’ll be happy to help you sort out a more specific itinerary. And while we are at it, when you visit Spain and Portugal it’s cheap, fast, and easy to pop over to Morocco by ferry for at least a few days, so consider adding that one to that trip.

    If, for some reason, you think this will be your last Europe trip and you want to see those 7 countries, I will help figure out the main highlights in an order that could work. -Roger

     
      Eleni says:

      Hi Roger, I am 32 so not that young lol and as I have Greek citizenship and can travel through Europe freely I have that to my benefit. My greatest passion is travelling seeing the sights and learning about each countries culture, learn about the people, eat their food so I’m not very big on having to stay at the fanciest place and this way to save some money there too. I am a little nervous as I may be doing this trip on my own to go to Morocco assuming I do not use my US passport do you think it would be safe or better to use my European passport? I have a few friends that have gone and suggested I not go there by myself. I would definitely like to do Spain and Portugal for sure, I have a friend that lives in Denmark so that would be on the list and I figured since Germany was close by I could do that. But my biggest places of all are Scotland, England and Ireland, Spain and Portual but I understand they are on opposite ends. I have stayed in a hostel in Brussels before and it was a little scary so hoping I get a decent hostel I’m ok with that. Also how much money would you recommend I walk with? I have already started saving and do I need one of those big backpacks I see people walking around or would my suitcase be sufficient. My cousin is currently doing Israel, Turkey, Zurich, England, Germany, France and Greece in 3 weeks. I would like to add I am extremely grateful for your help and all your suggestions. Thank you in advance :)

       

        Eleni,

        Regarding Morocco, it’s a safe and friendly country, although I can understand that solo female travelers might be nervous about it. I don’t even know what you mean about using one passport or another. Many Americans arrive there every day with zero complications. Still, solo female travelers can get some unwanted attention there, so I wouldn’t blame you for saving Morocco for a trip when you go with someone else.

        So in 21 days it’s probably best to save Germany and Denmark for another trip. Germany is huge and even if you just did Berlin it would require 3 days minimum. Copenhagen is lovely and can be seen in about two days, but it’s remote so flying is the best option.

        In the British Isles, the must-visits are obviously London and Edinburgh. In Ireland it’s a bit tricky because Dublin is a poor representation of the “magic” of the country. In other words, most people who tour Ireland for a week or two report that Dublin was not their favorite stop. It’s really a country (sort of like New Zealand) where you want to enjoy the scenery and smaller towns rather than two days in the capital.

        In Scotland you might visit Inverness before or after Edinburgh. I was just there and it’s a lovely town of about 50,000, at the edge of the Scottish Highlands. Skip the Loch Ness Monster stuff, but consider a tour of the Highlands or the Isle of Skye.

        For England, adding Oxford, Cambridge, and/or Bath to a London visit are justifiably popular because they they are all nice contrasts to the vastness of the capital. For Scotland and England, it’s best to sort out your itinerary well in advance and buy train tickets online as early as possible. Train tickets weeks in advance can be very cheap (as little as US$15 for long distances), but if you buy on the day of travel they are very expensive (as much as US$75 for a 2-hour ride).

        Doing Spain and Portugal in a hurry is simple because the classics are all worthwhile. Fly to Barcelona or Lisbon and stop in Madrid in the middle of seeing all 3 of them. If you buy plane tickets well in advance that might be very cheap as well, like London to Barcelona and then Lisbon to London 9 days later.

        As for a budget, have a look at the Europe Backpacker Index, linked at the top of every page of this site. All these cities are on there, and the amount for each city is a common daily budget amount. You can do them cheaper if you are careful, or of course spend much more if you have more to spend.

        For hostels, Europe is filled with great ones. I have recommended hostels on many of the city pages on this site, and all of these are popular, highly rated, well located, and good value. The trick to finding good hostels is to go to hostelbookers (cheaper than hostelworld) and look for hostels that get at least 80% positive reviews, and that have many reviews compared to others in that city. Hostels that only have 10 or 20 reviews are harder to trust, but with 300 or 500 reviews that are mostly positive, you can book with confidence.

        A backpack is a very personal thing so it’s hard to give advice. One thing is certain though, that you should plan on traveling as light as possible. If you buy a huge backpack you will fill it up and it will weigh you down, while if you buy a smaller one you’ll still get by with it and it’ll be easier to move around nimbly. Let me know if/when you have more questions. -Roger

         
          Eleni says:

          Good morning Roger, thank you very much for all your advice! I have bookmarked this page to do everything you suggested. If I think of anything else I will be back lol thank you very much for all your help and sharing your knowledge :)

           
Alyson says:

Hi Roger,
Myself (age 25 when traveling) and two friends (age 26) are planning approximately a month long Europe trip in May 2014. We are planning on flying in to Barcelona making our way North to Paris, then Amsterdam, then Munich, Vienna, Venice, Florence, Cinque Terre, and finally flying out of Rome. We plan on staying at each place from 1 night to 3-4 nights in the larger areas. With this itinerary we are having a hard time deciding what our best/cheapest option is for travel. We like the flexibility of the Global pass but with the reservation fees (for possible night trains) and such we don’t know if it’s best to buy point-to-point tickets in some locations (like Barcelona to Paris) and then a different pass for the rest of the trip. Any help would be much appreciated with train passes or itinerary help! Thanks!

 

    Alyson,

    Yours would be a classic itinerary for a Global Pass, except that you only seem to have about 7 or 8 stops in mind. As you’ve certainly discovered, the 30 consecutive days version is quite expensive, and the Flexi version starts at 10 journeys.

    So your actual best choice would be the Select Pass for Netherlands, Germany, Austria, and Italy, for 6 journeys. Unfortunately, you’d have to pay individually for Barcelona > Paris > Amsterdam, and those two journeys are expensive. Amsterdam to Munich and to Vienna to Venice are also quite expensive, so the pass would almost certainly save you money, even though those last few legs within Italy aren’t as expensive.

    The seat reservation fees on this trip shouldn’t add up to much, mostly €5 each or so. But if you do night trains a pass is still a good deal because even though there is a €20 reservation fee for a couchette (bunk), that same bunk might cost €80 or more without the pass.

    Interestingly, if you were to add more journeys to get it up to 10, you could use the Global Pass on all of them, and it might end up about the same price as the other option, or close to it. Like, you might add Berlin and Prague in there, which are both fantastic cities, and get the best value. Personally, I’d prefer either of those over Vienna, but to each his or her own. I’m happy to help more if you are still unsure. -Roger

     
      Alyson says:

      So if we were to add Prague and Berlin which pass would work best? And is that including or excluding the Paris trains? Thank you so much for your help!!

       

        Alyson,

        The idea of adding those cities would be to get it up to 10 total. If you are interested in doing that, then then the Global Flexi Pass with 10 travel days out of 60 would be ideal. And with 3 traveling together, you can get the Saver version, which makes traveling in First Class quite affordable. -Roger

         
DJ says:

Roger,
I’m looking for advice on my trip 90 day trip starting this week to Europe. Currently I have my flight into Amsterdam and place to stay there for two weeks booked and flight home in October. The rest I’m trying to make up as I go. The big picture I’m thinking is …
Starting in Amsterdam to Berlin to Prague to Frankfurt to Brussels to Paris Madrid with day trip to Morocco to Barcelona to Monaco to Rome (9/12 to meet family member there at airport) to Naples to Rome then fly to Frankfurt (family member leaves back to states). Train to Munich (Oktoberfest). Then get to Paris to meet my girlfriend where we want to go back to Italy (she’s never been and it’s her first time there) and last we fly out of Zurich via Paris back to states.

I’m traveling mainly by myself. I plan on staying at AirBnB sites, hostels, or hotel when needed.

I’d love to hear your recommendation on Eurail pass (really lost here on best option). I thought of getting a two month travel pass for me. Getting a separate train pass for family member from Rome to Naples back to Rome. And get some type of two country for my girlfriend and I starting for the last two weeks of the trip (Oct 4-17) between Paris and Italy and then to Zurich or maybe back to Paris if we can modify our flight plans?

Love to try and get to Greece if possible or Ireland (family there). Any and all suggestions welcome.

Thanks, Dj

 

    DJ,

    Wow, this sounds ambitious, but also reasonable and well researched. You’ve got many expensive journeys in that first part of your trip, so I’d recommend a Global Pass with 10 travel days out of 60. That way, you can use it on your longer or more expensive legs, and pay as you go for any shorter hops.

    There’s no need to get a pass for Rome to Naples and back, because it’s a short and cheap ride.

    For that last part, a France-Italy regional pass with the Saver option for two people traveling together might be a good idea. If you are just heading from Paris into Italy with no other France stops, the Italy country pass might be better, but if you want to stop in Marsailles or Nice or elsewhere then the France-Italy one would likely be the best value.

    And by the way, Frankfurt has a great airport but not much else for most travelers, and there are several others Belgian cities more interesting than Brussels as well. If you have specific reasons to visit those cities then great, but if not, you might consider some alternatives. -Roger

     
nelly says:

Hi Roger,

There are 7 of us planning to travel in May 2014 and the proposed itinerary would be:

We will be flying from Malaysia to Rome and we plan to take a train from Rome and the trip which will end in London:
- Italy: Rome 3 nights & Milan 1 night
- Switzerland: Lucerne 1 night
- Amsterdam 2 nights
- France: Paris 3 nights
- UK: London 3 nights

Would appreciate it very much for your kind advice and suggestion whether it is worth it to get the Eurail Pass etc. Thank you

 

    Nelly,

    Ah Malaysia, I’ve spent nearly two months there earlier this year.

    Your trip doesn’t really lend itself to a rail pass. For one thing, that last leg from Paris to London will be on the Eurostar, which is its own system so you have to buy a separate ticket. Excluding that, you’ve only got 4 journeys here, and since at least one is in France, there aren’t any rail passes that would fit.

    But the good news is that the only expensive trip you’ve got planned is Lucerne to Amsterdam, while the first two are fairly cheap. If you can buy ticket online in advance for the stops starting at Lucerne, you can get them at decent prices if you go to the national rail sites themselves.

    And not that you asked, but Milan for 1 night is interesting, but not as interesting as Venice or even Florence for one night. Let me know if you have any other questions, and bon voyage. -Roger

     
Anushree Gupta says:

Hi
We are planning a 15 day trip to Europe. Our itinerary:

Switzerland (Montreux,Gstaad,Zermatt) 4 days
Innsbruck 2 days
Salzburg 4 days (1 day trip to Munich for Oktoberfest)
Prague 3 days
Vienna 3 days

Could you please help us with the best route to cover these destinations along with pass options.

We were considering the 15 day global pass. But not sure if that is the most cost effective option.
We were thinking of taking the overnight trains to goto Prague from Salzburg and come back to Vienna.

Our tickets are booked entering Zurich and exit from Vienna from 21st Sep to 6th Oct 2013.

Also wanted to know if the travel options within each city like the buses/trams are also included in any pass. And are there any offers on some popular tourist attractions with some pass.

Would be great to get your comment on our itinerary.

Thanks in advance.

Anushree

 

    Anushree,

    I love this itinerary. You’ve chosen a really nice mix of scenic routes and cities, and a very good pace to go at. There’s only one efficient way of doing this without excessive backtracking, and that is the following:

    Zurich > Gstaad > Montreax > Zermatt > Innsbruck > Salzburg (with the Munich side trip) > Prague > Vienna

    With at least two people, your best bet is definitely the Global Pass for 15 consecutive days with the Saver option of 2 to 5 people traveling on the same pass. You’ll get great value out of it with those normally-expensive journeys within Switzerland and Austria, plus the Oktoberfest day trip (which I did using a rail pass as well, great idea).

    I don’t believe there are night trains between Salzburg and Prague, probably because it’s only about 6.5 hours from one to the other. Most of the scenery is quite nice so it’s a good daytime journey anyway.

    Local buses and trams are NOT included with a rail pass, although suburban trains (like Germany’s S-Bahn) are included.

    There are indeed various offers that are included with the rail pass, though most of them are transportation-related, like 50% off a boat tour or ferry crossing and such, rather than museums and the like. There will be a list of all the discounts and offers included with the pass in the mail.

    Another nice benefit of getting the consecutive-days Global Pass is that you can add in more day-trips or extra legs for free. For example, you could add in a visit to Neuschwanstein Castle between Innsbruck and Salzburg, and/or Rothenburg ob der Tauber, both of which are really lovely places. Salzburg is quite compact so 4 days there is a long time, even with the day trip to Munich. Overall I think it looks great and feel free to ask if you have any more questions. -Roger

     
      Anushree Gupta says:

      Thanks a lot Roger for your advise. I think we will go for the 15day Global pass.
      In continuation to my earlier post..

      Also wanted to check with you about the night trains (Vienna-Prague-Vienna) and their reservation.
      Do we need to pre book it or can we take it once we reach Switzerland at Zurich station.

      Also, are the individual city cards a good option to see Salzburg, Innsbruck, Vienna and Prague?

      Would really appreciate your comment on this too.

      Also.. for the global pass. Can we purchase it at Zurich airport directly?

      Thanks
      Anushree

       

        Anushree,

        The trip between Prague and Vienna is a bit under 5 hours, so it’s actually shorter than Salzburg to Prague, but they are major cities so there is a night train. The problem is that the night train leaves a bit after 10pm and arrives a bit after 4am (night trains are slower because they change carriages with other trains along the way), so you wouldn’t get much sleep and you’d still probably need a hotel room unless you don’t mind wandering around with your pack from 4am until noon or 2pm.

        If you do want to do those night trains, you can just book them once you arrive in the departure city. I normally book them the day before I’m going to leave, and there always seem to be bunks available, even in high season. If using a rail pass, you still have to pay about €20 for a couchette reservation or about €10 for a normal seat on night trains.

        I do think those city cards, like for Salzburg and Prague, are good deals as long as you are the sort of traveler who likes to hit 3 attractions per day. And since they come with free use of public transport, it reduces the stress of figuring out the local ticketing system and trying to buy in a foreign language. So I’m in favor of them and have used many of them, but I also think it’s wise to look at what’s included in each one and make sure those are actually the things you want to see. A few of them leave out famous attractions (like the Anne Frank House on the iAmsterdam Card), so you can’t just assume that they include everything.

        You can’t buy a Eurail Pass in Europe at all, although you could buy one online and have it shipped to a hotel in Europe. But it’s better to buy online and have it shipped to your home. They have fast delivery at a good price to most corners of the world. And right now the international site has discounts going, with €25 off any order of €600 or more using promo code: 74ESS13, or €80 off any order of €1200 using promo code: 75ESS13. -Roger

         
Scarlett says:

Hi Roger,
I’m so glad to find this site. My family of 3, with our 11-yr old son will be traveling to Europe this in two weeks but we have yet decided on this…

Should we get a global family pass?

Entry in Munich(1 day) > Fussen (1 day) > Winterthur (2 days) > Barcelona (a must-3-day visit) > Italy (Rome,Pisa,Venice – 3 days) > Austria (Villach & Salzburg – 4 days family reunion) > Berlin (2 days) > Amsterdam (2 days) > Brussels (1 day) > France (3 days with Disneyland)

The trip from Zurich to Barcelona and the Barcelona to Rome are both plane rides. All the rest are thru trains.

If you will recommend for us to buy a pass, will it be safe to have it delivered in our first hotel in Munich so we could use it at once?

Thank you for your assistance.

 

    Scarlett,

    I’m glad you found this site as well. This looks like a pretty busy and fast-moving trip, but doing those 2 flights in there definitely makes it reasonable.

    I do think the Global Pass for 2 adults and 1 child traveling together makes the most sense, and it should give you good savings because many of these legs would be quite expensive on their own. You might be okay with the 10 days out of 60 option, but the 21 consecutive days option is only a bit more expensive and it would give you complete freedom to use it for side trips and day trips so I would probably go with that.

    If you buy through the link above, you’ll get free shipping (on all orders over US$399) and it only takes 2 to 3 business days, or you can pay a bit more for overnight shipping, assuming you are in the US or Canada. They also do ship to hotels in Europe, and chances are it would be fine, but I really think you’d be best off ordering it soon and having it shipped to your home. -Roger

     
      Scarlett says:

      Thank you very much for the immediate response :) We are coming from Dubai. I hope they still have enough time to deliver. All the best to you!

       

        Scarlett,

        It’s a pleasure to help, and I believe they ship tickets to your area from France, so I’d think it would still take a week or even less. Bon voyage. -Roger

         
Colleen says:

Next year, we are planning a trip using the Eurail FlexiPass (10 stops in 1 month). Where we are having some questions is in Italy. We were planning on going from Venice to Cinque Terre to Florence and on to Rome. What is the best option to get from Venice to Cinque Terre and then to Florence? Does the Eurail pass cover getting to Cinque Terre? We wouldn’t mind stopping in Bologna for a little bit if that was an option for switching trains.

 

    Colleen,

    The Cinque Terre is along a rail line between Genoa in the north and La Spezia in the south. From Venice, you can either change trains in Milan on your way to Genoa, or change trains in Florence and Pisa on your way to La Spezia. Each option takes about 4 hours total, so it’s a toss-up. Bologna is between Venice and Florence, so you could stop there on the way if you took that route, but it’s slightly easier and perhaps better to head to Genoa first. That way you’ll take the Cinque Terre train just once, going south, and then you can head to Florence from La Spezia in the south.

    And yes, the Eurail passes do indeed cover all the trains in Italy, including the line between La Spezia and Genoa. -Roger

     
      Colleen says:

      Thank you for your help! Also, if we planned on taking a night train from Munich to Venice, with the Eurail pass, do we just book a reservation for a couchette or sleeper? And do we do this before leaving for our trip? I saw prices for around 37 euros for a couchette, does this seem correct for the additional costs of that train ride?

       

        Colleen,

        Yes, €37 sounds about right for a 4-berth couchette, or €27 for a 6-berth couchette, I believe. You can sit in a normal seat all night for about €11 for the seat reservation. Those are the prices for a reservation for a Eurail Pass holder. Without a pass the prices are obviously much higher.

        The best and most typical way of making that reservation is to do it once you arrive in Munich at the train station in the normal ticket lines. Even if you wait until 30 minutes before the train leaves, you’ll almost certainly get a couchette, but I prefer to do it the day before for less stress. You might also be able to make the couchette reservation through the same website where you bought the Eurail Pass. -Roger

         
Charmaine says:

Hello Roger

I am absolutely amazed at your knowledge!I have been reading through the string of enquiries and your comments – A wealth of very useful details that I will take note of. Thank you :)
If you have a moment, would you mind please assisting me with a dilemma I’m having with working out Eurail Passes / tickets required for our trip?

My partner and I (in our 30s) are departing Australia to Italy, France & Spain for a month in September 2013.
We don’t have a set itinerary but a rough plan and order of what we’d like to include, as follows:
Fly into Rome – stay 2 days
Tuscany – 3 days
Florence – 2 days
Cinque Terre – 1 day
Milan – 1 day
Nice – 2 days
Lyon – 2 days
Paris – 2 or 3 days
Bordeaux area – 2 days
San Sebastian – 2 days
Bilbao – 1 day
Figueres – 1 day
Barcelona – 3 days
We’d love to include Granada & Seville before flying out from Madrid, but not sure if we a trying to squeeze too much into the itinerary?

I was amazed a the cost of the Global Pass for 15 days and hoped to seek a cheaper alternative – Would the Global Pass for 10days then individual tickets for shorter trips for the best way to go for our trip?
Thank you for your time

 

    Charmaine,

    A Global Pass wouldn’t be good value for this itinerary at all. I’d say your best bet is a France-Italy Pass and then to pay as you go in Spain. The France-Italy Pass comes in either 1st or 2nd Class, with 15% off for the Saver option with two traveling together. You can get it for anywhere between 4 and 10 travel days, so if you keep your itinerary like this you’d go for 8 travel days. At the moment they have a special going where you can save €25 on an order of €600 or more with the promo code: 74ESS13.

    You aren’t really covering much ground in Spain, so the individual train rides won’t add up to much, and even if you do find them expensive you can always take buses, which are cheaper and almost as comfortable.

    But…I do think you are already trying to do too much, before even adding Granada and Seville. In a month I think 12 total cities is about the maximum I’d recommend before you start making yourself crazy. Even though many of your travel legs are only about 3 hours each, by the time you’ve checked out of one hotel, made it early to the train station, and checked into your next hotel, about 6 prime sightseeing hours are gone. So for the most part, a travel day equals half a sightseeing day, or even less. If you travel every second day, you’ll be spending close to half your holiday on trains and in train stations.

    So getting specific, I’d stay at least 3 nights in Rome. Florence, as you hopefully know, is in Tuscany, so I’m assuming you plan on visiting one or two of the smaller hill towns in addition to Florence? That seems fine. You might just want to skip Milan rather than spending 1 night there.

    Why Lyon? Unless you have something specific you want to see there, I’d skip it and add those days to Paris, which deserves at least 3 nights if not 4 or 5.

    Granada and Seville are quite nice, and probably better than those 1-night stops you’ve got planned for Spain. Again, on a 1-night stay, the most you’ll be able to do is see one thing in the afternoon, have dinner, and wake up the next morning to pack and move again.

    With all of that in mind, do what you feel passionate about, and even if you are rushing around it will be fun and full of great memories. Once you’ve got it locked in, count those trips in Italy and France and buy that France-Italy Pass mentioned above. -Roger

     
      Charmaine says:

      Thank you so much for your advice Roger!
      I will look at that France-Italy Pass – sounds perfect!
      I greatly appreciate your comments and help with sorting the itinerary to be more manageable…..

      With Lyon, i’d read some impressive stories about it being an amazing food capital so had really hoped to include it –
      I’m still wondering if Bordeaux is worth the visit or if we leave it out of the trip?

      We’re thinking some of the big distances in Spain may be better to travel via plane – what are your thoughts? Is there an airline better than another in Spain?

      Thanks again Roger :)

       

        Charmaine,

        Well then Lyon sounds just fine then. The reason I asked is that many of us (including me) are sometimes guilty of planning stops in large and/or famous cities just because we’ve heard of them. Lyon isn’t considered one of France’s top tourist cities even though it’s large, but I’m sure the food is good and interesting. I haven’t been to Bordeaux since I was a child so I don’t have any advice on that other than to say it sounds justifiably popular, especially among the wine crowd.

        Spain is an interesting place for longer distances. In the past few years they’ve added high-speed AVE trains between most of the larger cities, but those trains are very expensive unless you have a rail pass. So unfortunately, flying does tend to be cheaper, even though it actually takes longer in most cases (including all the time at the airports and such). So if you are thinking of doing at least 4 or 5 longer journeys within Spain, especially on the AVEs, it makes sense to get a separate Spain rail pass, or even switch to a France-Spain pass and pay individually for Italy because those aren’t as expensive. The seat reservations are an extra €10 in 2nd class, but it’s still way cheaper that buying train tickets as you go.

        As for airlines, Vueling and Easyjet are the main ones, are both are fine choices. Easyjet is a big step up from Ryanair, in case you’ve heard the horror stories, but it’s still better to pack light if taking any of these low-cost airlines. -Roger

         
          Charmaine says:

          Hi Roger

          Just wondering if you could offer some advice on using RailEurope…. I purchased my tickets/passes online through the website link you provided me with. I made payment over a week ago but keep receving automated emails from the company stating they do not have payment. It seems i can only contact the company online but they won’t reply to my emails. I am stressing they have taken off with my $1400…. Do you know of any way I can conatct these people?

          Thanks so much,

           

          Charmaine,

          That sounds very strange and I’m confident that you’ll get it sorted out soon. Rail Europe is owned by the France and Swiss rail companies and they’ve been in business for something like 80 years. I’ve used them myself a few times with no problem, so you shouldn’t have to worry about them being a fake company.

          There are toll-free phone numbers to call on this page: http://www.raileurope.com/about-us/contact-us2.html
          -Roger

           
Kevin Thor says:

Hi Roger! Your advice is amazing – I would love to hear more or read about your experiences more if you have a blog/another website. I am 20 years old and leaving next week for Europe and am backpacking for a month. I am seeing friends in London, then flying to Istanbul. Then going to Athens, and over to Rome-Venice. Then I have a day trip planned for Munich, and have a 9 day period open to wherever I end up (final stop in London but don’t need time there) Prague is a must and I would like to get to the Auschwitz Museum and up to Copenhagen (grandparents were from there). I will be taking train starting in Rome. Would a 15 day continuous pass be the right way to go? Thank you for any advice!

Kevin

 

    Kevin,

    Thank you for the kind words. I do have a personal blog, but I haven’t written anything new on it in a couple of years and I don’t really promote it. There are plenty of better ones out there.

    So starting in Rome, how many total days would you have on the road before going to London? If it’s 15 or so, then that continuous pass could be a winner for you. For your Munich day trip, are you planning on stopping there for part of a day between two other cities? I did that to see Oktoberfest without spending a fortune on a hotel room, but when the festival is not on I’m not sure how much you’d see in an afternoon.

    One complication with a continuous days pass is that there will be the temptation to use the hell out of it, as in 10 trips in 15 days to get the most “value.” But riding on trains almost every day is no way to really enjoy the actual destinations, so you need to strike a balance.

    You could do something like this:

    Rome (2 days)
    Venice (1 day)
    Salzburg and Munich (1 day)
    Prague (2 days)
    Krakow and Auschwitz (1 day)
    Berlin (2 days/night train)
    Copenhagen (2 days)
    Amsterdam (2 days)
    Bruges (1 day)
    Paris (2 days)

    All of those cities are among my favorites in Europe, and if you did a route like that you’d get great value out of a 15-day continuous rail pass, though skipping 1 or 2 of them might even be better. I’m not sure if this is the sort of advice you were after, but feel free to follow up either way. -Roger

     
      Kevin Thor says:

      Thanks Roger! I have 16 days total starting in Rome and ending in London. I will spend 3 days in London at the end after the 16 days. I have heard of a bike tour that is 4 hours long and does all of Munich that many friends have said is well worth it and will be a good day trip, I may stay there that night.
      I will be going to Berlin, Amsterdam, and Paris later on in September on a Semester at Sea program, so I do not plan on those now so I can see more of the other locations. I haven’t heard much on Bruges – do you have any main suggestions?

      I’m really glad that you think this will work out well and I would like to get to each of the other locations! Do I need to look ahead alot for night trains/best routes or like you said, going and getting on trains as I go can work as well?

      Thanks – I just got the 15 day pass!

       

        Kevin,

        Ah yes, I’ve done those Mike’s Bikes tours in a few cities and they are fantastic. And they are perfect for Munich because it’s a bit spread out, which is why I mentioned that it’s hard to see much of it in a short time. So do the bike tour for sure.

        Bruges might be the highlight of Belgium for most people and it’s a great stop for a day or two. If you have time, watch the recent (hilarious) movie “In Bruges” before you go.

        If you are skipping Berlin and Amsterdam on this trip, you might consider adding in Rothenburg ob der Tauber, which is another medieval town near Nurnberg, and definitely worth one day and one night if you can pull it off. Budapest is a lot of fun so it’s another to consider with your transportation all being handled.

        For most of these routes there are hourly trains during the day, and a night train leaving around 10pm or 11pm each night, but only for places that are 7 to 12 hours apart. If you just Google “(city) to (city) train schedule” you’ll see a list of the daily trains in the first few results. And with a pass, you can get on any of them, except that you’ll need a seat reservation on most of them. A seat reservation usually costs about €5 and you can usually get it just before the train leaves, though I prefer to get them the day before so I can get to the train station just before it pulls out.

        So in other words, there aren’t night trains between every two cities, so it’s worth Googling them as you are making your plan. And if the cities are 6 or fewer hours apart, a day train is the better, if not the only solution. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

         
Heather says:

I am a graduate student planning a tour of France begining and ending in Paris, with side trips to Versailles and nearby Chartres, and making short stops in Amien, Reims, Troyes, Cluny, Lyon, Le Puy, Avignon, Arles, Nimes, Albi, Toulouse, Narboone, Carcassone. I am 28 so the second class tickets are not available to me, and I don’t wish to spend all of my trip driving. Are any of the Eurail passes worth it for at least some of my trip, or should I just purchase as I go?

 

    Heather,

    This is a tricky one because France (as you probably know) doesn’t offer its own one-country rail pass. However, a France-Italy Pass is available, even in 2nd Class, and it’s useful for many France-only itineraries, though probably not for yours. It appears that you are only going about 150 kilometers with most of your legs, and those tickets individually go for around €30 and up, which would be cheaper than buying a rail pass. If you were going 300 kilometers or more on most legs, which is more typical of people only doing a few stops in France, a rail pass would be cheaper.

    So my advice for you is to buy as you go, and buy them online as early as you are sure of your schedule. France is among the countries that now offer cheaper online tickets if you buy well in advance through their website http://en.voyages-sncf.com/en/ . The trick is that when the site asks for your home country, do NOT choose the US or Canada, or it will send you to its American site that charges more for individual tickets. Unfortunately, you usually have to buy tickets at least two weeks in advance to get the lower prices, so you don’t have the same freedom you get with a rail pass, and walk-up fares can be quite expensive. -Roger

     
April says:

I’m planning a 2.5 month trip to Europe; Norway, Denmark, and Germany. I was planning on getting the Select Pass: 3 Countries and 10 days within 2 months. And in the last half month, I’d only need to take one train back to the airport, so I’d just pay for that one. Now what my main question is, if I take the train 2 times in a day to go to two major cities for connecting trains to go from Norway to Denmark, does that take 2 of my 10 days away, or just 1 if I take the two separate trains in 24 hours? Thanks!

 

    April,

    These train passes work on days rather than journeys, but it’s based on a calendar day rather than “within 24 hours.” So in other words, if you used a travel day going from Amsterdam to Hamburg in the morning, and then spent a few hours in Hamburg before boarding again on a train for Copenhagen, it’s all just one travel day. Also, for night trains, if you board after 7pm then the “travel day” is the arrival day and you don’t use one for the departure day.

    However, if you take an evening train and then the following morning you take another ride, it counts as two days even if it’s within 24 hours. Hopefully this answers your question. -Roger

     
Waqar Saleemi says:

I am in London. I have 30 days and would like to hope in Europe as much as possible. I would even like to sleep in trains instead of staying in hostels. Will a 30 day continious pass be wonderful for me?

 

    Waqar,

    First off, Eurail Passes aren’t available to European citizens, but if you are a visitor in London you can probably buy one online and have it delivered there.

    And if you want to travel at least 12 or more days out of 30, then a continuous pass could be good value. It makes the most sense for trips of 3 to 6 hours each. You can sleep on trains on longer journeys (ones that are between 7 and 12 hours long) but it’s not a way to save money. If you take day trains then many of them will require a seat reservation, which will cost around €5 each on average. But ALL night trains require reservations and those average €20 or even more for a couchette (bunk). In other words, you’d spend just about as much on couchettes on night trains as you would in hostel beds. Also, you’d literally be criss-crossing Europe several times in order to ride that many night trains in 30 days. Let me know if you have any other questions about this. -Roger

     
Michael says:

Hi Roger,

Thank you for sharing all this information.
I will be traveling for 35 days.
I plan on visiting Dublin, London, Amsterdam, Paris, Florence, Rome, Athens/Greek Islands, Istanbul, and a flight back to Dublin or flying out to Istanbul first and reversing my itinerary. I am mainly concerned about my travels from Istanbul, Athens, and Italy. Do you suggest I buy a pass/regional pass, purchase as I go, or purchase plane tickets?

Thanks,

Michael

 

    Michael,

    Dublin and Istanbul both offer cheap incoming flights from the US and Canada, so either could be a good choice, but Dublin is probably an easier place to start and if you are coming from North America it’s 2 hours closer in time zone, so also easier to adjust to.

    From Dublin to London your choices are a flight or a ferry and a train, with the flight obviously being quicker and probably cheaper as well. From London to Amsterdam you can fly or take the Eurostar for about the same price and taking about the same amount of time, but if you do the train you should buy as soon as possible for the best fares. From Amsterdam to Paris to Florence it’s best to go by train, though those will be fairly expensive on their own. Buying online early will save you quite a bit on both of those (on the France train website as long as you tell them you are from any country other than the US or Canada).

    From Florence to Rome it’s a cheap train that only takes about 3 hours. From Rome to Athens you should fly, and depending on which Greek island you’ll want to fly or take a ferry. And depending on which Greek island, you might be able to take a ferry to Turkey and then a bus to Istanbul, or do a cheap flight.

    So in other words, there isn’t a rail pass that would help you for this itinerary, and you’ll be doing a good chunk of flights as well. -Roger

     
      Michael says:

      I have decided to go with flights. I plan on staying in Istanbul, Athens, and Rome for 5 days each and the rest about 3-4 any suggestions?

      Thanks,

      Michael

       
        Michael says:

        I have also decided to reverse a portion of my itinerary and move from greece to italy. The flight cost about 275 from santorini to rome and the regional eurail is only 250. I plan on traveling a bit within italy and visiting a couple islands in greece. Don’t you think the regional eurail pass may be a good option considering discounts/free ferry rides?

         

          Michael,

          I’m not completely sure which rail pass you are considering. If you are talking about the Italy Rail Pass, I think it’s only useful if you plan on going up and down the country in long leaps. Most people just go Rome to Florence to Venice and that sort of thing, and those journeys only cost around €30 or so each. And there are almost no trains running in Greece now. I’m happy to try again if you give me more of the specifics of your latest plan. It sounds like a really good trip. -Roger

           
          Michael says:

          Hi Roger,

          I was referring to the regional pass for Greece and Italy. I was thinking it would save me some money when I use it for the ferry rides when visiting Santorini and Mykonos and possibly taking a ferry to Italy.

           

          Michael,

          In that case, the Greece-Italy Pass might work out. As mentioned, there is almost no train service in Greece, but if you want to take a few longer ferry rides as well as the ferry to Italy, it probably saves money. Most of those shorter ferries are pretty cheap, though it sounds like you’ve got some nice long ones in mind, so go for it. -Roger

           
Kevin says:

Hello Roger,

Thank you for this most informative site. I´ve never been to Europe, but in a few months I’ll be in Florence for 2 weeks and then another 2 weeks in Rome. In between I will have a free 10 day period to do some traveling. Right now I’m thinking:

Florence-Milan (2 days in Milan)
Milan-Zurich (1 day in Zurich)
Zurich-Vienna (overnight trip and 2 days in Vienna)
Vienna-Prague (overnight trip and 2 days in Prague)
Prague-Munich (2 days in Munich)
Munich-Rome (overnight trip)

Do you think it would be a good idea to get a eurorail pass for this? (I’m thinking a 5 countries/6 days pass)

I’m 27 so I would need to get a 1st class pass. Does this mean I would have access to a bed during overnight trips or do I have to pay extra for that? Sorry if this is a stupid question.

Also, is it easy to find cheap places to stay in the places I listed?

Thank you so much in advance!
Kevin

 

    Kevin,

    I think the 5 countries/6 days pass would be ideal for an itinerary like this. Unfortunately, even with a First Class pass you’d still have to pay extra to reserve a couchette (bunk) on those overnight trains. The fee averages about €20 to €30, although some are higher. For that reason, an overnight train doesn’t really save money compared to staying in a hostel, but of course it does allow you to maximize sightseeing time in the destinations.

    About your itinerary, I do have a few suggestions. Milan and Zurich are both financial cities that are quite expensive, and while Milan does have a few nice sights, it’s probably not worth it. Here’s what I’d recommend:

    Florence to Venice for a 24-hour stay. Venice is mind-blowing though compact enough to see in one full day. Stay on or near the main island and enjoy it in the evening and early morning before the insane packs of bus tours arrive around 10am, and then move on.

    Venice to Lucerne (or Interlaken) for two nights. These are Switzerland’s main tourist cities at the foot of the Alps. Both are gorgeous, close to plenty of great sights, and cheaper than Zurich.

    Then to Vienna for the rest of your trip as planned. Although you might also consider Salzburg as a substitute for Vienna because it’s compact enough to appreciate in two days, and it’s more immediately charming. Either one is a good choice though.

    As for accommodation, there are affordable hostels in all of these cities (Venice being the most expensive, but still worth it for a 1-night mini-splurge). I have solid recommendations for each city on the Europe Backpacker Index page, each of which is the cheapest of the high-rated and well-located hostels. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

     
      Kevin says:

      Oh I was planning on going to Venice the weekend during my stay in Florence, before starting this 10 day itinerary.

      Lucerne, Interlaken and Salzburg sound great! Thank you so much for the suggestions, I really appreciate all your advice.

       
Charmaine says:

Thanks so much Roger! I greatly appreciate your advice and assistance

 
Susannah Cleva says:

Hi Roger,

I am looking to buy a Eurorail pass with my boyfriend, both of us over 25 yrs old. We are flying into Zurich and want to travel to Munich, Salzburg, Vienna and Prague. We have 12 days. Which pass would be best?

Thank you!!

 

    Susannah,

    Assuming that you’ll need to get back to Zurich from Prague, then a 4-country Select Pass for 5 days in 2 months is your best bet. With two traveling together you qualify for the Saver option, which is 15% off a First Class pass. But honestly, I don’t think it’s much of a money saver on this itinerary. In other words, if you two just bought individual tickets in Second Class as you went, I think the total cost would be about the same, or perhaps just a bit less. With the pass mentioned, you’d obviously be able to travel in First Class, which is certainly very nice.

    However, if you are flying out of Prague and only making 4 journeys, then a rail pass won’t be worth it. -Roger

     
      Susannah says:

      Thank you for your response, it is very helpful! If we were to buy as we go and ride Second Class, would we still need to make a reservation?

      We are planning to train it back to Zurich.

      Thanks again!!

       

        Susannah,

        When you buy train tickets individually as you go, they come with a seat reservation in the same process. In other words, if it’s a train with reserved seating then you’ll be assigned seats with the ticket, or if it’s a train without reserved seating you just get a ticket for the journey itself. -Roger

         
anna says:

This sight has been a tremendous insight into the way of travelling Europe thank you for that. I have noticed how well you have answered other people’s questions so have one of my own.

My partner and I are on our OE and would love your input into what pass we should use for our itinerary .

We have travelled the Uk, Ireland and Scotland so far and now have flights booked to Copenhagen. We will be in Denmark for one month travelling from

Copenhagen – Arhus
Arhus – Viborg
viborg- Aalborg
Aalborg- Skagen
skagen- Billund
billund- Kolding
Kolding- Sonderborg

after Denmark we have 1.5 months left. we fly to Mallorca then it is

Mallorca- Barcelona
Barcelona- Monaco
Monaco- Rome
Florence
Venice
After Italy into Austria
Salzburg-Munich
Munich Prague
Prague- Berlin
Berlin- Amsterdam
Amsterdam- Paris

your advice would be greatly appreciated on what pass or passes to use for this trip. we are on a tight budget. would it be wise to get a one country Danish pass for Denmark.

what would be the best Global pass a continuous or set amount of days for this trip.

cheers

 

    Anna,

    If you are truly on a tight budget I would think twice about spending an entire month in Denmark. But if you are set on this itinerary and are just searching for the best possible value, I will help.

    For the Denmark part, I’d definitely recommend starting with a 7-days in 1-month Denmark Rail Pass. It’s surprisingly cheap considering how much the individual tickets can be in that country, and you are covering a lot of ground. Better still, it comes in First Class or Second Class, which most other passes don’t for those of us over 25.

    For the rest of it, your best bet will be a 10 Days in 2 Month Global Flexi Pass with the Saver option for two traveling together. You’ve got some otherwise expensive journeys mixed into your itinerary, and the Global Pass should save you money overall.

    While on the subject of budget, I’d recommend stopping in Nice instead of Monaco (unless you’ve got someone to stay with), and then visit Monaco on a day trip or even on your way to Rome. A hotel or hostel in Nice plus the train fare will be much cheaper than a hotel in Monaco, and Nice is more fun and budget friendly in general. Monaco is definitely worth a visit though, and you can see all the main things in about 5 hours. -Roger

     
Cody says:

Hi Roger,
We will be traveling from Venice to Florence with the Eurail 10 day FlexiPass. If we wanted to stop in Bologna for a few hours or so could we just get off at the stop and hop back on a train to Florence later in the day? Would this count as an extra trip on our pass or since it’s the same day it’s fine? Thank in advance for the help!

 

    Cody,

    The good news is that if you break that trip into two segments in the same day, it only counts as one travel day. The more complicated news is that you’d need a seat reservation on at least part of that trip. From Venice to Bologna there is one high-speed train per hour, which requires a €10 seat reservation and takes about 1 hour and 20 minutes. There is also a regional train once per hour that takes about 1 hour 50 minutes where €3 seat reservations are optional.

    However, the train from Bologna to Florence are ONLY the high-speed ones that take only 40 minutes, so on that one you WILL need a €10 seat reservation. Of course, if you skipped the Bologna stop, you’d still have to take the high-speed train with the €10 seat reservation.

    So you can just hop aboard the regional train (leaving at 43 past each hour) from Venice to Bologna and take any open seat for free. But from Bologna to Florence you’ll need to make a €10 per seat reservation. If you are sure of how long you want to stay in Bologna you can make the reservation at the Venice train station, but if you are in the mood to wing it, you can make the reservation when you get back to the train station in Bologna for the short trip to Florence. You can also make the seat reservation online if you bought the pass through Rail Europe, starting with the form at the bottom of this post (above the comments). -Roger

     
Abhinandan says:

Hi Roger,
I am bit confused with buying global euro rail pass or global interail pass. Please advice

I will be travelling from Poland to below countries

August – 4 days – From Poland
Hungary and Austria (Train)
Note:
1. Poland to Hungary – 1 travel day
2. Hungary to Austria – 1 Travel Day
3. Austri to Poland – 1 Travel Day

September – 10 days
Fly From Poland to Switzerland, Then
Switzerland and to paris(Train) – 1 Travel day
Paris to Venice, Italy(Train) – 1 Travel Day
Venice to Rome, Italy(Train) – 1 Travel Day
Rome to Naples, Italy(Train) – 1 Travel Day
Fly back to Poland from Naples

October
Poland to Czech Republic – 1 Travel Day
Czech Republic back to Poland – 1 Travel Day

I stayed in europe for more than 6 months. I want to buy global Euro pass and not global interail pass. For obvious reasons, Its cheaper and less complicated(According to me).

Is it ok to buy euro pass instead interail pass? Do they check my passport for the european residence?(I do not have residence permit. I am from India)

Regards,
Abhinandan

 

    Abhinandan,

    I think you’ll be fine buying a Eurail Pass since you are a citizen of India (or anywhere outside of Europe). I do believe that they check your passport when you first validate the pass, and they might also require a non-European credit card when you buy online. If you use the Rail Europe World site, it will ask you your country of residence, and obviously you’ll choose India. From there, you can request the pass be shipped to an address in Europe, since they regularly do this to hotels for people who buy at the last minute. -Roger

     
Abhinandan says:

Hi Roger,

Thank you for the quick response.

Me and my wife are planning to travel and will buy Global Eurail pass(10 days within 2 months) with 15% discount and ship it to Poland address.

Thank you so much.

Regards,
Abhinandan

 
Brenda says:

Hi Roger,

So my fiance and I are planning a trip pretty soon actually. We usually book trips less than a month before we are leaving. We’re quite the spontaneous couple but we knew we needed a little more time and thought for this trip. We are planning to leave October 7th 2013. We are planning on taking the train throughout the trip. We will be doing it all from the 7th to the 28th and spending the last couple of days till the 31st in Barcelona. I was wondering if you could help me figure out the best, convenient, and money savor way to do so via Euro rail. I have been doing much research and the easiest site I did find was the Raileuro site but is it most money friendly or just convenience? Should we even buy the pass? What do you think is our best bet? SOS please!

Thanks,
Brenda

 

    Brenda,

    This probably isn’t what you’ve come here to here, but the answer is that it all depends on where you’ll actually be going. The whole article above is written to help you decide whether a rail pass is a good idea for your itinerary or not. You might also be helped by reading some of the comments above where people write their proposed itinerary and I recommend the best rail pass or no pass at all.

    For example, if you went Paris to Munich to Prague to Berlin to Copenhagen to Amsterdam (cities 5 hours or more apart in the north) and that sort of thing, a rail pass will save you a lot of money. But if you go Milan to Florence to Rome to Pisa to Nice to Lyon (cities close together in the south), then buying as you go is best.

    If you put even a possible itinerary you have in mind, I’ll be happy to recommend what’s best. -Roger

     
Janet says:

Hi Roger,
What a fantastic site! My sister and I – both seniors – will be based in Italy (Orvieto) during the first two weeks of October and train or bus south as the mood takes us during this time. After that we’d like to hop on a ferry to Dubrovnik and make our way up to Budapest before returning to Rome for the flight back to Australia. Would you suggest we buy as we go or get a pass?
Thanks so much,
Janet

 

    Janet,

    Thanks. I think you are better off buying as you go on this trip. You’ll have to take a bus from Dubrovnik anyway, and the trains in Croatia run pretty slow even where they do run. From Zagreb to Budapest is a fairly cheap ticket as well. Depending on your route back down to Rome, it could be a bit pricey, but almost certainly cheaper than buying a pass to cover it. Bon voyage. -Roger

     
Greta says:

Hi

My partner and I are in our 20′s and will be spending 2 – 3 months in Europe in the first half of next year. We will be staying with family in Bergamo, near Milan, for at least a few weeks of the trip and have worked out a rough itinerary a bit like this – we’d like to fly one way to Amsterdam and leave the return trip open for when money is running low or we simply want to return home. There are a few places we want to see and we were thinking of doing it in this order:

Amsterdam – Berlin – Munich – Vienna – Milan and then settling in Bergamo, with short trips from there to Paris, Venice, Rome etc, anywhere in Italy that takes our fancy, and possibly Rovinj in Croatia. We don’t want to lock in any dates for these trips from Bergamo, just take it as it comes and do what we can with the money we have. We were thinking of doing this by rail (perhaps the 10 or 15 travel days within 2 months global pass?) however reading diffrent sites and reviews etc it has now become difficult to work out! Given the places we are going, do you think it is better to buy seperate regional tickets, combine trail with air, or another option? Your advice is appreciated!

Thank you

 

    Greta,

    Those shorter journeys within Italy are relatively cheap, especially if you buy online from the Italian rail company well in advance. As for the first part, the Amsterdam to Milan section will be fairly expensive, but if it’s only 4 trips then a rail pass might not be good value. The cheapest that would cover that part would be a 5 travel days in 2 months 4-country Select Pass, which would give you one extra travel day within Netherlands, Germany, Austria, or Italy, or add another country for the extra leg for only a little more.

    For Bergamo to farther places like Paris or Madrid, flying will actually cost less if you buy in advance. Northern Italy has many airports offering cheap flights within Europe on low cost carriers.

    If you are thinking about expanding that Amsterdam to Bergamo part then a rail pass could be wise. Let me know if that’s what you are thinking and I’ll help you work it out. -Roger

     
Charmaine says:

Many thanks Roger – you’ve given me some confidence in your reply! I’ll hold on tight and hope they get back to me soon
Thanks again for your help

 
Dye says:

Hello Roger,
I’ll be travelling to Munich on the 21st of August and will stay in Germany for 11 days before I head off to Iceland. I’ll stay in Iceland for 10 days then fly back to Munich again for 2 more days before I fly home.
So in short, my entire trip is 23 days.
If we take Iceland out of the equation, that leaves me 13 days in Germany. I do not intent to stay in Munich for the entire 13 days, I’d rather travel around major cities, such as Berlin, Stuttgart, Hamburg, and I’m open to anything else that peaks my interest.
Since this is my first travel to the Schengen area, I’m not sure what transportation method is optimal for my trip. Is a German rail pass recommended in my case?
Thanks
Dye

 

    Dye,

    A German Rail Pass might be perfect for your itinerary, depending on how many journeys you want to do and how far you’ll go. Individual train tickets within Germany are quite expensive, especially for longer distances, but a rail pass is also kind of expensive until you get to about 5 journeys. It sounds like you are going a long way so I think it’s the best choice for you.

    The first time I used any rail pass was a Germany Pass, and it was perfect because I covered every corner of the country with it. They come with as few as 3 journeys up to 10 journeys within a month. In 11 days you probably won’t want to do more than 5 trips or so, and even that is rushing a bit. So if that’s your plan I think it will be good value. -Roger

     
Clarenz says:

Hi Roger,

From Bern how to proceed to Mount Titlis?

 
Gary says:

Hey Roger,
Some advice if you may please. Would be very appreciated. Thinking about getting a Eurail Global Consecutive 3 month pass for the below itinerary for my fiancée and I for our European holiday. We are going to train it virtually everywhere. Majority of train trips will be over 2hrs. Some virtually all day like the Glacier Express in Switzerland.

* 15days Germany – 6days train travel
* 8days Latvia – fly in from Berlin and out to Prague.
* 5days Czech Republic – 2days of day trips into rural areas.
* Train from Prague to Vienna.
* 7days Austria – 2 train travel days.
* Train from Salzburg to St Moritz.
* 8days in Switzerland – 3/4days train travel.
* Train from Gimmelwald to Milan.
* 14days Italy – approx 6days train travel.
* Train from northern Italy to Nice.
* 14days France – 5/6 days train travel.

Any feedback will be very appreciated…

Regards,
Gary…

 

    Gary,

    It’s very rare that I recommend any consecutive days pass, but in your case I agree that it’s the best option. The 30-day version means you have to travel like every other day to make it worthwhile, so it’s great that the 3-month version is less than double the price. So yes, in your case I think you are right on, and with all those trips within Germany and France, you’ll practically pay for the 3-month pass just with those.

    One thing though, I’ve yet to visit Latvia, though my understanding is that train service is minimal and buses are the way to go. So check on that just to be sure because I could be wrong. Otherwise I think this looks like an incredible way to spend 3 months, without going overboard by traveling too often. -Roger

     
      Gary Just says:

      Hey Roger,

      I would just like to thank you very much for your advice from my query back on August 14, 2013.

      We bought the 3mth Global Consecutive Pass for our trip and it was simply amazing. We had the best time from August 18 to November 16, travelling through 15 countries in Europe. And it was all done be train except to get to and from Latvia.

      Our journey went so smooth, it was virtually the perfect holiday! All the train journeys were awesome, and the Global Pass worked so well… We didn’t have any issues what so ever, and all the train staff were so helpful when we did have any queries. There was only one slight hick-up when we wanted to travel from Lyon to Paris, and the train showed up no vacancies on the internet, and when I went to one of the SNCF ticket shops they advised it was just that the rail pass allocations were exhausted. So we just paid for a ticket on the train we wanted. No big deal…

      Its amazing how well the train network runs in Europe. Some days we had to catch multiple connections but they sync up so well, it was no issues what so ever. And we never missed a train in the whole time. I wish the train network in Australia could be half as good as in Europe!

      *** One trick I came up with was that as I had the German DB Bahn app on my iPhone, I use to use this to check all our train journeys. It didn’t matter what country we were travelling in. The DB Bahn app is synced into all trains around Europe, and we would pick our trains from this app before reserving or getting on one with the country we were in. It also had the intermediate stops and times/schedules for more info. I think this was invaluable…

      So a big thanks again Roger!

      Regards,
      Gary…

       

        Gary,

        I’m extremely happy to hear that things went so well and that my advice was helpful. You are the first person to comment after a trip, and though I don’t expect it, this is a very nice gesture. I’m going to look into that DB Bahn app for my own next train trip later in the year, so thanks for that recommendation as well. -Roger

         
Muhammad Junaid says:

Bought a Youth Pass this April, for 490 US Dollars
At each station, I stopped to check the price of my journey.

I travelled costing Euro 1100.

Last November, I had a chance to visit Sweden by Train from Germany. With this pass our train parked in a Ferry, this was a crossing between Rodby and some other place mentioned in Eurail Map. This Ferry trip 45 minutes was worth having just for free.

 
Karen B says:

Wow, such a great site! Thank you for sharing your knowledge. I have a few questions about trains vs buses for an upcoming trip in mid-September to early October please. There are 4 of us traveling through Spain and Portugal and we aren’t sure of the best value for both time and money. Our itinerary is: fly into Barcelona – 3, Valenicia – 1, Madrid – 3, Granada – 2, Tarifa – 2, Seville – 2, Salema – 2, Lisbon – 3, fly out of Lisbon. We unfortunately older than the student rate for trains but I think we can get 15% family discount for having 4 travelers, so we’re wondering if the 10-day pass would be better than mixing in (high speed?) trains and buses — any recommendations for each city to city travel would be welcome! Thank you

 

    Karen,

    Spain has really changed for public transport over the past few years by adding rather expensive yet comfortable high speed trains between the major cities. Paying for them individually feels like a rip-off, so a pass really can save money for an itinerary like this. So the short answer is, a pass and the fastest trains is the best and most comfortable way to visit this region, but the buses are definitely cheaper and still pretty reliable. On a relatively short trip like this, I think if you can afford a train pass (especially a 1st Class one with the 15% group discount) then do it. You’ll have 3-hour very comfortable train rides instead of 7-hour bus rides, so on travel days you can actually see some sights instead of just collapsing at your hotel from exhaustion.

    But again, buses are cheaper and coverage is even better than with trains, though you are mainly going to where trains are common. Except, as you might know, Tarifa and Salema are a short bus ride away from the nearest train stations, but those buses are cheap and frequent so don’t worry about that at all. -Roger

     
      Karen B says:

      Thank you for the prompt response and for sharing your expertise, Roger! We found a 7-day pass for $1800/4 people if we purchase together for the “family” rate, so I think we will go that route. I appreciate your advice and thank you again for helping make our trip a good one! -Karen

       
Christy says:

Hi there… thanks for the great article!
Finalizing the details of our trip… We’re a group of 4 flying into Dublin in less than 2 weeks.

Our general itinerary is as follows.
Dublin Monday 9/9 …fly to London Thursday 9/12 @ night. Train to Paris Monday 9/16 and lastly train to Frankfurt Germany Thursday night OR Friday morning 9/20.

Do we need to buy our passes and/ or tickets in advance? Or is it just a easy to buy when were in the different countries? Would a global pass be worth it? We’re all over 26… 3 people in the group will be going on for another 2 ½ weeks.

Thanks for the advice.

 

    Christy,

    I’m not sure I understand the question yet. It sounds like your first train ride will be London to Paris, and that’s only done on the Eurostar, which isn’t part of any pass, and you should buy as early as possible for the best price. Here’s more information with a link to buy:

    http://www.priceoftravel.com/3522/eurostar-london-to-paris-or-brussels-trains-money-saving-tips/

    From Paris to Frankfurt you might also try to buy online on the German rail official site, but that price won’t be too different if you just buy at the time. If that’s the end of the trip then obviously no pass is even a little helpful, but for those going on for another 2.5 weeks, a pass might be useful depending on where they are going. Let me know more and I’ll try to help. -Roger

     
      Christy says:

      Oh ok…sorry I think Im confused overall. haha This is our first trip and getting lots of different answers:)

      Do we not need the rail passes to travel within the countries we’re visiting? Ie, if we’re staying in central dublin but want to go see the cliffs of Moher… do we use the rails or is that a completely different train system.

      Thanks for the advice and super quick reply :)

       

        Christy,

        I understand how confusing this stuff seems before you’ve done it once, so not a problem at all. Ireland is actually part of the Eurail system even though Great Britain isn’t, but the train ride from Dublin to Galway (near the cliffs) should be cheap enough to buy as you go. Basically, rail passes are only good for people who are taking at least 5 longer rides (3 to 6 hours) within the same region, or 10 or more longer rides all over Europe, If you are only doing a few train journeys you are best off trying to buy them online early if you are sure when you want to go. Try to find the country’s official train websites for the best advanced prices. -Roger

         
Shide says:

Which pass should i buy coz im going travel europe for 21 days…

A Coruna, Spain
Porto, Portugal
Lisbon, Portugal
Madrid, Spain
Barcelona, Spain
Paris, France
Brussels, Belgium
Amsterdam, Netherlands
Collogue, Germany
Berlin, Germany
Prague, Czech
Munich, Germany
Zurich, Swiss
Milan, Italy
Venice, Italy
Florence, Italy
Pisa, Italy
Rome, Italy

which pass should i get?

 

    Shide,

    Are you saying you are going to visit these 18 cities in 21 days? If so, the 21-day Global Pass with consecutive days is by far the best and you’ll get great value out of it. However, I really can’t recommend spending almost every day in Europe on a train instead of sightseeing. Is this really what you have in mind and are you sure it’s the best strategy? -Roger

     
Shaf says:

Hi Roger,

Me and my husband is travelling to Europe for 14 days and will be covering Zurich, Interlaken, Rome, Venice, Barcelona, Paris & Prague. I just want to know that is Global Pass suitable for this? and does it include all international train, local train and city to city trains and buses?

 

    Shaf,

    Yes, a Global Pass will cover all of those places, and if you are doing all of those in 14 days your best option would be the 15-consecutive days option. It covers all international and domestic trains, although in many cases you’ll also need to pay a small fee (usually about €5) for a seat reservation. The only thing a Global Pass won’t cover is public transportation within cities, like bus or metro systems, as those are all run separately. However, on all of those you can get a day pass for around €5, and in places like Interlaken and Venice you might not need a transit pass at all. -Roger

     
Shaf says:

I just want to make sure that it cover all the transportation or not?

 
Kelvin T says:

Hi Roger,

Great summary for the Eurail travel / passes !

We are 2 pax planning a 2-week trip from 1 october 13 flying into Rome/Italy and departing in from Zurich/Switerland. We plan to travels in main cities by fast trains (rome, florence, venice, milan, zermatt, luzern, zurich) with the itenary as shown below:
Trip Itenary:

1. Fly in to Rome (2 nights) – Oct 1 to 3 – City walk/tour + Vatican

2. Train – Rome to Florence (4 nights) – Oct 3 to 7 – City walk/tour + the outlet Mall + Pisa + Cinque Terra + Siena

3. Train – Florence to Venice (2 nights) – Oct 7 to 9 – City walk/tour + Canal ride + Island tour

4. Train – Venice to Milan (1 night) – Oct 9 to 10 – City tour/activity

5. Train – Milan (or nearby city) to Switzerland (Zermatt, Matterhorn, 1 night) – Oct 10 – 11 – Mountain tour/activity

6. Train – Zermatt (or nearby) to Luzern (or alternative city, 1 night) – Oct 11 to 12 – City/lake tour/activity

7. Train – uzern (or alternative city) to Zurich (2 nights) – Oct 12 to 14 – City tour/activity

8. Fly out from Zurich airport (depart) – Oct 14

Based on the itenary, we would like to seek your advise/comment on the followings:

1. There is no 2 country eurail pass for italy/switzerland, so we are looking at getting the one country eurail savers pass for Italy, is there such a pass ? and does it make sense for Italy travel?

2. For Switzerland travel, is there a similar country saver pass? Or any other suitable alternatives? Given only about 4 main trips between city/airport.

3. For Italy one country savers pass, train seat reservations is required for fast trains, right? Can these be reserved online and how easy it is to changed the travel dates/time ? What are the mandatory charges that will be applied ?

4. Can this italy pass be used for regional trains especially around Florence ? Any additional charges required ?

5. We are heading to Matterhorn after venice and thought it is appropriate to pass by Milan (since this is a big train station). Is this route possible ? Is there any direct train routes from venice (or nearby city ) to the matterhorn ? Can the italy savers pass be used or get discounts for Italy/switzerland train travel ?

6. Any comment or improvements on the itenary ?

Will appreciate your feedback soonest possible, many Thanks !

Regards
Kelvin T

 

    Kelvin,

    Yes, it’s a shame that there is no Italy-Switzerland pass because it would obviously be ideal. Since that isn’t an option, I think you are best off just buying as you go, or better yet, buy in advance on the Italy and Switzerland official rail websites. Each country does offer a single-country Eurail Pass, but for an itinerary like you have in mind I wouldn’t recommend them.

    In Italy especially, the pass only pays off if you are going the length of the country, but for those shorter hops you’d actually pay more with a pass. The same is true in Switzerland really.

    But in both countries, you should be able to buy at least a few of your tickets online in advance, as long as you are going to the official sites. They discount many tickets early, and the price goes up as the journey approaches. The down side to that is that you are locked in not only to a day but also a time, though it sounds like you are locking all your dates in any way. Also, those journeys in Italy should only be €30 or so each even if you buy the day before, so a pass just doesn’t pay for itself. If you have any more questions, let me know. -Roger

     
Mike says:

Roger! You are the man, I have been using your site for every detail for my trip next week and it has been more than helpful, thanks! I have been reading all your comments and Im still hung up on getting a eurail pass or not, because of cheap flights/negative feedback I have been reading about it.I am going to be backpacking by myself for 30 days or more, kind of up in the air. I am flying into Barcelona (4days), then hitting south of france (st tropez,cannes (3 days)), Italy(florence/Venice (4 days)), Fly into budapest(2-3days), Munich (3 days), Prague (3 days), then up to berlin (2-3 days), to amsterdam (2days), Paris (3 days), then finish off in Switzerland (3 days). Should I just book trains when I get there or should I get a eurail pass and hope for the best… Thanks again for the info and keep up the good work!

-Mike

 

    Mike,

    I’m happy to hear that the site has been a help in trip planning. Unfortunately, most of the trains you have in mind are quite expensive when bought at the station. It looks like you have at least 11 journeys in mind, or maybe a few more, so what I’d recommend is the Global Pass with 10 travel days out of 2 months. It’s cheaper than the 30 consecutive days pass, and it allows you to use it on your 10 most expensive trips, while paying for the cheaper ones out of pocket.

    Those legs like Berlin to Amsterdam to Paris and into Switzerland would be close to €100 each in 2nd Class if you buy just before you go. Hopefully you have enough time to order a pass before you leave, as I honestly think it will save you money and add a bit more freedom. When each new leg adds €90 to get there, many people start thinking about skipping some of them, but with a Eurail Pass you’ve locked in a lower fare so you can go anywhere your heart desires (although you’ll need a seat reservation for most of these, and they are around €5 each). Bon voyage. -Roger

     
Stephanie says:

Roger,
Your site is fantastic. My husband and I greatly appreciate all of the information you have provided. This will be our first trip to Europe, and we are still having difficulties deciding the best travel options. It sounds like the Eurail Select Pass is our best option, but we just want to make sure before purchasing. We are also thinking of traveling by car and need your opinion train vs. car. We are traveling between December 19-27. Our itinerary is as follows:

Day 1- Paris
Day 2-Switzerland
Day 3-Fussen/Hohenschwangau
Day 4-Munich/Nuremberg
Day 5-Prague
Day 6-Rothenberg
Day7-Frankfurt
Day 8-Kassel
Day 9-Fly out from Hannover

Any help would be much appreciated.

 

    Stephanie,

    Before we discuss trains vs. rental cars in Europe, I’m going to encourage you to reconsider this itinerary. It appears that you are literally going to be changing cities (or even countries) every day, which means that you’d be spending most of your daylight hours in transit. Unless you are going on some kind of scavenger hunt, I’d cut out half the stops and spend more time in the others. Also, keep in mind that in late December the sun is only up from about 8:30am until 4pm in that region.

    Switzerland can be partially driven through in a day, but that’s all you’d be doing.

    Spend at least two days in Paris, and then go to Munich, with a quick stop at the castles near Fussen if you have the energy. The Prague for a couple days before heading back to Hannover. Rothenburg can be seen and even appreciated in only a few hours if your schedule is tight, and I’d skip Frankfurt altogether unless there is something specific you want to see there.

    Once you have a less crazy itinerary, then trains are almost certainly still the better choice. Driving in countries you are new to and where you don’t speak the native language is stressful, and the petrol is expensive. Then parking is usually a big problem as well, unless you are doing things like touring wineries.

    If you simplify your itinerary then I’ll be happy to offer more advice once you do. -Roger

     
      Stephanie says:

      Well maybe I should say this is my first time to Europe. My husband speaks German fluently and lived in Hamburg for several years. He does have his European driver’s license as well. If we did the trains, we were hoping to take night trains to the places we went, but we do not know how the night trains work or if they are included with the Eurail passes.

      Also, are the city transportation trains included in the Eurail pass?

      Frankfurt and Rothenberg were optional on our list, so we are willing to skip them.
      Thank you for your help and advice. It is greatly appreciated.

       

        Stephanie,

        Well, yes, a Eurail Pass does indeed cover the night trains, although you’ll also need to reserve a seat or a bunk (couchette) for an additional cost of €5 or so for a seat or €20 to €30 for a couchette. Your husband no doubt knows about how night trains work, but the quick version is this: For virtually all major city pairs that are between 6 and 12 hours apart, there is exactly one night train between them, usually leaving around 10pm to 11pm. They take longer than day trains because they usually stop in the middle of the night to swap carriages with other trains.

        So you could do night trains, but honestly for most people they aren’t all that refreshing. For example, I’m lucky to get 2 hours total sleep on them because I’m a light sleeper and they bounce around quite a bit, and when they swap carriages it’s even more jarring. If you both are the type who can pass out anywhere and you don’t need a shower then they could work.

        Driving might be the better option, though I’d still encourage you to scale back your number of destinations and try to spend at least 2 nights in each place you go, except for maybe 1 night in a small town like Rothenburg ob der Tauber. -Roger

         
Mary says:

Hi Roger, My 21 year old daughter and I will be travelling from Munich to Venice at the end of December to spend New Year with family staying 5-6 nights, then on to Paris for 4-5 nights and back to Munich where she works. Can you please advise on passes and your opinion on the best way to travel at that time of year. Many Thanks, Mary

 

    Mary, with only 4 train journeys, a rail pass isn’t really an option that makes sense. To be honest, I’d look into flying for any or all of those journeys. Each of them is a long train ride that would cost US$100 per person or more each way, and if you book flights in advance you can probably do better. I’m a huge fan of European railways, but flights are often cheaper and at that time of year the scenery isn’t great on the trains anyway. So I’d recommend looking into the price of flights on lowcost carriers (which are quite low if booked in advance) and doing the rest on trains by also booking in advance on the national rail sites. -Roger

     
Nick says:

This site is excellent!! My wife and I (both over 30) are just starting to plan a 2-week trip late in the summer of 2014. We plan on flying into Oslo and working our way south into Germany by way of Stockholm, and Copenhagen. Given the itinerary we have started to formulate, which rail option would be best for us?

Oslo (arrival flight)/surrounding area – 3 days
Stockholm – 2 days
Copenhagen – 1 day
Trier/surrounding – 3 days
Berlin (departure flight) – 4 days

 

    Nick,

    Once again, I’m always happy to hear that this site and its information is helping people.

    On this itinerary, it appears that you only have 4 journeys planned (and that seems sensible), so a rail pass isn’t likely to be good value. The shortest durations are 5 journeys and that’s in no more than 3 countries, but you’re doing at least 4. So my recommendation would be to just buy the train tickets individually. At least some of these trips should be cheaper if you buy early, and I believe the national official rail sites for these countries start selling six months in advance, so I’d try that early next year. If you wait until you get there then these legs would all be very expensive if purchased at the station on the day. -Roger

     
Sophia van Wyk says:

Hi Roger
We are a group of 15 people travelling together. I was thinking about buying the global pass. Just one question, can you travel with that pass within a country? We want to visit a few cities in Switzerland and Austria.

Thank you

 

    Sophia,

    Yes you can. A Global Pass covers all international AND domestic train travel within the 25 or so included countries. However, it’s worth mentioning that Switzerland has one or two private train lines that run vintage trains up mountains and those are only partially covered by Eurail Passes. -Roger

     
Matt says:

Hi Roger,
My wife and I are looking to spend 3 months in Europe starting in France.
Paris, Versailles, Luxembourg City, Bruges, Brussels, Antwerp, Rotterdam, Amsterdam, Dusseldorf, Frankfurt, Krakow, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Iceland and Denmark.
Our plans change, and we find ourselves spending longer in places we find interesting and leave out places that don’t seem to interest us. We like to be able to catch ferries (especially around Finland and Sweden by the looks of the map).
I’m worried that if we by a Pass then it will hinder our travels but simultaneously I worry that if we don’t then it would end up costing us a big difference if we were to by each individual ticket.

I’m still unsure of how the pass works. Can you simply board any train at anytime, or do you need to present your pass at the ticket office and be given a ticket? I’m wondering if it would save time by not having ti line up.

Would we automatically have reserved seats on each train ride?

My head is spinning trying to figure out what we should do. I hope to hear from you and appreciate any feed back you can offer.

We are 30 years of age and will be travelling with large backpacks.
Cheers

 

    Matt,

    That sounds like an epic trip. First off, I don’t think you should buy a rail pass for the whole thing. They are really best for people who want to cover a lot of ground in a relatively short time. It appears that you’ll be making mostly short hops, albeit through otherwise expensive countries.

    On the other hand, you might look into buying a rail pass for the northern part of your trip, starting in Amsterdam. Those rail journeys in the Nordic countries can be insanely expensive, partly because they tend to be very long. If you just decide to wing it and cruise around those countries on a whim, you could spend US$150 or more for each journey, per person.

    For all of your stops between Paris and Amsterdam, they are short rides (1 to 3 hours each) and if you buy tickets online at least a few days in advance (through the official country rail sites), they won’t cost too much each. Or even if they do seem pricey, a rail pass to cover them would cost even more.

    So if you sort of plan out your proposed itinerary starting in Amsterdam and going north, it might be wise to buy one of the regional rail passes that cover those countries. You can buy a pass and then validate it (begin using it) up to 6 months later, which is handy since you can’t buy them once you are in Europe. By the way, you put Iceland on your list, and I assume you realize that it’s a long way from the others and there are no trains. If you figure out about how many stops you think you’ll do in the north, I can help you find the right pass if one fits well for it.

    As for how they work, it used to be that you could just hop on any train and show the conductor your pass when they checked tickets, but now on most of the popular routes for tourists (longer inter-city trains) you need a seat reservation. These countries have all computerized and are doing load balancing on the longer rides, which is mostly a good thing, although it does take some of the spontaneity out of using a pass. Seat reservations usually cost around €5 each and you get them from the same ticket counters in each train station. You can usually get them just before the train leaves because few trains sell out, but I prefer to get them the day before so I can arrive at the train station just before the train pulls out.

    More good news is that a rail pass will cover many of the popular ferry rides in the north, or at least give you a discount. Once you decide your planned route you can check the rail pass site to see if ferries are covered, which they probably will be.

    Let me know if you have any other questions or want more advice about doing a partial rail pass thing like this. -Roger

     
      Matt says:

      Hi Roger, thanks for the helpful input. We have a better idea of our trip now and are trying to figure out how long we should plan to stay at each of our stops. Having said that I’m not sure if we are missing some amazing places in each country (there is so much to research) Is there any places you would recommend doing a day trip to or spending a night more at? Alternatively please let me know your thoughts on our proposed itinerary. We have an additional 9 or 10 days to add to this trip, and I thinking perhaps visiting Antwerp for a day trip on our journey to Rotterdam. We are happy to push on at a fast pace through some of these countries but we would like a good amount of downtime at some stunning cities too such as Amsterdam, Copenhagen, and I hear Stockholm is beautiful. I’m also trying to look into how long we would want to spend in Iceland too. Also to keep things interesting we are also looking at a trip into Russia. Would 4 nights for St. Petersburg be a good timeframe? Much to see? Interesting city to spend some time just enjoying the culture?

      8 nights Paris (already booked)
      3 nights Luxembourg City
      train via Brussels for a day tip – lunch & spend a few hours sight-seeing continue to Bruges
      3 nights Bruges
      2 nights Antwerp
      2 nights Rotterdam
      4 nights Amsterdam
      3 nights Dusseldorf
      3 nights Frankfurt (family visit)
      3 nights Berlin (family visit, have visited once before)
      4 nights Krakow
      2 nights Warsaw
      2 nights Minsk
      2 nights Vilnius
      3 nights Riga
      3 nights Tallinn
      4 nights St. Petersburg
      3 nights Helsinki
      3 nights Oulu
      2 nights Rovaniemi
      3 nights Tromso
      3 nights Longyearbyen (flight)
      3 nights Oslo (flight from Longyearbyen or train from Tromoso)
      3 nights Stockholm
      5 nights Copenhagen
      4 nights Reykjvik (flight)
      Flight to Copenhagen and fly out of Europe

      As far as the train pass goes, we are thinking a 5 country, 6/8/10 days in 60 days.
      Germany, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark

      So much to consider, I’d appreciate your wisdom.

      Cheers

       

        Matt,

        I think your itinerary is looking good, and you are really not rushing anywhere. Three nights in Luxumbourg City is actually one or two more than most people spend, but with so many stops I agree that it’s wise to stay two days or more everywhere, so you always have full sightseeing days in each place.

        I’ve yet to make it into Russia, partly because I’m an American and they make the visa process quite slow, confusing, and expensive, according to most people. St. Petersburg is certainly on my list, and I think I’d shoot for 3 nights (partly because I don’t hear too many people raving about it and wishing they could stay longer). Starting in Warsaw you’ll probably find that buses are better than trains until you get to Helsinki. With that in mind, I think you’ve made an ideal choice of rail passes, and that’ll probably save you a bundle.

        The feeling of not knowing what you might be missing along the way is familiar to me. In cases like that, I think there is no substitute for a real guidebook. For example, Iceland is quite a mysterious place so I bought the Lonely Planet Iceland for my iPad and I’m incredibly glad that I did. Those editors know pretty much all the highlights and they recommend all the best ones. I also love Rick Steves’ guides because he and his editors go even further in that they give readers much deeper coverage of the best things, and they leave out the things that are best ignored.

        Also, three nights in Oslo sounds like a lot, especially considering how insanely expensive it is. Most travelers only spend a day or so in Oslo on the way to and from the fjords and other wilderness. Stockholm and Copenhagen are indeed beautiful, though 5 days in Copenhagen seems like a long time, and it’s too expensive of a place to just chill out in, at least for most travelers.

        Speaking of chilling out, if I were to be planning this itinerary for myself, I think I’d move faster through the expensive cities and add in perhaps three longer “chill out breaks” after every two weeks on the road. As in, in a city like Krakow, plan two days to see the sights but three days to just do laundry and relax to let the previous weeks sink in. I actually did that in Krakow last summer, staying 8 nights, which was wonderful because it’s a nice city and it’s very cheap. In other words, build in a few rest stops in cheaper mellower places, and push through the expensive cities in two days or so.

        I just did my first Iceland visit about a month ago, and I can’t wait to go back. I spent 9 days, including 7 days driving a rented car around the Ring Road. In four days you’ll only have time to see Reykjavik (which isn’t all that interesting) and spend a couple days going along the southern coast. I normally prefer public transportation whenever possible, but in Iceland I was incredibly glad that I rented a car because you can go anywhere at any time. The bus service there is very limited, and you might have to be at the bus stop at 6:30am to catch the only bus of the day to where you want to go.

        Hopefully some of the above helps. And feel free to write back with other questions now or as the trip draws near. -Roger

         
          Matt says:

          Hi Roger, I’m back with a couple of questions if I may.
          We went ahead and purchased 10 x 4 countries RailPass (Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and Finland). We kinda ran out of time and needed to purchase the pass and have it posted to an address where we could pick it up in a couple of weeks time.

          This is our Scandinavia travel plans (probably)

          Copenhagen
          Malmö
          Gothenburg
          Helsinki
          Oulu
          Rovaniemi
          Tromsø
          Trondheim
          Oslo
          Copenhagen

          Is it true that we can use the pass to take the ferry from Stockholm to Helsinki?

          Our travel date would be 16th December
          Vessle: M/S Silja Serenade
          Departure Time: 17:00pm
          Arrival Time: 10:30am
          Travel Time: 16 30min

          If this trip can be used with the RailPass, will this trip count as 1 use of the pass, or because it’s over night will it be 2 rides?
          When making the booking online am I able to indicate that we have a Railpass, or do we get reimbursed on the travel day?

          Traveling by bus from Rovaniemi to Tromsø, with a possible stop for a night along the way. Will the RailPass cover these trips? Also any need to book in advance these trips if we are looking at traveling on or around the 24th December?

          At this stage we are looking at traveling during the day form Helsinki to Oulu, but if we decide to take the Night Train, would that take 2 day passes to cover the trip because it’s over two dates?

          We are looking at taking the Hurtigruten from Tromsø to Trondheim. Is there a discount for this booking with the RailPass?

          Also from Oslo to Copenhagen, what would be your choice of travel plan? Train via Gothenburg, or take the ferry via a nights stay at Aarhus and continue to Copenhagen the next day?

          Thanks heaps :-)

           

          Matt,

          I haven’t spent much time using rail passes to get around the Nordic countries so I’d be looking online for answers to most of these questions as well. As for the ferry, it looks like you can get 50% off between Stockholm and Helsinki on Viking (and that doesn’t use a travel day), but I don’t see anything for the ship you mention.

          Also, I don’t see anything that would help for a bus from Rovaniemi to Tromsø for rail pass holders. If you go to the site where you bought your pass, such as eurail.com, you’ll be able to see a page for each country that lists the ferries, buses, and other things that passholders get free or at a discount.

          The good news about night trains is that they only use one travel day. As long as the train leaves after 7pm and arrives after midnight (in other words, it’s an official “night train”) then you only use a travel day for the arrival date. This means that you can do a day trip or another journey on that same arrival day and it’ll still only be one travel day.

          From Oslo to Copenhagen it looks like the train takes 8 hours and the ferry takes double that, so I’d do the train. The scenery should be lovely (especially compared to an overnight ferry) and 8 hours isn’t bad on those comfortable trains.

          Feel free to ask any other questions, and sorry not all of these were in my wheelhouse. -Roger

           
marie says:

Hi Roger, big thanks for writing this article! I’m planning on backpacking Europe on May2014 for three months. I just want to make things clear on the travel days and riding the trains; does that mean you can use your pass as much as you want in that 24 hour, is that considered as one travel day? or everytime you use your pass, that’s counted as a travel day? I’m 21years old and i’m thinking of going to these places:

Greece (Nafplio, Santorini, Athens)
Bulgaria (Buzludzha, Sozopol, Balchik, Ledenika, Rhodopes, Sofia)
Romania (Bran, Sighisoara, Timisoara, Prahova, Sibiu, Brasov, sapanta, suceava)
Croatia (Dubrovnik, Split, Korcula)
Italy (Venice, Barrea, Florence, Portofino, Rome, Milan)
Poland (Krakow, Bieszczandy, Pomerania)
Austria (Vienna, Hallstatt, Innsbruck, Salszburg, Melk)
France (Chenoeau, Paris, Colmar, Giverny)
Belgium (Bruges, Brussels, Ghent)
Spain (Barcelona, Ronda)

I dont know which global pass to get, would the 3months continuous pass be worth it, or 15days within 2months pass be a better choice?

 

    Marie,

    I’m always happy to hear that this information is helpful.

    Okay, so on these rail passes, a “travel day” is basically the same as a calendar day rather than a 24-hour period. So if you start in Venice and take a morning train to Milan, and walk around the city for a few hours before taking another train in the afternoon to Turin, that’s one travel day. You can even take a night train and as long as it leaves after 7pm and arrives the following morning, you only mark the arrival date as a “travel day,” so you could theoretically take another train that afternoon and it would still be the same travel day. However, you can’t take an afternoon train one day and a morning train the next and count it as one day, even if it’s all within a 24-hour period. Basically, when you validate your pass for a day, you write in the date and have the first conductor stamp it, and all the other conductors just look at it to verify.

    Now on to your itinerary: I think you have too many stops planned, even for 3 months. It looks like over 40 cities, which means you’d be traveling every other day for 3 full months. I think it’s good to research all the possibilities and have options as you move along, but I’d really recommend against actually trying to see all these places on one trip. Even for a 3-month trip, it’s best to plan 3 nights or more in most stops, except for a few small cities where 1 or 2 is enough to see everything you want to see.

    In Greece there is really no train service so you’ll want to take buses and ferries. In Bulgaria, Croatia, and Romania the train service is slow and infrequent so buses are the better option. Fortunately, the buses in that part of Europe are cheap and fairly comfortable, plus there are frequent departures. Once you get to Split you can start with trains towards Italy, and from then on they are the way to go.

    So with that in mind, a 15 days out of 60 pass is probably best for you. Some of your (planned) trips are quite short so for those you could just buy tickets as you go, and only use the pass for the 15 longest rides. That would save you quite a bit of money, especially in France and on your way to Spain.

    But seriously, I think you have too many somewhat obscure cities on this list, including quite a few I’ve never even heard of even though I’ve been to all these countries. Not to lecture you or anything, but a big “Europe trip” like this is at its best when you have as many contrasts as possible along the way. I’m sure those towns in Bulgaria will all be fairly similar, and instead of some of those you might add Prague and Budapest, which are both major highlights on any trip.

    No matter how you do it, I’m sure it’ll be incredible, and feel free to ask any other questions you might have as time goes on. -Roger

     
      Marie says:

      Thank you so much! I trimmed down my itinerary too, thanks for the tip too. by any chance, do you know where the cheapest destination to start, and when is the right time to buy a plane ticket to Europe for summer?

       

        Marie,

        I’m glad you have focused your itinerary for this trip. The cheapest cities in Europe are Bucharest and Sofia, but neither has cheap flights coming into it from any real distance. Your best options would probably be either to fly into Athens (if you are coming from, say, North America) and start there, or fly into Rome and then look into a low cost airline into Bulgaria or Romania. But really, it’s usually best just to fly into the most remote city you will visit and then do the others in order coming back to a big airport for a flight home.

        For international flights the cheapest time is about 11 weeks before the outbound flight. So if you check now for a flight 9 months from now, it’ll be expensive, and the airfare will probably start dropping about 4 months out. -Roger

         
Enrique says:

Im traveling around Europe in this december, im actually trying to know Madrid (wich the airplane arrives) for 2 days, then Barcelona 2 Days. Then France 2 days Bologna, Venezia, Florence(3-4 days) and Rome 2 days, Would you recommend me to get a eurail pass, if you do what kind of pass and what do you recommend me to do, go from Barcelona to Rome, or Barcelona to Paris? then Florence and Rome for the last one, ill be in Europe for around 15 days

 

    Enrique,

    Unfortunately, your itinerary isn’t an ideal one for a rail pass because France can’t be included with only 2 other countries (though it can be included with either Spain OR Italy). A Global Pass (that covers all the countries) would cost more than just buying the train tickets as you go, since many of your trips are relatively short and cheap.

    Whether you go from Barcelona to Rome to Paris or Barcelona to Paris to Rome, isn’t much difference. It would be best to end wherever the cheapest ticket home flies from. -Roger

     
Tom and alice says:

Hi roger,

We are two 26 year olds looking to travel around Europe for approx 80 days in June to August 2014. At this stage we are thinking to start in Amsterdam and go clockwise and finish in Paris ( mainly going to Germany , Switzerland , Italy, Greece, Spain , maybe Poland). We have looked at bus about but are thinking we would prefer more freedom and think a euro global pass is our best option. Our main concern with rail travel is the difficulty in booking our trains, is there a one stop website, our is best to book using the local country trains. Also is it better to book our main train legs in advance.? We are worried about the reservation fee. As I gather there will be a reservation charge on all our longer rides between countries? Do you think using global pass will be much more expensive than busabout or is there a possible better option for our travel plans.?

Any advice would be greatly appreciated

Kind Regards
Tom

 

    Tom and Alice,

    While the buses going around Europe are comfortable, they are usually quite a bit slower than the trains, and also they usually only have one or two per day between major cities. In the Baltics, the Balkans, Spain, and Portugal, buses are the best option in many cases but chances are you’ll be better off on trains for most of your legs.

    For your itinerary I think you’d do best with a Global Pass with 10 (or 15) travel days within two months. With two traveling together you can get a First Class Saver version, which means it’s not much more expensive than Second Class. With 60 days to use a rail pass on an 80-day trip, it could get a bit tricky and require a bit of planning, but even if you have to buy a couple of train (or bus) tickets on your own, it should still save quite a bit of money. If you buy the 10-day version you’d obviously just use it on the longer and more expensive legs of your trip, and you’d pay cash for tickets for shorter and cheaper legs along the way. I can help you figure that part later if you’d like.

    As of now there is no good universal site to book and buy European train tickets. The only ones that cover most of the continent also charge extra fees. In many cases you can save money by buying in advance online from the official train website of each country. You might have to book several weeks ahead of time in order to get a good discount, so a rail pass gives you even more flexibility since all you need is a seat reservation, which is usually available just before the train leaves, especially if you are traveling in First Class.

    The seat reservations typically cost about €5 each, except for a few high-speed lines in France that cost more like €25. Again, even during summer, these trains very rarely sell out, especially in first class. The trains between major cities that leave early in the morning are most crowded, and sometimes you might have to leave at 10am instead of 9am to get a seat. But otherwise you can usually just go into the train station 30 minutes before the train is leaving and buy a seat reservation. Personally, I prefer to get a seat reservation a day or two beforehand so I can walk right onto the train without worrying how long the queue is at that moment. -Roger

     
Viviana and Natalia says:

Hey Roger,

We are going to Europe from Colombia, to get nice holydays but we are not sure about what is the best option to going around.

Our Itinerary start in Madrid and we are planning to travel from there to Paris, Amdterdam, Prague, and too many cities in Italy, and after that we are going back to Barcelona for a couple of nights and then go to Madrid to get our plane to colombia.

We get 20 days to be in Europe, so what do you thing abuot our itinerary, and which is the best option to travel (Train, bus or plane)?

And France is include in the europe Global pass?

Thanks in advance.

 

    Viviana and Natalia,

    Starting with the itinerary, if you have 20 total days then I think 8 is the absolute maximum number of cities you’d want to visit. In other words, if you can keep it down to maybe 2 cities in Italy (Rome for 3 nights and Venice for 1 night) then I think the whole thing works nicely. But if your plan was to visit 4 or 5 or 6 cities in Italy then I think you are rushing too much. It’s helpful (and necessary) to think of travel days as non-sightseeing days. Even with a 3-hour train ride from one city to another, it’ll be around 6 hours from the time you check out of one hotel or hostel and into the next, and those are prime sightseeing hours in the middle of the day. When a flight is involved, even if it’s a 1-hour flight, it’s probably more like 7 or 8 hours from one hotel to the next when you add in airport transportation on both ends and arriving early enough and all that. At least on train rides you get scenery while you travel and it’s easier to get oriented in the next place when the train drops you in the city center.

    With this itinerary I’d recommend flying from Madrid to Paris, a train from Paris to Amsterdam, a flight from Amsterdam to Prague, and probably a flight from Prague to Rome (or any other Italian city you plan on visiting that has cheap flights. Then take trains within Italy, and probably a flight to Barcelona then a train ride to Madrid for your flight home. In the cases where I recommend a flight, it’s because the train ride would take 8 to 12 hours and cost even more than a flight if you buy the plane tickets well in advance. The buses are cheaper than trains, but also slower with fewer departures each day, and on a fast-moving trip like this I wouldn’t recommend them.

    So I really don’t recommend a rail pass for this itinerary even if you limit it to 8 total destinations. And for the record, France is indeed included in the Global Passes as well as some 2-country passes with Italy and Spain. The only thing they are not included on is the 3, 4, or 5-country Select Pass, which is a shame because otherwise it would be something to consider for your trip. -Roger

     
Kelvin T says:

Hi Roger,

I am in Zurich now and have about 5-6 days to travel out to neighbouring countries/cities and need to be back by 21/oct to catch a mid morning flight on 22/oct.

I am thinking of eurial select pass (for 3 or 4 countries?) for few cities like vienna, praque and perhaps 1 more city in germany on the route back to zurich. I am traveling alone so am flexible with the most ‘compact’ plan including night trains (if necessary) to see the most places. Appreciate your advise asap.

Regards
Kelvin T

 
Pakya port says:

Greetings from Penang.
I was planning my Europe trip for the 1st time. Been browsing so many sites local and abroad for inspirations. BUT yours is very complete and transparent. Going through it made me feel like i’m already been to certain part of Europe. Keep up the good work and thank you for the bottom of my heart.

 
Marlon says:

Hi Roger

I’m currently in South East Asia (Korea) and am planning on spending 3-4months in Europe. I already have most of my accommodation sorted out (for free)and I’m be travelling all of Western Europe and a little of Eastern Europe. In this time I would like to see as much as possible with flexibility on changing my next destination. Which pass would you recommend? Would the (not sure what it is called) ‘unlimited’ pass be worth it (rather than buying each legg ticket going from West to East)? Thanks ^^

 

    Marlon,

    I’d have to know more about your actual expected itinerary to be able to answer with confidence, but based on what you’ve said so far I think you might benefit by buying a 10-day Global Pass (that’s the unlimited pass that covers most of continental Europe). A 3-month Unlimited Global Pass, which allows travel any day in that period, is very expensive and is only good value if you plan on taking the train every 3rd day or so.

    If you buy a 10 Travel Days out of 60 Global Pass then you can use it for your 10 most expensive trips and pay for the shorter and cheaper ones as you go. Here’s the thing: If you buy European train tickets way in advance (a month or more) you can get most of them cheaply, but if you want to be flexible and just go as you please, those individual tickets can cost a fortune. When using that rail pass you’d need to make a seat reservation on most of those journeys, but those usually cost around €5 and you can almost always get one just before the train leaves.

    I hope this makes sense. Basically you’d figure out which parts of your trip would have expensive train fares (longer distances in France and everything to its north), and put them in a 60-day period so you can use a pass on 10 of the most expensive ones. And, for example, if you are taking trains within Italy (Rome to Florence etc) you can buy them as you go because they are relatively cheap.

    Feel free to give me more info on your proposed route and I might be able to give a more specific recommendation. -Roger

     
Ali and Al says:

We are travelling overseas in April, with a week in London as the centerpiece of the trip(athletic event). We plan to cover more ground around that event and as first time tourers, a little bewildered by the options available to us. I have toured Ireland extensively and revisiting some favorite sites is certainly on the table but we would prefer to focus on joint “discovery”.

Can’t help but notice throughout your responses the encouragement to maximize discovery time and minimize travel time, while still getting satisfactory “bang for your buck”.

Accordingly, within the scope of our tour(20 to 30 days), what would you recommend in terms of the major travel points? We are flying out of British Columbia and pondering our point of arrival and departure. We are train and ferry fans, cost is not our major concern but we are not “5 star” people by any means in terms of desire or resources.

We are looking to book our flights very soon. Any guidance you can provide is greatly appreciated.

Best Regards,
A & A

 

    Ali and Al,

    I’m not 100% clear what you are asking here, but it sounds like you are looking for itinerary suggestions for Europe that involve a stay in London but don’t cover Ireland?

    If so, I’ll first point you to this article, where I make a case that Europe has 5 classic cities that should be visited first. They are London, Amsterdam, Paris, Rome, and Venice. In 20 to 30 days you can actually visit all 5 of them with time to spare. However, if you don’t want to cover quite that much ground, you might do London, Amsterdam, Bruges, Munich, and Paris, perhaps adding in a couple of short stops along the way.

    Please let me know if this is any help at all, and either way feel free to ask more specific questions.

    As for your flights, I understand the desire to lock things in to make them official, but studies generally show that international airfares tend to be cheapest about 11 weeks before departure (it’s 3 to 6 weeks for domestic flights). So you might actually pay more if you buy now compared to buying them in January. Still, if the airfare seems reasonable then it’s probably fine to buy soon. But if the fares seems strangely high for your dates, it’s probably safe to wait and keep checking them until they drop a bit more in the coming months. -Roger

     
Harish says:

Hi Roger,
First of all, I must tell you that I am amazed that you are so diligent in replying to everyone is such detail. Great job and a big thank you!
I might do with some help too. I am planning to travel to Switzerland and Italy between 22 Nov and 1st Dec with my wife. I am landing in Zurich on 22 (early morning) and taking a flight back from Zurich on 1st dec (late evening). Here is my plan :
Zurich-Lucerne-Zermatt-Florence-Rome-Zurich. I will probably go to Lucerne straight from Zurich airport (is that a viable option?).
2 nights in Lucerne, 2 nights in Zermatt, 3 nights in Florence (so that I can do day trips to cities close-by), 2 nights in Rome and back to Zurich on 1st Dec.

May I ask your help on a couple of things
1. I am planning to take a Euro Rail 15 day continuous pass for 1st class. I made a ballpark calculation and it is just about few hunred HKD more expensive, but convenient. However, I read somewhere that I still need to pay for reservations on some trains. This is what I don’t understand! Is it easy to reserve at the train station or one should do it in advance? Will my Eurorail pass work on all trains? I have been referring to http://www.sbb.ch for trains schedule and calculations so far.

2. Best way to get to Florence from Zermatt?

3. Best way to get back to Zurich from Rome? I saw there are three connecting trains and one of it needs a researvation. Once I buy a Euro Rail pass, how do I make the reservation?

4. Is the itinerary too hectic?

Look forward to hearing from you and many thanks in advance for your help.

Cheers
Harish

 

    Harish,

    As I’ve said before, I really appreciate the kind words from those who find this information helpful. :)

    Onto your questions:

    You can get from the Zurich Airport directly to Lucerne by train and it takes 60 to 70 minutes, leaving twice an hour during the day.

    1 – I have a whole detailed article about train reservations using Eurail passes.

    The short version is you’ll need to make seat reservations on at least some of the journeys you’ll be taking, although I don’t think you’ll need to for the journeys within Switzerland. Reservations usually cost about €5 each and you can almost always make them just before the train is leaving, especially for first class. The only trains that might sell out in advance are usually the early morning trains connecting business cities. In other words, if you want to take a train leaving at 10am, you can just get to the station at 9:30am and hop in the general queue at the ticket office. If you get really unlucky and that train is sold out, you can just get a reservation on the 11am train, but that time of the year you should be fine.

    And yes, a Eurail Pass will work on all trains in the included countries, except for a few privately-run scenic mountain trains in Switzerland (Zermatt is on the normal, included rail line, by the way).

    2 – It looks like the train from Zermatt to Florence (Firenze in Italian) leaves hourly and takes a bit over 6 hours. You have to change trains once in Brig and again in Milan, and the train should definitely be the easiest way to go (and very scenic).

    3 – The Rome to Zurich train takes a bit over 7 hours with a change in Milan. You’ll be able to make a seat reservation even for the second leg while at the first train station. Just get to the station a bit early and you should be fine. By the way, I personally prefer to make my seat reservations the day before, so I know exactly where the train will leave from and I can get there just before it leaves without being nervous. Sometimes (usually in summer) the queues for reservations can be long at some stations, but rarely more than 30 minutes, and usually more like 10 minutes.

    One great thing about having a Eurail Pass is that you can just walk into the ticket office at the train station and tell them where you want to go. They’ll find the fastest train for the time you want to go, and you don’t have to worry about it being really expensive (because many of them are when bought as you go).

    4 – I’d say that most of your itinerary is NOT too hectic, although the Italy part kind of is. Florence is small enough to enjoy in two days, so that gives you one extra day to go to Pisa (or wherever you plan to go). But Rome is huge and kind of hectic. In two days you’ll have just enough time to see the most famous sights and you’ll be gone again. I normally recommend at least 3 nights in Rome, but 2 should be okay as long as you plan your sightseeing well and realize you’ll be missing some interesting things.

    Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

     
Dilu says:

Hi,

I posted a query earlier, looks like i have not entered it correctly :(
We need some help regarding our trip to Europe in December.

We are starting off in Prague on the 11th December. Our plan is as follows.
11th – 13th –> Munich
13th – 15th –> Salzburg
15th – 17th –> Basel
17th – 20th –> Paris
20th – 21st –> Brussels
21st – 23rd –> Amsterdam
23rd – 27th –> Berlin
27th – 29th –> Frankfurt

We are thinking of buying EU Rail global pass 21 days continuous.

We thought of buying this because we also need to travel within these cities. Some hotels are not exactly near the main train station. Therefore we need to take short train rides to get to the hotel at times. Like Amsterdam and Brussels.

Do u think its a good idea to get the Global pass, 21 days continuous? or should we get seperate tickets or any other pass?

Another thing is regarding seat reservations. We thought of reserving all seats incase we cant get seats if the trains are full. Do u think its possible for somthing like that to happen?

I went through the seat reservations, but its not possible to reserve seats in this particular train from Amsterdam to Berlin. (its a direct train IC145. I tried to book seats in DB Bahn, buts its not possible cos it says that u cant reserve seats only for international connections. I tried mailing them but didnt get an answer.

Hope you can help us out with these ….

Thanks in advance

Best regards
Dilu

 

    Dilu,

    Both of your messages came through. It’s just that if this is your first comment on the website it gets held for moderation. This one is more complete so I’ve deleted the other, and I apologize for the confusion.

    I do think a 21-day continuous Global Eurail Pass could be good for this itinerary, but it looks like a 10-days in 2 months pass would be a bit cheaper and still cover your whole trip with 2 extra days. You mention that you are planning on also traveling within cities in some cases, which is evidently why you are thinking about the continuous version instead of the cheaper one. The challenge there is that Eurail Passes are only good on rail lines but not on normal public transportation. So you can use a Eurail Pass on a suburban train, which usually only have a couple stops within the tourist district. However, depending on precisely where you are staying, the normal public transportation system is going to get you there faster, and it’s already quite cheap.

    For example, Amsterdam has one main (Centraal) train station, and it also has a few train stations only a few kilometers away, and those are mostly in office-park areas. But in order to use them you have to go all the way back to the main train station and then find the right platform and wait for the next suburban train. On the other hand, let’s say your last sightseeing stop is the Van Gogh Museum (which is 3 kilometers from Centraal Station), you might find that there’s a tram that stops right in front that also goes right near your hotel. In Brussels there are 3 main train stations and then they are out into the suburbs, so unless you are really staying maybe 10 kilometers from the city center, it will be faster to use the Metro. Again, it really depends on just how far out of town you’ll be staying, and I really don’t recommend staying that far out anyway because it makes sightseeing a hassle (unless you are somehow getting a free room).

    An all-day transport pass will usually cost around €6 per day, which gives you unlimited rides between the attractions as well as a ride out to your hotel, as long as it’s not too far out. Also, if you bought a 10-days in 2 months Global Pass, you’d still have 2 “free” extra days to use the suburban rails or add a side trip. The prices aren’t too different and either one should work great for this because you are traveling often within a short time and going longer distances through the expensive part of Europe (for trains).

    As for seat reservations, it’s really not something to worry about in general, and especially that time of the year. If you are over 25 years old you’ll be getting a First Class rail pass, and those carriages almost never sell out, which is part of their appeal. Even in Second Class, they rarely sell out in advance. Another good thing in your case is that places you are going are connected by trains that leave every hour (if not twice an hour) during the day. So if you wanted to take the 10am train and 10 minutes before it leaves you find out that it’s sold out, then you can just get a ticket on the 11am train. But really, that’s very unlikely in December.

    What I do, and what I recommend, is to get your outgoing seat reservation either the day you arrive at that train station, or the day before you leave. That way, you’ll know down to the minute when you’ll be leaving so you can leave your hotel with just enough time to make the train, without having to get there 2 hours early “just in case.” Also, it’s worth noting that Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are secondary holidays in the Netherlands, so the trains in and out shouldn’t be overly crowded with people going home for the celebration.

    Hopefully you are also aware of the good news that all Eurail Passes are 20% off for travel before March 31, so that on top of the 15% Saver discount for traveling together, and it’s very cheap.

    I hope this helps and let me know if you have any other questions or if you need help with the Amsterdam or Brussels train situation. -Roger

     
      Dilu says:

      Hi Roger,

      Thank you so much for the detailed reply! I think we have to decide between the 21 day continuous and the 10 day-2 month option. there is a difference of around 44 EUR between the two. Looking into that we might get a better chance if we buy day passes or something similar in the given cities.
      I heard that there are free passes in Switzerland, but I’m not sure whether i have got the correct information. But even in other cities there are passes and other options like that. Anyway some cities might not allow us to use the pass in their rail system, in which case it would be much better to get day passes and keep with the 10 day 2 month option.

      I already wrote to DB Bahn regarding reserving seats and I’m unable to get the seat reservation online. I’m looking out for other options in this case.

      I got a bit confused loooking through some sites where ppl have written saying that the pass was a real problem in several trains. I went through the EU rail site and Rail Europe site and chose the trains which we have to take.
      Therefore I thought it might be a better option to reserve seats in these trains online before we start on the journey.
      Do u think its a good idea? cos there r some trains i dont wanna miss cos they are long distance ones.

      Regarding the trains i have chosen, they are as follows
      Prague – Munich –> Eurocites 352
      Munich Salzburg –> Railjet 67
      Salzburg – Zurich – Basel – Train 160 and ICE4 (1 connection in Zurich)
      Basel – Paris – TGV Lyria 9218
      Paris – Brussels – Thalys 9339
      Brussels – Amsterdam – Thalys 9339
      Amsterdam – Berlin – IC 145 (I cant book seats on this online)
      Berlin – Frankfurt – ICE373

      Are these trains covered by the EU rail pass? this is another thing i was worried about.

      In Brussels we are staying close to the Brussels Central station, so we need a connection from MIDI to Central.

      In Amsterdam we are staying at a hotel near the Sloterdijk station, so we need a connection from the central station to this as well.

      This is another thing i was thinking of when we thought of getting the continuous pass. But as you have mentioned, maybe we can get day passes or something similar for this purpose.

      Once again thank you so much for helping us out, cos I was quite confused after reading so many reviews!

      Best regards
      Dilu

       

        Dilu,

        If you can reserve seats online before you go and you are sure of the exact trains you want to take, you might as well do it. But really, it’s not something to worry about. These trains aren’t like planes in that many of them are sold out weeks in advance. They are more like buses in that many people buy a ticket just before they leave.

        Yes, a Eurail Global Pass will cover all of those trains on your list, however the one thing to note is that the Thalys trains in France are basically luxury high-speed trains, so seat reservations (and tickets in general) are more expensive. For Paris to Brussels the seat reservations cost: 2nd class: €30 / 1st class: €42.

        In Brussels, both of those train stations are also on the Metro (subway), so after you’ve arrived at your hotel the first time, it will be easier to just use the Metro to get around town than to get to the Central Station and take a train two stops to the Midi Station.

        In Amsterdam, there is a tram (Tram 12) that goes from the Sloterdijk Station to Museum Square and other attractions, so that will be far easier than going back through Centraal Station for a suburban train. You can get an all-day pass in both cities for around €5, and the public transport will be more convenient than trains as well.

        Let me know if I missed something. You are definitely a dedicated planner, and so am I so I appreciate your enthusiasm for it. -Roger

         
          Dilu says:

          Thank you so much Roger!

          All the information is so useful!

          I was thinking of reserving 2nd class seats in TGV and Thalys cos they are very expensive! But I wonder whether its allowed cos they say we have to match the class given in the pass. Since we are over 26 years we have to use the adult pass which is for 1st class. I wonder whether its possible to reserve 2nd class seats and go in them! hope they would allow, otherwise we have to pay something more for 1st class!

          I try to plan everything in detail so that we wont have to face many issues on the way. Another thing is that we are only fluent in English and we cant speak or understand other languages like french or German! so i really need to get everything organized before we leave.

          Hope we can find cheap day passes in all the cities. Some offer passes with museum entrance as well. We will need to look into this and see whether we should go for them as well.

          Anyway thanks again for all you advice!

          Have a nice day
          Best regards
          Dilukshi

           

          Dilu,

          I’d never thought about trying to reserve in a lower class to save money, and it’s a shame that they don’t seem to allow it. But the nice part could be that if you do travel first class you’ll be very happy about it while the train is in motion. On most daytime trains a second class ticket on that Thalys from Paris to Brussels will cost around €138 while a first class will cost €258. So in second class your pass is worth €108 and in first class it’s worth €216. Also, I believe the Thalys trains only allow a certain number of Eurail Pass holders on each one, so you really do want to make that reservation as early as you can. During summer some people are unable to get a seat at all if they wait until the travel day, though in December that is less likely. -Roger

           
Dilu says:

Hi again Roger

So sorry to bother u again with my questions!

I tried to make my seat reservations and was asked to pay 8 EUR per booking! and they didnt allow me to print the tickets online and wanted me to pay an extra 12 EUR for delivery.

I’m not sure whether I’m trying to reserve the seats on the correct website. I used http://www.raileurope-world.com.

Could you please let me know of another website where i could make these reservations at a lower cost.

Thanks again
Dilu

 

    Dilu,

    I’m sorry to hear that and I didn’t realize raileurope charges so much for online reservations. I’ve always made seat reservations in person, and the online option is fairly new, I believe. The only other possibility would be to go to the official website of the national rail companies, or in the case of France, the website of the operators, like Thalys. You could try the site for the starting country or the arrival country and hopefully at least one of them allows it and doesn’t charge a big premium. By the way, Raileurope.com and Raileurope-world.com are great for rail passes and they have the best prices, but they also overcharge for individual tickets as well, so I usually don’t recommend them except for passes. Please let me know if you have any success with that. -Roger

     
      Dilu says:

      Thank you so much for all the information Roger, finally we made our choice and bought a 10 day pass with some reservations… there was one good thing on Rail-Europe, they gave a promo code which gave a EUR 40 discount :)
      Best regards
      Dilu

       
Pete Buijs says:

Hi Roger,
What a great website you have!
Me and my wife will be flying into Amsterdam in August 2014 and after visiting friends and family we from there on plan to go to Barcelona ( thinking about it now I wonder if flying down there would be better) and then start our Mediterranean coast trip so travel through the south of France, Italy ,Croatia , Greece and some of the islands and perhaps ,if time is on our side, see a bit of Turkey as well and on our way back visit Prague, from where we would go to London to visit our daughter. We plan to do this within 2 months and therefore are considering the 2 months continuous global pass , do you think that is the best option for our itinerary? Many thanks!
Pete.

 

    Pete,

    Thank you. From Amsterdam to Barcelona you should definitely fly. You should be able to get that ticket for €100 or even less if you book well in advance, or spend an entire day on a train.

    As for a Eurail Pass, I don’t think it would be good value for you for the itinerary you mentioned. Barcelona to Croatia isn’t really that far by train, and you should make many stops along the way. And once you get to Croatia you pretty much run out of track (in Split), so to go do Dubrovnik and then into Greece you’d go by buses anyway. A France and Italy regional pass could be a good deal if you are going to make many stops in those two countries. Those are quite a bit cheaper than the Global Pass, so that’s what I’d look for. -Roger

     
      Pete says:

      Thanks for your reply Roger, it has made us look at the possibilities and options from a different angle and the regional passes especially in Italy may very well be the way to go. We still have plenty of time to work things out.
      Thanks again.

       
Nat says:

Hello Roger
Me and my husband are traveling Europe for 5 weeks
Our itinery

France
Paris- Loire valley-
Loire valley to Lyon / nice

Switzerland
Nice to Lugano
Lugano to interlaken
Interlaken – luzerene

Italy
I am confused with with train trip from luzerene to Milan – just a day visit
Milan to Venice
Venice to Florence
Florence to Rome

Croatia
Rome to split
Either ferry from split to Dubrovnik
Greece
Dubrovnik to Athens
Athens – Greek islands 2 of them

We might do car hire in France

Which pass would you recommend
Thanks heaps

 

    Nat,

    Renting a car for just the Loire Valley in France might be good, but I hope it’s only for that part because you’ll have parking problems in any of the cities.

    There’s really only one rail pass that might make sense for you, that that’s the 10 Days in 2 Months Global Pass (with the Saver option of having 2 going together). It looks like you’ll be doing at least 10 train journeys, and even if you add a few more you can just use the rail pass on the 10 most expensive journeys and pay as you go for the shorter or cheaper ones. Your other option would be to pay as you go, which would probably cost about the same.

    With this itinerary you are doing a lot of trips that are around 2 to 3 hours each, and in Italy those tend to be pretty cheap, while in France and Switzerland they are quite expensive when purchased as you go. Either way gives you flexibility, though with a Eurail Pass you’ll have the added flexibility of being able to do an extra long journey along the way, without having to worry about the price because it’s already paid for.

    And it seems like you already realize this, but just to be sure, after you get to Split you can’t go any further south on the train, so from there you’ll take buses and then ferries (or planes) to the islands. Those buses in Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro, and Greece are pretty comfortable and quite cheap, but of course they aren’t included in the rail passes. Feel free to ask follow up questions if you have any. -Roger

     
Andres Vargas says:

Hello Roger, myself and three friends have the next itinerary, for dates betwwen Dec 14th and Jan 20th, we would like to know if it is a good idea to have a pass, and if we need extra reservations

14/12/2013 Munich
17/12/2013 Dortmund
21/12/2013 Amsterdam
24/12/2013 Rotterdam
27/12/2013 Bruselas
30/12/2013 Paris
01/01/2014 Lausane
03/01/2014 Leysin
04/01/2014 Milan
07/01/2014 Rome
10/01/2014 Venice
12/01/2014 Wien
14/01/2014 Prague
17/01/2014 Berlin

 

    Andres,

    This looks like a really great trip, and you’ll be covering quite a bit of ground. I definitely think a Eurail Pass will work well for this, specifically the 10 Days out of 2 months Global Pass, and those are 20% off right now. So far it seems that you have 13 journeys planned, but a few of them are quite short and/or cheap, so it would be a shame to use a full travel day on them. Like Amsterdam to Rotterdam (are you sure you want to spend 3 days in Rotterdam?) only takes 75 minutes and only costs €9.50 per person (in 2nd class) if you buy it in advance. Lausanne to Leysin is also obviously a short one, and Milan to Rome is relatively cheap if you buy on your own in advance (from the Italian national rail site).

    You don’t mention the ages, so it’s worth pointing out that if everyone is under 26 then you can get a 2nd Class rail pass, but if not then you need to get the 1st Class version. However, with everyone traveling together, you can save 15% extra on (in addition to the 20%) the first class pass. Really, your itinerary is pretty much perfect for the Global Eurail Pass with 10 days out of 2 months, so the discounts should make it even nicer.

    You will need seat reservations on many of these trains if you buy a pass, and those average around €5 each. The only tricky one here is Brussels to Paris, which is only done by the Thalys high speed train, and seat reservations on those are around €29 in second class and €42 in first class.

    You didn’t ask so maybe I should not question your itinerary, but you do have some unusual choices on there. Not many foreign visitors stop in Dortmund at all, so 4 nights there seems really unusual. Rotterdam is another one that people are usually happy to skip or maybe spend one night there, and even Brussels isn’t really a great tourist city for more than a day or so. And Florence is a much more common stop than Milan (which can be very expensive if you get unlucky with hotels). If you have solid reasons for each day on this itinerary then fantastic. I just wanted to point out a few of the unconventional stops you have in case you aren’t 100% sold on each of them yet.

    Please let me know if you have any other questions.

     
kerri says:

hi roger
awesome post
i have a question about the eurail select pass. can it be any countries as long as the one you are traveling to is bordering the country you are currently in.
im thinking of the 5 country select youth pass and just getting tickets for travel within each country. my plan is to go belgium, amsterdam, germany (about 6 citys here), switzerland, austria, prague. does this sound sensible to you. or should i get a german pass with the add on for the ibter country parts.
thanks kerri

 

    Kerri,

    Yes, a Eurail Select Pass can include 3 to 5 countries as long as they border each other (but can’t include France). You’ve got 6 different countries on your list so in order to qualify for a Select Pass you’d have to drop one. It’s probably cheaper to buy one that covers most of your longer journeys within Germany because the more legs you buy, the cheaper each of them is. We’d need to look at your specific itinerary to know which way would be the cheapest.

    When it comes to dropping a 6th country, it’s probably best to drop the Czech Republic and pay for the trip to Prague as you go because it’s relatively cheap (and it looks like your last stop). Again, if you include more specific details I’ll be happy to help you sort out the best option. -Roger

     
      kerri says:

      hi roger, i thought belgium and holand came under benelux therefore just one country, but obviously i didnt look properly
      probably looking at going amsterdam to hamburg to berlin to dusseldorf to franfurt to munich the to salzburg
      kerri

       

Hello, Roger!
My boyfriend and I are goingbto Austria and decided to go from vienna to zell am see for skiing , by train. We have never traveled by train before so we hope it’s extra fun for us but we are struggling with the type of ticket to buy.
The single tickets in OBB have several different prices, including a group ticket that’s valid for 2 people for only 32euros but valid in selected trains and times, it sound preety good but worrying as we don’t have much time -it’s only a week trip. A regular first class ricket. Would be about 90euros per person per journey.
Then the eurail country pass would cost 350euro for 2 in first class (about 100euro more than second class) and we can take any train and its valid for 3 days.
Firstly, we would only use it for going and coming from/to vienna and zell am see but with the pass we might also be able to pass by salzburg for a day trip from zell am see.
The question is, is it worth to get an eurail pass even if we just go and come from vienna and zell am see, not using the third day of the pass? I mean for the hassle free trips. Or is buying ticket at the time you arrive at the train station easy enough – but considering first class the price is not that different from eurail… Thanks.

 

    Alessandra,

    If I were you I think I’d try the discounted tickets. It looks like Vienna to Zell am See takes between 4 and 5 hours on the fastest trains. The rule says that the deal is only valid after 9am on weekdays and only on regional trains. I’ve done this in Germany and the trains can be very slow since they stop at every station, but Austria is a small country and if the difference is only an hour or two I’d say the discount is worth it. The trains are nice and the scenery is great, so even if it’s a bit slow it should be enjoyable.

    I don’t really see how €350 for a rail pass could be worth it, although I highly recommend a trip to Salzburg if you can make it because it’s a wonderful little city. You could also do a discounted ticket to Salzburg. As long as you don’t have to change trains more than once along the way, it should be pretty much hassle free. -Roger

     
Beth says:

hello Roger,
we are 3 middle aged ladies planning a trip May/June 2014. Arriving London onto Dover to stay with friends then crossing to Calais.
We have 19 days where we would like to travel thru Switzerland, Austria and northern Italy finishing in Paris where we will have 4 days before flying home to NZ, making total of 23 days. Would a eurail pass be the way to go or should we just buy tickets as we go.
Thank you.

 

    Beth,

    The answer completely depends on how many train journeys you plan on taking within that time, as well as how far each of them will have you travel. For example, if you were going Paris to Lucerne to Vienna to Milan and then back to Paris, then a rail pass won’t really save you time or money. But if you are doing at least 3 or 4 extra stops mixed in, then a rail pass might be your best bet.

    Feel free to post a more detailed plan of what you have in mind, and I can be more specific. -Roger

     
Steve Hedges says:

Hey Roger,
Great site! Thanks for all the info and insight into traveling Europe. I just arrived into Stuttgart, Germany for a 3 month rotation at an Army base medical clinic. I just found out that I will have significantly more time off then I thought I would, which allows for some travel!
I would love to travel every weekend if possible and there are some longer breaks in there. Starting next week, I was thinking of training it to Brugge on either Wed night or take an early train to get there by 12 on Thursday and spend rest of the day strolling around. The next morning I would meet three friends in Brussels for Friday and the weekend. Sunday we one friend and myself would head back to Stuttgart. The following weekend we would leave Stuttgart at 1 and head to Prague for the weekend. The next Stuttgart – Paris. Some of the weekends would be to surrounding German cities (Berlin, Strasberg and Munich).
My pregnant wife will then fly in Dec. 11, (I’m so excited) and stay until Jan. 2. I will have the Dec. 25- Jan 2 off and we were hoping to go down to Venice for a time, cinque terre and salerno (where friends live).
After she leaves I will then have the remaining weekends to travel wherever, I would love some of your recs for shorter trips from stuttgart, until I leave Feb 15.
So my questions are, eurorail pass?, saver passes for when my wife’s here and we are doing three weekends and the 8 day stretch? What you recommend for myself and the 5 extra weekends that I will have. I work a half day on Friday so it can hopefully put me somewhere for the up to a day and a half in the place.
Thanks for the tailored help and look forward to your response. Hope you have a great weekend.
Steve

 

    Steve,

    You are in an enviable position because Stuttgart is only a few hours or so by train to so many wonderful places. First off, here’s my fairly recent post about where to go within Germany.

    It covers mainly the highlights, and I’m sure once you start talking to locals or coworkers in Stuttgart you’ll get more detailed suggestions. You are quite close to Rothenburg ob der Tauber, which is a big favorite of nearly everyone who visits. Your wife would probably enjoy it as well. The key is to stay at least overnight (even if you could do it more cheaply as a day trip) because it’s pretty crowded with bus tour groups during the day, and charmingly empty at night.

    Antwerp is also worth a look in Belgium, but since you are already doing Brugge/Bruges and Brussels it might be a second-tier stop. You’ve got the Rhine Valley and Strasbourg close by, as you certainly know. Berlin is not too close but you don’t want to miss it.

    Going south you’ll want to hit Salzburg, which would be a really great weekend with your wife or even solo. Innsbruck isn’t nearly as interesting, by the way. In Switzerland you might check out Lucerne and/or Interlaken, both of which have plenty to do in the winter.

    As for train tickets, hopefully you are already aware of the famous Germany weekend deal, which allows up to 5 people to travel on Saturday or Sunday for only €42 total. It won’t help for outbound trains on Fridays, but obviously it would apply to return trains on Sundays. Partly for that reason, I don’t think a rail pass would be good value for your situation. They really only pay off for people who are covering a lot of ground in a pretty concentrated time.

    For an Italy trip it will be faster and probably much cheaper to fly there from Stuttgart Airport on Air Berlin, Germanwings, or any other low cost carrier. You can fly to any Italian city that you want to see, and then take the local trains around before flying back to Stuttgart from a different Italian city. Those Italian train tickets are reasonably priced, especially if you buy them at least a few days in advance from the official Italy rail website.

    I hope this helps, and feel free to ask follow up questions. Again, you should be able to get some solid advice from people nearby if you ask around. -Roger

     
Beth says:

Roger thank you for your quick reply.
We haven’t a confirmed itinerary as yet but would like to go to Prague,Salzburg,? Trieste, Venice, Verona, Florence, ? Cinque Terre, perhaps Lake Como, Interlaken or Lucerne and end in Paris. One idea was to perhaps fly to Prague from London instead of crossing on ferry to Calais.
What would you suggest? Are we trying to do too much and should we train from Calais or start in Prague?
Also should we get a eurail pass?
thank you so much for your great site and help.

 
John says:

Roger,
I am a US citizen and arrived in Europe (Germany) for a 2 month vacation on 11/20. I want to buy a Eurail Pass but I want to pick up in person here. Where can I do that?
Thanks, John

 

    John,

    You can actually buy a few types of rail passes at train stations in Europe, but for the full selection of Eurail Passes you need to buy them online and have them shipped. They do ship to Europe now, so you can have it sent to your hotel or some other address where you know you’ll be able to pick it up. -Roger

     
Kyle says:

Hi Roger,

Great site! My wife and I will be traveling Europe for the month of June and we were planning on getting a Eurail, but I’m not sure if we should and if so, where to purchase it. We are both over 26. We plan on flying into Athens (spending a few days in Greece), taking a ferry to Italy (spending about 6 days), Munich, Barcelona, Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam, London, Scotland, and ending in Ireland. We’ve been told to plan a little, but not too much so we can have a little more freedom to stay in certain places longer if we like.

I think I saw that eurail isn’t in UK, which we plan to spend about 5 days there. If we buy the the global pass, should we buy the 21 continuous days since UK and Ireland are later in our month trip? Should we look into a train pass to get us through those places?

Thanks for your help!

 

    Kyle,

    Thanks. With the itinerary you are proposing, I’d say that a rail pass wouldn’t be good value. There’s pretty much no train service in Greece these days, and England, Scotland, and Wales are in their own system which would require a different pass. Ireland is part of the Eurail zone, but it’s a pretty small country so most passes aren’t good value for a visit.

    In Italy, the individual tickets are fairly cheap because most cities are only 2 or 3 hours apart. And they are even cheaper if you buy them online a week or two in advance from the official Italian rail site. But even if you want to keep your flexibility, those tickets will usually be under €30 or so even if you buy them on the day. I agree with those who’ve told you to keep parts of your trip flexible so you can stay longer in places you like and move more quickly through other places.

    Of the places you mention, you could go Rome to Florence to Venice to Munich to Paris to Brussels to Amsterdam, and then fly to London, or take the Eurostar to London. Or you could fly to Ireland and then do Britain from a ferry ride or another cheap flight.

    One important thing to remember is that trains in England, Scotland, and Wales are very expensive when you buy them on the day, but they can be amazingly cheap if you buy them online in advance. As in, London to Edinburgh could be £10 if you buy two or three weeks ahead, or £100 if you buy just before it leaves. The nice thing is that you can buy them online and pick them up for free at machines at the stations. Good luck with everything. -Roger

     
Matt says:

Hi Roger- great info on your site and much appreciated. I am a family of 3 (2 adults > 26) and a 3 year old. We will be in Europe for approximately 90 days next summer. We will be spending the majority of our time in Germany and Switzwrland, with some time in Austria as well as our bases.. We plan on traveling nearly every day via train, (the every day being from our apartment to town for example) especially in Germany and Switzerland. I was planning on getting the eurail global 3 month pass but thought I would ask if you agree. In Switzerland, we will be staying for 14 plus days using the trains every day in the Bermese Oberland region. I know the pass doesn’t include gondolas nor the jungfrau but as a side question, does it cover the Berner Oberland trains from grindelwald to interlaken and the like? Trains in Switzerland can be expensive (a 15 day pass for two coast approximately $1500 and doesn’t include jungfrau either).

Anyway, while in Europe we plan on using the trains nearly every day, including local trains. A pass seems more convenient but is expensive. Outside of local trains, we will be taking trains from Nuremberg to Prague (round trip), Munich to salzburg to Vienna to Budapest (round trip), Nuremberg to cologne, into Brussels, to Strasbourg France, down to Basel, to interlaken and then to Zurich. Plus- who knows where else.

With a 3 year old, I find trains easier so wouldn’t opt for a plane unless it was a super long distance. I tried to price many of the trips myself but sites are always having issues.
Also – are any inner city tram lines covered with the global pass (such as Vienna and Zurich) and the does it include the U-bahn in Nuremberg and Munich? If not, that could change things.

Thanks in advance for any assiistance,

Matt

 

    Matt,

    I think you can do a lot better using local passes rather than a Eurail Pass. First off, in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, the U-Bahn systems are generally not included in rail passes because they are run by city governments. The S-Bahns are covered by Eurail Passes, as they are mostly run by rail authorities, but it would be hard to use them enough to really make a pass good value. As you might know, you can get a daily pass on a U-Bahn for maybe €6 per day, and a weekly pass for around €25 or so. So those subway and tram rides just don’t amount to much.

    On the S-Bahns, which are more likely suburban rail lines, you can also get daily or weekly passes that are only a bit more expensive, depending on how many zones you need. Even if you are regularly going between cities that are an hour or two apart by normal train, I think you can get a much cheaper pass when in Germany to cover those.

    By the way, I believe that Berner Oberland Railway is one of the private ones where a pass gets you a 25% discount, though they seem to offer their own passes for that region.

    Those other trips you mention within Germany and to nearby cities should be fairly cheap if you buy the ticket in advance once you are there. You might know about the weekend deal in Germany, which allows up to 5 people to travel for €42 on Saturday or Sunday (excluding some express trains). Since you have so much time in a fairly small region, I’m confident that you can find better deals for those short trips once you are there. However, this is assuming that you are planning on taking trips of an hour or less from your base many times per week. If you are actually planning on going 90 minutes or more there and back each day, then it’s possible that a continuous pass could potentially save some money and also some hassle (of buying local passes every day or week).

    If you are planning on traveling longer distances than city-to-suburbs on a daily basis, tell me a bit more about your plans and I’ll help you figure out the best strategy. -Roger

     
      Matt says:

      Roger,

      Thanks for the response. Based on your response I did some digging. As I will be in the Nuremberg area for 30 days I found a 31 day pass for 2 adults and 1 child (could have up to 4) that costs 88 euro and includes something called the VGN area – all transportation in Nuremberg and regional as far as bamberg, ansbach, etc. a pretty large area. Only caveat is on weekdays travel cannot start until after 9am. This works perfect for me as I am visiting friends in this area. (I even confirmed the price via email communication). . The Berner Oberland pass for 8 and 6 days will cover me nicely. I typically like first class but these are all 2nd class but the trains are more than fine in 2nd class. I am still pricing out the long distance trains but it seems that I will be better off without the 3700.00 for two in the global 3 month pass. Thanks for your help.

       
Sai says:

Hi Roger,
I am so lucky to have come across your website and specifically this thread because it has helped me in understanding and planning the trip to europe much better.
After going through most of the comments my current itinerary is
Arrive in London(3 Nights)
Eurostar to France(takes about 3 hours)
Paris(3 Nights)
Paris to Geneva(EU Rail- About 3 hours)
Geneva(1 Night)
Geneva to Interlaken(Local train)
Interlaken(1 Night)
Interlaken to Zurich
Zurich(1 Night)
Zurich to Rome(EU Rail-about 8 hours)
Rome(3 nights)- which includes a trip to Vatican.
Fly out of Rome or Rome to London.

The dilemma i’m facing right now is that the EU Rail Select pass with 3 countries is the best fit. But with France not covered under the select pass,what is the best way to get out of France?

Please help me in planning the itinerary better. Also i wanted your suggestion if including Austria in this would be better?

Thanks Roger.

 

    Sai,

    Yes, the fact that France is no longer included in Select Passes really complicates things. On the other hand, I’m not sure that it would be your best option even if you could do a pass with France included.

    As you know, the Eurostar is its own system, so you are basically looking to go from Paris to Rome with 3 stops in Switzerland. I’m pretty sure your best bet will be to just pay as you go from Paris to Zurich, and then fly to Rome. It doesn’t look like a really cheap flight, but it’s probably at least a bit cheaper than the train, and also a bit faster. You might even look at changing your itinerary a bit to find a pair of cities with really cheap flights.

    Those train tickets in France and Switzerland are expensive if you buy them on the day, but you can get them at good discounts if you buy them online a month or two in advance on the official rail websites of the country (not on raileurope). That’s really the best you can do. -Roger

     
      Sai says:

      Dear Roger,
      Thanks a lot for the reply. Based on your experience what is the most ideal itinerary for these set of countries(France,Italy,Switzerland,UK). Also for the second part of my question,does it make sense to squeeze in Austria and spend 2nights together in Vienna,Salzaburg?

       

        Sai,

        Since you asked, I already think you are rushing the trip, even if you don’t include Austria. If you are working with two weeks, which it sounds like, then two countries would be better, or perhaps two countries plus three days in London. It sounds like you might have specific reasons for the choices you’ve made, but just in case you haven’t, I’ll give you my thoughts on what you have so far.

        Three days in London is enough for a quick introduction, and I wouldn’t try to do it in two. Same with Paris, and taking the Eurostar between them is kind of fun all on its own, and very efficient. If you are visiting in winter then I can understand why you might not want to explore more of France on this trip, but if you are going another time of year you might want to add in another stop or two.

        There’s a lot to love about Switzerland, but most visitors agree that it tends to be in the small Alpine towns rather than the cities. Both Zurich and Geneva are impressive, and really, really expensive. They are international banking hubs and high-end shopping destinations. Unless you have specific things to see there, you might just choose Interlaken or Lucerne, or both, and enjoy the gorgeous outdoors and views and hikes and all of that. They are a bit cheaper as well, though still quite expensive.

        Vienna is more of a tourist city than either of the large Swiss cities, and Salzburg is a magical town as well, so those are alternatives to consider, just as you asked about. You could have a great time in two days each in those towns, or even one day in Salzburg if you prefer to rush around.

        If you have exactly three days to spend in Italy, then I think spending them all in Rome is a fine idea. That’s the minimum I recommend because it’s a big, sprawling city that is loaded with amazing things to see. If you had one more day you could add in Venice, which is actually best appreciated in about 24 hours (as long as you actually stay on the main island rather than in the suburbs). But squeezing Venice into your flight schedule might be tricky. Honestly, if you only have two weeks to work with, you should think about saving Italy for another trip. The whole country is like a tourist attraction, with Rome being the most stressful part. Rome is a very worthwhile pressure cooker if you can do it before or after some of the more gentle parts of Italy.

        So if you are visiting family or have some other specific reason to hit all the places on your original list, I’m sure you’ll have a great time. But if that’s more like your first draft, then you might consider some changes. I’m happy to comment more if you have any other questions. -Roger

         
Alexander says:

Hi Roger,

I will be studying abroad in Paris for 4 months (January-April) and am wondering whether the Eurail 3-month continuous pass for $1157 would save me money. The $1157 price is after the 20% discount for winter travel through March 31st, so I would be using it for January-March. I will have 3 day weekends and am planning on travelling to a different region of France on most weekends during this time period. This will involve taking an initial train from Paris to the given region and then taking local trains between various points of interest within the region. I will also make day trips to more nearby points of interest on Tuesdays. I also plan to occassionally travel just over the border into nearby parts of Germany and Spain. Most of my trips will probably be planned at the last minute, so I doubt that I will be able to book my tickets more than a week in advance. During my spring break I plan to travel around Italy. I also plan to travel after the 3 month pass expires in April. What do you recommend?
Thanks!

 

    Alexander,

    This is a tricky one because France does not appear to offer a single-country pass to residents or tourists, or at least not one that lasts nearly enough time for you. Most other countries do offer some sort of pass for locals, so you’ll want to really make sure France doesn’t before you’d consider this.

    Assuming they don’t, then this could be a good deal for you. So for about US$400 per month, you could ride the rails all over France (as well as everywhere else in Europe). If you took 12 rides per month, that’s about US$33 per ride, which would be a really good deal if you traveled at least a couple hours each time on average. The other complication in France is that you always need a seat reservation on those longer journeys, which cost €9 (US$13) each. For some regional InterCités trains you don’t need a reservation, but on others you do and it costs €6, so you’ll have to add that to your budget, unfortunately.

    I’ve just checked a bunch of train fares for France and it looks like the cheapest fares for most routes that are longer than an hour or so is €25 (US$35). To get those cheap fares you have to buy the tickets weeks or even months in advance, and fares on those same routes for the coming days are around double or triple that much.

    The great thing about using a rail pass is that you can go with almost no planning, and cross the country every weekend if you like. You do have to reserve a seat most times, but that time of year you should have no problem reserving one just an hour or so before you want to leave. So a rail pass gives you way more freedom and flexibility, even if it doesn’t save you a ton of money.

    So if you can afford a pass and the seat reservations, it’s probably a great way to go. Still, I can’t be sure that there isn’t some sort of pass or program that gives cheaper tickets to people in France. A lot has changed in the past few years in European rail, and I know less about the French system than I do many others. Good luck, and let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

     
      Alexander says:

      Thanks! Your information on the price of last minute train tickets for longer trips within France helps to clarify things. I do think the pass will save me at least a little money now. I will look into whether there are any France-only options. I’ll let you know if I have any questions. Thanks again.
      Alexander

       
Brenton says:

Hi mate,
This is our itinerary and I would love any advice on if you think Eurorail is worth while to book or book individual train systems

Starting from Perth flying out 28th of June.
Get into London 28th of june (6.50pm)

Leave Perth – Arrive London 6.40pm 28th of June
London 28th of June
London 29th of June
London 30th of June
London 1st of July
London / Amsterdam 2nd of July
Amsterdam 3nd of July
Amsterdam 4rd of July
Amsterdam / Antwerpen (belgium) 5th of July
Antwerpen 6th of July
Antwerpen 7th of July
Antwerpen / Paris 8th of July
Paris – 9th of July
Paris – 10th of July
Paris / Geneva (Switzerland) 11th of July
Geneva – 12th of July
Geneva – 13th of July
Geneva / Nice (France) 14th of July
Nice – 15th of July
Nice – 16th of July
Nice – 17th of July
Nice – 18th of July
Monaco – 19th of July
Nice / Athens – 20th of July
Athens / Santorini – 21st of July
Santorini – 22nd of July
Santorini – 23rd of July
Santorini / Athens – 24th of July
Athens / Perth HOME

I know its alot!

Cheers,
Brenton

 

    Brenton,

    You definitely don’t want a rail pass for this itinerary. Here’s why…

    London to Amsterdam will be done on the Eurostar, which is its own system and the best you can do with a rail pass is get a discount.

    Amsterdam to Antwerp is only 1 hour 12 minutes on the Thalys or 2 hours on intercity trains, and you can get tickets for as low as €22 each for adults if you buy them in advance from the Netherlands official rail site.

    Antwerp to Paris to Geneva to Nice are all relatively cheap train rides, at least compared to what you’d pay for a rail pass per day. Again, buy those a few months in advance from the official websites of those railways and you’ll get good prices.

    Unless you have a specific reason not to, you are better off visiting Monaco as a day trip from Nice. The train literally takes 20 minutes, so you could do two day trips if you want. Monaco is gorgeous, but there are no cheap hotels at all, so staying overnight would be far more expensive than to stay another night in Nice and take the train over.

    You can’t get from Nice to Athens by train, and even back when you could, it would take close to a full day. So you’ll want to fly from Nice (or perhaps somewhere in Italy) to Athens. And from Athens to Santorini you can take a ferry or fly. The flights should be cheap if you buy them well in advance.

    So if you buy those train tickets at least a month, or even a few months in advance, it will be much cheaper than any rail pass. -Roger

     
Roxanne Koopman says:

Hi Roger,

Just want to get your suggestions regarding our 20-day trip to Europe in June. We are a family of 4 with 2 kids, 16 and 12. We’d like to arrive in Paris and leave from Amsterdam. We are pretty loose as to which countries to hit. I was in Paris last year with one daughter so would like to be there only for 2 days. I was in Amsterdam 8 years ago so maybe we can be there for 2-3 days. Italy would be nice to visit but we are open to suggestions. My husband loves to take trains so maybe a Eurail pass would work for us. Night trains would also be nice to cut down on hotel fees. Let me know what you think.

Thanks,
Roxanne

 

    Roxanne,

    Starting in Paris and leaving 20 days later from Amsterdam, you could go almost anywhere in Europe in between. I usually prefer to take a look at a proposed itinerary and then comment about where it works and where it might be improved.

    For starters, have a look at these two articles I wrote:

    Where to go in Germany in 1 to 3 weeks
    Where to go in France and Italy in 2 to 3 weeks

    In addition to those possibilities you could visit Vienna and/or Salzburg in Austria, and Interlaken and/or Lucerne in Switzerland. You could also potentially visit Budapest or Prague, or even Krakow.

    When heading back to Amsterdam it could be fun to stop in Belgium for a day or two. Bruges is small enough to appreciate in one day, although two is nice, and you can see the wonderful things in the city center of Brussels in only a day.

    So those are many possibilities to consider off the top of my head. However, in 20 days I think you’d only want to visit 7 or 8 cities at most, including Paris and Amsterdam. It all just depends on which direction you want to go in once you get there.

    Depending on how far you actually plan on going, a Eurail Pass could be ideal. I’ll be happy to give you advice on that part once you figure out which places you want to visit.

    As for night trains, they aren’t really a good way to save money on hotels for the most part. Even with a rail pass, you have to pay a bit extra to reserve a seat (very uncomfortable for a whole night) or about €20 to €30 to reserve a bunk in a compartment. With 4 bunks you are paying as much as a hotel room, and you miss out on all the scenery as well. For journeys that take 9 to 12 hours overnight, night trains can be efficient compared to spending all day on a train, but most major tourist cities in Europe are between 2 and 6 hours apart by train, so they are enjoyable and scenic.

    Once you make a few more decisions I’ll be happy to help more on this. -Roger

     
Samantha Lynn says:

Hi Roger,

i am planning a trip for July 2015 (yes I know its far away lol) I had a few questions.

I was planning on getting a Eurail Global Pass 15 days

I would like to see Paris, Rome, Barcelona, London and Dublin. Any ideas of how many days i should be in each and how to go about traveling? Maybe a itinerary idea or something. I appreciate your help.

Thank You.

 

    Samantha,

    There’s no harm in getting a basic plan ready this early, but you probably don’t want to start locking things in until a few months before you leave.

    To visit London you should allow at least three nights for a first trip, and longer is better. Britain has its own rail system, so Eurail Passes aren’t valid. And to get to or from Paris you’ll ride the Eurostar, which is also a separate system.

    You can see Dublin in two days, and a Eurail Pass does work in Ireland. Honestly, Dublin is interesting but its the least charming part of Ireland. If you can spend at least a couple days elsewhere in Ireland, you’d enjoy it even more. If you only have time for a 2-day stop in Dublin, you might actually think about saving Ireland for another trip where you can spend at least a week touring around.

    For Paris you should allow at least 3 nights, and the same for Rome. Both are huge cities filled with tourist attractions and local culture, so any less time and you’d barely scratch the surface. Barcelona is also huge, but at least you could do the highlights in two days, although three is better.

    So if these are the only stops you are considering, a Eurail Pass won’t help at all. They are really well suited to people who are covering a lot of ground over at least two weeks, and you are spending a good chunk of time outside of the Eurail zone.

    Feel free to comment here again when you have your plan more worked out, and I’ll be happy to tell you what I think. -Roger

     
Diana says:

Hi, I’m starting to plan my trip through Europe. It will be from April 1st to August 15th (aprox). My idea is to visit about 21 countries. I wast thinking about buying the Eurorail global pass 3 months, but I’m not too sure about it. I’m 26 years old, traveling alone. Do you think is it worth it to buy it. Do you know what is the best route to take in which I can save mostly time and be able to visit as many cities as possible.
I really appreciate your help. I’m planing everything by myself and honestly I don’t know where to start from.

Thank you!!

 

    Diana,

    A Global Eurail Pass could be worth it, but only if you are sure that you are going to want to cover a LOT of ground during the period it’s valid. It sounds like you are going to be in Europe for 4.5 months, so you’d want to spend the other 1.5 months in places with cheaper trains or that aren’t part of the Eurail system. Great Britain is its own system, and southern Europe has fairly cheap trains when you pay as you go, so you’d want to use the pass for central and northern Europe for the most part.

    To be honest, you are still too early in the planning stages to make this decision about getting a pass. Many people prefer to stay for a week in each city and then take a train only 2 or 3 hours to the next major city on such a long trip, and for that you wouldn’t want a pass. But if you plan on traveling every three days or so, and covering most of Europe, then a pass would be a great deal. So you really need to study a map and choose the places you have in mind, even if it’s just a loose plan. When you are at that point I’ll be happy to help you figure out the best route and method of transportation. -Roger

     
Sarah says:

Hey Roger,
thanks for this wonderful article! I am a 19 year old and was in hopes of travelling through Europe for as long as possible and visiting as many places as possible! I feel a global pass may help me, but I would love your opinion! Also, is this too clustered of a trip? It may be a little jumpy (mostly near the end, but I would LOVE to go to Scotland and Ireland too) I was thinking of cutting out Switzerland – Netherlands, and pushing Scotland and Ireland up near the top. And then taking a flight from Italy to Greece and finishing there! Making my trip shorter! Let me know what you think!

Trip Duration: 52 days
London – day 1 – 4
*Overnight train to Paris*
Paris – day 5 – 7
Barcelona – day 8 – 10
Nice – Day 11-12
French Riviera – Day 12 – 14
Italy – Day 14 – 20
Switzerland – Day 21 – 24
Munich – Day 24 – 26
Vienna – Day 27 – 30
Prague – Day 30 – 32
Berlin – Day 33 – 35
Amsterdam – Day 36 – 39
London – Day 39 – 40
Scotland – Day 40 – 45
Get to England – day 45
Get to Ireland, hopefully day 45
And Finally, Ireland – day 45 – 52
Sp

 

    Sarah,

    I don’t think this looks like too clustered of a trip. And I do think a Global rail pass would be ideal for this. It looks like a 10 Days in 2 Months pass would be ideal, so you could use it for only your longest or most expensive 10 trips and pay as you go for any others. For example, a trip from Florence to Rome only costs around €20 so you can just buy that at the station, while most of your others would be more like €50 to €90 (in 2nd class) if you bought them as you went.

    Amsterdam is one of the world’s great cities, and I’m particularly fond of it (I even lived there for awhile), but Greece is also very worthwhile so it would be great either way.

    Here are a few other notes…

    There are no overnight trains from London to Paris. The only service is the Eurostar, which takes a bit over 2 hours, and runs from early morning through late in the evening. Buy that ticket as early as possible for the best price.

    Nice is part of the French Riviera, and it’s the perfect budget city to base yourself to explore the area. So you might want to just sleep there and take day trips to Cannes or Antibes or Monaco. That would be much cheaper than trying to find a hotel or hostel in some of the very expensive towns in other parts of that area.

    If you do decide to stop in Switzerland, I recommend Interlaken, Lucerne, or both, rather than the big (and very expensive) cities. You could spend 2 or 3 days in one of those towns and it would be very worthwhile.

    Hopefully this helps, and feel free to ask any follow up questions if you have them. -Roger

     
Yogesh says:

Hi Roger ,
First of all accept by gratitude and congratulation for this wonderful information .. I am looking forward to travel Italy in Jan 2014 for one week , I have a plan to travel Milan, Rome , Venice and Florence .. Kindly advice me how should I plan .. Pls advice me on following
1. Shall I get one country Eurail pass for 5 days or buy separate travel ticktes ?
2. in case need to buy Eurail pass then what is advisable , buying online in advance or from Eurail Aid centre after reaching Milan …

Pls suggest and advice .. Thanks in advance

Yogesh

 

    Yogesh,

    With only those cities in mind, I don’t think I’d recommend a rail pass. Those cities are all fairly close to each other so the tickets don’t cost too much on their own.

    For the best prices, buy the rail tickets online at least a month or two in advance, on the official Italy rail website. They will cost quite a bit less than a rail pass. -Roger

     
Sarav says:

Hi Roger,
Need help on itinerary. We are 2 adults and 2 teenagers.
Paris arrival on 27thMay morning. Spend 3 nights in paris
Rome arrival on 30th May Morning by flight from Paris
Depart on 19th June from Paris to home

Want to cover a little bit of Italy, Switzerland (cover the scenic routes), Germany (if possible) Amsterdam and then London. After London need to return to Paris to catch the flight on 19th June.

- What are the best options? like Eurail pass or individual train tickets?

 

    Sarav,

    If you want to cover all of those places you mention in those 3 weeks, then I think a rail pass would be ideal. You could either go with the 10 Days out of 2 Months option to save a bit, or pay just a bit more for the 21 Consecutive Days version. You probably don’t want to do more than 10 travel days anyway, but since you are only there for three weeks it’s probably worth paying a bit more to be able to travel any day you like, even for day trips.

    Getting from Rome to Florence and Venice is easy enough, and after Venice you can head to Milan and then take a train to Interlaken or Lucerne to enjoy Switzerland. From there you can go almost anywhere in Germany before heading to Amsterdam. From Amsterdam to London you’ll take the Eurostar Train, and the earlier you buy that train ticket the cheaper it’ll be. You can also get a 25% discount if you have a rail pass.

    Once you have your itinerary a bit more settled I can try to help more, but it does sound like a rail pass could be good for this trip. -Roger

     
      Sarav says:

      Thanks Roger, I thought so as well, was thinking to buy a 15 consecutive days pass.

      Current plan in Italy:- is the below a good plan for 5 to 6 Days (or should I cover Florence instead of Milan or both?) May 30 to June 4
      Rome and Vatican – 2 days (is it sufficient or need 3 days)
      Pisa – 1 Day (day trip from rome) and then head to Venice
      Venice – 1 Day (or does it need 2 days)
      Milan – 1 Day

      Current plan for Switzerland :- Planning for 4 days (June 5 to June9)
      - need to plan based on Railpass how many scenic routes can cover
      - any suggestion here would help me.

      Germany – planning for 2 days (June10 & 11)

      Amsterdam – planning for 3 days (June 12 to June 14) leaving June 14th Night to London

      London – June 15 to June 18 (June 19 heading back to Paris)

      Let me know whether the above is a good plan. Any suggestion would help me to plan. Thanks in advance.

       

        Sarav,

        Two days in Rome is a real rush, even if you only spend half a day at the Vatican. It’s such a big city filled with worthwhile attractions that I usually recommend at least 3 nights if possible. Skip Milan on this trip, but a day or two in Florence seems like a good idea. It’s cheaper than Rome, less chaotic, and very close to Pisa for a trip of a few hours to see the few main sights there. Venice is one not to skip, but fortunately you can see pretty much all the main things in 24 hours or so. Venice is insanely crowded from about 9am until 5pm every day, so plan some of your sightseeing and wandering for the morning or evening (and pay a bit extra to stay on the main island instead of on the mainland. It’s money well spent for that one night).

        Switzerland is gorgeous and it’s best to skip the big cities and instead base yourself in either Lucerne or Interlaken for a few days. Just doing hikes and short day trips from either of those will get you a great look at the Alps. There are a few private rail lines that aren’t part of the main rail passes, and unfortunately they are quite expensive. I’d think you’d have a wonderful time just sticking with the main rail lines (and maybe doing one or two of the others on a future trip), but it’s just personal preference.

        With two days in Germany, you’ll basically have one stop. Coming from that direction you might be best off spending them in Munich, which is at least on the way. Berlin is fantastic but too far out of the way for your visit.

        Amsterdam is compact enough to really enjoy in 2 or 3 days, so that looks ideal. And 3 or 4 days in London seems like a good amount of time as well.

        Overall I think you’ve got a very good itinerary with some nice contrasts along the way. By tweaking it just a bit as I’ve suggested it should be just enough time in each place to really appreciate it all. Again, feel free to ask any other questions you might have. -Roger

         
          Sarav says:

          Thanks Roger. That is really good info, let me go and tweak my plan.

          Another thing I wanted to check is as I will have luggages with me can I put them in stations if I am just going into the city or should I check in hotels and then do my sightseeing? Do the train stations have lockers to store luggages?

          Thanks again.

           

          Sarav,

          Yes, every major train station in Europe (including pretty much any train station where you’d want to get off for some sightseeing) has either a Left Luggage counter (a room with someone to check bags in and out) or luggage lockers, and often both. You might pay about €5 for 2 or 3 hours, or a bit more for a longer time, but it’s still a bargain compared to the alternatives. -Roger

           
Mark Bowman says:

Hello Roger,

My wife and I (both 62) will have the following itinerary in July/Aug. 2014:

Dusseldorf to Amsterdam
Amsterdam to Rotterdam
Rotterdam to Bonn
Bonn to Gengenbach, Germany
Gengenbach to Munstertal, Germany
Munstertal to Montreux
Montreux to Chur,
Chur to Tirano, Italy
Tirano to Waldshutt-Tiengen, Germany
Waldshutt-Tiengen to Frankfurt

Would a 15 day Eurail Global Pass (15 days within 2 months) be an advantage over just buying tickets as we go?

Thanks

 

    Mark,

    A Global Eurail Pass would be overkill for a trip like this, but the good news is that a 4-country Select Pass is cheaper and will be perfect. It comes in a 10 Days in 2 Months option, and with 2 traveling together you qualify for the 1st Class Saver version, which saves 15% on both passes.

    You might even think about the 8 Days in 2 Months version, and then pay cash for your two shortest journeys. Amsterdam to Rotterdam is short, as is at least one of your legs in Germany. By paying for those two trips as you go the grand total will be at least a bit less. When you use the form in the main body of this post, just put in the 4 countries that you’ll be visiting and you’ll see several options that are much cheaper than the Global Pass.

    Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

     
Angelissa says:

hello :) I’m planning to visit Vienna this May. However I do want to maximize my trip by visiting other cities/countries not too far away from Vienna; possibly 3 hrs max one-way. Which cities & which pass would fare well for me?…

 

    Angelissa,

    Within about 3 hours of Vienna by train, your main choices are Budapest and Salzburg, which are both highly recommended, and both are very different from Vienna. You could also go to Brno, Czech Republic (I haven’t been there but I’ve heard good things). There’s also Bratislava, Slovakia, which is basically a suburb of Vienna. Being honest, Bratislava isn’t too interesting, although it’s cheaper than Vienna, which is nice.

    Whether a rail pass would work for you would depend on where you decide to go. There is an Austria-only rail pass that would be good if you want to go to Salzburg and maybe another Austrian city or two. Or you can get a regional pass that adds one or two more countries for only a bit more money. Again, it all depends on how many days you’ll want to take the train, and how long each ride is. It’s very possible that you’ll be best off just paying as you go, or buying tickets in advance from the official Austrian Rail site if you are sure of your itinerary. -Roger

     
Loren says:

My husband and I will be traveling to Europe in June. Our itinerary is as follows:
We will fly into Barcelona and spend a day there.
Then take a train from Barcelona-Madrid. I’m having trouble finding routes to get from Madrid to Paris. We wanted to stay in Paris for about 3 days and then go to Italy. From Italy, we were going to visit Rome, Milan, Naples, and Venice. From Italy, we wanted to visit Greece, but I was also having difficulty finding a route from Venice to Greece. I’m assuming that we will have to take a ferry. I’m trying to decide if a Global Pass would be worth it or would it make more sense to buy a Regional Pass? Also, are you aware of specific maps that have routes and times for the trains?

 

    Loren,

    If this is your first time to Barcelona then it’s a shame you’ll only spend one day there. It’s very different from Madrid and many people actually prefer it.

    From Madrid to Paris it’s cheapest (and definitely fastest) to fly. By train the only (good) way is to take the high-speed train back to Barcelona and then take the new high-speed train from Barcelona to Paris, which only started operating a couple weeks ago. The problem is that those two train journeys together will take 10 hour or so, and both trains are quite expensive. Especially with this much time before you go, you should really think about flying on one of the many low cost carriers. You can fly on Ryanair or Easyjet (Easyjet is much better) for around US$65 if you book soon, and the flight is only 2 hours and 10 minutes.

    Your options from Paris to Italy are similar. By train you’d take a high-speed train from Paris to Nice (and you might want to spend a couple days there) and then from Nice to Milan. Once you get to Milan you’ll find that getting to the other famous Italian cities is fast and relatively cheap on the train. If you book way ahead of time and buy the tickets on the official Italian Rail website you can get even lower fares. But Paris to Nice to Milan is another half-day (10 to 12 hours) journey, so if you don’t want to stopover in Nice, then flying to any of the main Italian airports is way faster and probably cheaper as well.

    I’m not aware of a full Europe rail map. Generally, pretty much every major city is connected to the nearest major cities by rail. The only complications are like Paris to Milan, where it’s so far that you have to go through a few major cities that aren’t in a straight line. So in other words, you can get from anywhere to almost anywhere in Europe by train if you skip through the major cities along the way. And if you don’t see a ticket that goes all the way, you sometimes have to divide it into segments where you change trains in a big city along the way. -Roger

     
Julia says:

Hi Roger, love the site, the price guides for European cities have been really great in thinking about our trip! It is sort of a Eurail pass question, but mostly a direction one and I wasn’t sure what article I should ask it on.
Basically my partner and I (Who will have to buy interail)are planning rather far in advance. But right now our trouble is deciding what direction is logical and economical. Our trip will be roughly 9-10 weeks. We want to have flexibility to go where we want, we have a few cities on the must do list but the others will just be what we feel is affordable and doable in that time. We plan to start our trip by flying into Barcelona from Tampere, Finland and see Barcelona before heading down to Valencia for La Tomatina 2015. From here we just don’t know how we should continue, with a train pass in mind (likely 15 days of 60 and a bunch of weird ones for him) We would like to see a little more of Spain, Italy (particularly Florence and Rome), all regions of France (Strasbourg is a must city), Interlaken, Prague, Hamburg, Munich, Berlin, Vienna, Bratislava(maybe), Budapest(Maybe) Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Luxembourg and then we would like to tour the UK and Ireland so we want this to ideally be at the end or beginning as it doesn’t play into a pass. We would also like to try and see some Oktoberfest without having to double back too much. (I thought maybe trying to “finish” here and using trains (or buses?) to travel back through Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia to catch ferry home – but means the UK pass would be in the middle of trip? It would not be too expensive to get from Munich to Tallin on trains though? or maybe a second smaller pass?) My partner is kind of set on seeing a bit of the Baltic states, maybe also Krakow and would also like to see Sweden and Norway. I would love to see some fjords but I feel like maybe its a trip best done later with Finland as our base.

Any thoughts on our passes too, especially on trying to make them compatible with each other? We will be doing quite a lot of long distances and we can buy tickets for shorter trips, seems it works better that way than buying the unlimited.

Thanks so very much!!

 

    Julia,

    Wow, this sounds like an epic trip. It sounds like a Global Pass would be good value for you, and hopefully the other passes for Europeans match the benefits on that route. There is so much there that I am not sure where to start, or how much I can really help. A few notes…

    I’d skip Bratislava but not Budapest. And I love Copenhagen, but it’s a long way there and back on the train, so you might even be better off flying there from Finland before or after the rest of the trip.

    From Munich to Estonia it should be fairly cheap on the ground. The trains through Czech Republic and Poland are good and affordable, and once you get into the Baltics I believe buses are the better option, and still quite cheap. So you wouldn’t want to use any rail pass in that area.

    And forget about a UK rail pass as well. They are not good value unless you want to criss cross Britain a few times without planning far in advance. The trick there is to buy your train tickets online at least a few days, if not longer, in advance. If you do that they’ll actually be way cheaper than what you’d pay for those same journeys using a rail pass. And again, the only downside is that you have to buy them in advance or you might pay a fortune if you buy them on the day.

    Train tickets between the famous Italian cities are fairly inexpensive, especially if you buy them online at least a few days in advance. So I don’t think I’d use a Global Rail Pass for those journeys.

    Overall it feels like the full plan you mentioned might be too ambitious to really be enjoyed. With 10 weeks you should have enough time to go just about everywhere, but when you are actually in the midst of it you will probably prefer to go it bit slower. You’ll also want a break or two in there, where you might rent a little apartment for a week in a cheaper city just to catch your breath.

    So with the above in mind, see if there is a logical route as the main middle of your trip where you’ll be connecting the main cities you want to see. Once you have the first draft of an actual route figured out, it should seem less overwhelming and you can begin tweaking it to keep costs down and make it as efficient as possible. This really sounds great and I’m happy to give you my thoughts as you continue planning. -Roger

     
      Julia says:

      Thanks heaps Roger for those thoughts! We have revised and refined the trip a bit and was wondering if you had any more thoughts on it now.
      Mostly just keen to get the most value out of the transport we take as I feel the rest is common sense and living to your budget. We have decided to split it almost 50/50 with couch surfing and hostels in order to give ourselves some extra funds to stay somewhere a bit nicer (or private to rewind for a bit)

      We are now thinking to tick off the UK and Ireland first with a rather set itinerary and pre-booked train tickets. We would like to visit family in Surrey, go to Cardiff, Edinburgh and then off to Dublin and possibly Cork. Due to the costs here, we would be unlikely to exceed 2 weeks. Then we will fly to Barcelona or Valencia, from whatever UK city works out to be cheapest. Any suggestions for this?
      We will either explore Barcelona before or after La Tomatina, and Madrid is still a possible visit.

      So the beginning of our pass would be from wherever we land to Valencia or if we land in Valencia, it will be from Valencia to Madrid or Barcelona.
      From Barcelona, we wish to visit the The Loire Valley with a possibility of somewhere in the Pyrenees on the way.
      Then onto Paris
      -> Brussels (Only shortly)
      -> Luxemburg
      -> Amsterdamn
      -> Hamburg/Denmark
      -> Frankfurt
      -> Munich (Oktoberfest) As you can see at this point, we are about 4 ish weeks into the trip (as La tomatina is set and so is oktoberfest), is this too ambitious right now?
      -> Strasbourg (Likely to stay here a while with possible day trips)
      -> Through Switzerland, maybe day or one night stop
      -> Milan
      -> Nice (Monaco, Cannes)
      -> Florence
      -> Rome
      -> Either further south or across to possibly San Marino
      -> Venice
      -> Vienna
      -> Budapest
      -> Prague
      -> Berlin
      -> Warsaw
      Then up through Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia and back home.

      We would like the train pass to help us out with the big trips. I have struck a bit of luck this year and have managed to find some family that will house me for the year so my funds towards the trip are a bit higher now. This means that after Munich, we really can take our time, would just like to be back home for Christmas :)I hope that with doing the cheaper countries last we can spend a little bit more time chilling, not worrying about how quickly the money is dissapearing with food etc, like other cities may do. But if it still seems like too much, which cities are the most logical to cut out for another time?

      Some concerns I have is that the 2 month pass is likely to expire before we do the rather long Praque-Berlin, Berlin->Warsaw routes.
      I think its quite possible to work it into just a 15 day pass, with buying the smaller, cheaper trains separately.
      I am also still having problems with the Interail pass. Would two One month continuous be smarter than 3 10 days in 22 passes? Or even 2 10 days in 22 passes? With some strategic planning going on as to when to validate each of them? This different pass thing is a real bother for me right now.
      I would also like to see a bit more of france and germany but know they are expensive countries. Any day trips that are reasonable that you would recommend that might fit into the plans?
      Is Denmark still not doable in that sort of time frame suggested? It is rather high up in the want to see list as I have been before and absolutely loved it and want to see even more.
      Besides day trips and italy, any other routes that are better to leave to single tickets and save a day on the pass? Also is it possible that I am venturing into getting better value and freedom out of a continuous pass?
      Again, THANKS SO MUCH. I am loving all these messy thoughts start to come together in sequence and you are helping immensely with both your site and feedback.

       

        Julia,

        Okay, here goes…

        I think starting with the UK and Ireland is wise. Again, if you buy those train tickets a month or more in advance, they will actually be strangely cheap. In my experience, the National Rail site is the best for Britain.

        From England to Spain you should have no problem getting a cheap flight if you look at Easyjet or Ryanair (or a Spanish carrier) and book as far in advance as possible. My hunch would be that they would all be about the same price if booked far enough in advance. The longer you wait, the more expensive they will be. Easyjet is nicer than Ryanair, by the way.

        Not sure if we discussed this before, but Frankfurt isn’t one of Germany’s better tourist cities, unless you have a specific reason to go there. There are many more interesting options in the area.

        As you might know, accommodation during Oktoberfest is in extremely high demand, and even hostels will triple their prices for those 3 weeks. Sort something out as early as possible for the best deal.

        I agree that saving the cheaper countries for the end is wise. You can get by on less than half in Poland than in Germany or France. Prague to Berlin and Berlin to Warsaw are actually among the cheaper journeys in Europe of that length. For example, you can get a Saver fare from Berlin to Warsaw for only €29 per person if you book well in advance on the bahn.de website. The Prague one is probably the same. Once you get into the former Eastern Europe, train fares drop a lot.

        I don’t know much about the Interail Passes for European citizens, unfortunately.

        Both Germany and France aren’t as expensive as you might fear, as long as you are out of the bigger cities (or in the former eastern Germany). Still, they aren’t exactly cheap either. When you are actually on the trip I’m sure you’ll be hearing about day trips or other places you might visit from fellow travelers at the hostels or couchsurfing hosts. One in Germany to consider is Rothenburg Ob Der Tauber, although I recommend staying overnight rather than just during the day because (like Venice) it’s packed in the day and wonderfully empty every evening.

        I agree with you about how cool Denmark is, and if you are on a Eurail Pass I’d go for sure because it’s a very expensive trip otherwise and it’ll feel like you are getting great value. Whether or not you’ll be in the mood to go that far at that point in your trip is something for you to decide as it approaches.

        Once you buy the Eurail Pass, you’ll obviously see how much each leg costs, as in 15 rides for, say, US$829 would mean they cost you US$55 each, plus seat reservations when needed, which are usually around US$7 each. So if you see a trip you want to take and the ticket would cost, say, US$90, then using the pass is worthwhile, assuming you have enough travel days to get you to the end. But if the ticket is only, say, US$40, then it’s probably better to buy that one as you go, unless it looks like you’ll have extra days at the end. You are obviously a meticulous planner, and I generally am too. However, I’m quite confident that once you are on the road, that most of these decisions will be obvious and pretty easy to make as you go.

        It kind of sucks that these days there is a big difference in price between buying train tickets a month or two in advance and just hopping on trains when you feel like it. As of ten years ago, a Eurail Pass would allow total freedom, and all train tickets were the same price. So it’s more challenging now to be on a low budget, but you’ll figure it out as you go. Still, feel free to ask any other questions you have as your trip approaches. -Roger

         
sahil says:

hi
i am traveling to spain for 20 days i have bought the spain eurorail pass all i wanted to ask is that should i make prior reservations for AVE or should i directly by tickets at the station

 

    Sahii,

    For the AVE trains in Spain, you do need to make seat reservations even if you have a rail pass. The reservations cost €10 each on that train, and in almost all cases you should be able to make the reservation shortly before the train leaves. However, if you are traveling during summer and especially on busy days, you might want to make the seat reservation at least a day in advance. I generally like to reserve the day before, and that way I can get to the train station just before the train leaves, and I don’t have to wait around in the queue with my luggage and all that. -Roger

     
Gabbby says:

Hi Roger,
We will be traveling to Italy & France this June. It will be our first time traveling to Europe and I’m not sure if it would be cheaper to fly from one country to another or take the train. We plan to spend a week on each country and it would be two adults and a teenager. Another thing I would like to know is what towns do you suggest to see in Italy other than Rome? and the best way to get to them?
Thank You!

 

    Gabbby,

    You’ll probably want to take the train, assuming you want to see something in France other than Paris. I’ve actually gotten this question before so I wrote a whole post with my recommendations for a 2-week itinerary in France and Italy.

    Have a look at that, and it should at least give you some ideas of where you might want to go. If you do go from Paris to Nice and eventually down to Rome, you might still want to fly back to Paris on a low cost airline rather than going back on the train. Feel free to follow up with any more questions. -Roger

     
Ashley says:

Hi Roger,

Your site is extremely helpful as I have never traveled to Europe before. My boyfriend and I are taking a 2-3 week trip in April (not sure of exact dates at each location) but looking to visit:
France:
-Paris
-Cannes
-nice
-marseille

Spain:
- Madrid
- Valencia
- Granada

Portugal:
-Lisbon
-algarve
-sintra
- Azores

Trying to do everything by train &/or bus. Is a Europass worth doing or should we just pay as we go?

We’re also both 26.

Thanks so much for your insight!

 

    Ashley,

    I’m always happy to hear this stuff is helpful. You’ve got some unusual choices here, and even in 3 weeks I think this is ambitious. I’ll discuss some notes with you and then once you are sure of where you want to go, I can help you sort out the best methods.

    Since this is your first trip to Europe, I urge you not to rush in and out of Paris. The city really does live up to the hype, and I’d recommend at least 3 or 4 nights there, especially keeping in mind the jet-lag factor.

    Since you mention buses as a possibility, I’m going to guess that you are a fellow budget traveler (rather than a big spender). With that in mind, you’ll want to stay in Nice and visit Cannes as a day trip. It’s about a 30-minute train ride and you can see the main sights in Cannes in 4 or 5 hours of walking around. Nice is actually quite nice on its own, and it has a far better infrastructure for budget travelers. You also might consider a quick day trip to Monaco, which is only about 20 minutes from Nice by train, and it’s actually much more dramatic and interesting than Cannes at first glance. So maybe 3 nights Nice with day trips should work well.

    Marseille is an unusual choice for a first trip. If you have a specific reason to go there (family or a museum you want to see or something) then I’m sure you’ll enjoy it. But it’s not really a tourist city, and it’s not typical French, for better or worse. It’s a large port city with strong northern African influences and not many checklist attractions.

    Now on to Spain, it’s also surprising that you are planning on skipping Barcelona (and almost certainly going right through it) on your way to the less touristy Valencia, or Madrid. Again, if you have a specific reason to visit Valencia, then great, but for a first trip to Spain I’d recommend both Barcelona and Madrid and that’s it. Both are really nice and very different from each other. Granada and its Moorish influences are interesting, although not even close to the same league as the big two.

    Lisbon is really nice and generally underrated, so I’m glad you are heading there. Sintra is a small town just a short train ride away from Lisbon, so most people just go for the day to see the castles and such, and one day should be enough.

    The Algarve is mainly a beach resort for Europeans with a variety of towns of different sizes. I stayed in a town called Tavira and liked it a lot, but I’m not sure it’s worth a big detour to get there and back.

    The Azores, as I assume you know, are islands that are a bit over 2 hours away from Lisbon by plane. A round-trip from Lisbon will cost around US$300. I haven’t been there yet myself, and the place does sound interesting, but unless you have family there or something, I think I’d recommend saving that for another trip so you can spend more time in the kick-ass places you are already visiting.

    All of that said, a Eurail Pass might be helpful for what you have in mind, but it wouldn’t save you much money most likely. The only one that would work would be a France and Spain regional pass, and those start at only 4 or 5 travel days. The problem is that for only 4 or 5 travel days, the pass will cost in the US$250 to US$320 range, plus you have to pay a bit more for seat reservations. The individual train tickets might cost a bit more than that, but not by much. If you buy the train tickets online at least a month or two in advance you can get the best prices, but only if you buy on the official rail websites of each country.

    You’d save the most money by taking buses, but in this part of Europe they are quite a bit slower than the high-speed trains you could take instead. If you were on a 2-month trip it might be worth it to save money by traveling slower, but on a fast trip like yours I think the fast trains are the way to go.

    Think a bit about the ideas above, and you might consider a couple changes to your itinerary. Either way, once you are more sure of where you want to go, I’ll be happy to help you plan it if you like. -Roger

     
Jo says:

Hi Roger,
You do a wonderful job here. I couldn’t help but ask your advice!
Here is our trip plans so far:
Rome for 3nights
Rome to Venice for 1 nights
Venice to Munich for 2 nights
Fly to athens/Greek Islands for 4 nights
Fly to Vienna for 1 night
Vienna to prague for 2 nights
Prague to Berlin for 3 nights
Berlin to Amsterdam for 2 nights
Then fly to London.

What do you think? Is a eurail pass the best option for getting between these places? If so, which one?
Thanks!

 

    Jo,

    This itinerary looks pretty rushed. Vienna is a very large city to try to appreciate in one afternoon and one morning, but of course it can be done.

    The Rome to Venice train fare won’t be too high, especially if you buy it online in advance from the Italian Rail site. Venice to Munich by train takes about 8 hours, so the arrival date won’t be a sightseeing day, although the journey itself should be enjoyable.

    The Berlin to Amsterdam train is on the expensive side, although it won’t be too bad if you buy it in advance from the German Rail site. You aren’t really taking enough train journeys for a Eurail Pass to be good value, so you’ll be better off just buying those few tickets in advance if you can. You might also consider taking the Eurostar train from Amsterdam to London at the end. Basically, you take a fast train from Amsterdam to Brussels, and then transfer to the Eurostar itself to London, and you can book the whole thing through Eurostar. It’s a bit faster than flying when you add in all the wasted time getting to the airport and waiting and all that. And it should be a bit cheaper if you buy well in advance too. That train is not part of the Eurail system, by the way, so a pass wouldn’t help there either.

    It looks like a great trip overall, although I’ve a feeling you’ll be exhausted towards the end. -Roger

     
Tom says:

Hey Roger,

Thanks for the article. My friend and I, both 27, are traveling to Europe for the first time for all of June and July this year. We are thinking right now that we will stay for a month in Barcelona and travel to some of the more western and centrally located countries for 3 or 4 day trips and then stay in maybe Germany or Italy for a month and see some of eastern Europe on that leg of the trip. Planning is not our strong suit so I like the idea of the global saver pass and having the freedom to choose when and where we want to go without much advanced notice, but I don’t want to be wasting money if there are cheaper ways of traveling with a little bit of planning. The 2 month global saver pass is $1,577, do you think that is my best bet or would you recommend something else?

Thanks!
Tom

 

    Tom,

    We’d need to see a more specific idea of what you have in mind with those side trips, but my first hunch is that a 2-month Global Eurail Pass would not be good value for you. Assuming you want to do things as affordably as possible, you might find that flights or even buses are cheaper than some of the high-speed trains in Spain. Also, it obviously depends on how far these trips would be. For example, Barcelona to Valencia isn’t too expensive of a train ride, but Barcelona to Seville is.

    In Germany they have these weekend train deals where up to 5 people can travel on Saturday or Sunday for something like €39. If you timed it right you could travel a lot on that special deal. And going from Germany to, say, Prague, is a relatively cheap train ride (when purchased in advance from bahn.de). Generally, when you go into the former Eastern countries, the fares drop (and the service does a bit too).

    On the other hand, if your main goal was to see as much as possible in those two months, you could really use the hell out of a Global Pass. If you were planning at least 20 train journeys in those 60 days, and if most of them are at least a few hours in length, it probably would be good value to get the pass. You will have to also pay for seat reservations on many trains, and those average about €5 each. But still, it would be really fun to know that you could go just about anywhere in that part of Europe for no additional cost (other than the €5).

    So it depends on how many trips you intend to take. Again, there are some cheaper ways to get many places, and you might decide you don’t like spending every third day on a train. But it could also be great to be able to go almost anywhere without worrying about the travel cost. -Roger

     
Levi says:

You, sir,are a very helpful individual! If I may pry your mind, as a married couple (over 26) from the States we are flying into Milan June 20th and flying home June 28th. 9 days, not much. Our itinerary is controlled by concerts to which we have tickets, occurring on the 20th, 22nd, 25th in Milan, Trieste, and Vienna, respectively. Between Milan and Trieste we will make quick stops in Verona and Venice. Between 22nd Trieste and 25th Vienna we wish to climb a mountain in the Dolomiti near Bolzano. A night train would be necessary to Vienna. Salzburg would ideally follow Vienna on the way back to Milan. We aren’t as much into traditional sightseeing as many are, so the compressed nature of our trip doesn’t concern me much. It seems, by your general guidelines, that a Eurail Pass for 3 countries (Italy and Austria aren’t offered together) is not our most economical option. We do not want to fly at all, nor do we wish to stand in any queues beyond all necessity. Can the rail tickets be purchased online ahead of time? Do you then have to queue up to collect? Flexibility is very attractive as the weather could ruin many of our perspective plans, and we may be invited to join others. Given these considerations, and the addition of the ease of one central rail timetable in english, I am still considering purchasing a pass. Does this sound like a good idea? It’s hard to judge the intangibles and I realize you can’t decide for us, but I wonder if you have a gut feeling one way or another.

 

    Levi,

    I understand what you are asking and it is indeed a tricky situation. In most of Europe, the individual tickets are so expensive if you buy them on the travel day that a rail pass would save money and also allow you to make last minute decisions. But in Italy, the train tickets are rarely expensive enough to justify a pass, and an overnight train to and from Vienna would also be reasonable (US$69 each in 2nd class or US$97 in a bunk) compared to what you pay daily for a pass (and with a pass you still have a pay a supplement for a bunk/couchette on a night train).

    As an example, the train from Venice to Trieste takes about two hours, and if you buy tickets a month or more in advance, you can get them for US$13 each in second class. If you buy them on the day, or even the day before, they will be US$30 for the same seat. However, the US$13 ticket is non-refundable and can’t be used on any other train, even the same service an hour later. Now, assuming that your main plan is mostly set, it could be wise to just assume that’s what you will do and buy all the train tickets ASAP from italiarail.com. The other tickets will probably cost at least a bit more in advance, but they will all be fairly cheap.

    So even if you decide you want to change your plans once you are there, then you can buy the tickets as soon as you make that decision. If you end up changing most or all of your plans, then a rail pass might have been a better idea. But if you stick mainly to your original plan, then the advanced tickets will end up your cheapest option by far. You could buy full-price tickets in advance, but there’s still a 30% penalty to change them within 24 hours of travel, so they aren’t as flexible as you might prefer.

    These online train tickets in advance are pretty new in Europe and I haven’t done it myself in Italy yet. I know in some countries they have ticket machines in each station where you just slide in the credit card you used and enter a little code that they email to you, and the tickets come out. But in Italy, you might still have to go through the ticket queues to pick them up. Fortunately, you could probably pick all of them up on your first stop.

    Based on what you seem to have in mind, I think the above plan is better than a rail pass for you. Hopefully this helps, and let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

     
      Levi says:

      Thank you Mr. Wade, your diligence is appreciated! I’m going to have to look around this site some and see what else is happening!

       
Sesh says:

Hi Roger,
Im planning my first trip to Germany with my husband and 2&1/2 year old son. We are looking at visiting Amsterdam, Vienna and Venice as well within 2 weeks. Do you think we should use Eurail? We will be flying back home from Germany at the end of the trip.

 

    Sesh,

    If you are only planning those 3 main stops, then a Eurail Pass won’t be useful because it’s only 3 possible train trips (including the one from Venice back to Germany). Also, none of those stops is really an ideal distance for train travel, as they would be at least 10 hours each, and that ends up being a long day with no sightseeing by train.

    So if this is all you have in mind, I’d probably recommend flying. If you bought those plane tickets well in advance you can probably get them cheap, and almost certainly less than the train fare. Also, keep in mind that there are many secondary airports near those cities and you might save quite a bit of money and only spend a bit more time if you can find a low-cost airline going nearby rather than a major carrier going from one major city to another.

    Depending on where you are leaving out of in Germany, you might instead start in Amsterdam and then fly to Venice first, and then to Vienna. From Vienna you might take a train to Germany instead, which would give you more sightseeing opportunities along the way. -Roger

     
Joy says:

Hi Roger,
I was thinking of getting a 10 day globa flexi pass (saver plus)for 2 of us travelling the following routes:

Paris – Angers St Laud – Paris (same day)
Paris – Bielefeld (Germany)
Bielefeld – Rothenburg ob de Tauber
Rothenburg – Chur
Chur – Lugano (on the Bernina Express and bus)
Lugano – Venice (maybe stop off a few hours in Milan)
Venice – La Spezia and Cinque Terre
La Spezia – smaller Tuscany towns over a couple of days
Tuscany towns – Rome

Do you think its the right pass or worth it?

Thanks

 

    Joy,

    This is one of the more unusual groups of cities for an itinerary that I’ve ever seen, so I assume you have interesting reasons for going to each place.

    Anyway, the Paris to Bielefeld and Bielefeld to Rothenburg journeys are pretty long and would be at least €100 in 2nd class for each, and about €150 in 1st class. The others should be much cheaper as long as you buy them online in advance from the official train site of each country.

    So I think the cheapest way to do this is to buy 2nd class tickets online in advance (at least a few weeks, or hopefully more), but that way you are locked in because the cheap tickets are unchangeable. The most comfortable way is certainly the 1st class Global Saver Pass as you mention, and that allows you much more flexibility. On most of those legs you’ll need to make seat reservations to use your pass, but you can usually make those even on the day of the journey (in 1st class especially), and even if one train is sold out (very rare), there is usually another one leaving an hour later.

    The Paris – Angers St Laud – Paris in one day is also an excellent use of a pass because it only uses one travel day for both trips.

    The Italy legs won’t be too expensive if you bought them as they go. So again, that Global Pass isn’t the cheapest way to do this, but it’s the most flexible and comfortable, so if those are things you value then it should be a good deal. -Roger

     
Luiz Osse says:

Hello Roger,

I will be travelling with my wife from May 1 to May 30, 2014. We are over 60 and we will travel together. We plan to stay in the following cities: Lisbon, Madrid, Barcelona, Nice, Rome, Florence, Venice, Munich, Zurich (or Lucerne), Paris.

1) How many days in each city do you recommend? We already have a short list of places that we would like to visit in and around these cities, which helps planning the trip, but we would like to hear your opinion.

2) What kind of Eurail Pass do you recommend? We have already compared the passes, including the option of buying some train tickets as we travel, as well as flying between a couple of cities, but we are not sure if we came to the right conclusion and would like to hear your opinion.

Thank you in advance for your help.
Luiz.

 

    Luiz,

    This looks like a really well thought-out itinerary, and 30 days seems about the perfect amount of time for it. You’ve got 10 cities here listed in 30 days so 3 days each is a good place to start.

    Lisbon is wonderful, and if you go by train the only option is a night train to Madrid. So you could spend 2 nights and then the 3rd night waking up in Madrid. Three nights each in Madrid, Barcelona, and Nice is about right. Rome is a bit more overwhelming and there are more “must-see” attractions, so you could spend 4 nights there. However, Rome is also kind of chaotic for first time visitors and after 3 nights there you might be ready to move on (I would be).

    Florence is small enough to see in 2 nights, unless you make a day trip to Pisa or to one of the mountain villages nearby that many people include. I generally recommend about 24 hours for Venice because it’s very compact, hotels are expensive (especially if you stay on the main island, which I recommend), and it’s insanely crowded. The best times in Venice are in the evenings when the day-trippers have left and in the mornings before they arrive again. So one night makes for a really nice visit, thought two nights isn’t too long.

    Three days is enough to see the main sights in Munich. Zurich is incredibly expensive and not terribly interesting, so I normally recommend Lucerne or Interlaken, which are the main tourist places to see the Alps and the gorgeous scenery. Two or three nights is enough to get a feel for the place, and those cities are still quite expensive as well. Paris is amazing, and 3 nights is enough, but I’d recommend 4 if you can squeeze them in. That would be a busy 28 days or so, so you could add an extra day or two in other places you have more side-trips in mind for. Obviously there are no right or wrong answers on this, but that is my opinion as someone who has been to all of these places and who studies it for a living.

    As for how to go, I think the train is the most enjoyable by far, and the scenery starting in Barcelona is quite nice the rest of the way. Barcelona to Nice is another one that is often done by night train, so if you do that it would give you an extra night along the way. Not everyone sleeps soundly on night trains, however, so that would be a personal decision. A Global Eurail Pass with 10 travel days in 2 months and the Saver option for 2 traveling together should be pretty much perfect for this. It’s US$825 per person in 1st class, which is about €60 per ride, plus you have to pay a bit more for seat or bunk reservations. This would be cheaper than buying as you go, probably by quite a bit. And a Eurail Pass gives you plenty of flexibility because you can make the seat reservations at the last minute.

    If you don’t feel like trying the night trains, which are actually pretty comfortable to be honest, then you’ll at least want to fly between Lisbon and Madrid, as well as Barcelona and Nice. This looks like a great trip and I’m happy to help answer more questions should you have any. -Roger

     
Jacy says:

Hi Roger,

So glad i stumbled upon this site.

I plan on traveling to Barcelona, Spain from the around the 24 or 25th of February and from there do a multi country trip. My entire trip will be around 2 1/2-3 weeks, however I may be able to extend further. The main catch is that I have to fly to Barcelona for a few work commitment and spend at least 4-5 days there.

Also plan on visiting some relative for a few days in London.

So, could you please advise on where to visit given the weather conditions and a 2 1/2 -3 weeks stay?

I’m also open to transportation suggestions and the suggested # of days to spend in each city/country.

P.S, I’m in my earlier 30s and a U.S citizen.

 

    Jacy,

    This is a pretty wide-open question, but considering the time of year, I think your best bet would be to go from Barcelona to Nice for at least a few days (Cannes and Monaco are very short train rides from Nice), and then spend most of the rest of your time in Italy. All of Europe is quite chilly in February, but Italy typically has milder weather, and you’ll be able to see a lot in a short time because it’s the only time of year where the whole country isn’t jammed with other tourists.

    Have a look at this article about France and Italy itinerary suggestions for my more organized and complete thoughts.

    From Italy, you would be best off flying to London or even back to Barcelona, depending on which you need to go to next. The trains would be much slower and more expensive to take you to either, but Barcelona to Nice to Milan etc is quite scenic and the train rides are fairly short once you get to Nice. By the way, should you want to take those trains, buy your tickets online in advance from the official rail sites of each country for the best prices. Let me know if you have any other questions I might help with. -Roger

     
Lakshmi says:

Hello Roger,
I would like some help in deciding between the Eurail global pass and point to point tickets. We(myself & hubby living in Australia and sister-in-law living in the US)all in our 30′s have planned for a Europe trip in April-May time frame. The itinerary is as below:

Apr 14-Amsterdam to Brugge
Apr 16-Brugge to Antwerp
Apr 17-Antwerp to Paris
Apr 21-Paris to Heidelberg
Apr 23-Heidelberg to Zurich
Apr 25-Zurich to Interlaken
Apr 26-Interlaken to Geneva
Apr 28-Geneva to Athens(by flight)
Apr 28-Athens to Santorini(by flight)
May 01-Santorini to Athens(by flight)
May 03-Athens to Australia/US

We have all our hotel reservations done but need to get the train bookings ASAP to even apply for the tourist visa.I was checking for some local travels like between Brugge and Antwerp and travel in Switzerland and find that those cannot be booked so much in advance, only 30 days prior to the travel. So ideally we cannot go in for point to point as we need to provide proof of train ticket booking to get our visa.

Do you suggest we buy the Eurail global saver pass then? Any suggestions are welcome.

Thanks
Lakshmi

 

    Lakshmi,

    Hmmm…I didn’t realize that Belgium and Switzerland only sold tickets 30 days in advance, but it certainly appears that you are right. I’m also unaware of specifically which visa you’d need, of course, though I’d hope there would be an FAQ somewhere online that could answer this seemingly common problem.

    Unfortunately, I don’t think a Eurail Pass would be good value at all, and I also doubt it would even help. First off, it looks like you are only planning on 7 train trips, and the cheapest Global Eurail option is for 10 trips within 2 months. And the individual tickets for all but 2 or 3 of your trips would be fairly cheap if you bought them on the day, and even cheaper if bought in advance. So buying a Eurail Global Pass would probably cost at least double, if not more, compared to the point to point tickets. The fact that you are going through France also means (as you know) that you can’t use a regional pass, which comes in smaller versions.

    The other complication is that a Eurail Pass almost certainly doesn’t prove anything to the visa people. For most if not all of your international trips, you’ll also need to pay for a seat reservation, and I’d think that those are also only available within 30 days. So a Eurail Pass only proves that you have prepaid for potential trips, not that you are actually booked on any of them.

    I just checked and even the international bus lines (eurolines) also only do ticketing 45 days out, so that’s not a good option.

    Wouldn’t the visa only require you to show proof of a ticket into and out of the Schengen Zone? It’s hard to imagine why they’d require proof of trips within those countries, or even between the countries because there are no border checks. Sorry I wasn’t of any help, and best of luck with this. -Roger

     
Emily says:

Hi Roger,

My fiance and I will be traveling Portugal and Spain from March 9 – March 27. We land in Lisbon on March 9 and leave from Madrid on March 27. I don’t have a set itinerary yet, but are hoping to cover Southern Portugal and Spain (Faro, Seville, Cordoba, Granada, Valencia, Barcelona). We don’t plan on spending much time in Madrid but will need to take a train from Barcelona to Madrid to catch our flight.

Do you have any recommendations on whether or not a Eurail Pass would make sense for us? Or would it be cheaper to buy individual tickets once we get there, since all of the trips will be shorter.

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

Thanks,
Emily

 

    Emily,

    I don’t think a Eurail Pass would be good value for a trip like this. Even the Spain-Portugal regional pass costs quite a bit for each journey, partly because you can only buy a 1st Class version if either of you is 26 years or older.

    The only really expensive train tickets in that area are the high speed trains between the major cities, and it looks like you can avoid most of them. Another interesting thing about the Iberian Peninsula is that bus service is often your best option, at least between non-major cities. They are cheaper, more frequent, and often about the same speed, plus they are pretty comfortable as well.

    So what I’d recommend is to research both trains and buses, and buy your tickets as early as you are sure of when you want to go. I think those trains will be cheaper a few weeks out, but even if you buy them as you go, they will still probably be cheaper than a rail pass in this case. You are going fairly short distances, and those rail passes only help if you are covering far more ground on each hop. -Roger

     
Shannon says:

Hi Roger,
My family of 4 + 2 grandparents are planning a trip to France and Spain in Sept. 2014. I’ve compared pass vs. point to point but I haven’t calculated reservation fees. I’m also nervous about getting a pass and then having sold out reservations for pass holders. I would love your advice; Will reservations be a problem in September? Is France Pass with point to point in Spain more economical?

Paris-4 days
Chamonix- 2 nights
Annecy – 3 nights
Antibes – 7 nights
Avignon- 2 nights ?
Carcassonne – 2 nights
St. Jean de Luz – 5 nights
San Sebastian – 2 nights
Barcelona – 5 nights

Thanks ,
Shannon

 

    Shannon,

    Reservations on domestic trains in France will cost between €6 and €9 each in either class. Your rail pass options would (seemingly be) a 6 Day France Pass or an 8-day France and Spain Pass. Based on your only two stops in Spain, I do think buying those point to point is probably the cheaper way to go. Unlike the Global or Regional Eurail Passes, you can choose either 1st class or 2nd class and still get a group discount of 15%.

    The trains in France that have low quotas for rail pass holders are the Thalys high-speed trains that go north from Paris, and the TGV trains that cover the major international routes going south. It looks like you might be avoiding many of those, but I haven’t looked up each trip.

    From what I’ve heard, the rail pass quotas do fill up in 2nd class on popular trains (although not necessarily too far in advance), but much less often in 1st class. However, since you evidently have your whole itinerary planned out, I think you could get all of your reservations in advance, or at least once you get to Paris. If you even did all the reservations in Paris, I’m quite sure you’d have no problems. Even if, say, the 9am train was full, you could instead go in the 10am train. There should be hourly services on all of these routes, and by September there are many fewer rail pass holders going for those spots than in July or August, so I really think you’d be fine.

    It is unfortunate that France makes using rail passes more complicated than any other country, but the individual trips can be incredibly expensive without them, so they are still a good option for many people. Bon voyage either way. -Roger

     
Lakshmi says:

Hi Roger,

Thanks for your response.Sorry I forgot to mention that we are planning to apply to the Swiss consulate and one of the requirements specifically mentioned by the Consulate General of Switzerland in Sydney- “If you are visiting several countries in Europe please provide proof of transport (e.g. bus tour, airline reservation, rail ticket, reservation of rental car)”.
Regards,
Lakshmi

 

    Lakshmi,

    Fortunately I haven’t had to deal with immigration issues when visiting Europe, although I’ve had to deal with them many other places. So I don’t know much about what they require as proof and all that. I do know that many countries have rules about showing onward tickets, but very few of those are actually enforced. It sounds like Switzerland is serious though, and yet I’d still think there must be a forum (maybe Lonely Planet’s Thorn Tree?) where there are many discussions of this exact thing by people in your exact situation. Best of luck. -Roger

     
Dianne Hay says:

Hello Roger
I am from Melbourne Australia and my husband and I both aged 61 and young fit & healthy we are heading by ourselves to Europe and we can spend around 5 weeks there – we would like to travel independently by train we had our first trip lot Europe last year and visited London and Paris for 4 weeks and now want to see the following cities but not sure how to coordinate order of visit or if our itinerary is unrealistic – can you please help us..we thought
Barcelona 3-4 nights – train? to Nice 3 nights
Fly or train to Venice 2 nights
Train to Milan to travel by train to Lucern 4 nights
(We would like to somehow see maybe Salzburg in Austria if possible also?)
Return back by train to Milan and go to Florence for 3-4 nights
Train to Cinque Terre 2 nights
Train to Rome 5 nights
We would also like to visit Amsterdam if possible??
Where should we fly to – to commence our trip and fly from to go home and would a rail pass suit us .. Many thanks hope you can help regards Dianne

 

    Dianne,

    I think your itinerary looks very well thought out, and very doable. Barcelona to Nice takes almost 12 hours by train, so it’s a popular night train, although it is quite scenic during the day as well. But flying might be the better option if you can get affordable flights.

    Salzburg is a lovely city and I’m sure you’d be glad you went there if you can fit it into your trip. Amsterdam is also fantastic, but it’s a long way from all of your other stops so there is no easy way to include it. Your best bet for doing it is to look for cheap flights from the cities you will be in, and if you book them early enough you might be able to find something at a very low price. If you can, like from Barcelona for example, you could fly there and then back to Nice to head into Italy next. It really just depends on whether you’d want to add in the 2-hour flights mixed in your trip along the south.

    As for where to fly into, I did an extensive study last year to compare inbound European airports from major North American destinations, and discovered that most of the major cities are fairly bunched together in price. In other words, you might save, say, US$100 per person by flying into Munich or Prague, but then it would cost you more than that to get to one of the cities you actually intend to visit. So I would check airfares into Barcelona and out of Rome, as well as a round-trip into either of them. If you can save US$100 by flying round-trip into Barcelona, it should be fairly cheap to fly back to Barcelona from Rome a few hours before your long flight leaves.

    Otherwise, I think you’ve got a great plan already, and I don’t have any other suggestions on how you might change it. -Roger

     
Ryan says:

Hi Roger,

I wanted to get your feedback about my upcoming honeymoon to Germany in June. We’re going to be there for 10 days. We’re flying into Munich and out of Frankfurt with the plan to move west.

My bride-to-be and I have both been to Europe before, but we’re expecting that this is the last time we will get to visit for a long time. Therefore, we’re of the mindset that we’re trying to get “a little bit of everything” rather than do a couple of things really thoroughly.

Day 1-2 Munich, Neuschwanstein
Day 3 Lucerne or Bern
Day 4 Freiburg (where I studied)
Day 5 Strasbourg (day trip from Freiburg)
Day 6 Heidelberg (day trip from Freiburg)
Day 7, 8 Paris
Day 9, 10 Frankfurt

Our plan is to arrive at the next city the evening before, e.g. at the end of day 2 we will travel to Lucerne, at the end of day 3 we will travel to Freiburg, etc. I think this itinerary gives us an opportunity to see a lot, and the day trips out of Freiburg actually gives us a chance to stay in one city at night for a few nights so we’re not too travel weary.

So I have a few questions for you:

1) Does anything I’m proposing seem logistically impossible? The train schedules seem okay but maybe I’m missing something.
2) Would you recommend against the Eurail pass? I would think so given almost all of our train rides are short, except to and from Paris.
3) Do you think it’s possible to fit in a visit to Konstanz on the way to Lucerne? I wonder if the train station could stow our luggage?

Thank you.

 

    Ryan,

    1 – Nothing in this plan seems logistically impossible, but it isn’t a typical itinerary. Even with the 3 nights in Freiburg, you are moving around a lot for a 10-day trip. It’s true that most of your journeys will be relatively short, and I’m actually a fan of this sort of “fast travel”. Still, I think at the end you’ll be ready for a vacation.

    Also, I’m guessing that you are planning 1 or 2 days in Frankfurt for a specific reason, but in case you aren’t, I don’t know if it’s a good use of time on a trip this short. As you may know, Frankfurt isn’t much of a tourist city, in spite of the big airport. I’d stay another night in Paris.

    2 – Right, skip the Eurail Pass for a trip like this. The individual tickets shouldn’t add up to too much, especially if you buy them in advance. And Germany still has that weekend special where up to 5 people can travel on Saturday or Sunday for €44, not including the ICE trains.

    3 – I do think you could visit Lake Konstanz on the way to Lucerne, although it will be a rushed visit, of course. I’m sure there are luggage lockers and/or a Left Luggage desk in that train station. As far as I’m aware, every train station in Europe where tourists get off will have a way to stow luggage.

    Congratulations, and I’m sure you’ll have a great trip one way or another. -Roger

     
Shaun says:

Hi Roger,
Your site is a great travel resource. I was hoping for some specific advice on the 3 month trip my wife (Both older than 25) and I have planned this summer.

Based on my initial research I was expecting a 3-month global pass to cost around US1200, however it now looks closer to US2000. Prices have either gone up or I looked at the wrong price initially. What is your experience about how much this pass should cost? I have looked on both Eurail and RailEurope.

Our itinerary is flexible and is looking as follows:

28 June to 1 July: Arrive Frankfurt (River Rhine i.e. Oberwesel/Koblenz)
1 July to 23 July: France (Paris-Dijon-Lyon-Bordeaux-Tolouse-Motpellier-Nice)
23 July to 12 Aug: Italy (San Remo-Genoa-Pisa-Florence-Tuscany-Rome)
12 Aug to 20 Aug: Greece (Fly to Athens-Greek Islands i.e. Santorini, Rhodes)
20 Aug to 26 Aug: Croatia (Unsure of transport from Greece to Croatia. Dubrovnik-Split-Pula-Rovinj)
26 Aug to 3 Sep: Italy (Ferry from Croatia to Venice, Milan, Lake Como)
3 Sep to 12 Sep: Switzerland (Lucern-Interlaken-Zurich)
12 Sep to 19 Sep: Austria (Innsbruck-Salzburg-Vienna)
19 Sep to 27 Sep: Germany (Munich-Bamberg-Dresden-Berlin)

We are planning to do Spain/Morocco under a separate trip.

It would be great if you could let me know if you agree the 3 month options is the best, or whether there is some other creative alternative we should go for? Or any other recommendations.

Also I have tried to research the validity of the global pass on local metro trains in the major cities, but find it difficult as they all have different names and rules. Generally, will the global pass cover local metro travel?

Many Thanks

Shaun

 

    Shaun,

    Last question first, a Global Pass generally does NOT cover local metro travel, but it does cover many suburban rail systems. So for example in Germany most cities have a U-Bahn (local metro) and an S-Bahn (suburban rail) system, and all the rail passes cover the S-Bahn but not the U-Bahn. The good news is that you can literally get an all-day local metro pass for around €5 per day in most of the places you are going, so it won’t change things much either way.

    Onto the rest, I actually think you could do this cheaper without a 3-month Global Pass (and by the way, the prices haven’t changed much lately, so you were either looking at something else, or maybe you were looking at the winter sale. And RailEurope and Eurail.com have basically the same prices on everything.) However, cobbling together cheaper ways of doing this is going to take some effort, and it will be more of a pain while you are actually on the trip. One great thing about those Global Passes (especially the continuous ones) is that you can just go anywhere as often as you want, and the most you’ll pay is the €5 or so for a seat reservation. Even if it’s not the cheapest way, it is the most enjoyable, even better because you go in 1st Class.

    Obviously you wouldn’t be using a rail pass in Greece, and after you fly to Croatia, you won’t find the trains there useful either. They only go north from Split, and they are slower than buses, so you’ll probably want to avoid them anyway.

    Trains in France are quite expensive though, so a pass can really come in handy, but France makes it difficult because they only participate in the Global Pass and some 2-country regional passes. I think your best bet would be to get a 10-Days in 2 months France-Italy Pass, which in 2nd Class for 2 people traveling together will cost US$532 each. It looks like you’ll have at least 10 travel days in that first 6-week time in France and Italy, and that pass will not only save you money, but it will allow more flexibility. You can save money on individual train tickets in France and Italy, but only when you buy non-refundable tickets at least a few weeks, if not a couple months, in advance. With a pass, you only need to deal with seat reservations, and you can usually get those the day before or even on the day, although in some cases you might have to take a slightly earlier or later train if you wait until the last minute.

    Then, that period starting after the ferry from Croatia, you’ll mostly be going shorter distances. Those tickets will all be cheapest if you buy them online in advance from the official rail sites for each country (rather than raileurope). As long as you get at least a few discounts by buying those in advance, I think your total for the whole trip will be much less than US$2,000.

    Hopefully this helps, and let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

     
Amy says:

Hi Roger,
I LOVE your site and I’m learning so much from reading everything here. My husband and I will be living at Kings College, Hamstead in London for a month this summer. He’ll be teaching during the week but we’ll have three long weekends free, including all day Friday. Potentially, we could travel on Thursday nights, even. We’re not typical tourists. We don’t really want to do all the touristy things. We prefer to soak up the atmosphere, enjoy the local culture, eat some great local food, and perhaps see a key landmark or two in each city. For example, and I know this is going to sound crazy to others and perhaps to you, in Paris we have more an image of ourselves sitting in a cafe’ drinking coffee and eating croissants, walking along the Seine, and enjoying the view of the Eiffel Tower at night while eating a fabulous meal. Running all over the city trying to see and do everything is unappealing to us. Given this, do you have any advice on traveling to and from these locations which we are considering for our weekends?
Paris
Barcelona
Munich and Salzburg
Vienna and Budapest
Edinburgh

Also, I will have a great deal of free time while my husband is teaching during the week and I have in mind to do a number of day trips on my own. I’m thinking I should get a Britrail pass but I don’t know where to begin as far as considering what to buy.
Any advice is greatly appreciated!!!
Love you site.
Amy

 

    Amy,

    Thank you for the kind words, and I’m always happy to hear that this information is helpful.

    As for your summer weekends, those all look like great trips, although I’d tend to concentrate on just one city each, because 3 days is a perfect weekend break, but spending half a day in the middle going to another city will really reduce the relaxation time that you say you prefer. And I totally agree with you that eating and chilling out in different cities and different neighborhoods is a huge part of the charm of traveling.

    That said, I think Paris and Edinburgh are perfect from London, but the others would involve flying (for a weekend trip), and that means you spend half a day getting to the airport (Heathrow flights won’t be cheap so you’ll fly out of one of the others) and getting there. Also, there are plenty of places you might go in Britain with a long weekend. Edinburgh is wonderful, but you could also visit Bath/Bristol or Cornwall or Manchester/Liverpool or York/Yorkshire Dales just to name a few.

    For Paris you’ll want to take the Eurostar, and those tickets go on sale 6 months in advance. The sooner you buy them, the cheaper they are, and there are sometimes promotions for round-trips, although maybe not for summer travel.

    For Edinburgh the trains from London take about 4 to 5 hours and they are fairly cheap if you buy them well in advance. I’m seeing £27.80 each way for advance tickets, but if you wait until close to the departure date, it will be much more, and flying actually make more sense.

    As for you, I really doubt a Britrail Pass would be good value. Those things are priced so high that they make sense only for someone wanting to cris-cross Britain in a short time. Generally, the key to cheap train travel in Britain is to book at least a few days in advance, and sometimes longer. Thetrainline.com is my favorite site for rail fares there. You’ll see a wide range of prices, and often there will still be a couple of cheap trains only a few days out, while the most popular ones only have really expensive tickets left. Also, you might be able to qualify for one of the “railcard” passes there, which qualify you for a discount if you are a student or senior or several other categories (including those who just buy a yearly card).

    Hopefully this helps, and feel free to ask any other questions you might have. -Roger

     
Anna says:

Hi Roger,
Was hoping you could give me information/links for the Nice/Barcelona night train for travel in August 2014. I cannot find anything online with regard to this sector.
Thankw

 

    Anna,

    Hmmm…it looks like they no longer offer a night train on this route. That’s a shame because I took it myself only a few years ago. Evidently you have to change trains in Montpellier on the way, which would be in the very early morning, so it doesn’t really work. When I did it, you had to change trains in Figueres (near the border with France) and then the train went all the way to Nice. So sorry about that, and I’ll have to research this more and hope they restore this service. -Roger

     
Lily says:

Hi Roger

I have read and read through your comments while taking notes for myself. Your kindness of sharing but caring to help others has given me the courage to pose my questions. I am a frazzled us citizen looking to give my husband (both over 25) a quick but memorable anniversary getaway. We’ve never been to Europe and our goal is to get as much done/seen since our funds are becoming more limited with expenses. I hope you do respond and help, I would truly appreciate it.
Our time frame is 12 days, starting from Norway, Oslo. We are hoping to see London, Paris, nice, Venice, Bern, and a recommended spot in Germany.(not sure where yet)
I leave our travel plans to your expertise. We are flying in to Oslo but would take the eurail for all else if it applies.

1 do we need visas?
2 is this a doable iteniary?
3 any recommended spots?
4 would having luggage be easy traveling like this?( should we bring checked bag for souvenirs)
5 what is your suggested time of year to go on this schedule?

Please help me, I am going nuts trying to figure travel plans out between sites and forums. Thanks

Lily

 

    Lily,

    I’ll be happy to help. My first thought is that you’ve chosen a group of the most expensive cities in the world so far, so it will be hard to keep the budget low. My second thought is that with only 12 days, you already have too many stops on your itinerary. For the most part, a day traveling from one destination to another is not a sightseeing day, so with 7 stops planned, that means 6 travel days (not including the travel days coming and going to Europe). And 6 travel days out of 12 total days is too many to really get the most out of the trip.

    Oslo is also an unusual choice for a short trip because the city itself isn’t much of a tourist destination in addition to being insanely expensive. Most people stay in Oslo for only a day or so on their way to Bergen and the fjords out west and up north. But Oslo does have some cheap incoming flights so at least it can be an affordable entry point to Europe. I’ll answer your questions, and then a couple comments.

    1. Assuming your are American or Canadian or Australian or from another such country, you don’t need any visas, just a passport that is valid for at least 6 months beyond your return flight.
    2. It’s physically possible to do your itinerary, but it would be very expensive and you’d be far more frazzled when you returned than when you left.
    3. I can recommend some spots, but first I’m going to recommend you focus on no more than 4 total stops if you are limited to 12 days.
    4. Especially if you want to move quickly, it’s helpful to have a bag with wheels and/or a backpack. You’ll be doing a LOT of walking no matter what, so having bags that are portable is important.
    5. For Oslo, May through September is the entire travel season, and July and August are the best months. For most other places on your list you could go anywhere from April through October. July and August will be the most expensive and crowded months, so I’d think about May or September for a nice balance of decent weather, smaller crowds, and lower prices.

    So please think about it, and if you would consider slimming the list down to 4 places or so, I think it would be wise. Also, is Oslo locked in as a stop? If you don’t have a good reason for going there (not including a cheap incoming flight) then I think you’d be better off skipping Scandinavia altogether. I’ll be happy to help whatever you decide, so feel free to respond when you are ready. -Roger

     
      Lily says:

      Thank you so much for taking the time to respond. It means so much especially to receive help from someone who’s familiar with travel. I truly have no idea which 4 stops to choose most because we are open. To explain, you are completely right about Norway. It was a cheaper flight in but there’s a deal to Lon round trip $799 right now but leaves in mid to late march.
      If that is a great choice you’d recommend then we can definitely jump on this deal and head over in march.
      Our most interested areas are London, Paris, Nice and Venice. We only want to go to Bern for the Norte dame and my hubs would love to see Germany but I have no idea where to say. Out of those we are not attached to any, except London since it’s our flight path but I definitely would take a 4 stop iteninary of your suggestion. Honestly I am sorry to sound needy but I know nothing about Europe beyond its history and watching Anthony bourdain so anywhere you say go, we’ll do. Lol!
      I know we intend to bring just a carryon and backpack. We also are more off the beaten path tourists, we like picturesque and tranquil with city mixed in only when necessary.
      I guess in short my goal is truly to see the highlights for now with the intent to return next time for more detailed journey, I hope you understand. I font mean to ramble but want to give as much info to assist.
      Roger, we just want to land and explore, take lots of pics, eat and that’s it. Haha! We have no desire to see major attractions or tours. We’d rather find streets or alternate areas to get views without crowds for photos. (E.g.) take pics of Big Ben or Eiffel Tower and be on our way.
      So 4 stops is up to whatever you think will work for us and our desire to do lots fast but have fun at same time. Again, we can come in to London round trip for $799 if you think it’s a great deal but will have to travel in March which is close.

       

        Lily,

        I’m happy to hear that you aren’t locked into Norway, and London is actually the perfect place to start a quick adventure like this.

        As for flights to London, I’m not sure where you are seeing these deals (and it’s not really important), but airfares in April might be just as cheap, if not cheaper, because prices tend to be lowest about 11 weeks out for international flights. Also, the weather in April (or May) would be better than in March, and you might save more money on getting around once you get there because prices for most things are cheapest if you buy at least a month in advance.

        Bern is not one of the more popular tourist cities in Switzerland, and I think it would take a minimum of 3 days in Germany to really get any feel for the place at all, so I think those are both left for future trips.

        So I think London, Paris, and Venice are fantastic choices for this trip. Nice is really an interesting place, but it’s still quite chilly there in March so you’d really only get a partial look at the Côte d’Azur culture. At least hotels are pretty cheap that time of year. So Nice could be a good stop if you think you’d enjoy visiting a beach city in the off season, or you could substitute Rome, which will be warmer and all the attractions will be open, yet not nearly as crowded as they are in summer.

        Either way, fly to London and spend 3 or 4 days there. Then take the Eurostar train to Paris (book as soon as possible for the lowest fare).

        Spend 3 or 4 nights in Paris, it really does live up to the hype.

        If you are going to Nice next, you’d take a train, and buy the tickets as early as possible from the official French rail site. You really only want to spend 1 or 2 nights in Venice, so you could spend 3 nights in Nice if you like, then take the train to Venice (buy early from the official Italian rail site).

        The thing about Venice is that it’s spectacular, but also very compact, and also amazingly crowded pretty much every day of the year. So I recommend a visit of only about 24 hours, and to also spend a bit more and stay on the main Venice island itself rather than on the mainland. As long as you stay on the main island, you can really enjoy the evening and the following morning before the day-trip crowds flood back into the city around 10am. Hotels there are expensive, even in March or April, but the city is unforgettable and worth a little splurge to get the most out of it in a short time.

        From Venice you’d want to book a cheap flight back to London for your return. You can choose from Venice Marco Polo Airport or Treviso Airport, which is only a bit farther away, for a flight into London. One thing to be careful of though is that the cheapest flight back into London will probably be into one of London’s lesser airports (rather than Heathrow, where your main flight probably would land). So if you fly into one of the other airports (Gatwick, Luton, or Stansted), you have to allow time to get to Heathrow if you do it on the same day.

        If you wanted to substitute Rome for Nice, you’d fly there from Paris, which would only cost around US$100 each if booked early, and your total transportation costs would probably be lower because those train tickets aren’t cheap. You could spend 3 nights in Rome and then take the train to Venice where you’d stay 1 or 2 days before flying back to London and then home. Rome is really an amazing place (FAR more dramatic than Nice), although it’s kind of hectic as well. Doing that you’d actually be hitting 4 of the 5 great European cities that I recommend people visit as soon as they can.

        Again, feel free to ask more questions if you have them. -Roger

         
          Liz says:

          This this is an amazing schedule. Thank you thank you soon much! I will do as you say exactly and definitely do Rome for sure. If it’s not too much of a bother to ask questions but should I consider April or May instead? I just haven’t seen this kind of pricing since last year when I started looking in oct for flights. I literally squealed when I saw your response, haha I’m so excited now bc I feel more assured in my planning with your help. Also should I book one way instead of looking at one whole trip by flight? I’m just having trouble understanding the flight situation bc I thought for immigration you had to go through the same airport you arrive from. Is this true? Thank you solo much and I’m going to look at rails now. Do you suggest any discounts or tips to save on the trains/Eurostar for us? Will we by ticket to ticket or get a rail pass? You are awesome, thanks again. I will wait for your answers before I jump to booking.

           

          Liz (or Lily),

          When trying to decide when to go to Europe, there is never an easy answer. If you go in March it will still be cold almost everywhere, but hotels will be cheaper and crowds will be thinner everywhere you go. In April it gets a bit warmer, a bit more crowded, and a bit more expensive (for hotels, pretty much everything else is the same price all year). In May it starts getting warm enough to feel like summer, but crowds are growing and hotels are also a bit more expensive. So you sacrifice one for the other, the later you go.

          Personally, I think I’d go in May if it’s a first trip. Almost all of Europe is a very indoor place in the cold months, and starting in May you get the sidewalk cafes setting up and so many more long strolls that are enjoyable. You also get more daylight hours, of course, and that can make a big difference. But if April flights are much cheaper than May flights, I’d go in April.

          Assuming you are starting in the US or Canada, then round-trip flights to Europe will be much cheaper than buying one-way. That’s not true in other parts of the world, but to Europe you will almost certainly be best off just finding the cheapest round-trip into London, and flying back there one-way from Venice just before your departing flight leaves.

          The Immigration situation in Europe can be complicated, but you won’t need to worry about any of that for your trip. You can fly into any airport and out of any other, as long as you do it within 90 days (or 6 months for the UK). Still, the best deals are almost always into and out of the same airport, although you might find the best deal is into London-Heathrow and out of London-Gatwick, or vice-versa.

          You won’t want a Eurail Pass for a trip like this. For the Eurostar, just read the info on that page I linked to and click on the “check Eurostar fares” link there, which will take you to a site that offers the best prices. As you’ll read on that Eurostar page, the earlier you buy, the cheaper it will be.

          For the other train trips you can also save by booking as far in advance as possible, but for those make sure you are booking on the official rail site for one of the countries you are traveling in. To save you the trouble, this is the site for France tickets, and this is the site for Italian tickets. -Roger

           
          Lily says:

          Sorry my phone autocorrect, darn it but I also wanted to ask about have a great day trip to Monaco, I saw you mentioned it before and was wondering if it’s included for us to do as we’ll.
          And our limited expenses is on flights forgot to say that, we just don’t want to spend it all to fly and miss the experiences. Will coach be okay or should we be particular of our airline to Europe?

           

          Lily,

          Well, Monaco is an easy and enjoyable day trip from Nice, but it’s far from everywhere else you are going. So if you go to Rome you’d be better off saving it for your next trip. Honestly, Monaco is a beautiful little place (especially the harbor), but you can see it all in a few hours, and there aren’t many things to do there except go in one of the casinos or the aquarium.

          For long-haul flights like across the Atlantic to Europe, I generally just go for the cheapest airline and/or the shortest trip. You can often save a bit of money by taking KLM and changing planes in Amsterdam, or AirFrance changing planes in Paris, or a few others, but if the price is similar for a non-stop, or even for one that changes in Ireland on the way, those are better choices.

          Fortunately, all airlines fly bigger planes on the trans-Atlantic routes, so your seat will be pretty comfortable and the meals are included. But the planes that fly within Europe are the same flying buses they use all over the world, where leg room is minimal and nothing is free (except luggage if it’s part of a long-haul ticket). In other words, they are all about the same. You might find the cheapest ticket on Turkish Airlines (which is quite nice) but it means flying all the way to Istanbul to change planes, so the journey is a long one. -Roger

           
          Lily says:

          Roger,
          You have been a tremendous help, an answer to my cries. I am so grateful for your time and I will start off looking at flights now and rail passes. I hope I have not been too much if a bother and if I may have further questions or need more help, would it be ok to comment again?
          Also I’m looking on the Eurostar site now and wondering if the train leaves from heathrow or do we have to go to another train station? I put in Lon he’s throw to Paris but it says no schedule available but in Lon to Paris, it pulls up prices. I wasn’t sure if this is a different location. Also sorry for my many questions. I am curious if Lon of Paris pass is worth a purchase since it’s a 10% discount on rail site. Thank youuuuuu!

           

          Lily,

          After a few decades of European travel and studying it when I’m not there, I am happy to be able to help people like this, so ask any questions you might have in future comments.

          The Eurostar train leaves London from a station called St. Pancras, which is attached to another station called Kings Cross, and both are near the tourist center of the city so you’ll just take the tube there (and you have to check in at least 30 minutes before departure). In Paris the Eurostar uses a station called Gare du Nord, which is also centrally located. Those are the only stations involved, so any London to Paris train trip will be between those stations.

          As for the London Pass and Paris Pass, you earlier mentioned “We have no desire to see major attractions or tours,” which is a bit unusual, but if it’s true then those passes are the opposite of what you want. Each of those passes bundles the most popular tours with most of the popular attractions at one price, and they are great for many people, but probably not you. -Roger

           
Elise says:

Hey Roger,

You are the fountain of info. Thanks so much for this site. I have spent most of the morning reading your articles and think I may have an itinerary. I just request help in smoothing it out and any hidden or missed details I should be aware of. So we’re a couple over 25 so eurail pass has to be first class I’ve read but what pass should we purchase for our stay?
We are considering one way flights in different destinations vs round trip right now bc our airport has the worst pricing for flying out to Europe right now. We would definitely have to do a domestic to another airport and then fly international.
We’re considering a May visit but heard to look out for bank holidays due to crowds. When would you suggest a visit in May? Also we would love to visit London, France, and Germany if that’s doable over a course of a week stay?
I’m thinking land in Germany and make our way by rail to London. Any help you can provide would be awesome. Thanks btw and this would be a first visit for us, we may have another couple with us but not confirmed yet.

 

    Elise,

    Always glad to hear that this information is helpful. In order to help you make a decision about which Eurail Pass to buy, or which trips might be better or cheaper by air, I’d need to have at least an approximate idea of your itinerary. Although if you are really only planning a one-week trip involving 3 countries, then there is no rail pass that would be good value.

    As for when to go in May, it would depend on exactly which places you were going. There are 3-day weekends for various European countries, but you’d probably not notice them yourself, and all the attractions will be open every day. The only thing like this that dramatically effects the travel scene is that many Europeans take all of July or August off, so those months can be really tricky. So generally speaking, the earlier you go in May, the less crowded it will be, but of course it’s likely to be a bit cooler earlier in the month as well. Anytime in May is ideal for Europe, so just go when it’s cheapest or most convenient for you.

    Are we really talking about a 7-day visit? Especially if this is your first visit there, I really think that’s a perfect amount of time to visit London and Paris, and that’s it. If you tried to include anywhere else in France, or anywhere in Germany, it would mean spending close to half your time just going from one place to another rather than sightseeing. So if you have more time I can make some suggestions for Germany, but if not I’d really just focus on London and Paris. That’s also more affordable because you could book a relatively inexpensive round-trip on the Eurostar from London to Paris and back again. Once you start adding in other places, it gets more complicated and more expensive, of course.

    I hope this helps, and let me know if you can add more days or if you are hell bent on seeing more than those two cities, and I’ll try again. -Roger

     
Taylor says:

Hey Roger,

What is the best way to do London, Paris and Amsterdam in 21 days. Could I fit in any other cities? Anything in Germany, Switzerland or Italy. Willing to go anywhere really. Unsure about the global rail pass being worth it or sticking to individual tickets. Wanting to see as much as possible. Thanks

 

    Taylor,

    In 21 days you’ll have plenty of time to visit other cities if you wish. Assuming this is your first trip to this region, I’d recommend minimums of 4 nights in London, 4 nights in Paris, and 3 nights in Amsterdam. You could stay longer in each city and incorporate a few day trips, and you’d have a wonderful time without getting bored. But you could also fit in as many as 3 other cities without feeling rushed. I’ll be happy to make more detailed suggestions if you tell me more about what interests you and if your budget would begin to get tight if you added in some train rides.

    With those extra days your two main choices would be to explore a bit of Germany plus a city close by (like Prague or Salzburg), or fly down to Italy (on a cheap flight from Paris) and do Rome, Florence, and Venice. Have a look at these two articles that I wrote to help people decide:

    France and Italy itinerary suggestions
    Germany itinerary suggestions

    If you choose Germany you could hit Berlin, Munich, and one other on the list (including Prague or Salzburg). I’ll provide more details depending on which way you are leaning. But it’s unlikely that a rail pass would be good value for you either way. And it could help to know what time of the year this trip would be in as well. -Roger

     
      Taylor says:

      We are leaving very soon in mid March. Our plans are wide open as to where we go. As to what we want to experience, I’m sure everything will be great so that is open as well. Trying to stay as open and as flexible as possible. With London, Paris, and Amsterdam at the top of the list what would make sense to fly in and out of? Fly into London and out of Paris? Into London and out of Rome? We are just keeping everything open so if we want to change a plan or two on the spot we are able to. Thanks again

       

        Taylor,

        It can depend on where you are starting from when figuring out which flights are your best bet for coming and going. And interestingly, I just updated the pricing information for inbound Europe flights by city yesterday (it’ll be online on Monday). Most likely, you will be best off if you book a round-trip ticket in and out of London, and then fly (or perhaps take a train) from your last destination back to London on the day of (or day before) your flight home. For example, fly to London, take the Eurostar train to Paris, then the Thalys train to Amsterdam, then fly to Rome, take a train to Florence, another train to Venice, and fly back to London from Venice (or another nearby airport) on a low-cost airline back to London, and then home.

        Or you could start out the same way, but from Amsterdam you could take a train to Berlin, a train to Prague, another train to Munich, and then fly back to London for your flight home.

        In many parts of the world you can get two one-way tickets that are about the same price as one round-trip, but if you are starting in the US or Canada, the round-trips are almost always much cheaper. Still, it would be worth checking fares for a flight from home to London and then another flight from Rome to home or from Munich to home. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

         
          Taylor says:

          It looks like flying into London and out of Rome might be the best bet. Flights are about the same and we would save on trains back to Paris or London. Would we be able to take trains down to Italy and see some of Germany or would there not be enough time?

          Thanks for the help

           

          Taylor,

          The train from Amsterdam all the way down into Italy would be quite expensive and take an entire day. You’ll really be better off if you save it for another trip. Three weeks is plenty of time for the 3 main cities and a decent tour of Italy, but trying to also add in Germany would mean spending every other day on a train. -Roger

           
          Taylor says:

          *Trains from Amsterdam through Germany

           
Aubrey says:

Roger,
I am traveling solo and going on my first backpacking trip in Europe coming from the US. I definitely want to travel more for quality than quantity. So I have chosen to spend 3 months (June to September) in Greece, Italy, and Spain. Maybe a month in each. Maybe. I want to also have the freedom to possibly travel into another country if I felt like it? Let me know if you need mor details. I would like to visit major cities in each country but am also traveling on a budget. What type of pass would you recommend to give me freedom while saving me money? Thank you so much for your time and advice !!

 

    Aubrey,

    I think I know what you mean about the freedom thing. One excellent thing about rail passes is that they allow you to go almost anywhere on very short notice without worrying about the extremely high train tickets on short notice. But in your case, a Global Pass wouldn’t make much sense, at least as long as you are planning on just those 3 countries.

    As you may know, there is basically no train service in Greece at the moment. And even when there was, the vast majority of travelers were mostly interested in Athens and the islands, so ferries are the way to go for budget travelers. They are pretty cheap, so you shouldn’t have a problem getting around Greece for a month.

    Now in Italy, the individual train tickets are also fairly cheap, partly because most of the popular tourist cities are only 2 or 3 hours apart at most. So if you’ll mainly be going around the north, the trains can be cheap if you buy the tickets at least a few days in advance. I believe the tickets for journeys down south in Italy are inexpensive as well, though the distances are longer.

    In Spain the high-speed trains that connect the major cities are very expensive on short notice, and still pretty expensive in advance. However, you have inexpensive bus service all over the country, which might be fine for a month-long stay.

    So one strategy would be to just buy train tickets in those two countries at least a few days in advance, and also mix in some buses or even flights for longer distances. Or, you could get a Eurail Italy-Spain Pass to cover at least part of it. For example, you could get a 10 Days within 2 months Youth Pass for US$479 for Italy and Spain (this also gives you a discount on a ferry from one to the other, which is much cheaper than trains across France). With those 10 days you could save the pass for only longer and more expensive trips (probably in Spain), and just pay cash for shorter trips in between. To use the pass you’ll have to pay a bit to reserve a seat on most of those trains, but that will still be way cheaper than paying for each ticket as you go. And it also gives you the most flexibility.

    And by the way, if you are considering other countries to possibly add on, then Portugal is worthwhile, and getting around it is pretty cheap. Morocco is another fascinating option, which is a short ferry ride away from Spain, and getting around is cheap there as well. Both of those countries are also great value for budget travelers just in general. Let me know if you have any other questions about any of this. -Roger

     
Brigitte says:

Hi Rodger,

I have a question about the Eurail Pass. My fiancee and I are travelling through Europe at the beginning of April for three weeks on our honeymoon. As I have read a number of threads about how sometimes it is of benefit and perhaps not other times depending on the lengths of journeys so I thought I’d ask you. We will be landing in Paris and travelling to the south of France, through Italy, Switzerland and Austria on our way to the Czech Republic and will fly out of Munich. We will be stopping a number of times along the way and not just in major cities. As far as I can tell the longest journey will be around 5 1/2 hours from Prague to Munich. This may be a little ambitious over 3 weeks so we may cut out Germany, which will mean that we’ll land in Rome and travel up to Czech Republic then back to France via Austria and Switzerland. We are on staff travel so flights haven’t been booked yet as they don’t need to be but those costs aren’t of concern (it also narrows down where can land and leave from. Those points are fixed.) We don’t want to fly around Europe we’re happy with the train as we’d like to see the scenery on the way. I read that a 5 country pass doesn’t cover France so we’d be looking at the global pass on a 15% discount as there’s two of us. We will be booking accommodation on the way as we like to keep it spontaneous, I think that’s more fun! I guess my overall question is do you think it’s worth it as we’ll be getting the train fairly often on several smaller journeys (I guess up to around 4-5 hours). You’re website is awesome by the way and thanks for your help in advance :-)

 

    Brigette,

    Thank you for the kind words about the website, and congratulations on your upcoming wedding (or honeymoon at least). :)

    I’d have to see a more detailed itinerary in order to be certain, but it does sound like a Global Eurail Pass is probably ideal for you. It’s unfortunate that France no longer participates in the Select Pass. Still, a Global Pass with the discount for two traveling together is probably going to be a good investment, and traveling 1st Class is pretty glorious (it’s easier to splurge all at once rather than one ticket at a time).

    So in the parts of Europe you are visiting, particularly in France and Switzerland, the individual train tickets are very expensive, especially if you buy them shortly before you want to leave. So in order to keep prices even close to reasonable, you’d have to reserve at least a few days, if not a few weeks in advance. If you decided all your trips before you even got to Europe, you could buy the tickets in advance and it would probably be your cheapest possible choice. But it sounds like you don’t want to do that, and I don’t blame you at all.

    In other words, a Global Eurail Pass is the best way to be able to spontaneously drift around Europe without worrying about same-day tickets that can be as high as €120 in 2nd Class. The only possible complication for you is that you’ll need to pay for seat reservations on most of your trips. Those are mostly around €5 each, but on some of France’s high-speed trains they are more like €30 or €40, and they even have a limit to the number of rail-pass holders they allow at those prices. Still, those high-speed trains with expensive seat reservations are far more expensive when bought as you go, so the rail pass is still a big help.

    And since it sounds like you’d be getting a 1st Class pass, you’ll have few problems getting seat reservations even on the same day on most trains. Better still, the worst case scenario (unless it’s a special holiday) is that First Class on the 9am train is sold out, so you have to book on the 10am train instead. It would be very unlikely that you couldn’t go on the day you wanted to go in 1st Class, even if you buy on the same day.

    That freedom to be able to go anywhere you want on any given day without worrying about the cost is fabulous. Even if you don’t end up adding too many spontaneous trips, it’s just great to know that you can do it with no worries.

    Your choices would be a 3-week Continuous Global Pass or a 10 Days in 2 Months version, which is a bit cheaper and probably sufficient. It might be nice to get the extra flexibility of the continuous version, but you probably don’t want to take more than 10 trips in those 21 days anyway. On the other hand, the continuous version allows you to use it on day trips, and those could also be expensive if bought individually on the same day. -Roger

     
Will Barrett says:

Hi Roger, I am going on a trip this summer from Amsterdam to Brussels to Munich then Rome. from what i can tell the 4 country select pass with 5 travel days works the best more me. This would allow me to use three travel days on going from city to city, and still have two travel days left over for day trips out of Munich or Rome for example. Does this sound like the cheapest and least stressful way of going about this?

 

    Will,

    Yes, that sounds like a really good plan. Those 3 individual train tickets would be quite expensive if bought on their own, and using the other two days for day trips also sounds like a good use of a pass. I’m guessing that you are thinking of a day trip to Salzburg from Munich, and that will be a great one. And from Rome you can obviously do Naples and/or Pompei, which will also work well. You’ll need seat reservations on at least a few of those, but you should be able to get them almost at the last minute, and they only cost around €5 each. -Roger

     
Art R. says:

Hi Roger,

I just found your site and I’m SOO glad I did! So much helpful information and I really love how helpful you are to everyone. I’d like to ask for your help with my trip if you would =)

My GF and I are traveling through Europe for 2.5 months this year (July 1st – Sept 16th) and I’ve been having a hard time nailing down how to get around. Like everyone we drooled over how cheap flights are in advance but in the end we just don’t want to be locked to a set itinerary. I just found out about the Global EuroPass which is what I was searching on google which brought me to your page. But after reading that it doesn’t include London, Paris or Amsterdam (not sure if you meant that it doesn’t include them at all, or just the “Point to Points” that you listed… ie, specifically from London to Paris) I’m not sure what to do now.

Here’s a rough idea of what we wanted to do:

Dublin – Land here, stay a few days
London – 3 days
Spain – 1.5 weeks
Switzerland – 4 days (Interlaken only)
Italy – 1.5 weeks (skipping Venice, so Rome/Florence
Croatia – 1 week Dubrovnik/Split
Greece – 2 weeks, maybe longer if we can’t leave ;)
Paris – 3 days
Amsterdam/Netherlands – 1 week
Norway (Or Prague) – 4 days
Dublin – few days to catch flight home

So my BIG can’t miss is running with the bulls, so we only have a few days to get to Pamplona. This means the first week or so of our trip has to be planned a head of time which isn’t a bad thing because we can get cheap tickets from Dub-London and then Lon-Madrid right now. Once we check off running with the bulls we are open ended for the rest of the trip, kind of. We know we plan to take a ferry from Italy to Croatia so we can just make our way there through the south of France, swing up to Interlaken for a couple days then down through Italy, ferry to Dubrovnik, bus to Split then take a flight to Athens? Or Ferry? If we plan to take a flight, then we have to buy it ahead of time and that means that we have to make it to Split by a certain time.

After Greece we planned on taking a flight to Paris, then train to Amsterdam fly to Norway for 4 days then fly back to Dublin. Norway is kind of MY dream, and I know it’s an expensive detour, but I really want to see the Fjords! In the end I think we might try to go to Prague instead. So after reading your info above I was thinking that a Regional Pass for Spain/Switz/Italy and a month pass for France would be better?? If we skip Norway we would go to Prague right after Greece. I read that we could bus from Athens to Sofia, Bulgaria then take a train from there to Prague. Could we then train over to Amsterdam then back to Paris and then Dublin to fly home?? We were originally thinking of doing the 2 month continuous pass but they’re really expensive, could we do all of this on the 15 day in 2 month pass since we’re flying the first part of the trip and would only be traveling by train for 2 actual months?

Sorry if this is a ton to ask, so confused on all of this. My GF appreciate any help you can give. Thanks so much!

 

    Art,

    Thank you for the nice words, and I’ll be happy to help. Here we go, in order…

    The Eurail Global Pass is valid on almost every train on the continent, but not in the UK (which has its own system). Starting from London and going to Paris or Brussels or Amsterdam (transferring in Brussels), the only train is the Eurostar through the Channel Tunnel, which isn’t part of any other system. However, starting from Paris or Brussels or Amsterdam, a Eurail Pass will work to go anywhere else (except the UK). So it’s really just the UK and going through the tunnel that aren’t part of Eurail.

    One thing about Dublin and Ireland, I’m one of many people who finds Dublin itself to be overrated. It’s nice enough and has some interesting sights, but really the magic of Ireland is everywhere else. The countryside and the small towns and even the other cities like Galway and Kilarney are the memorable and unique things about the country, so allow time for some of that on the way in or on the way out.

    Even though Venice is expensive, I find it amazing and I’d recommend at least considering a 1-day stay there. You’ll never forget it, and one day is actually enough to see the main things.

    You might have good reasons for allocating the days as you are proposing, but just so you know, London and Paris are each maybe 10 times the size of Amsterdam, and both filled with great sights and such. So 3 days in London, 3 days in Paris, and 7 days in Amsterdam is an unusual mix. You can see most of the other interesting things in the Netherlands as a day trip from Amsterdam, by the way. You can do an all-day bus tour that goes to Rotterdam, Delft, the flower market, Haarlem, and another stop or two. So you might consider staying a bit longer in London and/or Paris if you can.

    Norway or Prague is an unusual choice, and Prague is the obvious answer for most travelers. It’s fantastic and reasonably priced, where Norway is insanely expensive and you really have to get to the coast for it to be interesting (from what I’ve heard. I’m planning on a week or so there as my first visit this coming September).

    From Croatia to Athens I think you’ll want to fly in the end. I don’t know about ferries on that route, and if they do exist then they’d take a full day. My guess is that you could still get a relatively cheap flight only a few days out, as long as you are willing to fly at 7am or 9pm. You’ll have plenty of time to figure out the best way to do that.

    Your plan for the Regional Pass and perhaps also a France Pass sounds like a good one. I’d have to know more specifics about exactly where you’d go within those areas to know if it would save you money or not, but one thing for sure is that a rail pass allows you to be far more spontaneous. These days, in most of Europe, you have to buy train tickets at least a week if not longer in advance to get cheap fares, so you have to lock everything in at least that long in advance. With a rail pass you will still need seat reservations on most trains, but you can almost always get those just before the train leaves. I prefer to get them the day before, so I can walk into the train station and right onto the train rather than stressing about getting in a slow-moving ticket queue and risking having to go later. So those rail passes buy a lot of peace of mind, in addition to usually saving money and allowing you to make plans at the last minute.

    I haven’t taken the bus from Athens to Sofia, and I’ll bet it’s long and slow (although the only cheap way). Unfortunately, the trains in that part of Europe are still slow, unpredictable, and sometimes of poor quality. In other words, you’ll want to take a bus all the way to Belgrade, and from there the trains going north are reliable and worthwhile. The good news about those buses is that they are cheap and pretty comfortable, plus they go many times each day.

    From Prague to Amsterdam and Paris is obviously possible on a train, but flying is probably cheaper, at least from Prague to Amsterdam. Hopefully you’ll have plenty of time to figure those final details out while you are on the road.

    And yes, a 15 Days in 2 Months Global Pass might also be a great option, especially with the discount of 2 traveling together. One really nice thing about doing it that way is that you are free to pay for shorter and cheaper train trips (or bus trips) during those 2 months, and you can only use the pass on what you figure will be your 15 most expensive trips. Like, Prague to Amsterdam would take all day, or over 12 hours on a night train, and cost a lot if you buy it only the day before. But with a pass, you can just go without worrying about it (although you would need to pay about €20 for a bunk on a night train, even with the pass).

    Hopefully this helps, and as always, feel free to follow up if I missed something or if you have other questions. -Roger

     
      Art R. says:

      Roger,

      Thanks for the reply and all the helpful info!! I totally understand about Dublin and we had already planned to not really stay in that city, I just listed it since we’re flying into and out of there. I will look up those cities you listed and definitely visit them. I also wanted to try and make it to the Isle of Man…. is it worth the visit or is it just more of the same?

      My GF and I don’t really have the burning desire for London or Paris (we want to go back when we’re older and wealthier to do it right), we just put them on our list because we just felt we couldn’t go to Europe without at least seeing them. The Amsterdam time frame was all my GF’s doing, haha, because she heard the Netherlands is so beautiful. Again, I just listed Amsterdam but meant we’d be traveling around the Netherlands. Never the less we have taken yours, and others, advice and knocked down the Netherlands to 3 days.

      We also decided to buy a flight from Croatia to Greece ahead of time and make that an anchor point… meaning that no matter what, if our plans change in the moment, we have to be in Split by X-date to catch that flight. I’ve given up on my dream of Norway on this trip but that’s ok, there’s always next time. And we’ve also added Berlin on the way from Prague to Amsterdam along with using the time cut out of the Netherlands to explore southern Spain and possibly Portugal earlier in the trip.

      Based on everything you’ve posted/comments and adding up the major train rides we expect to take, we’ve decided on the 10 day/2 month pass and figure we’ll buy the small, cheap tickets along the way. I 9 for sure travel days so I’m still on the fence between the 10 and the 15 travel day pass, but the 15 day is $300 per person. So I still think that the 10 day would be our best bet.

      Thanks again for your help, and if you reply, please add your booking link for the rail pass so we can make sure you get credit for our passed!!

      **Oh, almost forgot…. is the pass insurance worth the money? So if my pass gets lost or stolen they can’t just cancel it and issue me a new one? I have to pay for a completely new pass?? That just seems ridiculous, especially with today’s technology.

       

        Art R.,

        It’s my pleasure to help, and I’ll answer the questions in order…

        I have yet to visit the Isle of Man myself, and it feels like a secondary destination based on what I’ve heard. If you have something specific to see there you’ll probably like it, but if not, I think you can find more interesting places that are easier to reach.

        As for the pass insurance, I never get anything like that, partly because they typically have a very high profit margin (meaning that almost no one needs it). Unfortunately, the passes are still low tech, and if you lose it, you are out of luck. Believe it or not, all the train tickets in Europe are still on paper or cardboard, and if someone else finds it, they can use it. Just keep it in a safe place with your passport, which is obviously even more important not to lose.

        I appreciate you asking about the booking links. Please click through any of them in the main body of the article above and I should get credit (unless you’ve already visited raileurope.com and have a cookie set). Those links are all through raileurope.com and raileurope-world.com, and they are all the exact same prices as Eurail.com or anywhere else. Those clicks definitely help make this whole thing worthwhile so I can help people trying to decide. Thanks again, and let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

         
Laura says:

Hi Roger,

My partner and I have been looking into the trains for Europe. We have already booked flights for the bulk of our trip, but discovered it was probably cheaper to catch a train for these couple of destinations. We were thinking we might be better off with a Eurail pass rather than booking individual trains, the Eurail pass we were considering was the Select Pass – 3 Countries for 8 days which will cost us $508 AUD each.

We need trains for:

Berlin > Switzerland
While in Switzerland we would like to catch the train to Jungfraujoch – I think I read that we could get 25% off the price of the train to Jungrfraujoch if we have a Eurail pass? I couldnt quite make sense of what ticket we will need and how to go about it…not sure if you know anything about this? We are staying in Lauterbrunnen which is along the rail line.

Switzerland > Milan
While in Milan we were hoping to catch a train to Como

Milan > Florence
While in Florence we are going to catch a train to see Pisa and Cinque Terre

Florence > Rome

I guess what we were wondering was if it is cheaper for the Eurail pass for these trains? Any help would be incredibly appreciated.

Thanks

 

    Laura,

    That Eurail Pass could be good value, and it will indeed give you a 25% discount on the private (and spectacular) rail line to Jungfraujoch. That round-trip is CHF176.20 for each person, round-trip, so that discount would be worth about AUD$50 each.

    The Berlin to Switzerland train ride would be quite expensive on its own, so a rail pass could be great for that. But, individual train tickets within Italy are fairly cheap, especially if you buy them at least a week or so in advance from the official Italian rail website.

    In other words, if you are willing and able to buy the train tickets at least a couple weeks in advance, you can probably do it cheaper without the pass. But if you prefer to be able to be flexible and make or change plans at the last minute, then a rail pass would be cheaper. With a rail pass you still have to buy seat reservations (for about €5 each) on most trains, but you can almost always get them on the same day you want to leave. You might want to price some advanced tickets on that Italy rail site and you’ll have a better idea of how much the total would be if you bought them that way. Bon voyage. -Roger

     
Mariel M. says:

Hi Roger,

This website is just awesome! I just spent the last 5 hours mapping my route (with a friend) to Europe and we were debating about the Eurail Global Pass and whether or not it’d be a good idea.

We are arriving in Zurich and travelling to Luxemburg for a day. Then moving to Brussels for 2 days. From then we want to hit France (cities such as Paris, Versaille and Toulose) for approx 3-4 days.
After France we want to hit Barcelona for 2 days and go back to France (Marseille, Nice, Lyon) for approx 6 days. Lastly we would do Geneva (approx.4 days) and back to Zurich to fly back home to Toronto. (trip time approx. 20 days)

My question to you is, is this too ambitious? We have been reading a student travel guide and we allocated their suggested times, but it seems a bit too busy. Also, we were thinking of buying the Global Pass 21 days consecutive for $790 Canadian. Do you think that’s a good option? (We are both 24! yay)
I should mention that we are both very open to any suggestions (even to change countries).

We are planning on staying in hostels to try and minimize the costs…any other suggestions are definitely welcomed!

Thanks for all the help you give to unexperienced travellers like myself

 

    Mariel M.,

    Always appreciated when people say those nice things, and I enjoy helping people with this after doing it and studying it for so long.

    Yes, I do think you are trying to plan too many stops on a 3-week trip. Even though these European cities are generally much closer to each other than they are in Canada, most of your stops are at least 3 hours apart by train. From the time you leave your hotel or hostel until the time you check into one in a new city, it’s around 5 hours later and most of the sightseeing day is over. So at best, you can consider a travel day to be half a sightseeing day, and if you do that every other day for three weeks, it adds up to quite a bit of travel time.

    In 20 days I think 7 or 8 different cities is the most you could visit and also enjoy. Here are some comments on the cities on your list…

    Zurich and Geneva are both big, clean, and incredibly expensive cities. They are also a bit generic (compared to Europe’s great cities) so most travelers enjoy the country by visiting the Alps and other natural charms, based in Interlaken or Lucerne, just to name a couple.

    Luxembourg is a really nice city with great views, and one day is perfect there.

    Brussels is kind of a mixed bag because it has a really interesting city center and an extremely impressive main town square, but other than that it’s marginal because most of it is designed for diplomats and business travelers. I usually recommend that people stop in Brussels for a few hours and then get back on the train to Bruges, which is a great 2-day stop.

    Versailles is in a suburb of Paris, so it’s just a day trip on the suburban RER train line, and it’s cheap enough that using a rail pass doesn’t change much. Toulouse is obviously a long way, so if you do want to go there then a rail pass will be great because French trains are very expensive unless you buy tickets far in advance.

    Nice is an excellent tourist city, and a great base to explore the coast of France, including Cannes and Monaco as quick day trips. Marseilles and Lyon are both (obviously) big cities that could be interesting, but neither is really a tourist city so they might not be ideal choices unless you have something specific to see there.

    You are also bouncing between many of the most expensive cities in Europe, and (at least on this trip) skipping many of the cheaper places that are even more fun like Prague, Budapest, or Berlin. I assume you probably have specific reasons for each city on your list, but in case you aren’t quite so sure, I’d think about changing a bit.

    So a Global Eurail Pass could be perfect for your trip, or it might be overkill, depending on what you end up doing. When you are more locked into an itinerary, or if you are sticking with this one, then I can help figure the transportation out with you. If you are open to some other destination suggestions, I’ll help with that too. -Roger

     
      Mariel M. says:

      Great, thanks Roger, your comments have been very helpful!

      We fixed our itinerary based on your comments and here is our fixed up route. So far this is what we have: we fly to Zurich on May 7th and stay in Switzerland for 2 nights (either Interlaken or Lucerne as you suggested.. still figuring this out), then we go to Luxembourg for one night and after off to Bruges for two nights (this is where we’re considering checking out Brussels and may be Antwerp..? is it worth seeing you think?). After Bruges (May 12) we head to Paris for 4 nights.. is there anywhere in the country or outside of Paris that we should go since we have so much time? From the 16th to 24th we dont know if we should go to italy (florence and venice) or spain (barcelona and madrid). Then we need to go back to Zurich for a flight on the 25th.

      Thanks for all your help so far, your advice is greatly appreciated!

      Mariel and Dina

       

        Mariel and Dina,

        This plan looks really nice now. As I mentioned, the center of Brussels is really impressive, and especially the giant Grand Place city square. You also have to have a quick look at the Manneken Pis statue and have some waffles from a street cart. Antwerp is also a large city, and it has a very historic center as well, without some of the hassles of Brussels. In other words, both of them are worthwhile if you have time.

        With 9 days after Paris and before your flight back home from Zurich, you have many good options. The first one that comes to mind is to head from Paris to Nice and spend at least 3 days there. Nice is a lovely city that is also friendly to budget travelers, unlike any others along the Côte d’Azur. You could just stay in Nice, but you also have the option to do a day trip to Cannes and to Monaco, each of which is only about 30 minutes from Nice by train. There are plenty of other options within France as well. From Nice you could take the train into Italy, but with only 5 or 6 days remaining you don’t have enough time for more than a quick intro to a couple cities.

        If you flew from Paris to Rome (or any other airport in the northern half of Italy) you’d have enough time for 3 or 4 nights in Rome, 2 or 3 nights in Florence, and 1 night in Venice before a flight or train to Zurich. It’s plenty of time to really get a feel for all 3 cities, and the 1 night in Venice is the perfect amount of time.

        There is now a high speed train from Paris to Barcelona (as of a couple months ago), but a flight is probably cheaper and faster. In 8 or 9 days you could spend 3 or 4 days in Barcelona, then take a train to Madrid for 4 or 5 days, which is plenty of time to soak the place in and also do a day (or overnight) trip to Toledo.

        Any of these options would be great for you and also give you some nice contrast of the south of Europe compared to the north. Needless to say, I can’t decide for you, but I can help if you have questions on the choices. -Roger

         
          Mariel M says:

          Amazing, thanks Roger!
          We will certainly consider italy vs spain, but definitely incorporate Nice into our travel as you made it sound lovely.

          In terms of Switzerland, where do you think we should stay? Is there a good place you can recommend to spend our 2 days that is fairly easy to get to?

          And for Paris, is there some place outside of the city where we can stay? We would like to possibly explore outer suburbs of Parisian life.

          Thanks again for all your help!
          Mariel and Dina

           

          Mariel M,

          Happy to hear that the suggestions were helpful. As for 2 days in Switzerland, your best choices are either Interlaken or Lucerne, both of which are easy to reach and are ideal bases to explore the Alps and other outdoor activities. Lucerne is much larger, but still quaint and very tourist oriented. It’s probably best to choose the one that fits best into your train route.

          And sorry, but I’m not an expert on accommodation in the Paris suburbs. One thing I would recommend if you are going to try such a thing would be to choose a suburb that has many hotels and guesthouses in the area. The slums of Paris are infamously in the suburbs (only in spots), and you don’t want to end up in an area that isn’t used to tourists who might not speak fluent French. I’m sure if you ask around a bit you’ll find something ideal. Bon voyage. -Roger

           
Lexi says:

Dear Roger,
I’ll be travelling from Singapore to Stockholm in late November and spending 23 days in Europe. My planned itinerary is Stockholm-Iceland-Manchester-London-Paris-Singapore. Plane from Stockholm to Iceland and to Manchester. Then train from Man-London-Paris. Sounds good?
Just wanted to ask you:
1. Is Dec an optimal period to catch the Northern Lights
2. Is Iceland or Sweden a better place to catch it
3. Have you, by any chance know how to travel up North to catch the Northern Lights instead of following a tour (and paying though your nose)

Any help/advice will be greatly appreciated! :)

 

    Lexi,

    I’m no expert on the Northern Lights, so I won’t be of much help. I do know that winter months are best, and that Sweden and Iceland are both popular as Northern Lights destinations, but beyond that I’d have to research it myself.

    Having been to both countries, however, I will mention that Iceland is much more interesting as a tourist destination, although in December there is obviously very little sunlight so the amazing scenery might be wasted.

    I’ve heard mostly of people going on their own to see the lights, although the tours are probably really nice for those who can afford it. One problem I’ve heard about is that you can never be sure when they’ll appear, so it’s easily possible to miss them. I’ve also heard of hotels in Iceland that will call guests in the middle of the night if the lights start up, so I really don’t think a tour is necessary. Best of luck. -Roger

     
Harmon Dhaliwal says:

Hey, thanks for the great forum here for advice! So basically im getting ready to plan my trip to europe and i was wondering what you think would be best!

I am from Canada and I have backpacked Europe once before It was meticulously planned. I was traveling with two other people who had no preference on where to visit. Once we landed in England from Canada our trip was layed out like this. I Pre-booked months in advance, 5 flights on the cheaper airlines. England – Dublin. Dublin – Eindhoven. Eindhoven – Barcelona. Barcelona – Budapest. Budapest – England.

I also pre-booked at the same time all of the hostels that we would be staying at during each location. This way it was very organized and all was taken care of in advance. It ended up being a great trip! The problem however was that everything was set in stone and we had no chance to make any spur of the moment stops along the way. This time however the three of us want to have a more relaxed trip and not have to rush to airports or feel like we can’t spend more time in a given country. A Euro-rail pass seems like a good idea.

This time we are hoping to travel to France, Germany, Belgium, and Italy. We are planning on spending 3-5 weeks, and want the freedom to be more relaxed on where and when we go while abroad. Which pass do you feel would be best for us? we are under 25, and are very budget conscious.

Also A big question and fear I have about planning a trip this way is worrying about accomodations. We only plan on staying in hostels, but since this trip will be more of a relaxed spotaneous journey, will it be possible to book hostels on the fly as we go? If not, how would a trip like this be possible? My big fear is not having a place to stay while in a foreign country! Any tips, suggestions, advice would be GREATTTLLY appreciated.

– Thanks!

 

    Harmon,

    I totally understand your situation. When I first started traveling a lot, I booked everything in advance, and I still do in many situations, but I also am now comfortable just winging it.

    Just to re-summarize a point I’ve made before for many other people in this thread, the absolutely cheapest way to take trains around Europe is to lock in all of your journeys at least a few weeks, if not longer, in advance. And if you want to drift around with little advanced planning, those same trains can cost a fortune. So a Eurail Pass is a perfect solution in a case like yours because it locks in reasonable prices, and still allows you to move around with no more than a few hours advance planning.

    Your timing on this question is perfect, and I think you are really in luck here. Just a few hours ago I got an email from RailEurope, announcing that as of April 1, 2014, France is back in the full system for 4-country Select Passes. The bad news (for other people, not you), is that they are discontinuing the 3-country and 5-country versions on the same day, but since you are planning on those 4 countries anyway, you are set. (Actually, Belgium is included as part of Benelux, so you get the Netherlands and Luxembourg for free.)

    In case you aren’t familiar with the Select Pass, it allows you to pick a number of “travel days” between 5 and 15 over a 2-month period in 4 countries of your choosing, as long as they border each other. For example, if you pick 10 Days in 2 months, it will cost a bit over US$500 for each of you, so that’s obviously US$50 per travel day (plus about US$7 for seat reservations on many of those trains). There are some journeys within Italy that would be cheaper than that individually, but longer ones would be more, and almost any trip in those other countries could be MUCH more, especially at the last minute. You might consider buying a pass for fewer travel days than you are planning, and that allows you to pay cash for some shorter or cheaper ones, or you might discover that a flight is actually a better option at that point in your journey.

    So you’ll have to wait until April to buy a Select Pass that includes France, and when you do I would appreciate if you could buy it through my link to RailEurope. You’ll get the same price, and I get a small commission, which is how I can afford to keep the site running.

    By the way, if not for this France announcement today, your best choice would be a Global Pass, and those cost quite a bit more than the 4-country Select Passes. France being back in this system is great news for many of us.

    As for booking accommodation on arrival day, it depends a bit on when you are doing this. In June through August it can be a bit tricky, while during the rest of the year it’s quite easy. The only situations where you really have to be careful are during special events, such as King’s Day (formerly Queen’s Day) in Amsterdam, or during the bull thing in Pamplona, and that sort of thing. I avoid those giant crowds anyway, and recommend other people also do unless it’s been a lifelong dream or something.

    The good news for you is that the number of hostels in Europe has continued to grow rapidly, often as under-performing budget hotels are converted at least partially into hostels to fill up more often. So let’s say you are heading to Paris tomorrow, and it’s high season in July. Now, Paris has about 30 hostels with dorm beds, and probably 30 more with private rooms in the same price range. In July you can pretty much guarantee that the best 10 Paris hostels (based on location, services, staff, and price) will be full. But that still leaves 20 hostels that still have beds available on the day, many of which will be full by 8pm or so.

    So unless you totally space out and don’t book anything until you are drunk late into the evening, the worst case scenario will be that you spend that night in a mediocre place, and you can probably move to a better one the following morning if you choose to. What I prefer to do, whether it’s for a hostel or a hotel, is to do at least a little research a few days before I think I’ll be there, and then book at least my first night once I’ve locked in my plans to go. Realistically, you’ll probably know that you are going to the next city at least a day or two in advance. Once you make that decision, head over to the train station to make a seat reservation if needed, and book your hostel.

    Perhaps the best feature of hostels in this situation is that you only have to pay about 10% in advance. So if you book a Paris hostel that is €25 per bed, you only have to pay €2.50 to reserve and the balance when you arrive. Needless to say, if you happen to change plans, the €2.50 is a tiny price to pay, and you’ll probably not change plans with so little notice anyway.

    On the other hand, the best hostels in Europe tend to be far better than the lousy ones, and you’ll almost always have a better overall stay if you are booked into a well located hostel with a helpful staff. Many of the bottom half of hostels have remote locations and getting advice and help for sightseeing is often impossible. So you’ll thank yourself for the times when you can lock in a great hostel, such as those in the St. Christopher’s chain. For the record, I have recommended hostels on most city pages on this site, where I’ve hand-picked the cheapest hostel that has a great location and good services. So that should help you start your search, and many of those will still be available a couple days before you arrive.

    Hopefully this helps, and let me know if you have more questions. I’m sure you’ll have an easy time of it all once you are on your way. -Roger

     
Gary says:

Hi Roger,
First off, I echo what others are saying and commend you on such a helpful site. Your knowledge and wisdom are obvious and it is impressive how fast you respond to everyone. Thanks in advance for your advice!
My wife and I are 29 years old. We are traveling in Europe from July 7th – October 1st (2014). We are looking forward to preparing a rough itinerary for our trip, but want to have lot of flexibility during the trip. Our in-laws planned the beginning of our trip. We travel with them from Copenhagen to Berlin. They are serious planners and this part of the trip is set in stone. This beginning part has a fair amount of train travel in expensive countries. Our traveling style is typically to get a feel for the people, food and outdoor activities. We are interested in history and museums but we definitely don’t want to get bogged down with that, as we are more interested in gaining some sort of appreciation for everyday life of different cultures. Given our limited amount of time, we are willing to cut out some stops.
We are considering the 3-month continuous Global Pass. As long as the trip comes out somewhat close in expenses compared to buying tickets a-la-carte, I am hoping that the pass will give us peace of mind that we aren’t going to pay outrageous sudden fees to go somewhere and then decide we don’t want to go. With the pass we will just have reservation fees.
My concerns are that if we buy tickets on the day of departure that the fees will be crazy. Even with the eurorail pass we will try and figure out our next move ASAP to avoid things getting sold out. My other concern is that there are some places like France where they have a limited amount of seats for pass holders. I don’t want to have a global pass and then have to pay full fare for lots of trips. For this reason as well as avoiding crowds we want to travel in France/Spain towards shoulder-season (During September).
Starting July 7th
—–Set in stone
Copenhagen – 4 nights
Stockholm – 3 nights
Oslo – 3 nights
Flam – 1 night (Norway in a nutshell tour)
Bergen – 2 nights
Berlin – 3 nights

Starting July 23rd
—–Flexible
This is a very rough route. We are still in early stages of planning and would appreciate some guidance. It’s hard to figure out a good order of places to stop in as we ultimately work our way to France/Spain. On the way to bigger cities we don’t mind getting lost in a couple of smaller towns too : ) Below are just some of the places we are interested in (Cities and Countries jumbled together). Some of the countries we still need to figure out which cities interest us.
Munich
Zurich
Berne
Interlaken
Lucerne
Innsbruck
Salzburg
Prague
Krakow
Budapest
Croatia
Greece
Italy
Bruges
Brussels
Amsterdam
Normandy
Paris
Nice
Cannes
Toulouse
Barcelona
Madrid
Fly to Japan October 1st from Spain or France (depending on best place to end up on our route)

Looking forward to your response!

 

    Gary,

    The kind words are appreciated. Helping people with things like this is actually one of the most interesting parts of running a travel website, so it works out well.

    In your case I do think the 3-month continuous Global Pass is the way to go. With 2 traveling together in 1st Class it works out to US$1904 each, which is about US$21 per day. If you travel every third day on average then it’s US$63 per trip, plus seat reservation where needed so let’s call it US$70 per trip. Now, if you bought 2nd Class tickets at least a couple weeks in advance for the entire route you have in mind, you could probably do it for a bit less, but compared to 1st Class where you can pretty much go anywhere at any time, the pass is a huge bargain.

    You’ve a right to be concerned about high train fares if you buy on the day. For example, a train from Paris to Nice leaving tomorrow morning would cost €99.90 (US$138) or more, and that’s in 2nd Class. Many popular routes cost that much or even more if you buy with short notice, just like buying plane tickets at the airport. Most locals buy way in advance, so those last-minute fares are basically for business people. The seat reservation on that one would be €9 in either class, but it is a high-speed TGV so it’s worth it.

    Again, it’s all about how much freedom to decide things at the last minute is worth to you. The great thing about the 3-month version is that the daily cost ends up being so low that it’s a pretty easy decision to make, AND you get to go 1st Class, which is really wonderful on such a long trip.

    As for the restrictions on rail-pass seats on French trains, it’s only on the popular express routes on high-speed trains (including Paris to Nice), so many of your journeys will likely be on unlimited trains anyway. Also, my understanding is that sell-outs well in advance are very rare, and primarily in 2nd Class and on popular commuter trains (Monday mornings and Friday evenings etc) or holidays. In 1st Class you are less likely to encounter a limit, and even if you do, there is a train once per hour all day on these routes, so you’ll usually just have to go a bit later than you first planned. Still, if I were in your shoes, I wouldn’t want to take many chances after paying so much for a pass, so I’d make those reservations at least a few days in advance whenever possible. Unless you wanted to go on a holiday, you’ll probably get seats with no problem, and since your schedule is flexible, the worst case scenario is probably just staying one more night in the city you are in.

    Those continuous passes are also great in that they allow you to take day trips without worry. A 90-minute each way round-trip could be €60 if you buy it on the day, but only €10 for 2 seat reservations with a pass, and often free on suburban trains that don’t require reservations.

    Except for Greece and southern Croatia, you’ll be in train territory the whole time, and mostly in the expensive train areas. I think your list of cities looks really solid, and I’m sure it’ll turn into the trip of a lifetime. I’ll be happy to help more if you have other questions or if I missed something. -Roger

     
Julie says:

Hi Roger,

So glad I found you! My 20 year old son and 3 mates are planning to go to Europe for 5-6 weeks. The suggested plan is

Fly into Amsterdam
Berlin
Prague
Split
Greek Islands
Spain
London
Amsterdam to fly home from

I am not sure that Global Pass is worth it as some parts are impossible by rail (Split-Greece-Spain) so I think maybe they should just buy tickets as they need. What do you think.

Thanks

 

    Julie,

    I agree with you that a Global Pass, or any rail pass for that matter, wouldn’t be good value if this is the whole itinerary. Obviously Split to Greek Islands to Spain would have to be done by air, or really slow ferries. The trains within Spain can be quite expensive though, so that could make a difference.

    Actually, most of those journeys could potentially be cheaper (and faster) by plane if you buy the tickets at least a month or more in advance. Trains are more enjoyable for most of us, but to be honest, the scenery on the route we are discussing isn’t too special anyway (circling around the Alps, so it’s almost all flat).

    Their best bet will be to buy those train tickets or flights as far in advance as possible, online from the official websites of the various railways. From London to Amsterdam at the end it would be on the Eurostar train, but if they are flying right out of Amsterdam-Schiphol anyway then a flight from London might be a bit easier, and around the same price. -Roger

     
Bonny Jo says:

My husband and I are planning a month long trip through Europe. The amount of time in each city is flexible as well as the direction. We will start and end our trip in Naples, Italy. Since we will arrive the Wednesday before Easter and end mid-May, I suggest the following direction.
Travel from Naples to Paris
Paris for 7 days with trips to Normandy, Loire, and Versailles.
Rothenburg 3 nights
Munich 4 nights with trips to country side touring castles.
Venice 3 nights
Florence 3 nights
Rome 5 nights to see the usual tourist sites
Naples 4 nights
I am not sure if a Global Pass is the way to go or purchase individual tickets?

 

    Bonny Jo,

    You definitely don’t want a Global Pass for a trip that only includes 4 countries like this, but a 4-country Select Pass could be perfect. Either way, you should probably start out by flying from Naples (or Rome, which you can reach cheaply by train) to Paris. Taking a train all the way there just to start coming back down would take a long time and cost a lot without a pass.

    Also, Rothenburg ob der Tauber and Venice are both quite small, and both a very crowded during the day with day-trippers. You’ll be able to appreciate each of them in a visit of only one or two days, especially if you make a point to go out in the mornings and evenings when fewer people are around. So in both cases, I think you’d enjoy the trip even more if you added another stop instead of staying so long. There are plenty of great options not far from either place.

    The cheapest way to do this trip by train would be to buy all of your tickets online at least a month or more in advance (from the official websites of the national train companies). The problem with that is that it locks you into an itinerary before you get the rhythm of your trip.

    A better alternative would be to buy the 4-Country Select Pass (for Italy, Austria, Germany, and France). Just a couple days ago we found out that France will once again be included in these Select Passes starting in April, 2014. Until then you would have had to buy a Global Pass for a much higher cost. You can buy a Select Pass for a set number of travel days, starting at 5 and going up to 15. So you might want one with about 8 trips, and you can still pay cash for short rides like the day trip to Versailles from Paris.

    The advantage to a rail pass is that you can go when you please, even at the last minute. You’ll usually have to make a seat reservation even with a pass, but those cost around €5 each, and you can almost always get them just a few hours before you want to go. I prefer to get seat reservations the day before I want to leave, and that way I can just march into the train station and onto my train when I leave.

    So your choice is flexibility vs. possibly saving a bit and locking in all of your trips with non-refundable advanced train tickets online. -Roger

     
Jay says:

Hi

I and my family are planning to visit Switzerland/Italy/Paris between 18th April and 29th April 2014. I have the following questions:

1. Is it correct that effective 1st April, the Special pas will cover 4 countries and include France
2. While looking at the timetable there is a caption which mentions that the trains run on select dates and then mentions dates 10th March to 14th July. Does it mean that it will not run on these days.
3. As the time table is not very clear, it is creating a bit of a confusion and a practical problem for me to plan the trip. Would you be kind enough to suggest the trains available for the following dates/destinations. There are two schedules.
Proposal I
- 19th April- Basel to Rome/Florence with a halt at Pisa
- 21st April – Rome to Milan or Venice
- 23rd April – Milan to Venice or vice versa
- 24th April – Milan/Venice to Basel
- 26th April – Basel to Paris
- 27th April – Paris to Basel

Proposal 2
- 19th April – Basel to Paris
- 20th April – Paris to Basel
- 24th April- Basel to Milan
- 25th April – Milan to Venice
- 26th April – Milan to Rome/Florence with a halt at Pisa
- 29th April – Rome to Basel

 

    Jay,

    1. Yes, it’s true that France is rejoining the Select Pass options beginning on April 1. The downside for some is that instead of offering a 3, 4, and 5-country version, it’s only a 4-country version.

    2. I’m not sure which timetable you are looking at. Most trains run the exact same schedule every day. If you are referring to holiday service, I’d have to know where you are seeing that in order to help.

    3. And unfortunately, I can’t help you pick specific trains. There are literally trains going every hour starting early in the morning and going until late in the evening on all of those routes. For those shorter trips within Italy there are probably 2 per hour. Either route would make a great trip.

    Let me know if I can help you make any decisions on this. -Roger

     
Jo says:

Hi Roger,

This is a great site and thanks for all the useful information!

I’m a single lady over 35 and planning to make my first trip to Europe. I know this is very last minute but I hope to travel in late Mar / early April for a period of 21 to 30 days (flexible).

I agree with your suggestions about not cramming too much in one go so I’m thinking to visit Paris, Amsterdam, Italy and if time permits, Greece.

I’m clueless as to how I should plan the Europe trip and stumbled upon your site. I have a few questions which I hope you could kindly help advise:-
- Is it too late to plan for a trip to Europe for April now ? (I read about needing to purchase some of the rail passes in advance to secure better rates)
- Would it be alright for a single lady to travel alone in Europe or would you suggest a package tour instead in this instance?
- Based on what I’ve read about your advices, seems like I wouldn’t require rail passes ? Can i buy the train tickets on the spot or do I need to buy in advance ?
- Do you have any suggestions/advice on the itinerary for a first time visit to Europe ?

Thanks very much for your help! :)

 

    Jo,

    I appreciate the kind words and that this site has helped you plan.

    It’s not too late to plan a Europe trip for April now. There are a few expenses that could have been lower if you started planning earlier, but not by as much as you might fear. One thing to consider is that airfares and hotel prices tend to go up in general as summer approaches and goes on, so you are already going at a fairly cheap time of year. Still, buy your plane ticket as soon as possible because it will probably get a bit more expensive the longer you wait.

    Even as an American male I can assure you that you’ll be fine as a single lady traveling alone in Europe. There are parts of the world where I wouldn’t be so sure, but most of Europe is at least as safe as the US or Canada or anywhere else. The only thing you might deal with is a bit of extra unwanted attention in Italy, but it’s extremely rare that women actually feel threatened. If you are still unsure about it I’d recommend searching for articles online about ‘solo woman travel in Europe.’ There are hundreds of great bloggers and writers out there who describe what it’s like to travel alone, with plenty of great tips on how to use that as a way of meeting people while staying safe.

    Right, if you stick to your plan of visiting only Amsterdam, Paris, and Italy, then a rail pass probably wouldn’t be good value, but if you add more than a couple of extra stops, a rail pass could be ideal. Train fares in Europe are becoming more like airfares in that they tend to be quite cheap if you buy really early, and the price keeps going up as the date approaches. You can still get good fares only a week or two out in most cases, although you might have to go on the train that leaves at 11am instead of the one at 9am (because morning trains sell out first).

    One factor to consider is that the trains from Amsterdam to Paris and from Paris down into Italy would be very expensive if you bought them with little or no notice. Fares within Italy aren’t so bad, but still cheaper if you buy early. If you bought a rail pass, you could lock in a reasonable price for all of those journeys, and still make your travel decisions with little or no notice. You’d need to pay (about €5 each) for seat reservations on most trains, but you can usually get those even at the last second. On the other hand, for those of us over the age of 25, we have to get a 1st Class rail pass. First class is wonderful, though even 2nd class is plenty comfortable for most people.

    As for an itinerary, I think you are off to a good start. Amsterdam is a pretty stress-free place to begin because everyone speaks fluent English and it’s quite compact. So you could fly into Amsterdam, take a train to Paris (for at least 4 nights), and then your cheapest and most efficient move would be to fly to Rome or anywhere else in Italy. You can get a cheap airfare if you book soon, compared to a train journey that would take a whole day and cost at least double. Once in Italy the classic itinerary is Rome (at least 3 nights), Florence, and Venice.

    I’ll be happy to give you more specific advice once you are more certain of exactly where you want to go. -Roger

     
      Jo says:

      Hi Roger,

      Thanks for the very fast reply and the detailed answers! You are great!

      I will try to secure the air tickets from my home country to Paris or Amsterdam (likely the former as the ticket to Amsterdam seem to be pricier) ASAP.

      Given about 21 to 30 days travel, I hope to have some flexibility so I’m not sure whether i should book all my accommodation now or to only book for the first few days for when I first fly in. Where would you recommend in France apart from Paris ? I will pencil in Florence and Venice too in Italy as you have kindly suggested (Thanks for that!) Also thinking of heading to Greece so would something like this below makes sense ?
      1. Paris (5 nights)
      2. Nice ?
      3. Amsterdam (3 nights ?)
      4. Rome (5 nights)
      5. Florence ?
      6. Venice ?
      7. Greece (5 nights)
      8. Paris (Will need to head back here to catch my flight back to my home country)

      What do you think of this itinerary ?

      Apologies that I might not have understood the part on the Eurail pass clearly. In your opinion do you think I should or shouldn’t get the pass ?

       

        Jo,

        Whether a rail pass is good value for you will depend on what your final planned itinerary ends up being. My hunch is that you’ll do better without a rail pass, as long as you are prepared to book most of your train trips at least a couple weeks in advance. If you’d prefer to keep some flexibility so you can change your plans as you go, then a rail pass would keep costs down.

        Your new itinerary looks pretty good except for the starting in Paris part. If you want to fly around Europe you can visit each city in any order you please, but if you want to take trains you have to put them in geographical order. In other words, Amsterdam is well north of Paris, and all the other places are to the south. So if you are definitely flying into Paris, you’d have to take a train to Amsterdam, and then another one back to Paris on your way to Nice and then Italy. More than likely, it would be cheaper to pay more for the Amsterdam round-trip than to save a bit by flying into Paris and then spending time and money on a train trip to Amsterdam from there.

        If you want to add Greece to this trip, you’d want to fly from Rome to Athens to spend 2 or 3 days there. Then you could take a ferry to one of the Greek Islands for 2 or 3 nights, but of course after that you’d probably have to backtrack to Athens and then fly back to Rome. I’d recommend saving it for another trip because you’d be rushed to see much of Greece in 5 days, and you’d rush the other places just to fit it in.

        If you spend 3 or 4 nights in Nice (including day trips to Cannes and Monaco), and 2 or 3 nights in Florence, and 1 night in Venice, then you’ll have a great trip with enough time in each place.

        So again, you have to put your itinerary in order of where each city is located so you can go in as close to a straight line as possible. Once you make those decisions, you’ll probably want to buy at least a few tickets in advance, or buy a rail pass if you want to be more flexible. -Roger

         
Meagan says:

Hi! My friend and I are planning a trip and are getting confused with what we should do for transportation. We found your site much more helpful than the main eurail sites. We were wondering what you thought we should do based on of our rough outline of our trip. We were looking at the Eurail Global Pass but aren’t sure if it would be worth it?

Rome (5)
Florence (4)
Venice (3)
Munich (3)
Berlin (5)
Amsterdam (4)
Brussels (2)
Paris (5)
London (5)

I understand the Global Pass would get us to each city except for Paris-London and through the rails of London. Based on our distances, it seems like we’d have to pay lots of extra fees to travel so I’m not sure if the pass would even be that beneficial. Also, does this pass include railways through the city, say Italy, on their public transportation line?

Thank you!!

 

    Meagan,

    Yours is an example of an itinerary where a rail pass gives you more flexibility, but probably won’t be the cheapest way to go. In other words, if you book all your train tickets at least a few weeks in advance (online, through the official rail site of one of the countries involved), then you’ll lock in the cheapest trip. But many people prefer to have the freedom to change plans and stay longer in some places and shorter in others and such, and in that case the train trips would be very expensive.

    Also, your cheapest worthwhile rail pass for this trip would be a Select Pass for 4 countries (Italy, Austria, Germany, and Benelux) rather than a Global Pass, and then buy that Brussels to Paris ticket on its own as early as possible, as well as the Paris to London trip on the Eurostar. As of April, 2014, you could buy a Select Pass that also includes France, but they are eliminating the 3-country and 5-country versions, and France would be your 5th country. That one trip from Brussels to Paris won’t be too expensive in advance anyway.

    If you do get the rail pass you’ll need to pay about €5 each for seat reservations along the way, but you’ll have no trouble getting those the day before or even on the day of travel, so it really is flexible. With a Select Pass you can choose from 5 to 10 travel days out of 2 months, and the more you buy the cheaper each one is.

    However, the rail pass does NOT include public transportation in most places, although it does cover suburban rail networks if you take them on the same day you use as a “travel day.” The good news about this is that you can get an unlimited public transport pass in each of these cities for around €6 per day. Several of the cities on your list are best explored on foot anyway.

    If you are both 25 years or younger, that rail pass might be worthwhile. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

     
Rachel M says:

Hi Roger,
I stumbled across this site about 6 months ago with the price index guides, very helpful thank you. I am now trying to figure out rail passes and it looks like you are the man in the know :). My husband and I are over 26 and are first time backpacking Europe over 13 weeks. March 30-June 24. We are trying to remain flexible so as to stay and enjoy if we are happy someplace or move on if we are not. We fly in and out (from Brisbane, QLD, Australia) of Paris and the rough plan is: visiting main city sights and then venturing out a bit on day trips out of town over approx a week per country, some being half a week. (Or moving on from one city to the next towards the next country)
Starting Paris: France,
Spain,
Portugal,
Italy,
Croatia,
Greece/Greek Islands, (short visits to Turkey, Hungary and Slovenia have been considered?????these are not high priorities though and will happily be left for another trip as I think this would make it far too busy?)
Austria/Switzerland,
Belguim/Netherlands,
Germany,
Sweden,
UK, finishing London back to Paris. I know we need a different pass/tickets for UK and Eurostar, we mostly likely would have one week max in UK if we even get there.

So the question Roger is, is the Global 3 month 1st class saver pass the way to go for us with those destinations and the length of our trip. I am reading that buying last minute point to point tickets does NOT seem to be the way to go now especially for flexible unlocked itineries.. Thank you kindly for this website and WELL DONE!!!

 

    Rachel M,

    I’m especially happy to hear that you found the price indexes useful as well as the eurail stuff, so thanks for mentioning it.

    The fact that you are leaving in only a few weeks does make this a bit tricky, but based on how purposely vague your itinerary is, I get the feeling that you want to stay as flexible as possible. If trying to travel as cheaply as possible was the highest priority, you could do it cheaper without a rail pass. But it would mean locking in almost all of your train rides at least a week in advance, which can take a lot of the fun out of a long trip like this.

    Arguments against a rail pass: Train service is spotty in Croatia, and nonexistent in Greece (and Turkey) at the moment. Trains within Italy and Portugal are fairly cheap, even just a few days in advance. That’s about it actually. Most of your itinerary is in expensive areas for trains.

    I rarely recommend the continuous rail passes, except for the 3-month version on a trip like yours. For a trip of only a month, a continuous pass ends up being fairly expensive on a per day basis, which encourages people to spend every other day on a train in order to get value out of the thing. But the 3-month version ends up being cheap enough for each valid day that even 2 trips per week will make it good value. And if you plan on doing day trips and side trips to nearby towns by train, then a continuous pass is even better.

    So just as you suggest, not only does the rail pass give you much more flexibility, it also means you get to ride in 1st Class, which is pretty great on an otherwise-crowded train. If you can afford the pass, and it sounds like you can, I really think you’d have a great time with it. As I’ve written elsewhere, I’ve used these passes for unlimited travel a few times, and the feeling that you can just waltz into a train station and go anywhere for the price of a €5 seat reservation is phenomenal. Otherwise you’d have the choice of planning everything at least a week in advance, or paying a fortune to go on trains with little notice. I’m getting excited just thinking about your trip and all that freedom. My own next trip is September and I’m counting the days.

    By the way, Budapest is very worthwhile if you are nearby, but Slovenia probably isn’t. And Turkey is one of my favorite places in the world (after living there for a year), but it would make a pretty awkward add-on to this trip. You’d have to fly in, and it really takes a couple weeks or more to get a feel for the place because it’s so big. Istanbul on its own is quite different from the rest of the country, and I actually find it a bit overrated. But plan to go to Cappadocia, Antalya, Kas, and Ephesus on a future trip and you’ll love it (and how cheap it all is). -Roger

     
      Rachel M says:

      Roger, thank you sooooo much for your extremely speedy and once again informative reply. We are attempting to be sensible budget travellers but this is not our top priority, being as flexible as possible is and yes we can afford the pass. Just wanted some advice as to whether this was in fact the best option for us and our 3 month backpacking nomadic journey and yes I am so excited for it too especially as it is the first time. Thanks for the tips on our maybe places I appreciate it. I hope your trip in September is wonderful, you certainly deserve it after all the hard work you put in to this site… If you do not work for yourself then tell the boss you deserve a pay rise :) Thanks once again, greatly appreciated, Rachel

       
Jay says:

Hi Roger

Thanks for the info. As I plan to do only Switzerland/Italy/France (Paris), i think the 4 nation select pass would be ideal and has come at the right time!!!!.
I would like to know the following:
- will there be a big difference in the cost between a slect pass and a Global pass
- will we get the choice of selecting the class of travel- in a Global pass we compulsorily are allotted a first class pass
- while i will manage the other trains, can you help in selecting a train- Basel- Rome (via Pisa)

Sorry forgot to add that 23rd April to 26th April are the days fixed for Rome. On our return we will be halting at Milan.

 

    Jay,

    The 4-country Select Pass is is about 15% cheaper than a Global Pass with the same number of days, and unfortunately, they are still 1st Class only for those of us over 25. They currently offer a 3-country, 4-country, and 5-country version that you can see and buy right now. The only things that are changing are that France will be added (it was the only exclusion before), and the 3-country and 5-country versions will be no longer offered. The Regional and single country passes are available in 2nd Class for older people, but they are only a bit cheaper than the 1st Class ones so for many people it’s not worth it.

    As for Basel to Rome, it looks like there is one train leaving Basel (every day, including April 23) at 8:07 and arriving in Rome at 15:55 (changing twice), and another leaving at 12:31 and arriving at 20:00 (changing only once). I believe Switzerland doesn’t sell tickets more than 30 days in advance, so the schedule might not appear everywhere. -Roger

     
Kylie says:

Hi, I’m from Australia and am leaving Syd to Greece on 27th April. We then want to visit Rome, Pompeii, Florence, Pisa, Milan, Barcelona, Salzburg, Venice, Prague, Amsterdam and Paris. We are leaving from Paris and were thinking about getting trains and planes. A Plane from Greece to either Barcelona then back to Rome by plane or Fly to Greece to Rome then train to Rome, down to Pompeii, back to Rome, up to Florence and across to Pisa an maybe fly to Barcelona from there instead and fly to Milan then train to Salzburg and then train to Venice and Prague. Then fly to Amsterdam and train to Paris from there. We have 5 weeks and 3 days there and 4 days travel to Australia and back.
My questions are? Do we fly from Greece or Florence to Barcelona? Do we get a global 1 month pass with the bonus of 5 days for the current special? or do we just wing it and get a train etc on the day or the day before?

 

    Kylie,

    You’ve got an interesting mix of cities in your proposed itinerary, at least from a geographical standpoint, so this one is a bit tricky. That Global 1-month continuous pass could be perfect for you because many of the train trips would be very expensive if bought as you go. Barcelona in particular is a tough one because it’s quite far from all the others, and it’s a bit odd that you are skipping Madrid on a visit to Spain with this much time on your hands.

    If this is your final list of cities and you aren’t open to a couple of possible changes, I think it makes most sense to fly from Greece to Rome and do all of your Italy stops one after another, rather than saving Venice for later. So Greece to Italy, and then a flight to Barcelona (which should be cheap if you book well in advance). Then fly from Barcelona to Amsterdam, and take the train from Amsterdam to Prague to Salzburg to Paris. But again, even though that is probably the cheapest and most efficient way to string all these cities together, it means bypassing cities like Berlin and Munich along the way.

    As for the rail pass or not, there are two possible ways of doing this. One is that Global Rail Pass, which gives you the most flexibility because you’ll only need to make seat reservations for around €5 per train, which you can usually get the day of the trip or the day before. The individual tickets would be very expensive if you bought them as you go, so locking in the trips on the rail pass means that you only care if there are a few seats left, which there usually will be, especially if you are going in 1st Class.

    The other reasonably priced option would be to lock in all of your train rides at least 2 or 3 weeks in advance, and buy the tickets online (through the official rail website of each country). The train fares in Europe behave like airfares these days, in that they tend to be pretty cheap early, and they get more and more expensive as the day approaches.

    By the way, you should probably just plan to spend an afternoon in Pisa as a day-trip from Florence. The small area with the Leaning Tower and cathedral takes only a couple hours to see, and there isn’t much else worthwhile there. If you are open to other possible suggestions to streamline it a bit, let me know. -Roger

     
Tazk says:

Hi Roger,
I am sooo glad to have found this website! I need some advice. My friend (she lives in england) and I (living in Canada) will travel to Europe Augsut 1st, of this year for 22 days.
We wanted to cover:
London – Amsterdam (2 nights) – Munich (1 nights) – Berlin (2 nights) – Prague (2 nights) – Austrian Tyrol (1 day) – Vienna (2 nights) – Venice (2 nights) – Florence (2 nights) – Rome (2 nights. Want to see Vatican city.) – Lucerne (2 nights. I wanted to see the Swiss Alps. Any suggestions of where to start? Is it called Jungfrau?) – Paris (2-3 nights) – back to London.

I know its a lot for just 22 days. Should we cut this trip short? Would the Global pass be a good idea for this trip? I am not sure what to do as this will be my first Europe trip and I would like to cover as much as I can. We are 25 and 24 years old I am guessing we would be good to go with the discount. I would love to get your advice. Also, are any of the cities I mentioned just good for a stopover? I am open to changes if you have any suggestions to see Europe in a better way. Please let me know if I should skip some cities not worth seeing. I am very interested to know the history of the cities. and I love old buildings and such. And I would love to taste some authentic street food.

Sorry if this is all confusing. :(

Thanks so much! I am looking forward to hear back from you.

 

    Tazk,

    Your question isn’t confusing, but still I’m glad you are open to some changes. Every city on your list is worthwhile for a visit. The problem is that you have way too many stops planned for a 3-week trip. Most of your stops are around 5 hours apart by train, give or take a little. Let’s say you check out of your hotel or hostel at 9am to make a 10am train. It arrives at 3pm in the new city, and you check into your new hotel or hostel by 4pm, and you are already a bit worn out after the trip. You’d only have enough time for a little walk before dinner, so you’d have almost no sightseeing time on that day. Train travel itself is entertaining, but on your current plan you’d be spending 10 or 11 of your 22 days this way.

    What I’d recommend is to cut your list about in half, and save the other half for your next trip. For example, you could do London – Amsterdam – Berlin – Prague – Munich – Paris – London, and even that would be busy for 3 weeks. Or you could do London – Paris – Vienna – Venice – Florence – Rome – then fly back to London and that would also be quick, but at least you are in each place long enough to get a sense of it. I typically recommend at least 3 nights in most of the cities on your list, because they are mostly large and packed with fascinating sights. Venice is compact enough to see in about 24 hours (and it’s so crowded and expensive that you won’t want to linger, although it’s amazing for a short visit).

    So please give some more thought to a shorter list of cities that are more geographically bunched together, and you’ll have a much more fulfilling trip. I’ll be happy to help you again once you’ve paired it down some, and we’ll figure out the best way to get between them.

    And you’ll love the food in most of Europe, but just to prepare you, there isn’t much “street food” at all. In the north it’s mostly hot dogs and sausages, with herring in some places as well. In the south they don’t eat much on the street at all, except for crepes in France and a few other things that you still don’t see too often. -Roger

     
Kylie says:

Thanks for that Roger. We didn’t know where to go in Spain so we just chose Barcelona. We wanted to do England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales but we thought there wouldn’t be time to see them on top of everything else. We are really interested in architecture, especially castles and haunted places hence why we want to travel to Prague and over the English channel. I didn’t know where to go in Germany but I do have a friend that lives in Bochum there but wasn’t sure if there would be enough time to go there too. I want to do Salzburg because of the Sound of music tour and Milan for the artwork etc. I was only going to do a day trip to Pisa from Florence because I heard that there wasn’t really much to do there. I think we are staying in Italy for about 4-5 days. We were thinking of doing a day trip to Pompeii and back to Rome on some tour bus just so we can see the ruins. Amsterdam wasn’t even going to be a part of our trip but the architecture there is cool. I heard the reservations were $30 AUD but you mentioned it’s 5 euros which makes $7.70. Which is even better. I guess that’s not to bad and if we get a global eurail saver pass for the 1 month and extra 5 days I guess it could be worth it. Wanted to get a Eurostar but didn’t know if we had the time to do over there. I’m open to any suggestions.
After I figure out transport there is accommodation and day tours. There is so much to plan for. When I did NZ we did Contiki so everything was done for me but we thought doing it on our own was best so we didn’t get rushed around and have to go to places we don’t want to go to. It’s scary doing it on your own though. Oh and we are both in our 30′s so we can’t get the youth pass so that sux.

 

    Kylie,

    All of that makes sense about the cities on your list. I love Salzburg and you will too, it’s just a little unusual for someone to go there and not Vienna.

    Here’s a list of trains in Europe that require seat reservations for pass holders. You’ll see that they are different prices in each place, but most average around €5, including in 1st Class.

    If you do get the rail pass, you might not want to lock in too much accommodation in advance unless you are sure of where you’ll be when. In April and May it’s not too difficult to find a good place to stay at a reasonable price only a day or two before you arrive, so don’t feel pressured to pick hotels too far in advance. Once you are on the road your opinion might change when it comes to location and services you want, and how much you are willing to pay. Pretty much all hotel rooms in Europe are going to be quite small compared to those in Australia.

    Your current plan is already quite full so I agree that it would be better to save Britain and Ireland for another trip. Those can get pretty expensive as well, especially London.

    This all sounds very overwhelming at this point, and that’s natural. But you’ll discover that it’s all pretty easy once you are underway, and you’ll meet loads of people everywhere you go who are doing similar trips to yours. Asking them about hotels and sights and tours in that city or other cities you’ll be going to will not only be helpful, but also very reassuring.

    Speaking of day tours and activities, my advice is to NOT book those online in advance. They almost never actually sell out, and weirdly enough, you usually get a better price in person than online. Just as in Oz, you’ll find that every hotel has a rack of all the brochures of tours and things to do, and often they’ll have a little discount coupon on them. The only things you’d want to book in advance would be to see the Last Supper in Milan or the Uffuzi Gallery in Florence. Otherwise, just decide and book as you go.

    I’ll be happy to help with any other questions you might have. -Roger

     
      Kylie says:

      This is awesome feedback Roger. I’m so glad I found this website.

      Is there a pass for Metro stations all over the countries? Or should I just get one each time we come to the train station? Would you take a night train or fly and sleep in a hotel instead? Are the night trains and fast trains part of this global pass? Do I reserve these heaps early and can you just have an open reservation where you don’t know the actual date you will catch these trains? I was thinking of getting a night train from Salzburg with a change over at Venice and then arrive in Prague. Or I can just fly to Prague. I was going to take the fast train to Paris from Amsterdam too.

      Are the trains easy to understand over there? You can just turn up buy your reservation and find the train you want on tv screen timetables and hop on? It’s so weird having to pay for reservations and a train ticket. It’s so much easier over here. You just buy your ticket and find the train on the screens you want and then go to that platform and hop on.
      I heard the staff on the train can take your passport and won’t give it back until your stop. That’s a bit scary if you seen that movie where they scanned these girls passports and sent them to buyers and they got kidnapped and auctioned off. Although I don’t think that would happen on the trains though. Even the movie Hostel has put me off Hostels.
      Do you have any accommodation recommendations for Athens? I see there has been a lot of bed bug cases. I did notice that all feedback on hotels they say the rooms are small. You can get small rooms over here if you get a pub room though. I just want a comfy bed after my long flight from Australia.

      It’s so good to have someone to talk to that knows what he’s talking about and doesn’t try and sell you anything.

      Still not sure if a 1 month pass is worth it or not if we are flying the long distances and training it around the shorter distances. How long does it take to get through airports to, is something to also consider and baggage weight.

      I was thinking of doing Vienna but wasn’t sure about it. I thought I needed to cut out Munich, Berlin, Madrid and Nice because of time restraints. Plus I don’t know much about them. I was also looking at Sicily Taormina to go see Mt Etna etc

      Thanks for letting me bug you with all these questions. I just want to be prepared and all other websites aren’t clear on details. I need details.

      I’m sure I’ll have more questions later as everything seems so complicated. Oh and thanks for answering so fast and so detailed.

      Thanks Roger

      Kylie

       
El says:

Hi Roger,
Just like every single other person has mentioned, this forum is amazing and thank you so much for your detailed insights.
My husband and I (both over 26) are planning a 10 week trip to Europe from the end of August to beginning of November. I’m trying to work out which rail pass would be best for us. I’m thinking the 10 or 15 in 2 months but would be great to hear your thoughts.
We want to stay reasonably flexible and are not that keen to book much travel/accommodation ahead of time. We are on a moderate budget, ie looking to stay in cheaper hotels, b & bs and happy to stay in hostels with a private room. My first question is do you think it’s risky at that time of year not to have made accommodation reservations far in advance?
Next is our rough itinerary to ask your opinion on the rail pass.
From Perth, Australia:
Fly to London
5-7 days in London, possible day or side trips to Bath, Salisbury
Fly to Amsterdam – 3 days
Train(?) to Paris via Brussels – stop for a couple of hours to look around?
Paris 3-4 days
Train to Madrid
Madrid 2 days
Train to Lisbon
Lisbon 2 days
Train to south coast – possibly Algarve?
From here via somewhere across to Morocco, a couple of destinations for 5/6 nights
Fly from Morocco to Berlin OR Frankfurt (thoughts on which city is best for approx 3 days?)
Travel to Munich for Oktoberfest (will be around 20-21 September)
Munich 3 days?
Munich to Switzerland – interested only in the apps area for some spectacular scenery and a bit of hiking
Switzerland destination 3 days
From Switzerland train to Italy – looking to spend around 2 weeks in Italy including the following stays:
Venice – 2 nights
Florence – 3 nights
Cinque Terre – 2 nights
Rome – 3 nights
Somewhere a bit south of Rome – cant for the life of me think of the name – 2 nights
Then we would fly from Italy (I assume would be most economical to fly ex Rome?) to Athens
From Athens spending 5-7 nights on 1 or 2 of the islands to relax and recoup at the end of our trip!
Back to Athens for 2 or 3 days
Depart from Athens
Your thoughts would be so greatly appreciated! Is this itinerary totally mad?
Thanks so much,
El :)

 

    El,

    Thank you for the kind words, and it’s my pleasure to try to help.

    This itinerary looks really good and quite well researched. You’ve got quite a few train rides that would be very expensive if bought on the travel day, so I think the 10 or 15 Days in 2 Month Global Pass could work out really well if you’d rather stay flexible. This is a classic example of an itinerary that would be cheapest if you bought all your exact train tickets at least 2 or 3 weeks in advance, but of course that takes all the potential spontaneity out of it. On a shorter trip, maybe 2 or 3 weeks, it might be worth it to book everything in advance, but since you have 10 weeks to play with it would be a shame to lock it all in so early.

    Of course the rail pass means you’ll be traveling in 1st Class on those longer and more expensive journeys, but with 2 people traveling together it’s not much more expensive than 2nd Class, and it’s really wonderful to be “forced” into traveling 1st Class to also save money and be more flexible.

    As for finding hotels, you’ll have no problem doing that as you go, starting around the second week of September. London is packed in August, so you’ll want to book that hotel well in advance. I recently updated my list of recommended London hotels (and hostels) with good locations and good rates, so you might have a look when you are ready to book. You’ll probably want to book early for Amsterdam as well, but after that you should do okay booking as you go.

    Personally, on a trip like this I prefer to sort things out at least a couple days in advance. As in, once I decide I want to go to the next city 2 days from now, I’ll go to the train station to reserve my seat so I know exactly when I’ll be traveling, and once I do that I like to book my hotel in that next city so I know where to go when I get off the train. In Europe, it can be risky to just get off a train and try to judge hotels or hostels by the sign and front of the building.

    Here are some other notes on your itinerary:

    If you want to visit Bath from London you might think about staying in Bristol (home of Banksy, Wallace, and Gromit), which is a very short train ride from Bath, and also much cheaper than London or Bath for hotels and such.

    It’s more enjoyable to go from London to Amsterdam on the Eurostar train than flying. You can book the whole thing at once, which will include the Eurostar from London to Brussels and then a fast train from Brussels directly into Amsterdam’s Centraal Station. Book the Eurostar as far in advance as possible for the best fare, and you’ll be glad you did it by train.

    Especially if you are doing the rail pass, a stop for a few hours in Brussels on your way from Amsterdam to Paris would be wonderful. You’ll need to pay just a bit more for a seat reservation from Amsterdam to Brussels and another from Brussels to Paris, but it’s still 1 “travel day” and a great use of a rail pass.

    To go from Paris to Madrid by train would mean taking the new high-speed service from Paris to Barcelona, and then changing for another high-speed train to Madrid. That would be a long day, and it would be a shame to not at least spend a night or two in Barcelona, which is a wonderful city that is very different from Madrid.

    Madrid in 2 days would be a quick visit, although it would be 2.5 days since the only train to Lisbon is a night train.

    Lisbon is a lovely place and great value, and so is the Algarve, especially since you’ll be there when it’s still great weather yet most of the crowds are gone. Go from there to Tarifa, Spain (and spend one night because it’s a great little town) for the ferry to Morocco.

    If you want to fly from Morocco to Germany, you’ll probably want to do it from Casablanca Airport (but don’t stay in the city) to Berlin. Frankfurt is expensive, and not really even a tourist city, while Berlin is cheaper and one of Europe’s most interesting spots.

    As you probably know, hotels and hostels literally triple their rates during Oktoberfest, and you really should even book those at least a couple weeks in advance or you’ll pay a high price AND get a lousy place. It’s truly a sight to see once in your life, but I really think 2 days of it would be enough. The Oktoberfest grounds consist of a temporary amusement park that also has about 10 huge “beer tents” inside, and the seats are mostly reserved in advance, although you can queue up and eventually get in. Munich is a nice city otherwise, but it’s debatable whether it’s worth paying that much to see the other sights.

    From Munich you might also consider a couple days in Salzburg, which is a wonderful, scenic, and fun town. Your next stop (with or without Salzburg) should be Lucerne, which is one of the two tourist centers (along with Interlaken) to visit the Swiss Alps.

    Your Italy plan looks good, including the trip down to Naples/Pompeii for a day or two. The train tickets within Italy are relatively cheap compared to the tickets earlier in your trip, especially if you buy them online at least a few days in advance. In other words, you’ll probably want to have used up your rail pass travel days by the time you arrive in Italy, although if you have 1 or 2 travel days left they will still be nice because you can travel 1st Class at a moment’s notice without worrying about high fares for that.

    And yes, you’ll want to fly from Rome to Athens, which will be pretty cheap if you book a bit early. Athens and the Greek Islands really are worth visiting, but keep in mind that by early November it will be quite cool already, and most of the islands will be in full off-season mode. In other words, there are fewer ferries in the cold months, and most hotels are already closed. But on the bigger islands there are things to see and do all year.

    I don’t think your itinerary looks mad at all. Feel free to follow up if you have more questions. -Roger

     
      El says:

      Hi Roger,
      Thank you so much for that. I sent my message at 11pm last night and woke to your awesome response.
      Wonderful to hear that for the most part we’ll be fine to book things just a few days in advance, that’s exactly what we’d like to do. Will definitely take on board your thoughts on Oktoberfest, I had thought 3 days might have been a bit much when really our trip is bout experiencing cultural differences (and food!!) and not so much a heap of drunken tourists. But since we’re there at the time it would be a shame to miss it.
      Thanks for the tip about using the Eurostar from London to Amsterdam that looks like the go!
      Just one question about your suggestion to go from the Algarve region (I assume somewhere close to Faro as its on the fast train network), how would we get from there to Tarifa, Spain?
      We will also take on board your comments about Barcelona and Salzburg, we would love to cram in more places but just don’t want to be too rushed. I think the next step is to nut out the itinerary with even more detail including when and how long each transit will take as in my timing I’ve basically allowed a whole day for each change in location to be on the safe side.
      Anyway I can’t thank you enough but I also can’t promise that this will be my last question to you!!
      Best regards,
      El

       

        El,

        From the Algarve (Faro is the largest city) to Tarifa, the easiest way is to take the train to Seville (which won’t be too expensive) and then a bus from there to Tarifa, which will also be cheap. While you are at it, it’s probably worth spending one night in Seville, as it’s an interesting city on its own.

        No worries if you have more questions, just ask away and I’ll try to help. -Roger

         
          El says:

          Hi Roger,
          I need your help again! You helped me enormously a few months ago but since then our work commitments have meant that we’ve had to change our dates and now my itinerary is all over the shop. I can’t seem to work out a good route to take to fit all the places in that we’re originally on the list to include 2 nights in Munich for Oktoberfest. If I tell you our destinations can you give me your suggestion?

          Fly into London, arriving on Tuesday 16th September
          5 nights accom booked in London
          London to Amsterdam via the Eurostar with a few hours stopover in Brussels

          Now it starts to get tricky!

          From here we’d like to see and stay in the following places/regions for 3-4 days each
          Munich (2 nights only for Oktoberfest – that’s enough!)
          Salzburg
          Lucerne/Swiss Alps
          Paris
          Other French region? Unsure where? Just to see somewhere out of the city
          Barcelona
          Madrid
          Lisbon
          Algarve region
          Tarifa
          Ferry to Morrocco
          Morrocco for 5-7 nights
          Fly to Rome
          Italy for 2ish weeks
          Fly to Athens
          Greek islands for 5-7 nights
          Athens for a couple of nights
          Depart Athens on 24 November to return to Australia

          It’s really the first part that I’m struggling with because its difficult for me to understand the train routes and how far things are out of the way. Once we’re in Paris it seems reasonably straightforward.

          Do you have any suggestions to fill out time from Amsterdam to Paris including those stops?

          Thanks so much once again,
          El

           

          El,

          Your itinerary looks fantastic. The route looks very logical and I think the distances between each stop are mostly ideal.

          From Amsterdam to Munich there is a train that takes only 7 hours and 21 minutes, so you could go directly. But I agree that it would be better to make at least one stop in between, partly because it would be a shame to just pass through so many interesting places at high speed. If you went a bit out of the way you could visit Berlin, which would be a highlight, although it would take 6 hours to get there and another 6 hours to get to Munich. More directly, you could stop in Cologne, which is 2.5 hours from Amsterdam and 4.5 hours from Munich. Cologne’s cathedral is one of the most impressive in the world, and the city center is really nice.

          Another option would be to stop in Rothenburg ob der Tauber, which is also 7 hours from Amsterdam and 3 hours from Munich. It’s a lovely little medieval town, unlike anything else you’ll see.

          As for France, there are many great options between Paris and Barcelona, though I’m less familiar with many of them because I haven’t spent much time there since a couple visits in my youth. It’s a bit out of the way, but Nice is the best stop along the Riviera, partly because it’s very close to Cannes and Monaco for day trips. Otherwise, Bordeaux could be a great choice for some wine tourism, and there are many other good options.

          It all seems very under control to me, so perhaps I’m not understanding the challenge. Hopefully this helps, and feel free to ask again if I didn’t cover what you had hoped. -Roger

           
Emma says:

Hey Roger,
I was wondering if I could use your good advice. I’m going to Italy for a month from the last week of June to the last week of July. This is my approximate itinerary:
-Arrive in Florence mid-afternoon
-3 nights in Florence
-Bus to Siena, 4 nights in Siena, with two day trips to Volterra and San Gimignano, where I’ll bus there.
-take a train to la Spezia, hike Cinque Terre for 3 days (two nights), spend the last night back in la Spezia
-early morning train (or night train??)to Venice, where I’ll stay for two nights
-early morning train to either Sorano or Pitigliano. Base myself in one of those places for 3 nights, and take a day trip to Civita di bagnoregio. I’ll spend that night somewhere (not sure where) which has a direct train to Rome.
-Early train to Rome, 4 nights there
-Early train to Molise, 3 nights there spent hiking and relaxing
-early train to Naples, stop for a couple of hours for pizza, then continue on to Salerno. Base myself in Salerno for 4 nights, with day trips to Mount Vesuvius, Paestum, Pompeii, and Herculaneum.
-2 nights on the amalfi coast: one day to hike, one day for a festival with late night fireworks
-Leave for Rome the next day, which is the day before I leave Italy, (should I take an early morning train and stay in a hostel/bnb the last night, or take an overnight train to Rome from Salerno? My flight home leaves around 3pm the last day).

What do you think of my itinerary? Do I have variety in the towns I’ve chosen, and are there too many locations-would you allot more or less time to certain places? The beginning and end of my trip aren’t flexible, but I want the amount of days I spend in places like the Sorano to be changeable in case I want to stay somewhere longer, go somewhere that’s not on my itinerary, or leave sooner.
-Would you recommend the Eurorail pass for Italy, or buying tickets the day before or day of, or even taking flights or buses? (I’m under 25)
Thanks,
Emma

 

    Emma,

    I think your itinerary looks great for a really in-depth exploration of Italy. It appears that you are allowing enough time in each city to get a proper appreciation of each one, and it looks like each stop is carefully chosen.

    That train from La Spezia to Venice is only about 4.5 hours so you’ll want to do it during the day. Night trains are only worth considering if you are going much longer distances.

    I tend not to be a huge fan of the one-country Italy Eurail Pass because it’s kind of expensive until you get to about 8 to 10 travel days. For 6 or fewer travel days, the price per travel day isn’t much of a bargain unless you are covering half the country with each trip, and few people do that when visiting Italy.

    And as you say, buses are often a good option, and are usually cheaper than trains. My guess is that you can do most of your trips by bus for maybe €20 or less, even on short notice. They’ll be slower than the trains, but the trains in Italy aren’t all that fast, so it’ll often be like 3 hours by train and 4 hours by bus. If you can save €20 by taking the bus for that extra hour, it’s probably worth it.

    So I think your choices are either to get an Italy rail pass for 8 or more rides, and at that point they are pretty cheap (in 2nd Class for someone under 26). Or you could take a mix of buses and trains, and try to book each one at least a few days, if not a week or more in advance. If you buy those train tickets online in advance they can be pretty cheap, but if you try to buy them on the travel day, then they’ll cost more than the rail pass for sure. -Roger

     
Becki says:

Hello.

I am currently planning a 5-week trip for me and my mother during April and May to the countries of France, Austria and Germany with maybe a day or two in Switzerland and Amsterdam. I am having trouble deciding whether a rail pass for 15 days once we start moving around a lot more in Switzerland, Austria and Germany is worth it and would appreciate any advice you might have…

This is what the itinerary looks like right now:

Arrive in Paris
Spend 6 days in Paris
Train from Paris to Tours, Spend a day in Tours
Rent a Car for 6 days and explore the Loire Valley
Take a Train from Tours to Lyon, Lyon to Geneva, Geneva to Zurich, Zurich to Innsbruck, Austria…all within the same 48 hours or so…
Spend 4/5/6 days in Innsbruck, Austria
(may or may not do additional traveling in Switzerland and Austria…or maybe stop in Switzerland for a day or two…)
Spend 7 days going up the Romantic Road in Germany via hopping on and off the Romantic Road Coach
Take a Train from Frankfurt to Cologne
Spend 2 days in Cologne & Dusseldorf
Take a Train or Coach from Cologne to Amsterdam
Spend 3 days in Amsterdam
Take a Megabus Coach back to Paris
Depart from Paris

The global pass (15 days) with the additional two days promotion would cover most of the trip after leaving Tours….but at 946 euros I am not sure if it is worth it… Though we like the idea that the pass might offer us more flexibility…

Anyways, any advice would be appreciated.
Thanks,
Becki

 

    Becki,

    This one is a bit tricky if you are considering a continuous 15(+2) day Global Pass, and I’m assuming that the €946 is for both of your traveling together in 1st Class. That’s really not a bad deal for the number of train trips that you are considering in that period, and that you want to stay flexible as you go. Also, traveling in 1st Class is pretty great in general.

    You have two other options, the first one of which would be to book all of those train trips at least a week or more in advance to get decent fares, and even then you might find that you’d have to go at inconvenient times of day because the better times are so expensive. You might want to go on the France rail website (http://en.voyages-sncf.com/en/) and check the fares of some of your trips for leaving tomorrow or next week or a few weeks from now. The prices you see now will be close to what you’d see while on your trip, so you’d know how much the rail pass would actually be worth and how far in advance you’d have to buy in order to get a good fare at a convenient departure time.

    The other option would be to wait until April 1, at which time you’ll be able to buy a 4-country Select Pass for France, Austria, Germany, and Benelux (or Switzerland). They are discontinuing the current 3-country and 5-country version at the end of March, but now France will again be eligible for the 4-country version. You’ll have to decide whether you’ll likely be taking otherwise expensive rides within Switzerland, or you could use it on your way from Cologne to Amsterdam and from Amsterdam to Paris (unless you’ve bought the Megabus tickets already). The Eurail Select Pass comes with up to 15 travel days within 2 months, although the 10-day version would probably suit you better. That way you could use it on your 10 most expensive legs of your entire trip, and pay as you go for the shorter and cheaper ones.

    Again, the 4-country version that includes France won’t be available until April 1, but the details about that are on the page so it’s not a secret.

    So my advice is to check some of those train prices on legs you are planning for, and based on that you’ll know how far in advance you’d have to book and buy them in order to get cheap tickets. And if you really do put a premium on being able to change plans as you go (as many of us do), then either of those rail pass options could be better. There’s no obvious choice on a trip like this, unfortunately.

    Feel free to follow up if you like. -Roger

     
Cheryl says:

Hi Roger,

My friend and I will be traveling to Germany and Switzerland in May 2014.
I’m trying to figure out which pass would be the best for us.

Itinerary:
Apr 30 – May 02 : Germany – from Frankfurt to Rothenburg ob der Tauber
May 02 – May 05 : Germany – from Rothenburg to Munich
(Day trip from Munich to Fussen)
May 05 – May 07 : from Munich to Switzerland – Lucerne
May 07 – May 10 : Switzerland – from Lucerne to Grindelwald
(Day trip from Grindelwald to Jungfraujoch and Murren)
May 10 – May 11 : Switzerland – from Grindelwald to Basel
May 11 – May 13 : from Basel to Germany – Rudesheim
May 13 – May 16 : Germany – from Rudesheim to Frankfurt
(Day trip from Frankfurt to Heidelberg)

Based on the itinerary, we would like to seek your advice on the following:

1. Would a 10 days Eurail Germany and Switzerland Select Pass be more worth it or would it make more sense to buy a 10 days German Rail Twin Pass and 3 days Swiss Flexi Saver Pass? Or any other suitable alternatives?

2. Is train seat reservation required for German Rail Pass and Swiss Flexi Saver Pass? Any additional charges? Will train seat reservation be a problem in May?

3. What are the differences between Eurail Germany and Switzerland Select Pass vs. single Country Pass?

Any tips and suggestions are welcome.
I am looking forward to hear from you. Thank you!

 

    Cheryl,

    I think the German Rail Twin Pass is probably your best value, partly because it allows you the cheaper 2nd Class option. But I don’t think the Swiss Flexi Saver Pass would be good value because the price per trip seems like it might be even higher than if you buy as you go. You aren’t really covering much ground in Switzerland. I’d recommend checking the prices of the individual tickets within Switzerland if you buy a week or so in advance on the Swiss Rail site: http://www.sbb.ch/en/home.html. To me it looks like you might spend much less if you can at least reserve those tickets a week in advance.

    Here’s a link that shows which European trains require seat reservations. Basically, you’ll need reservations on many of those trips, but not all of them, and they’ll cost €4 or €5 each. You shouldn’t have a problem reserving a seat on any of these trains in May, at least as long as you don’t wait until a few minutes before it pulls out of the station. These routes usually have a train leaving every hour, so usually the worst case scenario is that the most convenient one is sold out so you have to book on one an hour later. For this reason, I prefer to go to the station the day before I want to leave so I can make a reservation and know exactly when to leave my hotel so I can make it on time but don’t have to go so early in case there is a long queue.

    I think the differences between the passes are only in the terms, as in, the Germany pass is only good for one month while the Germany-Switzerland one can be used within 2 months. As far as I know, there are no differences in how you can use the passes as long as they are valid.

    Your trip looks really well thought out and interesting. It’s hard to know just how much time you are intending to spend in Frankfurt, and I’ll recommend keeping it to a minimum. Frankfurt, as you might already know, is a banking and business city with a few interesting sights, but it’s far more famous for its airport than its attractions, and the rest of Germany has a lot to offer. -Roger

     
Perri says:

Hey Roger. Thanks for providing so much useful information and especially for answering individual questions. Me and two of my friends are planning to travel for about 3 weeks in July and were not sure if we should buy a pass or not and which one. Our tentative plan is to start in Amsterdam and then head to Berlin, Prague, maybe Vienna, Budapest and then a beach in Croatia. We hope to spend 3 or 4 days in each place, depending if we stop in Vienna or not. We know we can buy a saver pass but were not sure if we should do a 5 country pass which would require us to stop in Austria so it’s bordering countries and prob buy a flight from Amsterdam to Berlin or get a regional pass that doesn’t include the Netherlands or Croatia. I read that you said Eastern Europe is not the best with Eurail but I thought since were going to major capitals that it still might be worth it. Also were thinking of Split, Croatia as our final destination and I know there’s a 15 hour overnight train from Budapest to split but I don’t know if it’s part of the Eurail network or if we will be able to find an airport close by. Thanks for any advice or suggestions you have!

 

    Perri,

    Always glad to hear that this stuff helps. If you are only planning on those 5 or 6 cities, meaning only 4 or 5 journeys between them, then I don’t think a rail pass would be good value. The ones that include only 5 travel days have quite a high price for each day, and I think you can do better in other ways.

    Just to clarify though, you don’t have to stop in each country in a 5-country rail pass, you just need to include any countries that you are traveling within, and they have to be bordering for that same reason. So you could buy a 5-country pass and only stay in one country if you wanted, and you can ride the train all the way through Austria if you went from Prague to Budapest (as long as all 3 countries are on your pass).

    Still though, here’s what I’d recommend. From Amsterdam to Berlin the train takes a bit over 6 hours and can be done for as little as €44 if you buy early enough (probably a month or more). So the train takes about the same amount of time as flying, once you add in all the security and transport time on both ends, and it’s also at least a bit cheaper than flying. The train will obviously be much more pleasant, although to be honest the landscape between those cities is pretty boring (flat).

    From Berlin to Prague it takes about 4.5 hours and train tickets are €39 if you buy in advance. Prague to Budapest takes about 9 hours and starts at €42.

    From Budapest into Croatia, the trains are even cheaper, but quality and reliability drops. You could try that brutal 15-hour overnight train (which WOULD be part of a Eurail Pass, although you’d also have to pay for a seat or bunk reservation), or you might split (pun intended) it up by doing a day train to Zagreb and then another train or bus to Split. Zagreb isn’t all that interesting to be honest, but it still might be worth an evening and morning as a stop. The buses in the former Yugoslavia area tend to be better and cheaper than trains, so research that angle as well.

    So in your case, since you are mostly going through areas where inexpensive train tickets are available, especially to those who book well in advance, I don’t think a rail pass would be wise. From Berlin all the way down to Split, the trains are relatively cheap even if you don’t buy way in advance.

    Looks like a great trip to many of my favorite cities in Europe, so I’m sure it’ll be a blast. Let me know if you have other questions. -Roger

     
Sherrie says:

Any comments on the overnight trains. I am traveling with a group of 6 and plan to go from rome to munich to paris using the overnight couchette sleeping compartments.

 

    Sherrie,

    I’m not sure what you are wondering about night trains, but I will give you my general comments and hope that’s what you wanted.

    Night trains can be a useful tool on some trips, and I’ve taken several of them, but I’m not a big fan of them because I tend to be a light sleeper. The problem is that they typically stop at least once or twice in the middle of the night to switch carriages with other trains coming from different places. So at maybe 2am or 3am you’ll stop at a station and after a bit of stillness and silence, there will be loud clanking and bumping as the trains unhitch and re-hitch. Most of them also shake a bit just in normal travel, so light sleepers like me don’t usually get much sleep at all.

    Then when they pull into the station at maybe 8am or 9am, you still have at least a few hours before you can check into your next hotel or hostel, so those who didn’t get much sleep on the train will get loopy and disoriented.

    On the other hand, with 6 people you can get a whole compartment if you choose the 6-berth couchette option, and that’ll probably be a fun experience even if you don’t get much sleep. And they are pretty good value on longer routes like the ones you are planning.

    And in case you are wondering, a night train only uses one travel day on a rail pass, as long as the train leaves after 7pm (which they all do) and arrives the following morning.

    Any other questions I missed? Now that you mention it, I think I’ll write a proper article discussing the pros and cons. -Roger

     
Ann says:

Hi Roger,

I would like to travel for about a month (28 days) in two to three countries in July.(My focus countries are Germany and France with an option of London, England.)
Spend 3 weeks in France ( Paris, Grenoble, and South-of-France/Cannes area, possibly Nice and other surrounding cities.)And 1 week in Germany (Cologne, Berlin, Munich). – I may not be able to do all in the 1 week but they are my city options.-
I am debating the best economic option between flying into Germany and leaving out of France (or into France out of Germany). Or, possibly flying into London and taking a ferry to France then Germany. Considering routes and the Eurail pass (regional). What is your opinion on my best route options and things to consider.

Thank you so much for your help.

 

    Ann,

    Without knowing where you are starting from, it’s not easy to comment on getting to Europe. But in my own research I find that round-trips to Europe tend to be quite a bit cheaper than two one-way flights using different cities. Sometimes an offline travel agent can arrange a good price on an “open jaw” ticket like that, and sometimes you can get lucky and find two one-ways that are cheap enough that it’s the best option. One thing to consider in Europe is to buy a round-trip into, say, Paris, and then finding a cheap one-way flight on a low cost carrier to complete the circuit from your final destination. If you book early enough you can often find a flight from Berlin to Paris for maybe €50, rather than taking a train back to Paris for the flight home.

    If you do want to go from London to France you’ll probably want to take the Eurostar“> rather than a ferry, unless you are planning on lingering in one of the coastal towns. The Eurostar takes only 3 hours from central London to central Paris, and if you buy that ticket early it can be fairly cheap. The ferry option is way slower and kind of a hassle as well.

    One week in those three German cities would be at a very fast pace, but at least Cologne is pretty compact and two days there are enough.

    And as you probably know, the train tickets within France and Germany are quite expensive if you buy them on short notice. The cheapest way to go is probably to buy all of your train tickets online at least a month in advance. If you want the ability to create and change plans as you go, which seems like it would be preferable on a trip like this, then the France and Germany Rail Pass would be ideal. Those get cheaper with the greater number of travel days that you choose and if you get either the 8 Days or 10 Days version it becomes quite a good deal. As you probably know, you’ll need a seat reservation for most or all of those train rides, and those can a pricey on certain trains in France, but those same trains are far more expensive if you book them as you go.

    Of course, you’ll want to have a pretty good idea of just how many train trips you might take, and how long most of those are, in order to know the best option. From the looks of it, you are planning at least 6 or 7 longer rides. If you don’t think you’ll want to do most or all of those, then a rail pass probably isn’t worth it. But if you do want to do 6 or more of those, then it probably is, unless you are willing to book a month or more in advance. Once you have a better idea of where you want to go, the best route will probably become pretty obvious. If it’s not, I’ll be happy to try to help.

    And by the way, I definitely recommend basing yourself in Nice if you want to explore the South of France. It’s more interesting and way more budget friendly than Cannes or Monaco, and you can reach either of those in 20 to 30 minutes by train on a day trip. -Roger

     
      Ann says:

      Thank you so much for answering.

      So, possibly I could do just two cities in Germany.
      In choosing how many days that I will be traveling – what’s the best method for figuring out the actual amount of days we would be traveling. I mean should I add an extra day in the equation just in case we decide to go somewhere else? Wouldn’t the Eurail work to go from Nice to Cannes?

      Again, Thanks.

       

        Ann,

        I’m not sure what you mean when asking how you should figure out the amount of days you’ll be traveling. Many people make a schedule long before they arrive, and stick to it. Other people like to have a day or two or three to change plans along the way as they go.

        If you buy a continuous Eurail Pass, as in, one that is valid for 14 or 21 straight days, then you could use it to go from Nice to Cannes. But on the passes that are Flexi Passes, like those that allow 10 travel days within 2 months, you wouldn’t want to use a travel day. From Nice to Cannes it’s maybe a 30-minute train ride, leaving very 20 or 30 minutes. It’s probably about €12 to get to Cannes and back to Nice, and about the same to go to Monaco on an even shorter train ride.

        I’m happy to try to answer your question if you ask again. -Roger

         
sp lim says:

Hi Roger,

First of all i would like to thank you for maintaining all these helpful information on this website.

We are seeking to travel for around 2 weeks starting from Bratislava from 22 June 14 onwards. We aren’t very sure if we should buy the Eurail Global Pass. And countries that we are interested in would be Italy( Florence, Rome, Milan, Venice), France (Nice, Paris) and then maybe end in London or Paris. (maybe we could end in Spain?)

Any advice would be appreciated! We stay in Singapore, so we are not very certain with the routes. Hope you could give us some guidance on how we could travel around the above mention cities.

Thank you very much!
Lim