Eurail Passes – A Complete Guide
What is a Eurail Pass?
A Eurail pass is a train ticket (created by the European train consortium ‘Eurail’) that gives you access to you to travel 22 different countries within Europe. The phrase ‘Eurail pass’ is often used as an abbreviated version of the term ‘Euro rail pass’.
There are many types of Eurail passes available, and when buying you must specify the length of time you want it for and the amount of Eurail travel days you need. For example, you might buy a pass for a month (meaning you can travel at any time within that month) but only have 5 travel days available (meaning you can only travel on Eurail trains 5 days within that month).
Why Should You Buy a Eurail Pass?
Eurail passes were primarily created for people traveling around Europe. Because of this, they’re highly suited to those traveling across multiple countries over the course of a 30-60 days.
In addition to this, you can buy one before you set off for your trip – enabling you to plan your finances better as you already know exactly how much your train journeys will cost you.
Lastly, having a European rail pass allows you to be more spontaneous and adventurous in your traveling, as you can jump on a train anytime you want and travel to anywhere your pass allows.
Train Travel Days
I mentioned earlier that you’re allotted a set amount of ‘travel’ days with your pass, but what exactly counts as a travel day?
A travel day is essentially a 24 hour period which you can travel in. You are allowed to travel on multiple trains within this day.
For example, let’s say you have 5 travel days. This means that on 5 separate days you can travel anywhere that the pass allows, as long as it doesn’t take longer than 24 hours (which no reasonable train journey in Europe should).
Note that the 24 hour period starts at midnight each day (and runs to midnight the following day), NOT at the time you board your first train.
European Night Trains
What about overnight trains? Some trains won’t arrive until after midnight, so do they count as one or two travel days? Eurail has very strict guidelines on this:
- If you board a train before 7:00pm (19:00) but that train does not arrive at your stop until after midnight, this only counts as ONE travel day.
- If you board a train before 7:00pm (19:00) then change trains before midnight and carry on your journey past midnight, this will count as TWO travel days.
- If you board a train that is specified as an ‘overnight’ train (i.e. on an overnight train route), in most cases this will only count as ONE travel day.
A Look at the Different Kinds of Eurail Passes Available
There are several different types of Eurail train pass available, so which is right for you?
Eurail pass prices differ drastically between the different types, so it’s important to buy the one that suits your trip. Before buying, it’s good to have an idea of where you want to go, how long you’re traveling for and how many European countries you want to visit so that you can buy accordingly.
Here’s a quick guide to help you decide:
- Are you traveling to 3 to 5 different European countries? Buy the Selectpass.
- Are you traveling to over 5 countries? Buy the Global Youthpass. This allows you to travel to up to 18 countries. Note that your travel days must be consecutive, meaning its best suited to those traveling a lot in a short space of time.
- Want to travel to 5+ countries AND flexible travel days? Buy the Global Flexipass.
- Click here to tailor-make your Eurail pass.
Eurail Youth Pass
If you’re under the age of 26 you automatically qualify for the Eurail youth pass (also known as the ‘student pass’). Note that you don’t actually need to be a student (i.e. registered in formal education) to qualify – you only need to be younger than 26.
These cheap Eurail passes are purchased in the same way as normal – you’re just given a discount on the price.
Where to Buy Your Euro Rail Pass
You can buy your Eurail pass online via the Eurail website. Click here to buy your Eurail pass online.
For more information about rail Europe, check out this page.
Validating Your Pass
Before you can start using your Eurail train pass you’ll first have to get it validated. This requires you to decide (and notify Eurail) when you want your pass to ‘begin’ (i.e. the date when you can start using it).
Because passes are valid for set time periods, it’s important that you validate it at the right time (i.e. at the start of your trip around Europe).
Will My Eurail Pass Allow Me to Travel on the Eurostar?
No. The Eurostar train (that travels from London to Paris/Brussel) is not part of the Eurail network (meaning your pass won’t permit you to travel on it).
When traveling on the busier routes or on night trains, it’s a good idea to reserve a seat ahead of time, as you’ll want to be sure you’ve got a seat and because some night trains actually require you to reserve beforehand. Note that there is usually a small charge for reserving (around €2).
If you don’t have access to the internet, you can make a reservation at the train station before departure (give yourself at least half an hour to do so).
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