How to use a Eurail pass

Buy a Eurail train pass online

Buy a pass from Eurail.com

Buy a pass online at www.eurail.com and load it into the Railplanner app. You can activate it any time in the next 11 months.  More info.

Click here for the Eurail reservations guide.

Download the Eurail map.

 

Eurail or Interrail?

Before we start, which of Europe's two great railpass ranges applies to you?

small bullet point  If you live in Europe including the UK you qualify for Interrail, so hop over to the Interrail page.

small bullet point  If you live in America, Australasia, Asia or Africa you qualify for a Eurail pass, read on...

What is a Eurail pass?

Eurail is the railpass range for overseas visitors, giving unlimited train travel across most of Europe with a global pass, or in the country of your choice with a single-country pass.  This page talks you through buying & using a Eurail pass, and whether a Eurail pass or point-to-point tickets is best.  I'll tell it like it is, you may find cheap train tickets a better deal.

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Why see Europe by train: train vs. car, flight, bus

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What is a Eurail pass & who qualifies?

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Eurail pass types explained

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Eurail pass prices

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How to buy a Eurail pass

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Is Eurail cheaper than point-to-point tickets?

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How does a Eurail pass work?

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When do you need a reservation?

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Using a pass on overnight trains

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How to use a mobile pass

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How to use a hard-copy pass

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How to make reservations

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Other useful railpasses - Swiss Pass, Germany, Spain & Balkan passes

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Recommended timetables, maps & guidebooks

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Tips for booking accommodation in Europe

small bullet point  Download the Eurail map showing train routes in the participating countries.

small bullet point  Eurail reservations guide:  Which specific trains & operators are covered in each country?  Which specific trains need a reservation, how much does it cost & can it be booked online?

Useful train travel information...

small bullet point  General information for train travel in Europe

small bullet point  Where to buy cheap point-to-point tickets

small bullet point  1st class versus 2nd class

small bullet point  Luggage on trains & luggage storage at stations

small bullet point  Sleepers & couchettes explained


Trains, buses, flights or hire car?

Whether you use a Eurail pass or buy cheap advance-purchase tickets, the train is the best way to tour Europe in comfort, relaxed, seeing a lot in a short time.  It's not just about transportation:  Train travel is part of the European way of life, the train rides are an experience in themselves - in some cases a highlight of your trip.  A Eurail pass gives you freedom & flexibility, or you can buy 'budget train fares' by booking in advance, just as you would with a budget airline.

Europe with a Eurail pass: German ICE train at Brussels   Seeing Europe with a Eurail pass:  A 2-bed City Night Line sleeper as used Amsterdam-Prague or Paris-Berlin   Europe by Eurail: Restaurant car on an ICE from Vienna to Frankfurt   Europe with a Eurail pass:  Scenery from Milan-Paris TGV train

Speed & practicality...

European trains link almost every city & town at up to 200 mph, often faster than flying as there's no trek to the airport, no 2-hour check-in, no airport security hassle.  A '1 hour flight' takes 4 hours.  Paris-Amsterdam now takes 3h20 by train, Paris-Geneva 3h05...

 

Comfort, relaxation,

a chance to chill out...

...unlike flying, train travel is relaxed & hassle-free.  Unlike bus travel it's high comfort.  Aren't you on vacation?  On trains, you get space to move around, lots of legroom and often a cafι, bar or even restaurant.  Overnight sleeper trains cover huge distances such as Zurich to Prague or Paris to Venice, effectively faster than flying and it saves hotel bill, too.  The train journeys become a welcome chance to chill out between cities...

 

Scenery & the experience...

...and there's often superb scenery.  Your train journeys are an integral part of the European experience, something to enjoy for their own sake, giving you a ground-level feel for the countries you're visiting...

Above:  Scenery from a Milan-Paris TGV, feet up & glass of wine to hand.

Things to consider...

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What is a Eurail pass?

Who qualifies for a Eurail pass?

Which countries participate in Eurail?

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Eurail pass types explained

 

It's quite simple, even simpler since 2019 when selectpasses & saver passes were discontinued, leaving just One-country or Global Eurail passes, in 1st or 2nd class, for each passenger age group:  Adult, youth, senior, child...

Who's going?

Where are you going?

How long for?

You can buy Eurail passes giving unlimited train travel for various periods of time.  But you need to get your head around two different concepts.

1st or 2nd class?

Other railpasses for Switzerland, Spain & Germany...

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Eurail pass prices

They're priced in euros, but obviously you can buy in your own currency.  You can check these prices and buy online at the official Eurail website www.eurail.com As I write this, 1 USD = €0.88, 1 AUD = €0.61.  Check current exchange rates.

 Eurail global
 pass prices
2nd class 1st class

Adult

(aged 28-59)

Youth

(under 28)

Child

(under 12)

Senior

(over 60)

Adult

(aged 28-59)

Youth

(under 28)

Child

(under 12)

Senior

(over 60)

4 days in 1 month (flexi) €246 €185 €0 €221 €328 €246 €0 €295
5 days in 1 month (flexi) €282 €212 €0 €254 €376 €282 €0 €338
7 days in 1 month (flexi) €335 €251 €0 €302 €446 €335 €0 €401
10 days in 2 months (flexi) €401 €301 €0 €361 €534 €401 €0 €481
15 days in 2 months (flexi) €493 €370 €0 €444 €657 €493 €0 €591
15 days continuous €443 €332 €0 €399 €590 €443 €0 €531
22 days continuous €518 €389 €0 €466 €690 €518 €0 €621
1 month continuous €670 €503 €0 €603 €893 €670 €0 €804
2 months continuous €731 €548 €0 €658 €975 €731 €0 €878
3 months continuous €902 €677 €0 €812 €1,202 €902 €0 €1,082

You can check one-country pass prices at www.eurail.com...

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How to buy a Eurail pass...

Buy a pass direct from www.eurail.com and load it into the Railplanner app on your phone. More info.

Interrail - Eurail pass logo

Buy a pass from Eurail.com

Hard-copy pass or mobile pass?

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Is a Eurail pass cheaper than point-to-point tickets?

 

A simple example...

My advice, without doing the maths...

To work it out accurately, do the maths...

Typical Eurail pass example:  Rome - Florence - Venice...

Typical Eurail pass example:  Berlin - Prague - Vienna - Budapest...

Typical Eurail pass example:  London - Paris - Brussels - Amsterdam...

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How does a Eurail pass work?

When do you need a reservation?

 

Where do you need reservations?

...an easy rule of thumb

 

Map showing where Eurail pass reservations are required

 

Green = Travel freely!  Pass-friendly countries, seat reservation usually optional.

Yellow = Travel easy!  Also pass-friendly, reservation often required, but no big deal, the same €2-€5 that any passenger with a full-price ticket pays.

Red = All inter-city trains require a special passholder reservation, budget for €10 a pop. Some international trains to/from France charge €20-€40.

Can I avoid paying reservation fees?

 

A 2-berth sleeper

 

Couchette (4-bunk)

 

2-berth sleeper:  A typical 2-berth sleeper, berths made up.  More info.

 

Couchettes, 4-berth:  Much more room than 6-berth!  More info.

Overnight trains...

How to use a mobile pass...

Interrail mobile pass - planner   Interrail mobile pass - My trip   Interrail mobile pass - My pass   Interrail mobile pass, ticket   Interrail mobile pass, ticket lower

1. Planner:  Click Save journey to save a journey to My Trip.

 

2. My Trip:  Edit as you like.  Toggle to add a journey to your pass.

 

3. My Pass:  Click Show ticket when the conductor comes along.

 

4. Interrail ticket, upper.  The conductor will scan the QR code.

 

5. Interrail ticket, lower, showing list of trains added to pass.

How to use a hard-copy pass...

Example Interrail pass   Interrail pass travel diary

Hard-copy pass:  This is a 10-days in 2 months Interrail global Flexi pass, Eurail passes are virtually identical.

 

The Eurail train travel diary: You need to fill this out each time you board a train.  Larger image.

How can I find out more?

Personal 'Travel architect' service:  DiscoverByRail.com...

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How to make reservations

Option 1, online at the train operator's website...

Option 2, online using the Eurail reservation service...

Option 3, online at b-europe.com (Eurostar & Thalys only)...

Option 4, in person at the station...

The Railplanner App...

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Other railpasses worth knowing about...

Eurail is the main pass range for overseas visitors to Europe, but several countries also have their own national railpasses which can be worth knowing about as they can often be better value if you are just visiting that specific country.

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Timetables & map...

European Rail Timetable -  click to buy onlineRail Map of Europe - buy onlineThe European Rail timetable has train, bus & ferry times for every country in Europe (eastern and western) plus currency and climate information.  It is definitely worth buying if you're planning an extensive tour with a Eurail pass - having your own comprehensive timetable puts you in control of your own trip, and will save you hours in queues for station information desks or struggling with station timetables which show only the most basic information.  It costs around £15.99 from www.europeanrailtimetable.eu.

The European Rail Map of Europe is easily the best and most comprehensive map of train routes all over Europe.  High speed and scenic routes are highlighted - well worth buying to go with your rail pass!  Buy online at www.europeanrailtimetable.eu (with worldwide delivery).  There are other maps & even two good European Rail Atlases, see here.

The all-Europe online timetable:  You can check train times for almost any European train journey online at www.bahn.de/en.  This is an extremely useful resource for trip planning, provided by the German Railways.

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Recommended guidebooks...

If you're planning a grand tour, I strongly recommend investing in a European Rail Timetable for in-depth train information, and the relevant Lonely Planet Guide for in-depth country information on the sights to see, places to stay, places to eat.  Alternatively, the Europe by Rail guide combines basic train info with country information.

Click the images to buy online at Amazon.com (USA) or buy from Amazon.co.uk (UK)...

Europe by Rail - click to buy online at Amazon   Lonely Planet Western Europe - click to buy online   Lonely Planet Eastern Europe - buy online at Amazon.co.uk   Rough Guide to Europe - click to buy online at Amazon   Lonely Planet Europe on a shoestring - click to buy online

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Hotels & accommodation...

Tips for booking hotels in Europe...

Find hotels at Booking.comMy favourite hotel search site: www.booking.com

www.booking.com is my favourite hotel booking site and I generally prefer booking my hotels all in one place here.  You can usually book with free cancellation - this allows you to confirm your accommodation at no risk before train booking opens.  It also means you can hold accommodation while you finalise your itinerary, and alter your plans as they evolve - a feature I use all the time when putting a trip together.  I never book hotels non-refundably.  I have also come to trust their review scores - you won't be disappointed with anything over 8.0.

Tip:  It can pay to compare prices across multiple hotel sites:  HotelsCombined.com is a price comparison site which compares hotel prices on Booking.com, Hotels.com, Expedia, Accor, Agoda and many others.  Though if there's not much in it, I prefer keeping all my bookings together in one place at www.booking.com.

Other hotels sites worth trying...

www.tripadvisor.com is a huge resource, and a good place to browse independent travellers' reviews of all the main hotels.

Backpacker hostels...

www.hostelworld.com:  If you're on a tight budget, don't forget about backpacker hostels.  Hostelworld offers online booking of cheap private rooms or dorm beds in backpacker hostels in Paris and most other European cities at rock-bottom prices.

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Travel insurance & VPN

 

Staysure travel insurance

 

Confused.com logo

Always take out travel insurance...

You should take out travel insurance with at least £1m or preferably £5m medical cover from a reliable insurer.  It should cover trip cancellation and loss of cash & belongings up to a reasonable limit.  These days, check you're covered for covid-19-related issues, and use an insurer whose cover isn't invalidated by well-meant but excessive Foreign Office travel advice against non-essential travel. An annual policy is usually cheapest even for just 2 or 3 trips a year, I use an annual policy myself.  Don't expect travel insurance to bail you out of every missed connection, see the advice on missed connections here.  Here are some suggested insurers, I get a little commission if you buy through these links, feedback always welcome.

UK flagwww.staysure.co.uk offers enhanced Covid-19 protection & covers you even if the FCDO advises against non-essential travel.

UK flag

If you have a pre-existing medical condition or are over 65, see www.JustTravelCover.com - 10% discount with code seat61.

UK flagYou can use www.confused.com to compare prices & policy features across major insurance companies.

 US flag If you live in the USA try Travel Guard USA.

 

Curve card

Get a Curve card to save on foreign transaction fees...

Banks often give a poor exchange rate, then charge a currency conversion fee as well.  A Curve MasterCard means no foreign transaction fees and gives you the mid-market exchange rate, at least up to a certain limit, £500 per month as I write this.  The balance goes straight onto one of your existing debit or credit cards.  And you can get a Curve card for free.

How it works:  1. Download the app for iPhone or Android.  2. Enter your details & they'll send you a Curve MasterCard - they send to most European addresses including the UK.  3. Link your existing credit & debit cards to the app.  4. Now use the Curve MasterCard to buy things online or in person or take cash from ATMs, just like a normal MasterCard. Curve does the currency conversion and puts the balance onto whichever of your debit or credit cards you choose.  You can even change your mind about which card it goes onto, within 14 days of the transaction.

I use a Curve Blue card myself - I get a little commission if you sign up to Curve, but I'm recommending it here because I think it's great.  See details, download the app and get a Curve card - they'll give you £5 cashback through that link, too.

 

Express VPN

Get a VPN for safe browsing.  VPNs & why you need one explained...

When you're travelling you often use free WiFi in public places which may not be secure.  A VPN means your connection to the internet is encrypted & always secure, even using unsecured WiFi.  In countries such as China where access to Twitter & Facebook is restricted, a VPN gets around these restrictions.  And lastly, you can select the geographic location of the IP address you browse with, to get around geographic restrictions which some websites apply - for example one booking site charges a booking fee to non-European visitors but none to European visitors, so if you're not located in Europe you can avoid this fee by browsing with a UK IP address using a VPN.  VPNs & why you need one explainedExpressVPN is a best buy and I use it myself - I've signed up as an ExpressVPN affiliate, and if you go with expressvpn.com using the links on this page, you should see a special deal, 3 months free with an annual subscription, and I get a small commission to help support this site.


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