Traveling around Europe gives you many decisions to make.
Where do you want to go?
What do you want to see?
How are you going to see it?
How are you going to travel?
Pre-planning is certainly the way forward in my opinion. In the past I have been accused of planning everything too much, but it’s never done me wrong so far. In terms of traveling around Europe by train, pre-planning and a bit of maths is certainly the way forward when working out the cheapest way to do it.
Eurail offers a pass which gives you a certain amount of rail travel around Europe, with some restrictions. It firstly depends on the class of pass you purchase, and the more you pay, the more freedom you will have. For instance, the Global Pass covers 28 countries, which means you have total freedom, within the list of countries. If you pay less, you have less options.
Seeing Europe by train is an amazing experience, and I think this is probably the best way to truly get an idea of how the landscapes change as you change countries, and get a real sense of how each is subtly different from the rest as you cross borders. Despite the plus points, rail travel does have its downsides.
If you do buy a pass, there will probably be limited seats on each service for passholders, so you need to get there early. Passes these days are harder to use than they used to be, basically because trains are now in competition with other companies, as well as airlines, which sometimes offer ridiculously cheap airfares between countries. The restrictions in place can make rail travel difficult to navigate, but you shouldn’t let that put you off, because pre-planning, as we mentioned before, will get you through.
So, is a Eurail pass worth the money?
It’s important to figure this out for your individual journey really, because we’re not talking about pennies here, and any money you can save will come in very handy. You need to do your sums, and by that I mean you need to figure out where you’re going, and find out whether it’s cheaper to buy the ticket on the day, book in advance, or plan it all by the price of a pass.
What this does however is take away the fly by the seat of your pants feeling of hopping on and off of trains.
There is no straight answer to whether a pass is worth the money, because every case is different. For instance, if you know where you’re going and when, and it’s still a few months down the line, I’d consider booking your journey the old fashioned way ahead of time, because the earlier you book, the cheaper the journey will be, and you have all your tickets sorted out.
If however you’re planning on disappearing next week for a rail journey around the continent, then yes, a rail pass will probably be your cheaper option, because last minute rail journeys are more expensive, as we know from our own experiences back home. Prices are never static, they go up and down.
Do your maths, work out your route, and find out the cheaper option for you – at the end of the day, the Eurail pass certainly has its place on the market, but it doesn’t work for everyone.