How To Travel Around Europe For a Month With a Eurail Pass

eurail pass

So you’ve decided to visit Europe this summer, and you’re still undecided about getting a Eurail pass. Is it worth the price? Wouldn’t it be simpler to just book tickets whenever you need to? What about the schedules and the fees?

Fret not, fellow travellers.

I went through the terrible ordeal (LOL I don’t think anything this sarcastic has ever been written) of testing the Eurail pass for you so that you’ll know exactly what you’re getting yourself into before you commit to it. I travelled around Europe for four weeks, taking 11 trains through 7 cities in 5 countries, mixing local slow trains with swift high-speed ones, to see if the pass was as easy to use as Eurail claims it to be.

Newsflash: it is.

eurail pass
eurail pass
 
Amsteram Centraal
First-class Swedish trains
 

Eurail Pass: What It Includes

There are basically three flexible options to choose from: a GLOBAL pass (which gives you access to all countries covered by Eurail), a SELECT pass (for which you can pick your top 2, 3 or 4 countries), and a ONE COUNTRY pass (that’s kind of self-explanatory, isn’t it?). Each pass allows you to travel for X number of “travel days”, i.e., a 24 hour period (starting every day at midnight) within which you are granted unlimited train travel with your pass. You will also need to select a first or second class fare.

To figure out which pass is best for you, you will first need a finalised itinerary that includes which countries you intend on visiting as well as how many times you will be in transit. Here are a few ideas for your itinerary:

What your passes include is simple: train travel on the Eurail network. The technicalities of what that entails can change depending on the country you’re in and the type of train you’re taking: some high-speed trains are simply not covered, some overnight trains require advanced seat reservations (I’ll come back to this later).

Note that you don’t need a month-long pass just because your trip is a month long: you only need a pass that will cover days where you will be in transit.

eurail passMy 1st class global pass and the seat reservation for the Amsterdam-Paris leg

Eurail Pass: How It Works

You will receive your pass in the mail a few days after you’ve placed your order. Hold on to it (don’t even think about packing it in your checked luggage!) until your first day of train travel and head to the station’s reservation desk, where a railway official will validate your pass –  which, by the way, is virtually worthless without this validation stamp.

From this point on, all you need to do is write down the date of travel each time you board a train (unless you take more than one train a day). It is very important that you do this before the conductor checks your pass; otherwise, you will have to pay a hefty fine and a full fare ticket.

eurail pass
eurail pass
 

Eurail Pass: About Seat Reservations

Don’t worry: it’s very straightforward. Once again, you will need to get to the reservation desk. Just show your pass, explain where you want to go and when, and voilà! If you’ve done your homework and you’ve established a definite itinerary, then there shouldn’t be any issues. Remember that fees vary depending on the length of the journey and whether you travel in first or second class.

Do you absolutely need to reserve your seat?

Not at all! If you really don’t want to pay for seat reservations, you can choose to travel exclusively on slow or local trains. But overnight and high-speed trains do require reservations. You see, some of these trains only have a limited number of seats available for pass holders and they tend to sell out quickly; if you plan on travelling on popular routes, try to reserve your seat as early as possible.

It’s worth noting that in my experience, the process of reserving seats is usually simpler in bigger cities, for two reasons: officials usually speak better English, and they’re a little savvier about optimal routes and fares. If you find a particularly cooperative clerk, you can even ask them to reserve the seats you’ll be needing on the entire duration of your trip and get everything done in just one transaction!

Good to know: you can pre-book your reservations with Eurail directly, but there are additional fees for that service that I think are unnecessary. You’re better off doing it yourself.

eurail pass
eurail pass
 
København Station
Paris Gare du Nord
 

Eurail Pass: Is It Worth It?

Because I tend to bite off more than I can chew and that I always seem to embark on epic multi-country journeys, the Eurail pass was very much worth its price in my case. I’m positive that they haven’t made a centime of profit with me on this trip; I was quite thorough in taking trains for review purposes!

Whether or not they’re worth it for you, though, depends on your itinerary and travel style.

The bottom line: Eurail passes are worth it if you plan on doing long, multi-destination trips in countries that are typically expensive. They’re probably not worth it otherwise.

Don’t automatically assume that you need a pass for your trip: take some time to sit down and do the math. You can use tools like Rail Europe or Deutsche Bahn to find out the cost of each train journey and see if the pass is worth your while.

It should be noted, though, that peace of mind has a price. Not having to worry about queuing up for a ticket, going through several transactions, and worrying about the cost every time is definitely something to consider here. I call that the “hassle” factor: if it seems daunting to go through that process every time you take the train, then maybe you should consider getting a pass. You’re on holiday, after all!

eurail passStockholm Centralstation

Eurail Pass and European Trains:
Technicalities & Random Observations

  • Keep an eye out for sales; Eurail often offers free travel days and discounted passes.
  • First or second class? I found first class cabins to be more comfortable, better equipped (often with numerous power sockets and free WiFi, sometimes even free coffee and snacks), and much quieter than second class. But that doesn’t imply that second class cabins are bad in any way!
  • If you know you will be travelling with the same group of people for every train ride, think about getting a Eurail saver pass. This special pass will give you 15% off adult fares and 100% off on children fares.
  • Tempted to book cheap flights instead? Think again. Trains are much better than planes, for plenty of reasons: they’re not as stressful (no security checks), they take you from city centre to city centre, they’re incredibly scenic and give you more legroom.
  • If you’re worried about the cost of seat reservations in 1st class, ask to be seated in 2nd class for that leg of your trip!
  • Eurail pass holders receive exclusive benefits, like free travel on suburban metro railways (S-Bahn) in major German cities, free travel on buses international bus routes departing from Germany, discounted ferry fares across Europe, and even free cruises on seven lakes in Switzerland.

I received a complimentary pass from Eurail for review purposes. All opinions are my own.
 

33 Comments on How To Travel Around Europe For a Month With a Eurail Pass

  1. Heather @ Ferreting Out the Fun
    March 3, 2016 at 3:31 am (1 year ago)

    If only Latvia was connected to Europe’s rail lines! It’s supposedly going to happen, but not for quite some time. I would love to explore the continent this way!

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      March 5, 2016 at 3:20 pm (1 year ago)

      Me too! They are slowly adding countries; when I first did a Eurail trip around Europe, Poland wasn’t included. Slowly but surely!

      Reply
  2. Map & Fork
    March 4, 2016 at 2:42 am (1 year ago)

    We made a 3 weeks train tour through Scandinavia in January with this pass and it was amazing!

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      March 5, 2016 at 3:15 pm (1 year ago)

      Glad to hear! The trains up there are wonderful and comfortable!

      Reply
  3. Hung Thai
    March 4, 2016 at 2:06 pm (1 year ago)

    This looks pretty straightforward and similar to the Japan Rail pass that we purchased for our trip to Japan last year. It was one of the best decisions we made – so you’ve sold me on the Eurail Pass without much convincing :)

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      March 5, 2016 at 3:13 pm (1 year ago)

      Yay! You’ll have an amazing time in Europe with the pass. It’s pretty similar to the Japan Rail Pass, except you need to write down the days where you travel.

      Reply
  4. Mary @ Green Global Travel
    March 7, 2016 at 3:40 pm (1 year ago)

    Great information about the Eurail pass. It certainly is a lifesaver for those who travel around Europe a lot by train. It’s also great that you don’t have to reserve a seat.

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      March 11, 2016 at 11:12 am (1 year ago)

      Yes it’s a great and easy way to travel around Europe!

      Reply
  5. Miriam
    March 9, 2016 at 6:29 am (1 year ago)

    Great post and very comprehensive, Marie-Eve! I’m planning a trip through Europe in May so your post comes at a perfect time :)

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      March 11, 2016 at 11:11 am (1 year ago)

      Thanks Miriam! Have a great trip.

      Reply
  6. Greg Kennon
    May 24, 2016 at 10:09 am (1 year ago)

    Wow! I knew a little bit about how the europass worked, but a trip to Europe definitely just got moved up the list!

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      May 26, 2016 at 1:55 pm (1 year ago)

      Enjoy your trip Greg!

      Reply
  7. Alexandra
    June 24, 2016 at 7:05 pm (1 year ago)

    Hi There,
    Love your blog, it’s really helpful. I was looking at the euro pass also and was wondering do you need to book a seat every time and if you want to reserve a seat for a train where do you do this and can you catch any train with this pass?

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      June 25, 2016 at 1:15 pm (1 year ago)

      Thanks Alexandra! You don’t need to book a seat every time unless you travel on high-speed trains; then reservations are compulsory, as well as expensive. If you want to save on costs, you can always sit in the second class.

      Reply
  8. Fiona
    August 12, 2016 at 2:44 pm (11 months ago)

    Hi! This was very helpful, thank you!

    Quick question, you said “Note that you don’t need a month-long pass just because your trip is a month long: you only need a pass that will cover days where you will be in transit.”
    If I am wanting an unlimited pass for all countries I would need to buy the month long pass right? Or can you get a 15 of 30 days for any/all countries?

    Thanks!

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      August 17, 2016 at 1:57 pm (11 months ago)

      Happy to help Fiona! Basically, you only need a pass that covers all your travel days, i.e., all days where you will be taking the train (which I doubt will be every day). If you are adamant about getting an unlimited pass, you can get a 15-day, 22-day, 1, 2 or 3-month continuous pass. http://www.eurail.com/eurail-passes/global-pass

      Reply
  9. Nikki
    August 18, 2016 at 11:08 am (11 months ago)

    My two friends and I went on a three and a half week trip through four countries (one leg took us over 24 hours!) but we found this entire article to be true. Thanks for posting!

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      August 22, 2016 at 6:19 pm (11 months ago)

      Glad you could relate Nikki!

      Reply
  10. Rejoice
    September 14, 2016 at 5:11 pm (10 months ago)

    This is such an awesome post. Just a question . You mentioned and I’ve read somewhere that you have to buy the pass from outside of Europe . How long after you buy do they send it out? I’m in South Africa but would have wanted to buy once I get to Europe and decide on my Itenirary. 4
    Thanks .

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      September 19, 2016 at 6:42 pm (10 months ago)

      Yes, if you purchase a Eurail pass you have to get it delivered to your home country. It usually ships within a day or two.

      Reply
  11. Jenn
    November 29, 2016 at 12:57 pm (8 months ago)

    Are the high speed trains included with the Eurail pass?

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      December 1, 2016 at 10:43 am (8 months ago)

      The trains are but the reservations are not, and they are compulsory on high speed trains.

      Reply
  12. Felicia
    January 2, 2017 at 1:16 am (7 months ago)

    Hi! I love your blog you have such interesting and inspiring posts!! I’m planning a trip to Europe with my family and we want to go to lots of the countries. I think 1 month would be a good amount of time. But how do you afford the expenses of hotels and food and other tourist stuff if you have to pay for all that for a month???
    Thanks!!!

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      January 17, 2017 at 12:58 pm (6 months ago)

      Well, accommodation is a necessary expense and makes up most of the budget. I would suggest getting apartments if you’re travelling as a family, that way you can cut down on accommodation costs and some of the food costs as well by eating in for breakfast and some dinners. Lunches in restaurants are always cheaper than dinners.

      Reply
  13. Jann van't Soyker
    February 5, 2017 at 9:50 pm (6 months ago)

    When we used Eurail passes I bought the pass with a bonus 5 days and made all our seat reservations on my laptop in my living room. So we had all our tickets etc. before we even went to the airport. All done in English in my own time. It worked brilliantly. We used super fast trains, local chuggers, caught buses and cruised the Rhine all on our Eurail pass.

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      February 7, 2017 at 11:05 am (5 months ago)

      So glad to hear you had a positive experience!

      Reply
  14. Amit
    February 17, 2017 at 1:20 pm (5 months ago)

    Hi,
    Thank you for this information.
    I have one question, what if I’m planning to travel across Europe over next 6 months. Some days every month or alternate month as i get holidays. Will it still be a worth investment?

    Reply
  15. Shenna
    March 26, 2017 at 10:07 am (4 months ago)

    Hi Marie-Eve,

    Im heading over to Europe later this year. Im so thankful I found this one and pinned it in Pinterest for me to go over and re read again once I get all the things needed. 😍

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      March 27, 2017 at 12:13 pm (4 months ago)

      So glad I could help Shenna! Have a great trip.

      Reply
  16. Anna
    April 17, 2017 at 5:15 am (3 months ago)

    Salut Marie-Eve!

    I’ve just gone through this whole process and I would like to update you: you *can* now use a Eurail pass to travel on Eurostar *as long as your pass is valid in the country in which you arrive*, a seat reservation is of course required, and the cheapest way I found to make my seat reservations (Eurostar and Thalys) was to book them all through b-europe.com, the Belgian railways site (no booking fees, and print-at-home tickets)! Eurostar was €38 each way in Standard Premier, Thalys €25 Amsterdam-Brussels, and €35 Paris-Cologne.

    I also found Deutsche Bahn excellent, and first-class seat reservations for Berlin-Stuttgart (direct, 5h30m), Hamburg-Osnabruck-Duisburg-Amsterdam (change twice, stopping in Osnabruck for lunch-with-a-friend, 5h total), Brussels-Cologne-Berlin (change once, 6h+), and Cologne-Hannover-Hamburg (change once, 4h) were each only €5.90!

    Eurail pass was CAD580 for 5 days + 1 free day in 2 months, approx CAD192 for the high-speed reservations, and approx CAD33.40 for the German reservations. Individually I would have paid CAD1310 all up, so I saved CAD500+.

    I am a hearty endorser of the Eurail pass!!!

    Amitiés,

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      April 26, 2017 at 4:44 pm (3 months ago)

      Wonderful news! Will update the article shortly. Thanks Anna!

      Reply
  17. Lisa Lee
    April 30, 2017 at 9:26 pm (3 months ago)

    Hi, I have a question on this comment:”Eurail pass holders receive exclusive benefits, like free travel on suburban metro railways (S-Bahn) in major German cities, free travel on buses international bus routes departing from Germany, discounted ferry fares across Europe, and even free cruises on seven lakes in Switzerland.” Do I have to get these benefit on my Euopass travel day? Or it doesn’t count the day, the free can be use any day during the pass validity period?

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      May 3, 2017 at 12:04 pm (3 months ago)

      Logically speaking these perks are only valid on usable travel days.

      Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Comment *






12,7K Shares