Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Travel Blog: Eurail Pass and My Experience

Next to airfare, my Eurail pass was one of the most expensive things I bought for my trip to Europe.
Is a rail pass necessary??  Not necessarily, it depends on where you go and how long you're traveling for.  Try calculating point-to-point tickets for each segment of your trip and comparing those prices to the cost of a pass.  I would say in general, at least in my experience, the Eurail Pass was an excellent investment and it saved us a lot of money.
There are several different types of Eurail passes with varying fares, but we settled on a Global Flexi Pass, which covered all 22 countries, and gave us a choice of 10 (non-consecutive) travel days within 2 months.  There are also consecutive passes available which range anywhere from 15 days to 3 months of unlimited travel.  However I opted for the Flexi pass since I knew we weren't going to be traveling every day, and it gave us room to change our itinerary around, which we did end up doing.  We also qualified for a Youth Pass, which is a discounted fare for those under the age of 26 for 2nd class seats.  At the time I purchased the rail passes, they were $525 each (10-days in 2 months Global Flexi Pass), but currently they are $577 on the Eurail website.  For those of you purchasing your railpass at the end of the year, I had read online that Eurail passes get more expensive starting Jan.1st, so it's better to buy your passes before the year is over.  I'm not sure how true this is since I have noticed the prices change quite frequently because of the exchange rate, but I did buy my passes right at the end of December just to be safe.
Eurail Pass Ticket
I have to be honest and say that purchasing the railpass itself was very troublesome.  I had initially wanted to purchase the pass directly through  They usually offer an Amazon gift card with a $500 purchase, and I wanted to take advantage of that.  However, when I tried to use my credit card, it got declined.  Apparently their site is based in the Netherlands, and my bank didn't authorize the transaction because it was out of the country.  I had to call my bank and tell them it was an authorized transaction, and then tried to pay online again and my card still got declined!  In the end I ordered through Raileurope instead, even though it was a little more expensive ($530 instead of $525).  Shipping was very prompt and free if you purchase over $399.  I got my passes within a couple of days of ordering.  Raileurope often has sales and discounts online, so I highly recommend checking them out.
Eurail Pass and Travel Log
Using the pass is fairly simple.  We didn't actually need to use our pass until we were leaving Rome.  All you need to do before your first use is to have it validated at any ticket window.  You need your passport in order to validate your pass.  All they do is stamp it and mark in the start and end dates on your pass (for us it was 2 months time).  For a Flexi pass, each time you use it, you need to fill in the date portion on the ticket, which indicates that you're using the pass for the duration of that day,  You also need to fill in the travel log portion on the lower half with the departure and destination stations, train number and date.  DO NOT remove the travel log portion on your ticket!  Your ticket is invalid without it, and I have read online that people who have removed their travel logs have had problems, so leave it on!  When they come to check tickets on the train, all you need to do is show them your pass.  In my experience, they only checked the actual ticket portion and not the travel log, so I don't think it really matters if it's filled out.  There were several times we forgot to fill out the travel log before hand, and had no problems.
Reservation fees are also something you need to keep in mind when you're using a rail pass.  Reservations are not necessary on all trains, but some do require reservations.  Deutche Bahn is an excellent site to find train time tables and to plan your route!  They also have a free android app which I used a ton in Europe.  This site will indicate which segments of your trip require reservations.  Most reservations fees were quite small, and some didn't require any.  Here's a breakdown by country:
Intercity (IC) Trains (2nd class)- 3 euros
Frecciarossa (Eurostar AV)- 10 euros
Thalys (To Brussels)- 23 euros
So those were the countries that had mandatory train reservations.  I have to admit, despite paying a bit more to reserve a seat, I think it's worth it, especially on busier routes.  Waking through four train cars trying to find an open seat kind of sucks, and there was at least one time where we had to stand until a seat opened up. 
Anyway, if you're planning to go to Europe or thinking about buying a Eurail Pass I hope you found this post helpful.  As always, if you have any questions feel free to comment below!

Some helpful links:

1 comment:

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