Train travel through Europe… Be ready for a hell of a romantic ride…
The essence of Europe lies in its romantic charm and train travel. No wonder, it tops on most honeymooners’ lists, and many are even investing in Eurail Global Passes to make the most of their first trip. Unfortunately, many end up choosing standard packages that tour operators offer. Can’t really blame them, even seasoned travelers like us have been guilty of this. We learnt the hard way, when we found ourselves spending more time on the bus than actually exploring places during these packaged tours! If it hadn’t been for our fun travel buddies these long bus journeys would have been difficult to survive. Phew!
Obviously, first-timers would want to ask us “How should we go about it then?” Well, a romantic destination needs to be explored in a romantic way… and there’s no doubt that Railways and Romance have a connection on primeval level. We got wise after our terrible experience and discovered a great way to explore Europe with our very own special itinerary. We bought Eurail passes! Precisely, Eurail Global Passes.
Guide for Train Travel through Europe with Eurail
What is a Eurail Pass?
Think of it as the only train ticket that you need to buy to travel across Europe. You can order it online, once you’ve decided on the dates to visit. Eurail passes give you the flexibility to choose your destinations and travel there whenever you want through the validity of the pass. Just flash your pass, board the train and off you go, even on sudden impulses (of course some trains would require prior reservations and an additional cost). Plus, these passes give you peace of mind as you need not worry about missing your train. You can always hop on to the next train without having to book a new ticket!
How many types of Eurail Passes are there?
To make it simple there are two basic types of Eurail passes.
- The Eurail Global Pass – if you want to travel by train to any or all of the 31 of the member countries at your own pace, check out the different options that this Global Pass provides. A great benefit for young travelers – if you’re 27 or younger, you can get attractive discounts! Psst.. senior citizens 60 and over need not be disappointed, they can avail discounts too.
- The Eurail One Country Pass – this is the one to go for if you’re planning on thoroughly exploring just one gorgeous European country during your holiday. Additionally, the one country pass for the regions below, give you the advantage of exploring 3 to 4 different countries with just one pass.
- Benelux – Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg
- Scandinavia = Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden
Now say you want to visit Switzerland, Paris, and Italy on your first trip to Switzerland then buying a Eurail global pass would be a wise decision. But if you simply want to explore Germany on a trip of good one or two weeks, Eurail one country pass would be the best choice for you.
So is it worth investing in a Eurail Pass?
Eurail allows you the comfort of booking the ticket online and having it delivered to your home. Also, it’s definitely cheaper than buying multiple single journey tickets. If you plan your journeys in such a way that you travel overnight and explore during the day, you can cleverly save on hotel accommodation. Overnight trains often provide you with a bed for an additional cost. But do check for this in advance. So, yeah… the Eurail passes provide quite a few advantages.
Is it necessary to buy Eurail Pass in advance?
Train tickets from railway counters would cost more. It makes sense to book online in advance and check out the different options and discounts from the comfort of your home.
What about Eurail Pass Validity in European countries?
The most current status as of 2019 is that the Eurail Global pass is valid in 40,000 destinations in 31 participating countries and their national networks.
And if you ask that is it possible to travel to multiple countries using multiple trains with Eurail PASS in a day? Well, the answer is a resounding yes. The Eurail Global pass gives you the freedom to take multiple train journeys per travel day!
How We Had Planned Our Eurail Trip
We were based out of Germany at the time we decided to tour some of the Christmas markets in the region and nearby countries. Since our plan wasn’t to travel continuously, we decided to get ourselves Eurail Global Passes with validity of 15 days within 2 months. So, we had 15 journeys in all, and we thought of visiting prominent German Christmas markets and Christmas markets of Austria & Strasbourg.
Since our work doesn’t allow us continuous travel of a week or so, this 15 days within 2 months Eurail Global Pass worked like a charm. It gave us the flexibility to travel to all the famous Christmas markets in different countries like a breeze. We did not have any limitations or restrictions with our travels. It was possible to hop onto any train at any point of time, and simply enjoy the ride.
No tension, More Fun
Advantages of Train Travel in Europe
Breakfast in Paris…. and Dinner in London…
Sounds fantastic right? With flights, the whole affair of travelling to different European countries becomes cumbersome and taxing. One can easily avoid the whole ruckus of reaching the airport, check-in, flying into another country, and check-out by simply opting for one easy pass by Eurail. Some of the many advantages I’m listing down below:
1. A Great Network of Railways
You just don’t have to confine yourself to the prominent cities in different European countries when it comes to train travel. The train network in Europe is well-laid out and you can travel to anywhere and at anytime with your Eurail Pass. Like I remember the time we were traveling back from Dresden to Rothenburg in Germany, we passed through a picturesque area of Black Forest and promptly decided to stop. It was a spontaneous pit stop and we ended up spending so much time there.
So with a Eurail Pass, be prepared to traverse off the beaten paths and visit those fairytale towns which you otherwise wouldn’t think of visiting with a car or flight.
2. Carry As Much Luggage As You Want
Unlike flight travel, there is no restriction to carrying luggage onboard trains in Europe. Yes, airline ticket can be cheaper in some cases but then they won’t allow extra luggage and you’ll end up paying more for that. With a Eurail Pass, you’d be able to travel with as much luggage as you want as there is no restriction at all. No quantity limit definitely makes train travel cheaper.
3. SO much Ease
Don’t even talk about comfort. If you are traveling first class in European trains like we did, you’d be the happiest person on Earth. Trains are way more comfortable than any airline. There is so much leg room and bigger seats. Plus you can move around smoothly while grabbing refreshments for very fair prices. In some trains, you get complimentary meals as well.
4. Flexible Plans
Train travel through Europe is anytime better than air travel for traveler’s having flexible plans like us. If you like spontaneity and your plans are more like hopping onto any train at any convenient time, then a Eurail Pass is more than recommended for you.
Unlike flying, you can show up at any train station after checking the time table of the country you are planning to visit, and be ready for the adventure.
Other than these points, one of the biggest advantages of train travel is that you arrive directly in the city centre. So you do not have to take a taxi or underground train ticket to reach the centre, which you would have, if you had opted for airplane travel. Airports are usually far away from the city centres and to commute via a taxi in Europe is an expensive affair. Hope we’ve convinced you!
How to plan you Europe Travel?
The key to any successful journey is planning (even spontaneous, unplanned journeys require a bit of that!). We’re sure you’ll find this step by step guide to planning your trip quite useful.
1: Decide when to go
Europe is just as gorgeous no matter what the season. Select your time of visit based on your interests. Summer is the popular season with perfect weather, but then it gets pretty crowded and you’d need to book your tickets well in advance if you wish to visit the most popular destinations.
Winter on the other hand is cold in most parts other than far south, and gives you opportunities to try your hand at winter sports. This of course would be the low season and could get you fabulous discounts for your Eurail passes.
2: Choose where to Go
If you’re a first-timer, you’d probably have your heart set on the countries that make up a classic European holiday: Paris, Amsterdam, Berlin, Prague, Venice and Rome. You would have heard of the sights, culture, nightlife and romance of these cities and would want to cover these in your first visit. If you’re looking for something more offbeat, and less like the ones that your friends are posting pictures of on Facebook, check out Greece, Turkey, Spain, Portugal, Scandinavia. The list is long, so open a map and decide what draws you most.
3: How to Go
Once you’ve decided and booked your Eurail passes, check train schedules that are printed a year in advance. Check which trains you’d need to make reservations for. Reservations can be made up to 3 months in advance. Have your trip outlined for yourself before you travel. On the other hand, if you like to go with the flow and travel on whim, the Eurail pass allows you to do that too. Regional trains that are slower do not need reservations, hop on and discover the less touristy destinations at your pace.
4: Research Train Times
Once your itinerary is sort of straightened and outlined, you can check out train timings that suit your plan using the Eurail Timetable. This also gives you all the other essential information like whether or not reservation is required.
5: Make reservations if necessary
Most overnight trains and high-speed trains require reservations, while the regional ones do not. You could reserve your ticket through Eurail.com Reservation Service, online through the railway website, in person at the station or even through telephone.
6: Understand your Eurail Pass
Your Eurail pass is your gateway to fabulous journeys and to get the best from it, you’d need to understand all that it entails and can do for you. Read thoroughly through their website and become familiar with a few of their simple rules like the 7 pm rule. Check out the freebies that come with your pass like discounts on boat and bus rides. And yeah, get ready for all the fun you’re going to have!
Hope this Eurail guide helps you in planning your trip easily.
**We would like to thank Eurail for making this trip possible and providing us with global passes to explore Europe on our on whim. All opinions are unbiased and based on our own experiences using the passes.**
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