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Is the Eurail Pass Still Worth It?

Is the Eurail Pass Still Worth It?

I was naive the first time I visited Europe, in 2005. About a whole host of things—I could write a book about the extent of my naiveté—but particularly about the mechanics of travel.

A key example of this relates to Europe’s train system. I was so excited to be in a place where I didn’t need a car to get around that I saw it through rose-colored glasses. And not just the trains themselves: I saw the Eurail Pass, which was arguably even more hyped then than it is now, as a miracle ticket to explore the continent.

Then, I failed so much as to ask the question I’ll be answering today: Is the Eurail Pass worth it? If you’re wondering the same thing, I do hope you’ll continue reading.

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My History With Eurail

Is Eurail worth it? I certainly assumed it was the first time I made my way over the pond. Everyone I knew who’d been to Europe insisted it was. Moreover, because I was traveling in order to follow a concert tour (in other words, someone who would be traveling point-to-point, rather than hopping all over the place), I assumed it would be easy to use the pass to travel in a similar way. It mostly was; I think I came out on top financially, as well.

As the years wore on, however, my travel needs changes, and non-Eurail travel solutions such as Split My Fare started to spring up. Suddenly, it became easier to save money; and after that, time simply became a more important currency to me than money. There was also the fact that in about 2012 or 2013, it became so complicated to use a Eurail Pass that I threw up my hands and said I was done with it.

Why I Fell Out of Love With Eurail

The rules

As you probably know, many Eurail Passes require you either to travel on consecutive days, or to pick a limited number of days during the validity period to travel. This removes a lot of the spontaneity and romance that a rail pass is supposed to afford travelers, making it a less attractive value proposition.

The enforcement

Is the Eurail Pass still worth it? The last time I used one, in 2013, I decided it wasn’t worth it. I was on my way from Switzerland to Hungary, and the rotund attendant who checked my pass didn’t like the way I’d filled it out. He tried to fine me, even though I hadn’t officially broken any rules!

The complication

I hadn’t broken rules, per se, but I also hadn’t understood them. You see, I’d put down my “start date” are the first day I had the pass, rather than the first day I traveled. Honest mistake, and if anything, it hurt me! But all the rules of using a Eurail Pass (as contrasted with the Japan Rail Pass) make me not want to use it.

The cost

Is Eurail still worth it? Well, it’s certainly not a great bargain anymore, by any means. This is especially the case when you consider all the complicating factors I’ve mentioned above; when you add in the fact that even “cheap” passes cost hundreds of euros, the value proposition becomes even worse.

The countries where I travel most

I prefer southern Europe over northern Europe, and the reality is that these countries are much more affordable. It’s not uncommon to see one-way high-speed train tickets in Italy priced at €30-50 one-way, even at the last minutes. Even Eurail “single-country” passes can’t compare with this.

Alternatives to Eurail Passes

Don’t want to buy a Eurail Pass, but lost on how to get around Europe instead? Don’t be—here are your other options:

  • Fly instead of going by train. You never know when you’ll get a good deal!
  • Buy train tickets à la carte. They aren’t always expensive!
  • Consider renting a car, especially if you’re traveling with others to split the cost.

(Also, is the Eurail Pass worth it for some travelers? Absolutely. Don’t interpret my clear bias in this post to mean that it won’t work for you, if you’ve already determined that it might!)


Other FAQ About the Eurail Pass

What are the benefits of buying a Eurail Pass?

In theory, a Eurail Pass should offer you more flexibility than buying train tickets outright, and at a lower cost. In practice, however, because of the rules associated with using a pass, this is often not the case. I would suggest doing your own calculations before buying.

What does Eurail not cover?

The Eurail Pass does not include the cost of seat reservations, be it for ordinary seats or for sleeper compartments. It also doesn’t cover city buses or subways, or many special “tourist trains” operated by private companies.

Should I book a Eurail Pass?

I can’t tell you for sure whether you should buy a Eurail Pass, without knowing your specific situation. What I will tell you is that you should be cautious: It’s not always the best value, and you may actually end up getting ripped off.

The Bottom Line

Is Eurail Pass worth it? As frustrating as it might sound, the answer really depends. The pass’ cost savings, to the extent it offers them, are at the expense of your flexibility and freedom. Moreover, the onus is also on you to select the right pass. If you’re only visiting one or two countries, but splurge on a continent-wide pass in spite of this, you’ll likely end up losing out financially. On the other hand, if you analyze your trip and determine that a pass is sensible (and which pass is sensible), you could benefit a lot from using one. Get personalized help making your way around Europe when you hire me as your Travel Coach.


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