Europe has many amazing countries that have iconic cities all connected by a great rail system, in fact, one of the best in the world, and a fantastic Eurail Pass system to get you moving around smoothly. Train travel in Europe is a classic experience that you shouldn’t miss despite the budget friendly European airline carriers.
By using the train, you can easily jump from one major city to the next without having to arrive early at an airport and spend time commuting from outside the city.
In our opinion, the biggest perk to using trains in Europe is that you tend to leave and arrive to the center of the city, saving hours of commute time, waiting in lines and waiting for luggage. Having a Eurail pass allowed us to discover the Europe many only dream about.
This Eurail pass guide is jam packed with useful information that I wish we had known before using our Eurail passes for two months in Europe.
This is one of the only Eurail guides on the Web that has been written by travelers who have use the Eurail pass for more then just a one week trip. Our goal is to give you hints, tricks and tips to make using your Eurail pass simple and easy.
Don’t leave home without: Lonely Planet Discover Europe (Travel Guide)
Ultimate Guide to Train Travel in Europe with Eurail Pass
How We Used the Eurail Pass
First things first, we used Eurail Global Passes that were valid for 15 travel days over 2 consecutive months.
Being a Global Pass, we had access to the entire Eurail network that spans 28 countries enabling us to see a whole lot of Europe with very little hassle. Looking to get your Europe adventure started? Find the best Eurail Pass for your trip here.
Our Europe train travel took us to 10 countries including travel to and within Hungary, Austria, Germany, Poland, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Luxembourg, Belgium and the Netherlands.
We used a variety of trains including high speed and regional. Our pass was valid in First class and we enjoyed being able to use this quieter section of the train.
Some of the routes we used did require reservations, so we paid the extra fees for that and found the process of obtaining reservations, for the most part, easy.
We did it both ways, online and in person at the station. We also used our pass plenty of times on routes that didn’t require reservations meaning we just showed up at the station and hopped on the train we wanted to use.
What are Eurail Passes
The Eurail pass is a train pass that allows you to explore all of Europe with one train ticket. You don’t need to stand in line at every train station to buy a ticket and you do not need to get off and go through customs.
There’s no need to buy single tickets, you just hop on to any train, show your Eurail pass to the conductor and you’re on your way. Yes, it’s that easy to use.
The Eurail passes are designed for that traveler who is visiting multiple locations on one trip or holiday. Having a Eurail pass is the best way to experience train travel in Europe because it can save you time and money.
The pass makes exploring all those little European villages super easy without having to buy another train ticket. The Eurail pass also allows you to access ferries, making travel to Scandinavia possible and easy.
Single Tickets vs. Eurail Pass
Let’s compare single ticket vs. the Eurail Pass. A single ticket is simply a ticket from one point to the next. You could say from point A to point B.
You only get one usage with a single ticket. Sometimes it’s better to buy a single ticket instead of using a Eurail pass. There are lots of factors that go into that and you should always check before buying a Eurail pass for your trip.
Single tickets are priced based on distance traveled, time of day you’re traveling and how far away your travel day will be.
With a Eurail Pass, you pay a single price for as long as your ticket is good for. This means you can get on as many trains as you want throughout your validated ticket dates.
There’s no waiting in lines to get a new ticket each time, you just simply show up and walk onto the train you want to travel on. Eurail passes are the best for traveler’s hitting multiple cities.
The best way to estimate the value of a rail pass is to divide the cost by the number of rides the pass offers. This will tell you if you should go with a Eurail pass or if you should buy a single ticket.
Also, be sure to check our routes and see if reservations are required, these usually cost money so be sure to add that into your Eurail Pass cost as well. Purchase your Single Eurail Ticket or Eurail Pass today.
Plan Your Itinerary
The Eurail pass gives you a high degree of freedom and convenience but you still need to have some sort of a plan to get your money’s worth.
I know what you’re thinking I want the Eurail pass because of the freedom of not making a game plan, we get it but trust us. Having a simple plan with a little wiggle room will save you in the long run and it will allow you to get the most out of your Eurail pass.
Decide where you want to go and in what order. Then ask yourself these questions, do these cities connect easily? Do they connect directly or are there stops? How long is the journey? We used these questions to plan our routes so we were not spending whole days riding the train.
While we had quite a few days in Europe, we still consider transfer days a loss if it’s more than a half day to travel between places. Good advice from us is to take those early trains.
By doing this, you’re likely to arrive in your new destination with plenty of time to explore on your arrival day.
We found getting up early and then sleeping on the train en route to be a great way of utilizing travel days.
The other piece of the puzzle that made this work well for us was making sure our itinerary kept places in a close order to minimize long travel days. We were able to cover 10 countries and never spent more than 6 hours on a train during a travel day.
Trying to figure out what time of year to plan your Eurail adventure? Check out our story about the Best Time to Visit Europe to jump-start your planning!
How to Buy A Eurail Pass
You can buy a Eurail pass online or at any train station in Europe. However, you will pay more if you buy your ticket over the counter versus online.
The online process is simple. You can order your Eurail pass up to 11 months in advance of your trip. Eurail does not have any hidden fees or extra ordering fees. You cannot print your Eurail pass as an e-ticket, I don’t know why this is not an option but it’s not possible to print the pass yourself.
This leaves you with three delivery options once you have ordered your Eurail pass. They offer free economy shipping to the United States and if you don’t live in the USA you would need to check the shipping calculator to see what the cost is and when the expected delivery date would be.
Make sure you order you’re ticket with enough time for delivery before your trip. We got ours in three days, however, that will vary on your location.
Another option is to have the pass shipped to a hotel or hostel in Europe. This is a great option if you’re short on time. They don’t allow Eurail passes to be shipped to a train station or P.O. Box.
You can ship your Eurail pass to an APO address, but this option can take up to a month. Anyone can sign for your Eurail Passes upon delivery so you don’t have to be at the location upon delivery.
The options for paying for your Eurail Passes online are with a credit card or PayPal. Over the counter, you can pay with cash or credit card.
You cannot split the cost between multiple credit cards or in installments you must pay in full. Make sure you fill out all of the information correctly. Once you have ordered your Eurail pass you cannot change your information.
If you do mess up you will need to exchange the pass for a new one and this can be a hard process.
Once you’ve placed you order you will receive three confirmation emails- one order confirmation, one payment receipt and one with shipping info. Keep these emails until you receive your pass.
How to Read the Eurail Pass
So you have your Eurail Pass in hand, now it’s time to understand how to read it. Reading the pass is pretty simple as they keep it nice and basic.
Across the top center, you will find your CIV No. You could say this is your ID number or order number. Below that is your pass type- this will tell you what kind of pass you have purchased. (Eurail select pass for 4 countries for example.)
Below that are the countries they are valid in. (Benelux-France-Germany-Italy for example.) Next to that, you will see how long the ticket is valid for (8 days within 2 months for example.)
Below that is the first day your pass is activated and the last day your pass is activated.
Everything must be filled in with ink by you. Below that are the different boxes called the travel calendar.
When you have a flex pass with a specific number of travel days or a Global Pass you will need to fill out the date you are traveling in this section. This must be done before boarding the first train, bus or ferry of each day.
On the top, far right, shows when the pass was printed and below that is the Class you paid for (1st class for example.)
Below that is where the Activated stamp goes. On the bottom, far right, is what you paid for the pass and on the far left is a bar-code they scan. Like I said before they keep it pretty simple to read.
You will also have to fill out a travel diary. The travel diary is the section of your pass where you need to enter your contact info and ticket details, as well as the journey details of each train, ferry or bus you take while using your Eurail Pass.
You must fill this out before you board, they do not take it kindly if it is not filled out when they come around checking tickets.
The train staff will check for all details, if you skip this process you could be fined. If you run out of space on your Eurail diary it is your responsibility to print out a new diary.
Traveling in Europe as a solo female? Read 25 Tips for Solo Female Travel in Europe
How to Validate or Activate Your Pass
Eurail has also made activating your pass simple. You must activate your Eurail pass before you can start using it. This is a must so don’t get on a train until you have activated your pass.
It must be activated within 11 months of the issuing date. You can get your pass activated for free at any European train station or when you place your order at Eurail.com.
We got our pass validated in person when we left Budapest at the train station. We had already made reservations for the train we wanted to take and wrote down the information in the pass.
After that, we just approached a ticket window and asked them to validate and activate the Eurail Pass for us. There were no problems and it went smoothly.
The 7PM Rule
This is something you need to know if you are using a Eurail Pass. The 7 PM rule can save you precious travel days.
This rule is in place so that you only need to use 1 travel day when you travel on a direct night train that departs after 7 P.M. (19:00) and arrives at its final stop after 4 A.M. (04:00), even if you leave the train before 4 A.M.
Personally, I think this is a brilliant feature that not only allows you to save a nights accommodation by traveling at night, it allows you to maximize your day hours in the cities you visit and only takes one day of travel away from you. Keep this in mind if you have a long commute to a new city.
How Long is a 1-Month Pass Valid
1-month continuous is valid for train travel on each day during 1 month. The number of travel days you have depends on the length of the month that you started using your train pass.
So if your month has 29 days you only have 29 days, if the month has 31 then you have 31 travel days. It’s that simple.
Don’t leave home without: Lonely Planet Discover Europe (Travel Guide)
Do I Need to Make a Reservation to Use My Eurail Pass
This is a split answer because not all trains require reservations. However, trains that do require reservations are all European night trains and most of the high-speed trains.
You may also have to make reservations in popular countries like France, Spain, and Italy. Some scenic trains have the option to travel in those special panoramic coaches that will give you epic views of your train ride, but those seats require reservations.
Something worth noting, reservations are not free and are an added cost to your Eurail Pass.
While there have been many success stories of people traveling all over Europe on a Eurail pass using trains that do not require reservations, you will definitely need time on your side to achieve this.
If your days are limited and you need to take high speed trains, make sure to budget reservation fees into your spending for your trip.
Also, if you are someone who just wants to make sure you have a seat without issues feel free to make a reservation. If you’re traveling with a group of friends and want to enjoy your adventure seated together then it is a good idea to make a reservation as well.
How To Make A Reservation With My Pass
Eurail has made it simple to make reservations if you need to. The best way really depends on of the train you are taking and the amount of time you have before your trip.
Popular trains book up quickly, so we would recommend booking your seats 2 months in advance. You can make reservations even if your Eurail pass is not activated.
The options for making reservations are: The old fashion way at the train station, E-tickets, by phone or on the web. Once you have planned out your Eurail adventure I would make your reservations.
You can make reservations between 3 months and 7 business days before your train’s departure and there’s no limit on how many trains you can reserve seats on.
Understanding Train Travel Days on Your Pass
Train travel days can be stressful and long, depending on your route and distance of your arrival city. A travel day on a Eurail pass has 24-hour period that lasts from 12:00 A.M. to 11:59 P.M. on the same calendar day.
If you’re using your Eurail pass for the first time allow for some time to get your pass activated. Otherwise, if your pass is activated you can pretty much walk up and get on a train.
No need to wait in lines but we do recommend arriving at the train station at least 30 minutes prior to your departure time so you can find the correct platform and make sure there were no changes to the schedule.
Definitely bring snacks, yes some of the trains have snack carts but it is better to be safe than sorry. The trains don’t have issues if you bring food on board.
For the most part, European trains run like clockwork and they will get to the city on time. This means they also leave on time, with or without you, so as I mentioned before arrive slightly early to ensure you are organized when it arrives. Chances are, unless there is an unlikely major train delay, you will arrive in your new city exactly on time.
Some trains will have WIFI access onboard, while others will not. Regardless, you’re likely to use your phone or tablet for entertainment so be sure to bring a power hub, just in case there are no outlets at your seat.
Handling Transfers at Connecting Stations
Transferring at connecting stations can get stressful at times. You may only have a few minutes to run from one platform to the next, not really knowing if your heading to the right platform or the right train.
We found this hard at times. Most stations have monitors listing the departing trains, times and platforms but not always where you arrive.
On every platform, there are large monitors that state the time and what train is on the platform. You must follow the pathways to the platform. You cannot cross over the tracks.
At all platforms you can find a railway employee that can point you on your way. However, it does not mean they know English.
Just keep this in mind. Trains in Europe do have lots of connecting passengers and may hold their doors knowing that the connection just rolled into town. We only had one issue in all our summer travels with a bad connection.
We were taking the train from Warsaw to Berlin and it required a connection at the border between Germany and Poland. We were not told that the train tracks were undergoing maintenance on the Germany side, so there was no train for us to take.
When that happened, they put us on another train that got us close to the city we were going then they put us on a transfer bus to the main bus station. In the end, it worked out fine.
Crossing Borders with a Eurail Pass
Passing borders with the Eurail pass was surprisingly easy. While you may have security checks or a connection, you will have no hassles at the borders.
Rail passengers no longer have their identity checked by border guards when crossing borders of the Schengen countries.
Random security checks still occur, we went into this while taking the train from Budapest to Munich Germany. It was simple and quick.
Train Types Available with your Pass
Europe is all about the trains. Trains are everywhere in Europe. Some trains travel at high speeds across Europe, while others move around more leisurely, either by day or night.
It’s helpful to know in advance what kind of train you are using and what the provided facilities are for a clear idea of what to expect with your Eurail pass.
Regional trains will take you anywhere in Europe from the largest cities to the smallest villages. These trains usually don’t need a reservation and are a great way to explore every little corner of Europe.
They are not the most luxurious or fastest trains on Europe’s rails, however they are still very comfortable for rail adventures.
They have okay toilets and sometimes also have snack trolleys. Some trains even have Wi-Fi depending on the train and what country you are traveling in.
Using Regional trains allows you to get off the beaten track and visit little towns and villages that most tourists miss. Besides hitting those charming villages, regional trains offer a flexible way to travel.
If you miss your train just simply board the next one, since regional trains have frequent services and reservations aren’t usually required.
We enjoyed getting around Luxembourg on a Regional Train, it allowed us to hike from one city to the next, and then jump back on to our original city.
High speed trains are the fastest way to get around Europe. You can cover long distances in a short time while enjoying a bit of luxury.
Relax in a comfortable chair while enjoying a bite to eat in the dining car. They offer Wi-Fi, power outlets and tables so you can get whatever work you may have done during the commute.
Seat reservations are often mandatory on High-speed trains. A reservation guarantees you a seat even during the busy travel times.
High-speed trains don’t always stop at the smaller towns, so you will have to make sure the High-speed train stops where you need to end up.
We used a few high-speed trains while traveling in Europe for the summer on our Eurail pass. The ICE train was nice and comfortable.
These trains are also a great way to get around Europe. If you are short on days, save travel time by moving between cities while you sleep. This also allows saving on accommodation.
Night trains offer plenty of room for travelers to enjoy their adventure. Many have reclining seats or private sleeping cabins making travel options available to every budget.
Most European night trains are included in the Eurail passes and you’ll just need to reserve and pay for your preferred sleeping accommodation type in addition to your pass. Night trains always require a reservation in advance.
Scenic trains on a Eurail pass are a great way to see Europe’s landscapes. You will be able to see large mountains, clear lakes and amazing countryside from your train’s window.
Just sit back and enjoy the beautiful views. Some scenic trains require a reservation in advance. Please check before planning your adventure.
A number of scenic trains offer special panoramic car views that require a special reservation and some do not take your Eurail pass.
Don’t leave home without: Lonely Planet Discover Europe (Travel Guide)
Luggage Rules for Pass Travel
Trains throughout Europe have either overhead storage racks throughout the side of the car, storage space behind the back of your seat or luggage areas at the end of the car.
We experienced it all throughout our two months of using our Eurail passes. The overhead bins were small and my large backpack would not fit above.
Behind the seat storage was nice, we only ran into this once. It was on a high-speed train. Our two bags fit well behind our seat and they were in reaching distance to grab anything out of them.
The large storage at the end of the train cars was nice but they can get filled up pretty quickly so you need to be the first few passengers onto the train to take advantage of this option.
Of all the options it is the most risky because your bag will not be next to you and you will not be able to keep an eye on your luggage. People do walk off with other people’s bags, so keep an eye on your luggage at all times.
We also experienced people just stacking their luggage in other seats. This works out well if no one has that seat ticket but when someone does you will have to move it.
Rail rules on luggage are passengers can take a maximum of three items of luggage. These items must be easy to handle and compatible with the space provided on the trains. The greatest dimension of each item must be less than 85cm.
We use Pacsafe bags since they are 100% pickpocket-proof. Never get pickpocket again! For ladies, we love the Citysafe CS100 anti-theft travel handbag. This bag is versatile and functional for any travel or city inspired occasion. Durable with superb organization, this classic handbag is loaded with anti-theft features to help provide peace of mind while out and about.
As far as luggage goes, we really like the Pacsafe Venturesafe Adventure Backpack and Pacsafe Toursafe Wheeled Carry-On.
The adventure backpack is strong, lightweight and has hard-to-cut webbing and straps with Dyneema that attach to wallets, cameras and other mobile devices to help prevent thieves from running off with your equipment.
The Pacsafe Toursafe Wheeled Carry-On is also lightweight, features hidden eXomesh Slashguard stainless steel wire mesh embedded into the fabric which helps protect against slash-and-run theft. Puncture-resistant ToughZip helps prevent against forced entry from a sharp object as well.
Transporting a Bike
After biking from Namur to Dinant in Belgium, we found out first hand what it was like to transport a bike on a train in Europe. It was surprisingly easy however not all trains allow bikes on-board.
It depends on the type of train, many high-speed trains will not carry bikes but most local trains will accept them. Before boarding the train with a bike make sure you go to the ticket window first to see if the train you want to catch accepts bikes and also to purchase a ticket for your bike.
The cost of the bike ticket is not covered by your Eurail Pass. When it comes time to board the train, remember that you will have to bring your bike onto a designated train car, so be sure to ask the platform guy where to go. Once onboard, place the bike in the designated bike area.
Traveling With Pets on a Eurail Pass
One thing I love about Europe is that it’s mostly dog friendly. In most countries, a small lap dog travels for free or at a small fee. Large dogs travel at half 2nd fare (even when traveling with the passenger in 1st class).
Often, dogs are required to be in a traveling crate or must wear a muzzle and a leash. However, in some countries dogs are not allowed on trains. Special provisions may be applicable to guide dogs for the blind and handicapped.
Eurail Pass versus Swiss Rail Pass
This is a question a lot of travelers are asking, is the Swiss rail pass better than the Eurail pass? Well, they are not apples to apples.
If your only visiting Switzerland I wouldn’t bother buying a Eurail pass. However, if you’re visiting more then Switzerland then the Eurail pass is the ticket for you.
The Swiss pass stops in more towns in Switzerland then the Eurail pass but once again that only benefits you if you’re traveling to many places in Switzerland.
The Swiss rail pass offers better discounts in Switzerland then the Eurail pass does. The Eurail pass offers better discounts in other countries. What we suggest is plan your itinerary and check your different options between Eurail and Swiss Rail.
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Pass Extras & How to Use the Discounts
Your Eurail pass will get you all kinds of discounts as you make your way around Europe. Discounts are per country and include hotel discounts, ferry discounts, iconic landmark ticket discounts, museum discounts, additional transport discounts and much more.
I know what your thinking, 5 to 10% discounts aren’t much but if you’re spending time in Europe and want to sightsee it adds up quickly and can be a considerable saving for you.
In countries like Switzerland, your Eurail pass can also get you free or cheap boat trips.
Before you set off on your trip, make a list of the countries you plan to visit and then have a look at the discounts they have on offer for these countries. Eurail does a good job of listing out the information by country, discover the Eurail extra pass benefits.
One popular discount that many travelers take advantage of is the ferry between Greece and Italy. It makes a stop at the stunning island of Corfu and with your Eurail pass this ferry is FREE.
How do you take advantage of the discounts? It’s easy, just show your Eurail pass at any discount partner and receive the discount. All that is required of you is that you show your present Eurail pass. It needs to be present and up to date to take advantage of Eurail discounts.
Security and Safety of Train Travel in Europe
With the state of the world lately, security is always on a travelers’ mind. Terrorists have targeted some train stations in Europe but the incidents are isolated.
On our trip throughout Europe safety was not something we worried about. There are armed guards or military at train stations doing basic security sweeps and watching out for us travelers.
There were times on our trains that we had armed officials, some unmarked and some dressed in military clothing. One thing that surprised me though was that no bags were scanned throughout our two months of using our Eurail passes.
Overall, train travel is one of the safest modes of transportation in the world and I would not be scared to take the train anywhere. We use Pacsafe bags since they are 100% pickpocket-proof.
Train Travel vs Air Travel in Europe
This is always a debate between travelers; do I take a train or do I take an airplane in Europe? I never understood this question before visiting Europe.
I always thought plane travel was the best and that’s it. Well, train travel is the only way to go in Europe. You can jump on a train and be in a new city within hours where if you took an airplane it would take up your whole day. 2 hours before your flight, your flight, then 1 hour to your hotel.
Most train stations are right in the middle of your destination city so there’s no need to wait in line for a transfer to the major tourist part of the city. It saves you time and allows you to see the countryside of the countries you are visiting. You won’t get that view from an airplane.
This is why train travel is so popular in Europe, with the Eurail pass you just walk on board and find your seat. We do agree that both have their pro’s and cons, so it really depends on what your travel goals are. Train travel tends to be cheaper overall and give you a much richer experience.
However, it is best used for short-haul trips so you don’t spend any of your precious vacation days on the train. This is where having a well-planned itinerary will truly benefit your time in Europe.
If you do have to make a long haul, you can always book a cheap flight for that portion and then resume your train travel to the new destination.
To Do and Not To Do With a Eurail pass
From our two months of travel on Eurail passes we have seen the gamut of pass users. Knowing in advance how things work and the proper etiquette for using a pass like this will save you some headache and possible embarrassment along the way.
Some are standard tips, hints and tricks for train travel and some are just basic words of advice to make your Eurail adventure easier with fewer issues.
Eurail Pass Do’s
Do pack smart while traveling on a train
There’s nothing fun about lugging heavy bags between hotels and railway stations. So pack with the necessities, leave the rest at home and you will be so much happier for not having the extra weight on your shoulders.
A good option is a roller bag. Since its Europe and all places are pedestrian-friendly, they will have sidewalks for you to roll your bags down.
Also, on a Eurail travel day try to pack a day-pack with everything you may need to make your train trip better and definitely keep all your valuables in a small bag that you can keep with you. I love snacks and my computer, don’t forget the power cord because some of the trains have power outlets.
Do research your trip before your Eurail adventure
You’re ready for a Europe adventure, adrenaline is building and you can’t stop talking about it with your friends and family members, however, you don’t know a thing about the places you are going to.
You should not just wing it. Just a little research will give you an idea of what neighborhoods and districts will suit your adventure.
It will also save you money and avoid the disappointment of missing something because you didn’t know about it or it was sold out on the dates you visited.
Do buy the right Eurail pass ticket
You would not believe the amount of people who buy the wrong ticket. Make sure you buy the correct ticket to get you to all of the places you want to visit.
I know what you’re thinking, do I really need to be warned about this? Well, yes you do. It might seem easy but we’ve known people to buy the wrong pass in an attempt to save money and realize it doesn’t work for the countries they want to visit. Evaluate all passes and be sure the check what countries you can use them in.
Do pay for a sleeper carriage
I can’t stress this enough. So many travelers don’t take advantage of this. If you don’t mind missing the views and paying a little extra for a ticket, booking into a sleeper car is a good way to go for long trips and overnights.
For less than the cost of a hotel or hostel you can get to your next destination overnight without losing a valuable day. This will also allow you to show up at your location ready to explore instead of showing up and killing most of the day in a sleep-deprived state.
Do plan a budget while traveling on Eurail
Europe is jam-packed with great restaurants, cocktail bars, football matches, galleries, museums and iconic sites. While you want to experience as much as possible, you can’t see and experience everything.
Plan what you can and can’t afford to do and you won’t run out of money and have to go home early or miss things you wanted to do.
Do use the Eurail discounts
Eurail has some great discounts on many of the top iconic landmarks in Europe along with great hotel discounts. So why not take advantage of the Eurail discounts that your train pass holds?
The Eurail pass also offers discounts on many ferry routes within Europe along with family and youth discounts.
Eurail Pass Don’ts
Don’t cheat on the Eurail Pass
First and foremost, ticket checkers are not stupid. They have seen it all. You cannot try to pass anything over their eyes and even broken English will not save you.
There are instructions on the pass, which point to how you must write in pen and must fill it in before boarding. They will make you do it or they will make you get off the train.
We saw this happen so many times to travelers. I know some travelers using the Eurail passes are backpackers, students or are just plan cheapskates but they will find out you cheated on the Eurail pass and you will not get away with it.
Don’t be afraid to socialize
Most people are friendly on the trains. Don’t be scared to say hi if you’re traveling solo or have questions about the area.
We have had some of the best travel information given to us because we were friendly instead of being stuck up travelers.
Don’t assume you can board any train
Don’t think you can get on any train in Europe and go because you have a Eurail pass. While most trains in Europe fall under the Eurail Pass, remember that some require reservations.
If you don’t have a reservation, you may not be able to take that train. You will be paying lots of extra dollars if you make this mistake.
There is not the reason to pay more for trains so chose carefully and make sure you’re on the right train. Also, don’t think you can use your ticket for something other than what is on your ticket.
Some travelers have been fined over 100 euros because they thought they could just upgrade their tickets while on the train.
Don’t treat trains like mobile bars
Yes, it is ok to have one or two on the train but keep in mind you’re on a train. Fellow passengers may not appreciate it and train workers will not put up with it. If you drink too much they have been known to kick people off with a large fine.
Don’t be afraid to travel alone
You would not believe the solo travelers we saw while using our Eurail passes in Europe. They were of all ages, races and sexes.
It’s 100% safe to travel alone and the most you will get as a solo traveler is the guy trying to pick you up, the old man who wants to talk about everything under the sun or the drunk passenger who wants to use a light from you.
Don’t lose your valuables
You would not believe the travel professionals that lose their valuables on trains. I’ve seen it on Facebook many times from our fellow travel bloggers. “I’ve visited 80 countries and today I just had my camera bag stolen”.
It just takes one minute and then it’s gone. It happens in a snap and it can happen to all travelers, experienced, non-experienced, young and old.
Trains are a great place for bag snatchers. They can grab a bag then jump off the train dispersing into the large groups of travelers. So watch your stuff or someone will walk off with it.
Don’t expect everyone to speak your language
Even though most people in Europe speak English as a first or second language don’t just think everyone can speak it.
We ran into ticket takers and train workers who could not speak to us and answer our questions because they did not speak English. It happens so don’t assume.
Don’t try to visit too many places
I know what you’re thinking, I only have two weeks. Lots of travelers plan too many stops and don’t really give themselves time to explore the cities they travel to. We saw this throughout our travels in Germany.
Travelers would only stay one day in the city then move on. We stayed and saw things that those travelers never saw. I love getting those messages and a comment saying they missed it or they did not know it was in that city. Travel is also about exploration and taking the time know a place, don’t miss out on that.
Don’t be stingy in the wrong places
Europe is expensive, the popular cities, iconic landmarks and hotels can add up quickly. However, do not miss out on things just because it’s expensive.
Don’t skip climbing the Eiffel tower because when you arrived you found the entry too expensive and the lines too long.
The next time you will be there it will be more expensive and you’ll probably be paying for a family pass, so don’t skip things.
Don’t be rude
No matter how your day is going. It is crazy how rude some people are to the workers on the train. We watched a couple that sat in first class and did not have a ticket for first-class get into an argument with the conductor.
They were so rude to her despite how calm she remained and the fact that they were in the wrong. They were removed from the cabin for their behavior.
On another train, a solo traveler was approached for being in the wrong class and she was apologetic. She was told not to worry about it this time. It pays to be nice. This also goes towards other passengers; treat everyone how you want to be treated.
Thinking about travel insurance? Allianz Travel Insurance offers policies available for US and International travelers.
Top Itineraries on Eurail
|Epic Rail Tours|
|EUROPE BY RAILWITH THE GLACIER EXPRESS|
Paris to Budapest
|PARIS TO SOFIA BY RAIL|
Paris to Sofia
|EPIC TRANS-SIBERIAN JOURNEY
Moscow to Vladivostok
|Check Price||Check Price||Check Price|
Eurail is your ticket to visiting some of the best and most iconic countries in Europe. You can visit as many as 28 countries in Europe while using a Eurail Global Pass.
There is literally nothing stopping you from having a Eurail adventure. We have put together some of the best trips to take on Eurail.
Eurail European Highlights Itinerary
This is one of Eurail’s top itineraries and there is no wonder why. This Eurail Itinerary takes 13 travel days and is great on the Eurail Global Pass.
Cities along this itinerary: Paris, Versailles, Amsterdam, Berlin, Prague, Salzburg, Fussen, Venezia, Firenze, Rome, Vatican City, Monte Carlo and Barcelona. With all of those iconic cities, there is no wonder why it’s a Eurail top trip. Shop for your Eurail Pass for this Itinerary.
The Best of the West (Western Europe Eurail itinerary)
Discover the best cities in Western Europe and many of the most iconic cities and attractions in a single vacation.
This itinerary hits: Paris, Geneva, Interlaken, Innsbruck, Salzburg, Munich, Berlin, Amsterdam, Brugge. Shop for your Eurail Pass for this Itinerary.
Eastern Europe Itinerary
The Eastern Europe Eurail visits iconic cities like: Prague, Budapest, Brasov, Blejsko Jexero, Vienna. Shop for your Eurail Pass for this Itinerary.
Tour Of Italy Itinerary
Take to the Italian rails with the Eurail Italy Pass and be in for a real treat. Take a memorable gondola ride along Venice’s Grand Canal, set out on a shopping extravaganza in Milan, and take a tour of Rome’s magnificent monuments and museums.
This itinerary hits the most iconic cities in Italy. Cities included in the tour of Italy Eurail itinerary: Milan, Venice, Florence, Rome, and Naples. Shop for your Eurail Pass for this Itinerary.
Read Modern Orient Express – train from Netherlands to Istanbul Turkey.
Eurail Train Travel Terms You Should Know
We have put together some of the most common terms you should know before heading off on your Eurail adventure.
These are terms we used throughout our summer using our Eurail passes. Knowing them will help you enjoy your Eurail train experience.
- Rail Pass – A ticket that is good for a specific amount of time or destinations.
- Timetable – The schedule of arriving and departing trains.
- Departure – When the train leaves, this can include departure time and departure city.
- Platform – Where you enter the train.
- Board – The door or location you enter the train.
- Train Car – The passages & cargo unit of the train is called a car; each unit can be used for a different fiction such as sleeping, dining and cargo. Off of that, the cars are divided into classes, 1st class, 2nd class and 3rd class.
- Conductor – The person that checks the tickets and also can give you useful information.
- Coach – The cheapest option and simplest way to travel by train.
- First Class – The most expensive options with lots of perks and is the most exclusive train cars
- Sleeper Car – This is where you can lay down and have a sleep.
- Dinning Car – This is a train car that is a restaurant.
- Compartment – A little room on the train that can be converted for sleeping.
- Auto Train – A train that has an option to transport your car & you on the same train.
- Connection – When you have to change on trains to get to your destination.
- Express Train – (Sometimes called the Fast Train) a train that stops only at main stations skipping little towns and villages.
- Local Train – A train that stops at every station.
- Luggage Rack – the place the holds bags, suitcases and other items passengers may bring onto the train.
- Checked Luggage – When you put luggage in the storage department of the train during travel.
- Kiosk – Snack Bar Car – A car in the train that sells snacks, hot & cold drinks, sometimes it’s a mobile cart that moves though out the whole train.
More on Europe:
- Best Photo Spots in Berlin
- Best Photo Spots in Copenhagen
- 2 Days in Nuremberg
- 3 Days in Hamburg
- 3 Days in Rome
- 3 Days in Lisbon – Things to Do in Lisbon, Portugal
- 3 Days in Florence
- 3 Days in Barcelona Itinerary
- Ultimate 3 Days in Madrid Itinerary
18 thoughts on “Train Travel in Europe: Ultimate Eurail Pass Guide”
This is a fantastic article! My partner and I are off around Europe using the Eurail Global Pass 15 days in 2 months, and this has answered all of my questions. All I am nervous about is filling out the travel diary correctly, I am probably stressing over nothing! We are catching an over night train from Budapest to Venice. We leave at 6:55pm catch a connecting train at Vienna around 9/10pm and then we head to Venice from there. This being the case is this 2 days of travel? and if it is do I have to write both trains into my travel diary or only 1 considering its one trip?
Glad you found it helpful! Our aim was to provide answers to all of the questions we had when using the pass through Europe! For this particular routing, if the ticket is booked Budapest to Venice, then I would record it as such. Regardless, it looks like your connection happens on the departure day, so no matter what, still 1 travel day. Have fun! We’re returning to Venice this year too. 🙂
Thank you so much for this article!! Great clarification. Just three questions. You mentioned using our pass for buses and ferries. Will the pass work on the ferry at Lake Como between Varenna and Bellagio, and city bus in Rome? Also, we are using the train from Florence to La Spezia. Is the pass good for the train throughout Cinque Terre? If so, do I need to write all of those uses onto the pass itinerary? Thanks!
I would recommend clarifying the ferry and bus use directly with Eurail, as the guidelines are different for each pass. If you are taking a route that requires a bus or ferry for point to point travel, then generally it is covered. For within the city or for touring, it is not. Every time you use the pass to take a route, you have to write it in the itinerary. Cheers and enjoy your Euro trip!
Great article and very helpful thank you. We head off for 6 weeks in Europe at the end of April, we (2 in their mid 60’s) have never used train travel before so are quite nervous, although very excited.
Connections are my main concern at the moment, lugging luggage quickly between platforms and trains but I am sure that when the situation arises all will be fine. I think we have planned well but only time will tell.
Much appreciate the time and experience you have put into helping fellow travellers out.
Love to hear this and thank you for your kind words! Train travel in Europe is easy and comfortable, you guys are going to have a blast.
HI! i thoroughly enjoyed reading your article, it had a lot of useful information. But I’m stressing about my reservation order and have emailed, fb msged and live chatted with eurail and they still have not come back to me. I made online reservations on eurail.com and after submitting my reservation order, some of the itineraries says “submitted” and a few said “waiting for payment”. I can’t find anywhere on the site to make payment…so did you have to wait for them to process the order and then make the payment? Or am i missing something? Thank you.
I would recommend that you call their support number to sort out your bookings. We made our reservations by phone or via the app.
Hello from Canada! I enjoyed your information. I cannot seem to find an answer to a question I have. When we take a train from Cannes France to La Specia Italy, do we use one day of our Eurail pass ? I thought I read somewhere that it is 2 because you change countries. What if we are not getting on another train that day? If so It seems a waste for a short distance in the second country. Should we get off at the border and pay cash the rest of the way? I would love it if you could clarify this. It will also happen when we travel a few hours from Milan to Bern Switzerland. Thank you for your help!
Hi Colleen! It doesn’t matter if you change countries – you will only be deducted 1 day on your pass. We did 3 countries in one day with our pass and it counted as 1 pass day. Of course, this could be different if you are using a different pass then we used (multiple country, 20 day pass). If you have any doubts, I would recommend contacting Eurail directly to clarify. They have fantastic customer service. Cheers!
Thank you for this great information! How do you get from the train station to an air b and b?
Hi Kathleen! Depending on the location of the AirBNB you can either walk, take a taxi or use Uber/Lyft to get from the train station to your rental. 🙂
Thanks for the great info. Exactly what I needed to read before planning a trip to germany, france and Austria for their christmas markets in 2018. I promised my wife this summer to take her and we have been reading and planning about it ever since. We plan on getting eurauil passes to get around. Again, thanks for all the useful info.
You are most welcome! So glad to hear you found the information helpful. Europe for Christmas markets is magical, you won’t be disappointed. Happy planning and be sure to check out our in-depth city guides for Paris, Munich, Nuremberg, Hamburg and Berlin. 🙂
This article saved my life… thank you so much!
That is great to hear! Enjoy your train adventure in Europe. 🙂
Hi! I want to make a trip trough Viena and Zurich with my friends, and we have questions about the reservations. We will take all high-speed and night trains that have compulsory reservation, but we don’t know how to make a reservation. Can you please explain me how did you make it and how much did it cost per person? Thank you!
Hi Milena, the cost of the reservation will vary depending on the route- so I can’t quote you exact on those routes. As far as making reservations, you can make them online prior to travel but remember that you have to pay for them and then they will be sent to you in the mail. They do not have electronic tickets!! If you don’t have time to wait for the paper tickets, I recommend waiting until you get to Europe then head right to the station and book all your reservations on the first day. They will make them, take your payment and then give the tickets to you. Enjoy!