Even though I’ve only been blogging for a few months now, this question has already come to my attention from a reader and I’ve seen it dozens of times over the past year in different travel circles. The fact of the matter is that there really isn’t a correct answer. This is the travel equivalent of the pseudo-philosopher question “What is the point of life?” It’s all based on circumstance and perception.
If you only have a short amount of time to travel and you’re trying to get around to a few different places quickly, I believe it’s worth it. The other time that it is worth it, is if you need to get somewhere far away and the price comes out cheaper than multiple Euroline (bus) tickets or a plane ticket. The price of the Eurail can be pretty surprising and even intimidating to travelers so let’s take a look at how much we can expect to pay:
Like I said earlier, these prices are based on circumstance, and are not exactly…well, exact. If we take a closer look at their “Select Pass,” these are the prices we find:
Even though the price is listed at only 380 USD, you can see that quickly changes in the “View Prices” section. For nearly 600 USD you only get to travel for five days! Here’s the kicker: it takes more than one day of travel to switch between most European cities. The cool thing is that you’re safe to explore for two months at a time without rushing to the next place, but you may not even be able to reach four different cities for that 600 USD if you want to travel long distances.
There are also exclusions on what countries you can travel to with each pass. With the “One Country” pass you cannot visit France, Germany, Serbia, Montenegro, or Switzerland and with the “Select Pass” you cannot visit Poland. There are obviously many limitations to where you can go with the “Regional Pass” and for the “Global Pass” you cannot visit Poland, Montenegro, or Serbia. I’m not positive why they limit these countries, especially France, Germany, and Poland, so be careful when booking a pass.
They also have an option on the website as well where you can plan out your trip and pick each country you’re going to and how many days you are staying there and would need to travel. This is probably the way I’ll be choosing my pass when I visit Eastern Europe in May.
Even though the prices can become steep very quickly traveling by train, it is still a really cool experience for the scenery and luxury of it compared to airplane travel and there is no doubt in my mind that it is cheaper than traveling by plane.
A few last words of advice:
Make sure that you’re going to their website to see if you qualify for any of their discounts as well. A good thing for students, like me, is that I can get 35% off of a 2nd class pass. They also have a massive deal if you’re traveling with kids and a good discount if you’re in a group of 2-5 people. I’m not sure if you’re able to double-up on discounts, I would assume not, but it wouldn’t hurt to ask.
There are four different types of trains/routes that they have. They have a night trains, high-speed trains, scenic train routes, and regional trains. You’re able to explore each train on their website, which is really cool to see what ride you’ll be taking or if you’re main interest is in traveling through Europe by train and not the destination you’re going to.
If you just care about the destination, I suggest taking the night train. You may be able get a better deal since there are more available seats, and each seat that the company failed to sell is valued at exactly $0 when it takes off, so they would rather make some sort of profit. Also, another benefit of the night train is that you are able to sleep on the train and will not have to pay for a hostel.
Is it really worth it? Generally speaking, no. With the secondary airlines in Europe and their competitive prices, it’s cheaper to fly a lot of the time. But don’t just take my word for, if you plan on going to Europe soon want to visit multiple places, check it out for yourself. You may find that it’s more beneficial to take the rails.