Are Eurail Passes a Giant Scam or Do They Save You Money?

trains in europe with a eurail passEvery two years, I use a train pass to ride the rails of Europe in an effort to answer the most important question travelers have on the subject: do these passes actually save you money or are they a giant waste of time?

Back in 2011, I found that rail passes were worth the cost if you took lots of long distance passes. Since two years had passed, I once again got a pass from Rail Europe, and journeyed from Lisbon to Berlin to see if the passes still had were a good deal for travelers.

Over the last couple of years, I’ve heard from fellow travelers that passes have gotten harder to use due to limited seat availability and increased fees. It used to be that you could buy a rail pass, hop on a train, and go wherever you wanted. And if you needed a reservation for the seat, it didn’t matter whether you had a pass or not — if there was a seat on the train, you got it. Now there are often only a set number of seats available for passholders on any given train and many countries have instituted high-priced reservation fees (I’m looking at you, France!).

Additionally, as railways have had to deal with the rise of budget airlines, they have changed their pricing model to more closely imitate airlines. Now they now tend offer cheap early bird prices and expensive last-minute fares.

Under these new constraints, I wanted to see if rail passes still make financial sense.

The Math: How Much I Spent

It’s all about the money with the passes. So how does it work out? Here’s a breakdown of what the expenses looked like:

TrainCost With Pass1st Class (w/o pass)2nd Class (w/o pass)
Lisbon – Madrid (overnight single)9715160
Madrid – Paris (overnight single)192202180
Paris – Brussels1812472
Brussels – Amsterdam06234
Amsterdam – Berlin0199123

Note: Prices are in Euros and reflect last-minute departure prices that were given to me at the train station at the time of booking.

The pass I was given was a first class 15-day, two month Global pass that costs $1,189 USD. (Why first class? Because it’s the only pass you can get when you are over 26. I think this is a stupid rule by the way.) This means that I can use the pass for 15 non-consecutive days of travel in a two month period. The value of each journey works out to be $79. Since I was only in Europe for two weeks, I didn’t use the entire pass, but I used a variety of different trains for my tests. My five train rides then have a base value $395.

So with all the fees plus the base ticket price, did I save money? My total costs were $800 USD (the base cost plus fees). The added fees were for seat reservations. On night trains, they are required. In some countries, like Italy and France, reservations are also required for day trains. So that means on top of the base fare, you are also paying a small fee for the seat (anywhere between 2-9 Euros ($3-12 USD)). Without the pass, my first class tickets would have cost me $975, a savings of $175.

(A second class pass is $774, or $51 per trip. Without the pass, it would have cost me $620 whereas with the pass, costs would have been much less.)

Using the pass
I never had any problems finding a seat, except on the Paris to Amsterdam journey. The Thalys train has a limited number of passholder seats and since I didn’t pre-book a ticket, instead of traveling direct, I had to make a number of stops. It made the journey cheaper but also a lot longer than it needed to be. Other than that, I had no problem using the pass or finding seat availability.

Should You Buy a Rail Pass?

the beautiful european landscape by railSo are Eurail passes worth purchasing?


A lot of people assume train travel in Europe requires a pass, purchase one without looking at the numbers, and then complain about the cost.

But rail passes are all about money. If it doesn’t save you a dollar, it’s not worth getting. That means you have to do a lot of math to figure out if a pass is right or not. It can be a time-consuming process, but is certainly worth it in the end.

Just like the airlines, prices are now variable and no longer fixed. Depending on when you book, your ticket cost will fluctuate. If you are willing to pre-book months in advance, you’ll easily find some unbeatable bargain deals such as Paris to Amsterdam from $46, Rome to Venice from $38, or Amsterdam to Berlin from $78. Denmark offers orange tickets that are 50% off the normal price. Since rail passes cost roughly $79 per trip, you can’t beat booking individual tickets far in advance.

But who pre-books a multi-month trip to Europe?

If you are planning on a two-week trip months from now and you already know your dates, it’s not going to be a good idea to get a rail pass. Even though those early bird tickets are non-refundable, they are still pretty cheap and you probably won’t be changing too many of your dates.

But if you are traveling around Europe with no fixed plans, rail passes can work out to be a better value than buying same-day point-to-point tickets. To me, the pass is about flexibility and being able to hop on and hop off trains when you want. If you are traveling long term, you aren’t going to pre-plan months of travel. You are going to want the ability to go with the flow, which using a pass will give you.

I think one of the best ways to use the passes is to mix and match, using the rail pass for the expensive trains while paying for cheap tickets individually so you can maximize value. For example, for 11 days of train travel in Europe, it’s cheaper to buy a 10-day Eurail Global pass plus one point-to-point ticket for the cheapest train. Additionally, I place a value on flexibility. If the math is roughly the same, I’ll buy a pass because saving $3 isn’t worth trading the flexibility a pass gives.

That being said, reflecting on the high costs of the sleeper trains, I don’t think I would take an overnight train again. If you don’t mind a seat, it’s a great deal — but I can’t sleep in seats and am not a huge train enthusiast to begin with, so I would opt for flights instead. At $79 USD, day trains work out to be cheaper than last-minute flights (baggage and service fees add up) but the added fees for night trains might make airfare better value.

Special note: Train passes also come with some other perks that you can see here. For example, passholders you get 50% off ferries in Greece, Italy, and Germany, 40% off ferries in Finland, and some other bus discounts. If take advantage of these perks as well, that savings should be factored into your decision as to whether a rail pass makes financial sense for your trip.

(Note: If you think the pass is perfect for your trip, use this link and start picking out your pass today.)

How to pick the option that is best for you

Rail passes are all about math. The only way to know for sure whether a rail pass or point-to-point ticket would be cheaper is to work out the point-to-point prices for most of the trips you’re planning using the various European train operator websites.

After you have a general idea as to where you want to go, visit the national railway websites and work out two sets of prices: one for tomorrow (i.e. a last-minute fare) and one for two months from now (i.e. an early bird fare). Add up the prices in each category.

Next, head to Rail Europe, find your rail pass, and divide the rail pass price by the number of days you’ll be traveling by train to figure out the cost of each journey on the pass.

See which is cheaper and take that option, bearing in mind that your journey may change or you may take more high-speed rails. If I know I’ll be in a lot of countries that don’t charge reservation fees and the prices are for booking early versus using a pass are close, I’ll probably go with the pass as there is value in flexibility (I change my mind a lot).

In the end, a train pass isn’t right for all trips but for most people spending a long time in Europe and traveling vast distances, having a pass will save you money. While the reservation fees stink, the basic principles of the pass still hold: if you are traveling vast distances, using a lot of high speed trains, and are traveling last minute, a rail pass is still going to save you money.

If your trip does not fall into the above category, it’s probably best to buy tickets as you go and skip a rail passes:

If you want to book a pass, you can use Rail Europe to search passes, prices, and train tickets. They are the largest broker of European rail passes outside of Europe. You can use the widget below to search for your passes:

Editor’s note: Using the links on this page will (at no extra cost to you) generate a small commission on any sales. I recommend this company because I use them myself. Don’t get a rail pass if your trip doesn’t fit the above criteria but if you get one, using the links here allow me to continue to give you advice that helps you travel better. If you have any questions about passes, e-mail me at [email protected] and I’ll help you figure it out!

Disclosure: As mentioned in the beginning of the post, Rail Europe gave me my pass for free and paid reservation fees. Rail Europe has been a site partner since 2009. All math is based on exchange rates and prices at the time.

  1. Thank you Matt! This is really helpful! I’ve always been curious about the Eurail passes and wether they are a good deal or not. Last time I traveled Europe, I opted for buses and cheap flights. I’m planning on traveling Europe once my year of teaching in Spain is done and will be considering the Eurail pass this time.

    • So it was more expensive for you to travel via buses and cheap flights?

      I have been traveling in Europe since 2009 and I find that planning it yourself and booking the planes, trains and buses that makes most sense financially and is the most convenient for your trip is so much cheaper than buying a eurail pass.

      Here are examples of my actual transportation costs:

      10 city trip for 6 weeks = 305 euros (30.5 euros per trip)
      18 city trip for 2 months = 632 euros (35.10 euros per trip)
      30 city trip for 4 months = 947 euros (31.5 euro per trip)

      My actual expenses were a third of the price of an equivalent Eurail pass in comparison (in some legs of the trip I HAVE to take ferries! eurail doesn’t cover that so you pay even more).

      I do agree somehow that Eurail can be an option if you want a flexible trip. But even then, you still have to plan your route and you still need to book your seats and stuff. Does this make it really convenient and cheaper?

      My issue with Matt’s comparison is that it compares prices to last-minute train tickets. Everyone should know by now that you always pay a high price for booking any last-minute tickets.

      I would love to see a comparison of train tickets booked in advance versus eurail. I’m sure the results will be interesting. I might actually use eurail this summer and do this kind of comparison myself.

      • NomadicMatt


        In the post I talk about how the passes don’t work out to be cheaper when you book in advance. I list a number of prices up there. It’s right after the chart.

        – Matt

    • I would like to see a second class Eurail Global Pass like InterRail offers. Better yet, just bring back the good old Eurail Pass of days past that did not require the additional monetary payment for seat reservations.

    • Kevin

      I have done the math, buying in advance on the train is the best & cheapest way. For long trips flying rules, even with the too and from airports. My trip this year from Paris to Amsterdam is a $100 Can. Then I fly to Budapest from Paris $87can. then take a train from Budapest to Vienna for 13Euro Vienna to Salzburg 19euro, Salzburg to Munich 23euro includes metro for the day, then Munich to Prague 39 Euro, would maybe fly this if prices drop. Then Prague to Dresden 19euro then Dresden Berlin 21euro all booked in advance, as my hotels were at the Hilton with a saving of 35% yes you have to be sure on dates, but saved a ton in rail, for the short hauls and fly for the long. Rail passes are easy, but extremely costly with reservations. I have always found working on a trip in advance, is half the fun in travel, so the hours put into this has just made it more interesting for sure, in addition too leaning about the counties & cites visited.

  2. We went through much the same process every time we’ve gone ahead with a pass. We look carefully at the routes we want to take and average out the daily cost of the pass.

    We’re in Germany right now with a German Rail pass. Average value for first class is €45/day. Average on-the-day cost of 2nd-class tickets we want is closer to €80. And I’d rather be in 1st class having left money in my pocket. That said, the law has recently changed in Germany and allows the coach networks to compete with DB… Should be some interesting price wars in the next few years.

    • Yea these new coach companies in Germany are great! The savings are great as long as you’re willing to spend a bit more time on a bus. A second class train ticket to Berlin from where I live in Mannheim costs around 80 euros one way. By coach bus, it’s only 20 euros!

  3. Great post–lots of good advice. When my wife and I travel in Europe (we’re 65+ and love train travel), we usually are there for about two weeks at a time and always buy a multi-person saver pass for 15 consecutive days of travel (even though we don’t travel every day), since my wife and I are always together on the train. We find it to be more convenient and are usually traveling on regional/local trains that don’t require seat reservations. We try to plan our trip so that we know in advance what fast trains we’ll be riding that will require a seat reservation and book those online before we go, but in countries like Austria seat reservations are not required for any trains, so a pass is very convenient. On our last trip, we did a cost comparison and found that the pass was a big savings for us, even after paying for seats on some German trains and all Italian trains.

  4. Robyn

    I’ve been trying to figure out the rail passes for Japan and how the math works out based on purchasing the pass or paying individually for each ticket.

    • Colin Wright

      I’d definitely buy a rail pass for Japan. There are far fewer restrictions than with the Europass, NO extra fees, and since in practice no one in Japan can speak a foreign language you really want to be able to just show your pass and get on the train. As a plus, the pass will work on Tokyo’s urban rail system — we only paid for a bus or subway occasionally. Great country, by the way — and actually, not particularly expensive. My wife and I had a fantastic time.

  5. Annett

    In my experience, when planning single train trips, It can be quite challenging to get advance quotes on train ticket prices that will take you from one European country to another, do you have any tips for that? Especially on the early booking specials they often only give you the price when you book…
    As for seat reservations, I have traveled twice on the sleeper train from Stuttgart (Germany) to Amsterdam. Both times on the cheapest ticket, did get charged to make a seat reservation, and when I got on the train both times I was informed that the seat I had reserved did “not exist on this train”

    • Jen Dudley

      For the French SNCF and Deutsch Bahn, tickets are only sold max of 90 days in advance and some cities aren’t listed at the 90 day mark when looking at multi country travel. Be patient and check back on their website often until the city you need appears.

  6. That’s a lot of information to absorb. It’s good to know that the passes don’t always work in your favor and to make sure to sit down and do the math to figure out what option will be best for you. I know I will be doing this once we get to the Europe leg of our travels.

  7. Thanks Matt!

    This was timely for me. I want to plan a month trip for next year and just looked at the train passes for Europe this weekend. This gives me a great foundation to check prices and see what will work best.

    Thanks for sharing your knowledge!

  8. Great run down. Last year on my 3 month Europe trip, I didn’t find it worth while. There were a number of legs that had to be on a bus so the pass would have been wasted. I just bought my rail travel as required. When it was coming to an end, I had planned on using the Eurail pass but the super cheap airline fares got me where I needed to go so much faster and for marginally less! To each their own!

  9. Whew!!! I agree with Kimmy, this is a ton of information to absorb. Here it is I thought I was doing something special by purchasing a Navigo pass in Paris! Looks like I haven’t even scratched the surface.

  10. Patrick Keys

    Great post, my friend and I are looking to travel for a month after working in London for two and are going to be getting train passes. Does anyone know what the difference if any is between Eurail or Raileurope? Is it better to buy from one rather then the other? Any advice or information would help.
    Cheers, Patrick

  11. I try and fly as much as possible if the trip is over 4 hours overland. I hate the train in Eastern Europe where I am, and while it’s cheaper here than western europe. Long distances on the train are a rip off.

  12. Of course the experience of train travel is unbeatable, its sadly becoming more economical to fly these days… even short train journeys these days require a painfully deep dip in the pocket!

  13. Sophia

    benefit for pass
    1. flexibility
    2. first class (without pass it would cost alot more for first class)
    3. cheaper on long distance compare to pay per ride

    last time i traveled in europe i bout a first class pass forgot how many days. but reservation fee was pretty high. from paris to barcelona 35 euro. from florence to paris 65euro which my friend got a ticket without pass for about 80 euro. I ended up paying about 200euro for reservation on top of my pass ( i think my pass was only about 400-500 usd). So that is about half of my pass price. Overall my europe pass was not worth it.

  14. Kudos on an honest post! I’ve never used a pass, since I’ve always found buses to be cheaper. The last time I was in Europe (last summer, 3 weeks) I only ended up taking a train from Brasov –> Budapest, and from Vienna –> Berlin. They were all booked on the day of and were pricier than I wanted, but still cheaper than a rail pass. I’d love for the math to work out someday, since trains are awesome.

  15. I think it really depends on where you go. Passes in the Benelux area, for instance, are rarely worth it because single tickets are so inexpensive and very few trains need reservations. But for long, inter-country journeys (from Germany or France or Scandinavia, for instance), I think the pass is worth it. Especially if you take 1st class – you can get access to the lounges, and have free wifi on board most of the time.

  16. Wow, I didn’t realise there was so much added fees involved for train passes! have some great deals so signing up to their newsletter is a good idea if you are planning on travelling in France.

  17. Carole

    The best resource for European train travel (also covers other parts of the world) is ‘The Man in Seat 61′ website:

    As well as examples of cross-border rail fares (and schedules) it directs you to the best places to buy tickets for various countries and in many cases has photos of the trains so you know what you’re getting into if you book a couchette or sleeper.

    As it’s a UK based site there’s a ‘travelling from London’ focus at first glance, but there’s also advice for people from outside Europe and how to make the best use of passes.

    (I have no affiliation with the site, just many hours using it to fuel my wanderlust!)

  18. Adam heighes

    With rail passes I would caution to ensure you have reservations for international borders while remaining flexible the rest of the time especially through France

    Using trains helped a lot with my budget to see and do more and the best meals I had were on trains travelling through Italy
    Great way to meet people to. Best parts of my trip a cou

  19. I’m all for buses and cheap flights…I think it is way cheaper and more convenient than traveling by rail. I have never used a rail pass but it always seems way too complicated to me. I booked last-minute on a couple of trains in Italy and it was very expensive, but it is usually unlike me to do this. I booked a train in advance from Toulouse to Nice and it was much cheaper. Generally I think trains tend to be a rip-off for what you get and the budget airlines make it easier to fly.

    • NomadicMatt

      I prefer trains in Europe to flying since the experience is so much nicer but if the tickets are very expensive, I will fly instead.

  20. I’ve done two backpacking Europe trips with Eurail passes, both times a flexi, multi-country or global pass. I remember being frustrated by the number of reservation fees I had to pay, but I never bothered to figure out how much money I was actually saving. Maybe next time I’ll try taking some buses. For long-distance trips in Europe, budget airlines are often a better alternative!

  21. Too bad countries are making it more expensive to travel by Eurorail. If it was more affordable I think it would draw more people and generate just as much revenue as raising the cost. Excellent information, Matt.

  22. Unless you are doing several long distance trips, I haven’t found the pass to be worth it, especially if you can buy tickets in advance. But more options are opening up to compete with the low-cost airlines. For example, in France there is now the idTGV, which is a discount option. They have dedicated cars on some of the same routes as standard TGV trains with less frills. Haven’t taken it yet but would definitely consider it to save money.

  23. Gladys

    I have not found the rail passes to be worth it in the past few years, because with some passes if you missed the reserved train, your pass for that train is money wasted. With airlines arriving more than an hour late sometimes, reserving a train 2 hours after arrival is rsky business.

  24. I think what irks me most is the need to pay extra fees when you’ve already bought the pass. The Japan Rail Pass may be pretty darn pricey but it does give the turn up and ride freedom you want. Now when I’m in Europe I tend to do point to point tickets or flights sometimes letting the cheapest price determine my next destination (unless it is home to England!). One of the best journey I took a few years ago was by boat from Barcelona to Rome – it cost under 50 euros and in my mind I pretended It was the golden age of travel as I watched the Med surroundme for nearly a day. :) Thanks for sharing the maths (no one of my stronger travel skills).

  25. Bob

    A lower cost alternative to travel in Europe is going by private car through websites such as in Germany. A number of similar no cost websites have proliferated as the main one has started to charge a small fee.
    Some drivers limit you on amount of luggage you can bring, state their driving style, request no smokers or smokers OK, state if they are looking for a talkative or non talkative type of person, number of seats available, and so on. Often get you faster to your destination faster than by train which may have multiple stops and usually less then half the price of a normal train ticket. I have met some interesting people this way as well.

  26. Bobbi

    l did my first 5 country rail pass in 1994 (15 days in 2 months) and it was terrific. France/Spain/Italy/Switzerland/? Even back then you had to pay for seat reservations on certain trains like TGVs so not sure what the good ole days are that others are referencing! I’m going to do it again this summer but I know in advance one disadvantage that didn’t exist previously. Back then, before terrorist attacks, we could arrive in the middle of big cities and for next to nothing, stash our luggage at the train station. So you were unencumbered while you walked around town to have lunch or find a nice hotel. Now, sadly, those days are long gone. But even now, I love the flexibility the rail pass offers and it is much cheaper than driving in Europe due to gas/diesel prices. Arriving in the center of cities is a huge advantage over the distant airports and the expense of taxis to town. Just something to think about.

    • Yei

      I’m going to same countries this summer, I’m not sure if is better to choose the global pass for many countries o o select pass, are u sure the global pass worth??

  27. We actually looked into the Eurorail and InterRail passes for our three months through Europe this summer. I just get so extremely when looking at the prices for the passes!

    I think that if you’re quite flexible and have enough time, flights are a better mean of transportation in Europe. If we were to buy a three months EuroRail pass we’d be ruined. I think those train prices are insane when compared to flight prices in Europe.

    I’d also rather fly and reach my destination faster. I hate spending time in trains, even more with those high prices. No thank you!

    But anyway we chose to just take our bikes around Europe for three months this summer. Will be fun! :)

    Thanks for the break down, though. I’m happy that you cover both the good and bad of this way of seeing Europe! I’m sure it’s the best fit for some! :)

  28. I did a 15 consecutive day pass this spring and save almost $600 over doing it buying point to point tickets. I understand they aren’t for everyone, but for me, and the type of travel I do, it’s one of the best investments I’ve ever made.

  29. SMilan

    I’m planning a trip of almost three weeks in this August, I would say I spent more with Eurail Pass, although not by TOO MUCH.. I think it depends on the type of pass and how you plan to travel. In my case, I bought a two-person pack (so there’s even a discount) for my parents, Italy-France 7 travel days in two months. Since I am a residence in Italy, I could not use this pass so I bought my tickets as normal.
    First of all, Eurail website indicates TGV of France has limited seats for Eurail, which is true; but more importantly, and not indicated on the website, instead of a booking fee as it is for Italian high-speed trains, TGV actually has a special price for the pass holders! So for my first TGV ride from Milan to Paris, the rate for pass holder is actually higher than the normal price, so I bought all three as normal; for the second from Chambéry to Turin, there’s no more seats for pass holders, but even if there is, the price is only about 10 euro less than normal… So I’d say there’s no money saving here… I have another three domestic trips to book in France, if TGV within the country works the same way, I’ll have to choose the TER type which takes as twice long as less frequent.
    In Italy, the pass in general works better, you can book all the high-speed trains (Frecciarossa, Frecciargento, and Frecciabianca) with a booking fee of 10 euro, and regional train (InterCity which requires reservation) with booking fee 3 euro. So for long distance rides (Milan-Rome for instance) it’s worthy to have the pass. But interesting places in Italy are not so far away from each other, what to watch out here is, often the normal prices are really not so high from one destination to the next (in several parts, with the pass we just save less than 10 or 20 euro); and in case there’s change of train, booking fees have to be paid for each part. So within one travel day, there aren’t much to be covered if you still want to actually visit some places with calm..!

    • SMilan

      Plus, there’s a new train service “Italo” in Italy, fast, good facilities, good service and good price. Although it has less routes compare to Trenitalia, if the routes they have happen to suit you, it’s a great choice. But as far as I know it’s not yet available to be booked with Eurail pass..

  30. Aly

    I am a student currently studying abroad in Paris, France until its December (a week before Christmas). I have a budget of $800 and I want to go to 4 countries (Denmark, England, Italy, Spain) I hope to spend around 2-3 days in each country (pretty much a weekend get away). What do you recommend? Do you think a Euro-rail Pass is smart and efficient means for traveling?

  31. It’s always a big thing when you save some of the $ or € – there are also deals you can get – trains from a city to another city + the local train tickets for the city of destination. You really just have to look…I really enjoyed looking and reading through your travel adventures. Keep it up!

  32. Katie

    Thanks! This has made my decision easier. I’ll be getting the eurail pass (I am under 25 and get a 33% off study abroad deal). I am going all over Europe for the entire month of April but I have to buy the ticket now if I want the discount. However, I don’t understand how you racked up all those fees. So the reservation costs are costing you like $100 each ride? I got a bit lost in your math to be perfectly honest. If I am just going from north to south italy one day, would a reservation still be required and put me out quite a bit? But I am right it buying the eurorail month ticket, correct?

    • NomadicMatt

      Overnight trains have a fee. The others don’t so for Italy, you would only pay a few dollars per reservation fee, not $100 USD.

  33. Allison

    I think this article was pretty helpful. However, if you’re looking to travel Europe CHEAP I have a few suggestions.

    -Look at other options than the train. In 2012, I found a bus (Berlin Linien Bus) that took me from Berlin to Amsterdam overnight for 9 euros. I only booked this about a week in advance.
    -In Germany there are SIGNIFICANT discounts for regional and local trains. Going from Munich to Berlin on the ICE (fast train) would have cost me about 50 euros on the fast train (if I booked it well in advance) but I bought a ticket for the slow train the day I was set to leave and it only cost me I believe 18 euros.
    -Use the SkyScanner site. This site will let you type in your departure location and it leaves many options for destination. For example, you can type in ‘Anywhere’ and you can arrange the results by price. You can also type continent (‘Europe’) or country (‘Spain’). By doing this, I was able to fly from Manchester, England to Berlin for 19 euros and from Venice to London also for 19 euros.
    -Be flexible about where you go. Of course I’m sure you have your dream city/cities in Europe to visit, but the others don’t have to be set in stone. I never planned on visiting Venice, but I found a cheap ticket there and ended up loving it.

    I spent three months in Europe twice for under $2500 each time including airfare from the eastern US, hostels, food, travel within in Europe, and everything else. The rent on an apartment alone for that amount of time would have been almost the same. Europe really IS doable on any budget. :)

    • sophie

      wooooooh so much too absorb from the article also the comments…
      thank you matt great info…planning on a trip cover from malaysia to uk-belgium-german-france-spain-morocco back to malaysia. 2 months trip … planning on travelling through places along the coastline. i hope the train will give us better option since we want to cover as many small city as possible…
      oh man how did allison go for 3months only at 2500… alisson share with me your travel spreadsheet!

  34. Amazing article, Matt! I was lucky to get an InterRail pass on a special winter discount when I went for a 3-week trip. Learned the hard way that sleeper trains are a ripoff. I suggest to stick to local/regional trains that doesn’t overcharge you on reservation fees.

    Downside: you might have to get up very early in the morning to get to your destination at your desired time, as it takes longer.
    Upside: the view. enough said.

    also: france is by far the WORST country to have a pass. germany, austria and netherlands are my favourite.

  35. Libby

    I’m planning on traveling around Europe for a month this summer and we want to go to probably 7 countries and both large cities and small towns within that.


    I’m having trouble figuring out if the eurail global pass will be able to get me to and from tiny towns in Europe without having to pay for extra tickets on small local trains. Is this the case? Or will the eurail pass cover ALL trains in Europe. Obviously excluding those not on the eurail list?

    • Libby

      More confusion:

      I used the above app to look at prices for going certain places and even if I had a global pass it still said their would be a ‘base price’ and then a certain price X the number of passholders.

      Why is there a ticket cost if you are using the Global Pass? Shouldn’t there only be a reservation fee?

    • NomadicMatt

      Rail passes work on the countries listed in the pass and for national rail trains (i.e. inter-city trains) not local metros.

  36. Gabriel

    Thanks for the article, its helping me a lot! But I have one question, does pre-booking a ticket automatically means that you will have a specific date to travel? Or you can buy a ticket in advance if you know which country you are going to visit, and use them when you want? Thanks!

  37. Stanley

    Hi Matt,

    Do you think I should definitely get a global pass if I plan to travel about 3 months in Europe ? Do you think it may be cheaper with Ryanair flight offers ?
    I traveled 29 days in Central/Western Europe once and took 11 or 12 flights from Ryanair and Easyjet offers and they work out to much less than a 21 days train pass but that takes a lot of planning and luck.

  38. Houghton

    This is really helpful blog. A lot of useful heads-up. I am planning to do a mere 2-week trip in Krakow, Prgaue and Vienna. Maybe adding Budapest in between. Based on what you said, I think I can ‘safely’ ignore the Euro Pass because distances are so short and time so short. Correct??

  39. Ann

    We just returned from France & Germany and I highly recommend NOT using Eurail passes. In France we always had to pay full price for fast trains. They don’t warn you on the Eurail website that even in the off season your pass won’t work because they only allot a few seats for Eurail tickets. False advertising, I’d say. I wrote to the company for some money back and they don’t claim any responsibility.

  40. Blaine Burke

    Traveling in Europe and We have had nothing but trouble trying to use our Global 2 month flex pass. It is anything but flexible with all the reservation fees and inability to get the tickets you want to different countries ie Spain and France in my case not honoring each other’s systems. For example could not book French tickets before our trip, or from SNCF while in Spain. When we tried to use our pass in France they charged us full fare and said we should have booked earlier. Believe me we tried over the internet months in advance but their system wouldn’t let us just like it wouldn’t for their employee in Spain. We have been given incorrect directions several times by their staff who seem to only want you out of their way. Next!!
    The whole thing is one big scam that I would suggest you avoid at all cost!

    • Avery

      Thanks for the warning. I’ve been trying to reserve a train ride even in eastern Europe and I’ve been running into the same total inability to reserve seats. Also, extra charges seem to pop up whenever I would be saving money… try it yourself:

      BTW, if you’re traveling to Japan, the rail pass there works perfectly and can save you a ton of money.

  41. [email protected]

    I once heard that reservations are free for first class railpass holders. Was that true? Is it still true?

  42. anthony raj

    Thanks Matt, for the wonderful tips n homework. planning a trip from kuala lumpur to london then to europe, france, holland, spain, germany, portugal, switzerland, belgium. please advise me on the itenary.

  43. Hi Matt,

    Love your blog! It’s so helpful and I read it all the time. I have your book and hacking guide as well. I am planning my first year long ATW trip next June. I’ll be spending 4-5 months of it in Europe and am looking into Eurail Passes. I read this post and was confused. You said you bought a pass for $1189 but then your costs were $800. Do you get a partial refund if you don’t use the whole pass? Why were the two costs different? Thanks!

  44. Ploy

    Thank you for the detailed post! After reading this back in..hmm… October 2014.. in preparation for my 6weeks Europe trip across 10 cities and 6 countries in April-May 2015, we decided against buying the Eurail pass for 2 people. So that’s 5 connecting countries England, France, Italy, Germany, Belgium, Netherland. The select 4 countries 8 days eurail pass would have cost us about $1400 Australian dollars at current exchange rates, not yet counting credit card fees and any other reservation fees on top of that, and that’s with the 15% 2 persons discount!! Moreover, the select pass forces us to select only 4 connecting countries, which meant we had to select Austria or Switzerland to get from Italy to Germany eventhough we are not stopping there. So that would force us to change travel plan. Which meant Belgium would not be available with this pass. After setting up a spreadsheet and test booking the route that we wanted with dates inside the 3 month booking availability for first and second class against Eurail + booking fees, we found it to be at least $400AUD cheaper without the pass. So we decided to get all our dates sorted and fixed and accomodation booked early to save costs.

    And so…

    We just booked our last train from Brussel to Amsterdam first class on the IC train for end of May which completes our trip. Apart from Eurostar London to Paris2nd class, everything else was frist class train. We paid just a little over $1000AUD in total, inclusive of credit card and exchange fees and seats and tickets guaranteed. That’s..London>Paris>Nice>Florence>Venice>Munich>Koln>Brussels>Amsterdam. And our side trips to Salzburg will cost less than 30 euros return for with the Bavaria pass.

    So.. Essentially, as per other comments, if you know your dates early, prebook the trains and save some money and save time reserving tickets while on your trip.. So now hopefully it’s smooth train travelling for our trip!

  45. Marta

    I booked rail tickets through the French railroad agency. The site was very good in telling me whether it would be better to buy a pass or book tickets individually, showing the difference. One of us was under 26, so he had different prices for tickets than I did. We were only traveling in France and it was cheaper to book individual tickets in advance and get seat reservations, especially for the return to Paris on the TGV. If you know your destinations, book early! I had to take an earlier train than I had planned returning to Paris, even I was booking months in advance. (Same day, just earlier)

  46. Madonna

    I’m not sure if it’s still the same, but in 2013 I was able to use my eurail pass to book the Norway in a Nutshell train ride. Biggest. Bargain. Ever.

  47. Andy

    Too many people completely dismiss out of hand buses. Recently I travelled all around Germany. I looked at buying a German rail pass for a month. Don’t. Its not worth it.

    You can bus city to city for pretty much 7-10€ and most buses have free WiFi and charge points…which the trains don’t at often more than twice the price. Times are similar destination to destination and most bus stations are generally next to the main train stations (with exception to Berlin). 13 cities in a month for less than 100€*. Not bad.

    I downloaded the GoEuro app. Great for finding the cheapest bus/train/flight options.

    *note I’ve heard that due to many of the bus companies being new the prices are low because of this and to expect some rises.

  48. Lauren

    Hi Matt,

    Thanks for all these useful tips! We are planning a 4 month trip across Europe. With the Pass you bought, are you saying you paid $1189 for the pass and an additional $800 for seat reservations, book fees ect?!!! That is a crazy amount! Glad I have started reading up on this and didnt just jump in like friends suggested. Thanks! :)

  49. Sid

    Hi Matt, we are planning a 3 week trip for europe and all of us are below 26. We are planning to buy the global pass for 10 day trip within 2 months. Before reading this i did not consider the reservation cost and extra for night trains. We require trains to commute from Barcelona > Belguim > Amsterdam > Italy
    Is buying this global pass worth, or flights are better

  50. Yei

    I’m going to Europe in August two weeks, I ‘m planing to visit Spain, France, Italy, London and Switzerland, only 2 days in each country, I’m no sure if a global pass is worth for me?,,, I don’t have a formal scheduled

  51. Katherine

    I’m traveling through Europe at the moment for 4 months, and though I haven’t done the math, for me a Rail Pass just didn’t work out. Instead I look at sites that offer cheaper train and bus tickets (Go Euro, Trainline etc) and book them a couple of days in advance when I’ve figured out where I’m going! For me it’s much more flexible and cheaper than buying tickets from the train station or even train website! I managed to get a train from Warwick to London for £9.

  52. E. de Regt

    Never buy a Eurail pass. In May/June 2015 we were hit twice in the span of two weeks by separate German railway strikes. Beside forcing us to make other arrangements at a cost of over a $1000 we also could not use the pass and wasted another $750 buying it. No refunds! Forget about insurance since you cannot prove your intended railway trips.
    We could only use the pass in Poland where rail traffic is cheap and we had no problems with seating. Since we never got to use the Deutsche Bahn we don’t know if getting seating is a problem. We recommend that you buy the tickets locally. At least you’ll get a refund in case the service is not available. We did get refunds for our reservations which we had bought locally (Cheaper than through Eurail)

  53. Interesting reading, you got a lot of interesting points of its worth t buy the Euro/interail pass or not. I had a 10 days during 14 days traveling last year but I wasn’t sure that I save some money.

  54. swanny

    its a good deal if you are young enough to get a youth pass cos u can get a 2nd class pass. For those over the age limit you can only get a 1st class pass so it would be cheaper to buy 2nd class tickets at the station.

  55. Hi Matt!

    We are a group of more than 15 individuals who are planning to tour Europe in August 2016 from Warsaw.

    What advise would you share us since we have a limited number (10 days maybe) of days only. What particular countries you want to suggest us to visit? Which particular train company, class, etc. NOTE: This will be our first cross-country Euro Train experience.

    Many thanks.

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