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Europe Travel: A Beginner’s Guide to Navigating Europe’s Eurail System

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Europe’s extensive rail system is a preferred method of transit for residents and visitors alike. 

This post describes what a EuroRail pass is, the types of passes available for sale and answers to common questions we’ve heard along our travels. This is a guide for beginners looking to get a sense of how they might incorporate train travel into their plans.


What is the difference between Interrail and Eurail?

There are two types of rail passes available in Europe: Interrail and Eurail. While both use the same trains and tracks, the major difference is that one is offered to residents of Europe and the other if offered to foreigners.

  • Interrail: permanent resident of Europe
  • Eurail: foreigner

Where does the Eurail run?

As of January 2020, Eurail services the following countries: Austria, Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Montenegro, Netherlands, North Macedonia, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey.It does not cover Albania, Estonia, Latvia, Russia, Ukraine, or Vltava.

What kinds of passes are available for purchase?

There are two types of passes available: Global and One Country Pass.

  • Global Eurail Pass: purchase price depends upon the number of travel days you select, without limitation upon number of countries.
  • One Country Pass: purchase price depends upon the number of travel days you select within a single month of travel in one country.

The Global Eurail Pass at-a-Glance

  • Access to 33 countries and 40,000 destinations across Europe with a single rail pass
  • Set number of travel days pass: Determine how many travel days you want, with no limitation on number of countries. The most popular EuroRail pass is 7 days of travel within 1 month. Other combinations of travel days + time available.
  • Two-month pass: Travel on as many trains as you like for two continuous months, with no limitation on number of countries.
  • Three-month pass: Travel on as many trains as you like for three continuous months, with no limitation on number of countries.
  • This pass grants you the ability to take multiple trains each day
  • If you are under 28, you can buy a discounted Youth Pass
  • Discounts on ferries, hotels, city cards and more

One Country Pass at-a-Glance

  • Select one country from the 29 countries Eurail offers through this pass
  • Determine how many days you will travel within the month. This pass offers 3, 4, 5, 6 or 8 days.
  • Expires within a 1-month timeframe
  • This pass grants you the ability to take multiple trains each day
  • If you are under 28, you can buy a discounted Youth Pass
  • Discounts on ferries, hotels, city cards and more

Play with your itinerary on EuroRail’s website

What do I need to know about making a reservation?

For the trains that traverse localities, regions, and states, you are required to make a reservation for a seat on the train. 

These reservations are not included in the cost of your Eurail pass. You can buy seats through EuRail’s Reservation Self Service for 95% of the trains you might take while in Europe.

Some of the more frequented routes can sell out three months from the date of departure. Depending on time of year (high-season is May to September), location (major cities), and size of group, consider making a reservation up to three months in advance.

What’s the difference between first and second class seats? 

Similar to air travel, reserving a first and second class seat on trains comes down to your budget, style and preference. 

Seats in first class generally run more expensive than second class seats, but at times they can be majorly discounted so it’s worth taking a look at their price. 

First class seats are generally more plush, have better arm rests, better tray table options for eating and are filled with business commuters.

Regardless of whether you choose first or second class, your experience will mostly come down to which country, which train carrier and the culture of the people occupying the train car.

How do I receive my pass once I purchase them?

Eurail will ship you a hard copy of the passes. There are different shipping options available — economy, standard and premium).

  • Your cost will be determined by the level of service and which country you ship to. 
  • Economy generally takes 2 weeks & premium takes 1 week to arrive.

Eurail shipping website

How do I activate my pass?  

You must activate your Eurail Pass in a train station in order to start using it. It must be activated within 11 months of the issuing date. 

There are two ways to activate your pass:

  • Free option: at the ticket office of most large train stations
  • Fee option: pre-activate your Eurail Pass by selecting the “activate my pass” option at the Eurail.com checkout when you place your order.

In this post, we share our 90 Day, 13 Country Schengen Area Europe itinerary.

12 COMMENTS

  • pointbreaklifestyle

    Helpful guide

    • sophia
      AUTHOR

      What other kinds of guides would you like for us to publish?

      • pointbreaklifestyle

        I do a lot of travelling so I always find it helpful when I read posts with tips and advice on things that I am unaware of. You have some helpful articles on your site.

      • sophia
        AUTHOR

        Thank you for the feedback and reading — my goal is to help other travelers make the most of their experiences.

      • pointbreaklifestyle

        You are doing a good job with your posts. Just keep on doing what you are doing.

  • Yvonne Jasinski

    I leaning more and more into trail travel in Europe. I will keep in for my future reference.

    • sophia
      AUTHOR

      Yvonne, thank you for the comment. If there are additional posts you’d like to see, please do share. Thanks for reading!

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