If you’re looking for an honest Eurail pass review, this one’s for you my friends!
One of the biggest questions that first-time visitors to Europe have is whether or not buying a rail pass is worth it.
This was one of my big questions too during my first backpacking trip 5 years ago – after all, many of us grow up with this whole backpacking Europe by train thing ingrained in our heads as THE rite of passage for eager wanaderlusters…
But the more I dug into research, the more I realized the multitude of ways you can get around Europe… not necessarily with a rail pass.
So, is the Eurail Pass worth it? Does it actually save you any money? After using a Eurail pass twice (once sponsored by ACP Rail and once paid on my own dime), I consider myself a bit of an obsessive Eurail expert. The very annoying and vague answer is it depends on your specific set of needs. So, in this post, I’ll be going over the many considerations you should make to decide whether a Eurail pass is right for you, along with a free quiz to help you decide as well!
NOTE: I’m talking primarily about the Eurail pass today, which is a rail pass for non European residents. That said, all the information below should apply for the Interrail pass too (which is a very similar pass but for European residents).
Short on Time? Take This Eurail Quiz to Help You Decide!
If you’re really on the fence about whether or not to buy a Eurail pass, I’ve created a quiz based on the info shared below that might help you decide whether or not a Eurail pass makes sense in your particular case. Answer these questions below and it’ll give you a recommendation:
How to Find the Best Deals on Eurail Passes
One thing I’ve noticed over the years is that Eurail tends to run special sales during specific times, so the best way to ensure you get great value from your pass is of course by buying during a sale! At the moment, the Eurail Black Friday sale (their biggest of the year) is on, so click here to grab the cheapest passes before they run out. Other sale times tend to be in the off-season, like last year for instance they ran a promo for travel up until May where you got a first class upgrade for free!
5 Considerations to Make When Deciding if a Eurail Pass is Worth it for You
Whether or not a Eurail pass is worth it for your trip depends on a variety of factors, so to help you decide, here are some key considerations you need to ask yourself before buying.
Consideration #1: What is Your Travel Priority?
Everybody prioritizes different things when they travel. For instance, while once upon a time, staying under budget was of utmost importance for me, these days I’m more inclined to pay extra for comfort, convenience, and being as far away from loud youths as humanly possible.
So, the first thing that you need to ask yourself when considering whether a Eurail pass is worth it is what your #1 priority actually is.
If your travel priority is budget-friendliness…
If your travel priority is budget-friendliness, honestly, there are cheaper ways to travel around Europe than using a Eurail pass. Click here for my roundup explaining different methods.
Specifically when it comes to train travel, most of the time, booking point to point tickets in advance is really going to be much cheaper than using a pass, especially if you take advantage of low fares that are booked well in advance and/or regional ticket deals, youth discounts, etc.
Of course, booking point to point tickets comes with a major downside, which is that they tend to be inflexible and locked to a certain date and time, leaving no wiggle room at all in terms of travel dates.
This is usually fine if you’re an organized traveler who likes to book everything like accommodation well in advance, but if you’re hoping for a more spontaneous trip where you can hop on a train and go, point to point tickets won’t lend themselves too well to this travel style.
EXAMPLE: Booked well in advance, German train tickets can be as cheap as 19.90 one way, even for high speed and long distance routes. This is why whenever I have a trip where I know when I’m going and where I’m staying, I’ll usually book these in advance and pay no more than 50 euros roundtrip. In most cases, this works out to be cheaper than buying a Eurail pass for the same trip.
If your travel priority is flexibility…
If you’ll be prioritizing flexibility during your trip however, then a Eurail pass is a great choice.
A wonderful thing about using a Eurail pass is (with a few exceptions where reservations are mandatory), you can usually just hop onto the train with your rail pass and take any journey that you want. This is really, really great if you have a more spontaneous travel style or if you just want more flexibility when it comes to your travel plans.
EXAMPLE: This past spring, I used my Eurail pass to visit some of Europe’s most amazing spring destinations (i.e. those that had pretty flowers blooming like the Netherlands). Because blooming season varies year to year, I couldn’t exactly book my tickets in advance. So instead of booking a trip in advance and hoping for the best, what I did instead was I just stalked blooming conditions/Instagram and waited for conditions to be optimal before grabbing my pass and just going. In these cases, if I had purchased tickets on the day of, that would have been upwards of 100 euros per ticket, but because of the pass I was able to just go whenever the flowers commanded for about 30 euros per travel day, and it was perfect!
If your travel priority is comfort/convenience…
And lastly, if you really value comfort and convenience when you travel, then a Eurail pass may be a good choice for you.
That’s because train travel is hands down one of the most comfortable ways to travel around Europe – you get way more leg room than a bus (and much nicer bathrooms), plus the journeys tend to be substantially more scenic and enjoyable than flights.
Another key factor to consider is that train stations tend to be in the center of cities rather than the outskirts like most airports, which means travelling by train can save you lots of time and money in that regard too.
Because of all those factors, I do think that train travel makes sense if your priority is comfort and convenience, and using a Eurail pass can help you save quite a bit of money.
Consideration #2: Which Eurail Pass Are You Buying?
Another key consideration is which Eurail pass you intend to buy. Eurail newbies often get confused because there are a few different kinds of passes that you can buy, in spite of the fact that the term “Eurail pass” gets tossed around as one single entity all the time. The value that you’re able to extract from your pass depends a lot on which one you buy, so here is a quick overview of the different ones and the instances that they’re good for.
Eurail One Country Pass vs. Eurail Global Pass
The first distinction that you need to make is in terms of the geographical area that your pass covers.
This is actually pretty easy now because Eurail recently rehauled their entire system and nowadays you can only purchase either a one country pass or a global pass.
The one country pass is fairly straightforward: you purchase one pass and it’s valid for that one country only.
On the other hand, with the global pass, you actually gain access to the entire Eurail network, which is 31 countries.
In my personal opinion, a one country pass is very rarely worth it just because they’re tremendously expensive and it’s hard for you to get your money’s worth. On the other hand, a global pass can be worth it depending on where you go and how far apart your different stops are.
For instance, I would say if you are traveling really far distances, then it might make more sense to actually buy just a flight because time is money and you don’t want to be spending 12 hours on a train, when you could be spending 12 hours eating spaghetti. BUT I do think it can be really, really worth it if you plan a bunch of different legs that are only within a few hours of each other.
EXAMPLE: I used my Global Pass a lot going from Germany to Switzerland and because they’re neighbours, none of my train rides were ever more than a few hours so it made sense to do these journeys by train rather than fly. In addition to that, these countries tend to be quite pricey for trains, so I was really able to get my money’s worth using the pass.
Eurail Continuous Pass vs. Eurail Flex Pass
The second distinction that you need to make with your Eurail pass is in terms of the validity period and the number of travel days that you get…
There are two kinds of passes that you can purchase, the first of which is the continuous pass. With it, you purchase a ticket for a set period of time and then every day of that period you can ride a train and your pass is valid. For example, if you get a Eurail continuous pass for two months, then you can take the train every single day of those two months and it’s all included in your pass.
On the other hand, you have the flex pass. With it, you get a set number of days to travel in a time period ranging from one to two months. For example, if you get a Eurail Flex Pass with 10 travel days in two months, then within a two month period, you get 10 days during which you can use the pass and ride as many trains as you want during that day.
I’ll be honest, the continuous pass is very rarely worth it unless you’re going to be traveling every one or two days. On the other hand, I really do recommend a Flex Pass if you’re going to be buying a Eurail Pass. This is the option I’ve always gone for and I find it’s better suited for trips where you’ll be travelling a bit slower, spending more than 1 or 2 days in one destination.
Consideration #3: Which countries do you plan to visit with your Eurail Pass?
The next important question you need to ask yourself is which countries you intend to visit.
The honest truth is with Eurail, there are certain countries that are much better for the pass than others.
Countries Where I Don’t Think a Eurail Pass is Worth It
For instance, there are countries that have a lot of mandatory reservation fees like France, Italy, and Portugal. Taking high speed trains in all of these countries require additional reservation fees, which really racks up costs. In the case of Portugal, you can’t even make reservations online, only in person, which (speaking from personal experience) is mindbogglingly inconvenient. In addition to that, most of the time point to point tickets in these countries aren’t that expensive, so your savings with the pass wouldn’t actually be that significant anyway.
There are also certain countries where bus travel is a lot more common than train travel and for that reason, I would really avoid getting a rail pass for countries in Eastern Europe and the Balkans.
Countries Where I Think a Eurail Pass is Worth It
On the flip side, some countries really do offer amazing value with a Eurail pass.
In my opinion, Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom are great countries for the Eurail pass because a) they tend to have very expensive point to point tickets and b) they largely don’t require mandatory reservations. These two factors combined mean you’re likely to save a lot of money with a Eurail pass.
EXAMPLE: I used my Eurail pass a lot in Switzerland where trains are notoriously expensive and I actually used them on a lot of scenic sightseeing trains like the Glacier Express and Bernina Express, which saved me hundreds of euros compared to full price!
The Final Word on Whether Eurail is Worth it for Your Destinations
When in doubt, checking if Eurail is worth it for your countries is easy – just search the prices for point-to-point tickets in the countries that you’re visiting and also add up potential costs like reservation fees in order to figure out whether or not a Eurail pass actually makes sense for your trip.
Consideration #4: How Old Are You?
Another consideration is your age, because Eurail offers really really fantastic discounts for both youth and senior passengers.
A youth pass is meant for those who are 27 or younger, and tends to be about 20% cheaper than the adult pass, which is for adults age 28 to 60.
A senior pass is meant for those aged 60+. Unfortunately, the discount is not as good as the youth pass, with savings clocking in at about 10% but it’s still better than paying full price!
So, if you want to consider getting a Eurail pass, know that the deal is a lot sweeter if you’re 27 years old and under or 60+.
Consideration #5: Will You Be Using the Other Perks of Your Eurail Pass?
Last but not least, a final thing to consider is whether or not you’ll be using the additional perks of your Eurail pass.
It’s a little known benefit of the Eurail pass that you can use it to score discounts at a variety of spots around Europe, primarily hostels, city cards, and tours.
If you intend to make use of these discounts, that makes the Eurail pass a lot more worth it. So, what I would do if I were you is I would actually look at the different countries that you’re going to be exploring and check the Eurail website to see what those additional perks are. Depending on your travel style, if you decide to use a lot of these perks, that would make the pass super, super worth it.
For me personally, I didn’t actually use the perks very much apart from one time on a special train in Switzerland where it saved me 25% off… but that did save me 10 euros so as you can see, you can extract a lot of additional value from your pass if you use the perks often!
Is a Eurail Pass Worth It? The Final Word
So, as you know by now, there are a lot of factors that go into whether or not a Eurail pass is worth it.
To sum up everything I’ve explained above, I do think that Eurail passes ARE worth it if you meet the following requirements:
You value flexibility, spontaneity and comfort over budget
You are travelling extensively around countries like Germany, Switzerland and the UK where trains are normally very expensive, and where reservation fees don’t tend to be mandatory
You are under the age of 27 or over the age of 60, and eligible for additional discounts
You intend to make use of the Eurail Pass’ additional perks, like hostel and attraction discounts
On the other hand, I do not think the Eurail pass is a good idea for you if you meet the following requirements:
You are looking for the cheapest possible way to travel around Europe
You will be travelling a lot in the following countries: France, Italy, Portugal and Eastern European countries/the Balkans like Albania, Montenegro, Bulgaria, Romania, Kosovo, North Macedonia, etc.
You are a very organized traveller and intend to book all your accommodation/activities in advance
You do not qualify for additional discounts (e.g. you would pay full adult fare for those aged 28-59)
You won’t really be using any of Eurail’s additional perks/discounts
Any more questions about the Eurail Pass?
Let me know in the comments below! I hope you enjoyed this honest Eurail review and that it helped you decide whether or not a Eurail pass is worth it for your trip. If you do decide to buy one, I’d love if you could use my affiliate link here at no additional cost to you! This gives me a small commission, but costs you nothing extra. Thanks in advance, and I hope you have an amazing trip!