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Eurail pass over holiday travel season

We are considering purchasing a 4 or 5 day Eurail Global Pass for our upcoming trip 12/15-30. I understand for some of the high speed trains there are seat reservations that may be required and come at an additional cost but is there any other charges outside of the cost of the pass and seat reservations?

We fly into London and out of Paris with some time in Austria and Germany. With the current situation in Austria, and potentially Germany we've started looking in to some backup plans. I priced the train from London to Burges for 2 adults/1 senior/2 children and its $800-1,000 depending on departure time. That is just for the trip from London to Burges. We also would have a Cologne to Paris which is running approx. $400-$500 for the five of us. A four day pass for the five of is $835, a 5 day pass is $957 plus any required seat reservations. Just based on pricing these two trips (London-Burges and Cologne-Paris) it seems the pass would be the way to go.

Plus, should we need to revise any plans any more, having a pass would seem to offer more flexibility in any itinerary changes. Am I missing anything when it comes to the Eurail Global Pass? Do they limit the amount of seats available to pass holders vs full rate ticketed passengers?

Thanks for any insight.

Posted by
20855 posts

In the past France has definitely limited passholder reservations; people complained they couldn't reserve seats on trains for which tickets were still available for direct purchase. I don't know what the situation is like now.

What website are you using to price point-to-point tickets?

Posted by
42 posts

Yeah, if that is the case about having limited seat reservations to pass holders it makes me feel like I’m going in blind a bit. I don’t mind having to be flexible on availability so long as it’s within the same day, but if it’s multiple days without availability then that kind of defeats the purpose. I typically use Trainline or I’ll go direct to Eurostar or whomever’s website.

Posted by
8285 posts

You are trying to use a pass during holiday travel season? The whole concept of this trip needs rethinking. The situation here on the ground is evolving daily, so you need to land and then see where you can go. Try thinking south, if anything.

Trains: Does the Eurostar accept the Pass? How many days is a five-day pass valid? Yes, the number of seats is limited. Though you should qualify for family or group discounts on point-to-point tickets, it’s getting late for train tickets to travel during holiday season when people are rejoining their families.

I’m a huge European travel cheerleader but once cafés, restaurants and other activities move indoors, you are looking at a different situation. What Rick Steves and Cameron experienced just a few weeks ago is already outdated. The best travel skill to have right now ( in addition to masking) is flexibility. It’s going to be difficult for you to buy anything in advance because you don’t know where you’ll be able to go.

The reality is that you are trying to move between multiple countries with a rising pandemic going on. That’s an emergency situation and emergencies are expensive.

Posted by
3055 posts

Avoid Trainline and other 3rd party resellers and buy from actual operators. For Cologne to Paris, check with DB (www.bahn.de) and Thalys (www.thalys.com). Am I right in assuming Burges is a creative way to spell Bruges? You should be able to buy tickets from London to Bruges for around €60 for an adult if bought in advance. But, since you are travelling around Christmas I'm not surprised if the cheap advance tickets already are sold out, and they will only get more expensive.

In general, all seats are available to book no matter what kind of ticket you have. But SNCF limits the number of cheap seats (€10) on the TGVs and once they are sold out, seat reservations become more expensive. Apart from that there is no difference. Having a pass gives you a bit more flexibility, but for a trip around Christmas you might not be able to use that since the trains will most likely sell out. That also means you should buy seat reservations even where they are not mandatory.

Does Eurostar accept the Pass?

Yes, but if I'm not mistaken the seat reservation fee is €30.

How many days is a five-day pass valid?

Five days, surprisingly.

Posted by
7445 posts

Badger, i admit to laughing out loud to your last response as it was so dry and droll, but I think what Bets meant was for a pass that has five days of value, how many days do you have to use it in. I.e. use it in a week? Use it in fourteen days? I.e.the pass can be used for five days, which don’t have to be consecutive, but the last day you can use the pass is (for example) 10 days after the first day you used it.

To the original poster — unfortunately buying tickets for any trains this late in the game before travel, and particularly for a group of people during the Christmas holidays, is simply going to be expensive. There's no two ways around it. and as Bets mentioned, with Austria and perhaps Germany introducing restrictions that may have you thinking whether you want to (or are able to) spend precious vacation time there means that you may be looking at even more changes close to time if you buy tickets at the present time.

Posted by
3055 posts

Badger, i admit to laughing out loud to your last response as it was
so dry and droll, but I think what Bets meant was for a pass that has
five days of value, how many days do you have to use it in.

Glad to hear I could bring a bit of joy to the world. An Interrail pass is valid for five days in a month, I assume the rules are the same for Eurail passes.

Posted by
5486 posts

This year, planning a trip to 4 countries in just over 2 weeks during peak holiday season when half of Europe is on the move to visit family for Christmas and New Year was always going to be optimistic.

With rising Covid rates and the threat of lockdowns/ restrictions/ rapidly changing rules, I would suggest that you limit yourselves to the U.K. and France - at least then you will only have 2 sets of rules to keep on top of. Otherwise, it will be difficult to be flexible trying to find accommodation on the hoof for 5 people and changing transport options.

Don’t use Trainline - buy direct from the operators. Passes are likely to be of little use, as these seats will have been allocated some time ago.

Posted by
42 posts

Thanks for the feedback everyone. Yes, I meant Bruges not Burges lol. The 4 or 5 day passes are good for 4 or 5 days of train travel over a month. I understand the longer you book in advance, the cheaper the rates. And like many of you mentioned, the ever changing situation/rules make things challenging. My thought with a pass verses pre-purchased tickets on dedicated trains would be that it would give some flexibility to update plans on short notice. And yes maybe sticking with the UK and France would be a good idea and a little more streamlined for regulations. We are keeping Germany in the plans because we have family in Hagen that we are spending Christmas over. Thanks again for all the insight!

Posted by
3055 posts

My thought with a pass verses pre-purchased tickets on dedicated
trains would be that it would give some flexibility to update plans on
short notice.

That is in general true. But, when travelling around Christmas that flexibility is purely hypothetical since almost all trains will be fully booked.

Posted by
9556 posts

"What Rick Steves and Cameron experienced just a few weeks ago is already outdated."

I just wanted to emphasize what Bets said. This goes for any of us who traveled in Sept/Oct. I've been back home for 4 weeks today and already things on the ground are different than what I experienced. I think you can expect things to change again at least once, if not twice before you leave in 3 weeks.

Of course we are going to want to know how your trip went...so consider posting when you get back home and surface from jet lag, lol.

Posted by
27481 posts

In addition to the much tighter restrictions in Austria, Germany and the Netherlands so far, Belgium is having real problems so expect restrictions on Bruges soon. So far France has looked a bit better, and the UK numbers are horrific.

Being super flexible and limiting as much as possible putting yourselves in the wrong place at the wrong time is absolutely critical.

I wouldn't want to sink a lot of money in a Eurailpass and find that it has gone down the drain partly or completely unused.

I hope that this works out well for all of you and those you want to visit...

Posted by
5508 posts

"We are keeping Germany in the plans because we have family in Hagen that we are spending Christmas over."

How many nights will you be in London? I'm not a big fan of Ryanair, but Ryanair has gotten me places, and there are direct, 75-min. early morning Ryanair flights for €69 to Cologne on the 19th, 20th and 21st from London Stansted. As long as you can stay the night prior near Stansted, that would put you in Hagen's back yard. You could sightsee on day trips to visit Aachen or other cities before your Christmas stay with family. Do Paris after that if it fits?

Regional train travel between Cologne and Hagen - or other similar journeys on other days - will cost €45/day/5 people with the local day pass called the "Schöner-Tag Ticket", which you buy on the spot in Germany. No reservations, no pre-purchase, no special discount card... just €45 at the station.

Ryanair flights to Eindhoven (nr. Dutch/German border) for the same dates are also direct (65 min.) and priced at less than €30.