Rail Pass Selection advice for a LONG trip

HI There, My friend and I (both under 26) are going to be going to Europe for about 9 months and are trying to figure out if the Eurail Pass is worth it for us or not and if so what one to get. We are going to about 17 countries (Western) and will be staying at farms for long periods of time between travel (any where from 2 weeks to a month- stayed put in one area). As for the Train, we will use it from country to country to change locations and to site see. I assume we will use both fast and slow trains. We will be doing day trips from the farms we are staying at (in order to get to the larger cities and villages). But since we will be using the trains less frequently than someone traveling for only a few months, it is complicated. According to our plan, we will probably use the train for on average 10 days in any given month, but like I said will be there for 9 months. However the time is not set in stone, it is flexible as we go and we might be done sooner or stay longer; with that being said, Rick says it is hard, if not impossible to buy passes while in europe, so should we get the passes months in advance? Even if our time there may change? ANY SUGGESTIONS WOULD BE GREAT, THANKS IN ADVANCE!!!

Posted by Frank
Tresana, Highlands Ranch, CO, USA
10889 posts

I am curious. Why type of visa are you obtaining for this trip? You do know that you can only stay Schengen countries for 90 days out of any 180 day period. For what you are describing for this trip I doubt if the is a single rail pass that would work for you. Rail passes work best for long distance travel. For short trips p20 on local are general much cheaper..

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
7829 posts

Yes, I am curious too, what type of visa did you get?

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
8761 posts

In addition to the Schengen requirements correctly identified above, I wonder if you have arranged a work visa? You are aware that you can't do any work on those farms without one, even if you aren't paid and only get room and board for your work, right? P2P would work better than a pass, as long as you have your visas worked out.

Posted by Lola
Seattle, WA
5444 posts

My guess is they are going WWOOFing. www.wwoof.org However, they still need to observe the Schengen rules. Putting the UK in the middle for 90 days to comply with the rule is iffy. Here is what the UK WWOOF website says about gettin admitted to the UK to work on farms: "You need to be aware that there have been cases where such people have been detained by immigration officers, refused entry to the UK, and put on the next available flight back to their home country. This is a traumatic experience, and it's guaranteed to ruin your trip! However, there have been other cases where people in exactly the same situation HAVE been allowed to enter the UK to WWOOF after intervention by senior immigration officers. WWOOF UK is currently trying to resolve this confusion. At this time, however, you need to bear in mind that trying to enter the UK specifically to WWOOF may result in you being refused."

Posted by Jim
Bern, Switzerland
341 posts

Jo, if you are in fact doing this WWOOF thing, then you should be aware: "In return for volunteer help, WWOOF hosts offer food, accommodation and opportunities to learn about organic lifestyles." This definition from the WWOOF website means that a work permit is required in the Schengen area for a Non EU or Swiss Citizen... if a person is caught doing this as a tourist then they can expect harsh treatment from the authorities. Furthermore you may find that if you have an accident or become sick that your insurer may refuse to pay on the basis that you were not in fact a tourist. I strongly advise you to make sure you are in full compliance with the rules, because the consequences can be great.

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17796 posts

Jo, As the others have mentioned, it's VERY important to observe the Schengen rules, or your holiday could take a nasty turn, including heft fines and possibly deportation to your home country. I'd have to spend some time looking, but doubt that a Railpass would be a good option for that length of time. AFAIK, even the Global Pass is only valid for up to three months, so you'd have to buy several passes. In addition, Railpasses DO NOT cover the reservations fees which are compulsory on the "premium" trains. Especially in Italy, if you're caught without a valid reservation for the train you're riding on, you may be fined on the spot and it's not cheap! Fines start at €50 per person and increase from there. Good luck with your planning!

Posted by Frank
Tresana, Highlands Ranch, CO, USA
10889 posts

I think we are just blowing wind here. I think Jo is done and will not hear back.

Posted by Lola
Seattle, WA
5444 posts

The Schengen reality hits some people pretty hard, especially if they first learn of it here.

Posted by Frank
Tresana, Highlands Ranch, CO, USA
10889 posts

I was unfamiliar with Wwoof so I spent about 30 minutes on their general web site. I think it is very deceptive. There is a constant reference to a fee that has to be paid by the individual but never states the amount. Constant comment about each country being independent with their own rules. No mention at all of any visa or work permit requirements. Although the undertone of the written copy seems to slightly imply that it is only for the people of each country but that is not the case. I think the whole program is a problem if someone thinks they can work their way across Europe.

Posted by Barry
San Diego, CA
588 posts

Yes, it's always kind of interesting that once the Schengen rules are brought to the attention of the traveler they seem to disappear, reality can be brutal sometimes. I also find it interesting that people are willing to go into a program such as this (working on a farm) in Europe yet probably wouldn't do it for a day in the U.S.A. I guess in its own way it has a romantic feel to it when one is sitting in the coffee house planning a 9 month trip to Europe, but the fun of it would wear off after about 1 day, farmwork is some of the toughest work there is. This is coming from a Kentucky born boy who in the 60's picked vegetables by hand and bucked bales of hay for 2 cents a bale.

Posted by Nancy
Bloomington, IL, USA
7684 posts

Years ago I followed the blog of a couple of Canadians that did Wwoof to travel around the world. They did it over the course of a year, and almost immediately found it much less "romantic" and carefree than they imagined, but they stuck it out. That was before the Schengen rules, and much of the time they were outside of Europe, anyway. I think a lot of people just don't know about the rule, and it can come as a shock to have your wonderful-sounding plan crushed so suddenly.

Posted by Jo
Middletown, CT, USA
25 posts

To everyone who has posted thus far- Im so sorry I have not responded back until now. I had no idea people had responded to me! This was my first question on this site and I have been confused with the posting. I cheeked back the day after posting and the few days after that and did not see any messages or responses, so I assumed no one responded to this complicated question. Im so sorry it seems like I was rude and just did not care, this is not what I intended at all. Just today I saw a message from Frank, saying I had not responded and then I searched more in depth and finally found my post!!!! And thank you all for responding!! I am about to respond back to the questions.

Posted by Richard
Los Angeles
633 posts

Schengen, Schengen, Schengen..... Whew! Just had to blurt that out after seeing your long stay. Sorry, couldn't help myself. Unless you are doing long train travel days requiring several different trains, a pass is usually more expensive than individual tickets especially purchased in advance from the European websites (avoid the redirect to the American site). I won't jump in the fray and assume a bunch of stuff about your arraignments and make value judgments about you. This is a good forum for getting information but a lot of us are butt heads.

Posted by Jo
Middletown, CT, USA
25 posts

As for the post- We have tried hard to make sure all of our "ducks are in a row" before we do this trip, but Now I am worried. I made a list of all of the countries that we will be staying in, with the contact information for these country's embassies.

Posted by Jo
Middletown, CT, USA
25 posts

When calling all of the embassies, (which was a difficult enough process- sometime there was no human to talk to and many embassies had very specific restricted times for these sort of questions)and after explaining that we will be moving from country to country (that we will only be in a any given country for no more than 30 days, and after explaining that we will NOT be receiving any formal money compensation for our work on the farms (we mentioned that we are doing this through a program called "workaway" (Cheek out workaway.info- and yes this is just like WWOOF, except that you pay one price for all countries, instead of paying for wwoofing abilities in each individual country, and it is different in that you are not only working on organic farms)

Posted by Jo
Middletown, CT, USA
25 posts

anyway after explaining all of this to the embassies, not one country said they think we need a work visa- basically everyone said "as long as you have an American passport, you can be in our country for a max. of 90 days with no problems",(meaning we do not need work visas since we are not receiving money) some countries advised us to email the visa department to double cheek (which we are in the middle of doing now),Denmark, like a lot of the countries were taken off guard by our question and talked to other people in the office for a good answer for us, They told us the same response as most countries, that is is not a problem and no work visa is required, but they did say "If you are stopped by an immigration officer, tell them you are staying with a friend, and give them the name and address of your host family, but keep it simple and don't mention anything about working for them in exchange for stay and you will be fine"

Posted by Jo
Middletown, CT, USA
25 posts

England and Ireland are not apart of Schengen Countries. Could we travel through Schengen countries for 90 days, stay in England and Ireland for 90 days (which will end the 90 days within 180 day limit)and then do 90 more days in other Schengen countries?????

Posted by Andre L.
Tilburg, Netherlands
2176 posts

Jo, Your situation has two issues. I think you understood the whole issue about Schengen visas: 90 days in any of last 180. So theoretically you could do as you suggested above, but immigration officials could still not like your plans. These rules are uniform for all Schengen countries. What is not uniform are rules about what consist of "work", which you cannot even if you are within the 90-out-of-180 days time limit. Regulations for what constitute work vary a lot. Schengen tourist visa-free entries don't give the right to work. Some countries require specific visas for volunteer work. Others label work-for-perks (food, lodging) as working, subject to normal work visa rules (an entirely different animal than Schengen visa-free admissions). In some places, it is forbidden for agricultural employers (whether big or small) to take employees performing work below minimum wage. It all depends. What I know is that the organization you are trying to volunteer with has been accused of being a "scam" in Italy, in the Netherlands and in Austria (that I know of), something farmers use to take advantage of people from abroad just so that they lower their costs, while performing typical farmwork - something without any educational component.

Posted by Jo
Middletown, CT, USA
25 posts

Andre, Thank you for your post! As far as immigration issues- Would you suggest still doing as we have planed (staying in England for the 90 days),if it technically is ok, or do you think we will have problems? We are going to contact our state.gov to ask what they recommend as far as the Schengen problem. As far as "workaway" goes, I am skeptical too, Do you know anymore about WWOOF as being a better program? Does WWOOF take advantage of foreigners and is it better at teaching? I have looked at a lot of the "host" families on "worakway" and we would not go anywhere where there are bad comments about the place, and there are a lot of hosts with good comments from people who have stayed there. We are young, poor, hard workers, who want to really get a grasp of the cultures in europe and thought this would be, yes hard work, but worth it for the education and experience; I just don't know what to trust. We know a few girls our age who did WWOOF and had a great experience. As far as work visa's go- we have contacted the countries embassies about this problem- we still have to get a hold of the UK, but like I posted earlier- most countries said it is not considered work if there is no money involved. Its like staying with friends and helping them out- according to the embassies. I do know the UK is more stick and I believe they want us to get a volunteer card- does anyone know about this??? Does anyone know what SPECIFIC counties might consider this work????? (Just in case the embassies where wrong) I might ask a question just about this work visa thing alone.....