28 days in Europe by train

My boyfriend and I are traveling to Europe for 27 nights and we plan to buy the 1-month Eurail pass. We're flying in and out of Berlin. Here's our planned itinerary so far. We want to see a lot of places, but we also want to keep our travel relaxed. Does this sound feasible? Are the nights in each city sufficient or should we reduce/add some nights in each city? Arrive in Berlin. Berlin -> Copenhagen 3 nights - Copenhagen Night train from Copenhagen -> Amsterdam 3 nights - Amsterdam Night train from Amsterdam -> Zurich 8 nights in Switzerland (still trying to figure out the cities) 2 nights in Salzburg 2 nights in Hallstatt 3 nights in Prague 4 nights in Berlin Thanks.

Posted by Kathy
Germany, Germany
813 posts

Everything from Amsteram down looks fine to me. My problem is flying in to Berlin then taking a train to Copenhagen. If you're already in the airport, just get a flight there instead. It's like saying you're flying into San Diego to get to San Jose, but you're taking a pit stop in Las Vegas. You should check the bahn.de website. Use the days to see Munich instead or add a day to Salzburg or elsewhere.

Posted by Douglas
Oak Park, Illinois
3295 posts

I'm with Kathy - why fly into Berlin just to go to Copenhagen by train? Either fly into Copenhagen direct or catch a short flight from Berlin. I can guarantee that between the jet lag and then taking a train to Copenhagen will make your first couple days very difficult. Check the costs for open jaw tickets - the difference may be a wash when you factor in the cost AND time of getting between Berlin and Copenhagen. For as much as you are on trains and constantly on the go, a rail pass is probably just fine for you. Just remember than many routes will require a supplemental reservation and that the Thalys and TGV limit reservations to pass holders (so book ahead). As someone that also travelled fast and furious throughout Europe as a college student, I think your schedule is fine, even lingering somewhat...

Posted by Monte
Genesee, ID
1759 posts

If those cities are listed in the order you will visit them, they are a little zig-zaggy. We use Thomas Cook Rail Map Europe to help plan our trips. It gives you a good idea where things are in relation to each other. I feel they are well worth the money, and have bought several on Amazon.

Posted by Bobbie
Park Ridge, IL
524 posts

Dianne Eurail Passes may not be the best way to go. Important to compare the cost of point to point tickets as well. Discount airlines are cheaper and faster Copenhagen to Amsterdam. See skyscanner.com. Read the Fine Print as luggage penalties are high and strict. And everything costs extra. Still cheap & good.
Also check other threads here on pros and cons of night trains. Also check Swiss Train non Eurail Passes. With 8 stops (plus Switzerland), your 27 nights is also reduced by Recovery Day in Copenhagen after flight from US + travel to Copenhagen. And your last day is your Travel Day to US. Now you have 25 days or about 3 nights per stop. Figuring Inclusive Travel Time - Each move you make takes 1/2 day plus more money. Count packing, checking out, time to rail station, wait at train station, train time, time to new hotel, checking in, orienting yourself, etc. To get more specific on times and costs of trains, you can go to www.bahn.com. Note: You don;t have to pick the exact train now, just get an idea of times/costs. So with 9 (or more) stops, you have at least 3 1/2 travel days or more. So now you are down to 21 nights actually sight seeing. That means a little more than 2 nights per stop. This is easiest to see if you get a blank monthly calendar. wincalendar.com is good. Fill in your current itinerary with international flights and calculated or 1/2 day estimate to get a very good idea of how much time you are actually spending in each city/area. It is always a shock to me to see how little time I am spending in a place.

Posted by Bobbie
Park Ridge, IL
524 posts

Continued from Above IMHO, you need to reduce the number of places you are going. It is important to experience a place which is hard to do if you are only staying 1 1/2 days. One way I do this is to look for an outlier in terms of geography, distance, and/or cost. Think about Copenhagen. Maybe Hallstadt. And one more. This... is ...very...hard... to... do. In addition, each week and/or two weeks, you need to spend 3 or 4 nights in one place to catch your breath, get really familiar with one place and rest! Otherwise, everything is going to be a blur. It really is hard to go to 6 countries, with 6 different languages, 6 different cultures, and on and on. Keep us posted on your itinerary as you read all of the posters suggestions. Bobbie

Posted by Jill
Boulder, USA
659 posts

Dianne, If you have already purchased your airfare then I think your itinerary is perfect. If not you might consider starting in the North and flying home from Zurich working your way south, but other than that I think your trip sounds awesome with perfect amount of nights and destinations! A lot of people on this helpline will advise against a Eurail pass, however I think sometimes they do make sense. Sure you could probably save some money buying all of your tickets in advance from home, but in your case - traveling quite a bit, and some fairly long distances the railpass will allow you a lot of flexibility and I think may be a good investment. Be aware that if you (hopefully) spend some of your time in the Lauterbrunnen Valley in Switzerland you railpass will only get you as far as Interlaken, however with a railpass you do get discounts on either the Berner Oberland Regional Pass, or 25% off individual p/p tickets in the area.

Posted by Dianne
San Diego
9 posts

Thanks all for the reply! We did a lot of research regarding airfares and decided to buy a roundtrip ticket to Berlin because it was cheaper. Like you mentioned, we also considered flying into Copenhagen and out of Berlin, but the price difference was pretty substantial, maybe it's because it's during the summer? We're definitely still considering flying from Berlin to Copenhagen if the price is right. So far, we haven't had any luck.

Posted by Dianne
San Diego
9 posts

On another note, what are your thoughts regarding night trains? We considered night trains for convenience given the fact that the travel time is long and we can spend it sleeping rather than wasting a day's travel.

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
22011 posts

Dianne, I tend to agree with the others in that it would be better to use open-jaw flights and re-structure the order-of-visits somewhat for "efficiency". Each change of location will use at least half a day, so with that number of destinations, you'll be using several days of your short trip just in travel times. "We did a lot of research regarding airfares and decided to buy a roundtrip ticket to Berlin because it was cheaper." In working out the overall cost, be sure to include the time and costs in getting from Berlin to Copenhagen and back. On the topic of night trains, that's not a method I use but it can be advantageous in some situations. It's important to look at the specific route you're planning on taking. If there are several changes in the "wee hours", you won't be getting much sleep! I structure my trips so that rail journeys are all within the range of 6-8 hours. If longer than that, I look at budget flights. If this is your first trip to Europe, I'd highly recommend reading Europe Through The Back Door, as that provides lots of good information on "how" to travel in Europe. The country-specific Guidebooks have lots of details on Hotels, restaurants, sightseeing, transportation, etc. Happy travels!

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
8849 posts

Night trains usually need a reservation and a supplement fee..

Posted by Douglas
Oak Park, Illinois
3295 posts

I've taken a lot of night trains. In some ways they are good. You save the hotel bill, get a full day in a town before leaving, meet people (sometimes) and there is for me a romance about leaving a city knowing the next morning you will be in some exciting new place. No airport hassles. And there is always the hope that my bunkmates will be Swedish college girls;-) But... They are not restful. I'm a good sleeper but don't sleep well on the night trains. There are too many jerks, platform noises and sometimes hallway noises to sleep soundly. Plus the cabins are very tight, especially if it has the full contingent of 4-6 bunkmates. You sleep in your clothes (I bring shorts and a tshirt to at least be comfy). No shower in the morning. And many leave quite late so I'm at a loss of what to do from 8:00 till 10:00 or later. The next day I'm always praying my hotel will be able to check me in early so I can shower and maybe rest a few hours. Oh and the college girls always seem to be in the cabin next door, not my own :-( With the advent of cheap airfares within Europe, I'll probably defer to flights from now on.

Posted by Sarah
Stuttgart, Germany
2029 posts

I actually like this schedule for the most part and think that if you can afford it, having the Eurail pass is not necessarily a terrible idea for this kind of trip. But you definitely want to be aware of which trains you'll need to get reservations for, and how much those cost. And I wouldn't neccessarily go for the one month pass, either. It might be a better deal to get a different pass. Right now you only have 7 days of train travel plus whatever you do in Switzerland, so why pay for a full month global pass? You can get an adult saver pass for 10 days of travel in 5 countries, and then end up supplimenting say, your trip to prague by buying a ticket from the austrian border to prague, and you will probably still save money as opposed to buying the global one month pass that you don't really need. You'll save 200 euro per pass this way, and there's no way a point-to-point ticket to Prague will come even close to that cost.

Posted by Andre L.
Tilburg, Netherlands
2379 posts

On night trains: I personally think they are a waste of money and time, and dangerous (unless you pay for the expensive private sleepers). Also, I loath the fact the want to keep passports with them during the travel! Not even a transatlantic flight crew will keep possession of your passport, so I consider this behavior (conductors keeping passports with them) abusive. Open all doors for identity theft and God knows what else. Couchettes are compartments you might share with strangers. I don't share a room with anyone except my girlfriend anymore (I'm past college and roommate age). Why would I share a train compartment with seedy subjects who might be waiting to snatch my bags, money or else? Finally, personally I do need a bed to call a night rest. I sleep merely 5 hours per night, but sleeping in an airplane, train or what else won't cut it.

Posted by Douglas
Oak Park, Illinois
3295 posts

Andre - I get that you don't like night trains and can sympathize. But as someone that has taken A LOT of them, I've never had such experiences. Always a first but they are not seedy and I have no qualms about the conductor keeping my passport. I've recently done the reclining seat overnight and hated it. Party for how uncomfy it was and partly because I was worried about my belongings. But if in a compartment, I've never worried one bit.

Posted by Fred
San Francisco
4143 posts

Dianne, If you intend to get the Eurail Pass, then definitely go by night from Amsterdam to Zürich. I would. It's direct, arrives at 0820. But I would suggest staying at least one night in Berlin upon arrival from the West Coast, instead of immediately going from Tegel to Berlin Hbf. to catch the next ICE to Copenhagen. Take the Berlin-Copenhagen train the next morning. I've flown from SFO-Frankfurt, stayed one night there, and then was on the train next morning for four hours to Dortmund. You could do the Copenhagen-Amsterdam by day, Copenhagen-Hamburg, Hamburg-Duisburg on ICE, Duisburg-Amsterdam. If you want to save on the expenses, forego the couchette and sleeper option. That's extra and not covered by your Pass. Since the Amsterdam-Zurich (night) has the armchair option, with your Pass you'll probably pay 15-20 Euro out of pocket. All in all I think you have a good and flexible itinerary.

Posted by David
Florence, AL, USA
2918 posts

Diane: You are very lucky to have the time to start such an odyssey. Life is never ending. You look as if you're wanting to grab all the gusto the first time around. If you have not booked your flights: I would suggest you fly into Europe open jawed; starting at one end and flying out of the other end. If you're going to Copenhagen, why not just fly into Stockholm? It's a premier city of the world, on the level of Paris and London. Then, drop down to Copenhagen and Amsterdam; They are two great, fun cities. If you're young, Switzerland is a little too conservative, and. sidewalks roll up at dark. You might be better served to head for Munich, Innsbruck, Salzburg and over to Vienna. Then, take in Prague. I think you'll be much better satisfied with this approximate itinerary. I just hope you're not floating after these towns, as they are all fantastic beer drinking, hard partying cities. They would maximize good times for anyone.

Posted by stephen
Greeley, co, usa
439 posts

What happens to your first day plans if the flight is delayed? 5 of my last 7 flights to Europe were delayed by 5-27 hours!

Posted by jennifer
brooklyn, ny, usa
118 posts

hi diane - this is my first post as i am newly registered while planning my first trip. as others have stated, if you havent booked your flight already, try open jaw. i didnt even realize this existed until i read it in a rick steves guide. i had been pricing one way tickets. i didnt realize you could click "multi-city" and get way cheaper that way. my trip has me arriving in brussels and flying home from milan. it worked out to be $10 cheaper than a round trip to brussels, and now i do not have to return to brussels to fly home.