Eurail Pass Help!

After doing a ton of research, it seems Im getting more confused. There is a ton of great info here as well as other sites, but I was hoping to get some advice to nudge me in the right direction. I will be traveling around Europe for 3 months starting in April. I have already ruled out going the advance purchase route as I don't want to have a fixed itinerary and want to be able to go where I want spontaneously. I figure I could just pay as I go, but have been warned that would be pricey in alot of countries, especially overnight trains. So it would seem a Eurail Pass would be my best option, but then I run across a ton of people saying it is a huge ripoff and never use it. So I guess my question, given all that, is; What is the best option for getting around Europe? I plan to see as many countries as I can, and want to be able to travel on the fly, when the mood strikes me. I am also aware I would have to purchase a separate pass for the UK and was wondering if, in that case, it would be better to pay as I go or if the Brit Rail Pass is a good value. Would love to hear from people who have done a similar trip as this is my first time to Europe and Im very excited! But all this negativity about Eurail passes has me a bit confused! Thank you all very much in advance for any help or advice you can offer Chad

Posted by Frank
Tresana, Highlands Ranch, CO, USA
10868 posts

You have your answer. There are advantages and disadvantages to both approaches. You just have to decide which advantages are most important for you. Overnight trains are pricy even with a pass (additional fees) and with the frequency of high speed trains overnight trains are less useful. How many overnight trains do you really need? And besides, with overnight trains they need to be booked well in advance because they do sell out early so you lose the flexibility of going on the fly. Even with the pass you need to make advance reservations and pay a seat reservation fee in addition to the pass. A single country pass from GB mostly likely would save money since the British rail system is the most expensive in all of Europe. On the other hand, rail pass rarely makes sense in Italy because even the full fares are very reasonable.

Posted by Chad
Poconos
16 posts

Thanks for your reply Frank. I see you are in Co. I Lived in Ft Collins for 7 years, and still miss it. I guess the better way to ask my question would be to ask if it is GENERALLY cheaper to buy tickets as I go, or is the 2 month Global Pass going to save me the money? Keep in mind I want to be able to go and leave when I want, to where I want without having to do alot of advance planning. Indeed, it may just be spur of the moment. I get the advantages of one over the other, but in all the posts I have read about the Eurail Pass online, most have said to steer clear and that they are a ripoff. I just find it hard to believe that on a journey like mine I will end up saving that much more money booking tickets on the fly the I would dropping the 1,700.00 bucks for the 2 month pass. That said, I guess I was hoping to find someone who had done a trip like mine to share their thoughts on the matter, especially which option they chose and why it worked for them. Thanks again for any and all advice!

Posted by Frank
Tresana, Highlands Ranch, CO, USA
10868 posts

You are doing it the lazy way. You have to do your own homework. No one knows what a trip like your is. Everyone's trip is different. The only way you will know for sure is to roughly lay our your trip and then price each leg and add it up. The math will not lie. And, remember, there will be extra fees to use the pass so that could add another $200 to 300 to the pass cost. But if you want a general answer without any idea of where you are going, countries your are travel in, etc., then I will say, GENERALLY p2p tickets will be cheaper except, most likely, in GB.

Posted by Harold
New York, NY, USA
2826 posts

For a three month trip, particularly if you won't have a fixed itinerary, a rail pass makes more sense than it does for most posters. The usual reason we are all so negative about rail passes is that people think it makes it easier and cheaper for just a few rides where they have a fixed itinerary, and it doesn't. But for a long trip, the per-day cost is lower, and as long as you know about the restrictions (having to buy reservations in France and Italy, having to pay extra for sleeping accomodations, restrictions on the number of railpass holder tickets on TGV's in France, etc), you can make it work well for you. As with any "deal" (local transit pass, museum pass, city card), whether it's worthwhile depends on your plans and needs. For what you're describing, it sounds worthwhile.

Posted by Chad
Poconos
16 posts

Hey Frank, I can assure you I have spent many hours researching and planning the trip. In some cases, countries rail websites don't show the prices on their websites when you plug in a route, and some say no route found (Greece for example) when I can find the route on another website but not the price. Sometimes I can't translate the website into English, even with Google Translate. I have a general idea of where I would like to go, but not a specific date or time for most of them, which, as I have noticed, can affect the price or even the route. Most won't let you book that far in advance, and while I realize the fares may not change much between now and April, I'm not entirely sure since, again, I have never traveled in Europe. That is why my question was specifically aimed at people who had done a trip similar to mine, not exactly like mine as you implied. I'm fully aware noone is doing a trip exactly like the one I will do. I was just using this traveler "help line" to get some advice, not plan my trip for me. I specifically asked I'd like to hear from people who have done a similar trip, and so if all you have to offer is suggesting Im being lazy by asking for a little help, maybe you should just forgo responding. Thanks and have a nice night

Posted by Chad
Poconos
16 posts

Harold, thank you very much, that is exactly the kind of response I was looking for. I just wanted to make sure I was making the right choice for me, but was curious if other travelers had done the kind of trip Im going to do without using a Eurail Pass and what kind of experiences they had doing so. Your advice is greatly appreciated

Posted by Fred
San Francisco
2687 posts

Hi, You're going 3 months and presumably doing some criss-cross and long distance rides, esp in Germany and France, Austria, Switzerland I would get the Global Pass unless you want to be locked in to time specific advance purchase discounted tickets, thereby sacrificing flexibility to save on tickets...it all depends on how you want to travel, whether it's rip off or not. The overnight trains are only expensive if you decide on getting a sleeper or couchette. With a Pass you just pay for seat in a compartment or an armchair. In 2011 I went from Hamburg to Vienna changing in Munich. For the CNL night train leg with a Pass from Hamburg-Munich in an armchair seat I paid 15 Euro (the mandatory reservation). That's all. Hannover to Paris (night) was even less.. 10 Euro but in a 6 seat compartment. The armchair is much more comfortable. You can't hop on to night trains with only your Pass since the conductor will ask for your mandatory reservation. Failing that, you'll have to buy it from him/her, which is a bit more expensive. To answer your question...I use a Pass.

Posted by Tom
Hüttenfeld, Hessen, Germany
9102 posts

It's really quite simple. With a third-party rail pass, you're paying a premium for slightly more convenience. If you want to save money, then you need to plan in advanced. The days when passes provided both flexibility and bargains are long gone. You can't have it both ways. Furthermore, with all the restrictions the national rail companies are increasingly placing on pass holders, and the ease of buying tickets from electronic kiosks (in Germany, it takes only slightly longer than withdrawing money from an ATM), even the flexibility and convenience that passes once offered are disappearing. Now with that being said, some of the national rail companies sell their own domestic passes that can be quite economical. For example, if you plan on making more than 3 rail trips within Belgium, NMBS (the national rail company) sells a 10 trip carnette for about €60. Deutsche Bahn in Germany sells all sorts of regional, daily and weekend passes. If you know what countries you will visit, you would do well to investigate what sort of discounts each national rail company offers. But unless you can provide more specifics on where you plan to visit, it's hard for us to make suggestions.

Posted by CHRISTINA
Wake Forest, NC, United States
60 posts

Just to chime in about Eurail and booking a night train in advance.. That is not the case at all at least in my experience. Last spring we traveled all throughout Europe via train and took many night trains that we booked same day. We never ran into an issue of it being sold out.

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
8741 posts

If you can't find a price on a national train website you are possibly looking for regional trains which don't show up until much closer in time. The prices don't vary much. For walk up fares pick the same day of the week next week and try that price. Frank was right. It may have seemed hard, but he was right.

Posted by Chad
Poconos
16 posts

Thanks for the really useful information everyone, it really has helped. Looking at each countries train website has been a time consuming and frustrating affair. What I have learned is that it may well end up saving me money to pay as I go in some cases and not in others, so like Tom and Fred said, it ends up being a matter of travel style. I decided I'd be willing to spend more money to travel more freely. This is a once in a lifetime trip, so why be bogged down with trying to save few bucks here and there and have it affect my enjoyment of the trip. A poster had suggested without a more detailed itinerary of my trip it is hard to offer advice. So to clarify, I will definitely want to visit Germany, Italy, Greece, Croatia, Austria, and as much of Eastern Europe as I can squeeze in, as well as the UK and Ireland. Norway, Spain, and France if I have the time. Nigel, thanks for the tip about the regional trains, that was driving me crazy. Christina, thanks for the heads up about the night trains. Seems like you did a trip like mine and would love to hear about it and any advice or pointers you would be willing to share. Private message me if you prefer, I would appreciate any help or advice Thanks again everyone!

Posted by Tom
Hüttenfeld, Hessen, Germany
9102 posts

"and as much of Eastern Europe as I can squeeze in" I haven't traveled on a train east of Germany since 2006, but at that time, prices for rail tickets were a small fraction of the cost of trains in the west. Perhaps someone who has traveled in eastern Europe recently can chime in? If you do decide on a rail pass, if the situation has not changed greatly in the east, I would just buy point-to-point tickets as needed. No need to waste money on a rail pass for this part of Europe.

Posted by Christi
Whitsett, TX, United States
399 posts

To chime in about the night trains - are you planning on just booking Couchettes or wanting a private compartment? That may effect the availability - Couchettes are most likely available but private compartments probably not.

Posted by CHRISTINA
Wake Forest, NC, United States
60 posts

Chad - I sent you a PM but I'm not certain it went through as I am having issues with this site this morning! Let me know if you didn't get it!

Posted by Chad
Poconos
16 posts

Hi Christina, no I did not receive your message, but thanks for trying to! Christi, I don't really have a preference with the sleeping arrangements on the night trains, at least not yet. That may change when I see them! I was planning on just booking a night train reservation when needed, but if you have better advice, I'd like to hear it for sure

Posted by CHRISTINA
Wake Forest, NC, United States
60 posts

Just tried again and it won't go through. If you want, try sending me a message through here and I'll see if it lets me respond.

Posted by Christi
Whitsett, TX, United States
399 posts

More expensive: Sleepers Accommodations in General: Sleepers contain beds, with a private washstand, fresh linens and towels, and power plug for razors. Compartments are allocated exclusively for the use of men or women, except when couples or families occupy all beds together. Sleepers options: Single (1 bed), Double (2 beds), T3 (3 beds) and Grand Class or Excelsior (Artesia Night) with toilet and showers. Grand Class or Premier with the WC & shower right in the compartment are the most expensive and some routes include dinner & breakfast in the price. Example we are taking the Elipsos from Barcelona to Paris - Grand Class including dinner & breakfast - the supplement with rail pass was $496. The same trip in Comfort class - $171 - if you choose a double compartment and are paired with a stranger of the same sex - the single supplement for this class to have the compartment to yourself would be an additional $85 - this would get you a private compartment with wash basin & bed The most economical: For the same Bar to Par trip $111 Couchettes:
Every passenger has a berth to fully recline, with a pillow, sheets and woolen blanket. There is no distinction by sex; males and females are booked into the same compartment and are expected to sleep in their day time clothes. Washing and toilet facilities are provided at the end of each coach. Or a reclining seat would be $75. France is one of the most expensive places for trains - we are also taking an night train from Vienna to Venice - Private compartment with basin & bed is only $198 for two. It really depends on your level of comfort desired and $$$. Do a sample search for a few night trains and you will see the different accommodations.