Usefulness of Eurail Global Pass

Hello, We are planning our first trip to Europe and have been intending to get a Global Eurail Pass for myself and husband for most of our travel needs while there. We will be flying in to Milan (MXP) and staying in Lake Como for a few days, then we'd like to travel through Interlaken and up to Murren for 2 more nights and see the Jungfrau region, then take the train up to Mainz and take a river cruise up to Koblenz. We'll complete our trip with a few nights in the Dusseldorf area and then take the train over to Brussels and fly out of that airport. My question is, will it be the most effective to travel by train or should we rent a car? It seems that every where is connected by a train, but getting to and from train stations and hotels etc. has me concerned. I am also confused as to what will be covered by the Eurail pass in Switzerland.
Any advice on the best way to tackle the transportation needs in our touring plans?

Posted by Harold
New York, NY, USA
2826 posts

Let me break down your questions into several parts. For where you want to go, a car is not necessary. And if you rent in one country and return in another, you will have a high drop off charge (someone else here posted €600). Driving also takes more time on certain routes, as the high-speed trains go faster than cars do. But, some do prefer to drive part or all of their trip. If you are taking trains, before you even consider buying a rail pass, read this: http://tinyurl.com/bkw4u6c. It's usually much cheaper these days to buy point-to-point tickets in advance online. To find train routes and schedules, follow this advice: http://www.ricksteves.com/plan/tips/db_tips.htm. Note that the Bahn website will only have prices for trains in Germany. continued..

Posted by Harold
New York, NY, USA
2826 posts

As for getting from the station to the hotel, you can take a taxi. Depending on the city and how far the station is from your hotel, you can also use bus, tram, or metro, or even walk. Taxis in the countries you mentioned are safe and reliable (albeit sometimes expensive). Having a car does not make getting to a hotel easier. In cities, there are often restrictions on driving and parking. And you have to find the hotel - not easy in a congested city center with lots of one-way streets. Then you have to park, and many hotels don't have parking. If you have to pay to park, that's often €15-30 per day. If you choose a hotel for driving convenience, you may end up in one outside the city. And Murren is car-free, so you would have to pay to keep your car in a lot, and still take trains and lifts to get there. For Switzerland, the Eurail pass doesn't cover nearly as much as specific Swiss passes do. However, there are many kinds of Swiss train passes, and it is indeed confusing to figure them out. Here's Rick's chart on Swiss passes vs Eurail; scroll down to "Comparing Swiss Rail Pass Coverage": http://www.ricksteves.com/rail/switzerland.cfm Just curious - why Duesseldorf? It was interesting for a couple of days, but it's not on most people's list of places to see on a first European trip. Cologne has more designated "sights" (museums, cathedral).

Posted by Harold
New York, NY, USA
2826 posts

One more thing. One of the most useful features of Rick's books is that he gives very detailed directions for getting from the train station to the town center, and to his recommended hotels. Also, most hotel websites these days have this information, often with a handy map (which I like to print out if I'm not planning on taking a taxi). If you are taking a taxi, have the full address handy to show the driver.

Posted by Echo
Rochester, MN, USA
3 posts

Harold- Wow thanks for all of the information-I feel like I've been doing my travel research all day based on the 3 links that you gave me. The reason for the Dusseldorf area stay is that our travel is linked to a medical conference that my husband is attending in Essen, and we have heard that it may be best to stay in Dusseldorf instead. I have been so focused on the first part of our travels I haven't quite gotten to the last 5 days which are more focused in Germany and a quick trip out to Brussels to fly back to the US. I'm just trying to get a handle on the train travel options-it is such a foreign concept in the Midwest- so I have a lot to learn. Thanks for your advice!

Posted by Harold
New York, NY, USA
2826 posts

If you are going to be in Duesseldorf, you can fly from there back to the US. It's a major airport (third busiest in Germany after Frankfurt and Munich), and even has nonstop service to JFK, Newark, Atlanta and O'Hare; I don't know if there are nonstops to other US cities, but there would be plenty of connections via Frankfurt, London, Paris, Amsterdam, etc. There's no need to go to Brussels, unless you want to.

Posted by Harold
New York, NY, USA
2826 posts

"I feel like I've been doing my travel research all day based on the 3 links that you gave me." Yes, it is a lot of work, and there's definitely a learning curve in the beginning. Living in New York and taking trains regularly, I have an advantage, but since each country's system has its own individual characteristics, it's still complicated. At least you asked before you bought a pass (other posters have passes in hand, then run into problems).

Posted by Echo
Rochester, MN, USA
3 posts

We priced out flying home from Dusseldorf and Belgium, it was a couple hundred dollars in savings per ticket so we decided it would be worth it to take another train over and catch a few sites in Brussels before flying home. I'll continue to do my research, but I really do want to do this by train so this is just helping me to build our itinerary around that.

Posted by Harold
New York, NY, USA
2826 posts

Since you're definitely going to Brussels, I'll put in another of my plugs for my favorite thing there. This was the ARAU Art Nouveau tour. I didn't care for Brussels (it gets extremely varied reactions, as a quick search on this Helpline will attest), but if I ever go back, I will schedule my visit around ARAU's English tours. http://www.arau.org/en/tours

Posted by Fred
San Francisco
2687 posts

Hi, If you're staying near in Düsseldorf Hbf. (main station), then you can take the S-Bahn from the Hbf. to Essen. If I recall correctly, it's S-Bahn #8, the same one that goes to Ratingen.

Posted by Fred
San Francisco
2687 posts

Hi, One more thing: Given a choice between staying in Essen or Düsseldorf, I'd much rather stay in Düsseldorf. I would suggest the Hotel Bismarck, ca. 3 mins from the station, haven't stayed there but did check out the place. Besides, Düsseldorf is much more interesting than Essen. Düsseldorf also has a direct connection to San Francisco, just like LAX to Berlin.