If you’ve chatted with family or friends who’ve travelled in Europe, you have probably heard the term Eurail Pass mentioned. In this Eurail Pass guide you’ll learn all about travelling Europe by Eurail and why it is a great option to consider.
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What is a Eurail Pass?
A Eurail Pass (sometimes referred to as a Eurorail Pass) is the official name of a Europe train pass for tourists.
Travelling by train is a fantastic way to get around Europe and if you plan on making a number of train trips, the most economical way to travel could be with a Eurail Pass.
Europe’s rail network is huge with frequent services seamless connections. As a Eurail Pass holder you have the freedom to hop on and off the extensive rail network as you wish and your pre-purchased Pass means your travel costs are already covered.
How do Eurail Passes work?
A Eurail Pass is a prepaid ticket for train travel in Europe. Eurail Passes cover train travel on a specific number of days that you have nominated in countries covered by your Pass.
You determine the number of travel days you require and the countries you wish the Pass to valid in at the time of purchase.
Does Eurail Pass cover all trains?
Generally speaking, yes, the Eurail Pass covers all trains in the countries for which the pass is valid but there are a couple of exceptions. Many high-speed trains, such as the TGV, night trains and scenic trains accept Eurail Passes but an additional seat reservation fee is required (further details below).
Can you use a Eurail Pass on local trains? In most cases, yes, unless the train is on a private line, for example the sector between Eigergletscher and Jungfraujoch. In these instances, a separate ticket must be purchased.
If you are using a Eurail Pass in Switzerland, you might be asking does a Eurail Pass cover Switzerland’s scenic trains? The answer varies depending on the train as you’ll see below.
Can I use my Eurail Pass on the Glacier Express?
Eurail Pass holders can travel on the Glacier Express for free but a mandatory reservation fee of CHF33 applies.
Does the Eurail Pass cover the GoldenPass Line?
The GoldenPass Line which travels between Montreux and Lucerne (via Interlaken) is covered by the Eurail Pass. No reservation fees apply.
Does the Eurail Pass cover the Bernina Express?
Eurail Pass holders pay only a reservation fee to travel on the Bernina Express train which operates between Chur and Tirano and St. Moritz and Tirano. The fee is CHF14 in summer and CHF10 in winter.
Does the Eurail Pass cover the Gotthard Panorama Express?
Holders of a Eurail Pass pay a surcharge for the train journey between Fluelen and Locarno or Lugano (or vice versa). The 1st class surcharge is CHF34 and the 2nd class surcharge is CHF23. A 50% discount applies for the lake cruise between Fluelen and Lucerne.
Does the Eurail Pass cover the Centovalli Railway?
Yes, the entire journey on the Centovalli Railway between Locarno and Domodossola is covered by the Eurail Pass.
What countries does Eurail cover?
Eurail Passes are available for travel in 31 countries in Europe. These countries are:
- Bosnia and Herzegovina
- Czech Republic
- Great Britain
Which Eurail Pass should I get?
There are a wide range of Eurail Passes available so if you are asking yourself “what Eurail pass should I buy?” or “what is the best Eurail Pass?” the answer will largely depend on how many countries you wish to visit but there are a few other things to consider.
If you only plan to travel by train in one country, a single country pass will be all you need but should you plan on visiting more than one country*, the Global Eurail Pass, which covers all 31 Eurail countries, is your best bet.
This Pass is available in durations 3, 5, 7, 10 or 15 days of travel within a one month period, or 15 or 22 days or 1, 2 or 3 months consecutive travel.
*The exceptions to this are the Benelux Pass which covers travel in Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg, and the Scandinavia Pass which covers travel in Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden.
How much is a Eurorail Pass?
Eurail Passes vary in price depending on the number of travel days required and the number of countries covered by the Pass as well as the class of travel.
Eurail Passes are available for both 1st class and 2nd class travel, with 2nd class passes up to 23% less than Eurail first class passes.
Some example prices are:
- Eurail Global Pass – 3 days travel within 1 month US$264 1st class / US$199 2nd class
- Eurail Global Pass – 15 days consecutive travel US$534 1st class / US$402 2nd class
- Eurail Pass France – 3 days travel within 1 month US$229 1st class / US$173 2nd class
- Eurail Pass Italy – 8 days travel within 1 month US$377 1st class / US$283 2nd class
- Eurail Austria Pass – 5 days travel within 1 month US$308 1st class / US$232 2nd class
Up to 2 children can travel for free for each adult Pass.
There is not a pass called a Switzerland Eurail Pass. Switzerland instead has what is called the Swiss Travel Pass (read all about it here). You can travel by train in Switzerland using a Eurail Global Pass or a Eurail Multi-Country Pass that has Switzerland as one of the designated countries of travel.
How much are Eurail Passes in Europe?
Only non-European residents can purchase Eurail Passes and they must be purchased before arriving in Europe.
Eurail seat reservations
One thing to keep in mind is that when you buy a Eurail Pass it doesn’t guarantee you a seat on all trains. Some trains, particularly the high-speed trains like ICE and TGV, require you to purchase a seat reservation in addition to your Eurail pass.
Reservations for these trains can be made in your home country or when you arrive in Europe, however a limited number of seat reservations are allocated on each train so it is wise to book early.
Seat reservation fees generally range from about €10 to €25 per person per sector.
As you can travel on a lot of trains without a seat reservation, many passengers (usually locals), take the chance and sit wherever they like on the train until someone with a seat reservation comes along and asks them to move.
On more than one of our train trips I have seen people ‘kicked out’ of their seats by passengers who had actually purchased a seat reservation for that particular trip.
When this happens and the train is full, it is not uncommon to see passengers standing in the aisles for the whole trip. On a trip from Bolzano to Munich (four hours), I saw people without seat reservations who had to stand the whole way.
Are Eurail Passes worth it?
In most cases, if you will only be making two or three short trips, purchasing the individual tickets for each sector will probably be cheaper than buying a Eurail Pass.
However, if you will be travelling by train on numerous days, particularly when there are some long trips involved, you’re often better off buying a Pass.
There’s also the convenience factor to keep in mind, too. With a Eurail Pass you only have to make one purchase even if your train journeys will be in different countries.
When purchasing separate tickets for each journey, you may need to book on different train company websites and make a separate transaction/purchase for each ticket.
As an added bonus, a Eurail Pass entitles the holder to discounted rates on other travel services in Europe.
What bonus offers apply to the Eurail Pass?
Eurail Pass holders are eligible for bonus offers in some countries. The following are a sample of some of the bonus offers available. More bonuses may apply.
Eurail Pass bonuses in Switzerland
(These discounts apply to Eurail Global Pass or Eurail Multi-Country Pass holders. For bonus offers applicable to the Swiss Travel Pass refer to this article.)
- Grindelwald to First cable car – 25% discount
- Lauterbrunnen to Murren cable car and train – 25% discount
- Interlaken Ost to Lauterbrunnen or Grindelwald train – 25% discount
- Schynige Platte train – 25% discount
- Harder Kulm funicular – 25% discount
- Stechelberg to Schilthorn cable car – 25% discount
- Grindelwald or Wengen to Kleine Scheidegg – 25% discount
- Kleine Scheidegg to Jungfraujoch – 25% discount
- Lucerne to Kriens train (for Mt. Pilatus) – 50% discount
- Arth to Goldau to Rigi Kulm and Vitznau to Rigi Kulm – 50% discount
Eurail Pass bonuses in Germany
- Nuremberg City Card – 10% discount
- KD German Rhine Line scheduled day trips on the Rhine between Cologne and Mainz and on the River Moselle (seasonal) between Koblenz and Cochem – 20% discount
- Garmisch-Partenkirchen – Grainau – Zugspitzplatt mountain railway and on some cable cars in the summit area – 10% discount
- Accommodation at A&O Hotels, Citadines Apart’hotels and Meininger Hotels in certain cities – 10% discount
- Unlimited free transport on the S-Bahn in all German cities
Eurail Pass bonuses in France
- Eurail Pass holders receive an exclusive 20-euro discount on pre-booked entrance tickets for Disneyland Paris Resort
- Receive up to 50% off City Cards for certain cities in France
- Receive a 10% discount on the Best Flexible Rates at Citadines Apart’hotels
Where to buy a Eurail Pass
You can purchase a Eurail Pass from a travel agent but a simple and convenient way to buy a Eurail Pass is via an online agent like this one.
After purchasing your Eurail Pass (click here to get yours now), you will receive a confirmation voucher. Your physical Pass, as well as a Eurail Pass map, will be sent to you on the first business day after your purchase.
You should allow at least seven business days to receive the parcel containing your Pass and map.
How to use a Eurail Pass
Using Eurail Passes is quite straight forward but it can be a bit daunting the first time so I thought I’d share these ‘how tos’ with you.
How to activate a Eurail Pass
All Eurail Passes must be activated within 11 months of the issue date. Passes can be activated at any train station in any of the 31 participating countries in Europe by a railway official.
If you plan to activate your Eurail Pass on the same day that you intend to start using it, my advice is to arrive at the station early. Stations are often very busy and there may be queues at the ticket counter so allow plenty of time before your train’s departure to have you Pass activated.
It is also possible to activate your Eurail Pass online at the time of purchase but you should only use this method if you are certain of the first date you will use your Pass.
Completing your Eurail travel calendar
Before boarding the train on the day of each rail journey, you should fill in the date of travel on the actual Pass and complete the journey details on the fold down Pass cover (as shown on the image above).
This is very important – if the conductor checks your Pass and you haven’t filled in the correct details, your Pass can be cancelled.
In addition to showing your Eurail Pass and calendar to the conductor, you will also be asked to present your Passport and seat reservation tickets when applicable.
All prices and information are current at the time of writing but are subject to change.