Why it’s the best way to travel around Europe
Rail travel through Europe is the best way to experience all that the mesmerising continent has to offer. Not only is rail travel the most affordable option, but the scenic routes that the trains wind through add value and memories to your trip. We spent a month travelling through Italy, Switzerland, Vienna, Czech Republic, and Germany and had the most amazing time and memorable experiences on the railways. Armed with great company and Ellen Degeneres’ Heads Up game on our phones, we made new memories which we wouldn’t have if we had used other means of transport.
Before you leave
- Choose a rail pass type. This will depend on the country/countries you are visiting on your trip and your age.
- Rail passes are the most cost effective option for extended stays in Europe and great discounts can be found for under 25s and passengers travelling in groups
- Find the right Rail Pass for you here at Rail Europe
- It’s also a good idea to plan your itinerary before you leave. Sometimes, point to point tickets will be cheaper than buying a rail pass. This is usually true if you are only using local trains from city to city in the same country or you are only takin 2 or 3 trains during your trip. In this case, we recommend using Rail Europe to buy single tickets in advance. We recommend purchasing single tickets in advance because if you wait to book them at the station, your desired times may be sold out and you could wait hours, if not days, for the next departure.
- Many high-speed trains require you make reservations – this is at an additional cost to the rail pass purchased in step 1
- Check here for when reservations are needed at Rail Europe
- It is also recommended to reserve seats in advance if you are travelling during peak season or are adhering to a strict itinerary because rail travel in Europe is so popular now that many trains sell out in advance.
- Make sure you get your rail pass stamped at the first station of use. If you do not, then your rail pass is not valid and you may be fine by ticket officers.
- To avoid a large fine, go to the ticket counter of the station where you will first use your rail pass and have the pass stamped to validate it.
- Fill out the dates of travel in your travel calendar on the ticket before you use the train. Some officers will think you are trying to cheat the system by not filling out your pass details in advance and may fine you.
- The travel calendar will be hole-punched as each day passes by the train staff so make sure you have it filled out before you travel.
After you return home
- If you have bought the pass from Rail Europe, you can send in your travel report to receive a free gift
- We like to keep all our travel memories in special places so we suggest framing it to keep as a souvenir
Side note – 1st vs 2nd class cabins
- Larger, reclining seats
- More space for luggage
- Quieter and cleaner than second class
- Complimentary water, meals and snacks (on some trains)
- Great for short trips
It should be noted that during peak season, it is difficult to find seats in second class and therefore seat reservations are highly recommended. Or if you are travelling with a lot of luggage, the first class section is less crowded and has more luggage storage room so your journey will be more comfortable.
We personally travelled in first class and loved the experience. We were provided with free snacks and drinks on most high-speed trains and we had enough room to stretch out. The Wifi situation on most trains is abysmal and is something that needs to be sorted out by the Europe rail system so if you intend to be using the internet on the trains, make sure you consult the staff on board to help you connect.
You can find more detailed information about the class differences on the Rail Europe Website .
Make sure to book your Eurail travel with Rail Europe for the best deals and availability.
Editor’s note: This post was originally posted in 2014 but was updated in 2018.
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