Eurail Passes: Are the worth it?

Once a must-have for budget travelers, rail passes no longer offer the same value

Many wonder if they should pick up a Eurail pass before heading to Europe. For some organized travelers, they can save a few dollars. For others, they're a huge waste! Read on for things to keep in mind when making the important decision on whether or not to purchase a Eurail pass for your next trip.

Here are Andy's top tips to keep in mind when weighing the decision to purchase a Eurail pass. Eurail passes are a factor of three things, and natually you'll want to minimize each in order to get the best value.

1. Number of countries in which they’re valid

As you plan your trip, consider how many countries you'll be traveling through, then map out which will make the most sense for train travel. Maybe your trip starts in Paris, but you'll really plan on spending most of your time in Italy touring Venice, Florence and Rome. In this case, it's probably going to be the best value to fly from Paris to Venice, then purchase your pass for just one country, Italy.

2. Number of days in which you can travel (an overnight costs only 1 day)

This is pretty straight forward--each day you mark off on your train travel calendar counts as one travel day. You'll want to factor in the timetables available at sites like sbb.ch in order to understand the length of the journeys you plan to take, the changes necessary and the number of departures available. Remember, while you may have a free travel day through the pass, you may need to make reservations for a specific seat. Be sure to look for that online ahead of time. And you'll definitely need resevations for overnight train travel.

3. The overall traveling window

This is also something you'll want to minimize, packing together as much train travel as possible in order to reduce the number of overall days your pass will be valid for.

Eurail passes cannot be bought in Europe, and are designed for the backpacker traveling every few days making the grand loop over several months throughout the continent. That is to say, they’re designed for those who are traveling through cities A-B-C-D and so on… Whereas the short city visits mosts students make are often A-B-A, A-C-A, A-D-A, returning to an origin at the end of a weekend or few days.  

Another Example

A student heading to Rome for a semester knows she wants to visit the Amalfi Coast, Venice, Florence and the Cinque Terre. If she plans her times right, she could in theory pick up a pass for just ITALY, for 8 TRAVEL DAYS within a MONTH of the first travel day used. This way she has bought the lowest possible number in each of those factors that determine the price of the overall Eurail pass. She may also want to visit Nice, but since that would add another country to the pass, she should find a cheap flight instead of paying for access to a whole other country’s rail system.

Don't Forget

Also consider your time in transit as a valuable commodity. If a train takes 14 hours to get to Rome from Paris, and a flight would only cost 35 euros and get you there in 1.5hrs, that's something to consider. Before you splurge for a pass, be sure to do some searches on our favorite search engines at Google Flights, Kiwi.com and Kayak.com to understand what flights are going for these days.

 

Did someone say Italy? Check out our Italian Extravaganza here!

Cooper Cohen, University of Notre Dame

Happy Backpackers

The most fun, exciting, educational, and craziest weekend I had during my semester abroad. You definitely get the maximum bang for your buck with WSA. WSA provided me with an unbelieveable weekend in Budapest. After hearing from my friends about their amazing experiences on WSA trips, I had to see what all the hype was about. I chose to take part in a WSA weekend in Budapest, and I loved every minute of it. The guide, Bogi, was the best! WSA is the perfect blend of an educational/tourist expereince while also allowing for sites off the beaten path as well as kickass nightlife. You won't regret a trip with WSA.

Cooper Cohen, University of Notre Dame ~ University of Notre Dame, London, Spring 2015

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