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.
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.
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.
I definitely have WSA to thank for my exceptional experience in Amsterdam. One would think 4 days isn't enough to tour a city but WSA facilitated an optimum weekend full of sightseeing and fun. Amsterdam may have a notorious reputation for its lax drug and sex culture but there’s so much more to the city. Luckily, our tour guide, Arthur, native to the Netherlands, steered us away from the tourist traps and showed us around his beloved city, highlighting all of its gems. I'd definitely like to try other WSA trips in the future. It's hassle free traveling with an awesome itinerary - nice that the tour guides are flexible with the schedule and willing to cater the itinerary to the group's interest! Highly recommend WSA to any student with only a weekend to see a city.Lauren Wallender, Elon University ~ Fall 2014
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