If you’re planning on backpacking in Europe or visiting multiple countries on your next trip across the pond, you’ll surely inquire about the Eurail pass. A good place to start is researching Eurail, and not the commonly mistaken Eurorail.
Why travel by train?
Unlike touring North America, in Europe you can visit many countries in a single day. This novelty alone often entices many Canadians to travel. I’m reminded of a friend who rented a car while visiting me in France with the sole purpose of driving to five countries in a single day. He did it, but it was a tiring day of driving!
If that kind of thing isn’t on your bucket list, then enjoy the landscape in a more leisurely fashion by taking the train. Experience the history, the countryside, and the tradition of train travel, while enjoying the innovative technology at the same time. Try to take a combination of small, slow, regional trains, and ultra-fast, ultra-modern bullet trains, or ‘TGV’ in France (Trains à grand vitesse: trains at great speed).
The advantage of taking Eurail: unlike flying, you get dropped off right in the heart of the city. The disadvantage? Unlike flying, you have to carry your own luggage on and off the train. (Packing light is essential!)
Who uses Eurail?
Perhaps best known in backpackers’ circles, Eurail has a reputation as the best way for young travellers on a budget to tour Europe. But it’s also a great option for luxury travellers (think 1st class and high-speed trains) and families. Age categories are priced accordingly:
- Youth: 12-25
- Adult 26+
- Family *Adults and kids 1st class. Note: children under 4 are free!
How long will you be travelling?
Are you travelling for two continuous months? Or do you want to have a certain number of days of travel within two months? Eurail is flexible and allows you to choose. Cheapest option: limited days of travel within a two month period.
What are your options?
Global Eurail pass: 24 countries, starting from $588
Select Eurail pass: 4 countries, starting from $417
Regional Eurail pass: 2 countries, starting from $177
One country Eurail pass: $59 and up
Travelling can be as glamorous as it is practical- save on a hotel or hostel and arrive refreshed at your destination in the morning. Sleeper cars are the most comfortable but the most expensive, so if you’re on a budget, you can also choose to sleep in a recliner chair.
More tips for a successful train tour of Europe:
- 24 or 27 countries? There is some confusion on the site: If you intend to visit a smaller or lesser known destination, make sure you know in advance whether the Eurail includes it. You may need to dig a bit.
- You’ll want to reserve some of your trips in advance; it’s not always as easy as hopping on or off; if you want that sleeper car from Paris to Rome, sign up early.
- Take snacks on the train and share with fellow passengers. It’s a great way to meet some people on the way!
- Nothing feels as old-world glamorous as having a drink in the bar car as you speed through a well-known countryside.
- Never use the washrooms in a train station. Wait until you’re outside of the city (trust us; you’ll find out why!)