Purchasing a Eurail Pass vs DIY: a price comparison

Most travellers have the great European dream in their bucket list and for good reason too. Europe offers a dizzying choice of the world's best historical and cultural sites, breathtaking scenery, as well as some of the best cuisines. And just like them, you probably have the same dream and you might have heard of the Eurail Pass. Many people, however, are wondering whether a Eurail Pass is the best choice or if doing it DIY is a better option. So what is the Eurail and do you need it when you go on your ultimate European adventure?

Eurail pass is an all-in-one train ticket that will allow you to travel across Europe by train. It covers 28 countries, such as Austria, Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland. Note that Great Britain is not included in this pass.

Eurail has three kinds of passes; Global Pass, One Country Pass and Select Pass. Global Pass gives a flexible access to rail networks in all 28 countries; One Country Pass is what you need if you are just visiting one European country, and Select Pass allows you to choose the number of days and countries to visit. Aside from the type of pass, rates differ based on the seat you are taking (1st class or 2nd class), your age and the destinations.

To know whether it is worth purchasing a Eurail or not, you have to do the math and your due diligence in researching the best option for you. It will be tedious but it will save you money. The first thing to consider is the length of your travel.

To provide an example, let's say you are travelling to Europe in 10 days and you want to visit 4 countries, here's the breakdown of the ticket prices based on the type of pass:

Country Select Pass One Day Pass
(3 days)
Global Pass
(1 month continuous)

$ 480
$ 146

$ 1119
France $ 274
Spain $ 236
Italy $ 236
Total $ 480 $ 892 $ 1119


As you can see in the sample computation, you will save over $ 412 if you get the Select Pass versus buying single tickets for each destination that you are visiting. But if you have at least 1 month to travel Europe, you will get more for the buck if you purchase the Global Pass. However, it doesn't make sense to spend $ 227 more if you can only visit 4 countries and you are pressed for time, in which case, Select Pass is your best bet.  

Aside from the train, you should know that high-speed trains have mandatory seat reservations like in France and Hungary. This means that you need to pay extra to reserve a seat. You may choose to take the local trains (but the trip will be slower) if you don't want to pay more. But if time is of the essence and you don't mind paying additional fees then make sure to include the reserved seats on your research and computation when planning your itinerary.

In conclusion, it all boils down to good ol' planning. Travelling without a set plan may work in some cases but probably not when you are going on your great European tour. The only way you can do it without wasting a lot of money is if you plan ahead. Consider these three things before purchasing a Eurail ticket: travel period, countries to be visited, travelling alone or with a company. You can get a Eurail saver pass if you are travelling with a group, which offers a discount of 15% off for adult and 100% for children.

Another good saving tip is to watch out for sales that Eurail offers, usually in the form of free travel days and discount rates on passes.   

About the Author

Marjorie Gavan is a writer by profession and by passion. She has a degree in B.S. Journalism and now has 15 years of writing and editing experience under her belt. She currently works as a knowledge specialist in an IT company in Quezon City, Philippines. She chronicles her travel adventures in her blog, Coffeehan.

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