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See the Sights and Sounds of Europe With a Eurail Pass

From the fjords of Norway to the forts of Portugal, Europe is packed to the brim with stunning scenery and millennia of history, and train travel is the best way to get around. Europe by train is more environmentally friendly and lets you see the landscapes as you pass them, unlike a budget flight. It can be faster than flying and more comfortable than a bus. Eurail is Europe's top rail pass. There are no Eurail trains, but the pass collaborates with various railway lines across the continent. Let's take a closer look at what the Eurail pass covers.

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01 Understanding the Eurail Pass

eurorail train

When Eurail was founded in 1959, it covered 13 countries. Today, a Eurail Global Pass covers intercity travel in 33 European countries, from Ireland to Turkey, to a mind-boggling 30,000-plus destinations. It's a fantastic way for those who don't live in Europe to explore the continent. You can also opt for a cheaper One Country Pass if you're interested in a particular nation. Some countries, like Russia, are not included in the Global Pass, so it's worth checking the list of 33 countries to see if the Eurail Pass applies to the places you want to travel to. You can buy a pass for as long as three months of continuous travel.

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02 Eurail vs. Interrail: Know the Difference

interrail pass

Eurail passes are intended for folks who are not citizens or residents of Europe, even if they have a European passport. The same company offers InterRail passes, but they're for people who live in Europe. The passes cost about the same, and both offer youth (under 28) and seniors (60 and over) discounts and access to dozens of railway and ferry companies.

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03 Choosing the Right Eurail Pass for You

european rail

Eurail passes differ in terms of passenger age group and first or second class. Up to two children under 11 get a free pass if they accompany someone with an adult pass.

You'll have to look at your itinerary and do a couple of calculations to see whether the Global Pass is the best choice for your needs. Check the prices of regular tickets from point A to point B, repeat for subsequent legs of your voyage, and compare it to the cost of the most relevant Global Pass.

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04 The Transition to Digital: Eurail's Mobile Pass

scanning qr code

Gone are the days when paper tickets were essential. Mobile passes are more eco-friendly and involve the Eurail app. The app allows you to plan your itinerary and have your ticket inspected, and if you lose your phone, a replacement pass is free. You can still use the traditional paper ticket, but there's no replacement pass, and you have to be sure about your start date. The mobile pass lets you choose any start date within 11 months of purchase. For the less tech-savvy, a mobile pass involves a short learning curve.

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05 Activating Your Eurail Pass

smart phone with check mark

You can activate your paper pass at a train station in a participating country. An official will fill in the start and end dates and stamp the pass. Or you can select Activate My Pass on Eurail's website at the time of booking with a valid passport. When your paper pass is mailed to you, it will already be activated with the date you chose on the site. You can activate a mobile pass on the Rail Planner app anytime before your first travel day. You can't board a train without activation.

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06 Decoding "Train Travel Days"

woman on train

Passes are continuous or flexi. Continuous passes are worth it if you'll be on an intercity train every day or two for 15 or more consecutive days. Flexi passes work for short stays in one city before moving on to the next. You pay for a specific number of train travel days and use them within a month or two, for example, 5 Days in 1 Month. All one-country passes are flexi. On one travel day, you can take as many trains as is practically possible. A "travel day" is a 24-hour period that starts at midnight and ends at 23:59 (Central European Time) on the same day. Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Bulgaria, and Greece are one hour ahead, so bear the time zone in mind. If you change night trains after midnight, you have to use two travel days.

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07 Making Reservations: When and Why

While you can often hop on a train covered by Eurail without a reservation, some high-speed and long-distance trains on busy routes require you to buy extra seat reservations for a small fee. You can use the Eurail website to see if this applies to your route and how much it will cost. You can also reserve couchettes or sleepers on overnight trains. If you're traveling with children who require their own seats, book reservations early to ensure you're seated together.

08 Traveling with Flexibility: Spontaneous Adventures

woman by train station

If you're traveling for a month or more, it helps to have flexibility baked into your transport plans. The Global Pass gives you value for money if you want to cover a lot of ground and the ability to travel when the mood strikes. It's okay if you miss your train or change your mind about where and when you want to go because you can jump aboard the next service.

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09 Maximizing the Value of Your Eurail Pass

couple on ferry

If you're using a Flexipass, you're better off spending your travel days on long trips, so pay out of pocket for shorter ones. Divide the cost of your pass by the number of travel days to know the value of a travel day and see whether you're getting the most bang for your buck. Make use of "bonuses" on boat, bus, and non-train rides—they often won't cost you a travel day and will get you where you want to go and know that you can often avoid reservation fees if you're willing to compromise on the speed of the journey.

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10 Eurail's Partnerships: Additional Benefits

sim card

Eurail deals give passengers benefits beyond an all-in-one train ticket. You can look forward to lower entry fees on numerous attractions, special prices on accommodation, food, tours, city cards, bike rentals, and luggage storage, and more discounts. Pop your destination into Eurail's website to see what you qualify for. The Eurail SIM card can save you up to 80% on mobile data too.

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11 Navigating Europe's Rail Network

Renfe train

The different countries covered by the Eurail pass operate official railway lines. For example, Renfe is Spain's national state-owned railway company. Each railway line has its own site where you can find the latest updates and info relevant to your upcoming trips. You don't need to check in for a train. They leave like clockwork, so you just have to be there before they depart, leaving enough time to walk to platforms farther away. Plat form numbers are only posted 10 to 20 minutes before departure. You can buy tickets at a train station, but you may have to deal with queues and pricier tickets.

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12 The Difference Between 1st Class and 2nd Class Tickets

eurail pass

The differences depend on the train company and country. Sometimes, they are small, and sometimes, they afford you considerable luxury and comfort. Lounges can set the tone before you even board the train. Seats are more spacious, have more legroom, and are quieter. You'll also have access to more amenities like free WiFi, USB ports, and complimentary beverages and snacks if you're lucky. If the train is full when you arrive, you can check for seats in the 2nd class compartment without issue.

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13 Travel Tips: Making the Most of Your Journey

tourist with bag on train

Traveling via train in Europe is generally quite safe, but basic precautions will serve you well. Protect your valuables from pickpockets by keeping them close. It wouldn't be unreasonable to put your flat document bag with your passport under your pillow on a night train. Try to book daytime connections so you don't have to wait too long at train stations. You'll notice cultural nuances in different countries—such as a lack of friendliness among strangers on public transport. Don't take it personally.

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14 Eurail's Environmental Impact: Green Travel

overview of train

Eurail's trains are environmentally friendly compared to planes and cars that emit much more CO2, so if you're conscious about your carbon footprint, this is your travel mode. Unlike planes, trains take you directly to city centers, eliminating another source of greenhouse gas emissions. With less noise pollution and better use of space, train travel is the most sustainable choice.

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15 Try The Eurail Experience

eurail train

Whether you want to embark on a life-changing three-month adventure or an action-packed two-week vacation you'll reminisce about for years, Eurail makes your European dreams come true. With an all-access Global pass to the continent, you can make last-minute plans and find yourself in a completely foreign country before the day ends. It's exhilarating!

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