10 tips for a perfect Eurail trip
Exploring Europe by train can be the journey of a lifetime. There are 28 countries included in the Eurail Global Pass and the diversity of cultures, cuisines, and scenery is truly remarkable. The pass is incredibly easy to use, which makes the trip tons of fun. Given that Europe is packed with amazing places, be it world-famous cities or off the beaten path charming villages, there really is no better and more comfortable way to visit it all than by train. You can easily wake up in one country one day and go to bed in totally another one. However, there are a few key elements that you need to take into consideration in order for your Eurail trip to be a success. Here are 10 tips to help you plan and enjoy the perfect Eurail trip through Europe:
Combine world-famous with off the beaten path
Paris, Rome and Barcelona are some of the most popular bucket list cities out there. They are traveler magnets. While everybody should visit them at least once in a lifetime, many small, lesser-known towns are also full of charm. It’s here that time-honored traditions and customs, age-old architectural styles, as well as the identity and soul of a people, prevail. Tailoring an itinerary adapted to your personal interests and lifestyle is key. Read all about Europe’s best small cities.
Welcome the diversity
To make your Eurail trip a real success, we recommend to include a palette of experiences as diverse as possible. Explore the beaches, admire various architectural styles, discover new artistic trends, enjoy classical art, try the various local cuisines, let the universe unravel stunning sceneries in front of your eyes, witness sunsets and sunrises, make new friends, have a taste of the nightlife, and party like a local. This will ensure you’ll have amazing pictures to share on Instagram and to show your mom when you get back home. It will help you build lifelong memories too.
Planning your Eurail trip vs. going with the flow
While a rough plan always comes in handy, the beauty of Eurail lies in the fact that you can be creative and flexible with your travel plans. If you’re traveling during the busy summer months, it’s wise to plan and book your Eurail trip in advance – both trains and hostels.
In France, for example, there’s a limited seat allocation on TGV trains for pass holders year round, you should make your train reservations as soon as you can. Otherwise you’ll have to pay the full fare. Night trains should also be booked in advance to avoid disappointment. But most of the time you can just show up at the train station and hop on the next train.
The Eurail timetable tool is handy when planning the next move, since it offers a comprehensive list of local and high-speed trains available, the intermediate stops, and additional information about reservations.
Reservations and how to avoid them
As mentioned, all night trains and high-speed trains in certain countries (including France, Spain and Italy) require a compulsory reservation at an additional cost. If getting to your next destination as fast as possible is your priority, then it’s difficult to avoid them.
However, an alternative route, by regional train and maybe with a change or two is often available. The regional trains have the advantage of not requiring a reservation, however, the journey time can be considerably longer.
For example, the high speed AVE train connecting Valencia with Madrid in just 1.5 hours has a reservation cost of 24 euros for 1st class and 10 euros for 2nd class. Alternatively, the regional train won’t cost you an extra dime, but the journey takes a bit over 6 hours.
Take urban transportation
It’s always interesting to check if you can use your Eurail Pass for moving around the urban area as well, not only in between destinations. Big cities, like Zurich, Brussels, and Paris for example, have multiple train stations and you can use your pass to travel in between them instead of taking the metro line which is not covered by the pass.
Many attractions are already within walking distance from the train stations, like the Prime Tower from Zurich, the highest building in Switzerland. Situated right next to Hardbrücke station, from its 35th floor Clouds bistro, some amazing views of the city, the mountains and the lake can be enjoyed. In Germany, the Eurail Pass is valid on S-bahn trains (suburban metro railways) in major cities.
Take the window seat for the diverse views
Whenever you can, opt for the window seat on your Eurail trip. There really is no better way to enjoy the ever-changing landscape! You can do a lot of sightseeing from train, and you can learn a lot about the architecture and the way people live in each region. Which gets us to…
Don’t shy away from regional trains
You’ll have plenty of time to take in the scenery, and you’ll also pass through quiet towns since the train stops more often. Every now and then, you’ll spot something pretty special! Another plus? You won’t have to reserve a seat.
Hop off and store your luggage
Most train stations have lockers. This makes it easy to stop in the middle of a longer route, drop your bags, and stretch your legs for a few hours while you explore the area.
Get extras on high-speed trains
Sometimes when you pay for a 1st class reservation, a full meal is included. This happens on the high-speed AVE train in Spain. You’ll save both money and time when you get to your destination.
Get on board the night train
If you’re traveling over long distances, the night train can be useful. It’s a unique experience and has lots of advantages. Even though you’ll have to pay a fee, you’ll most likely save money compared to a night in a hostel or hotel. There’s also nothing quite like watching the sun rise over the countryside from a rushing train. After all, you’re taking this trip for the new and surprising experiences, right? Read our expert’s guide to riding Europe’s night trains.
If you want to experience the wonders of Europe on your own Eurail trip, check out the different Eurail Passes.