9 insider Eurail tips for smart rail travelers

Traveling Europe with a Eurail Pass is the most efficient and scenic way to get around Europe, especially when you know a few Eurail tips and tricks to get the most out of your Pass. A little bit of research beforehand will prepare you for your trip and give you answers to questions like:

  • When do I need to make reservations for trains?
  • How can I pick the best routes?
  • When should I use my travel days?

So, here are some of the best insider Eurail tips to help you save cash, make the most of your travel days, and leave with the best possible memories.

9 Eurail tips

1. Check the benefits

Cable Car in Dubrovnik, Croatia

This is one of the best insider Eurail tips. Your Eurail Pass offers more than just access to most of the continent’s best trains – it also comes loaded with plenty of valuable benefits. These range from:

  • Discounted fares on private trains and even some cable cars
  • Reduced rates at hotels and hostels
  • Free or discounted travel on popular ferry routes

Check your Eurail Pass benefits carefully before arriving in each city and be sure to flash your Pass as much as you can to take advantage of your Eurail partner discounts

2. Reserve seats online

Reservation ticket on a train seat

A Eurail Pass gives you a great deal of freedom when traveling, but in a few countries seat reservations are required by train operators, especially on high-speed services. This is either due to local restrictions or because trains fill up over peak periods. The good news is reservations are easy to book online though Eurail.com, even if you bought your Pass somewhere else.

  • For reservations in Italy, France, Austria, Switzerland, Germany, and the Benelux, you can book reservations yourself via Eurail’s self-service reservation portal. Your reservations will be emailed to you as e-tickets and can be booked up to 3 hours before your train departs.

Online reservations can save time and money at the station, put your mind at rest, and guarantee you a seat on busy journeys. In most cases you can also visit each individual train carrier’s website to book reservations there. Just look for a ‘reservation only’ option.

3. Plan your route

Plotting a route on a map of Europe

Not all train journeys are created equal. There are some legendary scenic routes that connect cities, towns, and villages throughout Europe. They aren’t always the quickest ways to travel between the two destinations, but if you’re not in a rush the scenic routes can be well worth a slight detour.

Remember that the rail planning apps and Google Maps tend to showcase the most convenient and time-efficient routes. If you want to find departure details of the trains on a specific route, insert a town on the mid point using the “Via” feature on the Eurail Timetable or the Rail Planner App.

If you’re looking for inspiration on which routes to take, browse the Eurail blog for some suggestions, or post in the Official Eurail Travelers Group on Facebook. After all, the best people to ask are the people who have done it already!

4. Choose a scenic seat

Scenic view from the train in Bulgaria

At the same time, not all sides of the train are created equal. Although the beauty of trains is that you can usually move around and find a spot to enjoy the view, there’s nothing quite like sitting on the side of the train that has the best view.

Read up about your train journey ahead of time and establish which side of the train gets most of the action. Then, consider booking ahead using the tips above, or simply seat yourself on your preferred side. If you’re unsure, check travel forums or have a look on Google Maps for attractions like lakes, mountains, and the ocean views when making your decision.

5. Plan day trips from major centers

View of Capri, Italy

Most major cities in Europe offer incredible sights and attractions within easy reach by rail, bus, or ferry. Often, these destinations are more exclusive and costly to spend overnight.  It’s often cheaper and more enjoyable to extend your stay in a big city, then plan a few day trips. This saves cash and allows you to settle in your accommodation rather than changing beds every few nights.

For example, the island of Capri is beautiful but famously expensive. Fortunately, it’s easy to reach the island from the mainland as part of a day trip from Naples or Sorrento. Likewise, Lake Bled in Slovenia is an unmissable attraction, but easily doable by bus or train from Ljubljana in a few hours.

6. Pack your own food and drinks

Sandwiches from a German bakery

Being served food and drinks at your seat aboard a fancy European train is a romantic luxury, but it’s best not to count on it for all your journeys. Some operators like Czech Railways offer a full-service restaurant at great value for money, while on other services you’ll have to rely on a refreshment cart or small on-board café.

Fortunately, there are very few limitations as to what you can take aboard. On most trains in Europe you can pack a full picnic of local delicacies, alcohol included, and dine on this at your seat without any problems. Just make sure you respect other passengers and pick up your trash!

7. Use your travel days wisely

View of the station in Cinque Terre

If you’re traveling with a continuous pass, then feel free to jump aboard as many trains as possible regardless of the length or cost of the journey. But if you’re traveling with a day-based pass, such as 10 days within 2 months, use your travel days wisely. In other words, don’t use up one of your treasured travel days to take a €5 day trip to a nearby town.

As a general rule of thumb, consider purchasing a separate point-to-point ticket for any journey under about €20. Plan ahead and allocate your travel days to longer journeys or for those aboard more exclusive trains. For example, your Eurail Pass covers some brief train journeys in Western Europe that can easily run into the hundreds of euros if purchased on the day, as well as some in Eastern Europe that take an entire day and cost no more than a handful of coins.

8. Use technology

Man on his phone at London station

Gone are the days when you need to frantically look out the window as you approach a new station, anxiously trying to find a sign to confirm if this is your stop. Use technology to help you plan ahead and know exactly when to alight. The Rail Planner App has a feature that allows you to see all upcoming stops. Combined with a pre-loaded or offline Google Maps of your route, you can use this to know exactly where and when to hop off.

9. Choose the right Eurail Pass for your needs

Eurail Pass with map and guide

There are several Pass options available to suit all needs, budgets and journeys. Make sure you choose the Eurail Pass that’s right for you in order to get the best value and experience.

There are 2 types of Passes:

Within each of these categories you have further options to personalise your Pass. Take the Eurail Trip Planner for a spin and find the one that fits your needs the best. And don’t forget these insider Eurail tips!

For even more Eurail tips:
7 types of Eurail Pass benefits that you’ll love
Cheap travel in Europe – 13 tips for your next trip
6 free travel apps (that you’ll actually use)