How to tick off extra countries on your Eurail trip
If you’re the type of traveler who gets a kick out of ticking off countries, then Europe is the perfect destination for you. Where else in the world can you collect three countries in a matter of hours without so much as a formal border crossing, or even momentary stop? A Eurail Global Pass can take you to 28 countries in Europe. There are also extra countries that you can easily reach while on a Eurail trip that’ll rapidly increase your tally. Here are some to consider.
Tick off extra countries (and ministates) with Eurail
London isn’t exactly a small or under-visited European city. But with the 2017 addition of the Eurostar to the Eurail family, it’s easy to add England to your list of destinations. The train ride from London to France or Belgium is just a few hours, and then you’re at the perfect starting point for a bit of country hopping.
2. San Marino
San Marino is one of Europe’s smallest countries. Although it’s expensive and has limited accommodation options, it’s surrounded by Italy and is an easy day trip from several destinations. Many dedicated country collectors visiting Bologna or Florence abandon the cities for a day to climb Castello Della Cesta and add another state to their list.
It’s easy to overlook Liechtenstein on a Eurail trip, even though it’s common for trains to pass through the tiny country. Liechtenstein is hidden between Austria and Switzerland. If you’re determined to add it to your list, then you can do so easily with just a fairly minor detour.
4. Vatican City
Although purists may not consider the Vatican City a true country, it technically counts as a sovereign city-state. It’s the smallest independent state in the world and conveniently lies in the heart of Rome.
Monaco is another sovereign city-state that’s easy to tick off, even if only as a fleeting visit. This landlocked country is surrounded by France, and is famous for its lavish yachts and iconic Grand Prix. Although Monaco is one of Europe’s more expensive destinations, it’s less than 30 minutes by train from the more affordable Nice.
If you’re passing between Spain and France, don’t miss the opportunity to pop into the beautiful little country of Andorra. Even though there are no trains running directly to the country, it’s easy to reach Andorra from Barcelona or Toulouse by bus.
Luxembourg may not be high on many travelers’ bucket lists, but it’s a quick and easy train ride away from several European countries. In fact, a direct train from Brussels takes less than 3 hours. Most visitors head straight to the capital, Luxembourg City, which is a charming and intriguing destination in its own right.
Helpful hints for country collectors
1. Explore central Europe
Central Europe has the highest density of small countries that you can easily tick off in a few days. The rail infrastructure also makes train travel across many extra countries quick and easy. This doesn’t mean you should focus your trip around these destinations only – but if visiting as many extra countries as possible is your priority, then it makes sense to focus on this region before venturing into larger countries like Spain, or more remote regions of the Balkans, for example.
2. Plan ahead
Country-hopping requires some careful planning. Everyone has their own way of plotting a route, but nothing quite replaces the excitement of jotting it down the old-fashioned way – on the official Eurail map. Once you’ve got a general idea of the route you want to follow, you’ll need to invoke some technology.
3. Use the “via” function in the Eurail Rail Planner app
The Eurail Rail Planner app is an invaluable tool if you’re looking to plot a careful route. In particular, the “via” function can help you find a quick route between two countries that includes your chosen destination. If the country you want to visit doesn’t have a railway station, check Google Maps for other transport options.
4. Set your own requirements
Everyone has his or her own requirements for what counts as a visit to a country. Set your own parameters and feel happy with them. Decide whether you need to simply travel through the country by train, set foot on the station platform, or spend at least one night for it to count. There are no rules here, but by setting your own requirements you’ll enjoy the process much more.
5. Get a continuous Eurail Global Pass
If working your way through a high-intensity country checklist is your main priority, a Eurail Global Pass will be your best friend. This allows you to travel between 28 European countries with ease (plus the extra places listed above). If you want to cover the most distance over a small number of days, then a Continuous Eurail Pass is the way to go. You’ll be able to use trains on every day your pass is valid, regardless of the length of the trip.
Alternatively, you could plan your route out over a longer period of time and use a day-based pass to allow some downtime in your various destinations. For example, if you have a Eurail Global Pass with “15 days within 2 months” validity, you’ll get 15 days to travel on trains within a 2-month period.
6. Don’t get carried away (or be that guy)
It’s easy to get carried away with the idea of visiting as many countries as possible. It’s also easy to be that guy who brags about how many countries he’s ticked off. Travel shouldn’t only be about checking off items just so that you can brag about them at a later stage. Take your time, slow down, and make an effort to engage in a lasting and meaningful way, even if it means skipping a few destinations on your list. Europe will always be there for you to return.