TravelPUNK’s 12 part series on Backpacking Europe for all you aspiring & seasoned backpackers and student travelers.
4. Buy The Eurail Pass
Europe has a brilliant rail system that conveniently interconnects most European countries. DEFINITELY get this pass before you take off.
Generally speaking, you will buy a pass with a certain number of days you can use for travel on the Eurail.
This will allow you to hop on and off when you wish. Each DAY that you travel will be scratched off your total number days that you have purchased.
For example, if you bought a Eurail pass with a total of 8 travel days to use throughout your trip, you will have 8 “slots” on your pass that you will write the date that you traveled in each slot.
Say you chose to use one day for your travel from Paris to Barcelona, then you will have 7 days (slots) left in the future.
You can hop on and off as much as you like on each 24hr day of travel.
Just make sure you use your pass wisely. Use them for your LONGEST and or most expensive travel routes (ie..Paris to Madrid, Madrid to Amsterdam, Barcelona to Rome, Milan to Frankfurt, etc…). The longer the route, the more the normal cost would have been, so to get the maximum savings out of your Eurail Pass, make sure you choose the longest routes and what would normally be the most expensive routes.
There are a variety of Eurail passes to choose from so once you choose your countries, the right Eurail pass will be easier to find.
We have been partnered with them for many years because they are leaders in this industry and have excellent service.
To your plan out your route options, get a visual by reviewing train routes all across Europe using this Map of Europe.
If you haven’t had your 26 birthday yet, you’ll get a good discount (Go to the bottom of this article and click the link).
The last thing that you want to be worried about when you’re traveling to and through several different countries all across Europe is how to get from point A to point B to point C and so on.
Do you even remember your plane rides? I don’t. I hate airports too!
Train stations have a totally different vibe. You won’t get that “chaotic rushing” feeling that always comes when you step into an airport.
Trains rock! And you can use the relaxing time on there to write in your journal, sleep comfortably, and scope out the beautiful landscapes (another thing you won’t be able to do in a plane).
You want to have a GREAT trip, right?
You need time to decompress, away from the ratrace you left behind at home, work, and school, right?
You need time to be at peace and to discover this beautiful planet, right?
You want to have memorable experiences, right?
Look at the BEAUTIFUL VIEWS on a Swiss train from Spitz to Interlaken, Switzerland
Wasn’t that amazing? Those views are breath-taking and the photos that you’ll snap will make everyone you show those photos to, drooling to follow in your footsteps.
Still need convincing?
Check out these backpackers with their own compartment on a Eurotrain. Not a sleeper car, but a private compartment with seats that they can sleep in without having to worry about strangers coming in to steal their things.
These girls are having a FUN and CRAZY time- and it shows! Can’t swing around like that on a plane!
You can even hear the girl filming this video saying “I love the train. I love it…”
Just relaxed and having a great time with memories that will last forever.
Later, you’ll see some awesome views of Switzerland from the train.
But right now, here’s a video shot by a backpacker with a Eurail Pass. He shows you what a standard ICE Eurotrain. ICE trains are equiped with in-seat video screens, integral audio systems, plugs for computers or mobile phones. Luggage rooms, restaurant cars or bistros are available too.
Here’s a nice walk-through on one of the ICE trains. This video will give you a good idea of what to expect when riding a train on the Eurail system.
The views are awesome as oppose to airplane views and will give you a closer and more intimate idea of the countries you are traveling to and through.
You will also see the difference between 1st class and 2nd class seats, the toilets on board, the legroom (again, as opposed to no legroom on airplanes), the dining car restaurant, and some have trains will have sleeper cars too. What if I just wing it and buy passes on the go when I get there?
Sure you can do that. In fact, as I mentioned, I recommend that you do that with the smaller trips that you will take IN ADDITION to buying a Eurail pass.
If you don’t buy a pass, imagine the difficulty that you may have trying to book tickets in countries where you don’t speak the languages, without getting ripped off from the ticket agent, and later to find out that you got jacked on the price. It happened to me. (Heck, I got ripped off in a post office in Paris, because I didn’t speak English. But that’s another story…)If you’re traveling to 8 countries, that’s 8 languages that you need to speak a little bit of, so they can at least see that you made an effort and maybe not rip you off because you tried.
Then, you have to worry about if there are any available seats at the time frame that you want to leave and you will get charged whatever those rates are that day or whatever price they want you to pay (higher rates during the busy season, obviously).
This is what you will go through in every city if you choose not to buy a Eurail pass and want to buy on the spur of the moment each time.
What is the price you would pay for the convenience of being able to enter the train station, go up to the ticket counter, tell them what time and place you want to go, pull out your pass that will pay for that entire fare (you will only pay the nominal taxes and reservation fee each time), and done.
Easy as apple pie…As a reminder, even when you have your Eurail Pass you can still buy point-to-point fares for smaller/shorter trips. In fact I recommend it.
Don’t waste a day on your Euraill Pass for fares that will cost less than $100 (for example), unless you have an unlimited pass.
Also, if you really can’t afford it, get your parents to buy you a Eurail pass as they most likely want to contribute something to your life altering trip AND they will have peace of mind knowing that you will be safe traveling to and fro different countries.
Again, you MUST BUY the Eurail pass before your travels begin. And once you buy the Eurail pass, it will clear your head to focus on the rest of your trip.
Buy it and do justice to your trip. You will ONLY have that unique experience with a Eurail Pass.