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The most important thing to consider before purchasing a Eurail pass is how long you’re staying in Europe and what your itinerary looks like.

If you haven’t come across a Eurail pass before, it’s basically a prepaid train pass for train travel in most countries in Europe.  Their website is http://www.eurail.com/eurail_home.

Of course it’s not always that simple.  The U.K. does not use the Eurail pass.  They have their own train pass, called the Britrail, but if you’re traveling there it’s probably more economical to take their bus service.

Back to Eurail passes.  There are a multitude of different plans that you can buy.  For instance, the one I’m most interested in is the global pass, which gives me access to up to twenty European countries and from ten days to three months of travel.

I’m planning on going for eight weeks, through at least six countries…so I want a pass that will do all that.  I will probably want at least ten days of travel, and so I’ll probably choose the Global Pass with ten days of travel in two months for 387 euros plus ten euros for the pass security.  ($625.02 in U.S. dollars.)  This is for the Youth second-class (people under twenty-five).  If you want first class you’re going to pay more.

For a trip that involves a lot of train travel, or a short trip, it may be cheaper to buy individual tickets, though.  The Eurail pass does not mean you can just hop on a train whenever you want for free.  You usually have to reserve a spot beforehand and on some high-speed trains there is a supplement.  On the other hand, the Eurail pass can entitle you to discounts on other modes of transportation, like ferries and buses.

Also before you buy your Eurail pass remember that short flights in Europe can be extraordinarily cheap.  Ryanair, for example, offers flights as low as five euros.  Of course, their destinations are limited and so are the times when the extremely cheap flights are offered.  I searched for a flight from Paris to Rome (there weren’t many destinations available) for June 21 and came up with a price of 29.99 EUR.  A train ticket for the same would cost 187 US.

You really need to take into consideration the duration of your stay, your budget, the amount of traveling that you will be doing, and the countries that you will be visiting.  These all factor into how much money a Eurail pass can save you.  If you’re only doing one or two long-distance journeys then you should look at discount airlines and individual train tickets to see if they will cost you less than a pass.  On trips where you are going to multiple destinations in mainland Europe, definitely look into a Eurail pass.  It can save you a ton of money.

To further flesh out my example, let’s say that I was going to go from Paris-Brussels-Berlin-Vienna-Zagreb-Venice-Bern in June and July, peak months.  Individual tickets would cost, respectively, (for second restricted class in US dollars where available, all leaving in the evening to save on lodging) $43–$145–$297–$119–$75–$126.   Totaled up, that’s $805.  With the Eurail Global pass, you’re spending $180 less, plus you still have three more travel days to use.  That’s a significant savings, as well as getting discounts on other things.

The best way to find out what is the most economical is to do your own research and find out where you’re traveling and what individual tickets cost.  You can do this by going to http://www.raileurope.com for train tickets or for discount plane tickets, http://www.ryanair.com/site/EN/.  There are other discount airlines too, but generally even the cheapest plane tickets will cost more, and another point to air travel is the amount of security and lines that you have to go through, not to mention frequent delays.

Just take all these things in to consideration and make sure you do your own research before you go.  That’s really the thing.  You can’t just rely on someone else to tell you everything–go look it up yourself.  You’ll find the best information.

Good luck with your travel plans, and if there’s anything I can help you with, feel free to contact me!

June 2017
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