In August 2017, I embarked on a mission to travel to every country in Europe, including the transcontinental countries. Those are countries that are in both Europe and Asia. To kick off my 51-country tour, I began in Iceland and then flew over to the other Nordic countries.
The first several months were spent hoping from one country to the next, in and out of airports, checking in baggage and collecting it, and taking trains, buses, and cabs into the city center upon landing. I was exhausted of being in the air all the time, along with collecting baggage, going through long security lines, and wasting time getting into the city center, especially sometimes in heavy traffic. I wanted a more cost effective and convenient way of travel and one that would essentially waste less time.
I decided to travel on a one-month long continuous Eurail Pass. This pass allowed me to travel as much as I wanted in a one-month period. When I received the pass, I was beyond excited, after all I was leaving in just a few days and then I read the paperwork and my anxiety went through the roof. Although I had a rough plan, I had no reservations and no clue about the train schedules. Let’s be honest, I was very disorganized but thankfully I could stick to my plans.
I traveled to Brussels first, starting my Eurail Pass in Belgium. I activated my pass just by simply using it and getting it stamped to authenticate at the train station.
I traveled from Brussels to Luxembourg without needing a reservation. On the route to Luxembourg, I used the train’s Wi-Fi to map out a rough plan. I also used the handy Eurail planner app. I would suggest to anyone who gets a rail pass to use it. It’s so helpful and handy, and you can also use it offline, which is handy while traveling abroad with no Wi-Fi or little connectivity.
I realized a lot of my trains didn’t need reservations, which was great and relieved a lot of stress.
The ones that did need reservations were not possible for me to make online, because Eurail sends you a physical ticket in the mail and because I was already traveling there was no place for them to send me the ticket. So, it suggested I go to the ticket office at the station and reserve my seat, which I did. Again, it was hassle-free, in the month I used it, I never experienced issues getting a reservation, when I made them on the same day I planned to leave.
I did travel in March, and so I assume in the summer it’s a lot busier, so it’s probably better to book ASAP if you have a plan. I didn’t want to book too far in advance, as I really didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do. Plus, I wanted to leave that kind of spontaneity open for changes etc. which I was again lucky to do.
In my one-month journey via rail, I met more friends than I ever did in one year on a plane. I don’t know why, but it’s so much easier to meet people on trains. I met so many different captivating people with unique stories. It’s amazing how different we can all be yet how much we can all love the same things, like travel and exploration.
One thing I also loved is the lack of pretentious attitudes with train travel. I had a first-class ticket, and even there, everyone is still so friendly and laid back.
About first class: The first class is nice with more room, but I would consider the price difference and then check your route. As for me, some of my trains just had one class and if first class had Wi-Fi, so did second class. However, sometimes the Wi-Fi didn’t work even if it was showing a working network, which was frustrating.
If it did work, it was great. I could get a lot of work done and surf the web while on a long journey. On a lot of planes, you don’t have this option, or you pay inflated prices for it. Again, on my particular routes, there wasn’t a lot of trains with working Wi-Fi, sadly.
Another thing I loved is all the trains would go right into city center, thus eliminating me having to get from an airport and travel, sometimes quite far into the city. I normally could walk right from the train station to my hotel, which was great.
I didn’t have to pay for checked luggage or worry about luggage weight restrictions which I loved because my bags are always over weight. Let’s face it, this alone was a serious perk for me. Although, now, looking back, I would say don’t be an idiot when packing. Yes, I said it. An idiot, like I was with my bag at 27 kilos. Carrying that up and down staircases in smaller stations with no lifts was a nightmare.
I still think I created some back issues for myself from hauling a mini caravan around I swear. Think before you pack. Think about dragging that heavy case even 10 minuets from the train station to your hotel. Think about carrying it up two flights of stairs. Think about lifting it up and down on and off the train. It’s not fun.
Another great thing was the flexibility of travel. I could miss a train and know that it didn’t matter. I could just jump on the next one, with no penalty fee. Unless, of course, you had reserved a seat.
It allowed so much flexibility that I could stay in a place awhile or if I decided to leave earlier.
Some trains, not all have little cafes in them with snacks and drinks, which is another way to meet people. Not all the trains have these, but longer journey trains do and more popular routes do.
It’s best to look on the rail planner to see if they have food and beverage services or better yet, bring snacks in case as a few times it said there was a café and then there never was. I starved for six hours. Haha. Rookie mistake. So, I would advise to always take water and a snack on board. It’s also cheaper to bring your own snacks.
The Eurail Pass truly saved me a lot of money. I know now that budget airlines can seem like you’re saving money but with those cheap airlines you should factor in baggage fees and taxi to and from the city center.
Planes may seem faster as well thus making them seem more appealing. But if you think about the 1-2 hour ahead of your flight you must be at the airport, the journey time to the airport, and then to the city center in your destination it sometimes it’s the same or even longer than a train.
What I loved about my rail travel most, perhaps my favorite thing, was the scenery. I could kick back, relax, and take in the scenery. The beautiful small villages, mountains, lakes, rivers, castles, hills, I could go on forever.
My all-time favorite journey was around Switzerland and Austria. OMG! I have never seen so much beauty in my life. The mountains and snow-covered pine trees took my breath away! It was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen.
You cannot see beauty like that from an airplane. In a train, you get to know the country better.
For example, pretend you are only going to visit Rome while traveling through Italy. Just getting from Rome to your next country, you still see so much. Best of all you become immersed into the Italian culture by zooming by the country-sides and small villages. You see so much, and you see so many beautiful little villages you never would even know existed.
I remember going by some small villages in France and writing down the stops. They were so quaint and cute with beautiful churches and clock towers. Like I said, this was probably my favorite part of the journey and the biggest reason to use a rail pass instead of flying.
There really are so many reasons to get an Eurail Pass. It’s a no brainer. You can potentially get a month of unlimited travel to wherever you want while seeing so much in between! It’s amazing!
In your pass, you can also take night trains, which are handy when you don’t want to waste a full day in a city. For example, you could leave a city at 11:00 pm and get on a train until 7:00 am which is nice because you just go to sleep and you awake in a new destination without wasting any daylight.
These night trains need reservations, but, again, I did all my reservations the day before or day of and never had an issue. Again, bear in mind this was March, so summer will surely be different.
They can also cost an additional fee, depending on what type of seat or cabin you get. If you want a bed, then you will pay for either a 6, 4, 3, or 2-person cabin.
I traveled with my friend, so we always traveled in a 2-person cabin with a bathroom. It was a bit more but worth it. We tried the 4-person, but didn’t like the idea of sleeping with 2 other random strangers. Plus, the cabins are very small so it was worth it to pay more.
If you do choose to sleep in one with multiple beds, know that it is never coed and you will only be in a cabin with women if you’re a woman.
There are also showers in the two person cabins meaning you can have a shower just before arriving in the morning. They are very small but worth it.
There are a few different passes with Eurail, but I strongly suggest getting the unlimited continuous pass. It’s worth the money and it gives you so much freedom and so little worry. Below are the different types of Eurail passes and the associated benefits.
Global Pass:Explore up to 28 countries in Europe. This is for the traveler who wants ultimate freedom and wants to see more than 5 countries. There are more options in this pass, depending on how many travel days you want.
I did the continuous, which is the costliest, but it lets you travel unlimited to all 28 countries. There are plans within this pass that allow up to 5, 7, 15, 22 travel days with either 1 or 2 months.
There is also a 1, 2, or 3-month continuous pass. These are the more expensive passes, but this is the way to see as much as you want without many restrictions. I highly recommend this one to feed your true wanderlust.
Select Pass:Choose 2, 3, 4 bordering countries. This pass is for the person who has a few countries in mind they want to explore. Remember, the countries must border one another. Select your countries and the amount of days you would like to travel. You can customize your trip as you see fit beforehand.
One Country pass: Fall in love with one country and travel within that country and get to know it inside and out. This has up to 9 flexible days of travel within a month. You can take multiple trains in one day, and you get discounted ferries.
More benefits of an Eurail Pass:
*Discounts on select hotels.
*Discounts on city passes so you can see some attractions for free.
*Discounts on some buses and ferries.
*Discounts on Swiss trains like the Glacier Express (my favorite and a must do).
*Free travel pack, which includes a map, travel planner, bracelet and pass guide.
*If you have first class, you have access to lovely lounges in many train stations while you wait for your next train.
*You can use Wi-Fi on your train, something most airlines don’t have, thus making the journey more enjoyable and enabling you to work, if necessary.
In my next blog, I will have tips listed for using your rail pass and have a FAQ page. Thanks for reading. Now go out and get yourself an Eurail Pass! You won’t regret doing so!