By Rick Steves
Are Eurail Global Passes generally a good value?
For see-it-all train travelers out to experience as much of Europe as possible, the Eurail Global Pass — the classic "Eurail Pass" of yore — is the best option. Covering 28 countries, the Global Pass allows you to travel freely through most of Europe, from Portugal to Finland to Turkey. (It doesn't, however, cover Great Britain.)
Unlike the Select Pass, the Global Pass offers a consecutive-day "continuous" version — particularly convenient and cost-effective for the whirlwind traveler who's riding the rails almost every day. The Global Pass is also the only pass with a three-month option, making it especially popular with student backpackers.
How do I see whether a Global Pass makes sense for my trip in particular?
Use these maps to add up approximate pay-as-you-go fares for your itinerary, and compare that cost to the price of a rail pass for the number of days you expect to spend on the train. Also, follow the links below for:
- More tips for figuring out whether a pass makes sense for your trip
- The basics on choosing among rail passes
- More tips on how to save money by fine-tuning your rail pass
- Advice on deciding between first and second class
- Answers to frequently asked rail-pass questions
You can get either a continuous pass — for 15 days, 21 days, 1 month, 2 months, or 3 months — or a flexipass for either 10 or 15 travel days within a two-month window, or 5 travel days within a 10-day window.
If you're buying before the end of March, you can get extra days on certain continuous Global Passes (2 free days with 15-day pass, 3 free days with 21-day pass, 5 free days with one-month pass). Click the second link below to get the deal, and remember that you have to activate any rail pass (in person, in Europe) within six months of buying it. This sale ends at 5pm Eastern time on March 30, 2015.
Eurail Global Pass: Extra-Day Sale: Get extra days for free on certain continuous-day passes
Extra tip: The 5-day Global Pass, costing only about $10 a day more than the highest-priced 5-day Select Pass but covering 24 more countries, may be worthwhile for some — but for travelers taking five long train rides in such a short period (just a 10-day validity window), a mix of point-to-point train tickets and budget flights may be a better option.
Anything I should know before getting this pass?
While the Eurail Global Pass covers the full cost of your ticket on the overwhelming majority of European trains (fast, medium, slow, international, day, night, etc.), it's important to know what's not covered:
- All trains in Britain (covered by a range of regional passes)
- The Eurostar London–Paris/Brussels train
- Paris–Italy night trains
- Accommodations on overnight trains
- Seat-reservation fees (required on certain trains)
- A few privately operated routes (listed on each country's page — see list of countries in sidebar)
As of 2015, the Global Pass covers Poland as well as Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia, and Montenegro — even if you bought the pass in 2014. The Eurostar train and Paris–Italy night trains require a separate ticket no matter what kind of pass you have. (One nice plus: Passholders are eligible for a discount on the Eurostar; unfortunately, no such deal exists for Paris–Italy night trains.)
Passholders should also be aware of a few tricky areas:
- Paris–Italy trains: Direct day trains on this route (unlike the direct night trains) do accept rail passes, but the "reservation fee" is substantial, and can sell out quickly. See my tips for booking Paris–Italy trains.
- Fast trains in France: France's high-speed TGV trains not only require paid seat reservations, but limit places for rail-pass holders. Book any TGV trains as soon as you can commit to a date and time (available starting 90 days in advance).
- Greece and Turkey: Greece currently connected by train only to Serbia and Bulgaria; Turkey is connected by train to Bulgaria, but service is sparse. Flying is the best way to reach Athens, Thessaloniki, or Istanbul from any major city in Europe. Ferries also connect Greece to Italy and Turkey. Within Greece and Turkey, buses are generally your best option for getting around (but they aren't covered by rail passes).