By Rick Steves
Are rail passes a good value for the Balkans?
Since point-to-point train tickets are cheap in this region, a rail pass isn't likely to save you much money. If a rail pass happens to match the countries you plan to visit, it can be worth considering — but read ahead before getting a pass, as your guidebook may recommend travel by bus instead of train for many of your destinations.
How do I see whether a rail 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. Dotted lines show ferry routes and dashed lines (such as Split–Dubrovnik) show bus routes, neither of which are covered by rail passes.
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
• Fare-estimate maps outside the Balkans
• Answers to frequently asked rail-pass questions
Do I need to make seat reservations on trains in the Balkans?
InterCity (IC), and InterCity Express (ICE) trains require extra supplements for required seat reservations, which can be made locally. Otherwise, you can hop on most other trains in this region with just your rail pass in hand, though overnight trains, and some international routes, do also require reservations (as indicated in online train schedules).
No international trains are running to/from Belgrade in 2023 (to allow for track construction), but privately operated buses (not covered by rail passes) run on those routes.
If a rail pass doesn't pencil out for your trip, see our general tips for buying point-to-point tickets.