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 this 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?
Train Fares: Balkans
Map shows approximate costs, in $US, for one-way, second-class tickets. For first-class fares, add 50 percent.
Use this map 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 (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
Choose one of the passes below to check prices and to buy your pass (orders are fulfilled by Rail Europe).
Extra tip: If you're considering a two-country Hungary-Romania or Bulgaria-Romania Select Pass, note that separate, single-country rail passes can be a little cheaper (though you use a day of each pass when crossing the border). The main benefit of these two-country passes is the ability to spread travel over a two-month period.
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).
If a rail pass doesn't pencil out for your trip, see our general tips for buying point-to-point tickets.
Balkans Rail Passes: Key Details
Single-country Bulgaria Eurail Pass: Valid for just one month, not two, after you've activated the pass.
Single-country Romania Eurail Pass: Valid for just one month, not two, after you've activated the pass.
Balkan Flexipass: Covers trains in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Greece, Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia, and Turkey. Valid for just one month, not two, after you've activated the pass. Second-class passes can only be used by travelers under 26.
Hungary–Romania Eurail Pass: Separate, single-country rail passes can be a little cheaper for most trips in Hungary and Romania, though you use a day of each pass when crossing the border. The main benefit of this two-country pass is the ability to spread travel over a two-month period.