By Rick Steves
Are Eurail Select Passes generally a good value?
The Select Pass is often a good value, and lets travelers customize their pass for a multi-country trip. Choose two,* three, or four of the countries connected by a direct line in the diagram on this page (the Select Pass does not cover Great Britain or Poland). Some countries are grouped to count as one country for the sake of this pass: "Benelux" (Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg), Croatia/Slovenia, and Serbia/Montenegro.
*Not all neighboring countries are available as two-country passes — colored lines on this page's map connect countries that can be paired as a two-country Select Pass.
A few multi-country passes for certain regions work out to be even cheaper — see below for details.
How do I see whether a Select 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 and for the specific countries you're visiting (Select Pass prices vary according to which countries you choose). 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
For any three or four of the Select Pass countries shown above, you can get a pass for either 5, 6, 8, or 10 travel days within a two-month window. Two-country Select Passes offer the same range, plus the option to get a 4-day (in two months) pass.
While two-country Select Passes are available for most neighboring countries, there are a few exceptions — most notably, there's no Italy–Switzerland two-country pass. Other nonexistent two-country Select Pass combinations: Denmark–Sweden, Greece–Turkey, Ireland–anything, Norway–anything, and Finland–anything. There is, however, a Germany–Poland Select Pass (even though Poland isn't an option on any other kind of Select Pass, which is why it isn't shown in the schematic map on this page).
Select Passes come in three price tiers according to which countries you choose. Choosing at least two of the five most popular countries for this pass (shown in the dark bubbles in the schematic above) will most likely land you in the highest price tier; the lowest price tier is only available on passes that are mostly comprised of the least popular pass options (white bubbles). Price ranges for two-country passes are indicated above by the lines between the countries: gold for highest, blue for mid-range, green for lowest (black lines connect countries that can't be paired as a two-country pass).
- European East Pass: This four-country pass is much cheaper than the Select Pass for the same countries; it covers train travel in Austria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Slovakia (albeit within a one-month window, whereas the Select Pass allows a two-month window), and also allows adults, not just youths, to save even more by opting for second class.
- Scandinavia Eurail Pass: This four-country pass is cheaper than the Select Pass for the same countries; it covers train travel in Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden (albeit in second class, whereas the three-country and four-country Select Pass isn't available in second class to anyone 26 or older — but second class on Scandinavian trains is as comfortable as first class on southern European trains).
- Eurail Global Pass: The price difference between the highest-priced Select Pass and a 24-country Global Pass is about $10 per day. If you expect to cover lots of ground and want to keep your options open, you may prefer to pay a little extra for the full-blown Global Pass.
What does the Select Pass cover?
While the Select Pass covers the full cost of your ticket on the overwhelming majority of trains in your selected countries, plus a range of non-train "bonuses," it's important to know what's not covered:
- The Eurostar London–Paris/Brussels train
- The Thello Paris–Italy night train
- 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)
Both the Eurostar and Thello require a separate ticket (no matter what kind of rail pass you have). While passholders are eligible for discounted fares on both these routes, advance-purchase deals usually beat the passholder discount.
Passholders should also be aware of a few tricky areas:
- Paris–Italy trains: Direct TGV day trains on this route (unlike the direct night trains) do accept rail passes, but the service runs only three times per day, and passholder reservations 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 may 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). International TGV and Thalys reservations to/from France are more expensive than most. The highest rates are for direct TGV Lyria trains between France and Switzerland (about $30 in second class, or $70 in first).
What if I wind up on a train traveling through a country not covered by my pass?
If your train crosses through a country not covered by your rail pass, you must buy a separate train ticket for that stretch (even if you have no plans of getting off the train in that country). Get your ticket before boarding, to avoid the extra fee (or possibly a heavier fine) for purchasing the ticket on board. Online train schedules show the route of each train, including connection points and stops on the way. Examples of routes to consider:
- Munich–Venice: If Austria isn't included among your four countries, it costs about $25 extra to cross through Austria on this route (in second class; about $40 in first class).
- Budapest–Prague: If Slovakia isn't included among your four countries, it costs about $30 extra to get a point-to-point ticket to cross through Slovakia on this route (in second class).
- Between Greece or Turkey and...anywhere: Greece is 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).