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Train travel is an important part of European travel culture.

One of the coolest parts of travelling to Europe is how connected the countries are. Whether you choose plane, boat, train or car, you can get from one country to the next fairly easily and without too much fuss. If you choose taking a train, and honestly you should if you’ve never travelled by train before, then you will be dealing with Eurail. The system can be confusing to first-time users, with the different rules and names for passes and tickets. Cover-More will walk you through the system so you are familiar with how Eurail passes work before you even touchdown in Europe.

Why Should I Choose Eurail?

There are a number of reasons why travelling by train beats all other forms of transportation in Europe. First, train travel is an insanely easy way to get around the great cities of Europe comfortablly. The seats have more space than planes, the travel times are quick, and the accommodations are often much better than what you’d receive on a plane, or during a road trip. Perhaps most importantly, train travel is a part of the European way of life. When you travel by train you have the ultimate flexibility in your schedule, the utmost comfort of any mode of transportation and you get to enjoy incredible scenery outside your window the whole time.

What is a rail pass?

A rail pass is a special ticket that you can purchase that will give you unlimited train travel on specific national networks for a specific period of time. It gives you flexibility in your travel plans so you can change your mind without getting fined for changing your tickets.

Which pass should you choose?

Before you press 'purchase' there are a few questions you need answers to. The first question you need to figure out is how many countries (and which countries) you’d like to visit during your holiday. You can choose passes that cover one country, two adjacent countries, three adjacent countries, or a global pass. The global pass covers all participating countries across most Europe, giving you maximum reach and flexibility in your plans and destinations.

Then, you need to consider your other options for taking the train as a Eurail pass isn’t your only way to travel via train in Europe. There are also point-to-point tickets available for every location. A lot of European tourists have been told that choosing a rail pass will always save them money. However, this isn’t always the case. It is worth the extra 10 minutes it will take to compare totals for the rail pass versus the cost of point-to-point tickets.

Rail pass versus point-to-point tickets

This brings us to asking what the difference is between rail passed and point-to-point tickets. Essentially, point-to-point tickets let you make one specific trip from, you guessed it, point to point. This kind of ticket comes with a reservation and is less flexible than a rail pass. In comparison, rail passes give you unlimited and flexible travel for one price. You will pay for additional reservations separately from the pass, though.

If you know you’ll be going from one spot to the next, then a point-to-point ticket makes more sense and will tend to be more economical. If you prefer to travel around extensively, the rail pass may be your best bet, depending on how far you would like to go.

First class or second class?

So, you’ve decided the rail pass is the way to go for your European holiday. You aren’t quite done with questions yet. The last you’ll have to figure out is if you want to get a first or second class rail pass.

What’s the difference? The first thing to note, is that second class is perfectly adequate for most travellers. You will still have an air-conditioned car, a comfortable seat and space to store your luggage. The real difference between second class and first class are the perks. In first class you will have wider seats, plusher seat cushions, more elbow room, and fewer passengers per car. In some cases, you may be offered complimentary drinks and snacks at your seat, instead of travelling to the café car like you would normally do in second class. In addition, there are outlets to charge your devices in first class that aren’t often present in second class cars.

Don’t decide which class you want until you actually see the price. Sometimes, depending on the season, crowds and number of reservations, the difference between first and second class is only a couple Euros. At that point, if you’ll be travelling for more than an hour, it becomes absolutely worth it to treat yourself to the extra space and amenities.

Where can I buy a Eurail pass?

Australian residents can buy a Eurail pass from or Make reservations for specific trips once you’ve purchased your rail pass.

Train travel is a great way to see a lot of a country with minimal effort on your part. It’s more comfortable than flying, has higher quality amenities and allows for greater flexibility in your travelling plans. But before you start worrying about travel complications, choose a travel insurance plan to give yourself confidence about your trip, and your level of protection as you explore Europe.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Alain Gavillet