There's something romantic about the idea of traveling around Europe on train, with nothing more than a backpack, an open-ended train ticket, and endless possibilities. And even though the emergence of low-cost airlines has made train travel less practical in Europe, Eurail still has its advantages. You don't have the same limits on luggage size as you do with a plane, they typically drop you off in the city center, you can enjoy the magnificent scenery, and trains are much more environmentally friendly. Plus, if you're 27 or younger, you are entitled to some excellent discounts.
Riders who are between 12 and 27 years old are eligible for discounts of up to 23% on their Eurail train passes. The discount is applicable to either the global pass for various countries or a single-country pass.
Eurail is a consortium of train companies covering most of Europe, and it provides one of the easiest and most exciting ways for overseas visitors to explore the continent (if you are an EU citizen or resident, you would purchase an InterRail pass instead).
The Eurail Pass covers train lines (and some ferries!) that reach 31 countries across Europe. The Eurail website will show you all of the destinations you can get to, plus the average time it takes to travel between stations.
Eurail Youth Pass Types
There are two types of Eurail youth passes—the global pass and the one country pass. If you're planning to do a Euro-trip and visit more than one country, you will need a global pass. If you only want to explore several cities in a single country, you would purchase the one country pass.
To take advantage of the youth discount, the rider must be 27 years old or younger on the first day of travel. If you are 27 when you begin the trip and will turn 28 while you are abroad, you are still eligible for the youth discount.
Eurail Global Passes
This is an incredibly flexible pass and offers great value for money. If you're not sure which countries you want to visit on your Europe trip and want to keep your options open, this is the pass for you. Here are some of the flexibility options you can choose from, and you can pick from any of the 31 countries in Europe that Eurail operates in to use your pass:
- 3 travel days within 1 month
- 5 travel days within 1 month
- 7 travel days within 1 month
- 10 travel days within 2 months
- 15 travel days within 2 months
- 15 days continuous
- 22 days continuous
- 1 month continuous
- 2 months continuous
- 3 months continuous
Of course, the more days of travel you plan and the more flexible the pass, the more expensive it will be.
Eurail One Country Passes
You can get single country passes for the following countries/regions: Austria, Benelux, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Greece, the Greek Islands, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Scandinavia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, and Sweden. This pass allows you a number of travel days with a set time period—just like the global pass options—but only for travel within the country that you choose.
Some countries, such as Switzerland, Spain, and Germany, offer their own rail passes apart from the Eurail Pass, and they are usually a better deal.
First Class or Second Class?
When you are purchasing your Eurail Pass, you'll see the option to purchase a first-class or second-class ticket. If your budget allows for it, traveling first class is obviously the more comfortable option, with more legroom, a quieter car, and sometimes free Wi-Fi.
However, the difference between first and second class is not drastic, and second class is the way most travelers and locals ride the trains.
Is the Eurail Pass Worth It?
Whether or not the Eurail Pass is worth the cost really depends on your specific itinerary. If you are planning a trip across various countries and don't know exactly how long you plan to stay in each location, then the Eurail global pass offers an affordable way to travel around with flexibility.
However, if you know the exact dates of your train travel in advance, you may be able to get cheaper tickets by buying individual, point to point tickets. Buying train tickets in Europe is like buying plane tickets; the prices go up the closer you get to the travel date. If your trip is primarily relatively short train rides between cities in one country, look at average prices before purchasing a pass. Depending on the country, you can often find individual tickets for a much better deal than purchasing a pass.
It's difficult to know if the Eurail Pass is worth the money without doing some detailed calculations. If flexibility is important to you or you don't know the exact travel dates, it's advantageous to have. You can also mix and match: Purchase a global pass for longer trips across borders, but buy short-leg train trips on their own. Having the youth discount also make the Eurail Pass a much more attractive option, and is likely to save you money in the end.