I love the traveling part of traveling, and — if you have the time — there is nothing better than train travel. Europe has an incredible network of trains criss-crossing countries, passing through incredible scenery, and giving you access to off-the-beaten-path towns and villages.
I know what you're thinking — why travel by train when I can get a quick, inexpensive flight on Ryanair, EasyJet, or some other discount airline? Hear me out. If you factor in the time it takes you to get to the airport (discount airlines are usually flying out of secondary airports further away from the city centres), plus the time it takes to check-in and wait for your flight, and then the time it takes to get to the centre of your destination city, is traveling by train really that much longer? Plus, don't forget to factor in additional costs that come with a flight like checked baggage and over-priced snacks to eat on the flight.
On a European train trip, you can take your own food and water, and the size of your bag doesn't really matter. There are no security lines to get through, and you can wander around the train from the minute it leaves until your destination — no need to fasten your seatbelt! Plus, trains will take you directly to the city centre station, or to a station that will connect you to a metro or city bus that will take you where you want to go.
If you are traveling by train in the off-season, I wouldn't recommend a Eurail or Interrail pass, as you can usually find day-of train tickets that will end up being cheaper (see the resources below for more information).
If you are traveling during the high-season (May-August) or to multiple countries in a short period of time however, a Eurail pass or Interrail Pass is definitely a good choice. The travel pass requirements and specifications for both can get a bit complicated, so make sure you read through all the info on their websites before purchasing.
Here are some changes to the Eurail passes in 2017, that is making it even easier to travel by rail:
- Youth Eurail Passes (which are up to 35% less expensive than the adult pass) are now available to those that are under 28! (They used to be only for those that were under 26)
- You have up to 11 months to use your pass from the time of purchase (it used to expire after six).
- The Eurail passes are a lot more flexible than they have been in the past, making it easier to jump on and off the train.
There are three Eurail passes that vary in price depending on what European countries you are planning to travel to by train: Global Pass, Select Pass, and One Country Pass. In my experience, the One Country Pass does not always save you money, as some countries have really inexpensive tickets day-of (even in the high-season).
Do some research before you buy any pass by checking out average train ticket prices online in the countries you are planning on visiting — most rail companies have an English version of their website for tourists.
- Austria — OBB has great prices for train tickets in Austria and also offers night trains to other parts of Europe.
- Belgium — Belgium Rail has a really clear website that breaks down the different types of train tickets helping you pick the best one for your train travel through Belgium.
- Czech Republic — CD has lots of great train ticket options for the Czech Republic including all-day tickets in Prague and trains with cinemas for children.
- Denmark — DSB has ticket information and planning tools for Denmark's train routes.
- Finland — VR not only helps you plan your train travel in Finland but train trips to Russia too!
- France — SNCF is where you can reserve train tickets and geolocate your train anywhere in France!
- Germany — Deutsche Bahn is a great site for trip planning and offers train tickets in Germany starting at just 19 Euros!
- Greece — Rail CC contains all the info you need to plan your train travel in Greece, including night trains and special offers.
- Hungary — MAV is a simple website, but you can still find train ticket prices for travel in Hungary.
- Ireland — Irish Rail has information on Ireland's train schedules, ticket prices, and more.
- Italy — Italia Rail is a great website for booking train travel in Italy with quick route options from major cities like Florence, Rome, and Venice.
- Netherlands — NS has everything you need to easily book tickets for train travel in the Netherlands.
- Norway — NSB is where you can purchase tickets for the train and find out about any delays
- Portugal — Camboios De Portugal has train ticket info and info on how to get to major events.
- Spain — Renfe is the best website to find cheap train tickets for traveling in Spain.
- Sweden — SJ helps you discover Sweden by train and even has a handy budget calculator!
- UK — National Rail Enquiries has a great site that is easy to use and purchase train tickets on.
Other resources worth checking out while planning your train travels through Europe include Rail Europe, a one-stop-shop, that combines maps, schedules, and fares from different train companies across Europe. And, if you are looking to hit as many countries as you can, Interrail offers a 30 countries rail pass that allows you to easily explore all of Europe by train.