Europe Forums

Start a new topic Change Forum
Advanced search

Eurail or buy as you go??

Jump to last reply

After doing a ton of research, it seems Im getting more confused. There is a ton of great info here as well as other sites, but I was hoping to get some advice to nudge me in the right direction.

Im 42 and will will be traveling around Europe for 3 months alone starting in April, so I was looking at the Global Pass for about 1700 bucks. I have already ruled out going the advance purchase route as I don't want to have a fixed itinerary and want to be able to go where I want spontaneously. I figure I could just pay as I go, but have been warned that would be pricey in alot of countries, especially overnight trains. Also, after doing some preliminary research I found that alot of the super cheap advance booking fares were already sold out 2 months in advance! So it would seem a Eurail Pass would be my best option, but then I run across a ton of people online saying it is a huge ripoff and never use it.

So I guess my question, given all that, is; What is the best option for getting around Europe? I plan to see as many countries as I can, and want to be able to travel on the fly, when the mood strikes me. I'm most curious about the "buy on the day of travel" cost versus the advance booking cost. Do those "cheap fares" go up considerably if you don't book them far in advance? Here is a sample of what I would like to do wiith the 3 months I have in Europe...
I plan to fly to Germany to see friends, then head south from there and work my way north as the weather warms. I havent decided whether to fly to Venice from Frankfurt, or take the train and stop along the way (Munich, Innsbruck). I then plan to ferry to Greece, hit Croatia after that, then onto Eastern Europe then off to the UK. If time and money permit, I would like to also hit Spain and Norway before heading back to Frankfurt for the trip home.

I poked around on the web to get an idea and started with my first leg, Italy. I will give you a sample of my itinerary with prices that I found which include booking now vs having the Eurail pass. In each leg, I chose the cheapest "pay in advance" 2nd class fare I could find (which I assume may be higher if I actually book day of travel vs. what they showed now as an advance reservation) and then searched that same leg again with the Eurail pass included. This is what I came up with:

Venice to Lugano: 68.00 vs 31.00 with pass

Lugano to Genoa: 40.00 vs 20.00 with pass

Genoa to La Spezia (Cinque Terre): 11.00 vs. 5.00 with pass

La Spezia to Rome: 41.00 vs. 5.00 with pass

Rome to Salerno: 27.00 vs 5.00 with pass

Salerno to Bari:27.00 vs. 15.00 with pass

Ferry to Greece: 79.00 (on deck, no seat for 9 hour crossing) vs. Free airline type seat inside with pass

So my total just for the Italy leg of my trip came to 293.00 for "pay as you go" or 81.00 with the Eurail Pass. So I haven't even left Italy and Im already at 300.00 bucks by not having the pass.

This is where the confusion is setting in. 5 more countries like that and Im almost at what I would have paid for the Global Pass, not to mention I get to travel first class when available, not have to lock in a pre planned itinerary, as well as some other minor perks and discounts that vary by country. The free ferry crossing is a big money saver though. So I guess Im not getting something here about why the Eurail Pass is the bad idea everyone says it is. Granted this is just an example I found using the Italiarail website, and some other countries may turn out cheaper, but on the whole, Im still not sure. Im wondering if someone who had done a trip similar to mine without the pass could share their experience and maybe that would help me decide. Thanks again for the advice everyone, and sorry this turned into a novel!

I am also aware I would have to purchase a separate pass for the UK and was wondering if, in that case, it would be better to pay as I go or if the Brit Rail Pass is a good value.

Would love to hear from people who have done a similar trip as this is my first time to Europe and Im very excited! But all this negativity about Eurail passes has me a bit confused! Thank you all very much in advance for any help or advice you can offer

Chad

  • Report Abuse

    If you have to pony up 1700 for the GP, then you must save more than 1700 by using it on your unknown itinerary for it to make sense. Good luck with that. Especially if you're considering flight options for various legs of your trip.

  • Report Abuse

    >>>I figure I could just pay as I go, but have been warned that would be pricey in alot of countries, especially overnight trains.<<<

    You might not be able to hop on overnight trains as they are often booked up. You also have to pay a supplement. Passes don't cover everything and you often have to pay supplements. Some night trains don't accept passes.

    >>>Venice to Lugano: 68.00 vs 31.00 with pass
    Lugano to Genoa: 40.00 vs 20.00 with pass
    Genoa to La Spezia (Cinque Terre): 11.00 vs. 5.00 with pass
    La Spezia to Rome: 41.00 vs. 5.00 with pass
    Rome to Salerno: 27.00 vs 5.00 with pass
    Salerno to Bari:27.00 vs. 15.00 with pass
    Ferry to Greece: 79.00 (on deck, no seat for 9 hour crossing) vs. Free airline type seat inside with pass<<<

    Most of it doesn't make sense and doesn't seem at all accurate. AFAIK, the only free seats on the ferry between Italy/Greece with a pass are deck and off season. In season, you must pay a supplement even for deck passage (that is not your airline seating - it's deck passage).

    In Italy, all, but the slow R trains have mandatory seat reservation requirements. For the faster trains, seats will cost 10€ with a pass (each train so if you have connections = more seat fees). Some slower trains (IC) might have a 5€ supplement, but there aren't so many of these and take longer. Often you can book a discount ticket for the fastest trains online cheaper (super economy tickets are often as cheap as 9€)than the cost of seat supplement (10€).

    >>>If you have to pony up 1700 for the GP, then you must save more than 1700 by using it on your unknown itinerary for it to make sense.<<<

    You would have to save more than that by the time you add in all the seat fees and mandatory supplements.

    >>>So my total just for the Italy leg of my trip came to 293.00 for "pay as you go" or 81.00 with the Eurail Pass.<<<

    This is not an accurate comparison since you are ignoring what a day on a pass is costing plus your pass fees aren't accurate. If you travel 30 days out of your 90 days, a pass day would cost $56.66 plus all the supplements. You have listed only one walk up train price that is that high (Venice/Lugano). Even if you traveled every other day (surely you won't travel that often), a day on the pass would still cost you $37.77 plus supplements.

    Your 293 to 81 comparison would actually be 293 to 81 + the price of a day on the pass x 6 days used($56.66x6=$339.96 or $37.77 x 6 = $226.62 for these 6 trips. 293€ is $392.28 and 81€ is $108 so the actual comparison should be $392.28 to 4447.96 ($108 +$339.96) or $392.28 to $334.62 ($108+$226.62). As you can see, the more often you use a pass, the more economical, but are you really going to travel every other day by rail?

    I can't see a pass being helpful at all for most of Greece or Croatia (both tend to be bus travel, not train). You will have to pay for buses in those countries.

    >>>Ferry to Greece: 79.00 (on deck, no seat for 9 hour crossing) vs. Free airline type seat inside with pass<<<

    You could probably rearrange your itinerary and fly Aegean Airlines from Rome to Athens for about the same price.

    If you want flexibility, then a pass gives you some. You should figure out most of your cities and what the walk up prices are and see if that is cheaper. This time factor in the cost of a day on the pass.

  • Comment has been removed by Fodor's moderators

3 Replies |Back to top

| Add a Reply

Sign in to comment.

Recent Activity

  • Announcement: Writers Needed for Morocco Guidebook
    by Emily_D Fodor's Editor | Posted on Apr 11, 14 at 05:51 PM
View all Europe activity »
  1. 1 Ferry or Catamaran from Split-Hvar
  2. 2 Why don't the French want to work?
  3. 3 Driving from Italy to France
  4. 4 DH wants Paris but I need ACoast....itinerary help!
  5. 5 Wisdom needed for a itinerary in northern Italy, Bavaria and Prague
  6. 6 5 Hour Layover in Amsterdam
  7. 7 7 Nights in Paris
  8. 8 Trip Report avoiding stuffy and inflexible service at nice european resorts
  9. 9 Edinburgh - Mercat Tours -
  10. 10 Itinerary Feedback (Spain/Italy in April/May)
  11. 11 Can you see the Matterhorn at all from Bellinzona Switzerland?
  12. 12 Daily Bus Tours in Croatia, Slovenia and nearby countries
  13. 13 Train from Brussels to Amsterdam
  14. 14 Late night/early morning transport from Barcelona Airport to city center
  15. 15 Family trip - 11 days/10 nights in Italy
  16. 16 Little-kid friendly place an hour or so by train from Frankfurt airport
  17. 17 Italy, England, OR France in 2015: Tour Operators - Or go it alone?
  18. 18 Skip the Line: Small-Group Eiffel Tower Sunset Tour
  19. 19 Venice to Dolomites then Tuscany? Need itinerary advice
  20. 20 Rethymnon vs. Chania in early October?
  21. 21 Irish Inns and B&B Reservations
  22. 22 CRETE - Rethymnon area or Chania area ??
  23. 23 Matisse at Tate
  24. 24 2 weeks in Europe :-)
  25. 25 3 weeks in December in Europe, need help with itinerary
View next 25 » Back to the top