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Eurail Pass Help!

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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.

I will be traveling around Europe for 3 months starting in April. 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. 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 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

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    Standard advice for rail problems: read www.seat61.com
    More generally, no single answer will satisfy all your longings and every destination. To "travel on the fly, when the mood strikes me" is possible if your money is unlimited. Otherwise, you will have to balance impulse against the practicalities of budget and also supply and demand. I mean, some popular inter-city express trains may be sold out the day your whim moves you to travel.
    Even with a Eurail or similar pass, some fast trains in some countries require a seat reservation which can be a hassle to obtain just before departure. Other trains, other places, will have tickets available when you get to the station. No one answer.
    The general bias against passes versus point-to-point is grounded in the need to be travelling constantly to save money. In some cases a pass will be a deal. Only your own research can completely assure you of your choices.
    Be calm, expect a few bumps in the road, and relax and enjoy what should be an adventure to remember.

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    seat 61 is you friend . . .

    But I also think you should re-post over on the Europe Forum. There are daily threads about this very dilemna.

    There are lots of folks who know about European trains and post on Europe who never peek over here on Travel Tips.

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    Hey everyone, thanks so much for your replies! I guess the fact that I stated I wanted to just roam around was a little too vague so I will try to be a little more detailed. BTW, Im 42 and traveling alone, so the Eurail Pass I was looking at was the 2 month Global Pass for about 1700 bucks.

    That being said, 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 have a total of 3 months in Europe

    That is alot of traveling and so I guess my main concern is like I stated in my original question, which is; point to point or Eurail pass? 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 "buy as you go" 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 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!

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    You didn't subtract the 81 (euro? USD?) nor offset part of the cost of the pass. Also, trains will be cheaper in Eastern Europe. You have to consider the whole trip.

    That said, if you're taking a LOT of trains, AND want flexibility you should probably go for the pass. Although that is a lot of money! Personally, I've only ever gone first class once, and I didn't think it made much difference.

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    The dilemma of Stellerfan70 (weighing the cost/ benefits of a Eurail Pass) is one I experienced last year. There’s some considerations not covered by other posters: rail service reliability, and insured pass loss. I experienced both.

    I carefully researched what rail services I might use and decided that the 1 month adult Eurail Global Pass provided marginal benefits over individual tickets, so I purchased this + Eurail ticket insurance for 1204 AUD.

    I wish I hadn’t. I lost out big time.

    One thing I didn’t factor in was the unreliability of the rail network. I’d planned sleeper trains, but some were cancelled to track-work, other services were lost to strikes, I had to fly instead, this reversed any savings I might have gained with the Eurail Pass. In the end, I totalled ~ 17 rail journeys across major cities costing 856.45 Euro, or ~ $1,144.31 AUD – so individual tickets were less than my outlay of the Eurail Global Pass. My first mistake: it was not worth buying the Eurail pass. I have a pdf detailing every rail journey I took and its cost, here: https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/16839600/Eurorail_global_pass_vs_individual_tickets_insurance_delay.pdf (although prices are 9 months old now).

    But the real reason I lost out with Eurail was that in the first 2 weeks of my time in Europe, and before I activated my ticket, my travel documentation was lost, including my not-yet-activated Global Pass. This was devastating: I retraced my steps, called lost property offices, and consoled myself that it wasn’t a total loss as I had purchased both travel insurance and Eurail’s ‘Loss and Theft Coverage Plan’. I decided that the later was more appropriate for my claim. That was my second mistake. I contacted Eurail, did all the right things: lodged a police report, sent all ticket stubs to Eurail in good faith, and received a receipt on 7 August 2012 “I hereby confirm that your Eurail Loss & Theft Claim request has been received. We are evaluating your claim and will notify you via email at [address] of the outcome within 1 month”.

    That was over 9 months ago. Still waiting...

    After many excuses by Eurail, including “it’s our busy season” “We tried to process your claim, but the payment system incurred an error, we’ll process the refund again”, to “this has been processed one more time” “should only take a couple of days”....my requests to be sent the claim assessment, the extent of the refund, and payment system details were ignored. Instead, the last reply I received was in May 2013: “I hereby confirm that your Eurail loss and theft claim request has been received. We are evaluating your claim and will notify you of the outcome as soon as we process it”.

    So to anyone who has determined that the Eurail pass may be of marginal benefit and is deciding whether to buy one, consider the risks of being unable to get the services as planned, and treat the Pass as if it were uninsured cash, and if lost or stolen, factor in ‘footing the premium’ and claiming it under Travel insurance before it expires, rather than wasting time and money with Eurail’s ‘Loss and theft insurance’.

    I’d also be grateful if anyone can recommend an appropriate ombudsman for investigating Eurail’s claim handling department, or any advice on expediting my claim. I’ll post the outcome of my claim EU01362306 here. I hope others will benefit from this unhappy experience…

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    I'd like to report that it did have a happy ending. I was eventually referred to a customer services manager who was able to deliver a full explanation of the problem, navigated the banking technical issues, and ensured that a complete refund was processed to my account, 11 months after the claim was first submitted. Potentially, my experience of Eurail's Loss and Theft insurance processing was uncommon, as Eurail do respond to all complaints. You may just have to try a range of contact addresses and methods to reach someone who will help.

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