A sustainable way to travel
Europe is a continent rich in history, gastronomy, culture and there is no shortage of special places to visit. And to do this, to be able to discover this continent of accessible proportions by land and, above all, by rail, I found a solution: Eurail pass!
I started researching and doing the math, after all, what would be the cheapest way to travel around Europe?
How would I get around without spending so much?
And when I say moving around so much, I mean moving around a lot!!! The idea was to go to the North Pole and travel through MANY countries.
That's precisely why we chose EURAIL, which isn't actually a train company as many people think. It's an associated Pass that entitles you to use a number of partner companies throughout Europe. And sometimes, not only rail transport is covered, but there are also commercial agreements with maritime and road transport companies.
That's why each company has its own peculiarities. So don't go in thinking that all trains are the same and that everything will follow an expected pattern. But calm down, I'll explain everything here.
Eurail x Low Cost
When we talk about cheap travel, many people think that low-cost airlines are the best options, right? That depends. Only if you know how to plan your itinerary very well, of course.
Because even if a ticket costs 10 euros, which is no longer so common, you still have to consider that it costs a lot more to take a handbag plus a backpack. If it's a hold bag, then it's not even worth mentioning...
Also bear in mind that a 10 euro ticket is practically NEVER combined with a cheap return ticket, and you have to take the risk of buying tickets separately, and the destinations you want are not always combined at affordable prices.
Look, I'm talking about a long trip, through several countries! A backpacking trip, for example. Two months traveling through 13 countries, the best, or rather, the most economical way I saw was to use the EURAIL Global Pass.
But did you only travel by train?
No, at two points during the trip Low Cost was present, they were the only destinations I found for 10 euros and this saved me time and a few days of using our pass. I'll explain more below...
Distance between airport and train station
Normally the airports used by low-cost airlines are a long way from the points of interest of the cities in question. Train stations, on the other hand, are right in the heart of the cities. Just think, cities were built around their train stations.
Here's an example of what happened on our first leg of the trip:
Porto → Paris
Ticket cost: 10 euros
Additional (hand luggage + backpack): 6 euros
Cost of the bus from Paris Beauvais Airport to the center of Paris: 23 euros + 01 hour journey time
So the ticket is never just 10 euros, but 39 euros per person. Okay, in that case it's still cheap and within the expected range, so we took the plane considering the more than 16 hours it would have taken us to get to Paris by train.
We also opted for air travel to cross the Baltic Sea:
Krakow → Oslo
Ticket cost: 10 euros
Additional (hand luggage + backpack): 6 euros
Cost of train from Oslo Torp airport to Oslo: 30 euros
Total price: 46 euros per person.
On this occasion it took an hour and a half from the airport to the center of Oslo. We had to take a train and because we had our EURAIL pass, we didn't pay the 30 euros and it turned out to be well worth it. We crossed an ocean!
So take into account the cost of transportation to the city centers and also consider the time it will take to get there, sometimes it's not worth taking a plane.
Pay close attention to the pranks.
Ah! Cris, so the EURAIL pass is the cheapest of all? Calm down, it depends.
Speaking of tricks, also beware of some of the destinations covered by EURAIL passes. It's not because you have a pass that you won't spend anything else.
Some of the busiest destinations require you to pay for the reservation and when this happens it's a good idea to do some research too, as the price can vary according to the time and class you choose.
Once again Paris will be the example. Our train journey started right in the City of Light and our first destination was Switzerland. By chance, all two countries require you to book seats. However, research is necessary and you'll save a lot if you do.
We found the same route leaving from different stations in Paris and, to our surprise, we were able to save five times that amount. While getting off at Gare De L`est is absurd, at over 36 euros per passenger just for the reservation, Gare Du Nord was superb, at around 7 euros per passenger.
The countries with compulsory reservations are:
In general, trains that require an advance reservation include (but are not limited to):
- Most high-speed and international trains (such as SNCF TGV, Thalys, Lyria, Trenitalia Freccia, RENFE AVE, PKP EIP and Eurostar);
- Sleeping accommodation on night trains, such as sofas and beds
- Panoramic buses, available on some panoramic trains.
Generally, high-speed trains from Austria or Germany do not require reservations.
If you don't want to book in advance, you can usually choose regular trains that don't require a reservation; use the 'Options' in the Rail Planner app to easily filter out trains with a reservation requirement.
Generally, regional trains don't require a reservation and, although journey times are longer and you have to change more often, they have several benefits, including:
- Get off the beaten track and visit some of Europe's most charming towns and villages;
- Enjoy the views, as many regional trains follow a scenic route, allowing you to take in the beautiful scenery at a slower pace;
- Get to know the locals, as the regional trains are the ones they usually take;
- Enjoy flexible travel. If you miss your train, just get on the next one, as the regional trains have frequent services;
In the app Rail Planner you can see when booking is compulsory
GOLDEN TIP: In the Rail Planner app, you can filter which companies don't require reservation.
How to use the EURAIL Pass
Well, since we've talked about values, now let's talk about how to use your EURAIL PASS
1 → Activate your EURAIL PASS at the station counter.
2→ Update your EURAIL PASS before each trip by entering your details in the Travel Diary. If you have a Flexi Pass, don't forget to fill in the date of your trip as well.
GOLDEN TIP: BE VERY CAREFUL WHEN FILLING IN THIS FIELD! You mustn't erase your pass! This can render a day's travel useless and we don't want to lose a day's pass, do we? In addition to no erasures, this field must be filled in with a black or blue pen.
3→ There will be a member of staff checking your pass every train, sometimes on long journeys it may be checked more than twice, so keep it filled in correctly ALWAYS.
When you present your PASS, make sure you also have an ID card with you - we chose our passport.
4 → When your trip is over, send in your Pass along with the Travel Diary free of charge and receive a special gift from Eurail.
Who is part of EURAIL?
The EURAIL pass is valid in more than 28 countries! This makes it easy to travel and offers unparalleled scenery! I traveled through almost all of Europe by train and saw unique scenery, but I only stopped in 13 countries.
So my Pass is valid on all trains in these countries?
Not quite, calm down! The EURAIL Pass is valid for travel in the countries OR companies listed on your ticket! There are several types of Pass, ours was the Global Pass and it's easy to find out which companies are on this pass, just click on here.
However, we tried to put together our entire itinerary with this information before our pass arrived and it was very difficult! Calm down... There is information that only arrives with your kit, with map, guide and everything you need to put together your travel itinerary.
GOLDEN TIP: Download the Rail Planner app, it will help you organize your trip.
Download for Android - https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=org.eurail.railplanner
Types of Pass
Continuous Pass → As its name implies, it's a continuous pass and can be used as many times as you like while it's valid.
Flexi Pass → This is the one we use and it can only be used while it is valid, but it is also limited by the number of days you choose. We chose 15 days for 2 months.
GOLDEN TIP: Your pass starts any time after 00:00 on the first day of validity and ends no later than 24:00 on the last day of travel.
First and second class
For people over the age of 28, which is our case, the EURAIL PASS must be first class. However, that doesn't mean much. Some trains don't have this difference and others, unless your booking is for first class too, don't automatically entitle you to first class.
As the EURAIL Pass works with many companies, you'll experience trains of all kinds! On some of them, second class seems to be more comfortable than first class on many others, and trains that leave something to be desired too... lol
GOLDEN TIP: Not all trains have a food wagon, so always take a snack.
Food included in first class?
No, or at least not on any train, even the first class we took, food was included. At most, water and wi-fi and some seats are more comfortable, not all of them.
GOLDEN TIP: The EURAIL Pass gives you access to some lounges and these do offer some kind of food. We really like the lounges in Sweden.
Why the Flexi Pass?
We chose this option because we wanted to travel through many countries and make the most of each place. Bearing in mind that the initial idea was 15 countries, we would barely spend 2 days in each place if we were to travel continuously for 1 month, for example. So we chose 15 days by train (actual travel days) to use in up to 2 months.
Remember, 15 travel days doesn't mean 15 trains! You can get on and off as many trains as you like as long as you have an active travel day.
GOLDEN TIP: We managed to use trains on 2 days counting only one! If you board after 7 o'clock in the evening and disembark after 4 o'clock in the morning the next day and the journey has no connection, your trip only counts as the date of the day you arrive at your destination. In other words, you travel for more than 24 hours!
That's what we did on the stretch between Stockholm and Luleå, almost at the North Pole!
Do not in any way fail to fill in the travel diary field! If you are traveling without filling it in, this is considered the same as traveling without tickets! This means that you will have to pay for a full ticket and you may even have to pay a FINE for this, depending on the company in question.
Okay, but how do I fill in this field?
It's super easy, in your pass there's a space called "Travel calendar bellow must be filled in:" and underneath it there are spaces for day (top) and month (bottom), always fill in both numbers, along with the number of times you can use it.
We had 15 of these spaces and we filled them in correctly in every case. Always be very careful not to make any erasures. Do this in a quiet place, if possible with a support or table, and before boarding the train.
Please note! I suggest you don't fill in everything at once, as the pass gives you more freedom to travel and in case of any unforeseen circumstances, once you have filled it in, you can't change the day of travel.
Hi! Jesus! I scratched it and now what?
Well, if you do, be very careful, because a rebooking can be considered a FRAUD! Mistakes cannot be corrected, the wrong date becomes useless and you have to fill it in correctly in the next space, thus losing a day's travel from your pass.
A travel day lasts from midnight to midnight and for all night journeys, your pass must be valid on the day of departure and the day of arrival.
Often using two travel days in this case.
However, as I've already said, there is such a thing as the cat's foot and we use it a lot!
If you happen to board a night train after 7 p.m., direct, i.e. without connections, that arrives at your destination after 4 a.m., you only use the date of the day of arrival.
HEY? I'll give you an example
Your train leaves on the 3rd at 9 p.m. and arrives the next morning at 7 a.m. on the 4th. You only need to fill in day 4 in your calendar! This was very useful and saved us a lot of travel time.
And if you're taking the night ferry, it's even better - there's no time thing! You choose to fill in the day of travel or the day of arrival.
Now, if your night train leaves before 7 p.m. or has its first stop before 4 a.m., a connection for example, you will need to mark the day of departure and the day of arrival.
Advantages of the EURAIL Pass
The advantages of the EURAIL pass don't stop at the way you travel. Pass holders can enjoy a wide range of discounts.
Discounts on hotels, parks, hostels and much more! See here a list of advantages broken down by country.
So keep an eye out for the best experience with your EURAIL PASS.
What I thought of the EURAIL PASS
It's an experience of a lifetime! I really want to do it again in the summer or some other time, but I've learned a few things:
As our trip was a VERY long one, we had to make our schedule very carefully.
Some countries I wanted to visit were left out and that's when I discovered that traveling by train is an incredible mosaic!
Choosing a country close to another doesn't mean it's the shortest route; sometimes to get to a neighboring country you have to turn back to go forward.
Another important point: don't take the time spent traveling as the truth, especially if there are connections.
The planner shows you the total travel time, but it doesn't take into account that sometimes changing trains is impossible and you'll miss your next train, lol.
Trains without connection!!! Please
Important thing I learned: OPT OUT FOR TRAINS WITHOUT TRAIN CHANGES
This was the most tiring thing I've done of all, changing trains between journeys is exhausting and stressful.
Some stations don't have elevators and changing platforms is a real race.
On our first journey, we missed two of the four trains we needed to catch.
The first was because the train was 4 minutes late and the connection time was only 10 minutes. However, the next platform wasn't even in the same station, so we had to walk around the city and when we arrived we saw our train leaving. This meant that the next train was also missed and the schedule of arriving at our destination at 5pm was delayed by 3 hours and we only arrived at our destination at 8pm.
So always, always go for it! Even if it takes longer! Direct trains or as direct as possible.
Another thing I learned:
I had already taken a few trains in Europe, so I was familiar with finding the trains on the screens.
Look for your train number on the screens at the stations so you know your platform. However, the information was often very difficult to find and I got on some trains tense without knowing if it was the train.
The platforms receive trains all the time and it's not hard to wonder if it's really yours sometimes.
Ask and always ask, information is not so easy to find and there are information centers in almost every station.
Cris pelo Mundo was supported on his trip by EURAIL passes, but this post is true to my impressions.
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