Eurail vs Point-to-Point vs Combination Guide
With all the different Eurail passes, it can be overwhelming to try to choose which one is the cheapest and best option. Would the global pass be best, or would it be cheaper to get a select pass? What about point to point tickets?
So many travelers seem to think that there’s a magic way to look at an itinerary and tell what the cheapest pass is beyond a guess. There are some tools that can be found online like the trip planner on this site. But the fact is, the only way to really know for sure is to research it yourself.
This is the long way and the hardest, but if you want to save money, this is what you’ve got to do. Pretend like there’s no such thing as rail passes and you have to use point to point tickets for your whole trip. Go online to train travel sites such as raileurope.com and the individual national rail company sites like bahn.de. Look up each individual leg of your trip one by one and jot down the price of the standard fare. Often the dates don’t matter, so usually picking any day will give you a good if not exact idea of what it would be. Continue doing this for every single leg of your trip. Also take note of where reservations or supplements are required, such as certain long distance trains and night trains.
Now you’ve got the data you’ll need, all you need to do is analyze it and do the math. Group your legs into travel days and add up how much each costs, and the total of all the legs. Then you have to start thinking. Look at your notes and take a few guesses as to what pass would match that trip best. What legs are cheap enough to make little difference to your overall cost with or without a pass? Which ones are so long or expensive that you absolutely need it covered? Try several options. Eventually you’ll have come up with your cheapest possible solution. You might then decide that your cost on a select pass is only slightly cheaper than a global pass, and you’d rather the flexibility of not having to worry about travel days. It’s a matter of choice after you’ve gone through the numbers.
This strategy is also good for more flexible trips where you don’t know exactly where or when you’re going. In this case, I would suggest putting together a rough itinerary, doing the above, and “round up”; in other words, get a few more days than you think you’ll need, or more countries you might decide to do more traveling in.
As an example, part of my trip involved going from northern Germany to Göteborg, Sweden and back down to north of Hamburg. A friend of mine was making the trip with me from Germany to Göteborg where he lived. They went by car and ferry through Fredrikshaven, Denmark and then on to Sweden, so I paid gas money to ride with them. On the way back down, I was on trains. So I had to go Göteborg > Copenhagen > Heide [Germany]. Surprisingly I found that reserving the Göteborg to Copenhagen in advance from my friend cost about 16 euros. But Copenhagen to Germany was near a hundred euros if I remember correctly. So despite only needing one train through both Sweden and Denmark, I included Denmark on my pass but not Sweden.
Like I said, it’s the hard way, but you could potentially save hundreds just by doing the homework. Who knows, you might end up enjoying planning it all in the process. Happy travels.
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