North Americans traveling throughout Europe who want to take in the continent by rail have a lot of choices. On the one hand, rail passes offer impressive options for travel within a country or region. However, some rail routes are cheaper if you buy point-to-point tickets rather than a pass. If you’re trying to decide whether or not to buy a rail pass for a trip to Europe, consider the following:
– How long are the legs of your journeys? Short rail trips are often cheaper if you pay for them à la carte rather than use a rail pass. Travel between Antwerp, Brussels, and Bruges in Belgium, for instance, can cost as much as $100 less per adult by buying tickets à la carte rather than purchasing a rail pass.
– How comfortable are you at ticket counters? Buying point-to-point tickets often means waiting in line at the train station and purchasing your ticket in person, which can be difficult if you don’t speak the language and aren’t used to traveling by train. A rail pass, on the other hand, usually lets you just hop on the train and show the pass to the conductor for validation. Just be sure to research the route ahead of time, as you’ll need a reservation for certain trains.
– Can you get a pass that perfectly matches your needs? Rail passes come in many varieties. Unless you’re planning a truly ambitious trip, you probably don’t need the Eurail Global Pass, which is good for public rail lines in most of Europe. In order to make it pay for itself, you have to crisscross the continent. If your travel plans are more modest, you may be better served with a Select Pass, which is good in four adjoining countries; a pass that covers a region, like Scandinavia; or a single-country pass.