True Our Guide To Using Eurail and InterRail Passes

Our Guide To Using Eurail and InterRail Passes

How to travel with Eurail and InterRail Passes
Welcome to ShowMeTheJourney's guide to using Eurail and InterRail passes, which will help you to have fabulous experiences when travelling around Europe by train.

We show how you can;

SAVE MONEY        SAVE TIME       


and WHAT'S NEW FOR 2018

So grab a coffee and take 10mins (ish) to absorb all our insights or use the quick links above to jump to what you want to know.

 NEW - Fabulous Itineraries - Save the bother of working out which trains you need to take and where:

Which DAYTIME train services require reservations for rail pass users AND which don't:

How to use Eurail and InterRail passes in most European countries -  including on which trains you do and don't have to reserve:

What are the routes taken by international trains in Europe:

Our money saving tips for Eurail and InterRail Pass Holidays:

How to Get The Most of Using Rail Passes and Minimize The Stress:

Tips for PLANNING  your own journey around Europe - make your trip as easy as possible:

We’re not going to sit on the fence here, ShowMeTheJourney is a big fan of Eurail and InterRail rail passes, if InterRail passes didn’t exist then neither would ShowMeTheJourney.

If our founder Simon, hadn’t been able to travel to hundreds of stations on dozens of trains across Europe, he’d have bought a beach bar on Barbados instead – maybe he should have?

But he didn’t and because he has travelled more than 30,000 kms using rail passes over the past 18 months, you can trust this impartial guide!



1. You don’t have to be a student back-packer (though if you are…)

Whenever, we return from a rail pass adventure people will express surprise at our exploits, some wonder why on earth we wanted to do it (ahem), but a more common reaction is 'but, you're not a student'?

(i) However, anyone can buy a Eurail or InterRail pass, special prices are available to family groups, seniors and those aged 27* and under.

*Good news if you are 26 or 27 - the cut off age for the cheaper youth rate passes was 25 until this year!

(ii) Those fortunate enough to be aged 60 and over can purchase passes at a permanently discounted rate!

(iii) Children aged 4-11 need their own passes, but they're free!

(iv) It takes less than five minutes to buy a pass that suits you – though before you do so, we unsurprisingly recommend taking a look at our rail pass holiday planning GUIDE.

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2. You can save money:

Headlines such as 'Avoid Rail Passes' can be misleading - it's true that Eurail and InterRail passes aren't guaranteed to save you money, but you CAN also make big savings.

Here are four things to keep in mind when considering whether rail passes will or won't save you money.

(i) Whether you will save money or not is largely dependent on HOW you use the rail pass, but it also depends on how FAR AHEAD you're planning a trip.

The prices of most European express train tickets will be rising between when they are placed on sale and the travel date, but the prices of rail passes stay flat.


(ii) So before you commit to a pass work out the COST PER DAY of using it and then look up the prices of some of the journeys you’re considering, by using the ticket BOOKING LINKS on our journey guides.

Check the advance ticket prices for when you’re thinking of making the journey AND the prices if you were to head off tomorrow.

Those advance discounted tickets, which can be cheaper than the cost per day of using a rail pass, will be train departure specific - and it's highly likely that you won't be able to refund or even exchange them if you subsequently change your mind.

This second, more expensive. price is likely to be price you’d pay if you wanted to be spontaneous and head off to the station when it suits you.


(iii) A simple piece of logic that can often get forgotten in, ‘Rail Passes Aren't Good Value’ discussions is that if you travel far enough with your pass, you will be more likely to save.

Distance is a crucial element of the value for money equation for using  Eurail and InterRail passes.

It's true that just because you’re considering spending 5 days travelling on trains on a trip, it doesn’t mean that using a rail pass will be a money saver.

However, a VERY rough guide is that the balance can LIKELY tip towards opting for a 5 day rail pass IF you will be travelling at minimum of around 5 hours per day - on average.

Though the longer the period of validity for your pass, the less the distance you have to travel per day for a pass to pay off - as the costs per day of using the pass will be lower.


(v) The prices of holidays rise when you most want or need to take them, but rail pass prices aren't seasonal - so they don’t rise in the summer, during school holidays, over Easter etc.

You might be thinking ‘rail ticket prices don’t go up at holidays either?’

True, but the very cheapest tickets can be a lot harder to track down when people want to travel most, particularly in France, Italy and Spain.

Not yet convinced? Well we have some further money saving tips HERE.

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3. You can also still save time:

There are multiple instances in which using rail passes will save you time and we're not talking about using trains that are faster than others.

(i) So you’ve worked out that you can save money by booking separate tickets per journey, you’ve even discovered this fantastic website (ahem), which directs you to all the optimum websites on which you can book each ticket(s) – without paying a booking fee!

But now you have to look up all your journeys up to make the bookings – which will take a while, particularly if you want to hunt down those best deals.

The point being that it will take a lot longer to look up and buy separate tickets than it would to buy a rail pass online.

(ii) You can also more often than not also save time at the station.

There is a counter-argument that if you’ve booked in advance for a ticket to travel by a train on which rail pass users have to reserve, then at the station you can breeze pass the Eurail or InterRail pass users, queuing at the ticket counters to make their reservations.


Trust us this will be the exception rather than the rule – in fact we’ve only spent more than 15 mins in a queue to book a rail pass reservation twice (in Bern and Milan for EC trains between Switzerland and Italy)

See our advice HERE for how you can also minimize the time you’ll take to book your rail pass reservation fees.


(iii) And when you’re using an InterRail or Eurail pass to hop around multiple places per day in smaller countries such as Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Luxembourg, Switzerland or The Netherlands – our favourite method of putting a rail pass to good use, the reverse scenario is true.

You’ll be the ones breezing on to the trains, while those without passes are in the ticket counter queue, or trying to figure out the machines.

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4. You can also still save stress:

Travelling with a rail pass still gives the opportunity to choose options, particularly when the trains aren't running smoothly on your travel dates.

(i) You might be able to save money compared to using a rail pass by buying the cheapest tickets you can find online, but think twice before clicking those buy buttons.

An inescapable rule of European rail travel is that the cheaper a ticket is then the more restrictive it is -  what it definitely will be is train departure specific.

You won’t be able to use it to take a train on a different day or at a different travel time, meaning that you HAVE to be at the station in time to board the train you are booked on to.

(ii) You'll also be at a station you have likely never used before, in a city you don’t know that well.


Having to reach a station against the clock time and time again isn’t fun when you are supposed to be on holiday.

(iii) But getting to the station and THEN deciding what train to take, including many of those you need reserve for, is a big tick in the box for using rail passes.

If the train you were thinking of taking is running late, you can take an alternative if you have a pass.

However, those with discounted tickets will likely have to wait it out – and then potentially go through the hassle of applying for a refund.


Looking for more tips on how to take the stress out of a rail pass adventure? They’re right HERE!

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5. You CAN still be spontaneous:

Whether you will save money or not needn't be the only factor when considering whether to opt for rail passes -  because if you travel with them there's a possibility that your holiday will be simply more enjoyable.

(i) Despite being amongst life's planners, every time we have had a rail pass in our hand we have made a last minute change to an itinerary - and spontaneously taken an unplanned journey.

(ii) Tens of thousands of train journeys are possible every day in Europe and our best guess is Eurail and InterRail pass users HAVE to make reservations on around 0.3% of them.

(iii) You can still hop on and off virtually ANY domestic train in Austria, Belgium, Demark, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, Norway, Switzerland and The Netherlands - and if you have an InterRail pass you can also add the UK to the equation.

(iv) The deal with most of the daytime trains on which Eurail and InterRail pass users have to reserve is that they’re fast and fabulous.

To make the unfortunates travelling without a rail pass feel extra special, they have complimentary seat reservations included when they book tickets to travel by certain trains.

The train operators can’t risk rail pass users sitting in their seats so you need an assigned seat too.

Hence rail pass users have to pay a fee for the reservation - these fees aren't a penalty because you want to use a pass.

(v) On most routes when that is the case, you can avoid the reservation fees by travelling on OTHER trains that don’t need to be reserved – meaning that you can travel when you want.

(vi) And yes rail pass reservations are required on all Italian express trains, but they don’t cost any more if you book last minute at the station, you can even buy them from Trenitalia’s ticket machines.

(vii) Take a look at our reservations GUIDE to using your Eurail and InterRail, pass so you can see at a glance when you do have to reserve and when you don’t.

(viii) Eurail's guide to these reservation fee charges.

(ix) InterRail's guide to these reservation fee charges.

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Previously decided against using a Eurail or InterRail pass? Well here are the headline new benefits of using these passes that have been introduced fairly recently.

(1) If you're aged 26 and 27 then some good news is that Eurail and InterRail have changed their price plans in your favour!

'Youth' prices are cheaper than the 'Adult' rates and the age at which 'Adult' passes have to be used has been raised from 26 to 28.

(2) Some very welcome news for 'Adults' (aged 28+) who meet the Eurai Pass criteria - you can now save by booking 2nd class passes.

For most Eurail Passes, Eurail has abandoned what WAS its long-standing Adults must purchase 1st class passes rule.

(3) A new type of InterRail 'Global Pass' is available which allows for '7 days of train travel within a period of 1 month'.

You don't have to use this type of pass over an entire month, you could use up the allocation of 7 days of travel within a week.

(4) Eurail and InterRail pass now allow 'free' travel on MGB trains in Switzerland - very welcome if you want to travel across southern Switzerland

(5) Linked to this is that Eurail and InterRail pass users now only have to pay the reservation fees on the fabulous Glacier Express - a saving of around 65% on total ticket prices!

(6) Similarly Eurail and InterRail pass users can travel on The Bernina Express by only paying the reservation fees.

(7) Flat rate rail pass reservations fees are now available on Eurostar trains; 2nd class = €30; 1st class = €38, usually cheaper than buying discounted tickets and can be 4 x less expensive than full price tickets

(8) Eurail and Interrail pass users had to pay comparatively expensive fees in either direction when travelling on the Vienna/Wien - Venezia/Venice route.

However, now Railjet trains are being used on this service, the reservation fees are now optional.

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How to use Eurail and InterRail passes in most European countries including on which train you do and don't have to reserve:

Our money saving tips for Eurail and InterRail Pass Itineraries:

Maximise the Pleasure Of Using A Eurail Pass or InterRail Pass and Minimize The Stress:

Tips for planning your journey around Europe - make your trip as easy as possible:

 NEW - Fabulous Itineraries - Save the bother of working out which trains you need to take and where: