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Rail Pass Basics

Should I purchase a rail pass or city-to-city tickets to explore Europe?

Railpass.com offers both city-to-city train tickets and rail passes, providing excellent options for travelers looking to explore European countries. Rail passes are an excellent value if you want flexibility, if you plan to travel extensively throughout one or several countries, or if you plan to cover long distances during your travels. Passes provide access to most rail routes and allow you hassle-free travel, since you won’t have to wait in lines at the train station to get tickets. In some cases, you will still have to make seat reservations or pay supplements, but many routes allow for unlimited pass use without any extra fees.

City-to-city tickets are good for short distance travel, such as travel from one point to another within a country (like between Rome and Florence) or if you only plan to visit only one or two places (like Paris and Amsterdam). The drawbacks to city-to-city tickets are having to wait in ticket lines, dealing with local currencies and languages, and higher prices. Purchasing individual train tickets, however, is an ideal option for those who plan on limited travel and who already know their exact destinations prior to departure. There are a number of options for individual train tickets, depending on the destination and type of train you choose.

What type of pass should I purchase for travel in Europe?

With thousands of different pass and ticket combinations from which to chose, purchasing a ticket or pass can be confusing. Railpass.com uses state-of-the-art technology that connects directly to European rail reservations systems.

To determine which option is best for you, it helps to define your travel plans. Which and how many countries do you plan to visit? Are you planning to travel in a single country? Are you going to two countries? Are you looking to explore three or four countries? Do you want to experience more than four countries? Knowing the number of countries you want to visit will help you determine whether a single-country, multiple-country, regional, or global pass is best for you.

How many days of train travel do you need? A rail pass is based on days of travel, not the number of train rides, so you will need to know the number of calendar days you will be travelling by train in order to purchase the correct number of travel days. How long do you need the pass to be valid? The number of days you need the pass to be valid is equivalent to the length of your entire trip, not how many days you will be on the train. So if you’re going to Germany for a month, but only plan on using the train for, say, 3 days at the beginning of your trip and 2 days at the end of your trip, you will need the pass to be valid for 30 days. Will you be taking trains frequently (in which case an unlimited, consecutive-day pass might be best) or just a few long trips here and there (in which case you might do better with a flexipass, which is good for a certain number of travel days within a set time frame)? How many people are traveling, and what are their ages? Most passes offer adult, youth, and saver passes. Generally, the adult and saver passes are in 1st class, while the youth pass is available as either a 1st and 2nd class pass. The saver pass is available at a discounted per person rate based on 2 to 5 people travelling together. (Up to two children aged 4–11 will be issued a pass for free when traveling with an adult passholder). Some passes also offer discounted rates for seniors.

When and how do I make a seat reservation on trains in Europe?

You must be in possession of a valid rail pass that covers the routing of the train in order to make a reservation. It is helpful to research the train schedules before making a request.

Reservations are required for: Sleeping accommodations on all overnight trains; most high-speed trains (e.g. Eurostar, TGV, TAV, Thalys); Long Distance and Express Trains in Spain, Portugal, Scandinavia and Eastern Europe; and Long Distance and Express Trains during high season (July and August). You can make a reservation at the station or by contacting the participating railway company directly.