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Budget Train Travel: Explore 33 European Countries For $315 This Summer

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Following decades of defunding and even discontinuation of some routes, train travel is back with a bang in Europe, where cross-border railway connections have always been common, and this mode of transport has never truly become outdated.

Panoramic View Of A Scenic Train Traveling Across Switzerland, Central Europe

Be it international pressure for greener alternatives to flying or simply a revival of train romanticism, demand for train travel is surging in 2024, and if you're participating in this trend, you should probably know there's an easier, incredibly affordable way to explore Europe:

We know Ryanair's eye-catching $15 airfares to Spain are all-too-tempting at times, but by booking the Eurail Pass, you can visit not one but up to 33 countries during 7 unlimited travel days for only $315 this summer:

Aren't Trains In Europe Usually Very Expensive?

Austrian OBB Train Passing By A Medieval Castle In Austria, With A Snowy Mountain For Background, Central Europe

We love trains ourselves, particularly in Europe, where the chances of finding yourself traveling across a scenic route with views of fairytale castles and breathtaking alpine nature, are high, but there's no denying it can be cripplingly expensive.

Yes, the continent is indeed well-connected by rail, and you can even travel from Great Britain to France by means of a sea tunnel that crosses the English Channel, linking London to Paris, but that's not to say it's exactly affordable:

Tourist In The Metro In Paris, France

A seat reservation on this route can easily set you back over $150 one-way, and that's one train: add in Paris to Brussels, in Belgium (easily over $100 unless it's booked months in advance), and finally Brussels to Amsterdam ($65 on average), and you start seeing why most would prefer flying instead.

Fortunately for train lovers, Eurail offers them the opportunity to visit numerous destinations in Europe without once taking to the skies while paying affordable train fares:

What Is The Eurail Global Pass?

Interrail pass. Europe Train Travel Pass. Located next to a mobile and a glass of water.

The Global Pass holder grants you the freedom to travel to over 30 European countries without having to book train tickets separately per journey: it's one pass for all, and it costs as cheap as $315, but this does not mean you get unlimited train travel over a particular period.

The countries and territories included in the deal are:

  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Bosnia-Herzegovina
  • Bulgaria
  • Croatia
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Great Britain (England, Wales, Scotland)
  • Greece
  • Hungary
  • Ireland (includes Northern Ireland)
  • Italy
  • Latvia
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • North Macedonia
  • Montenegro
  • Netherlands
  • Norway
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Romania
  • Serbia
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • Türkyie (formerly known as Turkey)
Woman boarding a European sleeper train

What Types Of Pass Are There?

The Global Pass comes in many formats, with pricing varying depending on class, age, number of travel days, and length of validity.

Essentially, if you're a Global Pass holder, you can board any train it is valid in on your selected travel dates.

Sounds confusing? We'll explain: at the time of purchase, you will be asked how many days within a certain timeframe you intend to use it.

In general, you can use your Global Pass (a.k.a. to visit as many cities as you want with the train) between 4 and 15 selected days over a one- to two-month period.

Koln Cathedral Unesco World Heritage site Germany

The Most Popular Option: 7 Days within 1 Month

For example, you can book a ‘7 Days within 1 Month Pass', which means you can board an unlimited number of trains during 7 travel days out of 30, an ideal option if you're visiting between 6 and 8 destinations during a month-long summer trip to Europe.

Young travelers aged between 12-27 benefit from the lowest pricing, with the ‘7 Days within 1 Month Pass' costing $315 to book, while adults aged over 28 and under 59 still pay an acceptable $419.

As for those aged over 60, the rate for this pass is fixed at $281. If you're traveling with kids under 12, it's always free for them.

Intercity train at the Gotthard railway, switzerland

Yes, You Can Technically Travel To 33 Countries

(But It Doesn't Mean You'll Have The Time To)

Again, it does not mean you will be able to visit all 33 countries in one go.

You could certainly try, but we doubt it is feasible when you're restricted to 7 travel dates only, and you're not exactly traveling across the pond to rack up as many countries as possible without truly getting to know them.

woman holding a map in front of the colosseum, rome

You can't really rush through Rome without entering the Colosseum or admiring the Vatican's Sistine Chapel, briefly, transit Berlin and skip the riotous nightlife, or have a stopover in Paris and only tick off the Eiffel Tower, when it houses over 2,000 historical monuments.

Train travel is a perfect match with slow travelers, and using the ‘7-in-1' Pass for a month-long adventure across Europe, you get 3-and-a-half days in each of the 8 possible destinations.

If you're keen on seeing more, however, and you don't mind cutting your time shorter in each city, you could consider other options out of those listed below:

Sagrada Familia In Barcelona, Spain, Southern Europe

In Second Class

4 days within 1 Month

  • Perfect for: 3-5 destinations (6 days in each)
  • Youth (12-27): $233
  • Adult (28-56): $311
  • Senior (60+): $281
  • Average price per journey: between $46.60 and $51.83

5 Days within 1 Month

  • Perfect for: 4-6 destinations (5 days in each)
  • Youth (12-27): $263
  • Adult (28-56): $350
  • Senior (60+): $315
  • Average price per journey: between $43.83 and $58.33

7 Days within 1 Month

  • Perfect for: 6-8 destinations (3-and-a-half days in each)
  • Youth (12-27): $315
  • Adult (28-56): $419
  • Senior (60+): $377
  • Average price per journey: between $39.37 and $52.37
Gare du Nord In Paris, France, Central Northern Europe

10 Days within 2 Months

  • Perfect for: 9-11 destinations (5-and-a-half days in each)
  • Youth (12-27): $369
  • Adult (28-56): $492
  • Senior (60+): $442
  • Average price per journey: between $33.54 and $44.72

15 days within 2 Months

  • Perfect for: 14-16 destinations (3-and-a-half days in each)
  • Youth (12-27): $457
  • Adult (28-56): $608
  • Senior (60+): $548
  • Average price per journey: between $28.56 and $38
Aerial View Of A Train Arriving To Bern, Switzerland, Central Europe

On The First Class Eurail Pass

If you're traveling first class, you usually get more spacious, comfier seats, private USB-ports and charging stations, free Wi-Fi (though that is also available for second class in Wi-Fi-equipped trains), and even complimentary meals and drinks (on some routes).

In all fairness, second-class seats are already pretty comfortable, and unless you're traveling on luxury trains like the Orient Express – not included, anyways – we fail to see how booking a first-class seat would be great value for money when the experience isn't that much more remarkable in most cases.

A passenger on the GoldenPass Express train takes in the scenery of Switzerland

Yes, there may be trains where staff will treat you like royalty, allow you to board first, and you may get free champagne, but across a majority of routes, it just means a quieter carriage, a better sense of exclusivity, and more legroom.

Of course, it all depends on your budget and travel preferences, and upon checking the prices below, we'll leave that for you to decide:

4 Days within 1 Month

  • Perfect for: 3-5 destinations (6 days in each)
  • Youth (12-27): $296
  • Adult (28-56): $395
  • Senior (60+): $355
  • Average price per journey: between $59.20 and $79
A train passing through European landscape

5 Days within 1 Month

  • Perfect for: 4-6 destinations (6 days in each)
  • Youth (12-27): $333
  • Adult (28-56): $444
  • Senior (60+): $400
  • Average price per journey: between $55.50 and $74

7 Days within 1 Month

  • Perfect for: 6-8 destinations (3-and-a-half days in each)
  • Youth (12-27): $399
  • Adult (28-56): $532
  • Senior (60+): $480
  • Average price per journey: between $49.87 and $66.50
young female traveler admiring view at a lookout point on the amalfi coast in italy

10 Days within 2 Months

  • Perfect for: 9-11 destinations (5-and-a-half days in each)
  • Youth (12-27): $469
  • Adult (28-56): $625
  • Senior (60+): $562
  • Average price per journey: between $42.63 and $56.81

15 days within 2 Months

  • Perfect for: 14-16 destinations (3-and-a-half days in each)
  • Youth (12-27): $580
  • Adult (28-56): $772
  • Senior (60+): $695
  • Average price per journey: between $36.25 and $48.25
Train Traveler Taking A Picture Of A Train Ticket While Sitting Inside A Train, Train Travel Concept

About Continuous Passes

There are also Continuous Passes available that make pass holders eligible for truly unlimited train travel in a row over a certain period, with current options being 15 days, 22 days, 1 month, 2 months, and 3 months.

We wouldn't choose this option ourselves, as we can't think of any practical reason why you'd travel on intercity and cross-border trains every day during a 90-day period to make the pass worth buying unless you're aiming for 90 different cities across multiple countries.

Fourviere Tower Pictured In Lyon, France, Western Europe

Hardly reasonable, as you will hardly have enough time to truly appreciate each destination before jumping to the next, and whichever Continuous Pass you'll go for, whether it's 15 days or 3 months, odds are you'll be shattered by the end of what's bound to be an exhausting journey.

As they say, to each their own. In that case, these are your options:

Second Class

15 Days

  • Youth (12-27): $393
  • Adult (28-59): $524
  • Senior (60+): $471
traveler in a red dress stands in the main square in valencia spain

22 Days

  • Youth (12-27): $484
  • Adult (28-59): $645
  • Senior (60+): $580

1 Month

  • Youth (12-27): $574
  • Adult (28-59): $766
  • Senior (60+): $689
Women and the blue suitcase are going up the train ladder.

2 Months

  • Youth (12-27): $682
  • Adult (28-59): $909
  • Senior (60+): $817

3 Months

  • Youth (12-27): $789
  • Adult (28-59): $1052
  • Senior (60+): $946
Monastiraki square and Acropolis view Athens Greece

First Class

15 Days

  • Youth (12-27): $499
  • Adult (28-59): $666
  • Senior (60+): $600

22 Days

  • Youth (12-27): $614
  • Adult (28-59): $818
  • Senior (60+): $737
View Of The Florence Skyline, Tuscany, Italy, Southern Europe

1 month

  • Youth (12-27): $729
  • Adult (28-59): $972
  • Senior (60+): $876

2 months

  • Youth (12-27): $866
  • Adult (28-59): $1154
  • Senior (60+): $1038
Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament and Westminster bridge in London

3 months

  • Youth (12-27): $1002
  • Adult (28-59): $1335
  • Senior (60+): $1202

How Does Eurail Work?

Once you select your Global Pass, you can select the exact dates of the month you want to use to travel across an unlimited number of cities and countries.

These are known as ‘travel days‘ and start at midnight on a calendar date and end at 23:59 (Central European Time).

Colorful Buildings Along Canal In Amsterdam, Netherlands

Central European Time is the same as Paris, Brussels, Luxembourg, Amsterdam, Rome, or Berlin, so bear that in mind if you're using a travel day in an Eastern European country like Greece or Bulgaria that is one hour ahead or in the U.K. or Portugal, one hour behind.

You can use your Global Pass to board most local and regional trains across Europe.

Conversely, cross-border trains and tourist routes tend to fill up fast, so it's advised to select your travel dates in advance.

You Might Need To Book Seats (For Free)
Passengers looking out the glass dome windows on a Rocky Mountaineer train through the Canadian Rocky Mountains

Some trains will require a seat reservation, and you will have to issue a ticket using your Global Pass to board them. Of course, if you have a Continuous Pass, you don't need to worry about travel days, but you still have to reserve seats on some routes.

It's worth noting a majority of train operators across Europe participate in the Eurail travel scheme, but not all.

You're only authorized to board trains operated by companies that accept this pass, but as stated, most will, from Germany's Deutsche Banh to France's SCNF to Italy's Trenitalia.

Train Paqssing Through Hamburg In Germany, North Central Europe

In some countries like Greece and the United Kingdom, which are separated from the mainland, you may even use your Global Pass to get discounted rates on select ferry routes.

In Greece, participating ferry lines include Superfast Ferries, Minoan Lines, Grimaldi Lines, and Blue Star Ferries.

Why You Should Use The Eurail Pass Instead Of Flying

There are many reasons why we'd choose trains over planes any day, and we've already discussed them extensively in previous articles.

Traveling Couple Pictured In An Airport With Yellow Luggage

In summary, they're perfect if you're not in a rush to get anywhere (i.e. you're staying a whole month in Europe).

You get to travel in comfort, without being disconnected from your socials and email for three-to-four hours, and you can bring hold luggage with you onboard (within reasonable limits) without paying extra.

There's no doubt you can travel cheaper by flying, but only if you've mastered the art of traveling light.

That can be quite the challenge when you're traveling for more than 2 weeks, and most Global Pass holders will fit into this category.

yellow tram 28 in the narrow streets of Alfama district in Lisbon, Portugal

Plus, there's none of the stressful airport experience – train stations are often located in the center of towns – liquid limits, nor security scrutiny.

At times, the length of journey can even be comparable, or shorter than some short-haul flight routes: while a flight from London to Paris takes just over an hour, it doesn't include the one-to-two hour commute to the airport, long wait lines, or flight delays.

The Eurostar's journey length from England to France blocks at only 2h49, probably quicker than flying once you factor in those additional hours trying to get to Heathrow or Gatwick, or even leaving a Parisian airport, which can have you landing 50 miles outside the city.

All in all, there's truly no better option to explore Europe extensively this summer than with a Eurail Pass.

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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com

Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.


Al LeFeusch

Wednesday 10th of April 2024

I spends at least one month in any country I visit, and I do day trips throughout that month. Here in Italy, where I've been the last six weeks, I've taken trains for day trips every 2-3 days and it costs me around $10-20/day. So, about $150-300 for 15 trips in two months, rather than the $750 that it would cost for the pass. Maybe it's worth it if you're going from country to country, but I don't travel that fast.