I WOULD LIKE TO think that I am a care-free traveler but the truth is, I’m a born planner constantly nursing the ulcers associated with my impending transport. Here are some tips that come from the bevy of research I’ve recently undertaken during my current Eurail trip.
These offices can be particularly helpful and are often located right in the train station. The employees are much more used to the ticks of each particular pass. You’re less likely to get a shoulder-shrug here than at the ticket counter, where Claudio cares more about his next smoke break than your silly pantomimes.
Most often you can pop into a station and grab the next train. Keep in mind, though, that you can also make reservations in advance (with a fee). I plan to book my next leg after I arrive at each station, just to get it out of the way. Also, remember that some trains (high speed, overnight) always require a reservation.
Know Your Station Names
Both The French and people from Long Island seem to get off on confusing passengers by pronouncing nothing as it appears on paper.
With this in mind, know the name of your station stop and how to say it many different ways. Also, keep in mind that there may even be multiple stops in one town, so knowing the exact name is very important.
Know Where Your Ticket Is
Eurail makes it quite easy to find out when your ticket will arrive, even giving you a tracking number after it is mailed. Make sure to treat it like gold, since they no longer offer Pass Security (insurance). Be sure to ask your travel insurance provider if they will reimburse you for a lost pass. A lost pass is exactly that – lost.
Price Breaks On The Eurostar
Passholders are entitled to a price break on Eurostar (London to Paris) trains. I called the main Eurostar number and booked a ticket that ended up being about 30 pounds less than the rack rate. Beware: you must pick up your Eurostar ticket at the station and your pass must be valid when you do so.
Check for the country-by-country discounts that come along with your pass. You’ll be able to shave 20-50% off ferry prices, as well as discounts at various museums. There are also more random hookups, like the current offer of 10% off Meininger Hostels in Austria and Germany.
Many major rail stations have lounges, sometimes available for those holding a 1st class pass. This can make those long connection times much more bearable.
Research Your Pass
It may be worthwhile to buy two select passes, especially if you only plan to hit a couple of countries. Choosing combinations used to be torture but Eurail’s site now makes it quite a bit easier. Certain types of passes do not work in some countries – be sure to check carefully.
Be very careful when marking your current travel day on the pass – if you make a mistake then you’ll lose that travel day and have to enter the correct date in the next box. You’ll completely lose that day of travel. I know. Total bummout.
Timetable and Maps
A pass will come with hard copies, which can be incredibly handy on-the-go. You can also access both of these online. This site is fantastic for eyeballing train times, as well.
With so many people coming and going on trains this summer, we would love hear your tips & tricks in the comments!
Also, for a recent and hilarious narrative on traveling through France via Eurail, check out Whilst Traveling Via Eurail.
For a podcast on traveling via Eurail, with specific tips on saving money, check out Craig Martin’s Podcast for Top 10 Tips for Eurail Passes.